2019 Best Online Colleges for Education Degrees
Online education degrees are available at 506 accredited colleges and universities. Our comprehensive list of online education degrees includes options at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. In addition to this list, we highlight the best online bachelor's in education and best master's programs, ranked based on tuition costs and alumni salaries, as reported by PayScale.
The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is the primary programmatic accrediting body for education degrees. Accreditation is very important for online education degrees, especially for students looking to earn a teaching license. Prospective students should make sure that the online programs they are considering are recognized by the teaching board in the state where they hope to earn licensure.
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Education Degrees (506)
Annual Tuition: $10,632 - $13,400
|Full List||Accreditation||Annual Tuition||Recommend Rate|
|Full List (506)|
|SACS COC||$33,330||100% (6 reviews)|
61 Programs, 13 in Education
|HLC||$20,456||50% (2 reviews)|
29 Programs, 8 in Education
16 Programs, 2 in Education
|SACS COC||$16,136||Add Review|
45 Programs, 9 in Education
19 Programs, 2 in Education
|HLC||Not Provided||66% (163 reviews)|
47 Programs, 6 in Education
8 Programs, 1 in Education
|DEAC||$14,886||0% (2 reviews)|
58 Programs, 1 in Education
|HLC||$6,880||71% (146 reviews)|
462 Programs, 25 in Education
|MSCHE||$46,615||100% (2 reviews)|
54 Programs, 7 in Education
|SACS COC||$26,970||Add Review|
28 Programs, 2 in Education
40 Programs, 17 in Education
|SACS COC||$17,161||100% (1 review)|
44 Programs, 18 in Education
|SACS COC||$22,109||100% (4 reviews)|
47 Programs, 31 in Education
8 Programs, 4 in Education
|HLC||$15,691 - $27,372||71% (88 reviews)|
226 Programs, 19 in Education
|HLC||$14,778||50% (4 reviews)|
59 Programs, 22 in Education
|WASC WSCUC||$10,632 - $13,400||67% (646 reviews)|
212 Programs, 37 in Education
|SACS COC||$29,640||100% (2 reviews)|
129 Programs, 54 in Education
|SACS COC||$17,140||Add Review|
35 Programs, 14 in Education
|SACS COC||$23,606||100% (2 reviews)|
27 Programs, 5 in Education
9 Programs, 9 in Education
|SACS COC||$23,153||50% (2 reviews)|
60 Programs, 12 in Education
|HLC||$9,360||60% (88 reviews)|
71 Programs, 8 in Education
|HLC||$25,942||100% (4 reviews)|
160 Programs, 109 in Education
2019 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Education Degrees
The 24 schools on this list offer the best online bachelor's degrees in education. Top-ranked Kansas State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education for an annual tuition of $13,964. Education alumni of the school earn a median salary of $81,100, making it a great choice for prospective students. Fort Hays State University, ranked 12th, has the lowest tuition on the list: an affordable rate of $6,997 per year for the Bachelor of Science in Education - Early Childhood Unified program.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Median Salary|
- Annual Tuition: $13,964
- Median Salary: $81,100
Kansas State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and an online Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Admission for both freshmen and transfer students requires a 2.0 GPA, and up to 60 credits may be transferred. The 56 credit Elementary Education program focuses on teaching K-6 in school settings. Graduates become eligible for a Kansas Initial Teaching License. Students must declare a 15 credit minor in a subject such as English or math. The 61 credit Early Childhood program centers on teaching birth to K, and working with families, daycare and related agencies. Courses in the programs include Classroom Assessment, Emerging Literacy and Behavioral Management. Online tuition through K-State Global is $436.40 per credit.
- Annual Tuition: $11,091
- Median Salary: $62,400
The University of Missouri features an online Bachelor of Education Studies. This program is one of relatively few that are designed for teachers who want to work with adult learners in education but in non-school settings such as HR training, churches, nonprofit organizations or community colleges. Admission requires a minimum of 24 college credits with a 2.5 GPA. The degree has an interdepartmental structure and examines topics such as career counseling, vocational education, and special education. Sample courses include Workforce Education Teaching Methods, Positive Psychology, and Developmental Aspects of Human Learning. Tuition per credit is $284.80 for residents and $369.70 for nonresidents.
