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Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Education

A bachelor’s degree in education, sometimes referred to as a bachelor’s degree in teaching, can prepare you for a wide range of jobs and careers. Compared to an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in education provides roughly 60 additional credit hours of study in job-critical skills and subject matter knowledge for aspiring teachers. From a practical standpoint, all states in the US require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree in education with appropriate accreditation and state approval in order to apply for a teaching certificate or license to teach in K-12 public schools. In addition to researching traditional on-campus programs, prospective teachers may want to consider pursuing their bachelor’s degree in education online.

While the term “bachelor’s in education” can refer generally to degree programs that prepare prospective teachers, the major of the degree varies according to the subject(s) and grade level(s) the student wishes to teach. Whether studying online or on campus, most prospective teachers earn a bachelor’s degree in a specific area, such as elementary education, secondary education, or special education. Other popular teaching degrees include career and technical education and middle grades education.

Reasons to Pursue a Bachelor’s in Education

A bachelor’s in education prepares the graduate for a rewarding career helping children acquire the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in life. In all US states, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum education required to become a certified teacher and teach in K-12 public schools. A bachelor’s in education is also good preparation for teaching in private schools, though private schools may have different requirements. In addition to traditional K-12 teaching jobs, those who earn a four-year degree in education can find careers in related roles, such as adult education or training in corporate environments or the non-profit sector.

Due to teacher shortages in critical areas like math, science, and English as a second language (ESL), many schools offer online bachelor’s in education programs emphasizing teacher preparation in these fields. Depending on the school’s available technology, online students can view live video lectures and interact with instructors and students through video conferencing as part of their coursework. Some programs also feature social applications that allow students to interact and collaborate with peers through an online community site or virtual environment, simultaneously building technology skills that are essential for leading learning in the classroom.

Bachelor’s in Education Majors and Areas of Study

The specific education major you select for your bachelor’s degree will influence future career options that are available to you. For example, you commonly must have a formal major (30+ credit hours) in the subject of your initial certification, such as math or science. Adding further certification areas–commonly referred to as endorsements–will require other coursework, which will vary by state and subject area. Most graduates of education bachelor’s programs become certified as teachers and enter careers in K-12 classrooms. Other graduates may choose to teach in private schools or in supplemental education programs, such as after-school programs. Still others may find opportunities working in training and education in the corporate and government sectors. Common bachelor’s degree majors aligned with endorsement areas include:

A bachelor’s degree in education also builds a foundation for advanced study. Some careers in education require a master’s, education specialist, doctor in education, or PhD degree, including careers in curriculum and instruction, administration, and higher education. Beginning your study of the education field at the undergraduate level may position you more competitively for admission to graduate school.

Bachelor’s in Education Program Options

Whether you are seeking to study primarily on campus or online, two of the most important factors to consider when choosing a school are accreditation and approval from the state board of education for the state in which the school is located. Most states require that prospective teachers earn their bachelor’s degree from a school that holds regional accreditation from an accreditor recognized by the US Department of Education. Additionally, most states require that the program attended be approved by the board of education of the state in which the program is located in order to consider graduates for initial licensure. Note that not every bachelor’s degree in education is approved for initial teacher licensure and some states require specific coursework that others do not. As a result, it is important to check with your state’s department of education for information on program approval and requirements.

Once you have verified that a school is appropriately accredited and approved, the next step is to verify that it offers teacher preparation in the grade level(s) and subject(s) you wish to teach. For each grade level and subject area, the state board of education will identify which college courses a prospective teacher needs to take in order to qualify for a license. While there may be some overlap in coursework between programs, as a general rule, a student who completes a program in one area, such as secondary education, will not be eligible to become licensed in another area, such as elementary education, since the coursework will not meet the requirements without undertaking additional study. For more information on common certification requirements, visit our guide to teacher certification by state.

Other important factors in your application decision may include tuition costs, the institution’s partnerships with local K-12 schools, faculty specialties, and the availability of online courses. To find out more about the education degrees available in your state, see our schools guide.

