That’s what this list of the best online bachelor’s of education degrees is for. From the classroom to outdoor education, covering the arts to sciences, children and young adults need help making sense of the world and making sense of their place in world.
And though teachers are known for their modest salaries (PayScale has them making approximately 47k annually, on average), the rewards are far bigger than monetary. You can be there not only to guide them, but to literally change their lives.
Online programs in education are an affordable, accessible, and flexible way to earn an advanced degree, especially if you find yourself in a situation that makes going back to school either logistically or financially problematic.
Despite the stigma online programs once held, they have mostly shed those stereotypes and have increasingly solid reputations, in large part because online programs are developed and taught by the same faculty who teach the traditional, on-campus courses. And in most cases, the diploma looks exactly the same as those garnered by “traditional students,” yet it was obtained at half the price.
What are the Best Online Education Degrees for 2017?
While some programs specialize in early childhood educations and others in special education or high school education, they all share one thing in common despite the difference of name and emphasis: they are the best at preparing students for a long career in teaching. Here at College Choice we’ve collated and compared the academic reputation, student satisfaction, affordability, and average annual salary of graduates from online education programs across the country to create a definitive ranking of the nation’s fifty best. We first chose programs with the most renowned academic reputation and from those pared the list down to those with high retention rates—a reflection of student satisfaction—added those with the most economical accessibility, and finally we included the averages of early career salaries (care of PayScale) to arrive at a list marked by thorough research and extensive data aggregation. Our figures come from the university and colleges’ websites as well as nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
Arizona State University
College Choice Score: 100
Credit Hour Cost: $530
Through Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, students can enroll in a fully online Educational Studies bachelor degree program. This unique program is for those who want to investigate the role of education on a global scale, analyze the impact of education on diverse populations, and better understand how social injustices—poverty, under-resourced schools, environmental issues, and immigration—can affect student success. Some of the classes that define this degree include theories for acquiring and learning languages, introduction to nutrition and health, understanding the culturally diverse child, global and historical awareness, plus a number of credits covering the general education requirements.
Perhaps obvious, this degree is not for those looking to teach within the public education system, as it does not lead to teacher certification, but it is for those interested in graduate education or for those who want to work outside of traditional classrooms, such as in nonprofits, government organizations, or in business or recreational settings. Arizona State ranks at the top of our list because its Teachers College is recognized as the fastest rising top-tier college of education in the country, it’s well-ranked by U.S. News & World Report, and over 90 percent of graduates are employed.
ASU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.
University of Northern Iowa
College Choice Score: 99.5
Credit Hour Cost: $302
The University of Northern Iowa’s innovative 2+2 online elementary education degree enrolls students for two years in a Des Moines Area Community College campus, where they will graduate with their associate of arts degree by fulfilling general education and liberal arts requirements, followed by two years at the University of Northern Iowa campus. Most classes are online, though half of them require at least one night per week on campus. UNI’s program allows students to specialize in areas like public health awareness and physical education.
College Choice Score: 99.25
Credit Hour Cost: $395
You can earn a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education at Regis University that includes initial licensure. If you’re interested in teaching among grades K–6 and want to earn your degree fully online, this program could be a great fit for you. Without any prior college-level education required, this program includes all 120 credits necessary for acquiring the bachelors, and it guarantees leadership development in its students.
One thing to note about Regis is that it is a Roman Catholic school that incorporates a faith-based perspective in its curriculum. Additionally, the curriculum is marked by four distinct areas of emphasis: Jesuit ideals, such as serving others and reflective practice; the integration of theory with practical application; developing teachers who are critical thinkers and data literate; and the implementation of technology in the classroom. At Regis you will develop oral communication skills, gain a broad educational base across the humanities and sciences, and you will be fully prepared to lead in the classroom and ready children for successful educational careers.
Regis University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and their teachers education program is nationally approved through the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.
Fort Hays State University
College Choice Score: 96.75
Credit Hour Cost: $207
At Fort Hays State University, online education undergraduates have the option of choosing among three areas of study: early education unified, elementary education, and elementary education with a special education minor. Whichever way you specialize, at Fort Hays you will be introduced to a general education core, a professional education curriculum, pedagogical theory, and clinical experience. And though all of these programs can be completed fully online, you will also have many opportunities for internship or student teaching experience, which will help you in your job hunt.
The BS in Early Childhood Unified readies its students for careers in many early childhood leadership roles, including teaching (from pre-school to third grade), but also administration, or coordination. The BS in Elementary Education qualifies you to teach any grade between Kindergarten and sixth grade, and the Special Education minor, which can be paired with any teaching program at Fort Hays, specifically prepares you to work with students (in any grade) who have developmental disabilities.