- Annual Tuition: $8,993
- Median Salary: $58,900
Florida International University has an online Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education degree completion program. Admission requires 60 college credits or an associate's degree, and the CLAST. The program covers education from age 3 to grade 3. The focus is on understanding learning and development, working with families and teaching. The program does not lead to teaching certification. The degree requires 126 credits. Courses offered include Language and Literacy Development, Teaching Beginning Literacy, and Community and the Young Child. Online tuition is $212.71 per credit for residents and $299.97 for nonresidents. A background check is mandatory. FIU is one of the most diverse universities in the country.
- Annual Tuition: $10,860
- Median Salary: $54,900
Stephen F. Austin State University offers three online Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies degrees in education. They are the BSIS in Elementary Education 4-8, the BSIS in Elementary Education EC-6, and the BSIS in Special Education. All three are 45 credit majors and admissions require a 3.0 GPA. Up to 60 credits may be transferred. The EC-6 program is only available to Texas residents and requires a concentration in math, English, social studies or generalist. The 4-8 program focuses on the middle grades. The Special Ed program focuses on teaching diverse students with exceptionalities. It prepares students for EC-12 Special Ed Teacher and EC-6 Generalist Teacher. All three programs require a visit to campus once a semester for program intensives. Tuition is $362 per credit hour.
- Annual Tuition: $12,000
- Median Salary: $54,200
The University of Louisiana Monroe offers an online Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education for grades 1 to 5. The program covers teaching theory, content and methods for teaching this age range. Freshman admission requires a diploma, 2.0 GPA and ACT or SAT scores. Transfer students should have a 2.0 GPA; the transfer policy is generous, as is the assessment for prior experience. The overall degree is 120-125 credits, with 57 in the major. Classes are in 8-week sessions. Courses in the program include Classroom Behavior and Instructional Management, Assessment Principles and Practice,and Music Education for the Lower Grades. Online tuition is $400 per credit unit. UL-Monroe is very military friendly.
- Annual Tuition: $11,532
- Median Salary: $53,600
Wilmington University, located in Wilmington, Delaware, has four online Bachelor of Science in Educational Studies programs. They are in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education K-6, Middle School Education 6-8, and in Skilled and Technical Sciences. The programs are designed for people working with children in positions that do not require licensure or certification (the programs do not lead to licensure). The curriculum combines general education with teaching skills. Wilmington has an open admissions policy and welcomes applications from interested students. Credit transfers and evaluation of prior experience for possible credit policies are generous. Sample courses include Family, Community and School Partnerships, Learner Development and Numeracy, and Multicultural Education. Online undergraduate tuition is $372 per credit.
- Annual Tuition: $20,073
- Median Salary: $53,500
The University of Toledo, located in Toledo, Ohio, offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education. The program is designed for students interested in graduate study or who want to work in administrative support positions in schools and related programs. This is a non-licensure fast track program. Applicants must have an associate's degree in early childhood education or child development with a 2.7 GPA, and must also be employed at least half-time in an appropriate educational setting. The program is on the cohort system. Among the courses offered are Education of Talented and Gifted Children, Effective Teacher Practice and Curriculum Adaptations and Policies. Online tuition for a 3-credit course is $1,260. California residents should check with UT about program availability.
- Annual Tuition: $14,070
- Median Salary: $52,400
Ball State University, located in Muncie, Indiana, has an online Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. This degree is designed for childcare professionals who work full time and is a degree-completion program. Admission requires an associate degree in early childhood education and a minimum GPA of 2.0. The program focuses on building environments for effective learning that are supportive of the family. The program does not lead to teacher licensure. Resident undergrad online tuition is $304 per credit or $510 per credit for nonresidents. Sample courses include Infant and Toddler Curriculum and Development, Culture and Language in Teaching and Learning, and Assessing Young Children with Exceptional Needs.
- Annual Tuition: $17,940
- Median Salary: $51,900
Prescott College, located in Prescott, Arizona, offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Education and Professional Educator Preparation. The program combines a liberal arts core with global ecological and cultural literacy and best practices in teaching. Admission is holistic, but does require a diploma or GED. The degree requires two 30 credit "breadths," which are equivalent to minors. Courses in the program include Educating for the Future: Multicultural and Environmental Issues, and Positive Child Guidance and Inclusive Child Management. Online tuition is $598 per credit hour. Note: This program requires an orientation session on the Prescott Campus.
