Online Degrees in Education

An online degree programs in education prepares aspiring teachers and administrators to educate students of all ages. The curriculum begins with core courses in liberal arts and sciences, and then moves on to specialized career skills and teacher training. An online bachelor's degree program in education includes courses on the theory and practice of learning and teaching, educational technology, instructional design, and more. Students may specialize in early childhood education, curriculum development, educational administration, literacy, or special education.

A bachelor's degree is the basic qualification for most jobs at the elementary and high school level. Job titles include teacher, school counselor, curriculum developer, educational researcher, principal, etc. Many teachers go on to a master's degree in education. The job outlook is strong, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting 17% growth across the education industry. The median salary for K-12 teachers in 2006 ranged from $43,580 to $48,690.

Graduate degrees in education are a ticket to advancement for teachers and school administrators. Learn to teach, develop a curriculum or manage a school with a Doctor of Education, or Ed.D. You could also train for a job as an education scholar and college professor with a Ph.D. in the field.

An associate's degree in education can be a stepping-stone to a career as a teaching or program assistant, or to a more advanced degree. A bachelor's degree is required for most teachers, so the associate's degree is often used to get one's foot in the door and earn a salary while studying for a BA. Distance learning programs enable you to continue your training while you work. Teachers are enjoying high demand, with salaries exceeding the 2004 median of $45,920.

Looking ahead to better schools

The nation's K-12 schools and colleges are facing pressures on many fronts. Online doctoral degrees in education can offer creative approaches for the future of the U.S. education system. A 2007 California State University report called on educators to prepare for challenges in public schools and colleges by pursuing an Ed.D. With the right training, education professionals can promote both their schools and their careers.

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.

Perhaps because most students can point to teachers who inspired them, education is one of the most popular majors for college students. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that education was the third most popular bachelor's degree awarded in 2007-2008, with over 100,000 potential new teachers graduating that year.

Not everyone is cut out for a career in education. According to College Board, teachers must have plenty of patience, be very organized and enjoy working closely with others to achieve common goals. In a typical day, teachers are responsible for planning lessons, keeping a classroom on time and on topic, advising students on a wide variety of subjects, and adapting to unexpected events.

There are certain traits that set some teachers apart from the rest. A study from the University of Memphis identified 12 traits that students say characterize their favorite teachers. Those traits include fairness, creativity, preparedness, positivity, and compassion, among others that the researchers note are all linked to caring in one way or another.

Skills and information learned from an education degree

Education degree programs are generally divided into early childhood education, elementary education and secondary education. 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 include bilingual education and special education. These degrees prepare teachers to work with a specific student population rather than a particular subject.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 101,708 bachelor's degrees in education were awarded in 2009. The largest number of those--39,870--were in elementary education. Other popular education degree programs include physical education teaching and coaching, and early childhood education. Degrees in special education, secondary education and music teaching were also among the top degrees in education in 2009.

At the master's degree level, 26,057 general education degrees were awarded in 2009. Popular areas of specialization included education administration, curriculum and instruction, special education, elementary education, and counseling.

Online schools allow students to juggle work, family and other commitments while pursuing an education. According to the U.S. Journal of Academics, advantages of distance learning include flexible scheduling, easy accessibility, self-paced learning and more opportunities to study the most current and up-to-date material.

It's important to note, however, that some education degree requirements, such as supervised teaching before a group of students, cannot be completed online. 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 working teachers earn master's degrees in order to move into administration or qualify for higher salaries. For working teachers, online degrees in education may be most convenient. Master's degrees in education often focus more on educational theory and can be available completely online.

Individuals with education degrees often end up in front of a classroom, but that's not the only career path open to education graduates. Curriculum design, administration and supervision, instructional technology, and education evaluation are just a few of the fields open to those who pursue teaching degrees. Those who want to pursue something a little less traditional can branch out into educational testing, counseling, adult literacy, corporate leadership, library science and more.

