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Bachelor’s in Education

The most straightforward path to becoming a licensed teacher is to earn a bachelor’s degree in education. However, not all programs are created equal. Some focus on particular grade levels; others are geared toward specific subject areas; and yet others prepare you to work with special populations such as the disabled and those who need remedial help.

Before taking the next step in your teaching career, you should understand your options. We can help! On this page you’ll learn about:

  • The benefits of becoming a teacher
  • Career pathways and specialties in teaching
  • What to expect from a bachelor’s in education program
  • How to choose the right program
  • Opportunities in the field with advanced degrees

Benefits of Becoming a Teacher

Teachers help students of all ages understand concepts involved in a variety of subjects and develop critical thinking skills. As a teacher, you can experience the personal rewards of shaping and affecting the lives of your students.

Teachers often will have a fair amount of autonomy. You may be able to design and implement your curriculum according to your own style, personality, and creativity.

Teachers should be lifelong learners who are open to new ideas about education and teaching. Your job will never be stagnant; you will grow as your students grow. You most likely will interact with students from different cultural and social backgrounds and gain perspective into how these differences manifest themselves in school and life.

As a teacher, you’ll find a number of career paths available, with multiple areas of specialization and opportunities for advancement.

And as you probably already know, there is one other potential benefit to this career: As a teacher, you may have summers and holidays off!

With a bachelor’s degree in education, you could teach the leaders of tomorrow!

What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s Degree in Education?

In order to teach in public K­–12 schools you need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Many teachers choose a particular grade span to focus on: elementary education or secondary education. Others choose specialties that involve working with specific subjects or unique student populations.

Elementary Education

Elementary education degrees prepare you to teach students in kindergarten through sixth grade, or sometimes up to eighth grade, depending on the program, state, and school. To teach these grades, you will need an understanding of child development and how young students learn.

As an elementary school teacher, you will teach multiple subjects, from math to reading and science, so your studies will include these subjects as well as topics such as child development and curriculum building. You also will help foster students’ social development and assist students in improving their grades or overcoming challenges as they progress through school.

Secondary Education (High School)

Because secondary education teachers typically only provide instruction in one subject, you will need to focus on one of the main subject areas taught in grades 8–12: typically English, science, math, physical education, and history.

Many bachelor’s degree programs for secondary teachers also include coursework in adolescent development and the psychological factors involved in teaching students at the high school level.

Specializing

Aside from focusing on specific subject areas as a high school teacher, there are other areas of specialization that you might consider, including:

  • Early childhood education: Teachers in this specialty work with children aged two to five. Many states don’t require this specific degree specialty to work in the field. However, the content of an early childhood education program, such as teaching methods catered to this age group, may help you to be more successful in this career.
  • Special education: Unlike other degree programs, special education programs focus on specific grades, age ranges, disability levels, and disability types. You might work with students who have autism spectrum disorders, speech and language impairments, or physical disabilities. Most degrees offered are K–12 education programs.
  • English as a second language (ESL): With the increase of diversity in our schools, teachers are needed to address students whose first languages are not English. In addition to helping these students reach grade level, ESL teachers need to be cognizant of cultural differences and how these affect student learning.
  • Multigrade subject areas such as music, art, and foreign languages: Some subject areas span all grade levels. Usually teachers who specialize in these subjects have a choice of what grade span they want to work in.

Related Careers

Aside from working in schools, educators have many other career options available to them. Some of these will require additional training, but many do not. You might consider working in these areas:

  • Vocational and occupational education
  • Technology education
  • Curriculum design and evaluation specialist
  • Program assessment and accountability specialist
  • Special schools such as charter or Montessori schools
  • Library science

Career and Salary Outlook for Teachers with a Bachelor’s in Education

Teaching is not only a rewarding and essential job; it is also in high demand and can be a lucrative career.

Is There a Need for Teachers?

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reports that the teacher shortage is real, growing, and worse than predicted. This has dire consequences for the education of our students, but it has other consequences as well.

The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.

-EPI (2019)

Because of this shortage, teachers are in demand at all levels. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the following number of job openings by grade level, from 2016 to 2026:

Grade Level Job Openings
Kindergarten and elementary school 116,300
High school 76,800
Preschool 50,100
Middle school 47,300
Special education 33,300

What Can I Earn as a Teacher?

