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The teaching and education field encompasses more than just teachers. School principals, researchers, and instructional coordinators perform important work in schools and other education organizations. Regardless of their role, educators work to ensure the best possible education for students.
Teaching and education programs cover all aspects of education. Some programs focus on classroom teaching at different grade levels, including elementary, middle, and high school. Other programs emphasize the administrative or research side of education, such as educational leadership or curriculum and instruction.
This guide explains teaching and education degrees. Read on to learn about fields of study, professional benefits, and career options after graduation.
Fields of Study in Teaching and Education
The education field includes many emphasis areas. This list highlights five of the most popular careers for education graduates.
1. School Counseling
School counselors help students solve social and academic problems. Counselors at the high school level also prepare students for college or careers. They may help schools develop best practices to meet students' social and educational needs.
Degree-seekers complete specialized classes in psychology. They explore counseling methods and child and adolescent development. Learners also gain skills to communicate effectively with students and their families.
Most graduates pursue careers as school counselors. These positions typically require a master's degree and state licensure.
2. Educational Leadership
Educational leadership focuses on the administrative side of education. Enrollees learn how to manage schools and other education organizations. Classes cover topics like educational law and policy, strategic planning, and curriculum development. Educational leadership programs may also emphasize business approaches to education. Degree-seekers may learn about school budgeting and finance.
Compared to other education majors, educational leadership focuses less on classroom teaching and instructional strategies. Enrollees gain broader administrative and managerial skills to oversee K-12 school operations.
Educational leadership programs commonly prepare candidates for jobs as school principals. Graduates may also pursue careers with school districts and other education organizations.
3. Special Education
Special education focuses on meeting the needs of students with developmental disabilities. Special educators often work with students experiencing mental, physical, and emotional issues that affect their learning.
A special education degree focuses on teaching strategies and methods for special needs students. Degree-seekers explore different types of learning disabilities and appropriate teaching methods to meet varied needs.
Special education graduates often work as K-12 special education teachers. Advanced education can help them move into administrative careers, developing broader special education policies for schools and school districts.
4. Curriculum and Instruction
Curriculum and instruction focuses on overall approaches to education, determining how schools educate their students. Programs use the latest education research to develop teaching practices and curriculum standards. Most schools offer these programs at the graduate level, serving experienced teachers and other education professionals.
Curriculum and instruction programs emphasize theories of learning, exploring varied approaches to reach different types of students. Degree-seekers may also explore specialized topics such as learning technologies and educational research methods. Graduates often pursue careers in education administration, working with schools and school districts to develop instructional practices.
5. Elementary Education
Elementary education focuses on teaching strategies and methods for younger students, typically grades K-6. Compared to middle and high school, elementary education focuses on broad subject content in areas such as math, reading, and social studies. Elementary education also helps students build foundational social skills for both school and life.
Elementary education classes focus on specific subject content and general teaching practice. Enrollees gain knowledge and skills in classroom management, curriculum development, and child development. Graduates often work as elementary school teachers. With advanced education, they may work as curriculum specialists or instructional coordinators.
Benefits of Earning a Degree in Teaching and Education
A teaching and education program offers many academic and professional benefits. This section highlights some top reasons to pursue a teaching degree.
1. Increased Career Options
Earning a teaching and education degree prepares candidates to pursue specialized careers in the education field. Most high-paying education jobs require at least a bachelor's degree. More advanced positions may require a master's degree. Candidates can often earn licensure or certifications as part of their degree curriculum. This may lead to more job opportunities.
2. Increased Salary Potential
Along with increased career options, a teaching degree typically leads to higher pay. Bachelor's degree-holders earn a median weekly salary of $1,305, compared to $781 for high school graduates, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Master's degree-holders earn a median weekly salary of $1,545.
3. Specialized Skills
Teaching and education degrees build advanced knowledge and skills for teachers. Enrollees study the history and philosophy of education, gaining a deeper understanding of its purpose and function in society. They also build skills in classroom management, lesson planning, and student assessment.
4. Classroom Experience
Most teaching and education programs require a practicum. Candidates usually perform student teaching activities in a classroom or other school setting. They gain hands-on experience under the supervision of a professional educator. These experiences help them draw connections between education theory and practice.
