Online Teaching Degree Programs Resource
Finding quality education is a must for those hoping to work in the teaching field. A teaching degree provides aspiring educators with the knowledge and practical skills they will need to effectively instruct their students. A bachelor’s degree is generally required to become a teacher, though the level of degree needed can vary depending on location, position, and type of school. A two-year associate’s degree can pave the way to select careers in education, such as paraprofessional. Graduate 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, to become better qualified in their field, or to become endorsed to teach another subject or in an additional field. Graduate degrees can also be a pathway for career switchers to transition from their current jobs to teaching.
As an alternative to traditional on-campus study, online teaching degree programs offer degrees at all levels, from associate’s degrees to master’s and doctoral degrees. Continue reading below to learn more about the education degree pathways that can lead to a teaching career.
Table of Contents
- What Degree Do You Need to Be a Teacher?
- Teaching Degrees by Level
- Teaching and Education Degree Specialties
- Funding Your Teaching Degree
- Can You Get a Teaching Degree Online?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Accredited and Online Education and Teaching Degrees
What Degree Do You Need to Be a Teacher?
Researching the licensing requirements in your state as well as the many types of teaching degrees and careers available is the first step in learning how to become a teacher. In order to teach in K-12 public schools, you will typically need to earn a bachelor’s degree and complete a teacher preparation program. The subject of your bachelor’s degree will vary according to the subject and grade level you wish to teach, which means that the teacher preparation that you receive might be integrated with your degree plan or it might be taken similarly to a minor or second major. For example, if you want to teach in kindergarten through fifth grade, the degree required for teacher licensure will typically be early childhood education or elementary education, which are programs that include formal teacher preparation. If you want to teach in high school, you will earn a bachelor’s degree in the subject you want to teach–such as math, biology, or English literature–and complete a teacher preparation program (typically during your junior and senior years).
While a bachelor’s degree is generally the minimum educational requirement to be a teacher, there are some teaching jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Preschool teachers, and in some states, kindergarten teachers, may only need an associate’s degree and/or teaching certificate. Teacher’s assistants or paraprofessionals might also find work without a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, there are teaching careers where an education degree above the bachelor’s level is required, commonly for specialist and leadership positions.
Teaching Degrees by Level
As noted above, while you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree to teach elementary or secondary education, there are areas of education where a lower-level degree may suffice–as well as areas in which knowledge beyond the bachelor’s degree is required. In order to help you understand the requirements for different types of on-campus and online education degrees by level, we have created the following table. The table includes the typical requirements for programs at each level, though individual program requirements will vary.
|Degree||Average Annual Cost*1,2||Typical Program Length**||Typical Credit Hour Requirements|
|Associate’s in Education||$11,200||Two years||60 credit hours|
|Bachelor’s in Education||$23,050||Four years||120 credit hours|
|Master’s in Education||$20,420^||Two to three years||30-60 credit hours^^|
|Education Specialist (EdS)||$20,420^||Two to three years||30 credit hours beyond master’s|
|Doctor of Education (EdD)||$20,420^||Three to four years^^||50 credit hours min. beyond master’s^^|
|Phd in Education||$20,420^||Four to six years^^||50 credit hours min. beyond master’s^^|
See Table Notes at bottom of page.
Some two-year community colleges and four-year schools offer certificate or diploma programs for aspiring teachers. Entry-level certificate programs for early childhood educators (ECE) or child development specialists, for example, typically prepare graduates to become daycare caregivers or preschool teachers. The availability of these certificates is limited, however, since they are so specialized. The number of credits required varies widely depending on the program, between 15 and 35 credit hours. Entry-level certificates usually take between one and two years to complete.
An associate’s degree in education can prepare you for teaching support positions such as teacher’s assistant (or teacher’s aide) or childcare specialist. In many states, an associate’s degree is sufficient qualification for preschool teacher positions and in some states, it may also qualify candidates for substitute teacher positions. The 60 credit hours required for most associate’s degrees in education typically take two years of full-time study to earn. If you earn an associate’s degree from an accredited school, you will typically have the option to transfer the credits earned toward a four-year teaching program. During the 2017-18 academic year, 2.7% of public K-12 teachers had less than a bachelor’s degree.3 For more information on associate degrees in education, see our associate’s in education page.
