Complete Guide to an Online Secondary Education Degree

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: CAEP and TEAC
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $21,867
Avg Salary: $61,746

There are 531 online secondary education degrees available at 178 accredited schools in the United States. These programs exist at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. Our list of the top online colleges highlights 24 schools offering outstanding academic programs in secondary education at affordable tuitions.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is the leading accrediting body for secondary education degrees. Prospective students should choose CAEP-accredited programs to ensure the rigor and relevancy of the degrees they earn as well as to establish themselves for future careers in education. Additionally, in some states, attending an accredited program is a prerequisite for teaching licensure.

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Secondary Education Degrees (178)

2017 Top Online Colleges Offering Secondary Education Degrees

Secondary Education-Top Online Colleges-2017-Badge

The 24 schools on this list offer the most affordable and academically rigorous online secondary education degrees. With tuition averaging just over $7,500 and academic strength scores ranging from 59% to 77%, these schools are excellent choices for prospective secondary education students. Georgia College & State University is our top ranked school, offering two master's degrees starting at $5,184 per year and an academic strength score of 71%.

View our methodology for more details.

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Rank School Annual Tuition Academic Strength
#1 #1 Georgia College & State University Annual Tuition $5,184 Academic Strength 71%
#2 #2 University of Alabama Annual Tuition $5,505 Academic Strength 69%
#3 #3 Southeast Missouri State University Annual Tuition $5,525 Academic Strength 64%
#4 #4 University of Central Missouri Annual Tuition $4,860 Academic Strength 62%
#5 #5 University of Georgia Annual Tuition $11,322 Academic Strength 77%
#6 #6 Kennesaw State University Annual Tuition $7,344 Academic Strength 67%
#7 #7 Saint Joseph's University Annual Tuition $8,784 Academic Strength 69%
#8 #8 Marshall University Annual Tuition $5,580 Academic Strength 61%
#9 #9 University of North Georgia Annual Tuition $6,930 Academic Strength 64%
#10 #10 University of the Cumberlands Annual Tuition $5,355 Academic Strength 60%
#11 #11 Mississippi State University Annual Tuition $9,912 Academic Strength 69%
#12 #12 Ball State University Annual Tuition $8,850 Academic Strength 66%
#13 #13 Gardner Webb University Annual Tuition $7,503 Academic Strength 63%
#14 #14 University of Maine Annual Tuition $9,316 Academic Strength 67%
#15 #15 Eastern Kentucky University Annual Tuition $7,500 Academic Strength 62%
#16 #16 University of South Alabama Annual Tuition $7,245 Academic Strength 61%
#17 #17 Western New England University Annual Tuition $9,690 Academic Strength 67%
#18 #18 Stephen F. Austin State University Annual Tuition $7,650 Academic Strength 61%
#19 #19 McKendree University Annual Tuition $7,875 Academic Strength 61%
#20 #20 California University of Pennsylvania Annual Tuition $7,395 Academic Strength 60%
#21 #21 University of West Alabama Annual Tuition $7,293 Academic Strength 59%
#22 #22 University of Nebraska at Kearney Annual Tuition $7,920 Academic Strength 60%
#23 #23 Southern Arkansas University Annual Tuition $8,262 Academic Strength 61%
#24 #24 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania Annual Tuition $8,874 Academic Strength 62%
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Online Secondary Education Degree Overview & Career Information

Secondary education programs can be found at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. At the associate level, programs will mainly focus on preparing a student to transfer to a bachelor's degree program, but graduates may also be able to find work in a variety of educational assistant roles. A bachelor's degree is the minimum amount of education required in order to become a licensed secondary education teacher. Master's degrees are available for those who have completed an undergraduate degree not focused in education but who want to become teachers, and also for teachers looking to advance in their career. At the doctoral level, students participate in educational programs that may prepare them to work in upper-level administration positions, as well as in research and university teaching. Lastly, certificate programs exist for those who have a non-teaching bachelor's degree who want to work as secondary education teachers, but who do not want to complete a full master's degree program.

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Online Associate Degrees in Secondary Education

Students graduating with an associate degree in secondary education are qualified for work as a paraprofessional educator, teacher's aide, library assistant, or day care instructor. Additional certification and exams may be necessary or helpful in finding certain jobs. This level of degree is also appropriate for someone who wishes to transfer to a bachelor's degree program later on to become a fully licensed teacher. Associate degrees are usually completed within two years and around 60 credit hours. Students need at least a high school diploma or equivalent to be admitted. They will take general education courses as well as education specific classes focusing on psychology, communication, diversity, education, and more. Students can also major in a content area in which they take additional concentration courses in their chosen field, such as geography, foreign languages, physical sciences, and more.

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Online Bachelor's Degrees in Secondary Education

A bachelor's degree is the minimum education necessary to become a fully licensed teacher. To be admitted to this level of program, students must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, provide standardized test scores from the SAT or ACT, and submit an application essay. Application materials vary depending on the school. Students take general education courses as well as courses in pedagogy, educational psychology, curriculum development, and lesson planning. Students in secondary education programs also typically choose one to two subject areas in which they will take additional, advanced courses, such as math or sciences, in order to be qualified to teach in this subject area. Student teaching or internship experience will also be required. Secondary education degree programs usually last between four to five years total and are offered by colleges and universities. Those who hold an associate degree can apply to transfer their credits and finish the bachelor degree in less time. Upon graduation from a bachelor degree program, graduates can enroll in teacher certification programs in which they will work towards their professional teaching certificate. Some programs have teacher certification built into the program, while others do not. Each state has different teacher certification requirements, including background checks, student teaching experience, general teaching exams, and more.