5. Networking Opportunities
Teaching and education programs unite degree-seekers with peers in the education field. Learners can network and build professional connections. Degree-seekers can also share skills and knowledge, join professional organizations, and connect to potential job opportunities.
Career Outlook for Teachers and Educators
Education and teaching graduates can pursue many careers in the education field. See below for some common careers for educators, including job descriptions and salary data.
These workers manage curriculum practices and education standards for schools and school districts. They may create new curricula, analyze student performance data, and evaluate textbooks and other materials. Instructional coordinators may also train teachers on new curriculum standards.
These professionals typically need a master's degree in education, curriculum development, or a related subject. They may also need teaching or education administration licensure. Instructional coordinators earn an annual median salary of $63,740. The BLS projects jobs for these workers to grow 7% from 2021-2031, which is about as fast as the national average.
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher
These teachers instruct younger students in basic academic subjects. They typically create lesson plans, teach students, and grade assignments. Elementary teachers also assess students' overall learning and communicate with parents. Compared to other educators, elementary school teachers may take greater responsibility for helping students learn to socialize.
These teachers need at least a bachelor's degree. They also need teaching licensure or certification to work at public schools. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn an annual median salary of $61,350. The BLS projects jobs for these teachers to grow 4% from 2021-2031.
Middle School Teacher
These teachers instruct students in grades 6-8. They typically focus on a specific subject area, such as math, science, or language arts. These educators prepare lesson plans and deliver lessons to students.
Middle school teachers need at least a bachelor's degree. They often major in the subject area they plan to teach. However, many middle school teachers hold teaching degrees. Middle school teachers also need certification or licensure. These professionals earn an annual median salary of $61,320. The BLS projects jobs for these teachers to grow 4% from 2021-2031.
High School Teacher
These teachers instruct students in grades 9-12. Like middle school teachers, they usually focus on one subject area. High school teachers create lesson plans, teach students, and grade assignments.
These educators need at least a bachelor's degree and state licensure or certification. They often hold a degree in their subject area, such as math or history. Earning a master's degree may help them earn higher pay. High school teachers earn a median annual salary of $61,820. The BLS projects jobs for these teachers to grow 5% from 2021-2031.
Special Education Teacher
These teachers work with students with physical, mental, or learning disabilities. They assess students' needs and devise effective lesson plans to meet different learning styles. Special education teachers work with students at all levels.
These educators need at least a bachelor's degree. Many employers prefer candidates with a degree specifically in special education. Like other educators, these teachers need licensure or certification. Special education teachers earn a median annual salary of $61,820. The BLS projects jobs for these educators to grow 4% between 2021-2031.
These teachers instruct students at colleges and community colleges. Compared to K-12 teachers, they teach more advanced subject matter in more specialized areas. College instructors usually spend a significant amount of time conducting research in their field.
Postsecondary teachers typically need a doctorate. However, employers may accept a master's degree for some positions. Unlike other educators, postsecondary teachers do not always need licensure or certification. These educators earn an annual median salary of $79,640. The BLS projects jobs for postsecondary teachers to grow 12% from 2021-2031, which is faster than the national average.
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal
School principals oversee the major administrative and academic operations at K-12 schools. They commonly manage staff, develop curriculum standards, and create school budgets. Principals may also oversee teacher hiring and training.
School principals typically need a master's degree in education leadership or administration. They may also need teaching experience. Most states require school principals to hold school administration licensure. Some states may offer alternative certification pathways for candidates without a master's in educational leadership. School principals earn a median annual salary of $98,420. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 5% from 2021-2031.
Earning a Teacher License
Teaching licensure requirements vary by state. However, all U.S. states require teachers to hold at least a bachelor's degree. Teachers may hold a degree in education or in the specific subject they plan to teach. Candidates must also complete required student teaching hours either as part of a degree or a teaching certification program.
Along with education, teachers must complete a certification exam that tests knowledge of teaching practices and regulations. Most states require teachers to pass both a general exam and a subject exam for the area they plan to teach. The Praxis Tests prepare teachers for certification in many states.
Most states also require licensed teachers to complete continuing education and other professional development activities. Some states require teachers to earn a master's degree after they obtain initial certification. Teach.org features information on individual state licensing and continuing education requirements.
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