Earning Your Education Degree Online
Going to school can be stressful — if not a complete roadblock — when you’re also juggling a job, are a parent, or are required to live far outside of your nearest campus due to military, career, or family commitments. Luckily, today it’s becoming more and more common for schools to offer online education degrees.
These types of degree tracks, often called distance learning programs, offer students significantly more flexibility in how they earn their degree. At most schools, coursework is even offered asynchronously, meaning students are able to complete their classes at the time that is most convenient for them.
While many prospective students hoping to pursue careers in teaching assume earning an education degree online is impossible due to the hands-on training requirements, there are actually a plethora of programs spanning the United States which offer students the ability to complete their degree online and fulfill the in-person aspects within their local community. These affordable, often accelerated, programs allow budding teachers to choose the internships and classroom training opportunities that make the most sense for them geographically and temporally.
Excellent teachers are needed in the United States now more than ever. With an occupational growth rate of 6% and an average starting salary of more than $50,000 for high school teachers, there’s no better time to get a jump start on a career in education.
Job Outlook for Education Graduates
Earning online education degrees isn’t just a pathway to a higher salary — it’s necessary for your career. While graduates holding associates degrees may be allowed to work as teachers aides or assistants, every state requires teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to earn your bachelor’s degree in education online, making a career as a teacher much more attainable for busy and adult students.
Furthermore, many colleges offer online master’s programs in education, allowing graduates to access salaries that are $7,000 higher per year (on average) than their counterparts with a bachelor’s degree. Ultimately, many teachers make an excellent living, especially in the states where teachers are paid the most, like New York, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C.
|School Type||Salary Range (annual)||Average (with Associates)||Average (with Bachelor’s)||Average (with Master’s)|
|Elementary School (public)||$30,440 – $67,229||N/A (Teachers are required to hold bachelor’s degrees at a minimum)||$43,591||$50,591|
|Middle School (public)||$32,971 – $69,354||N/A (Teachers are required to hold bachelor’s degrees at a minimum)||$45,830||$52,830|
|High School (public)||$33,667 – $73,140||N/A (Teachers are required to hold bachelor’s degrees at a minimum)||$47,760||$54,760|
Please note that private school teachers typically make between $10 to 15 thousand less per year than their public school equivalents.
The salary you’ll be able to earn as an educator is dependent on what grade you teach, the state and town you teach in, what level of degree you hold, and how many years of experience you have. While it’s a good idea to get a better understanding of what level of pay you’ll be eligible for based on your own data, the following are the average salary outcomes for US-based teachers.
Preschool teachers typically earn the lowest salary among teaching positions, however educators at this level are not required to hold a bachelor’s degree. With an associates degree, preschool teachers typically make about $28,790 per year, or just under $14 per hour. This is also a growing field — job opportunities for preschool teacher are expected to rise 7% by 2024.
By contrast, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn a higher salary, but the job growth rate for the field is slightly slower at 6%. Teachers at this level are also required to hold a bachelor’s degree, and many choose to pursue their early childhood education degree online. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers usually make about $55,490 annually, and that number can rise significantly based on experience. Teaching at the middle school level is comparable to teaching in elementary school; educators are also required to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, average salaries are about $56,720 per year, and a projected 36,800 new middle school teaching jobs will be filled by 2024.
High school teachers make just slightly more per year, at $57,910, however at this level it’s a good idea to look into online master’s programs in education to ensure you’re eligible for the most competitive jobs.
Types of Education Careers
Most education students choose their specialization or career before deciding on what type of degree they’ll pursue. Often degrees can be fairly specialized, and knowing what path you’re going to follow will allow you to choose the program that is most germane to your desired career.
- Preschool Teacher
Preschool teachers tend to work with children who are younger than five, in the years before they are old enough to enroll in kindergarten. Requirements for these educators can range significantly, from holding just a high school diploma to requiring a bachelor’s degree depending on the school. The lower education requirements are often reflected in salary, and teachers can expect to earn about $28,790 per year. Preschool teachers introduce their students to core subjects like reading, writing, and math, as well as help young children develop social and communication skills.
- Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher
Teaching in kindergarten or elementary school extends the subjects learned in preschool, and children are tasked with basic mathematics and simple reading and writing, as well as further developing their social, emotional, and communication skills. This position pays about $55,490 annually.
- Middle School Teacher
When students reach middle school, the begin to take more specialized classes, like biology and social studies. They also continue their training in reading, writing, and math. Middle school teachers educate students from grade six to grade eight, preparing them for the more difficult coursework that they will take when they get to high school. Teachers earn an average of just under $57,000 per year at the middle school level.
- High School Teacher
In the final years of mandatory education, high school students learn highly specialized subjects, take electives, and are encouraged to start acquiring vocational skills. Teachers at the high school level are typically specialists in a certain area, and teach only that subject throughout the day. High school teachers may hold their bachelor’s or master’s degrees, though for more competitive positions a graduate-level degree may be required. The average salary for a high school teacher in the US is $58,000 annually.