A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum qualification for earning teacher certification in K-12 public schools. There are many on-campus and online teaching degree programs that include a teacher preparation component that helps prospective teachers prepare for successful careers. Like their on-campus counterparts, accredited online teaching degree programs at the bachelor’s level typically take four years to complete. They also typically require the student teaching portion of the program to be completed in person. During the 2017-18 academic year, 39.3% of public K-12 teachers had earned a bachelor’s as their highest degree.3 To read more about bachelor’s degrees in education, read our bachelor’s degree guide.
Another type of teaching certificate is at the graduate level, also called a post-baccalaureate certificate. Graduate certificates are most commonly endorsement programs for teachers who are already certified and are seeking to add an endorsement to qualify them to teach in areas such as English as a second language (ESL), special education, or reading education in addition to their primary teaching certification. They may also be initial teacher certification programs for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree but have not completed a teacher preparation program. The number of credit hours required for a certificate varies widely depending on the type of certificate and the school and may require 10 to 30 hours and take one to two years to complete.
Master’s degree programs in teaching and education can be designed for experienced teachers or for those who have a bachelor’s degree in another subject and are looking to transition into teaching. Available options include:
- Master of Education (M.Ed.): Prepares existing teachers for careers in education outside of teaching.
- Master of Science in Education (MSEd) and Master of Arts in Education (M.A.Ed.): Designed for current educators to transition to leadership positions in education.
- Master’s in Teaching (MIT): Prepares students with non-teaching bachelor’s degrees to transition to a teaching career.
- Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT): Can be a professional development tool for current teachers to enhance their knowledge base and skills or can lead to initial teacher certification for non-teachers.
- Master’s Plus: Designed for current teachers to gain advanced knowledge in a specific content area.
Approximately 49% of K-12 teachers at public schools during the 2017-18 academic year had attained a master’s degree.3 Depending on the type of degree, master’s degrees in education can take between 30 and 60 credit hours and around two to three years to complete. For more information on master’s degrees in education, see our guide to master’s degrees in education. For information on online choices, see our guide to online master’s degrees in education for initial licensure, a popular choice for career changers.
Education Specialist Degrees
An education specialist degree (EdS) is frequently viewed as falling between a master’s and a doctorate. Some education specialist programs require prospective students to have already earned a master’s, though some programs will accept students who have a bachelor’s degree plus two or more years of teaching experience. An EdS degree is a pathway to advanced career training as well as earning endorsements in specialty areas, since education specialist programs offer a highly targeted education in specific subjects such as curriculum and instruction, education administration, and reading and literacy, among many others. During the 2017-18 school year, 7.6% of public K-12 teachers had an education specialist degree.3 To learn more about the EdS, see our Education Specialist Degrees page.
Doctor of Education Degrees
If you have a passion for improving the field of education, the Doctor of Education (EdD), one of the terminal degrees in the field, can help you prepare for a career in education administration, public policy, and other fields. EdDs are considered professional degrees and therefore tend to be more practice-focused than their research-based PhD counterparts. Most EdD programs are built for working students with years of experience in the field who attend school on a part-time basis. Those who earn a doctoral degree in education tend to work in positions designed to help improve education policy on the state or national level. They may also be in leadership positions such as superintendent of schools. Just 1.2% of public K-12 teachers had a doctoral degree during the 2017-18 school year.3 If you would like to read more about EdD degrees, please see our Doctor of Education degrees page.
PhD in Education Degrees
A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education is another terminal degree in education that is more research-focused than its EdD counterpart. Unlike EdD programs, most PhD programs require students to attend school on a full-time basis. PhD programs also take more time than an EdD to complete–commonly four to six years versus three to four years for EdD programs. Graduates tend to work in academia or research–as college faculty and/or researchers in higher education; policymakers or education consultants for private or governmental agencies; or, perhaps less commonly, in education administration roles in K-12 schools. During the 2017-18 school year, a total of 1.2% of K-12 teachers at public schools had a doctoral degree.3 For more information, see our PhD in Education degrees page.
