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Online Teaching Degree Programs

According to the Economic Policy Institute, America is suffering a teacher shortage that is "real, large and growing, and worse than we thought." Demand for qualified educators outpaced supply starting in the early 2010s and by 2025, it's projected that only around 100,000 teachers will be available to fill roughly 300,000 positions. In other words, teachers are in high demand.

If you are interested in becoming a teacher and are looking for schools to attend, consider getting an online teaching degree. A U.S. Department of Education report found that college-level students in online learning conditions performed better on average than those learning on campus. Gains were even greater with hybrid programs, which combine online learning with face-to-face instruction.

This page features many of the top online schools, all of which are accredited. It also includes information about how to choose an online program, the advantages of getting an online degree, and the specifics of different degree programs.

Why Choose an Online Education Program?

If you're looking into online teaching degrees, you're probably motivated at least in part by one of their chief benefits: convenience. While some online teaching degree programs — especially those for new teachers — require at least some face time, others are completely virtual, allowing you to complete your coursework at home or from any location. This sort of flexible scheduling is especially important if you're juggling a family, a job, or both.

There are also a number of other advantages to getting your teaching degree online. Keep the following in mind when comparing distance learning to traditional instruction:

  • Pacing: Many online programs allow you to move through the curriculum at your own pace, provided you meet predetermined deadlines. Even programs that require you to be online at a specific time offer far greater flexibility than traditional classroom learning. As a distance learner, you can pursue the program slower or faster, depending on your schedule, workload, and ability.
  • Review: When learning on campus, your notes or recordings are the only connection you have to a lecture once it's over. As an online learner, you'll have the advantage of being able to re-watch lectures and presentations on demand after the fact.
  • Cost: According to a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group for Arizona State University, online programs can often be delivered at a lower cost than equivalent programs taught in person on campus. Even when they're not, however, you'll save money on gas, tolls, parking, public transportation and other expenses related to commuting and on-campus learning.
  • According to an analysis by the American University School of Education in Washington, DC, online education programs might make it easier to transition into teaching if you're already mid-career. That's because you can study while maintaining your current job in the community where you work and hope to teach.

Is it Easier to Earn a Teaching Degree Online?

Flexibility is one of the biggest draws to online education, but don't assume "flexible" means "easy." A good online teaching degree program will require a significant amount of work. Some schools advise setting aside 20 hours or more per week for your studies. Program lengths vary, from around a year or more for some master's degrees and certificates to up to four or five years for some bachelor's degrees.

How to Choose an Education Program Online

You have a wide variety of choices if you're interested in earning a teaching degree online. However, all those options can make the process feel overwhelming. Here are a few things you should consider when deciding which online education degree is right for you.

As a rule, you should try to contact multiple schools when you're looking to earn an online teaching credential. As with many other things, the way to find the best teaching program is to spend some time shopping around. There are very meaningful differences between the programs in terms of cost, admission requirements, and other characteristics.

Consider the following while you narrow your search:

  • According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, "The goal of accreditation is to ensure that institutions of higher education meet acceptable levels of quality." By choosing an accredited school, you'll be secure in knowing that the education you receive and the program through which you receive it were audited for content and quality by a qualified third party. You'll also know that, unlike many non-accredited schools and programs, your degree will carry the clout that you'd expect from a college or university diploma.
  • Many online degree programs are relatively new and are still establishing their reputations, so it's imperative that you research any institution you're considering to make sure it will help you achieve your goals. If possible, speak to someone who is currently enrolled to see if they would recommend choosing the online education degrees that they are pursuing. You can also look online for testimonials of former students, or even try to connect with some of them through social media.
  • Contact the human resources departments in school districts where you'd like to teach and ask them how they regard the schools you're considering.
  • Research each school's student loan default rate. The S. Department of Education reports that the national default rate was 11.2% in 2017, the most recent year for which statistics were available. If a school has a default rate significantly higher than this number, it may indicate that the school's graduates are having trouble securing the types of jobs they wanted.
  • With online teaching programs, as with life, your budget usually affects your options. It's important, however, not to fixate solely on tuition or cost per credit. Remember that the cost of application fees, books, and other educational materials can add up quickly, making the true cost of the program higher than advertised.
  • Just as costs can rise, they can also shrink. Be sure to ask about financial aid, grants, textbook and supplies programs, and other ways to offset costs. Also, keep in mind that one of the benefits of online learning is that some programs offer in-state tuition to all distance learners.
  • Finally, see our list of featured schools.

Types of Online Education Degrees

There are several types of online teaching degrees available. Online-only bachelor's degree programs in teaching exist, but are rare, likely because they typically require a student teaching component. The same goes for online alternative teacher certification programs. Both degrees may lead to obtaining an online teaching credential. More common are add-on certificate and graduate degree programs for current teachers. These degrees and certificates may lead to a salary increase for some teachers or may qualify teachers to work in a new grade level or content area.

Online instruction methods vary from school to school, and even from course to course, so you'll want to check with each institution to ask how instruction is delivered. Common methods include online discussion boards, textbooks, and streaming videos of lectures. Students demonstrate their mastery of course material through tests, quizzes, papers, and written assignments.

Online Alternative Certification Programs

Not many schools offer online alternative certifications, which were originally designed to cope with pressing teacher shortages like the one the country is facing today. In the modern era, they're used to recruit people who have a talent and passion for teaching, but who don't have a background in education. In most states, you're required to have at least a bachelor's degree in order to transition to teaching with an alternative certificate.

