Online Teaching Degree Programs Resource

A teaching degree is a must for those hoping to work in the education field. A degree provides aspiring educators with the knowledge and practical skills needed to give quality instruction and education to their students. The type of degree needed can vary depending on location, position, and the type of school, but generally a bachelor’s degree is required before launching a teaching career. However, a two-year associate’s degree can pave the way for wide range of jobs and careers in education, such as a teacher’s assistant (or teacher’s aide) or childcare specialist. Master’s degrees are required in some states for advanced teaching certification, but even in states where graduate degrees are not required, teachers often seek them to increase their pay or to become better qualified to teach. Doctoral degrees offer advanced courses of study for those who may wish to move into administrative positions or college teaching. Online teaching degree programs offer degrees at all levels, from associate to doctorate.

Teaching and Education Degrees

Curriculum and Instruction

A degree in curriculum and instruction prepares graduates to work in a strategic role at a school or school system, helping write and put together the curriculum for each grade level. This specialty degree, which can come in the form of a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctoral degree, teaches graduates how to implement state requirements into the curriculum while ensuring student achievement through effective learning. Coursework may include Cognition, Development, and Instruction, Instructional Decision-Making, 21st Century Teaching and Learning, and Curriculum Development and Evaluation.

Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education is a popular specialty degree for teachers focusing on the education of young children, usually through age eight. Early childhood degrees include undergraduate and graduate degrees, and prepare graduates to teach young children, often through play and demonstration, in a manner that relates to their natural development. Courses in an early childhood program may include Instructional Technology, Foundations of Language and Literacy Instruction, Intuitive Thought and Symbolic Function, Child Development in the Family, Media for Children, Child Development, Learning, Motivation and Assessment, and a practicum.

Educational Technology

Educational technology degrees focus on teaching through computers, online methods, and mobile technology. Master’s, doctoral, and bachelor’s degrees are available in this specialty and prepare students to work in K-12 schools, government agencies, and even corporate enterprises. Graduates of these programs may take courses such as Educational Technology Field, Theory, and Profession, Instructional Design, Educational Psychology, Online Course Design, Graphic Communication and Interface Design, and Educational Game Design.

Education Administration

Education administration degrees prepare graduates for careers in administration and management. There are bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees available in this specialty, but most programs are offered at the graduate level. People with this degree go on to hold jobs as school principals, school counselors, and school consultants. Classes included in an education administration curriculum may include Leadership Development, Organizational Analysis, Facility Design and Fiscal Management, Personnel: Administration, Supervision, and Evaluation, and Curriculum: Theories, Development, and Evaluation.

Elementary Education

A degree in elementary education prepares graduates to teach students at the elementary school level, Kindergarten through eighth grade. They may focus on one subject area or teach all subjects to students, depending on the school and the grade level they teach. Associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees are offered in elementary education and coursework may include Principles of Education, Classroom Management for Teachers, Educational Philosophy for Teachers, and basic science, math, and reading courses.


English as a second language (ESL), also known as TESL (teaching English as a second language), ELL (English language learners), ESOL (English for speakers of other languages), or TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages), can be a graduate or undergraduate degree, certification, or endorsement. Graduates of these programs are prepared to teach students for whom English is a second language, at public or private schools, overseas, or in tutoring situations. Coursework may include Foundations of First and Second Language Learning, Pre-K-12 Methods of Teaching ESL, Applied Linguistics, and a practicum.

General Education

A degree in general education can be an associate, bachelor’s, or a graduate program and prepares graduates to teach at any level. Most students in a general education program will choose a specialty in which to pursue certification (e.g., a Bachelor of Science in Education with an emphasis in Elementary Education). Coursework in a general education program may include Culture and Belief, Ethical Reasoning, Written Composition, History, Social, and Behavioral Sciences, and other courses related to the chosen specialty.

Library Science

Library science degrees are offered at the baccalaureate and graduate levels, and prepare graduates to work as a school librarian, in a public library, or to work in market research in the business world. Library science degrees may offer specializations such as archives and records management, digital humanities, information architecture, or library technology management. Coursework may include Human Information Interactions, Resource Selection and Evaluation, Overview of Research Methods, and Management for Information Professionals.

