Online General Education Degree Programs Resource
Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step towards obtaining a teaching certificate since in all states holding a bachelor’s degree is a requirement for licensure to teach in K-12 public schools. A bachelor’s degree in education is typically centered on a specific major, such as elementary education or secondary education, in order to prepare graduates to teach children in specific grades and subjects. While the majority of teaching programs are focused on specific subjects within a grade or age range, there are more general education degree programs that can prepare educators to teach multiple subjects. Regardless of the subjects to be taught, prospective educators should have a love of working with children and a passion for teaching. A commitment to lifelong learning is also essential, as teachers must stay up-to-date in both teaching practice and their subject area(s).
General Education Degree Requirements and Coursework
An education degree can prepare pre-service teachers to instruct across multiple grade levels, making it a flexible degree to use as a foundation in seeking positions in areas where highly qualified teachers are in demand. Early childhood and elementary school teachers typically complete general education programs that prepare them to teach all core subjects, particularly math, science, social studies, and reading and language arts. This leads to what is known as a multiple-subject teaching credential in most states. Future educators who want to teach the middle or high school grades, or teach a specific subject across multiple grade ranges, will typically major in a specific subject and take courses in education and teaching that correspond to the grade level(s) that they want to teach, which leads to a single-subject teaching credential.
The number of credits devoted to each area of study will depend on the endorsement a student is seeking. Elementary education candidates will typically focus the majority of their education courses on subjects like child development and take additional courses in all areas of the core curriculum. Secondary education students will typically choose a content area to major in and complete at least 32 credit hours in that subject, depending on state certification requirements, while taking additional courses in teaching methods and theory. Regardless of the subject, education majors should expect to complete experiential learning through classroom internships.
General Education Degrees and Certification
Since children at different age levels have different developmental and learning needs, a bachelor’s degree in education will usually be focused on teaching a specific range of grade levels. The most common ranges in the US are early childhood (preschool through third grade), elementary school (grades one through five), middle school (grades six through eight), and high school (grades nine through 12). These grade ranges may differ according to a given state’s guidelines; for example, in some states, elementary education is considered to extend through the sixth grade, while middle school education can extend through the ninth grade.
For those who wish to teach multiple subjects, a more general education degree can be a good fit in states that do not require educators to have a formal major (or approximately 32 credit hours) in each subject they wish to teach. Below is an overview of the most common types of multiple-subject education degree programs.
Elementary Education Degrees
Unlike most middle school and secondary school education programs, elementary education degrees are designed to prepare educators to teach all parts of the core curriculum – English, reading and writing, science, and math – in grades one through five. An accredited elementary education degree leads to a multiple-subject teaching license once the teacher has passed his or her state’s required exams for educators.
Middle Grades Education Degrees
Although many prospective middle school teachers major in the subject they wish to teach, some schools offer middle grades education programs that can qualify graduates to teach more than one subject. A middle grades education program typically focuses on the developmental and learning needs of students in grades four through eight (though this definition varies by state and program) and prepares the graduate to pass the tests for certification and become a middle school teacher.
Early/Middle Childhood Education Generalist Degrees
Some schools offer programs that allow teachers who are already licensed in one or more areas to return to school and complete coursework to qualify (in some states) for a multiple-subject credential in early childhood (kindergarten through grade three) or middle childhood (grades four through eight, though the definition of the middle childhood range can vary). In states where this type of program is accepted for adding practice areas to a teacher’s license, the teacher must typically be currently licensed in at least two subjects at the grade level(s) where he or she is looking to add the generalist endorsement.
Secondary Education Degrees
The majority of prospective high school teachers major in the subject(s) that they wish to teach and complete a teacher preparation program that provides the knowledge needed to work with high schoolers. However, a select number of schools offer generalized secondary education programs that can be a good option if you know you want to teach high school but aren’t sure which subject. As opposed to most secondary education programs where you are accepted to the school of education as a major in your teaching subject, a generalized secondary education program allows you to pick a core content area to focus on during the teaching program. After completing this type of program, you will graduate with a bachelor’s in secondary education with a concentration in the subject you will teach. After taking the appropriate exams, you will be licensed and ready to begin a career as a high school teacher.
