Bachelor’s in Education Degrees: Types & Requirements
While there are many ways to become a teacher, the most straightforward path is through a bachelor’s degree in education. To teach in public K–12 schools, you generally need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. With your degree, you will have several job options in education, both inside and outside the classroom. Before taking this step toward your teaching career, you should understand your options. We can help! On this page you’ll learn about:
“Being a teacher is a profoundly challenging and rewarding job. I wake up every day smiling, knowing I can grow, influence a life, love a child, and love what I do,” says teacher Colette Byrne. A study of over 2,500 U.S. teachers showed she is not alone—90% reported they were satisfied with their jobs, compared to less than 50% across all careers. Aside from job satisfaction, there are numerous other benefits of becoming a teacher, including job security, built-in salary increases, and paid holidays.
Types of Bachelor’s Degrees in Education
While there are differences in the types of bachelor’s in education degrees, all can lead to a career in the classroom. You should choose your degree type based on your personal goals, strengths, and preferred institution rather than the title of the degree.
Below are the most common degree names; some institutions may give them other titles.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
These degrees include more liberal arts courses over science and math courses, though you should still expect to take some science and math. When you get to degree-specific classes, they won’t differ significantly from those for B.S. degrees, though you can often focus more on courses relating to your chosen field. A B.A. does not prevent you from teaching a STEM subject but is likely better suited for those who hope to teach liberal arts. Similar degree titles include Bachelor of Arts in Education (B.A.E) and Bachelor of Arts for Teaching (B.A.T.).
Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
B.S. degrees focus more on math and science, though you will take some liberal arts courses as well. B.S. programs look like B.A. programs when you get to degree-specific classes, but they are an excellent place to start if you hope to teach a STEM subject. That said, they do not preclude you from teaching a liberal arts subject. Similar degree titles include Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.E.) and Bachelor of Science in Teaching (B.S.T.).
Bachelor’s in Specific Elective Subjects
Though less common, you can get a bachelor’s in education degree in one particular elective field, like music, art, or theatre. These degrees may include B.A., B.S., and Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) options.
Some schools allow you to simultaneously major in a non-education subject and education. Some offer degrees in a particular subject area with a focus on teaching. Dual degrees can give you an in-depth understanding of a topic you hope to teach, like science or English, as well as a solid foundation in education. These programs often do not take longer to complete than a typical degree. You usually have the option of double majoring as well, meaning you earn two separate bachelor’s degrees. However, this option could lead to spending more time in school.
Any of these degrees can allow you to teach at your preferred grade level. Some schools offer a focused B.A. or B.S. in elementary, secondary, or subject-specific education, while others provide a general background in these topics. If you choose to focus on a specific elective—or even core—subject, you can also generally teach at any grade level with relevant licensure.
Entrance Requirements for Education Bachelor’s Programs
To be accepted into a bachelor’s program, you will typically need the following:
Some institutions require additional items related to your specific major—in this case, education. These may include a personal statement about your goals, letters of recommendation, and, occasionally, minimum scores in prerequisite courses.
How Long Does a Bachelor’s in Education Take?
Most traditional colleges and universities require at least 120 credit hours to complete a bachelor’s degree, meaning it may take you around four years to graduate while attending full-time. You can speed up the process by taking classes over summers or school breaks, either through your institution or at a local community college with credits that will transfer (verify this before enrolling!). If you attend part-time so you can balance school with life or work, it will take longer to graduate. When considering attending part-time, remember student teaching may still take up to 40 hours per week, depending on your institution.
Bachelor’s in Education Courses
Regardless of your area of focus, you will need to take core courses that prepare you to be an educator. These courses generally focus on learning theories, research, and assessment. Some examples of these include:
Your chosen concentration also will affect the courses you take. For example, if you’re pursuing a special education degree, you might take courses about autism, speech impairment, and special education assessment. If you hope to teach young learners, you may take coursework specific to that age group’s needs—the same goes if you want to teach secondary students.
Education programs often require practical experience before student teaching. This can include observing teachers and volunteering in classrooms. You will almost definitely have to complete student teaching as well, where you will work with a mentor teacher to create curricula, teach classes, grade papers, and solve problems with increasing levels of responsibility as you go through your time. Your relationship with your mentor teacher is essential, as they are often your best reference when applying for jobs.