Occupations In-Demand for Education
Job Openings (2014-24)
Average Salary (2016)
Total Employment
Job Outlook (2014-24)
Education, Training, and Library Occupations2,661,100$54,5208,636,4308%
Preschool, Primary, Secondary, and Special Education School Teachers1,199,600$57,4704,133,4906%
Postsecondary Teachers550,600$81,8801,530,01012%
Childcare Workers441,300$22,930569,3706%
Other Education, Training, and Library Occupations424,700$32,4201,530,7007%
Other Teachers and Instructors391,000$38,5601,191,5709%
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education378,700$59,0201,392,6606%
Teacher Assistants374,500$27,1201,263,8206%
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education284,000$61,4201,003,2506%
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education175,500$59,800626,3106%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

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.

Jobs for K-12 teachers are expected to grow by 13 percent from 2008 to 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. Education administrators are expected to see job growth of 8 percent from 2008 to 2018.

According to the BLS, the best job prospects for K-12 teachers are expected to be in rural areas and "less desirable" urban areas. Teachers who specialize in high-demand fields, such as science, mathematics and bilingual education will likely see more job opportunities as well.

Salary ranges for education professionals

A teacher's salary depends on many factors, including the area of the country in which he or she teaches, years of experience, local budgets and teaching level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary school teachers made a mean annual wage of $53,150 in 2009, secondary school teachers made $55,150, and special education teachers at the middle school level made $54,750.

Instructional coordinators made a mean annual wage of $61,270 in 2009 and education administrators at the elementary and secondary level earned $87,390.

The Institute of Education Statistics estimates there were 3.7 million teachers in the classroom in the fall of 2009. Those who pursue their own higher education and earn a degree can join the ranks of those who open the doors of learning to new students every day.

At a glance

  • There are 3.7 million teachers in classrooms today
  • The most popular education degree program is elementary school education, followed by physical education and early childhood education
  • Teachers in high-demand fields can expect more job opportunities
  • Income for teachers can range from around $50,000 for some positions in the public system to $80,000 or more in post-secondary education

Students seeking online master's degrees in education usually have at least one specialization. You may pick a level of education, whether it's adult education or elementary, middle or secondary school. You could choose a field like special education or educational leadership, or opt for a particular academic emphasis or subject matter. The many educational specialties include these:

  • 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

As another example, the state of North Carolina has launched an online master of education degree program with an emphasis on instructional technology.

Online master's degrees in education

Coursework depends on the specialty you choose. Curriculum and instruction programs cover technology-assisted learning and future directions in education. STEM specialists study math as an interdisciplinary subject and proper lab and demonstration practice. Regardless of your focus, education degrees online may offer certain core courses. Common subjects in online master's degrees in education programs include these:

  • Addressing diversity in the classroom
  • Education technology
  • Social, ethical, legal and human issues of education

Teaching offers opportunities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which expects employment for kindergarten, elementary and middle school teachers to increase faster than the national average during the period between 2008 and 2018. Public school teachers must be licensed; requirements for licensure are set by the state. Online master's degrees in education can build on your passion for teaching and advance your career as a leader in the field.

An online associate's degree in education offers a solid foundation for a career as a teacher or education administrator. Associate's degrees begin with general coursework in sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities, and then go on to applied teacher training courses. Education courses cover curriculum development, child psychology, designing learning activities, accommodating students with special needs, and more. Specialized associate's degrees are available in early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education, and special education.

Online doctoral degrees in education

Education degrees online 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 in education 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. Education specialties include adult education, early childhood education, higher education, K-12, special education, curriculum development, assessment and global perspectives in education.

Benefits? Many. I didn't have to listen to grumbling and complaining of other students. I didn't have to drive anywhere at any time. I was available for my family, but they all knew I had to have my school time. I was also freed from the excuses of why course work wasn't done, asking for extended due dates, complaining about the professor, people eating in class and talking when the prof was talking. - Maureen Taylor 
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