Recommended Teaching Degrees by Grade Level
To help determine what degrees are most in-demand for teachers, the US Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Information Network (O*NET) conducts periodic surveys of current educators asking which degrees will best prepare future educators to lead in the grade level(s) they teach. This table provides a visual guide to which degrees are most recommended for teachers of each grade level.4-8
|Grade Level||% Some College, No Degree||% Associate’s Degree||% Bachelor’s Degree||% Post-Bachelor’s Certificate||% Master’s Degree||% Post-Master’s Certificate|
|Elementary School Teachers||—||—||73%||11%||11%||—|
|Middle School Teachers||—||—||64%||13%||13%||—|
|Secondary School Teachers||—||—||53%||24%||15%||—|
Teaching and Education Degree Specialties
As you research whether an associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree would be the best fit for your teaching goals, you will also need to consider a major or specialty area. Most bachelor’s degree students complete one to two years of general education courses and begin taking courses in the specific content area(s) (such as reading or math in the case of middle and secondary school teachers or elementary education in the case of K-5 teachers) that they want to teach prior to applying to their school’s teacher preparation program. Therefore, when you apply for admission to a teacher education program, you will need to identify the grade levels you wish to teach and typically also choose a subject specialty.
This process aligns with the teacher certification process at the state level, since the areas in which you are certified to teach (your specialties) are known as endorsements. Each endorsement area has different coursework and testing requirements, which are set by the state board of education. This means that to make sure that you qualify for the subject(s) and grade level(s) you want to teach, you should take the time to review your state’s certification guidelines and plan your education accordingly. The advising office at your school can also assist you in designing a course plan that fits your goals.
Master’s degrees and graduate certificates for certified teachers are typically more specialized from the beginning since they are designed for teachers who wish to add an endorsement in a specific area. Master’s degrees and graduate certificates in education for first-time teachers and career-changers will also be in a specialized area that aligns with the desired area of endorsement, as in the bachelor’s process described above.
Following is an overview of a few of the major categories of teaching degrees. You can also visit our guide to teaching careers to learn about the national outlook for teachers, including our Best States to Be a Teacher Index.
Curriculum and Instruction
A degree in curriculum and instruction prepares graduates to work in strategic roles in individual schools or in school systems, helping write and develop the curriculum for each grade level or department/academic area. This specialty degree, which can come in the form of a master’s degree, a graduate certificate, an education specialist degree, or a doctoral degree, teaches graduates how to implement state requirements in 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. See our curriculum and instruction degree page for more information.
Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education programs are designed for teachers focusing on the education of young children, usually from birth through age eight (preschool through grade 3). Undergraduate and graduate early childhood education degrees prepare graduates to teach young children using techniques that relate to their natural development, often through play and demonstration. 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. You can read more about these degrees on our early childhood education degree guide.
Educational technology degrees focus on teaching through computers, online methods, and mobile technology. Master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as graduate certificates, are available in this specialty and prepare students to work in K-12 schools, government agencies, and even corporate enterprises. Students in 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. See our educational technology degree page for more.
Education administration degrees prepare graduates for careers in administration and management. There are certificates, master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral degrees available in this specialty, but most programs are offered at the graduate level. People with this degree go on to hold such jobs as school principals, deans, and consultants. Common classes in an education administration curriculum include Leadership Development; Organizational Analysis; Facility Design and Fiscal Management; Personnel: Administration, Supervision, and Evaluation; and Curriculum: Theories, Development, and Evaluation. For more information on these degrees, read our education administration degree guide.
A degree in elementary education prepares graduates to teach students at the elementary school level, from kindergarten through fifth grade (and up to sixth grade, in some states and school districts). Elementary education programs focus on developing the ability to teach all core subjects, including math, science, and reading, to grade school students. Bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees are offered in elementary education. Typical course examples for this type of program include Principles of Education, Classroom Management for Teachers, and Educational Philosophy for Teachers, in addition to science, math, and reading courses. See our elementary education page for more information.
Degrees in 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 graduate or undergraduate degrees or graduate certificates. Graduates of these programs are prepared to teach students for whom English is a second language at public or private schools and in tutoring environments. They may be also able to find jobs teaching abroad. Coursework in an ESL program may include Foundations of First and Second Language Learning, Pre-K-12 Methods of Teaching ESL, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and a practicum. To read more, see our ESL degree guide.
Some schools offer a bachelor’s degree in education (commonly abbreviated as a B.Ed.) with a specialization in the subject areas to be taught, such as a B.Ed. with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. Broader education degrees are more common at the master’s level and are designed for those who already hold a teaching certificate. Examples of general education degrees at this level include master’s degrees in teaching and learning, teacher education, and comparative education. For more information on these degrees, read our general education degree page.