- Annual Tuition: $12,660
- Median Salary: $51,000
The University of Nebraska at Kearney offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Education- Early Childhood Inclusive. The degree is designed for adults who work as in-service teachers, in HeadStart programs and similar settings. Admission requires a diploma and ACT/ SAT scores or the GED for freshmen, and transfer students should have a minimum GPA of 2.0. Two specializations are available: Birth through Kindergarten and Age 3 to Grade 3. The Inclusive teaching certificate allows teaching birth to age 5 in Special Ed, and birth to age 8 in standard teaching programs. Program courses include Typical/ Atypical Growth and Development, Phonics and Word Study, and Math, Science and Social Studies for Children 3-8. Online tuition is $422 per credit for nonresidents.
- Annual Tuition: $16,650
- Median Salary: $51,400
National University features an online Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education. The program focus is on inclusive curricula and best practices for educating children birth to age 5. Admission requires a diploma with a minimum GPA of 2.0 or the GED. Transfer students should also have a minimum GPA of 2.0. Policies on transfer credit and credit for prior experience are generous. Classes are offered in a one class per four-week term format. Courses offered include Partnering with Families, Music, Movements, Drama, Dance, and Crisis Trauma and Abuse. Online tuition is $370 per quarter credit. National University's home campus is in San Diego. The program requires a teaching practicum, and a background check is mandatory. NU is extremely military friendly. Arkansas residents should check with the admissions office regarding program availability.
- Annual Tuition: $6,997
- Median Salary: $49,400
Fort Hays State University has two online degree programs in education: the B.S. in Elementary Education and the B.S.in Education in Early Childhood Unified. Admission requires a diploma and SAT/ACT scores. Transfer students in the Teacher Education program need a minimum GPA of 2.75. The Unified program includes a special education component, and it leads to Kansas state certification for regular and special education, birth to grade 3. Its overall focus is on careers in teaching and administration in birth-grade 3 settings. The Elementary Education program focuses on theory, curriculum, and clinical experience. Graduates are qualified to seek Kansas state licensure in K to 6. Courses in the programs include Emerging Literacy, Literacy Assessment and Intervention, and Educational Psychology. Tuition is $218.67 per credit.
- Annual Tuition: $8,218
- Median Salary: $49,300
The University of Southern Mississippi offers an online Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. This program is designed for current teacher assistants so they can earn a B.S.and become a certified teacher. Freshman admission is determined by a combination of GPA and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students must have a minimum 2.0 GPA. Graduates are eligible to become certified teachers in K-6. Several endorsements are also available, which will strengthen the degree and career options. They are Math K-8, Science, Social Studies, Foreign Language and English. Classes include Science for Elementary Teachers, Tests and Measurements, and Mathematics for Primary and Middle Grades. Online tuition is $355 per credit.
- Annual Tuition: $7,500
- Median Salary: $48,600
Central Methodist University features two online Bachelor of Science in Education degrees: one in Elementary Education and one in Early Childhood Education. Freshman admission requires a diploma with a minimum 2.5 GPA or the GED, and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students need a minimum GPA of 2.0. The Early Childhood program covers all aspects of development and education and can lead to teacher certification in birth to age 5. The Elementary Education program focuses on child development, teaching methods and teaching content (such as math). It also can also lead to teacher certification. Courses in the programs include Reading and Writing with Young Children, Emerging Language, and Children's Literature. Online tuition is $250 per credit. CMU is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
- Annual Tuition: $14,976
- Median Salary: $47,100
Gardner Webb University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. This is a degree completion program, and applicants must have 44 college credits and a minimum 2.0 GPA. The transfer credit policy is generous; credit may be awarded for prior experience. The program emphasizes professionalism combined with Christian ethics in the classroom. The focus is on K through grade 6. The degree is 128 credits and the major is 31 credits. A 29 credit minor in professional education is required. A concentration in exceptional children is available. Among the courses offered are The Exceptional Child, Kindergarten Curriculum,and Teaching in the 21st Century Schools. Tuition for this program is $468 per credit. The school is in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, and is affiliated with the Baptist Church.
- Annual Tuition: $11,036
- Median Salary: $44,900
Mississippi State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (BSEE) with concentrations in either early childhood or middle school. Freshman admission requires a minimum 2.0 GPA, diploma and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students must have a minimum 2.0 GPA. The Early Childhood program focuses on Pre-K to grade 6 and includes early childhood. Add-on endorsements are available. The Middle School program requires two 21 credit endorsements chosen from English, General Science, Math, Music, Art, Phys Ed, Language and Social Science. Upon graduation, students are licensed to teach in Mississippi. These programs are currently not available in Georgia. Online tuition is $356 per credit.
