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What Teaching Degree is Right For You?

So you want to be a teacher or advance in your education career but you aren't sure where to begin. You aren't alone! Knowing where to begin in such a vast and complex field can be a challenge.

Our degree finder simplifies the process by allowing you to identify your teaching and education experience. From there, the degree finder outlines a suggested path for you and points you in the direction of programs that fit your current experience.

When you click on the button for the degree levels appear as options, they will expand to display information about the pros and cons, job options, and salary potential for the degree.

Among the various degrees in education are the following:

  • Alternative Certification: As teacher shortages become more of a problem across the U.S., many states are creating alternative pathways to teaching for those who want to teach but don't have a bachelor's degree in education. If you have a bachelor's degree in a subject other than education and want to be a teacher, investigate alternative teaching certification programs in your state.
  • Bachelor's: A bachelor's degree in education is the foundation for most teachers. This four-year degree prepares you for a career in early childhood, elementary, middle, or high school education.
  • Master's in Education: In some states, for some specialties you may be required to a master's degree in education before you can become certified to teach, making this a very popular degree for educators. In addition, this degree, which typically takes two years to complete, may advance both your salary and hiring prospects.
  • Graduate Certificate: These graduate teaching certificates, while not degrees, are awarded as "add-on" certificates (also called endorsements) to teachers who are already credentialed but wish to change what subject or grade level they teach. These certificates are frequently available in online format and can be pursued on a part-time basis.
  • Education Specialist: An EdS degree is an advanced degree that allows those with master's degrees the opportunity to specialize in a specific educational field. The possibilities for specialization are almost endless, with programs in everything from instructional leadership and learning analytics to nursing and special education.
  • Doctorate in Education: Educational leaders who are interested in practice-based research, reform, curriculum design, and administration may wish to pursue an EdD. Typically pursued as a three-year degree by those with master's degrees, the EdD can also be awarded to those with a bachelor's, though it takes longer to complete.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Education: The career and curriculum focus of those exploring a PhD is different from those pursuing an EdD. PhDs in education generally pursue university careers in academia and research, and these degrees typically take longer to earn—usually a minimum of four years.

When you're ready to learn more about your teaching degree options, just enter your current experience level in the degree finder to find out more information about which teaching degree is right for you.

Choosing a teaching degree

Please select the option that describes your situation. Then click on the degrees that appear below it to learn more.

Options for your next degree
Options after that

I am a:

Bachelors

Alt. Cert.

Grad. Cert.

M.A.T

M.Ed.

Ed.S.

Ed.D.

Ph.D.

Bachelor's Degree in Education

Why you should get this degree

A four year degree in education is the surest way to become a certified teacher - students obtain a liberal arts education while completing teaching license requirements.

Why a different degree might be better

Those interested in teaching a specific subject area may opt to study that subject in depth and pursue teacher credentials through an alternative certification program.

Job options

Depending on your specialty area, job options may include: teaching positions in a preschool, elementary, middle or high school environment.

Salary range

Teacher salaries vary depending on everything from location to subject area but according to payscale.com, on average, a K-12 teacher can expect to earn between $34,000 and $46,000 annually.

Find degree programs

https://www.educationdegree.com/programs/bachelors-in-education/

Alternative Certification: Teaching Certificate

Why you should get this degree

For the aspiring teacher, especially a career-changer, who has a bachelor's degree in an area other than education, an alternative certification program will give you the credentials to begin teaching. License requirements vary by state, but many programs allow you to complete certification while gaining experience in the classroom.

Why a different degree might be better

While these programs offer a quicker path into the classroom than pursuing a traditional education major, many of them are also tailored to specific education needs like the need for more math and science teachers or for more teachers in rural or urban districts. If you aren't flexible about location or subject area, a traditional program might be better suited to your goals.

Job options

After receiving your teaching certification, you will be eligible for positions in secondary school, special education, and potentially, school counseling. You will find options in rural and urban districts in particular.

Salary range

According to PayScale.com, a K-12 teacher's yearly salary is between $34,000 and $43,000, but this can vary depending on the type of school and subject area.

Find degree programs

https://www.educationdegree.com/programs/alternative-teacher-certification/

Graduate Certificate in Education

Why you should get this degree

The graduate certificate gives teachers interested in further specializing in a subject area or skill, the opportunity to do so. For example, if you are an elementary school teacher you may be interested in a special education graduate certificate. These programs are typically one to two years, and many are offered online.

Why a different degree might be better

The graduate certificate will enhance your knowledge and make you more marketable in a specific area of teaching, whether it's subject or skill specific. If you want to pursue an administration role or something in curriculum development, you might want to opt for a master's or doctoral degree instead.