Online Bachelor’s in Education
Among online programs that offer a bachelor’s in education, be aware that some are geared for future classroom teachers and have a licensure path, while others offer a solid base in education study but do not lead to licensure. If you’re interested in obtaining your bachelor’s in education online and pursuing licensing, check with your program of choice about how they accomplish this remotely. For instance, you may be able to take all of your bachelor’s in education classes online, and student teaching will need to be completed in a physical classroom, with coordination between the student teaching location and your education program.
Online learning comes with benefits and drawbacks. But, nearly anyone can succeed in these courses.
Earning a bachelor’s degree alone does not allow you to teach—you also need to pass licensure exams. While some states, such as Massachusetts, require state-specific tests, most use the Praxis exams. When it comes to the Praxis, states will generally require the Core Academic Skills for Educators test, plus any subject-specific tests. Check your state’s requirements to see what tests you need to take. Praxis exams do have specific scores, but generally, simply passing is enough for you to obtain a license and become a teacher.
Most states require you to renew your license periodically. To do this, you will generally need to complete a minimum number of professional development (PD) hours. Thankfully, most districts also require you to complete PD and will offer it through mandatory or optional training sessions, so gaining many of your hours shouldn’t be burdensome. Additional hours can be taken at local colleges, through organizations related to your field, or online courses. Some of these are free, while others can cost hundreds of dollars—for the latter, see if your school district will subsidize some of the costs.
Choosing the right program is an important decision. The more research you do, the more likely you are to find a program fitting your needs. There are many factors you will want to consider when searching for the best bachelor’s in education program for you.
Search for schools that will help you become the type of teacher you hope to be. If you want to work with elementary students, seek out a school with a quality elementary ed program. If you wish to work in an urban environment, look for those offering courses in that subject. Some schools will allow you to focus on whatever you’re passionate about.
Are you willing to make a move to attend the school of your dreams, or do you need to find something close to home? Look into online options as well—many schools offer hybrid programs that allow you to take the majority of your coursework online. Consider your daily responsibilities and find a program that allows you to meet them. Additionally, make sure to learn about the student teaching experience, including whether it’s full or part-time work. Most schools maintain websites containing this information, as well as descriptions of the features that make their programs unique.
You can get a sense of the quality of a program by researching graduation rates and the rate of job placement after graduation. Schools will often publish this information on their sites, but you can dig into a Google search or contact the school directly if you can’t find the information. In addition, you can talk to students or graduates of a program to learn more about what the program is like; the institutions’ department heads or alumni groups may help you find someone to talk to. You could also check college review sites, rankings, and even sites like Rate My Professors to see if specific teachers of required courses will be a good fit for you.
Make sure your chosen program, whether online or traditional, is accredited—a distinction given to colleges and universities maintaining specific 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.
It’s an irrefutable fact that college costs are on the rise, with the average annual price of four-year institutions being $26,593 as of 2017. When choosing your school, it’s essential to thoroughly investigate what they charge versus what you can afford. Though schools publish tuition rates online, they may not give you a full picture of the costs—your best resource for information is the institution’s bursar or financial aid office.
There are many financial aid options available to you—some of which are specific to teachers.
Scholarships are granted based on need, merit, background, or a combination of these. Your chosen institution frequently offers them. You can also find scholarships that are not affiliated with a particular school, such as ones through nonprofits and professional organizations. Barring violating any terms of the award, you won’t have to pay the money back.
Like scholarships, grants don’t need to be repaid, as long as you meet all contractual obligations. Grants are offered by schools, private organizations, and federal and state governments. While they may be given for similar reasons as scholarships, they are frequently awarded solely based on academic merit or volunteerism success, as past work may indicate future success.
You can obtain loans through the federal government or private institutions. Federal loans often have lower interest rates than private ones. These must be repaid, so make sure you fully understand the repayment terms before accepting a loan.
Teachers have unique opportunities for loan forgiveness, particularly for federal loans. Some individual states offer forgiveness opportunities for teachers who fill areas of need, either in terms of subject or location. For example, rural areas often have a harder time finding teachers than suburban locations, so states may offer forgiveness to teachers who agree to work in those areas for a certain number of years. The federal government also has loan forgiveness programs for those who meet specific qualifications, such as minimum years of service, working in Title I schools or teaching high-need topics like STEM subjects and special education.
