Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Education

A bachelor’s degree in education 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 that has 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 many use the term “bachelor’s in education” to refer to degree programs that prepare prospective teachers, the course of study 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

Education degrees prepare the graduate for a rewarding career helping children acquire the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in life. 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, many schools are adding 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.

Choosing a School for Earning Your Education Degree

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 is some overlap in courses 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 his or her 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 Bachelor’s in Education Degree Programs 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 are more of a hybrid program where most courses are taken online, while professional experience requirements are met “on the ground.”

Top-Rated Online Bachelor’s in Education Degree Programs

US News ranked the following schools with online bachelor’s degree programs as among the best in the US in 2017.1 Schools are listed by their overall online bachelor’s programs ranking according to US News, with the type of online education program(s) offered following in parenthesis:

4. Arizona State University (General Education)
15. Fort Hays State University (Elementary Education)
36. University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Education, Other)
45. City University of Seattle (General Education)
68 (tie). University of Wisconsin-Superior (Elementary Education)
68 (tie). University of Louisiana-Lafayette (Physical Education)
92. Bellevue University (General Education)
99. Granite State College (Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Middle Grades Education)
103 (tie). University of the Cumberlands (Elementary Education)
103 (tie). Eastern Oregon University (Education, Other)

Admission Requirements for a Bachelor’s in Education Degree Program

teacher with studentWhile specific admissions 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.

Coursework 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 focus 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:

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

Earning Teacher Certification

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.

Profiles of Traditional Bachelor’s in Education Degree Programs

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 to eight education and an accelerated alternative licensure program for prospective STEM teachers.

California State University – Los Angeles

The Charter College of Education at 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).

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 meet 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 Bachelor’s in Education Degree Programs

Notre Dame College

Located in Ohio, Notre Dame College offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Education 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 field work 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 in Elementary Education program that prepares graduates to seek Florida teacher licensure in grades K to six 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.

Teaching and Education Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What states have teacher shortages?

Answer: Many states across the south and west US are experiencing teacher shortages. These include Kansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Idaho, Missouri, Maryland, Arizona, Texas, Utah, and Florida. In some states, specific areas are designated as teacher shortage areas, especially in math and the sciences.

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: 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 bachelor’s degree that is not in education, you may be eligible to pursue alternative certification, which typically takes one to two years.

1. US News & World Report, Best Online Bachelor’s Programs 2017: https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/bachelors