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Online Secondary Education Degree Programs Resource

A bachelor’s degree in secondary education prepares a teacher to work in middle schools and high schools. The degree can be obtained by education professionals such as teachers or principals. Those who pursue a major in secondary education will often focus on a particular subject, such as math or English. Most secondary education degree programs even offer the ability to receive teaching credentials, which most people need to get a job in education. Additionally, 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 careers that one can acquire with a bachelor degree in secondary education. This includes but is not limited to teachers, counselors, principals, and administrators. An individual with a secondary education degree can find work in a public or private school at the middle school, junior high, or high school level.

Once a degree is obtained, graduates will qualify for 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 receive secondary education jobs teaching high school English, literature, speech, or writing. A middle school endorsement will qualify a graduate to teach grades 5-8, in addition to high school jobs. Additional endorsements are possible in areas such as coaching and driver’s education, which make the graduate more marketable to prospective employers.

Students graduating with a master’s degree in secondary education degree can pursue a career as a teacher in secondary schools. These candidates will have completed a bachelor’s degree, which does not necessarily have to be in an educational field. Those who pursue 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 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.

  • Lipscomb University – 99th percentile
  • Arizona State University – 99th percentile
  • University of Utah – 99th percentile
  • City University of New York-Hunter College – 99th percentile
  • Western Governors University – 99th percentile
  • Ohio Wesleyan University – 99th percentile
  • University of Wisconsin-Platteville – 99th percentile
  • University of Iowa – 98th percentile
  • St. Olaf College – 98th percentile
  • University of Minnesota-Duluth – 98th percentile
  • Coe College – 98th percentile
  • Gordon College – 98th percentile
  • Colorado Christian University – 98th percentile
  • University of Southern Mississippi – 98th percentile
  • Clemson University – 98th percentile
  • Hope College – 98th percentile

The following schools were ranked by US News as having the best secondary education graduate programs (2017).

1. Michigan State University
2. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
3. University of Wisconsin—​Madison
4. Stanford University (tie)
4. Teachers College, Columbia University (tie)
6. University of Georgia
7. University of Washington
8. Vanderbilt University (Peabody)
9. University of Virginia (Curry)
10. Indiana University-Bloomington

Profiles of Traditional Secondary Education Programs

Michigan State University

Michigan State University features a five-year secondary education teacher program, which in 2017 ranked first in the nation among such programs in the United States according to US News and 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.

Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University offers students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education through its prestigious teaching program, which was ranked third in the nation by US News and World Report in 2014. 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.

College of William & Mary

William & Mary’s prestigious secondary education program, which ranked fourth in US News and World Report’s top teaching programs in 2014, 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.

Profiles of Hybrid and Online Secondary Education Programs

DePaul University

The DePaul University College of Education offers Master of Arts and Master of Education programs 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.

University of New Mexico

The University of New Mexico offers a Master of Arts 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. The University of New Mexico also offers a wide variety of on-campus teacher preparation programs for both traditional and alternative route teacher certification candidates.

San Diego State University

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.

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. Exams and student 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

Cossondra George, Michigan Middle School Teacher
Kathryn Laster, Texas Math Teacher
Scott Keltner, Kansas Math Teacher
Terie Engelbrecht, Illinois Science Teacher
See all teacher interviews.

Top Middle School Blogs

See our Top 25 Middle School Blogs to read stories, insights, and advice from teachers who are currently teaching secondary students and willing to share their ideas to help other teachers be successful.

Additional Resources

Association for Middle Level Education – An international organization with the mission of improving the education experience for students ages 10 to 15.

Teaching and Education Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What if I already have a bachelor’s degree in another field?

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. This may involve taking additional courses at an approved teacher education program or acquiring a master’s in 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 to become a secondary teacher?

Answer: In depends on your state’s policies. 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.