Job options

Many with certificates find teaching positions at the K-12 level. Certificates can make you more marketable by giving you a credential in special education, leadership, technology or another area.

Salary range

Salaries can range by job type, location and years of experience and can be anywhere from around $30,000 to about $50,000 per year.

Find degree programs

https://www.educationdegree.com/programs/teaching-certificate/

Alternative Certification: Master's in Teaching

Why you should get this degree

If you're switching careers into education or simply didn't major in education for your undergrad degree, alternative certification can help get you into a classroom quickly. Some alternative certification programs allow you to teach while you earn a Master's in Education or, more commonly, a Master of Arts in Teaching.

Why a different degree might be better

Not all alternative certification programs culminate in a master's degree. You may want a program that can help you get certified to teach more quickly.

Job options

Earning a Master's in Education or Teaching can often help you attain higher salaries and if interested, positions in leadership roles as well.

Salary range

Teachers with master's degrees can earn between $39,000 and $55,000 per year, according to PayScale.com.

Find degree programs

https://www.educationdegree.com/programs/alternative-teacher-certification/

Master's in Education

Why you should get this degree

Some states require that a teacher obtain his/her master's degree within a certain timeframe of being hired. Whether or not that's the case in your district or the one in which you plan to teach, earning your master's can help you specialize and make you more marketable in a tough hiring climate. For example, you can add credentials like special education or school counseling to your resume or add to the depth of your knowledge in a chosen subject area.

Why a different degree might be better

Most likely a master's will be a necessary step if you want to stick with an education career; however, if you are in a district that doesn't require an advanced degree to maintain licensure, you may not be required to pursue your master's. Also, if your bachelor's is not in education, you can choose to pursue an alternative certification program that leads directly to a master's.

Job options

A master's degree can lead to a higher salary in a K-12 teaching position and can also open doors to working in administration or education policy.

Salary range

Teachers who've earned their master's degrees can earn between $39,000 and $55,000 per year, according to PayScale.com.

Find degree programs

https://www.educationdegree.com/programs/masters-in-education/

Educational Specialist

Why you should get this degree

An Education Specialist degree is a newer credential, in between the master's and doctorate degree in education. This degree can be a stepping stone into a career in school administration, curriculum planning or even in college-level instruction. It can also be a part of a bridge program, which will culminate in a doctoral degree.

Why a different degree might be better

The value of earning the EdS is completely contingent on your goals in the education field. If you want to stay in the classroom in the K-12 school system, you may not need to go further than a master's degree. If you want to teach at the university level or become superintendent, it may be better to pursue a doctoral degree instead.

Job options

The EdS will prepare you for more leadership oriented roles within the school system like principal, superintendent or curriculum specialist.

Salary range

According to PayScale.com, with an EdS, you can expect to earn between $55,000 and $87,000 annually.

Find degree programs

https://www.educationdegree.com/programs/educational-specialist/

Doctor of Education

Why you should get this degree

The EdD degree is not as common as the PhD in education, but it's well-suited for those interested in pursuing administration, curriculum planning or even school counseling careers. The degree is oriented to the practice of education rather than the theory.

Why a different degree might be better

Some in academia argue that the PhD is a more respected and versatile degree than the EdD. While this can largely depend on the type of position you're seeking, if you know you want to do education research or teach at the university or college level, the PhD might be the better choice.

Job options

Those who obtain their EdD, most often pursue careers in higher level administration with positions such as superintendent, faculty advisor, and board of education director, often at the K-12 level. Options in curriculum planning, policy and more may also be available.

Salary range

According to PayScale.com, school superintendents earn an average yearly salary between $65,000 and $120,000.

Find degree programs

https://www.educationdegree.com/programs/doctorate-in-education/

Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Why you should get this degree

Different from a Doctor of Education, a Doctor of Philosophy in education emphasizes the theory of education and research and is especially appropriate for someone looking to become an administrator or professor on a college or university level. The PhD is also the more common of the two degrees and in some cases, considered to be more versatile than the EdD.

Why a different degree might be better

For those more interested in the practice of education rather than theory, especially at the K-12 level, an EdD would be a better fit than the PhD in education.

Job options

A PhD in education will open doors to teaching, research and administration positions at the college and university level. Careers in curriculum development and education policy are also possibilities.

Salary range

The salary for someone holding a PhD In Education can vary with job title, but according to PayScale.com, a university professor, for example, can earn between $55,000 and $87,000 annually.

Find degree programs

https://www.educationdegree.com/programs/doctorate-in-education/