Library science degrees are offered at the baccalaureate and graduate levels, but the majority are found as graduate programs. These degrees, which are typically specialty degrees such as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) or Master of Library Science (MLS), prepare graduates to work as librarians in school libraries, public libraries, and corporate libraries. Library science degrees may offer specializations such as archives and records management, digital humanities, information architecture, or library technology management. Those who are looking to work in school libraries generally specialize in academic or school media and may take an additional specialty in a secondary area such as science or Western literature. Coursework may include Human Information Interactions, Resource Selection and Evaluation, Overview of Research Methods, and Management for Information Professionals. If you would like to read more on library science degrees, see our library science degree guide.
Physical education degrees may be offered as associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, or master’s and doctoral degrees and focus on the study of health, wellness, and the body. Physical education teachers are equipped to teach children (or adults) about the importance of physical exercise and healthy eating habits so that they can carry those habits across the lifespan. Physical education programs commonly 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. For more information, read our guide to physical education degrees.
School counseling degrees are most commonly offered as master’s or doctoral degrees since a graduate-level education is required to become licensed as a school counselor in most circumstances. However, there are also certificate and education specialist programs in school counseling, as well as bachelor’s degree tracks that offer preparation for a master’s in school counseling. Programs that are designed to lead to licensure prepare future counselors to work with children in K-12 environments, seeing to their academic, developmental, and career needs through ongoing advising and assessment. Coursework for school counseling degree programs may include classes such as Development through Childhood and Adolescence, Theories and Techniques of Counseling, and Career Counseling and Development. See our school counseling degree guide for more information.
A degree in secondary education prepares graduates to teach high school students (grades 9 through 12). Most students in a secondary education program major in a specific subject area such as English, science, biology, mathematics, or a foreign language. Secondary education degrees may be 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, and Philosophy of Education. If you would like to read more about these degrees, please see our guide to secondary education degrees.
Degrees in special education (also known as special needs education, special ed., exceptional education, or SPED) are usually offered at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, though some are also available as graduate certificates and educational specialist degrees. These degrees follow a tightly-focused curriculum in order to teach future educators how to work with students with exceptional needs. Special education teachers may work with children from pre-K to 12th grade with learning disabilities and/or emotional or psychological disorders. In some schools, special education teachers may take coursework or complete programs preparing them to work with students in gifted and talented programs, as both are considered under the umbrella of “exceptional education.” Coursework may include Diverse Family Systems & Transitions, Global Perspectives and Foundations in Special Education, Managing Behavior & Instruction, Language Variance and Assistive Technology, and Elementary Curriculum Methods for Special Educators. For more on degrees in special education, read our special education degree guide. Or, see our online master’s in SPED page to learn about opportunities to get a master’s degree in special education online.
Teacher’s aide degrees are usually found at the associate’s degree level. Teacher’s aides, commonly known as paraprofessionals or teacher’s assitants, 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, How Children Learn, Classroom Management Techniques, Technology in the Classroom, and After-School Day Care Programs. To read more about degrees leading to a career as a teacher’s aide, see our Teacher’s Aide Degree Guide.
Funding Your Teaching Degree
A teaching degree is more than a qualification, it’s an investment in your future career. There are a variety of resources that can help fund your education beyond student loans, reducing the cost of your degree. These include:
- Federal and state teacher loan forgiveness: Up to $17,500 (total) of federal Stafford student loans can be forgiven for educators who teach for five consecutive years on a full-time basis in a qualifying school. Federal Perkins loans, which are for students with exceptional financial need, may qualify for full cancellation on a graduated annual scale. Select states and school districts offer additional loan forgiveness programs.
- Institutional funding: Degrees in education at the bachelor’s, master’s, and specialist levels are not typically funded by work-study, teaching assistant (TA), or research assistant (RA) positions, especially if the program leads to certification. This is because a prospective teacher who is in a K-12 classroom internship or job placement full-time doesn’t have time to work for the college or university while also taking classes. However, it is common for PhD and EdD programs to be partially or fully funded through fellowships and assistantships. Check with programs of interest for funding opportunities and service requirements.
