Online Degrees in Education

An online degree program in education can prepare aspiring teachers and administrators to educate students of all ages. From teaching children how to tie their shoes to guiding students through Shakespeare and Western civilization, teachers are responsible for countless acts of motivation, instruction and encouragement.

Online schools can allow aspiring teachers to juggle work, family and other commitments while pursuing an education. It's important to note, however, that some education degree requirements, such as supervised teaching before a group of students, cannot be completed online.

Job titles in the education field include:

  • Teacher
  • School counselor
  • Curriculum developer
  • Educational researcher
  • Principal

Education degree programs are generally divided into early childhood education, elementary education and secondary education. In addition to covering the theory and practice of learning and teaching, each of these degrees emphasizes the specific psychology and developmental needs of children in that age range as well as age-appropriate teaching methods and games.

Additionally, many elementary education degree programs and nearly all secondary education programs require students to pick a secondary field in which to major or minor. This field, which can be anything from chemistry to music to history, allows the teacher to specialize in a particular subject for middle and high school students.

Other degrees in education may prepare teachers to work with a specific student population rather than a particular subject. Additional areas of specialization can include:

  • Bilingual education
  • Early childhood education
  • Literacy
  • Special education
  • Educational technology
  • Instructional design
  • Curriculum development
  • Educational administration

Earning an online associate degree in education can be the first stepping-stone toward a career as a teacher, program assistant or education administrator. Associate programs typically focus on general coursework, and then go on to applied teacher training courses.

A bachelor's degree is the basic qualification for most jobs at the elementary through high school level.

At the bachelor's level, online degrees in education can be pursued as part of a hybrid educational plan. In a hybrid degree program, most courses are online, but students still have to meet certain requirements, such as student teaching, in person.

Many teachers go on to earn a master's degree in education, as a graduate degree may be a ticket to career advancement. Master's degrees in education often focus more on educational theory and can be available completely online.

Students seeking online master's degrees in education usually choose at least one specialization and may focus on a particular level of education, such as adult education or elementary, middle or secondary school. Options can range from special education to educational leadership or a particular academic emphasis or subject matter. Additional specialties include:

  • Curriculum and instruction
  • English as a second language, or ESL
  • Literacy and reading
  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM
  • Teaching for gifted, creative and talented students
  • Instructional technology

Online doctoral degree programs in education can offer access to career development training for working teachers and administrators. The online format presents the standard graduate-level education curriculum, with courses in educational technology, assessment, leadership, and education policy and pedagogy.

Online doctoral degrees encourage specialization through advanced elective courses and research projects. The Ed.D. is a more applied approach that prepares graduates for leadership roles in education practice, challenging students to solve real-world problems using existing scholarship. The academic Ph.D., in contrast, requires original scholarship and a dissertation.

In most cases, public schools require teachers to hold a teaching certificate or license before they can be awarded a job. Private schools might not require a license, but they almost always require a bachelor's degree.

While many individuals with education degrees end up in front of a classroom, that's not the only potential career path. Curriculum design, administration and supervision, instructional technology, and education evaluation are other fields open to those who pursue education degrees, as well as less-traditional ones such as educational testing, counseling, adult literacy, corporate leadership and library science.

Occupations In-Demand for Education
Job Openings (2016-26)
Average Salary (2016)
Total Employment
Projected Job Growth (2016-26)
Teacher Assistants147,900$27,9501,299,8008%
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education112,800$60,8301,409,1407%
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education79,500$62,8601,027,2308%
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education53,600$33,590409,74011%
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education50,500$61,040622,3408%
Self-Enrichment Education Teachers46,300$44,630238,71015%
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary25,800$122,890194,61026%
Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School21,200$97,440250,2808%
Postsecondary Teachers, All Other20,700$74,630189,2709%
Instructional Coordinators16,800$66,680157,49010%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.


  • Career: Elementary, Middle, and High School Teachers, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/education-museum-work-library-science-elementary-middle-high-school-teachers, accessed November 2017
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor; Instructional Coordinators, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/instructional-coordinators.htm; Postsecondary Teachers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm; Preschool Teachers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm; accessed November 2017
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