Fort Hays State is accredited, as a whole, by the Higher Learning Commission, while its teaching programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teaching Education (NCATE).
Appalachian State University
College Choice Score: 96.25
Credit Hour Cost: $650
Through Appalachian State University’s (ASU) distance education platform you can earn an online Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, Middle Grades Education, or Special Education. Whether you’re looking to study full-time or incorporate your education with work and other life responsibilities, Appalachian State University makes it possible to earn your degree between two-and-a-half or three-and-a-half years.
Appalachian State emphasizes the importance of leadership throughout its different teaching curriculums. And ASU students can expect to participate in a few internship and student teaching opportunities, which will provide them with practical application experience in addition to the foundational theory base they are provided with through the curriculum. Moreover, ASU comes with an affordable price tag for those who live in North Carolina ($160 a credit hour), but is a bit more spendy for out-of-state students. However, on average ASU graduates bring home annual salaries of over 47k in their early careers, which lands ASU in the ninetieth percentile (on this ranking) for return on investment.
Appalachian State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
University of Nebraska–Kearney
College Choice Score: 94.5
Credit Hour Cost: $364
The University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) holds two notable rankings: it is ranked among the top ten best public universities in its region by U.S. News & World Report and its eCampus is consistently recognized as among the best online universities in the country. Offered through the latter, UNK has an online Early Childhood Inclusive program (Bachelor of Arts in Education) that is fully online with some supervised school-based experiences and student teaching. For those who want to teach students ages birth to eight, this degree completion program can help you attain your vocational goals.
As it is understood that your general education classes will have already been completed by the time you enroll at UNK, the online curriculum is comprised mostly of professional and major specific courses. You will also be required to specialize in one of two areas: either birth through kindergarten or age three to grade three. Across areas of focus students gain field experience, are introduced to the foundations of early childhood education, and they learn how to support children through family and community involvement.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission with special accreditations from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the Nebraska Department of Education.
California Baptist University
College Choice Score: 94.25
Credit Hour Cost: $547
California Baptist University (Cal Baptist) is a private, Christian liberal arts school affiliated and run by the Southern Baptist Convention. If you’re specifically looking for a university that incorporates a conservative, faith-based perspective in its curriculum, then Cal Baptist could be a solid fit for you. And they are known for their many strong online programs, including their Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Studies.
This program gives students insights into children’s growth and development in many areas, including cognitive, social, emotional, and perceptual-motor development, and it prepares its graduates to become leaders in early intervention, research, advocacy, and in the classroom. This fully online degree can be earned in as few as sixteen months, as this is a completion program, and it can be adapted to an array of career fields, including teaching K–12. In addition to learning the fundamentals of childhood development, you will also understand the global as well as Christian contexts of development. Likewise, Cal Baptist ensures you graduate feeling confident in your critical thinking and analysis skills and in your ability to make effective decisions and lead others.
Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, California Baptist University is based in Riverside.
University of North Carolina–Wilmington
College Choice Score: 94.25
Credit Hour Cost: $619
The University of North Carolina–Wilmington (UNCW) may not have a huge distance education program, but the few degrees they do offer online, including the Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, are some of the best in the country. Offered through the Watson College of Education, the BA in Elementary Education program is the only online education program at UNCW but it fully prepares students for rewarding careers as elementary school teachers and it paves the way for advanced education in teaching and administration, for those so interested.
The features of this online program at UNCW that differentiate it from other online programs include opportunities for international study experience, field experiences pocked throughout the program, and the option to specialize in one of nine areas: behavioral studies, English as a second language, early childhood, fine arts, international studies, language arts, math and technology, science and health, and social studies. UNCW has also sought to ensure its online students have easy access to advising, tutoring, and general assistance, and thus the elementary education faculty are experts in online teaching and education.
UNC Wilmington is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It is a mid-sized school of approximately 15k undergraduates.
Florida International University
College Choice Score: 90.5
Credit Hour Cost: $329
At Florida International University (FIU) you will take classes on the cultural and social foundations of education, educational psychology, the methods of teaching elementary art, special needs of children and their families, and so much more. Perhaps obvious, FIU’s online program in early childhood education encompasses a spectrum of issues, topics, and theories related to teaching in the elementary classroom. The curriculum explicitly blends professional education courses with course blocks on teaching methods, early childhood education proper, early development, family and community studies, and literacy development.
Florida International University is not only a great school but its online and distance education programs are known for providing students across the country (and all over the world) with a highly ranked educational experience. This is because online students have many of the same opportunities as “traditional” on-campus students, such as participating in the Honors College or the Academy of Leaders development certification program. Similarly, online FIU students work closely with success coaches, academic coaches, and tutors for a successful academic experience.
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Florida International University is known for its research activity and strong rankings recognized by Forbes, Washington Monthly, and U.S. News & World Report.