Online Degree Program Formats

For those seeking the flexibility of an online bachelor’s degree in education, there are numerous distance education programs available that will help first-time teachers meet certification requirements. As is the case with traditional programs noted above, students considering an online program should check to ensure that the program is regionally accredited and holds approval from the state department of education for the preparation of teachers. Since certification might not transfer from one state to another without taking additional courses and/or tests, students considering online programs should also be careful to understand the certification requirements in the state where they wish to teach.

Online bachelor’s in education degrees typically allow students to complete the majority of coursework online. However, students should expect to commit time to student teaching in order to meet certification guidelines. Some programs may also require students to spend a certain amount of time on campus for peer workshops, summer institutes, and related activities. Given these requirements, programs designed to lead to teacher certification are not fully online, but rather are hybrid programs in which most courses are taken online, while professional experience requirements are met in person.

Admission Requirements

While school-specific admission requirements vary, prospective students will first need to be accepted to a college or university, which requires a high school diploma or GED with an acceptable GPA and may also require acceptable scores on the ACT or SAT college entrance exams. Next, and typically after completing at least one semester of college coursework, the student will need to apply to the school’s college of education for admittance to the teacher preparation program. The number of credits required varies by program; some colleges will admit education majors as early as the freshman year, while others will only admit students after the sophomore year.

Online bachelor’s in education programs generally follow similar requirements to their on-campus counterparts. Some online programs are designed as transfer programs only, meaning that candidates must have an associate’s degree or the equivalent (typically 60 credit hours) to be admitted to upper-division online courses.

Prior to full admission to a teaching program, candidates may also need to have passing scores on a basic skills test like the Praxis Assessments or a comparable state skills test. Other requirements may include an entrance essay, letters of recommendation, and an in-person interview. A minimum college GPA requirement of 2.5 or above is common for formal admission to a teacher education program. Once admitted to the teaching program, students may begin taking education courses to complete their major, including fieldwork and student teaching experiences.

Core Concepts for a Bachelor’s Degree in Education

Whether found on campus or online, a bachelor’s degree in teaching or education will require a combination of coursework in liberal arts and science subjects as well as higher-level courses on education topics that will build a foundation for success in a teaching career. If the degree program is focused on preparing individuals to teach a specific subject, courses will concentrate heavily on that subject area. An education degree program designed to lead to initial certification will also require at least one student teaching internship to meet state licensing requirements. Some examples of courses that can be found in a bachelor’s in education degree program include:

  • Assessment of Young Children
  • Child Development
  • Children with Special Needs
  • Current Research in Curriculum & Instruction
  • Early Language and Literacy
  • Effective Teaching Skills & Classroom Management
  • Engaging the Learner
  • Foundations in Education
  • Instructional Technology in Education
  • Literature for Children and Young Adolescents
  • Methods of Teaching Elementary Mathematics
  • Science for Early Learners

Top-Rated Bachelor’s in Education Degree Programs

US News & World Report provides an annual ranking of the best national universities with undergraduate teaching programs. In 2020, the following schools led the rankings:1

  • Princeton University (on campus; #1)
  • Elon University (on campus; #2)
  • Brown University (on campus; #3 tie)
  • Georgia State University (on campus; #3 tie)
  • College of William and Mary (on campus; #5 tie)
  • Dartmouth College (on campus; #5 tie)
  • Boston College (on campus; #7)
  • Miami University Ohio (on campus; #8 tie)
  • Rice University (on campus; #8 tie)
  • Arizona State University (on campus or online; #10)

US News also ranks the top regional universities for undergraduate teaching. The leading schools in this category for 2020 were:2

  • Fairfield University (on campus; #1 North Region)
  • College of New Jersey (on campus; #2 tie North Region)
  • State University of New York–Geneseo (on campus; #2 tie North Region)
  • Rollins College (on campus; #1 South Region)
  • Appalachian State University (on campus; #2 tie South Region)
  • Berry College (on campus; #2 tie South Region)
  • John Carroll University (on campus; #1 Midwest Region)
  • Truman State University (on campus; #2 Midwest Region)
  • Alverno College (on campus; #3 tie Midwest Region)
  • Hamline University (on campus or hybrid; #3 tie Midwest Region)
  • California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo (on campus; #1 tie West Region)
  • Whitworth University (on campus; #1 tie West Region)
  • California Lutheran University (on campus; #3 West Region)