- College Professor
If you elect to be a postsecondary educator, you may be required to earn your Ph.D., though some community colleges employ teachers with their master’s. Like high school, teachers in universities are subject area experts, and typically teach one or two courses pertaining to the same subject throughout the day. College professors may also be required to participate in research projects or publish papers. However, their salaries reflect the extra work; median pay for college professors is $75,430 per year.
- Special Education Teacher
Lastly, you may choose to become a special education instructor. Doing so requires a bachelor’s degree and specific licensure, as well as a healthy dose of care and patience. Special education teachers work with students spanning learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities, and are tasked with creating tailored lessons for their students based on their needs. They often also help students communicate better and learn to manage their emotions. On average, special education teachers earn just shy of $58,000 per year.
Luckily, there are plenty of online education degrees available to help you get your footing in the teaching career of your choice.
Types of Education Degrees
Students who are pursuing their online education degrees tend to work towards their bachelor’s or master’s, as there are fewer career opportunities available to graduates who hold an associate degree. Beyond the more expansive list of job opportunities for bachelor’s degree holders and above, salaries are also significantly higher.
Regardless, there are a multitude of ways to earn your secondary education degree online, including a breadth of online master’s programs in education. You can also choose to earn your early childhood education degree online, if your goal is to instruct students at the elementary school level. No matter what, an online education degree is the right first step in jumpstarting your teaching career.
|Degree Level||Definition||Possible Concentrations||Median Annual Salary|
|Associate||Two-year degree, typically from a community college||Elementary education||$28,790 annually|
|Bachelor’s||Four-year, university degree||Elementary education, special education, early childhood education, middle grades education, secondary education, language arts education, social sciences education, earth science education, life science education, mathematics education, physical science education, physical education||$57,000 annually|
|Master’s||Two-year, university degree||Nutrition education, mathematics education, special education, international education, technology education, literacy education, physical education, physical science education, early childhood education, elementary education, middle grades education, secondary education, language arts education, life science education, educational leadership, assessment and policy in education, reading and writing, child study, bilingual education||$60,990 annually|
Education Certifications and Licensing
Earning your online education degree is not the final step on the road to becoming a teacher. Regardless of where you teach, you’ll need to have a professional teaching licenses, the exact requirements for which are set at the state level. As such, it’s important to choose the right teacher preparation program (TPP) for your career goals. TPPs are generally included as the last piece of your education. Core curriculum in online master’s programs in education or some bachelor’s programs should prepare you for acquiring your certification.
That being said, most schools will require you to apply for the TPP within your program. This typically involves an exam or series of exams, however which exam that is exactly varies from state to state. The most common test is the Praxis I.
Next, when you finish your degree, you’ll send documentation to your state’s teacher certifying agency. The process for certification is variable, so it’s a good idea to speak with your advisor or professors about what will be required from you in order to obtain your credentials.
Once you’re certified, it’s important to keep your eye on the expiration date. Many states allow you to use the same credential for the duration of your teaching career, as long as it is renewed regularly. Other states will require you to be recertified after some duration of time. The advisors within your program should be able to give you all the details you need about maintaining your certification.
For students who need help paying for their education, there is more than $19 billion in scholarship money available to students in the United States each year. Both niche scholarships for education majors and general scholarships for all college students are plentiful, and may students are able combine a series of scholarships to alleviate a large portion of their tuition. Furthermore, many teaching concentrations, like special education and mathematics, qualify as high demand fields, making scholarships available for students in those specializations even more accessible. The following is a list of eight general and specific scholarships that you may qualify for as an education major.
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH)
Students must commit to working in a high-demand subject and spend a minimum of four years teaching at a school which serves low-income populations.
- Amount: Recipients may be granted up to $4000 per year
- Deadline: Varies by state
- Phi Delta Kappa International Education Foundation
For high school school seniors and undergraduate students who are part of the Educators Rising program.
- Amount: $1,000 each for 30 students
- Deadline: March 1
- STEM Teacher Graduate Scholarships by the AFCEA Educational Foundation
For undergraduate and graduate students concentration their degree in education in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field.
- Amount: Between $2,500 and $5,000
- Deadline: April 22
- Hispanic Scholarship Fund
For students from Hispanic backgrounds pursuing an undergraduate degree and maintaining a GPA of 2.5 or higher.
- Amount: Up to $5,000
- Deadline: March 30
- Gates Millennium Scholars Program
For any minority student with a GPA of 3.3 or higher who has qualified for a Federal Pell Grant.
- Amount: Various
- Deadline: January 13
- AASEA Memorial Scholarships
For education majors at the junior or senior undergraduate level or graduate students who are committed to teaching special education.