Best Value General Education Schools with On-Campus Programs
If you are interested in pursuing general education, you will be interested in our best values table. The colleges and universities on our list are either public or private non-profit US schools, and they have a graduation rate of at least 85% along with a net price of under $20,000. A high graduation rate tends to be an indicator of success at a school, while a low net price is important as you consider the investment a four-year degree represents. We also included data such as retention rate, transfer out rate, loan default rate, percentage of tenured faculty, and rankings from US News & World Report. You can sort the table by any of these criteria by clicking on the column header.
|School||Grad Rate1||Retention Rate*1||Transfer Out Rate**1||Student Loan Default Rate1||% Tenured Faculty2||US News National Rank3||US News Undergrad Teaching Rank4||Net Price1|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||91%||96%||3%||1.5%||43%||#30 tie||#34 tie||$11,100|
|University of California-Irvine||85%||94%||N.Av.||1.9%||57%||#33 tie||N/A||$13,944|
|University of California-San Diego||85%||94%||N.Av.||2.1%||55%||#41 tie||N/A||$14,616|
|University of California-Los Angeles||91%||97%||4%||1.8%||48%||#19 tie||N/A||$14,760|
|University of Georgia||85%||95%||6%||2.4%||54%||#46 tie||#34 tie||$15,934|
|University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||92%||97%||N.Av.||1.5%||35%||#27 tie||#19||$16,408|
|University of California-Davis||85%||93%||N.Av.||2.0%||57%||#38 tie||#24 tie||$16,446|
|University of Virginia-Main Campus||95%||96%||3%||0.9%||54%||#25 tie||#24 tie||$16,594|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||85%||92%||N.Av.||2.2%||51%||#46 tie||#43 tie||$16,638|
|Harvard University||96%||98%||N.Av.||1.2%||45%||#2||#34 tie||$17,030|
|University of Maryland-College Park||85%||96%||5%||2.1%||44%||#63 tie||N/A||$17,241|
|University of California-Berkeley||91%||97%||N.Av.||2.4%||51%||#22 tie||#52||$18,178|
*See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.
Profiles of General Education Programs
Elementary Education Degrees
Missouri State University maintains a bachelor’s degree in elementary education that can lead to certification in grades one through six. This certification-focused degree program includes study in core subject areas as well as professional training in teaching methods and practice. As part of the degree plan, students complete a professional portfolio that is guided by teaching faculty. Specialist certification in various subject areas can be included in the individualized curriculum according to individual student interests and career goals. Diversity training and educational field experiences are highlighted throughout the program. Graduates of the program are prepared to pass the Missouri state teacher certification exams. Career placement assistance is also available to graduates.
Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) awards the Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education to students who complete its 120-credit hour program. To be admitted to the program, students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5, pass the Illinois Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP), and provide at least one letter of recommendation from an instructor. The curriculum includes 100 clock hours of fieldwork as well as a dedicated student teaching experience. Placements are arranged in consultation with the school’s dedicated Office of Clinical Experiences and Student Teaching. Students also take such professional education courses as Methods of Teaching Inquiry-Based Social Studies; Elementary and Middle School Math Methods; and Instructional Design in the 21st Century Classroom. NEIU also offers bachelor’s degree programs in other teacher endorsement areas, as well as master’s degrees in early childhood education, teaching in language arts, and teaching and inquiry.
Middle Grades Education Degrees
Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) offers a Bachelor of Science in Middle Grade Education for which students choose two concentration areas from among English, science, social studies, and math. Graduates of the program are prepared to sit for the Kentucky teacher licensing exams in their concentration areas to teach children in grades five through nine (ages 10 to 14). The curriculum includes multiple school-based field experiences and internships and is designed to be completed within eight semesters with full-time study. Students are supported by a dedicated advising office within the College of Education, the Center for the Preparation of Educational Professionals, which includes specialist advisors for licensure and certification, clinical experiences, and academics. The Middle Grade Education program at EKU is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). EKU also offers various master’s degrees in education as well as online teacher endorsement programs for currently licensed educators interested in advancing their credentials to teach gifted education and/or literacy.
Located in North Carolina, High Point University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Middle Grades Education that prepares students to teach two subject areas to students in grades six through nine. The subject concentrations offered are social studies, language arts, science, and math, and students must complete 24 content hours in each subject chosen as well as 45 credit hours in teacher education. Teacher education courses in the required curriculum include Introduction to Educational Technology; Interdisciplinary Methods of Instruction for Middle Grades; and Discipline and Classroom Management Issues. Students also complete at least two internship segments, which provide hands-on teaching experience in supervised settings. Among its many other teacher education programs, High Point University also offers a Master of Education in Educational Leadership program.