Physical Education

Physical education degrees may be offered as associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, or master’s and doctoral degrees, and focus on the study of health, wellness, and the body. Physical education teachers will be equipped to teach children (or adults) about the importance of physical exercise and healthy eating habits so that they can carry those habits into adulthood. Physical education programs may include courses such as Human Anatomy and Physiology, Educational Psychology, Lifespan Motor Development, Assessment of Learning in Physical Education and Sport, and History and Philosophy of Sport and Physical Activity.

Secondary Education

A degree in secondary education prepares graduates to teach high school students (grades nine through twelve). Most graduates of these programs specialize in a subject area such as English, science, biology, mathematics, or a foreign language, and teach that subject at the high school level. Secondary education degrees may be associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, or graduate degrees. Coursework for a secondary education program may include classes such as Psychology in Teaching, Learning and Cognition in Education, Adolescent Development, Education and Social Issues, Anthropology of Education, and Philosophy of Education.

Special Education

A special education degree is a specialized degree focused on teaching graduates how to work with students who qualify for special services when compared to their peers. Special education teachers may work with children with a learning disability, an emotional or physical disorder, or gifted and talented students. Special education degree holders may teach at the preschool level and above (including adults). Special education degrees are usually bachelor’s degrees and above. Coursework may include Diverse Family Systems & Transitions, Global Perspectives and Foundations in Special Education, Management Behavior & Instruction, Language Variance and Assistive Technology, and Elementary Curriculum Methods for Special Educators.

Specialized Teaching

A specialized teaching degree is a broad category for any degree that prepares graduates to educate students with specific needs. Students who fit into this category may include children who have been identified as gifted and talented, students for whom English is not their first language (ESL students), and adult students. Most specialized degrees are offered at the bachelor’s level or graduate level. Coursework for a specialized teaching degree depends on the specialty and concentration.

Teacher’s Aide

Teacher’s aide degrees start at the associate level but are also offered at a bachelor’s level. Teacher’s aide graduates often work in public or private schools, daycares, nurseries, or after-school programs. The traditional job of a teacher’s aide is to offer support to other teachers, but this role can vary widely with each position and workplace. Teacher’s aide degree programs may include classes such as Skills for the Effective Teacher Aide, Child Development and Human Behavior, How Children Learn, Classroom Management Techniques, Instructional Materials: Their Preparation and Use, Technology in the Classroom, and Early Childhood Education and After-School Day Care Programs.

Teaching Degrees by Level

The type of teaching degree you need depends on what kind of teaching job or career you intend to pursue. Some teaching jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree, though most do. Other teaching jobs have varying requirements in addition to a degree. For example, to become a substitute teacher, you may need a bachelor’s degree in addition to a special substitute teaching license. Browsing the many types of teaching degrees available is the first step in learning how to become a teacher.

O*NET Online provides a breakdown of the level of education of teachers in the United States:

  • Preschool teachers: 25% some college but no degree, 22% associate’s degree, 21% bachelor’s degree.1
  • Kindergarten teachers: 10% some college but no degree, 67% bachelor’s degree, 8% post-bachelor’s certificate.2
  • Elementary teachers: 75% bachelor’s degree, 19% master’s degree, 3% post-master’s certificate.3
  • Middle school teachers: 73% bachelor’s degree, 17% post-bachelor’s certificate, 8% post-master’s certificate.4
  • Secondary school teachers: 87% bachelor’s degree, 10% master’s degree, 2% post-master’s certificate.5

Teacher Certification Degrees is a one-stop resource to gather the information you need on teaching degrees, programs, and careers. Our associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree pages provide comprehensive information on what it takes to earn each degree, in addition to what kind of jobs a graduate will typically qualify for with each degree type. Browse our schools page to find out about programs that offer the education you need to launch a fulfilling and rewarding career as a teacher.

Job Outlook for Graduates

The job outlook for new teachers varies by location, grade level, and subject area. Visit our teaching careers page to learn about the national job outlook for teachers.

Top US States to Be a Teacher

Below is a map of the top 10 states in the US to be a teacher. See our Best States to Be a Teacher Index for the entire list and more details.