Profiles of Traditional Programs

California State University–Los Angeles

The Charter College of Education at California State University–Los Angeles (Cal State LA) features multiple bachelor’s degrees leading to teacher certification in California, including multiple subject credentials for elementary teaching, single-subject credentials for secondary teaching, and specialist credentials in special education and reading and literacy. All programs include a heavy emphasis on urban education and a transdisciplinary approach to K-12 education. As the only chartered college of education in a public university in the US, the college is also known for its innovation and reformist approach to teaching practice. During the course of study, students complete extensive fieldwork and student teaching experiences under the guidance of master teachers and the Charter College of Education advising office. With full-time study, most programs can be completed in four years. All teaching credential programs at Cal State LA are approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the Charter College of Education is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

University of New Mexico

The University of New Mexico (UNM) offers several undergraduate programs leading to teacher certification, including a Bachelor of Science in Education (BSEd) in Special Education; a BSEd in Elementary Education; a BSEd in Secondary Education; and a Bachelor of Arts (BAEd) in Secondary Education. Students must have at least 26 credit hours of general education credits prior to applying for admission to the College of Education (45 credit hours for the BSEd in Elementary Education). Priority admission consideration for most programs is February 1 for classes beginning the following fall. The College of Education at UNM emphasizes multicultural education and provides all students with extensive field experience and student teaching opportunities. The University of New Mexico is also home to several graduate certificates in education as well as master’s and doctoral degree programs for those who wish to advance their careers, including an alternative route to certification master’s program in K-8 education and an accelerated alternative licensure program for prospective STEM teachers.

The University of Texas at San Antonio

The University of Texas at San Antonio College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) houses multiple well-regarded bachelor’s degree teacher certification programs at the elementary and secondary levels. To be admitted to the COEHD, students must have completed at least 60 credit hours with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Students must also have met core requirements, including applicable content coursework and the school’s testing standards. Once admitted and throughout their studies, students are supported by the COEHD’s dedicated Advising and Certification Center. Various field and clinical experience placements, which take place throughout the greater San Antonio area, are included in the curriculum. While all education programs at UTSA emphasize multiculturalism and socioeconomic development, students may also be interested in the school’s Constructive Social Transformation minors in African-American Studies, Women’s Studies, or Mexican American Studies. Post-baccalaureate and master’s level teacher certification programs are also offered. Students at all levels who are interested in advanced research and engagement will be interested in the COEHD’s 12 dedicated research and community engagement centers.

Profiles of Hybrid and Online Programs

Notre Dame College

Located in Ohio, Notre Dame College offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Education (BAEd) that includes two tracks to licensure: K-12 Mild to Moderate Intervention (special education) or PreK to 3 Early Childhood Education. For admissions consideration, students must have a college GPA of 2.5 or above and complete an admissions interview. Both licensure tracks are designed within the framework of the Ohio Standards for the Teaching Profession. The professional education core includes such courses as Educational Psychology, Curriculum Principles PreK-12, and Integrated Teaching Methods PreK-12. While courses for the degree are offered online, students should expect to complete in-person fieldwork to meet the student observation and practice requirements for licensure. All online courses are led by full-time faculty with deep expertise in their fields, and the Education Unit at Notre Dame College places a special emphasis on human rights and social justice.

St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College (SPC) features a unique Bachelor of Science (BS) in Elementary Education program that prepares graduates to seek Florida teacher licensure in grades K-6 as well as specialist endorsements in English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and reading. Courses in the program are offered on-campus, online, and in blended formats. All students must complete extensive elementary school-based hours, including a student internship, in order to graduate and meet Florida certification requirements. Students must achieve a “C” or better in all courses, which include Nature and Needs of Exceptional Students K-12, Learning Theory and Student Development, and Early and Emergent Literacy K-2. Practicums are included throughout the curriculum in order to provide students with hands-on experience and opportunities to put classroom learning into practice. To be admitted to the program, students must have an associate’s degree that meets SPC’s general education requirements with a GPA of 2.5 or above, among other requirements.