There are additional financial incentives for educators many don’t know about, such as assistance in purchasing a house through HUD, the Teacher Next Door program, or individual states or counties. Teachers are also eligible for Educator Expense Tax Deductions, even if they teach in private schools or have claimed the standard deduction. These deductions allow you to be reimbursed up to $250 for items you purchased for your classroom—so make sure to keep those receipts!
To teach in public K–12 schools, you generally need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. With your degree, you will have several job options in education.
Teach Elementary School
Elementary education degrees prepare you to teach students from kindergarten through sixth or eighth grade, depending on the state. To educate these grades, you will need an understanding of child development and how young students learn.
As a traditional elementary school teacher, you will teach multiple subjects, from math to reading, so your studies will include these subjects. You will also learn about topics such as child development and relevant curriculum building.
Elementary school teachers may hope to teach a particular grade level, but it’s important to remember you might not have total control over this. While you may be hired initially to teach, say, first grade, you could be moved to sixth grade if the district sees a need at that level. This is because most public schools contract teachers in general terms—e.g., “elementary teacher” rather than “first grade teacher.” Additionally, teachers are generally district employees, not school employees, so they could be moved to a different institution based on the educator’s qualifications and the district’s needs.
Teach Middle or High School
Because middle school and high school teachers typically only provide instruction in one or two subjects, you will usually need licensure specific to the subject(s) you hope to teach. This doesn’t mean you must have a bachelor’s particular to that topic; after obtaining your bachelor’s, you can often gain licensure in particular topics solely by taking exams.
Many bachelor’s degree programs for secondary teachers also include coursework in adolescent development and the psychological factors involved in teaching students at the middle and high school levels.
Like elementary teachers, secondary teachers are generally employed at the district level rather than the school level. The district can opt to move them to any grade or subject they are qualified to teach or to a different school in the district. If you’re licensed in English and social studies, you could teach 12th grade English one year and sophomore history the next. Because of this, it’s essential to only gain licensure in subjects you actually would want to teach!
Specialize in Your Passion
If teaching general education or a core subject does not appeal to you, you can specialize in a field you love. At all levels, teachers for subjects like art, music, physical education, and foreign language are needed. In middle and high school, there are other elective options, like career and technical education, business, theatre, and family and consumer sciences.
Alternatively, you might have a passion for working with specific populations, such as those with special needs, gifted and talented students, or English language learners. These are often high-need areas, meaning there could be more job opportunities and, for special education teachers, additional loan forgiveness.
While many bachelor’s programs will cover education in general, with little to no focus on specific subjects, you can take courses in fields related to your goals. These may exist in your college’s school of education, but you could opt to take them as part of your general college education to improve your skills and prepare for licensure exams.
Work in a Related Career
Aside from working in classrooms, those who hold bachelor’s in education have many other career options available to them. Some of these will require additional training, while others may not. Related careers include, but aren’t limited to:
It’s no secret there’s a nationwide teacher shortage—and the shortage is expected to worsen over the next several years. The silver lining is this means there may be a higher chance that you will obtain employment after earning your bachelor’s degree.
Below are the nationwide salary and growth expectations for teachers. Bear in mind, these numbers are inclusive of teachers with all degree levels and time spent in the field. The projected job growth does not include openings caused by retirement or attrition, and average salary and growth can vary by state.
|Job Growth (2018 – 28)
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020).
*Does not include Special Education or Career/Technical Education.
More specifically, the National Education Association (NEA) reports teachers with bachelor’s degrees typically earned salaries ranging from $39,249 to $57,827 per year as of 2018.
If you have earned your bachelor’s and want to specialize further, move up the pay scale, or work in administration or leadership, a master’s degree program may be right for you. An education specialist certificate can also lead to career advancement opportunities. These programs are often less expensive and time-consuming than master’s programs, although they may not lead to as much of a pay raise unless you move into leadership.
A doctorate could be a good fit if you want to work at the highest levels of district administration, in educational policy, or as a professor. Both master’s and doctoral degrees can often be earned mostly or entirely online, so you don’t have to quit your day job. For further information, visit our master’s, doctorate, and education specialist pages.
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