Secondary Education Certification and Certificate Programs

Schools in every part of the U.S. offer secondary education 4-year bachelor's and 2-year master's degree programs that could prepare participants for teacher certification upon completion.

Essential Information

Aspiring teachers who want to instruct at the secondary school level, defined in most cases as grades 6-12, have an abundance of options. There are many programs that emphasize literacy, science, English and classroom management techniques among other subjects. In order to gain hands-on knowledge, bachelor's-level students must complete field training experiences where they work under the supervision of licensed teachers in actual secondary school classrooms. Students of master's-level programs can gain additional knowledge by taking part in professional seminars. Practicum experiences are also included in master's degree programs.

Students must have a high school diploma or equivalent for a bachelor's program and a bachelor's degree for master's program. Programs may be available online but field training is often required. Programs last four to five years for bachelor's degrees and two years for master's degrees.

Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education

A bachelor's degree program in secondary education provides a comprehensive exploration of the history, theory and practice of educating adolescent and pre-adolescent children. Students also receive an introduction to school administration policies and practices. Students choose a subject area, like natural sciences, mathematics, English, social studies or foreign language, and gain mastery of teaching methods and educational content. The vast majority of programs include a field training component that places student teachers in a middle or high school classroom to observe and assist. Although students in a secondary education program take many courses on education and teaching, they also take specialization classes. For example, a student hoping to teach math will take many credits of upper-level math classes in addition to pedagogy classes. Common core courses include:

  • Education theory
  • Literacy and reading
  • Teaching methods
  • Human development
  • Classroom management

Master's Degree in Secondary Education

A master's degree program in secondary education provides a theoretical framework in pedagogy and practical training in curriculum design and educational research. Degree candidates gain insight into ways of improving instructional efficiency by applying new concepts and technology and adjusting for the differences in development and learning habits of individual children. Like bachelor's degree programs, some master's degree programs may have students choose an academic subject area, but many do not due to their emphasis on theory and research. Coursework is supplemented with seminars and practicums. Course topics in a master's degree program in secondary education may duplicate those covered in a bachelor's degree program but are more in-depth and research intensive, including:

  • Education history
  • Education philosophy
  • Research methods
  • Curriculum development
  • Advanced teaching methods
  • Education technology

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( projected a 6% increase in high school teaching positions from 2014-2024, which was slower than average. New jobs should be driven by growth in the U.S. population and increased retirements. According to the BLS, secondary school teachers earned a mean salary of $60,440 in May 2015.

Continuing Education Information

Students who earn a bachelor's degree in secondary education need to become certified before beginning a teaching career. Each state has its own rules but teacher candidates are usually required to pass a certification exam. Common exams include the Praxis I, CBEST or WEST-B. Some states, including Alabama and Illinois, have their own exams. Earning a master's degree in secondary education will meet most state requirements for teacher certification. As with the bachelor's degree, teacher candidates will have to pass a certification exam if they haven't previously. Most states require certified teachers to complete a set number of continuing education credits every few years. Teachers may be able to satisfy this requirement by attending professional development seminars offered by their employer or by enrolling in college classes.

Before testing for certification, those interested in becoming secondary education teachers should enroll in programs that provide coursework on the history, theory and practice of teaching. Advanced degrees provide classes that help give insight into new concepts and technology and differences in children's learning development and habits.

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