What Is Teaching and Education?

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While education as an academic and career path commonly refers to classroom teaching, the field actually encompasses various jobs and professional roles. Instructional coordinators design and evaluate new curriculum models, while school principals oversee administrative operations for K-12 schools. The education field strives to develop skills and knowledge in all students.

Typical classroom teaching positions require a bachelor’s at minimum, and teachers must also earn appropriate certification or licensure in their state. More specialized education career paths, including those in curriculum development and educational leadership, may require a master’s degree. High-level positions in policy development, research, and other top managerial roles may even call for a doctorate.

This page offers an overview of teaching and education careers, including major professional fields, typical career paths, required education levels, and the professional and academic benefits of earning an education degree.

Teaching and Education

Fields of Study

Education encompasses various fields, approaches, and professional roles, including classroom teaching, curriculum design, administration, and counseling. While these fields all operate with the goal of serving students, they employ different methods. This list highlights five common areas of study in teaching and education, representing just a few of the varied roles available in the field.

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School Counseling

  • School counselors offer support to students at K-12 schools and colleges, assisting in the development of academic, professional, and social skills. Counselors may help students address issues affecting academic performance and plan out educational and professional goals.
  • School counselors typically need a master’s degree in school counseling to enter the field. Most graduates go on to work in counseling positions at schools and colleges, but some may work in educational policy or other administrative roles.

Educational Leadership

  • Educational leadership emphasizes the managerial side of education, focusing broadly on educational practices, legal and ethical standards, education administration, curriculum implementation, and education policy. Students pursuing programs in education leadership move into various career paths, such as school principal, curriculum designer, university registrar, and academic dean. Educational leadership graduates may also pursue careers in education policy and advocacy.
  • As a specialized education field, educational leadership careers generally require a master’s degree at minimum.

Special Education

  • Special education focuses on meeting students’ needs with mental, physical, emotional, and learning disabilities. This typically entails assessing students’ skills and devising and adapting individualized lesson plans. Most graduates of special education programs enter the field as special education teachers. However, graduates can pursue positions designing curriculum for special education students or developing and advising on special education policy.
  • Special education teacher positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, while more advanced positions typically require a master’s degree.

Curriculum and Instruction

  • Curriculum and instruction refers to the practice of developing curriculum models, lesson plans, teaching models, and learning strategies for students of all types. The field also emphasizes the analysis and evaluation of existing curriculum models to improve education practices.
  • Curriculum and instruction majors often pursue careers as teachers, education administrators, and instructional coordinators. A bachelor’s degree prepares graduates for classroom teaching positions, while specialized roles in administration and curriculum leadership generally require a master’s degree.

Elementary Education

  • Elementary education focuses on curriculum and instruction strategies for kindergarten- and elementary-aged students. These years of education highlight basic subjects such as math, reading, and science while also building fundamental skills in communication and socialization.
  • Elementary education majors most commonly teach at elementary schools. Most positions in the field require a bachelor’s degree. More specialized roles related to broad curriculum development or educational leadership may call for a master’s degree.

Benefits of a Degree in Teaching and Education

A teaching degree offers various professional, academic, and personal benefits that help prepare graduates’ career paths in the education field. This list highlights five common benefits of earning a degree in teaching and education.

  • Increased Career Options: A teaching degree prepares students for various career paths in education, and most jobs in the field call for at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Increased Salary Potential: Teachers with bachelor’s or master’s degrees may advance further and earn higher salaries compared to education professionals with only associate degrees or certificates.
  • Specialized Skills: An education degree enables teachers to build advanced knowledge in an area of education, such as language arts, mathematics, ESL, elementary education, or special education.
  • Classroom Experience: Most teaching and education programs enable students to gain hands-on experience through supervised internships and practicums in schools and other educational environments.
  • Networking Opportunities: A degree in education introduces candidates to peers, teachers, and other professionals in the field. Learners build a wide professional network that can assist them after graduation.

Outlook for Teachers and Educators

Graduates of teaching and education programs can pursue classroom teaching positions along with administration, curriculum development, leadership, and public policy positions. This list highlights four common career paths for graduates of education programs and a brief description of each occupation. Keep in mind that these jobs represent just a small selection of career opportunities available to education majors.

  • Instructional Coordinator Instructional coordinators evaluate and develop curriculum models and teaching practices for educational institutions. They may work at K-12 schools, colleges, or federal and state education agencies. They may also train teachers and other education staff based on new academic standards or instructional practices.
  • High School Teacher High school teachers instruct students in grades 9-12, preparing students to enter college or the job market after graduation. At the high school level, teachers typically focus on a single subject area, such as English, math, science, social studies, or foreign languages.
  • Special Education Teacher Special education teachers focus on students with varied needs, including mental, emotional, social, and physical disabilities. These teachers must evaluate academic needs and devise individualized education plans that best serve each student's abilities. Special education teachers may work in traditional public schools or in specialized learning environments.
  • Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal Principals oversee the operation of K-12 schools and perform specialized managerial and administrative work. Their responsibilities include evaluating and coordinating curriculum models, managing staff and other administrative personnel, counseling and disciplining students, managing a school's budget, and observing and evaluating teachers' performance in the classroom.

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