Teacher salaries vary by grade level, specialty, and state. However, according to the BLS, the mean salary for a K–12 teacher with a bachelor’s degree is slightly more than $62,000. In the top-paying states for this occupation, such as New York, California, and Massachusetts, the average salary is over $80,000.

Bachelor’s in Education Programs

As an undergraduate student, learning to become a teacher will involve education courses that cover both content and pedagogy. In other words, you will learn both what to teach and how to teach it.

  • Content knowledge: Experts agree that deep content knowledge is a must for effective teaching. This knowledge includes the subject matter you will teach (mathematics, Spanish, biology, etc.) as well as the concepts and theories of teaching that subject matter.
  • Pedagogy: This is the body of skills that teachers must develop to know how to teach. As an undergraduate, you will learn how to develop and deliver effective instruction to students in both individual and group settings. Learning how students best process and retain information is critical, as is the methodology for designing creative lessons that engage students and help them become reflective, critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Bachelor’s Degree Requirements

To apply for a bachelor’s degree program in education, you will typically need the following:

  • An application for the specific school
  • A high school diploma or equivalent (transcripts may be requested to show your grades)
  • A minimum GPA of 2.5 (sometimes 3.0)
  • ACT/SAT scores that meet minimum skills requirements in reading, writing, and math as set by the school
  • Personal statement or essay consisting of why you want to be a teacher
  • Letters of recommendation

How Long Does It Take?

Most traditional colleges and universities require at least 120 credit hours to complete a bachelor’s degree, which means it may take you around four years to graduate. Your undergraduate education may provide you with a broad liberal arts education in addition to a firm foundation in teaching practices and expertise.

Bachelor’s in Education Courses

Once admitted, you may be required to do an internship or complete teaching practicum hours to gain hands-on experience in a real classroom setting. Some schools may also require that you volunteer for at least 10 hours in a K–12 classroom. A teaching internship may help you get hired after graduation and form relationships with mentors in your field.

Core educational courses generally focus on learning theories, research, and assessment. Some examples of these include:

  • Introduction to Education: This course conveys the historical, sociological, and philosophical concepts that form the theory and objectives of effective learning.
  • Human Development and Psychology: This course examines how children and adolescents explore their world, learn concepts, and form ideas.
  • Teaching Methods to Promote Literacy: The focus in this course is on cognitive development and how oral skills, language, and information are processed by the brain.
  • Learning Theories: This course can provide aspiring teachers with the ability to design curriculum and assignments.
  • Foundations and Assessment of Special Education: In this class, aspiring teachers may learn to identify learning disabilities and adapt programs to the learning styles of children with special needs.
  • Technology courses: This includes a range of courses focusing on educational technology; they may emphasize multimedia learning in the classroom and distance learning via the Internet.

However, keep in mind that your chosen degree concentration also will affect the courses you take. For example, if you are pursuing a special education degree, you might take courses about autism, speech and language impairment, and special education assessment.

Costs and Funding Your Bachelor’s in Education Degree

According to the most recent figures released by the National Center for Education Statistics, four-year bachelor’s degree programs range from $8,309 for public, in-state tuition to $27,963 for tuition at private, for-profit institutions. These numbers do not include room and board, the cost for which typically runs about $10,000 annually.

Luckily, many scholarship and financial aid opportunities exist for students in bachelor’s degree programs in education. Here are just a few:

  • Federal grants and scholarships: The first step in accessing grants, scholarships, work-study benefits, and loans from the federal government, as well as many other state, local, and institutional aid programs, is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information provided on this application is used by financial aid administrators to determine your household income, level of need, and more.
  • Loan Forgiveness Programs: There are several programs that “forgive” or eliminate student loan debt for teachers who agree to certain conditions. Although these programs vary, most require teachers to work a minimum of five years in high-need subjects (such as math and science) and serve low-income students to have their loans forgiven.
  • Private scholarship options: If you know where to look and commit to the time, you may find numerous private scholarships to apply for. Our database offers an extensive selection of searchable scholarships with a specific emphasis on education majors.