- Residency programs: There are a growing number of residency programs for prospective teachers with bachelor’s degrees. These programs are typically coordinated between a college or university and a specific school district and offer stipends towards expenses while a prospective teacher works full-time in the school district, taking education courses outside of classroom hours. Examples include the Los Angeles Urban Teacher Residency, the Louisville Teacher Residency, the New York University Teacher Residency, the Rural Teacher Corps Network, and Teach for America.
- Scholarships: Scholarships fund your education with money that doesn’t have to be repaid. Your school’s financial aid office can help you find available scholarships. You can also check with local and state education associations and school districts for teaching-specific opportunities.
- Teacher grants: Grants differ from scholarships in that there are conditions beyond the eligibility requirements. For example, the federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant requires an agreement to teach for four years in a high-needs field. If a grant recipient fails to meet this service obligation, the grant is converted into a loan and must be repaid. There are similar grants available through select school, district, and state programs, such as the Golden State Teacher Grant Program in California.
- Veteran transition programs: There are programs available to help veterans transition to careers as classroom teachers. In addition to GI Bill education funding, these include national programs like Troops to Teachers and state-specific programs like the Florida Military Veterans Certification Pathway. Separating service members are encouraged to work with transition assistance at their installation to find resources. Military OneSource also provides links to transition assistance programs and resources.
Check with your school’s financial aid office for more information on financial assistance for prospective teachers. Visit our guides to teacher certification for state-specific resources.
Can You Get a Teaching Degree Online?
A growing number of education programs at various levels can be found online, many of which lead to teacher licensure. At both the bachelor’s and master’s levels, it’s important to ensure that any online program you consider will lead to initial teacher certification in the state where you want to work, whether you are pursuing an online traditional teacher certification program or alternative certification program. At all levels, online teaching degree programs commonly require at least one semester of in-person student teaching, which can usually be completed at a school in your local area. Still, online teaching degrees offer greater flexibility than traditional on-campus programs. It also helps to keep in mind that in-person requirements such as student teaching are designed to help you become a better teacher.
There are many schools that offer online bachelor’s degrees in education with few or no on-campus requirements. According to 2015-16 data, 45.7% of undergraduate students enrolled in education programs took at least one online course during the school year and 9.7% of undergraduate students studying education were enrolled in fully online education degree programs.9 Note also that this statistic focuses on “pure” education programs, such as elementary education; students who were majoring in math but taking teacher preparation courses would not be included, suggesting that even more future teachers are studying online than this figure reflects.
At the master’s degree level, there are numerous online education degrees designed for those who already hold teacher certification in at least one area that might not require an in-person component. Online graduate degrees in education are even more popular than online undergraduate degrees; in 2015-16, 34.3% of graduate students studying education were enrolled in a fully online education degree program, and 58.2% of graduate education students took at least one online course.10 You can read more on certification qualifications for online teaching degrees in our accreditation section below.
On Campus vs. Online Teaching Degrees: Is Online Study Right for You?
An online program can be the right fit for motivated students who are seeking flexibility above that typically offered by on-campus programs. Prospective students considering an online program should ask themselves the following questions. If you can answer yes to these questions, an online teaching degree might be a good option for you.
- Can I manage my time well enough to make sure that I “attend” class and complete coursework on time?
- Will I do well in a course where the learning is more self-directed, versus face-to-face with professors and peers?
- Am I comfortable enough learning new technologies to be able to complete coursework and learn using online software?
- Do I have a newer computer with reliable high-speed internet access?
- Will I be able to complete an internship or practicum in a school district local to me to earn this degree?
Teaching Program Accreditation and CAEP, NCATE, and TEAC
Another important factor to keep in mind is the accreditation of the teaching programs you consider. All states have accreditation requirements for teacher preparation programs. At a minimum, you should make sure that the school you are considering holds regional accreditation and that it holds state board of education approval for the preparation of teachers. Both regional accreditation and state approval are typically required in order to qualify for a teaching license or certificate, whether the program in question is completed online or on campus. Additionally, each state sets its own education requirements for prospective teachers, and while these requirements are broadly similar, there may be differences in prerequisite coursework for licensing teachers from state to state.
In addition to regional accreditation and approval from the state board of education, many schools seek additional, voluntary accreditation from organizations like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP is a widely recognized national accreditor for teacher education programs in the United States which was formed through the consolidation of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). The creation of CAEP from the two other entities will continue for various reasons into 2023.
