Online and Campus Secondary Education Degree Programs
A degree in secondary education prepares a teacher to work as a high school teacher or a middle school teacher, usually in a specific content area such as math or English. It is also common for prospective secondary school teachers to major in the subject of their choice (math or science) and add an approved teacher certification program to become certified in their state. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there is nearly an equal number of bachelor’s and master’s in secondary education offered by schools across the US.1 Most secondary education degree programs offer the ability to receive teaching credentials, which most people need to get a job in education, as all 50 states and the District of Columbia require public school teachers to be licensed. There are also many options for those who wish to study for a secondary education degree online. Online degrees in education can allow flexibility as to how and when to study. To learn more about how to become a secondary school teacher, see our high school teacher career guide.
Secondary Education Degrees & Certification
There are many jobs that one can acquire with a degree in secondary education. Students graduating with a bachelor’s or master’s in secondary education degree can pursue a career as a teacher in secondary schools, at the middle school, junior high, or high school level. Master’s in secondary education students will have already completed a bachelor’s degree, which does not necessarily have to be in an educational field.
Once a degree is obtained, most graduates seek state certification if they plan on teaching in the public school system. At this point, they will qualify for middle and high school jobs in the state in which they are certified. For example, those who major in secondary education with English as their content area can expect to apply for secondary education jobs teaching high school English, literature, speech, or writing. A middle school endorsement will qualify a graduate to teach grades 5-8. Additional endorsements are possible in areas such as coaching and driver’s education, which may make the graduate more marketable to prospective employers. Those who pursue a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in secondary education should possess a love of learning, a passion for teaching, and the subject matter knowledge required to teach at the high school level.
Top-Ranked Secondary Education Degree Programs
The following schools had the highest-rated undergraduate secondary education programs according to The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The NCTQ evaluated and scored over 2,400 US college teacher preparation programs in 2017, and the following schools scored in the 98th and 99th percentile.
- Lipscomb University
- University of Utah
- Arizona State University
- CUNY-Hunter College
- Ohio Wesleyan University
- University of Wisconsin-Platteville
- Western Governors University
- Coe College
- University of Iowa
- Gordon College
- St. Olaf College
- University of Minnesota-Duluth
- Messiah College
- Colorado Christian University
- Hope College
- University of Southern Mississippi
- Clemson University
The following schools were the top-ranked graduate and alternative programs in secondary education in 2018, according to NCTQ. The schools below were scored in either the 98th or 99th percentile.
- Richmond Teacher Residency
- CUNY-Lehman College
- Arizona State University: Masters and Arizona Certification (InMAC) program, TFA Partnership
- INSPIRE Texas: Educator Certification by Region 4
- Teach For America (DC Region)
- Memphis Teacher Residency
- University of California – Irvine
- University of California – Santa Barbara
The following schools were ranked by US News & World Report as having the best secondary education graduate programs in 2019.
1. Michigan State University
2. Teachers College, Columbia University (tie)
2. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor (tie)
4. Stanford University
5. University of Wisconsin—Madison
6. University of Georgia
7. Vanderbilt University
8. University of Virginia
9. Ohio State University
10. University of California–Los Angeles (tie)
10. University of Texas–Austin (tie)
Best Value Schools with On-Campus Secondary Education Programs
The table below represents the best value non-profit colleges and universities offering secondary education programs in the United States. Our list includes schools with graduation rates (at the undergraduate level) of 80% and above and undergraduate net prices of under $20,000. A high graduation rate is typically correlated with a school’s success, and a low net price means less of an investment for you. In addition to these, we have also included information about these schools’ percentage of faculty with tenure, related degrees offered, and US News & World Report rankings.
|School||Undergrad Degree(s)||Grad Degree(s)||US News Undergrad Teaching Rank1||US News National Rank2||Grad Rate3||% Tenured Faculty4||Net Price3|
|Brigham Young University-Provo||BA/BS Secondary Education||—||NR||#66 tie||83%||46%||$12,979|
|University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||BA/BS Secondary Teacher Education||MA Educational Studies with Secondary Teacher Certification (SecMAC)||#19||#27 tie||92%||35%||$16,408|
|Florida State University||BS/MS Secondary Education||BS/MS Secondary Education||#52 tie||#70 tie||80%||43%||$16,450|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||Minor Secondary Education||EdM Secondary Education||#43 tie||#46 tie||85%||51%||$16,638|
|University of Maryland-College Park||Minor Secondary Education||MEd: MCERT with Secondary Education||NR||#63 tie||85%||44%||$17,241|
|Clemson University||BA Secondary Education||—||#16 tie||#66 tie||82%||47%||$18,757|
See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.
