Is a Secondary Education Degree Right for You?

A bachelor’s degree in secondary education is most commonly applied toward a career as a middle or high school teacher. Many graduates may go on to become adult educators or literacy teachers, conducting remedial classes for out-of-school youths and adults to teach literacy, English as a second language, or prepare them for the General Educational Development (GED) test. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment is expected to increase for all three of these occupations, which bodes well for anyone interested in secondary education.

Most college students enrolled in a secondary education program will choose a concentration in a particular subject, such as mathematics, history, or English. This allows you to learn how to manage a classroom and properly teach your chosen subject. For prospective students who are unable to attend a physical campus, many colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in secondary education online. And just like traditional programs, the majority of online programs require and provide opportunities for you to gain hands-on, real-world training through internships with local schools.

Advice for Earning Your Secondary Education Degree Online

When choosing an online bachelor’s degree program in secondary education, you don’t want to enroll in the first or the cheapest program you find. The most important factor to consider is accreditation. This is a guarantee that the program is of high quality and will prepare you for a career in education. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education focuses on programs for elementary and secondary education. The Teacher Education Accreditation Council accredits programs in education from the bachelor’s to doctoral levels, including online programs. Many states require an accredited degree for licensure, and most employers seek candidates with accredited degrees.

Another factor to consider when deciding on a secondary education degree program online is internship requirements and opportunities. Gaining hands-on training in an actual classroom is not only beneficial to your education, it’s also allows you to apply what you have learned to a real-world teaching environment with actual students under the direction and supervision of a professional teacher. Internships and on-the-job training is often required for certification, licensing, and employment in most states and at most facilities.

Required Courses

Many programs start with courses designed to give you an understanding of your students, what secondary education consists of, tools and technology available, classroom management, and basic curriculum and lesson plan development. Some of these courses include Introduction to Secondary Education, Adolescent Development, Introduction to Educational Technology, Teaching in the Secondary School, Special Problems in Secondary Education, Secondary Student Assessment and Evaluation, and Classroom Management in Secondary Education. As you progress through your program, in most cases, you will be able to choose a particular subject to focus on, such as social studies, mathematics, history, or English. These courses will focus on giving you a thorough understanding of your chosen subject and effectively preparing and delivering lessons specifically for this subject.

Common Career Paths

The three primary career options made available with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education are middle school teacher, high school teacher, and adult literacy and GED teacher. Given the fact that all three of these are careers in which you will be educating students, they are very similar, but there are differences that make each one unique. For example, middle school, high school, and adult students are going to have different levels of understanding and maturity, requiring the teachers to develop lesson plans, instruct, and manage their classrooms in a way that is most effective for their students.

  • Middle School Teacher

    A middle school teacher educates students, typically in sixth, seventh, or eighth grade. These students have learned the fundamentals of core subjects in elementary school, and it’s the job of the middle school teacher to build on this, give them a more thorough understanding of these subjects, and prepare them for the more demanding and difficult classes that await them in high school. In most cases, a middle school teacher will teach one subject, often delivering to same lesson to multiple classes throughout the day. Traditional and online bachelor’s degree programs in secondary education will give you the skills and knowledge needed to develop and deliver lessons in a way that ensures each student’s understanding, recognize and meet the unique needs of each student, and manage a classroom.

    Before you’re able to teach at a public institution in any state, you must obtain licensure. Most states require you to have a bachelor’s degree and complete internships to get your license, but some require a master’s degree. Specific requirements vary by state, so check with your state board of education to learn what you have to do to become licensed. Likewise, some private institutions require licensure as well.

    According to the BLS, in 2010, there were 641,700 middle school teachers in the U.S. Employment is expected to increase by 17% from 2010 to 2020, which is slightly faster than average for all occupations. On average, middle school teachers earn an annual wage of $55,780. However, employment opportunities and wages will depend on several factors, such as the school district, area, and your amount of experience.

  • High School Teacher

    It’s the responsibility of a high school teacher to build on the knowledge students gain in middle school and prepare them for college and the workplace. Bachelor’s degree programs in secondary education online and on-campus will teach you how to assess your students, determine and meet their individual needs, plan and deliver lessons, monitor students’ progress and comprehension, and enforce the rule of the classroom. You will also learn how to effectively communicate with students and parents to address any issues that may arise, and provide one-on-one instruction and guidance when needed.

    Licensure requirements for high school teachers are the same as for middle school teachers, according to the BLS. The BLS also shows that there were 1,037,600 high school teachers in 2010, and there is an expected employment increase of 7% from 2010 to 2020. The national average salary for a high school teacher in 2011 was $56,760 a year. What you earn and the job opportunities available to you will depend on factors such as the subject you teach, your amount of experience, the school district, and more.

  • Adult Literacy and GED Teachers

    Adult literacy and GED teachers differ from middle and high school teachers in the type of students they teach and the lessons they deliver. These teachers focus on basic skills, primarily reading, writing, and how to speak English properly. Their students are adult and out-of-school youth who are looking to earn their GED, learn English, or become literate. An online bachelor’s degree in secondary education will teach you how to evaluate and assess your students and develop lessons that that will allow your students to meet their goals.

    According to the BLS, to become an adult literacy and GED teacher, most states will require you to hold a bachelor’s degree in education. Licensing and certification requirements vary by state. Some states only require certification for those teaching in a government-run program. Some states require you to have a elementary or secondary education certificate, while other states offer certification specifically for adult literacy and GED teachers.

    The BLS also shows that employment for adult literacy and GED teachers is expected to grow by 15% from 2010 to 2020. The national average income for these professionals is $51,350 a year. However, many factors determine job availability and income, such as location, amount of experience, the type of program you want to teach, and more.


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