While CAEP accreditation does not replace regional accreditation or state approval requirements in most states, many states will consider it when evaluating teaching programs for approval. This is because CAEP requires accredited programs to meet strict standards in five core areas: Content and Pedagogical Knowledge; Clinical Partnerships and Practice; Candidate Quality, Recruitment, and Selectivity; Program Impact; and Provider Quality, Continuous Improvement, and Capacity. A school’s ability to meet or exceed these core standards to earn CAEP accreditation serves as an indicator of overall quality in teacher preparation, both online and on campus.
The Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) is another accreditor that is recognized for promoting high standards in teacher education. The AAQEP was founded in 2017 and, like CAEP, is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Though it is relatively new, AAQEP has already accredited nearly 100 teacher preparation programs in 20 US states and territories.
It is a good idea to check with your state’s teacher licensing office to see which accreditations are recognized as meeting teacher certification requirements.
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 (ECE) 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.
Question: Can I earn my teaching degree online?
Answer: If you are a first-time student looking into earning a bachelor’s degree, you will likely need to complete student teaching to qualify for a teaching license, which must be done in person. However, many schools do offer bachelor’s degree programs for teachers that allow other coursework to be completed online. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree and are looking to switch careers into teaching, an online master’s degree might help you meet certification requirements. There are also alternative routes to teaching that may have components that can be completed partially or fully online.
Question: If I already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject, do I need to earn another bachelor’s degree to become a teacher?
Answer: In most cases, a second bachelor’s degree is not necessary to become a teacher. Most states have established alternative routes to teacher certification for those who previously earned a bachelor’s degree but did not complete an education program. Depending on the routes available in your state and your educational background, you may be able to qualify for a teaching license in as little as one year. Earning a master’s degree is another option that can help you qualify for a teaching career in many states.
Question: How do I find out if a teaching degree is accredited?
Answer: There are various different accreditations that a school or teacher preparation program can have. If you are looking to become certified as a teacher, the two most important accreditations are regional accreditation from an agency recognized by the US Department of Education and approval from your state’s board of education. Each state’s board of education publishes a list of approved teacher preparation programs on its website, which you can check to make sure that the program you are researching will help you meet the requirements for certification. Some states may also accept CAEP or other national accreditations.
*Average annual cost is based on the average cost for this level of degree at public and private nonprofit institutions nationwide (e.g., the average annual cost of tuition and fees for a two-year degree in any field, taken from the average of all schools reported).
**Program length is based on full-time study (12+ credits per semester undergraduate; 9+ credits per semester graduate) for typical programs. Specific programs may require more or fewer credit hours.
^Based on assessed in-state tuition only. Out-of-state tuition averages are higher at many institutions for graduate students. In addition, graduate study may be partially or fully funded by the institution. The 50th percentile tuition charge, the point at which half of schools charged more and half of schools charged less, was $17,837 per year for public and nonprofit schools in 2019-20.2
^^Varies depending on the program’s requirements, type of advanced degree, and the individual student’s dissertation progress. Schools may or may not count previously earned degree credits towards overall degree credit requirements.
1. National Center for Education Statistics, Price of Attending an Undergraduate Institution, 2019-20: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cua
2. National Center for Education Statistics, Average Graduate Tuition and Required Fees in Degree-granting Postsecondary Institutions, by Control of Institution: 2019-20: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d20/tables/dt20_330.50.asp?current=yes
3. National Center for Education Statistics Digest of Education Statistics, “Number and percentage distribution of teachers in public and private elementary and secondary schools, by selected teacher characteristics: Selected years, 1987-88 through 2017-18”: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d20/tables/dt20_209.10.asp
4. O*NET OnLine, Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2011.00
5. O*NET OnLine, Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2012.00
6. O*NET OnLine, Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2021.00
7. O*NET OnLine, Middle School Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2022.00
8. O*NET OnLine, Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2031.00
9. National Center for Education Statistics Digest of Education Statistics, “Number and percentage of undergraduate students enrolled in distance education or online classes and degree programs, by selected characteristics: Selected years, 2003-04 through 2015-16”: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_311.22.asp
10. National Center for Education Statistics Digest of Education Statistics, “Number and percentage of graduate students enrolled in distance education or online classes and degree programs, by selected characteristics: Selected years, 2003-04 through 2015-16”: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_311.32.asp?current=yes
Page updated on September 19, 2023.