Best Advice for New Teachers

teaching degree quote“As soon as you begin preparing for your teaching career, find support wherever you can, whether it is with co-workers or with your online personal learning network. Ask for help, accept suggestions, visit as many classrooms as possible, and work to find your teaching voice.” -Kathryn Laster, Texas math teacher

teacher degree quote“There will most likely be a student who tests you, or presses your buttons. While it can be your greatest challenge, try to connect with that student. This is crucial because if you can find a way to make that student shine, then you are doing your job well.” -Marisa Kaplan, New York instructional coach and prior elementary teacher in New York

chris mitchell teacher“I wish I had known and been taught more about standards-based grading, research-based teaching and assessing methods. As I have researched more about these, my teaching has improved and I’ve learned more effective ways to teach and assess. My students’ grades are better, they are learning more and they are having a much more enjoyable time in my class.” -Chris Mitchell, science teacher in South Korea

lisa butler Spanish teacher“Be prepared to clearly articulate your learning goals and assessments. As teachers, we like to think lessons are about learning, but to many students and parents they are more grade centric. If you have clear assessment policies and expectations, it will make your job easier.” -Lisa Butler, Pennsylvania middle school Spanish teacher

megan favre language arts teacher“Don’t expect yourself to be perfect at everything at once. Pick the two most important areas of instruction in your teaching assignment and hone in on crafting those skills. When I began teaching, I focused on small-group reading instruction and math because I felt those areas would have the strongest impact on my students’ success.” -Megan Favre, Texas third grade language arts teacher

jon bergmann teacher author“There’s a huge amount of expectation among brand-new teachers. I would encourage them to stick with it. I know that a lot of them give up and say ‘It’s just too much.’ But, I think that teaching, in many ways, is a calling, and despite the fact that American society has been undervaluing their teachers, I would encourage them to keep at it because the rewards are great when working with others.” -Jon Bergmann, co-author of Flip Your Classroom

NCQT Ratings of Teacher Preparation Programs

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its first report on the quality of more than 1,100 teacher preparation programs in June of 2013. The list has now expanded to include data on over 2,500 teaching programs. The NCTQ’s review is intended to be a consumer tool for comparing the quality of teaching programs. The NCTQ is a non-partisan organization that advocates reforms to increase the number of effective teachers.

CAEP, NCATE, and TEAC Accreditation Bodies

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is an accreditation organization for teacher education programs in the United States. CAEP was formed in 2013 by the consolidation of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).

Although the official merger of TEAC and NCATE to form CAEP was completed in 2013, the differing length of the accreditation cycles from both NCATE And TEAC (NCATE: 7-year cycle; TEAC: 2-, 5-, and 7-year accreditation cycles depending on the case; CAEP: 5- or 7-year cycles) means that current TEAC- and NCATE- accredited schools are still considered accredited through “Legacy NCATE Standards” or “Legacy TEAC Standards.” Accreditation continued through spring 2016, so education preparation programs are able to use previously earned NCATE/TEAC accreditation for their programs through 2023. CAEP is still working to phase these programs into the new standards review and accreditation process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What’s the best teaching degree for someone who wants to teach elementary school?

Answer: If you want to be a teacher in an elementary school, an elementary education degree is typically the best route towards earning certification. Elementary education programs focus on the unique developmental and learning needs of young children and generally include coursework in active learning methods as well as student internships in elementary schools. If you’re considering pursuing a career as a teacher in preschool to third grade, an early childhood education degree might also be a good option.

Question: How long does it take to earn a teaching degree?

Answer: The length of time it takes to earn a teaching degree depends on the program and whether you are studying full-time or part-time. With full-time study, a bachelor’s degree in most areas of education can typically be earned in four years. If you already have a bachelor’s degree and are looking into switching careers, many schools offer master’s degrees in teaching that can be earned in as little as one year.

Additional Resources

Accredited and Online Teaching Schools

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1. O*NET OnLine, Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2011.00
2. O*NET OnLine, Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2012.00
3. O*NET OnLine, Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2021.00
4. O*NET OnLine, Middle School Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2022.00
5. O*NET OnLine, Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2031.00