Education is a broad field concerned with providing instruction to students and is a good fit for individuals who want a career in teaching. It encompasses numerous fields, including elementary and secondary education, subject specific education (such as mathematics or science), special education, adult literacy, and postsecondary teaching. Accredited online colleges for education allow students to complete their classroom learning from their home computers, alongside student teaching requirements at schools near where they live.
For students pursuing a career in public K-12 education, the best online colleges for education are those that offer programs that line up with a student’s state requirements for teacher licensure. In addition, the top online colleges for education will have teacher education programs that are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Education Course Work Basics
Top accredited online colleges that offer undergraduate programs in education will require different courses depending on the student’s specialization. For instance, a student specializing in middle school social studies education will take vastly different courses than a student specializing in secondary mathematics education. Even so, some courses will be common to all education programs, such as general education requirements and foundational courses in child development, educational psychology, and classroom management. All bachelor’s degree programs in education that lead to teacher certification will also include a student teaching component in actual classrooms. A few courses you may encounter in such programs include:
- Instructional Technology in the Classroom: In this course, students explore effective ways of using educational technology to enhance classroom curriculum.
- Second Language Learning: This course introduces students to principles of bilingual and multicultural education, as well as major theories and challenges in second language learning and teaching.
- Exceptional Student Education: In this course, students receive an overview of current trends and issues in teaching exceptional students, such as students who are gifted or who have special needs.
- Educational Psychology: This course explores child development as it pertains to psychological principles of teaching and learning, and it provides a foundation for those who may be interested in careers in school counseling or education research.
- Child Development: In this course, students learn the most prominent theories on how children develop physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally.
Top rated online colleges also offer graduate programs in education. Master’s programs allow students to specialize in areas such as special education, educational leadership, curriculum and instruction, or teaching English to speakers of other languages. Programs will also introduce students to educational research and often conclude with a master’s project in which students identify a relevant education problem and conduct independent research to address the problem. Doctoral programs in education typically conclude with a dissertation, a book-length document that details their original research into a particular topic within their education specialization. Dissertations are expected to be of publishable quality and must be defended in front of a faculty panel.
Careers for the Education Graduate
The most common career for those with degrees in education is K-12 classroom teaching in public schools. To become a teacher, students must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (often in a specific content area), complete a teacher education program, and meet all other requirements for teacher certification in their state, which often include testing and background checks. Teachers may opt to teach kindergarten and elementary school, middle school, or high school students. They may also choose to teach special education.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2010, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned median yearly salaries of $51,380, middle school teachers earned $51,960, and high school teachers earned $53,230. Employment in these professions is expected to grow by 17%, 17%, and 7%, respectively, between 2010 and 2020.
Special education teachers earned a median salary of $53,220 in 2010 and are expected to experience 17% employment growth between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. Median salaries vary for special education teachers depending on whether they teach high school, middle school, or preschool/kindergarten/elementary school. Job prospects are projected to be best for special education teachers who teach the younger grades because of an expected increase in enrollment. More job opportunities are also expected in the South and West than in the Midwest and Northeast, the BLS explained. Keep in mind that teacher salaries and job prospects at all education levels vary based on the school and the teacher’s experience and educational attainment.