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Guide to Applying to Education School

Maybe you've always dreamed of being a teacher? Or maybe you're changing careers into the field? Either way, the first step is deciding on the best program for your goals.

person with application form

Education programs span a few different levels from bachelor's degrees, to certificates, master's degrees, education specialist and doctoral degrees. Also, you'll have to consider whether you prefer a traditional education program (four year bachelor's degree) or an alternative certification program. Since 2005, one third of beginning teachers were hired after completing an alternative certification program, according to Teach-Now.org, and this entry certification into education is only becoming more popular.

Reasons to choose any of the available programs vary, as do their requirements. To help you choose the best teaching degree for you, we've broken down all the available degree types including their application requirements below.

What are the basic education program application requirements by degree type?


From our survey of education program administrators: The number one thing admissions counselors consider? Your admissions requirements - make sure you fulfill all required courses and credits before applying, especially if they relate to a subject area you're interested in teaching.


Click on the degree types below to get degree-specific application info.

Bachelor's in Education

A minimum of a bachelor's degree is required to teach in any school system, and a four-year degree in education is one of the easiest ways (and the most traditional way) to begin your career. There are thousands of programs to choose from, and most colleges and universities will even include certification testing.

  • Application
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • High school transcript
  • Application fee
  • Recommendation letters

*Some schools require a student to have met a certain minimum GPA in high school and/or to have completed particular course requirements.

From our survey of education program administrators: Just meeting your application requirements does not mean automatic acceptance into a program - take each element of the application seriously from your GPA to your essay.

Alternative Teacher Certification

Alternative certification programs have become an increasingly popular way to get into teaching. Geared for those with a non-education bachelor's degree, these programs cater especially to high-need areas like the math and sciences or urban and rural school districts. Programs mix education theory and training with hands-on experience. If you already have a bachelor's degree, alternative certification is the fastest way to jump right into the classroom. Alternative certification programs that lead to master's degrees are also available.

  • Application
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Transcript from an undergraduate college or university
  • Literacy test scores

*Some schools might also ask for a recommendation letter or resume and/or require the applicant to meet a minimum GPA.

From our survey of education program administrators: Let who you are and why you are pursuing teaching shine through - admissions counselors are trying to get a true sense of who you are and what kind of teacher you would be.

Master's in Education

Some school systems now require that you obtain a master's in education within a few years of starting your teaching career. Often, a master's degree is a logical progression from the bachelor's degree, allowing a teacher to specialize, gain in depth knowledge, demand a higher salary and even reposition him or herself for a more leadership-oriented position. Master's programs can vary in length of time required to complete, but will take about a year. Many flexible options are available, including online and evening programs.

  • Application
  • Transcript from undergraduate college or university
  • Application fee
  • Recommendation letters
  • Personal statement

*Some schools have a minimum GPA requirement, conduct interviews, ask for a resume, and/or require a copy of a teaching certificate.

Educational Specialist

An EdS, or education specialist degree, is a relatively new degree that falls in between a master's and a doctorate in education. In general, this is a degree for those at the K-12 level who want to move into administrator, school counseling or curriculum planning roles. Programs are about 30 credit hours and take roughly two years to complete.

  • Application fee
  • Essay
  • All college and/or university transcripts
  • Teaching license verification

*Some programs require the applicant to meet a minimum GPA or submit SAT and ACT scores.

Doctor of Education

The Doctor of Education (EdD) differs slightly in focus from the Doctor of Philosophy in Education, in that it emphasizes the practice vs. theory of education, though both are covered. Typically, this degree is recommended for those interested in pursuing leadership, counseling or education policy work in the K-12 environment. Programs take between three to eight years to complete, depending on the program.

  • Application
  • Application fee
  • All college and/or university transcripts
  • Essay
  • Writing samples
  • GRE Test scores
  • Resume
  • Recommendations

*Some programs may have additional requirements.

Doctor of Philosophy in Education

The Doctor of Philosophy in Education is considered a more academic degree than the EdD. It focuses heavily on the theory of education and prepares those who earn it for leadership roles in education and in particular for teaching positions at the college or university level or for education research and policy work. Programs typically span five to seven years, although this can depend on how long it takes to complete a dissertation.

  • Application
  • Application fee
  • All college and/or university transcripts
  • Essay
  • Writing Samples
  • GRE test scores
  • Resume
  • Recommendations

*Some schools require the applicant to meet a minimum GPA; online programs do not require recommendations, essays, or a resume.