- Annual Tuition: $20,640
- Median Salary: $45,500
The University of Laverne offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Education Studies. The program trains students in K-6 methods and content and includes pre-K. Admission requires at least 28 college credits with a minimum GPA of 2.50. Up to 88 credits may be transferred. One of the main focuses is on preparing graduates for the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET). Among the courses offered are Learning Technology for Educators, Science for Elementary Teachers, and Teaching K-8 Social Studies. Regular online tuition is $645 per semester hour, with a reduced rate of $250 per semester hour for active military. The school is located in Laverne, California, near Los Angeles.
- Annual Tuition: $11,700
- Median Salary: $41,200
The University of Arkansas at Monticello features an online Bachelor of Science in Education Studies. The program is designed for nontraditional students, and particularly for full-time public school paraprofessionals. Anyone may apply. Freshman admission requires a diploma and a minimum GPA of 2.0. The ACT is preferred. Transfer students also need a minimum 2.0 GPA. The program does not lead to licensure but on completion, graduates may choose to enroll in UAM's online MA in Teaching, which does lead to certification. Sample courses include Education, Schools and Society, K-6 Planning, Curriculum and Programming, and Needs of Diverse Learners in Inclusive Settings.
- Annual Tuition: $19,948
- Median Salary: $41,500
Appalachian State offers a hybrid Bachelor of Science in Middle Grades Education, with some courses offered online and some requiring an on-campus presence. This is a degree completion program, requiring at least 30 college credits and a minimum 2.0 GPA. The degree covers grades 6-8. The major has three concentrations: language arts and science, language arts and social studies, and science and social studies. The curriculum combines liberal arts and teaching content and skills. The program can lead to licensure in North Carolina. Segments of the program require practicums on campus, and student teaching must be done in-state. Courses include Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age and Language Arts in the Middle Grades. In-state tuition is $143 per credit and $643.50 per credit for nonresidents.
- Annual Tuition: $19,383
- Median Salary: $41,400
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington features an online Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. The program focus is on developing professional competency for teaching and school leadership. It will result in North Carolina licensure to teach K-6. Admission requires a minimum of 24 credits with a 2.5 GPA. In addition to the core curriculum, an 18 hour concentration is required, chosen from science and health, fine arts, ESL, international studies, math, and technology. The field requirements include some on-campus practicums and the student teaching must be done in North Carolina. Classes in the program include Teaching Diverse Learners K-6, Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction K-6, and Psychological Foundations of Teaching. Online tuition for state residents is $150.10 per credit and $625.27 per credit for nonresidents.
- Annual Tuition: $10,650
- Median Salary: $39,200
Granite State College offers a dozen online Bachelor of Arts degree programs in education. Three are in English Language Arts, five in Math Studies, two in Social Studies and two in Early Childhood Education. The programs offer both certification and non-certification options. There are four academic terms per year. Freshman admission requires a diploma with a minimum 2.0 GPA, or the GED. Transfer students also need a minimum 2.0 GPA. Up to 90 credits may be transferred and credits may be granted for prior experiential learning or training. Certification results from most programs but may not be valid in all states. Online tuition is $314 per credit for residents and $355 per credit for nonresidents. The main campus is located in Concord, New Hampshire.
- Annual Tuition: $9,440
- Median Salary: $37,900
Mayville State University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education, and two online Bachelor of Science in Education (BSED) degrees: one in Mathematics Education and one in Special Education. All programs reflect Mayville's concept of "the Reflective Experiential Teacher." Freshman admission requires a diploma and a 2.0 GPA. Transfer students also need a 2.0 GPA. The Early Childhood program focuses on preparation for teaching and administration. It is only available in ND, MN, MT, SD and WY. The BSED Math degree is for grades 5-12 and requires a minor. The BSED Special Education program has several emphases available and is also available as a double degree. Online tuition is $295 per credit. The school is located in Mayville, North Dakota.
