Should I Get an Education Degree?

Think back to your childhood—can you recall a teacher who made a difference? Just about everyone can. The need for competent and patient teachers has never been greater. Teachers help us understand our full potential, learn new things academically and personally, and provide us with clear understanding of how to contribute productively to society.

No matter your education and career goals, College Choice is here to help you make confident decisions about your academic future as a teacher. Whether you’re interested in attending one of the top online schools for an education degree or one of the best colleges for your teaching degree, we can help you find a school that’s right for you. We’re here to help you find, get into, pay for, and thrive in college.

Our College Choice rankings are designed to help you make informed decisions about what schools best meet your education goals. Maybe you’re a workaday person, or even already a teacher, looking to change careers and you need a flexible, affordable teaching degree. If so, you should take a look at our Best Online Education Degrees or our Cheapest Online Master’s in Education. Or maybe you’re already teaching and have an idea of how you’d like to advance your career. If so, check out our Cheapest Online Bachelor’s in Special Education, our Cheapest Online Master’s in Special Education, our Cheapest Online Master’s in Educational Counseling, and our Best Master’s in School Counseling rankings. Or maybe you’re simply looking to complete your master’s degree and advance your teaching qualifications so that you can find a better-paying job in your state. If so, check out our Best Master’s in Teaching rankings. No matter the need, College Choice has a simple, pragmatic way to help you meet your needs.

Of course, there is a designated career path for those wishing to teach, counsel, or administer in a school setting. Your path to a fulfilling career in education will be shaped by a few important factors: your grade-level teaching interests, your education career goals, and your location. On this page, we’ll walk you through a few of the most important steps so that you can get on the right track to become a certified educator.

What Can I Do With an Education Degree?

To begin your career in education, you’ll need to get into college and work toward completing a Bachelor of Arts in Education. Generally speaking, depending on your interests and desires, a bachelor’s degree in teaching will be focused toward a particular group of students, like high school students, and a particular content area, like mathematics. During your time pursuing an education degree, you’ll learn about the craft of teaching (pedagogy), behavioral psychology, approaches to classroom management, and finish content-specific coursework that will give you a strong grasp on the material you’d like to teach.

While getting your degree, you will also be required to complete state-specific requirements, like particular tests (e.g. PRAXIS) and required classroom hours with another certified educator. If you’re curious about the requirements for your state, you can take a look at the U.S. Department of Education website for specifics and relevant contact information for your state’s educational board. This whole process takes about four years and is coordinated with your degree requirements from your university, so that you’ll be able to enter a classroom once you’ve completed your degree. No matter what you want to teach, be sure to understand the qualifications and requirements of your university degree and the qualifications from your state education board, since your certification will be specific to teaching in a particular state only.

Kindergarten & Elementary Teaching

Average Salary:  $54,550

These educators prepare young learners for future a future in the classroom the basics in a few different subjects—math, reading, writing—and helping them to develop positive social skills and learning habits. Working with students from Kindergarten (approximately age five) to 5th grade (approximately age ten), these teachers are known for their nurturing and patient play-based approaches to learning. Getting a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education or Elementary Education is the way to begin this career.

Middle School Teaching

Average Salary: $55,860

These educators work with students in their in-between years, from 6th grade to 8th grade (approximately ages 11 to 15). During this formative and largely awkward time, students are in need of patient, attentive teachers who can help them learn in the five primary middle-grade subjects of language arts, mathematics, reading, science, and social studies. Depending on your focus area and requirements (sciences v. arts) and your institution, getting a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching or Education or a Bachelor of Science in Teaching or Education is the way to begin this career.

High School Teaching

Average Salary: $57,200

These educators prepare students for life after graduation by providing advanced instruction in a wide array of subjects in the sciences, humanities, technical disciplines, languages, and life skills and health. Working with teenagers as they enter adulthood from 9th through 12th grade (approximately 15-18), teachers in this profession teach young people how to be thriving and productive citizens. Depending on your focus area and requirements (sciences v. arts) and your institution, getting a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching or Education or a Bachelor of Science in Teaching or Education is the way to begin this career.

Postsecondary Teaching

Average Salary: $72,470

These educators work in colleges and universities teaching students how to work in education. Focused on creating competent and strong educators, people in academic education conduct research in the field of education and instruct others on best approaches and practices. This field requires a Master of Arts in Teaching or a Master of Science in Education as well as a Ph.D.

English as a Second Language

Average Salary: $54,060

Often a particular certification within an education program or a focus of a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language degree, this area empowers a teacher to work with non-English speaking students.

Special Education

Average Salary: $56,800

With a focus on teaching children, young people, and adults with special needs, like learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and acute mental, physical, sensory, or motor skills handicaps, these teachers receive concentration at the master’s degree level, which is a requirement to work with differently-abled students. If this is an area of interest for you, check out our Cheapest Online Bachelor’s in Special Education, and our Cheapest Online Master’s in Special Education.

