Overview of Undergraduate Degrees in Teaching

Focusing on topics such as classroom management, child and developmental psychology, and instructional methods, undergraduate teaching degrees are designed to prepare individuals for careers as educators.

Essential Information

Early childhood education, elementary education and special education bachelor's degree programs are among the most common undergraduate teaching programs. A few associate's degree programs in teaching exist. To qualify for these programs, students should have their high school diplomas or GEDs, and some programs may require some prerequisite coursework.

In addition to classroom teaching, candidates might pursue employment in social services or health care settings. Graduates who want to work within public school systems will need to acquire teaching licenses.

Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education

A bachelor's degree in early childhood education trains individuals to teach children between birth and eight years of age. An integral part of a child's growth and development, including personality, language and basic motor skills, occurs during these formative years. Most early childhood education bachelor's degree programs are 4-year programs. College level coursework or prerequisite classes may be mandatory before an education major can be chosen in more competitive teaching programs. Early childhood education bachelor's degree programs normally include courses in teaching math, literacy fundamentals, child psychology and infant and toddler instruction strategies for teachers of young children. Common courses include the following:

  • Classroom management
  • Learning through art and song
  • Basic classroom health

Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education

An elementary education graduate holding a bachelor's degree normally works with students in kindergarten through the fifth or sixth grade. Prospective elementary education teachers study not only basic but advanced teaching methods, and also build skills in disciplines like science, math and social studies. Early childhood education teachers aid children in developing general skill sets while elementary education teachers help their students apply these skill sets to particular subjects.

Graduates of the elementary education teaching degree may also explore learning assessments, interpersonal relationships and educational psychology. In some schools, students may be required to immediately choose a teaching specialty, such as science or math. Common courses may include:

  • Learning and assessment
  • Elementary math techniques
  • Instruction methods
  • Biology for middle school students

Bachelor's Degree in Special Education

A bachelor's degree program in special education is similar to early childhood and elementary education programs, except students work with special needs children, including those with physical and learning disabilities. This degree has a specific focus on training prospective teachers to adapt to the specialized needs of their students.

The special education bachelor's degree program curriculum includes general liberal arts courses and teaching preparation, psychology, health and disabilities classes. Common courses include:

  • Drugs, alcohol and child abuse recognition
  • Moderate disabilities
  • Literacy assessment
  • Technology and education
  • Developmental psychology

Popular Career Options

There are a plethora of career options awaiting individuals with degrees in early childhood education. Many graduates become pre-school, kindergarten or elementary teachers; however, other options may include:

  • Day care teacher
  • Health clinic worker
  • Youth group organizer
  • Social services worker

Career options for individuals with a bachelor's degree in elementary education are available in general and specialty positions. A few specific options include:

  • Second grade teacher
  • Physical education instructor
  • Middle school math teacher
  • Elementary school music teacher
  • After school program coordinator

Employment Outlook

Kindergarten and elementary teachers made a median annual wage of $54,550 in May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while middle school teachers made a median wage of $55,860. Both categories of teachers were expected to see 6% job growth during the 2014-2024 period.

Many jobs are available for individuals with special education degrees in public and private K-12 schools. They may work with individual students in school resource rooms or help out entire classrooms. According to the BLS, jobs in special education were expected to grow 6% overall, from 2014-2024, with the highest growth being for those teaching preschool through middle school.

Those working in kindergarten and elementary special education classrooms earned a median salary of $55,810 in 2015, while those working in middle school earned $57,280. High school special education teachers earned a median wage of $58,500 during that year.

Continuing Education

After receiving a bachelor's degree, all prospective teachers must become licensed by their state as a certified educator before beginning work in a public school classroom. This is achieved through testing, a background check and recommendation from an individual's university.

Many teachers also go on to earn a master's degree in the education field. This opens up more job options, as well as a higher standard. The focus can remain on early childhood, elementary or special education or shift to an individual's more specific area of study, such as math. Teachers who wish to become a principal or school administrator may also enter graduate degree in education administration.

Depending on the age and developmental level that an individual wishes to teach, there are a number of undergraduate programs in teaching that will prepare graduates for a teaching career and professional credentialing.

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