Online Advanced Certificate Programs

Advanced certificates offer graduate-level study in a specific field or topic. They are often used by people who are considering pursuing a master's or doctorate degree but who want to dabble in the subject matter before fully committing. In other cases, students earn advanced certificates instead of full degrees. This is often to advance within a career, to increase employability, or simply because they take less time to complete than full degree programs. According to the College Board, more than one million students earn advanced certificates every year.

Online Bachelors in Education Programs

Online bachelor's degree programs are fairly rare in the field of education, but critical teacher shortages are compelling more schools to include bachelor programs in their online offerings. Bachelor's degrees are required to teach in most scenarios, and these four-year degrees can open the door to a wide range of careers beyond just classroom teaching. They can largely be completed online, but often come with face-to-face student teaching requirements.

Online Master's in Education Programs

Created for students who have already earned a bachelor's degree, master's programs are taught at the graduate level. Many M.Ed. programs focus on advanced subject matter like educational technology, high-level teaching, and education philosophy. They are designed for students who already have a teaching certificate as well as those pursuing certification. Online master's programs enable you to earn an advanced degree while working full time.

Online Doctorate in Education Programs

Online doctorate degrees are tailored for students who already hold master's degrees and are interested in studying advanced subjects like theory and conducting research. The two main tracks culminate in Ph.D. and Ed.D. degrees. Graduates often go on to become college professors, administrative leaders, researchers or policy experts in the field of education.

Spotlight: Featured Online Teaching Degree Programs

There are many online teaching degree programs to choose from. We chose to feature these based on a number of factors, including reviews, cost, number of degree programs, program length, and flexibility.

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

If you join the nearly 4,000 online learners who have chosen to pursue their degrees at UOI Urbana Champaign, you'll enjoy flat tuition costs for four years thanks to a guaranteed tuition agreement. Even better, if you're an Illinois resident you might qualify for free tuition to the regionally accredited school, which is the state's flagship campus.

Degree Programs: There is no online education program that culminates in a bachelor's degree, but there are several certificate and endorsement programs, as well as online Master of Education and Doctor of Education degree options. Among them are master's degrees in digital learning, global studies, and bilingual/bi-cultural, as well as doctorates in diversity and equity in education, global studies in education, and learning design and leadership.

Tuition: The vast majority of online graduate programs at the UOI College of Education cost $473 per credit hour. The Doctorate of Education program and the Master of Education program cost $686 per credit hour and $1,000 per course, respectively.

University of Florida, Gainesville

Courses and programs at UF Online are the same as those you'd take on the UF Gainesville campus, and they're taught by the same instructors. Three annual start dates offer extra flexibility and the school has an especially generous policy toward military personnel and veterans. Military training can earn you extra credits and the school offers in-state tuition rates to all U.S. Armed Forces members.

Degree Programs: More than half a dozen certificate programs are available, some at the graduate level, at UF College of Education Online. There are also several degree programs available at the master's and doctorate level, including educational leadership; special education; educational technology; teachers, schools and society; reading education; and higher education administration.

Tuition: The cost is $528.33 per credit hour for in-state residents and $631.86 for out-of-state residents. The same rates apply to both graduate and undergraduate distance learners.

Kansas State University

Kansas State offers access to more online programs than you would likely ever encounter at a single school. That's because the KSU Global Campus unites online programs from nine different colleges. Some programs don't require you to take an entrance exam, and in some cases, you can take courses before you're even admitted. The school also offers credit for military training.

Degree Programs: Undergraduate students can pursue bachelor's degrees in elementary education and educational studies. Master's programs include academic advising; teaching elementary or secondary education; curriculum and instruction; educational leadership; and adult learning and leadership. There are also three doctoral programs, seven certificate programs, and three endorsement programs.

Tuition: K-State Global Campus credit hours cost $436.40 for undergraduate students and $567.90 for graduate programs. 

University of Southern California

USC Online offers graduate programs for both aspiring teachers and seasoned educators alike. The student-to-faculty ratio is approximately 15:1, and while learning is flexible and self-paced, you'll participate in scheduled weekly class sessions where you can interact directly with both professors and peers.

Degree Programs: Online students pursuing a Master of Arts degree have the options of a Master of Arts in teaching and a Master of Arts in teaching English to speakers of other languages. Or they can opt for one of three M.Ed. degrees: management policy, school counseling, and learning design and technology. There are also two Doctor of Education degree programs and several certificates available online.

Tuition: California residents and out-of-state students pay the same rate, which is $1,666 per unit.

Clemson University

You'll be able to wrap up your master's degree program in just 18 months at Clemson Online. As a distance learner, you'll have access to Clemson's Computing and Information Technology resources, as well as all of the student services available to your on-campus peers. Those include academic advising, counseling, tutoring, library services, and career counseling and prep.

Degree Programs: The school offers an online M.Ed. in teaching and learning degree. You can personalize the degree with one of three possible specializations: instructional coaching, experiential learning for early childhood, or STEAM. The program is open to K–12 educators and can be the foundation for a career as a classroom teacher, department chair, instructional coach, or curriculum specialist.

Tuition: $460 per credit hour.

University of Georgia, Athens

The average online class at the University of Georgia, Athens, has just 15 students. You'll be able to complete most programs in just two years, and the school boasts retention and job or grad school rates of 97% and 94%, respectively.

Degree Programs: Undergraduates can pursue a Bachelor of Science in special education, which is a degree-completion program. There are several master's programs, including an Ed.S. or M.Ed. in educational psychology, gifted, and creative education; an M.Ed. in educational psychology, applied cognition, and development; an M.Ed. in reading education; a Master of Education in middle grades education, and a Master of Education in science education. 

Tuition: Most programs cost $629 per credit hour.

Featured Online Programs:

Online programs may not be available in all states