Explore a Bachelor's Degree in Education
Online education degrees are a good fit for students who wish to prepare to become public school teachers and need to meet their state's educational requirements for certification. Online degrees in education are designed to prepare students to effectively lead K-12 classrooms, with a focus on a particular subject, such as mathematics, science, or physical education, or with a focus on certain grades or learning types, such as elementary education or special education. While students complete their course work online, they must also complete site-based field work, as well as a semester-long teaching internship in a real-world school environment in order to complete the program.
While program length varies, online bachelor's degree programs in education are typically designed to be completed in four years of full-time work if the college follows a traditional semester format. However, students may be able to transfer in credits from their time at a community college or other institution to apply toward their general education requirements, apply credits from dual credit programs they took in high school, or test out of certain classes through CLEP testing, all of which can reduce the time it takes to graduate. Even so, the program could take longer to complete if the student must attend part-time or if the student cannot complete their student teaching requirements in a timely manner.
The curriculum a student takes in an online education degree program will depend on the school they enroll in and the type of teaching endorsement they're seeking. Those who plan to teach mathematics may take courses in math methods, calculus, and complete math-related field experiences, while those who plan to teach English language arts may have more courses devoted to promoting literacy in youth, such as children's literature or literacy assessment. Similarly, those who specialize in elementary education will take courses geared toward teaching children in kindergarten through fifth grade. Students pursuing education degrees online may also take the following core courses:
- Developmental Psychology. This course explores how children develop physically, cognitively, and socially, from conception through adolescence. Students are introduced to the primary theories of human development, and learn how genetics and prenatal factors, as well as outside factors like family and friends, impact a child's development.
- Reading Methods. In this course, students learn research-based, systematic approaches to teaching reading and literacy to youth, including theories, practices, and materials. Students also learn about the stages of oral language, writing, and reading development.
- Classroom Management. This course teaches students methods of establishing and maintaining a productive classroom environment. Techniques for handling certain types of student behavior are discussed through case studies, as well as techniques for motivating students to be attentive and participatory in class. Classroom organization techniques may also be discussed.
Homework and projects vary widely depending on the program specialization. For classroom management, a student may be asked to provide written critiques of various classroom scenarios in which classroom management strategies must be used, including ways of minimizing disruptive behavior and increasing engagement in the learning process. Some courses in reading, mathematics, and science teaching methods will incorporate field work at approved K-12 school sites, where students get to work hands-on with children. However, the most significant portion of any education program is student teaching, where teachers in training get to provide actual instruction to students, develop lesson plans, and work with different age groups under the supervision of licensed teachers and mentors.
Building a Career
Some of the most common careers for students who graduate from online education degree programs and meet all other state requirements for teacher certification are kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers at public schools. It is highly recommended you research how to obtain a teaching certification or licensure in combination with a degree because not all degree programs lead to licensure or certification. With additional training and certification, some may become special education teachers. K-12 private school teachers may not be required to be certified, but typically must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in education or a closely related area to qualify for teaching positions. Other potential careers might include childcare workers, preschool teachers, teacher assistants, and substitute teachers.
The median yearly salary for teachers was $50,120 for kindergarten teachers, $53,400 for elementary school teachers, $53,430 for middle school teachers, and $55,050 for high school teachers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment is not guaranteed for graduates of education programs, and graduates should be aware that budget deficits in state and local governments in an uncertain economy can lead to layoffs. Teacher salaries vary based on their school district's budget, the teacher's level of experience and educational attainment, the size of their district, and other factors.
The slowest employment growth is expected for teachers of high school grades because high school enrollment growth is projected to be slower than other grades, the BLS explained. Better job prospects are available for teachers who are prepared to serve in difficult-to-fill positions in math, science, English as a second language, and special education. Special education teachers earned a median yearly salary of $55,060, the BLS noted.