Valley City State University

Valley City State University, part of the North Dakota state university system, is home to an online bachelor’s degree in technology education that prepares graduates for K-12 certification in technology education. All courses in the program are available online thanks to flexibly-designed lab applications, though local students may also be interested in attending lab sessions on campus. Coursework for the program focuses on preparing K-12 students to use modern technologies and explore career fields including engineering, architecture, and design. The 33-credit major in technology education, which may be paired with a second major in education at either the elementary or secondary level, includes courses in Innovation and Engineering Design; Technology Systems; Building Math; and Inventions and Innovations: Tech Ed for Children. Those who are not pursuing a second major must complete at least 120 credit hours to earn the degree.

Employment Opportunities for a Bachelor’s in Education

Teaching and Education Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What states have teacher shortages?

Answer: For the 2020-2021 school year, all states reported one or more teacher shortage areas either statewide or in specific geographic areas.3 Common subject areas where states reported teacher shortages included English as a Second Language (ESL), mathematics, and special education.3 Teachers can qualify for federal loan forgiveness if they teach in a designated shortage area and meet other qualifications, such as length of service.3

Question: How many credits is a bachelor’s in education?

Answer: A bachelor’s in education program typically takes 120 credit hours to earn. This usually represents four years of full-time study, or five to six years of part-time study. If you have an associate’s degree in education, your credit hours may transfer in whole or in part towards your bachelor’s degree requirements.

Question: What education do you need to be a teacher?

Answer: To be a teacher in public schools in any state in the US, you must have a bachelor’s degree and have completed a teacher preparation program at a college or university. Each state’s specific requirements for getting a certificate vary, but these are the minimum. Some states and positions may require a master’s degree.

Question: What degree do you need to be a teacher?

Answer: The process for teacher certification and the requirements vary by state. However, every state requires that prospective teachers hold at least a bachelor’s degree and have completed an approved teacher preparation program. Some states may also require a master’s degree for continuing professional certification or licensure advancement.

Question: If I already have a bachelor’s degree in something else, do I need to earn a second bachelor’s to be a teacher?

Answer: You typically will not need to earn a second bachelor’s degree to become a teacher if you already hold a bachelor’s from a regionally accredited school. Many states offer what are known as alternative certification programs for people who are looking to switch careers to the classroom. These programs involve one to two years of teacher preparation, which will qualify successful candidates for certification. Some programs are noncredit, while others include earning a master’s degree. Check with your state board of education for detailed information on pathways and requirements.

Question: How do I become a teacher without a teaching degree?

Answer: There are several alternative pathways to become a teacher if you already have a bachelor’s degree. Some are available at the state level, such as the New York City Teaching Fellows, while others are national like Teach for America. Most of these programs require that participants have a college degree, but it does not need to be in education.

Question: How long does it take to become a teacher?

Answer: The requirements for being a teacher vary by state, but all states require a bachelor’s degree and a coursework that includes educator preparation. It is possible to meet both requirements within four years with full-time study. If you have a bachelor’s degree that is not in education, you may be eligible to pursue alternative certification, which typically takes one to two years.

Question: After you earn a bachelor’s in education, what else do you need to become a teacher?

Answer: Once graduates complete an appropriately approved and accredited bachelor’s program in education, they must pass the appropriate exams to earn teacher licensure in their state. Most states use the Praxis series of exams, either alone or in combination with state-specific tests. Prospective teachers usually take at least two exams: one exam in teaching skills and knowledge (also known as pedagogy) that is specific to the grade level(s) the examinee wishes to take, and another exam specific to the knowledge of the subject(s) that he or she wishes to teach. To see an overview of the exams required in your state, see our guide to certification by state or check with your state’s board of education.

Question: What is the difference between a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Education and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Education?

Answer: A BS degree typically includes more math and science courses, while a BA degree typically includes more liberal arts courses–commonly including at least two years of a foreign language. Functionally, however, as far as teacher certification and hiring decisions are concerned, whether the degree conferred is titled as a BA or BS is not as important as long as the coursework you completed meets requirements.

References:
1. US News & World Report, Best National Universities, Undergraduate Teaching: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/undergraduate-teaching
2. US News & World Report, Best Regional Universities, Undergraduate Teaching: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/regional-universities/undergraduate-teaching
3. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/#/reports