Educational Counseling

Average Salary: $53,660

While not often working with students in classrooms, guidance counselors are essential educational personnel who work with students to help them navigate the complexities of social, family, and educational life, as well as provide them with support for logistical tasks, such as test-taking, getting into college, and helping them organize service opportunities related to school. If this is a professional interest for you, take a look at our Cheapest Online Master’s in Educational Counseling, and our Best Master’s in School Counseling.

School Administration

Average Salary: $88,580

Focusing on the general health and well-being of the educational institution they facilitate, these individuals work on the administrative end of education. Including principals and deans, these employees make sure that the school runs efficiently with minimal distraction, liaise with the public and families, and direct the educational vision of the school. Often, administrators will have a Master of Science in Education as well as a Ph.D. related to leadership, administration, or education.

What Tests Are Required For Me to Be a Teacher?

All states require testing before educators can work full-time in a classroom. Your state’s requirements will explicitly provide you with information about what tests you will need to pass in order to begin teaching full-time in a classroom. There are two primary tests used:

  1. Praxis: Used by nearly all 50 states, this exam tests both knowledge and skill. With generalized exams focused in reading, writing, and mathematics, this test discerns the taker’s ability to analyze and comprehend texts, perform basic math skills, and articulate thoughts effectively though writing. Along with the basic test, there are subject-specific assessments. These portions of PRAXIS examine discipline-specific knowledge as well as “Principles of Learning” (PLT), which measures awareness in the areas of pedagogy and teaching knowledge.
  2. The National Evaluation Series (NES): Less common than Praxis, the NES is a computer-based exam that measures the quality of potential educators. The NES covers basic subject matter as well as pedagogical and technological skills and knowledge.

Be sure to check with your states certification board to see which test you need to take in order to complete your bachelor’s degree in education and begin teaching.

Should I Get a Master's Degree in Education?

If you’re looking to advance your career in teaching and education, you’ll need to complete a master’s degree, which will allow you to develop particular skill sets related to the classroom or administration.

 

First, a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) will help you advance your classroom career. Most often pursued by people who are looking to continue working alongside students in the classroom, the MAT focuses on content-related material as well as pedagogical theory and direct implementation in the classroom. Through this degree you will hands-on experience and learn the necessary skills for thriving as a teacher, maintaining longevity in the career, and developing successful life-long approaches to instruction. Our Best Master’s in Teaching rankings will help you find the program that’s right for you.

Second, the Master of Science in Education (M. Ed.) will help you advance beyond the classroom into the administrative and research modes of the world of education. After completing your certification, you can return to school to focus in one of three exciting and fulfilling areas: counseling, curriculum and instruction, and educational administration. If any of these areas sound interesting to you, check out our Cheapest Online Master’s in Education, our Cheapest Online Master’s in Educational Counseling, and our Best Master’s in School Counseling.

How Do I Pay For My Education Degree?

No matter what degree you’re looking for, completing academic work is an expensive task that requires a lot of time and money. For would-be educators, there are a few types of aid that can alleviate student debt and provide you with stability as you complete your school work:

Government Aid

The largest source of aid for students, the federal and state governments provide need-based education for citizens and award loans and grants based on your family’s income. To make matters even more helpful, many states offer loan forgiveness in exchange for years served in public schools, so you won’t have to pay back your loans if you stick with public education.

At Your College

Always begin your search for getting your degree paid for at the school you’re attending. You may be able to receive merit or need-based scholarships by just filling out some paperwork. Contact the Financial Aid office to inquire.

Non-Profits

Several non-profs exist to help pay for education while making a difference in the lives of students, especially if those students are from low-income areas in rural or urban settings or traditionally underrepresented people groups. National groups like AmeriCorps and Teach for America provide support for teachers, as do regional and state-specific organizations like Teach Kentucky, Mississippi Teaching Corps, and DC Teaching Fellows. As well, religious organizations like the Alliance for Catholic Education do similar work nationally and at the state level.

Bottom line: If you’re interested in being a teacher, there are many ways to have your degree paid for without having to pay out of pocket. Be sure to explore our resources concerning scholarships, like Grants, Loans, and Scholarships: What’s the Difference? and 50 Top Scholarships for 2015-2016.

We at College Choice know that finding the right degree, applying for school, finding ways to pay for your education, and making the big decisions concerning the direction of your career is no easy task. We hope that our helpful resources will provide a larger vision for your options and give you the tools you need to get a jump on finding the right education bachelor’s or master’s degree that’s right for you. Take a few minutes to peruse our rankings and guides, and if you know someone else who needs help finding, getting into, paying for, or thriving in college, please be sure to share College Choice with them!

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