- Amount: $2,000
- Deadline: April 30
- Ron Brown Scholars Program
For African-American high school seniors planning to pursue a degree in education.
- Amount: $40,000
- Deadline: November 1
During or after obtaining their online education degrees, new and future educators may be eligible to become part of a professional association for teachers. Being part of an association creates a lot of benefits for you as a member, the first and foremost of which is the continuation of your own education. Many teachers join organizations to position themselves at the forefront of new methodologies, teaching ideas, and resources within the teaching community.
Associations are also a great way to get involved with education from a political standpoint, allowing you to advocate for high education standards, fair pay for teachers, and other important issues through a larger, more powerful, more unified voice.
Equally importantly, association membership can go a long way towards obtaining a job or moving into a new position. These organizations promote professional networking, and many member make lasting connections with other teachers across the nation and the world, who become their advocates during job hunts. Associations also look good on your resume as a teacher, making membership beneficial even if you choose to never speak to another member of the organization.
After earning your secondary education degree online, association membership can be a good next step in furthering your career. The following is a list of five popular associations for teachers.
- School Superintendents Association (AASA): The AASA is an association for education administrators, and acts as a political voice for public education. Superintendents become members of AASA to become advocates for education, professional enrichment, and networking. Members may also obtain prestige through a series of awards, including the AASA Awards, AASA National Superintendent of the Year, and the AASA Women in School Leadership Award.
- Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI): Membership with the ACEI means continuing your education as an educator, leaning on peers and organizational resources to understand innovative methodologies and ideas. Members are able to network with educators across the globe, sharing information and resources and ultimately helping the organization advance education for students everywhere. The organization also offers a series of awards, like the Emerging Leaders Award and Student Excellence award, to its members and organizes a series of events every year.
- American Federation of Teachers (AFT): The AFT works to support fairness and democracy in quality of education and economic opportunity for teachers and education professionals. The organization promotes their mission through events, activism, and community engagement. Today, more than 1.6 million members are helping the organization attain its goals.
- Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE): AMLE is an association for teachers at the middle school level, educating students from ages 10-15. The organization’s mission is to help middle school teachers better engage with their students, grow as educators, and make a positive impact in their schools. The organization offers multiple publications and events as resources, such as AMLE Magazine, the Middle School Journal, and the annual AMLE conference.
- ASCD: ASCD is a general association for all teachers and administrators committed to helping all children succeed academically. Membership with ASCD includes a series of publications, like Educational Leadership magazine and the Education Update Newsletter, as well as a number of tools to help educators grow professionally, such as members-only webinars.
If you’re still considering signing up for an online education program, you can test your interest in the subject area and your ability to complete coursework by participating in a free online course.
Not only are these programs a good way to measure your ability to complete online courses and your engagement with the subject, they also look good on college applications and resumes. These courses can help you build out a portfolio at a minimum, and can sometimes be translated into actual college credit, depending on your program.
Alternatively, if you’ve already graduated and are working as an educator, open courseware can help you keep updated on current standards in education, help you flesh out your knowledge in certain subject areas, or introduce yourself to new topics you may not have covered over the course of your degree. Some excellent free online courses include:
General Education Courses
- Critical Issues in Urban Education, offered by the University of Chicago
- Emerging Trends & Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom, offered by the University of California, Irvine
- What Future for Education?, offered by the University of London
- Teaching Character & Creating Positive Classrooms, offered by the Relay Graduate School of Education
- Big Data in Education, offered by the University of Pennsylvania
- Design in the Classroom with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, offered by the Smithsonian
- The Science of Learning: What Every Teacher Should Know, offered by Columbia University Teachers College
- Early Childhood Education, offered by Gowrie Victoria
- Education in a Changing World, offered by Open2Study
- Teaching Adult Learners, offered by Open2Study
Special Education Courses
- Autism Spectrum Disorder, offered by UC Davis
- Supporting Children with Difficulties in Reading and Writing, offered by the University of London, UCL Institute of Education, Dyslexia International
- Disability Awareness and Support, offered by the University of Pittsburgh
Courses for English Teachers
- Writing for Young Readers: Opening the Treasure Chest, offered by the Commonwealth Education Trust
- Introduction to Fiction, offered by MIT
- Major Poets, offered by MIT
- Shakespeare, offered by MIT
Courses for Math Teachers
- Precalculus, offered by Arizona State University
- Calculus with Theory, offered by MIT
- Principles of Applied Mathematics, offered by MIT
Courses for Technology Teachers
- Foundations of Computer Science for Teachers, offered by the University of Texas at Austin
- Teaching with Technology and Inquiry, offered by the University of Toronto
- Mathematics for Computer Science, offered by MIT
Courses for Science Teachers
- Stand Up For Science, offered by the University of Michigan
- Earth’s Changing Climate, offered by PBS Teacherline
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