Best Value Schools with Online Secondary Education Programs
Below are our best value non-profit colleges and universities offering online secondary education programs at the graduate level in the United States. This list uses the same criteria as the above, but has a minimum graduation rate of 70% and a net price under $23,000. In addition to the undergraduate net price, we’ve also included the in-state cost per online graduate credit hour for reference.
|School||Grad Degree(s)||US News National Rank2||Grad Rate3||% Tenured Faculty4||Cost per Grad Credit Hour||Net Price3|
|University at Buffalo||Multiple Degrees||#79 tie||76%||36%||$565||$15,895||Towson University||M.Ed. Secondary Education (hybrid)||#197 tie||73%||24%||$439||$16,148|
|University of Maryland-College Park||M.Ed. Teaching and Learning Mathematics in the Middle Grades||#64 tie||86%||44%||$717||$16,790|
See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.
Profiles of Traditional Secondary Education Programs
Clemson University offers both a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Secondary Education. Its accredited BA program prepares students to be teachers of English, math, or social studies (history) in ninth through twelfth grades through over 100 field hours plus 72 days of student teaching. Students are encouraged to earn a second major in their selected content area, and most students complete this within four years. Student teaching experiences focus on a diverse group of students from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Coursework varies by content area, but may include Orientation to Education, Adolescent Growth and Development, Principles of American Education, and Educational Psychology.
William & Mary’s prestigious secondary education program, which tied for fifth in US News & World Report’s top teaching programs in 2019, allows undergraduate students to obtain the necessary educational qualifications and classroom experience to earn their teaching certification. All secondary education majors will follow an educational path that includes completing a concentration in the area or areas in which the aspiring teachers want to teach and earning an endorsement. Endorsements, which require 27 credits, are offered in English, math, social studies, foreign languages, and science. A secondary education major who wants to earn certification in Virginia must also complete mandatory Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting training. Candidates can apply for the program once they have obtained 54 credits, provided they have maintained a minimum 2.0 GPA in their freshmen and sophomore years.
A four-year combined Bachelor of Science/Master of Science (BS/MS) in Teacher Education is offered at Florida State University in Secondary Teaching and a subject area in English Education or Social Sciences Education. For those students interested in teaching a STEM subject, double majors are available in Chemistry, Biology, Environmental Science, Geoscience, Mathematics, or Physics. Graduates of the program will have a Florida Professional Educator’s Certificate to teach sixth through twelfth grades. The degree program includes ample hands-on experience, with field experiences each semester and one semester-long internship. FSU’s teacher education program offers small class sizes and individual faculty attention. Courses such as Educational Psychology: Developing Learners, Literacy Across the Content Area, ESOL Instruction in the Content Area, Including Students with Disabilities in the General Education Curriculum, and Developing a Global Perspective are offered.
Fort Hays State University offers students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Secondary Education through its prestigious teaching program. All students are required to enroll in a double major: secondary education plus a specialty area such as biology, history, government, or journalism. Aspiring special education teachers at the secondary level may also want to minor in special education. All secondary education majors must complete student teaching, which generally occurs in the final semester of the senior year. Graduates of the teaching program are eligible to apply for certification by the Kansas State Department of Education, provided they meet all requirements, including maintaining a minimum 2.75 GPA during the program.
Michigan State University features a five-year secondary education teacher program, which in 2019 ranked first in the nation among such programs in the United States according to US News & World Report, that prepares students to become both educators and leaders in the classroom. The first four years of the undergraduate program consist of completing general college and major requirements. In addition, all teaching students must have a secondary teaching major and a teaching minor, choosing from a long list of subjects, including Chinese, earth science, English, journalism, and Spanish. Teaching majors must apply for a yearlong teaching internship in the fall of their senior year and will begin interning the fall semester of their fifth year. Graduates of the secondary education program will be prepared to apply for provisional teacher certification from the Michigan Department of Education.
Profiles of Hybrid and Online Secondary Education Programs
The DePaul University College of Education offers a Master of Arts/ Master of Education (MA/M.Ed.) program in Secondary Education designed for those who earned a bachelor’s degree in a subject outside of education. The program leads to a secondary education teaching license in Illinois, with endorsements available in subjects from biology to visual arts. Students may also take additional courses to earn a middle school endorsement in their content area of emphasis. While courses are available online and in a hybrid online/on-campus format, students must plan to complete field experiences and student teaching engagements, which can be arranged in their local school district. Students may choose to pursue the program on a full-time or part-time basis, though the 10-week student teaching experience is full-time; students should plan their schedules accordingly.
San Diego State University offers a fully online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT): Elementary Education and Secondary Education that is designed as a professional development program for currently licensed teachers. The focus of this program is on inquiry education, a method of teaching that helps students become independent learners. The 24 credit hours required for most students to earn the MAT can be completed in one year across three consecutive semesters, with most students taking four courses during the summer term and two courses each in the fall and spring semesters. The curriculum culminates in a capstone experience that is based on the values of social justice. The College of Education at San Diego State University also offers various preliminary teacher credential programs on-campus. The school also offers an online induction program for general education teachers.