- Annual Tuition: $6,380
- Median Salary: $32,000
Western Governors University offers three online Bachelor of Arts and seven online Bachelor of Science programs in education. They are the BA in Elementary Education, two BAs in Special Education (K-12 and Moderate), two BS degrees in Mathematics Education and five BS programs in Science Education. The programs are designed to lead to certification, although not all states and degrees are applicable. Students will need to take certification exams in their state. The programs focus on teaching and content skills. They can also lead into WGU's MA programs in education. Students are able to take as many credits per term as they like. The school is located in Salt Lake City.
- Annual Tuition: $11,700
- Median Salary: $31,700
Liberty University features four online Bachelor of Science programs in education. They include the B.S. in Biblical and Educational Studies, the B.S. degrees in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education, and the B.S. in Special Education: Interdisciplinary Studies. Admission requires a diploma and a minimum 2.0 GPA. Transfer students also need a minimum 2.0 GPA and can transfer in up to 90 credits. These programs combine foundational skills and teaching methods within a Christian ethical context. The Biblical Studies program focuses on training for denominational schools and Christian institutions. The elementary education program can be combined with the Liberty M.A.T. for certification. The early childhood program focuses on pre-school. Online tuition is $390 per credit hour.
Online Education Degree Overview & Career Information
Online certificates and associate degrees in education can provide an introduction to the field and preparation for later college-level work. These degrees cover general liberal arts topics, as well as courses in curriculum design, child development, and instructional methods. Stand-alone undergraduate certificates are usually available in early childhood education areas, while certificates that are part of bachelor’s degrees cover a wider range of topics, such as education policy or adult education.
Bachelor’s degrees in education are the minimum requirement to teach in public elementary and secondary schools. Online degrees are available in elementary education, early childhood education, secondary education, and special education. In general, half of the credits in bachelor’s degrees in education are in the education major core, while half are in liberal arts topics like natural science, social science, communications, and math.
Online graduate certificates and master’s degrees in education are often used to earn a teaching credential and state teaching license. Current teachers can use these programs to advance their understanding of teaching skills. Master’s programs and certificates are available in specializations such as education technology, elementary teacher education, special education, literacy, teacher leadership, administration, and adult education.
Online doctoral degrees in education are usually aimed at students who want to work in higher-level education policy or administration roles. These degree programs require students to perform research into a particular area of education, such as learning sciences and technology or race and language in education.
Individuals who are interested in starting careers in education may choose to start out with an associate degree. Associate degree holders in education are generally qualified to become teaching assistants. Those who wish to advance in their field may need to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree.
Most two-year degree programs in this area are offered at community or junior colleges and require the completion of at least 60 credit hours. Applicants should possess a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment.
Students in associate degree programs in education can chose from many different areas of specialization. The most common concentrations are early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education, and special education. Some students may also choose to specialize in a particular subject, such as math or biology. Regardless of the area of interest, students will learn about classroom management, curriculum development, and best practices for working with school staff and parents. Coursework typically includes topics such as education fundamentals, education technology, education psychology, and child development and growth. In addition to classroom learning, students in these programs may be required to complete internships or externships in order to graduate.
Depending on the state and grade level the student intends to instruct, the bachelor's degree may be sufficient to launch a teaching career. In some states, secondary school teachers are required to complete graduate training. Private schools set their own standards for teachers, and a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for employment in certain schools. Prospective teachers should investigate their state's teaching licensure procedures to understand the rules that apply to them.
Students in an online education bachelor's program study a broad array of curriculum and instructional techniques. Education bachelor's students specialize in a particular grade level or subject area. These programs require about four years of full-time study and include 120 credit hours of coursework. Applicants need a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Core classes in the education program explore the structure of public education, major topics and issues in public education, cultural effects on student achievement, education around the world, and the political state of education. Other classes explore curriculum development, evaluation techniques, and teaching techniques. To earn a four-year degree in education, students also take a number of general courses in math,biology, the arts, and the humanities.
The upper-division coursework in the bachelor's program is centered around the student's particular focus area in education. Possible specializations include elementary education, special education, middle school, or secondary education. Students specializing in secondary education also take coursework in a particular teaching subject area, such as math, science, or English. Teaching-oriented bachelor’s degrees require that students complete teaching labs or practicums, as well as an internship.
An online master’s degree in education includes study in teaching theories and instructional techniques. Individuals with no teaching experience can use the master's to earn a state teaching credential; current teachers can use the program to broaden their skills or become education leaders.