Online Bachelor’s in Education Programs

Online bachelor’s degree programs in education are relatively rare, probably because they often require a student-teaching component in a brick-and-mortar school—which can be difficult to coordinate with an online institution that may be headquartered hundreds of miles away. If you’re considering becoming a teacher, look into online programs that include very strong student-teaching components.

Make sure to take into consideration the following:

  • Does the school arrange student teaching sites for you, or is that responsibility left up to you?
  • If you’ve completed some work toward a bachelor’s degree already, or if you’ve taken courses at a community college, do some of those credits transfer toward your bachelor’s in education? Check on the status of your existing credits with any institution you are considering.

However, if convenience and flexibility are priorities, and you work well in situations that require you to be self-motivated, then an online BA in education studies might be up your alley.

Tips for Finding a Bachelor’s in Education Program

There are many factors you will want to consider when searching for the best bachelor’s in education program. First and foremost, you must decide what grade level or education specialty you want to pursue and make sure your chosen program excels in that area.

You also want to make sure your chosen program, whether online or traditional, is accredited—a distinction given to colleges and universities that maintain certain quality standards. Accreditation should be through credible organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission, the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, and the Council on Occupational Education. The U.S. Department of Education provides a searchable database of accredited schools.

Location is another issue. Are you willing to make a move to attend the school of your dreams, or do you need to find something close to home? Do you prefer a traditional school where most of your classes will be on campus, or is an online option more your style? Keep in mind that online programs have similar acceptance rates to those of traditional schools.

You can get a sense of the quality of a program by researching graduation rates, financial aid pay-back rates, and job placement. In addition, you can talk to students or graduates of a program to learn more about what the program is like.

Make sure to learn about the student-teaching experience. Most schools maintain websites containing this information as well as descriptions of the features that make their programs unique.

Finally, research a number of schools, not just one or two. Finding the right program is an important decision, and the more research you do, the more likely you are to find a program that fits.

Teacher Licensure/Certification

All teachers are required to be licensed by state-defined licensing bodies. Requirements vary by state, but the basic steps for licensure are typically the same across state lines: earn a bachelor’s degree, complete the student-teaching requirements mandated by your state, and take an exam—a national exam such as PRAXIS and/or a state exam.

Because each state has different requirements, you must become licensed in the state where you wish to teach. Your license usually is not transferrable across states unless you have permanent or national licensure. If you move to a new state, you can provisionally transfer your license, but you will need to earn the new state’s license eventually. In some states, the process of transferring state certification is easier than in others.

Teaching Licenses for Specific Subjects or Specialties

If you are interested in being a high school teacher and focusing on one subject, you will generally need certification with an endorsement in the subject you wish to teach. An endorsement is an add-on to a certificate that shows you are qualified to teach in a particular subject. Sometimes you will need additional education, but in many cases your bachelor’s program will give you the education you need to get the endorsement.

For certain specialized teaching roles such as special education or English as a second language, you typically will need a special certificate for your area. Again, state requirements vary, so make sure to check with your state board.

Teacher License Renewal

Teaching is a profession that requires continuous learning, both to be an effective teacher and to maintain certification. Some states may require you to renew your license every two years, whereas others may consider a license to be valid for five years. You may be required to take college courses to maintain your professional certificate or meet other renewal requirements.

There are many ways to obtain continuing education credits. In some districts, professional development is offered to teachers in order to meet their contractual requirements. However, most teachers will need to look beyond their schools’ offerings to earn enough credits to recertify.

Among the continuing education options for teachers, one of the most convenient and popular methods is taking online courses. Some online courses are free, while others range from affordable to downright pricey. Other options for continuing education include on-site workshops, some of which are offered during the summer months when teachers tend to have more flexibility. Whatever professional development you decide upon, remember that the cost of these programs does not necessarily equate to value, so it’s worth shopping around.

Educational and Professional Advancement

Having a bachelor’s degree provides you with a wide variety of opportunities in education. However, getting an advanced degree can open the door to careers that may not be available to those with bachelor’s degrees only.

For example, if you are interested in administration—at the school level (principal or vice-principal), district level, or higher—you will need either a master’s or doctoral degree. These degrees may also be required to earn positions in educational research or curriculum development at the state or national level. And if you’re interested in teaching at a post-secondary level, you usually need an advanced degree as well.

For more information about career paths with advanced degrees, refer to our master’s and doctoral degree pages.