The University of New Mexico (UNM) offers a Master of Arts (MA) in Secondary Education with a focus on Teacher Leadership that can be completed online. The program is designed for currently licensed teachers and can be completed in two years with full-time study. Core courses include Research Applications to Education; Principles of Curriculum Development; and Educational Leadership in a Democratic Society. Admission is competitive and requires that students have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in the last two years (60 credit hours) of undergraduate study and in their major field overall. The University of New Mexico College of Education places a strong emphasis on multicultural education and takes pride in preparing teachers who are ready to work with diverse learners and cultures. UNM also offers a wide variety of on-campus teacher preparation programs for both traditional and alternative route teacher certification candidates.
Secondary Teaching Degree Requirements and Coursework
Individuals with certain qualities tend to excel as teachers and have longer careers. These qualities include a strong desire to teach, patience, a strong work ethic, and good organization and communication skills.
To start, coursework in a teacher preparation program typically requires the completion of specified prerequisites and acceptance into the college of education. To graduate, students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA and complete the required coursework. tudent teaching is also a common requirement for graduation. Some examples of common classes in the curriculum of a secondary teaching degree program include:
- Introduction to Teaching and Learning
- Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
- Classroom Management
- Applied Learning Theory
- Educational Technology
- Adolescent Growth and Development
- Teaching Mathematics in Secondary Schools
- Teaching English in Secondary Schools
- Special Topics in Secondary Education
- Field Experience/Student Teaching
Advice from Current Secondary Teachers
“Surround yourself with positive people. Keep learning, improving and striving for better. Make sure you take time for yourself and don’t burn out.” – Shireen D., Texas High School Math Teacher
“Be prepared for anything. While my best friend was getting her degree, she swore she would never need geometry because she would never teach it. Her first teaching assignment included three geometry classes. Anything can happen and it’s best to be ready.” – Sharon Taylor, President of the Georgia Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators
“I think that teaching, in many ways, is a calling, and despite the fact that American society has been undervaluing their teachers, I would encourage them to keep at it because the rewards are great when working with others. But, most importantly, we need them.” – Jon Bergmann, Co-Author of Flip Your Classroom
“Don’t become a coaster. Every year look at your curriculum. Update it, change it, add to it, delete the bad stuff and always make it better for your students.” – Meg Jacobson, President of the Colorado Association of Science Teachers
Secondary Teacher Interviews
Middle School Blogs
See our Middle School Blogs to read stories, insights, and advice from teachers who are currently teaching middle school students and willing to share their ideas to help other teachers be successful.
- Association for Middle Level Education: An international organization with the mission of improving the education experience for students ages 10 to 15.
- Association of American Educators (AAE): A non-union assocaation for professional educators, promoting professionalism and non-partisan collaboration in the field.
Teaching and Education Programs
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What can you do with a secondary education degree?
Answer: A degree in secondary education prepares graduates to teach students at the high school and middle school level. Primary school is typically considered to be kindergarten through sixth grade (requiring a degree in elementary education) while secondary school is typically considered to be from the latter years of middle school (around seventh or eighth grade or around age 13) through high school. A secondary education degree equips you to be a high school teacher or a middle school teacher.
Question: What if I already have a bachelor’s degree in another field? Do I need to get another bachelor’s degree in secondary education?
Answer: Most states offer alternative routes to obtaining a teacher certification or license for individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree in another area so that they do not have to get a second bachelor’s degree. This may involve taking additional courses at an approved teacher education program or acquiring a master’s in secondary education. There are also national organizations like Teach for America and Troops to Teachers that help career switchers get into teaching. Check with your state’s department of education for specific requirements.
Question: Do you need a master’s degree in secondary education to teach at the secondary level?
Answer: In depends on your state’s policies, but most states require a bachelor’s degree from an approved teacher education program to become certified. Some states require teachers to earn their master’s within a specified time period (usually five years) in order to become fully licensed. Many states also offer a salary incentive for having a master’s degree even if they do not require one.
Question: What is a secondary education certification?
Answer: Secondary education certification is granted by the state board of education to qualify teachers to teach at the secondary level (high school or middle school). If you want to teach students of this age in a public school setting, you will likely need to seek state certification in secondary education (high school or middle school teaching endorsement) and/or in the subject you wish to teach.
Question: Can you teach elementary school with a secondary education degree?
Answer: You may be able to teach at the elementary school level with a secondary education degree if you get certified to teach at that level in your state. Also, an endorsement in a subject area such as language arts or science will usually qualify you to teach that subject at any level. Check with your state’s board of education to make sure the program you choose is state-approved to teach at your target level.
Table Notes and References:
1. US News & World Report Best Undergraduate Teaching National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/undergraduate-teaching
2. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
3. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
4. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/