Applicants need an accredited bachelor's degree. Online master’s degrees in education usually have a core of five to eight required classes, along with electives the student can choose. Students can expect to complete an average of 30 credits in two years to earn the degree.
The courses in the master’s program depend on the type of training the student is seeking. Some programs are entry-level degrees, aimed at individuals with no previous teaching experience. These programs cover the theory of education and instructional techniques for a particular grade level or subject. These degrees also include teaching practicums and internships that help students master hands-on teaching skills. Other master's degrees are aimed at current teachers who want to deepen their understanding of a particular subject area or gain leadership skills. These programs may focus in areas like special education, technology in education, reading and literature, or curriculum and instruction.
With a master’s degree in education, a graduate can continue or launch a career in educational leadership, teaching, or education lobbying and development. Administrators typically need experience in teaching or the education system in addition to a master's degree.
2019 Best Online Colleges for a Master's in Education
The 25 colleges on this list offer affordable online master's in education programs. The average tuition for this list is $13,536, and there are 19 schools whose tuitions are under $15,000. University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign offers an impressive return on investment on their program costing $7,456 per year, with mid-career alumni from the program reporting a salary of $91,600. Western Governors University is also an affordable choice for prospective students, with an annual tuition of $6,380 and a salary of $76,900.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Median Salary|
Students in online education PhD programs usually conduct original research in a particular area of education theory or practice to help prepare them to lead transformative change in the field of education.
These programs require completion of 70-90 credit hours and take four to five years to complete. Applicants to these programs typically need a bachelor's and master's degree, along with a strong education-based resume.
The curriculum varies between programs, but courses generally provide reading, discussion, and writing forums for students on topics like education finance, the achievement gap, and education reform. Students also choose an emphasis area, such as elementary education, mathematics education, science education, special education, school administration, or educational technology, and take courses focusing on topics in that field. One of the most important components of a doctorate in education program is the dissertation. Students choose an original topic and an advising professor, then read extensively about their topic, and conduct their own research.
Graduates of these programs often become professors in universities and colleges, teaching classes in general education, teaching, education policy, education administration, and educational psychology and counseling. Professors of education also participate in research studies, often with the goal of publishing their findings in academic journals; they may also advise graduate students as they write their theses and dissertations. Some graduates will work in education policy and reform, while those who studied education administration can become principals, headmasters, deans, superintendents, or employees for state and national departments of education.
Online certificates in education are available in a variety of focuses, from teacher certification to school leadership or educational policy. These programs typically take a year or less to complete and are comprised of 6 to 10 courses. Applicants need an accredited bachelor’s or master’s degree, depending on the focus and level of the certificate. Some programs also require previous experience working with children or teaching, as well as a clear criminal background check.
The coursework in the education certificate will vary, depending on the program’s goals. Many programs are designed to certify teachers in a particular subject area, such as elementary or secondary education. These programs discuss instructional abilities and teaching theory. Some programs are aimed at experienced educators and discuss education administration and leadership topics, such as human resources issues and professional communication techniques. Other certificates are useful for seasoned teachers who want more knowledge in a particular teaching area, such as teaching students with disabilities or using educational technology.
The career opportunities available after completing an education certificate will depend on the graduate’s previous education and experience. Many use the certificate to take a state licensing exam, either to become a kindergarten-through-12th-grade teacher or a school principal. Education certificates can also be useful for teachers interested in moving into policy or research roles in local, state, and federal governments. Other programs are used by practicing teachers to deepen their curriculum and cement their role in their current school.
Attending an accredited school is one of the best decisions that a student can make. Accreditation is a designation awarded to a school for complying with a set of academic and personal support standards. Students who need financial aid, hope to earn certification or licensure as a teacher, and who may want to attend graduate school or transfer credits must attend an online school that is accredited. All individuals seeking a teaching credential must attend an education program that is recognized by their state’s board of education.
To ensure the best possible outcomes for your education program, the online degree program you choose should be accredited by either one of the six primary regional accrediting boards, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, or an accrediting board that specializes in education programs. Examples of these programmatic accrediting agencies include the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA), Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS), and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
Any school's accreditation status can be checked through the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. For more information about accreditation, please visit our comprehensive accreditation hub.