Early/Middle Childhood Education Generalist Degrees
The College of Education at California State University-Long Beach offers a unique Urban Dual Credential Program (UDCP) that prepares students to teach the general curriculum in the elementary grades as well as in elementary/middle special education settings. Academic and professional skills and knowledge are emphasized in the program, which also carries a strong fieldwork and student teaching component. Two professional placements, at least one of which occurs in a public school setting, are arranged for student teaching: one placement in a K-2 classroom and a second placement in either grades 3-6 or grades 6-8. The general education curriculum includes core class sequences in language arts, mathematics, natural science, history and social science, arts and humanities, and teaching methodologies. California State University-Long Beach also offers other programs in elementary, middle, and secondary education in a wide range of specializations.
The middle childhood teacher licensure program at Baldwin Wallace University prepares students to teach two subject areas in grades four through nine (ages 8 to 14). The subject areas available are reading and language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. A reading endorsement is also available to students who choose the reading and language arts content area. The program is available to students who already hold a bachelor’s degree and a current teaching license in at least two subjects. Professional courses in this curriculum include Teaching Strategies and Management Skills; Media Resources for the Education Professional; and Education of Children with Special Needs. Students who do not hold a teaching license but do have a bachelor’s degree may be interested in the school’s license plus master’s program, which qualifies students to pursue initial licensure in the elementary, middle, or high school grades in Ohio.
Secondary Education Degrees
Kansas State University offers a secondary education program that allows students to complete the requirements for a secondary grades teaching license in multiple fields. As students plan their course of study they receive support from the Center for Student and Professional Services, which provides advising on course requirements for each content area the student wishes to teach. Teacher education courses include Educational Technology for Teaching and Learning, Educational Psychology, and Content Area Literacies and Diverse Learners. Students also complete a practicum in the content area(s) for which they intend to pursue licensure. Many professional education courses are offered in block format and may only be taken concurrently; students must earn a grade of at least a “C” in each course in a block in order to proceed to the next block of professional education courses. Completion of all program requirements, which comprise a minimum of 126 credit hours, leads to the award of a Bachelor of Science in Education and qualification to take the teacher licensing exams in Kansas. Kansas State University also offers multiple post-license endorsement programs as well as master’s and doctoral programs in education.
The Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) allows students to concentrate in up to two teaching fields. Teaching fields available include Biology, English, General Science, Math, Physical Science, and Social Studies. Students must complete a minimum of 36 credit hours in each teaching field selected in order to be eligible for licensure in that content area. The program includes in-depth real-world teaching experience, with all students completing two practicum blocks in addition to a semester-long student teaching block. Other core requirements include courses in Valuing Cultural Diversity, Educational Psychology, and Students with Disabilities in General Education Settings. Across the curriculum, students learn how to design and apply evidence-based, data-driven evaluations and assessments and integrate technology in the modern classroom. Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for the teacher licensing exams in Nevada and become certified to teach in their content specialties in grades six through 12.
Teaching and Education Programs
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What grade levels does a general education degree prepare me to teach?
Answer: An education degree typically prepares graduates to teach specific grade levels, such as K-3 or 6-12. Some content areas, such as art or physical education, are more commonly offered as K-12 programs. Because certification requirements may vary by state, it’s a good idea to check the requirements published by the board of education in the state where you wish to teach.
Question: Can I complete the required field experiences for teaching certification with an online degree program?
Answer: Yes, most online general education degree programs offer field placement advising and assistance to find the required field experiences for teaching certification in your local area. However, a program offered in one state might not meet all requirements for teacher certification in another state, so you should research your state’s requirements for the area(s) you wish to teach.
Question: Do I have to pass the Praxis exam before applying to a general education degree program?
Answer: For undergraduate programs, many schools only require that students pass the Praxis Assessments prior to beginning field placements or certain teacher education courses. The advising office of the school you are considering attending can provide further information on admission requirements.
Question: How do I know if a general education degree program is accredited?
Answer: The board of education for each state typically maintains a list of approved schools and degree programs for state certification. You can also research programs that hold national accreditation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP); some states will recognize degrees from schools accredited by CAEP as meeting certification requirements.
Table Notes and References:
All data is based on undergraduate statistics.
*The retention rate is the percentage of first-time, full-time students who continued to a second year of study at the same institution.
**The transfer out rate is the percentage of first-time, full-time students who transferred their credits to another institution within 150% of the normal time to complete their degree.
1. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/
3. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
4. US News & World Report Best Undergraduate Teaching National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/undergraduate-teaching