Teaching Degrees

Learn what types of education degrees are most popular, and how you can earn one to meet your career goals.

What Can You Do with an Education Degree?

If you want to enter the teaching field, you will likely be interested in an education degree. Education degrees help prepare future teachers, like yourself, by familiarizing you with theories of instructional strategy and human development, as well as providing opportunities for hands-on classroom experience. Graduates of education degree programs can expect to find careers in childcare facilities, preschools, elementary schools, or high schools, depending on degree specialization.

Do You Need an Education Degree to Teach?

Every state differs in its teacher requirements, but generally, all teachers are required to hold a bachelor's degree. If you are planning on becoming an educator through the traditional path, you will likely complete a bachelor's degree in education. Some states have alternative pathways for teacher licensure, which can be completed with a bachelor's degree in another subject area. Additionally, if you are looking to enter into the field of education but don't want to become a teacher, you may be more interested in an associate level education degree, which would allow you to work in roles such as teaching assistant.

What Can I Do with an Education Degree Besides Teach?

While most education degree graduates go on to become teachers, you may decide to pursue different career paths within education. Other options include working in a school in another capacity as a school administrator, assistant principal, or school counselor. Alternately, you can pursue a career as an educational policy maker. Some of these careers may require a master's or doctorate degree.

Is an Education Degree Worth It?

To determine if an education degree is worth it for you, consider several factors:

  • What career are you pursuing?
  • What is the salary potential of your career of choice?
  • How much time do you have to devote to the degree?
  • How much will the degree cost?

An undergraduate degree in education, such as an associate or bachelor's degree, is typically a pre-requisite for securing a career as an educator. Graduate degrees, while not required, are often beneficial for career advancement, professional development, and salary increases. The Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that a teacher with a master's degree and no teaching experience made an average of $3,200 more per year than a teacher with a bachelor's degree and no teaching experience.

What is the Best Education Degree to Get?

Deciding on which education degree to get depends on your career goals and how much time and money you can invest in a degree. Below is a comparison of the different degree levels and example careers for graduates of each degree level.

Degree Average Cost Per Year* Typical Program Length Example Career**
Associate $3,570 2 years Teacher Assistant; $24,260, 8% growth
Bachelor's $9,970 4 years Secondary Education Teacher; $59,170, 8% growth
Master's $8,670 1-3 years Instructional Coordinator; $63,750, 11% growth
Doctorate $10,830 At least 4 years

Postsecondary Teacher; $76,000, 15% growth

School Principal; $94,390, 8% growth

*College board 2017-2018 tuition

**Bureau of Labor Statistics - Salary (2017), Job Growth (2016-2026)

Levels of Education Degrees

While the most common route to becoming a teacher is to complete a bachelor's degree in education, education degrees are available at a variety of degree levels, including associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate levels. You will likely select a grade-level concentration such as early childhood, elementary, or secondary education, or subject area concentrations such as math, English, or social studies education. Additionally, you can choose to focus on specialized areas of teaching, such as educational technology, ESL, or special education.

Associate Degree in Education

An associate degree in education can prepare you for a career as an educational paraprofessional or a teacher's aide. Associate degrees typically last 2 years, and upon earning your associate degree in education, you may consider working as a teacher's assistant or transferring your credits to a four-year college where a bachelor's degree in education would qualify you to be a teacher.

Associate Degrees in Education

Bachelor's Degree in Education

Earning a bachelor's degree in education is the most common path taken to become a teacher. These undergraduate programs prepare you to become a professional teacher who designs curriculum and instructs students in a classroom setting. Many bachelor's degree programs will include a hands-on student-teaching component that helps prepare prospective teachers for success in their roles. You may want to choose a subject focus for your bachelor's degree, such as math, English, or science.

Bachelor's Degrees in Education

Master's Degree in Education

Master's degrees in education are not required for most K-12 teaching positions in the U.S. However, a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Education (MEd) can increase your earning potential and make you a more competitive candidate for jobs. A master's degree in education can also prepare you to become a postsecondary teacher at community colleges. Master's degrees in education take about two years to complete and include classroom courses as well as fieldwork. Master's degree students will focus on an academic specialization, like special education or educational technology.

Master's Degrees in Education

Doctorate Degree in Education

If you are interested in earning a doctoral degree in the field of education, you have the option of choosing between a Ph.D. in education and an Ed.D., or Doctor of Education degree. Both these graduate level degrees can prepare you for a career in education administration, leadership, or policy. Doctoral degrees require you to complete a dissertation project, as well as course curriculum in your area of educational focus. These programs can take several years to complete; Ph.D.'s typically take at least four years to complete, while Ed.D.'s take anywhere from two to five years.

Doctor of Education Degrees

Online Education Degree

Online programs are great options if you need flexibility in time and location to earn your degree. Online education degree programs are available for associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in education. Some of these programs may have curriculum entirely online, and some may have a hybrid offering, where some courses are taken online and others are taken in a traditional classroom environment. Many of these programs will still require a student-teaching component. Depending on degree level, these online programs can generally take between two to four years to complete, and you may choose to focus on a degree specialization.

Types of Education Degrees

There are many different specializations within the field of education, both in terms of education topics and grade levels. Examples of specializations include early childhood education, K-12 education, special education, and topical specializations such as math, history, science, or language arts. As you earn your degree in education, it may benefit you to determine the grade levels and subject areas that you are interested in instructing to narrow your degree focus.

Teaching Certification

While each state has different specific requirements for becoming a teacher, all states have some sort of licensing or certification requirement. Teacher certifications are offered by professional organizations, like the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and often involve receiving minimum competency scores on knowledge and skills exams, such as the Praxis exams.

The traditional path to teacher certification typically involves obtaining a bachelor's degree in education, with focus on a specific grade level and subject area, and completion of a skills exam like the Praxis.