Education graduates who plan to become a teacher or an administrator (e.g., principal or superintendent) in a public school district will need to follow the proper procedure to become licensed before they can begin working. Each US state has its own set of licensing or certification requirements, so it's best to check with your particular state before embarking on a path to become an educator or administrator. In general though, educators and administrators must earn an accredited degree, have professional experience, and pass at least one competency exam.
Specific details about licensing and certification requirements for public school teachers can be found in our guide to teaching degrees. The licensing process for public school principals is more rigorous than the process for obtaining a teaching certificate, as administrators are expected to have advanced leadership skills and knowledge about operating a school or school district. To become a principal, most states require candidates to have a master's degree from a regionally accredited school, a teaching certificate, and at least three years of teaching experience.
Principals must also complete a principal preparation program or internship to develop their leadership skills and their knowledge of how to improve students' educational experiences. Other requirements often include passing an exam to demonstrate basic reading, writing, and math skills; passing a state-based educator standards exam; and submitting to a criminal background check. Some states have different levels of principal certification, starting with an initial "residency certificate" and advancing to a "professional certificate" after two years of experience as an employed administrator. Some states break down their certifications even further for elementary vs. secondary school principals, while other states have the same requirements for both academic levels.
To become the superintendent of a school district, some states require that applicants have a current principal or teaching license and a certain number of years of experience in each professional role. Superintendents may also be required to complete a superintendent preparation program as well as an accredited master's degree program with a superintendent focus before they can take a licensing exam. After passing the exam, they may be eligible for an initial superintendent certificate for a certain number of years before they must renew their certification.
Educational administrators are the leaders of schools, colleges, and other types of educational organizations. They are the leaders and guides in the educational field, either working intimately with students or with the larger community. School administrators work at state and federal levels and help develop state policies that affect education. Administrators can also be school superintendents, principals, or principal support staff.
Students who are seeking entry-level administrative positions in a school district office or at state or federal levels may wish to start with an associate or bachelor's degree in education administration, while those with more professional experience and who hope to work as a superintendent or hold a position as an education administrator at the state or federal level should consider a graduate degree or certificate in education administration.
One-year education administration or education leadership graduate certificate programs are available for students who are currently earning or have already earned a master's degree. They are typically designed for education professionals who would like to advance into a career as a school leader or school district leader. Associate and bachelor’s degrees in educational administration give a broader and more in-depth liberal arts experience. An undergraduate degree program in early childhood education administration provides students with an understanding of the education industry, helps them gain advanced organizational management skills and trains them in the theories of child development.
Graduate degree programs provide highly advanced education in education administration. A master’s degree program in educational leadership offers aspiring principals, deans, and other administrators an opportunity to further develop their professional skills and prepares them to effectively manage the way a school operates. Educational leadership doctorates introduce current educators to advanced theories in educational psychology, educational leadership and public relations, school law, and leadership ethics.
Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in today's classrooms. Everyone from kindergarten through graduate school is enjoying the benefits of computers, presentational technology, and new programs in the classroom. Some of the best teachers in today's classes are skilled at incorporating new forms of technology to enhance student learning, whether it be computer programs, tablets, or podcasts. Technology has become so important in today's classrooms that there are entire degree programs dedicated to creating new ways of including technology in one's teaching style. Both current and aspiring teachers can benefit from learning about instructional technology in a formalized degree setting.
Instructional technology degrees are usually earned as graduate degrees. Most people who become interested in this field are already educators or educational leaders, such as vice principals or curriculum developers. Students who are choosing instructional technology paths are interested in becoming better at their jobs, learning to take their techniques and skills in new directions. This makes the masters degree or the masters of education degree very popular. Students study computer programming, the teaching of computer programming, introducing students to technology, using technology paired with written literature and traditional teaching methods, and training other teachers to use technology in their classrooms.
Associate degrees and bachelor's degrees that feature an instructional technology option are more likely to be degrees in education or teaching with an instructional technology specialization option. Students will study teaching techniques, curriculum development, evaluation techniques, and classroom management, all while learning about how they can use technology to enhance their teaching skills. Some schools require that students who are applying for master's in instructional technology already have official teaching experience. Doctoral programs may even require curriculum development or teacher leadership experience.
Traditional degree programs in instructional technology revolve around group discussion, helping students build ideas off of one another. This is not easily done through online programs, so instructional technology students will be asked to complete a lot of reading and writing assignments. Many online programs (as well as some traditional programs) require that all students be full-time, licensed teachers.
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