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Online Master's in Secondary Education

Master's degree programs in secondary education give students an in-depth preparation in how to teach a the secondary level. Students with and without previous teaching experience can apply to a master's program. These programs can be an especially good fit for someone who has an undergraduate degree in a particular subject area and who wishes to apply that knowledge to teaching middle and high school, or someone who wants to make a career change and become a teacher but who has no prior teaching experience or credentials. A master's degree can also make a teacher more competitive in the job market over those who only have a bachelor's. Sample course titles that a student might take include Adolescent Psychology, Language and Culture, Curriculum and Instructional Planning for Middle and High School, and Adolescent Literature. Student teaching will also be required. Once the program is completed graduates will be prepared to teacher at the secondary level. A master's degree will typically take about two years to complete, and in order to be admitted applicants will have to have a bachelor's. Depending on the program, the bachelor's degree will need to be in a particular teaching subject, like English or math. Other admission requirements may include letters of recommendation, a resume, a statement of purpose, and graduate test scores. Tuition will vary depending on the school and program, though students can plan on spending at least somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000 a year.

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Online Doctoral Degrees in Secondary Education

The Doctor of Education, or Ed.D, in secondary education is available for those professionals who wish to advance their education as much as possible. Doctors of Education are prepared for advanced positions such as that of principal or superintendent, as well as jobs in academic research, university teaching, and other top administrative roles. Doctoral candidates must have a bachelor's degree and may also be required to have a master's degree in a particular specialization. They will also need to have previous teaching experience. A high GPA, strong work or academic recommendations, and an impressive history of professional experience in the educational field will all contribute to admission into a competitive doctoral program. Courses that students will take cover the topics of creating and evaluating a curriculum, using technology in the classroom, teaching strategies, and research methods. Independent research and a dissertation will also be required. Students can expect to spend at least three years on their doctoral program and complete at least 60 credit hours of study. Tuition will vary depending on the program, but students should expect to spend at least $11,000 a year or more.

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Online Certificates in Secondary Education

Upon earning a bachelor's degree, prospective teachers have the option to take an online certificate program to get their teaching licensure. Each state has its own licensure requirements, so students should look for programs offered by schools within the state they wish to teach in. Courses in pedagogy and content can be taken online, while clinical hours must be logged at program-approved middle and high schools. Graduate certificate programs take about a year to two years to complete, depending on the students' availability and completion of student teaching and required internship hours. Upon completion, certificate holders can obtain professional teaching licensure in their state and pursue full-time work as official teachers in the schools of their choice.

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Schools receive accreditation through a rigorous process of academic review against official standards by recognized third-party organizations. Accreditation is essential for a valid diploma on the job market or to transfer course credits between schools. In higher education, there are three kinds of accreditation: national, regional, and programmatic. National accreditation is geared towards mostly for-profit technical, career, or vocational schools, and is awarded by ten national accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education including the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), New York State Board of Regents, and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). Regional accreditation is considered the more prestigious mark of academic rigor, and as such does not normally accept credits transferred from a nationally accredited school.

Those looking to pursue a degree in secondary education should be sure to take courses at regionally accredited institutions from the start to ensure that their coursework will transfer if necessary and that their diploma will be valid if used towards a future graduate degree. Regional accreditation is awarded to not-for-profit, full degree institutions such as colleges and universities by one of six regional accrediting bodies in the U.S., recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Finally, programmatic accreditation is awarded by specialization or profession, such as NCATE and TEAC accreditation for teacher preparation programs. These two agencies were the main bodies that offered accreditation to teaching programs, but they have now merged into the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Individuals who wish to be teachers should enroll in a program that was either accredited by NCATE or that has been accredited by CAEP. This will ensure the student that they are receiving a quality education that will prepare them for their future careers. 

Career Requirements

Teacher requirements vary per state and must be verified individually on each state's department of education website; however, a bachelor's degree in teaching as well as a teaching license are standard requirements for teachers in secondary education. To get a teaching license with a non-teaching bachelor's degree an individual will have to complete an additional certification program or complete a master's degree in education. Many graduate programs in secondary education will offer initial teacher licensure for grades 7-12, setting the graduates up to teach in their desired field of specialization with targeted coursework.

Careers in Secondary Education

Secondary education involves the teaching, curriculum planning, administration, and counseling of middle and high school students. Those who wish to study secondary education may become teachers, principals, school district administrators, education counselors, college professors, education policymakers, or work in non-profit organizations or international schools. The day-to-day varies depending on the profession. While teachers spend their days planning lessons, grading papers or homework, and teaching in the classroom, administrators and policymakers deal with policies, research, and paperwork. Counselors work with students to plan their college or professional goals after high school graduation. 


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