Western Governors University
College Choice Score: 89.5
Credit Hour Cost: $192
Western Governors University (WGU) offers eight online bachelor degrees in a range of educational sectors (each of which provides licensure) plus another four post-baccalaureate teacher preparation programs. The undergraduate programs include BAs in Interdisciplinary Studies (K–8), Special Education (K–12), Mathematics (5–9 or 5–12), Science (5–9), Chemistry (5–12), Physics (5–12), Biological Science (5–12), and Geoscience (5–12). The post-bacc programs cover mathematics, science, elementary education, and the social sciences.
Whichever program is the best fit for you, at WGU you will take part in the innovative, competency-based learning model; that is, all WGU students proceed through their degree by demonstrating they have acquired certain knowledge, skill, or ability. You will also take classes at your own pace and whenever is most convenient for you. An assigned mentor will help guide you through the program, assisting you with your schedule, connecting you with online study groups and communities, and generally ensuring you succeed as a WGU student.
Western Governors University is a private and nonprofit university accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Schools. All of the nearly 80,000 WGU students are online in one of the four colleges: business, information technology, education, and the health professions. Known not only for its innovative teaching model, WGU’s tuition rates are among the most competitive in the country.
University of Massachusetts–Amherst
College Choice Score: 88.25
Credit Hour Cost: $390
Boasting some of the highest rankings from Forbes, Reuters, U.S. News & World Report, Times Higher Education, and more, the University of Massachusetts in Amherst has a reputation for providing top-notch education across many disciplines and research areas. They also have a sizeable online learning platform that brings accessible and affordable degrees to students across the nation. This includes two BA programs in education, one in children’s learning and development and another in early care and education. The former prepares students to work with children, youth, and families either in an educational setting or in advocacy, administration, nonprofit, or programming. The latter, which provides scholarship funds to select students, is strictly for those who want to become teachers.
Both degrees provide credit (even up to one hundred hours) for prior learning and/or vocational experience, so you can get a leg up on graduation day. And though this isn’t technically a degree completion program, you must have earned twelve college credits already before enrolling. The two programs, though different in course work and outcome, allow you to design your own program of study without ever having to come to campus.
The University of Massachusetts–Amherst is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Southern Oregon University
College Choice Score: 88
Credit Hour Cost: $476
Southern Oregon University (SOU) offers an online Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Development degree completion program that was designed with working professional in mind. Graduates from the program have gone on to work with young children and their families as preschool teachers, Head Start program teachers, administrators, family advocates, early interventionists, and educational assistants. Many have also earned a Master of Arts in Teaching, as SOU has several programs in place, including a fully online Master in Education degree.
Since you are expected to have finished your prerequisites and general education courses before enrolling at SOU, the curriculum comprising this BA in Early Childhood Development program emphasizes advanced study. You’ll take classes on working with children who have disabilities, children who are at risk, inclusive classrooms, atypical child development, health and safety, bullying and intervention, and more. Capstone practicums, portfolios, and seminars are also required.
Southern Oregon University is located in Ashland, Oregon and is a public liberal arts college. SOU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Schools.
University of Arizona
College Choice Score: 87.5
Credit Hour Cost: $490
Designed to be a continuation of an Associate degree program, the University of Arizona offers a Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education degree that equips students to work in structured learning and support services for children aged birth to eight. This is not really a program for those seeking licensure but for those who want to work in curriculum development, social work, pre-school teaching, after-school teaching, and teaching assistance. You’ll take classes on such wide-ranging topics as childhood creative arts and physical education, early childhood language and literacy, and teaching exceptional children. So though it doesn’t lead to licensure, this degree prepares you for many educational career opportunities.
The University of Arizona offers one other undergraduate degree in education: a Bachelor of Science in Literacy, Learning, and Leadership. Students enrolled in this program look at the kinds of policies that promote equality and access to education for those most often marginalized. Classes explore the impact of state, national, and community policies, as well as the methods of advancing literacy, empowering learners from diverse educational environments, and fostering equity for the underserved.
The University of Arizona is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Ball State University
College Choice Score: 86.75
Credit Hour Cost: $492
The online Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education degree from Ball State University trains it students in several areas of professional development. Foremost, students learn how to create healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging environments for children. But they also learn the complex systems of family and communities, how to observe and document a child’s development and learning, and the ethics imperative to early childhood education, including becoming an informed advocate.
As a Ball State online student you’ll take a number of unique courses, such as literature for young children, early emergent literacy, and the social, historical, and philosophical foundations of education. The breadth of experience you’ll gain at Ball State qualifies you for innumerable career options. You can become a pre-K teacher, a Head Start specialist, a curriculum specialist, a para-educator, or an early childhood administrator or director. This degree will also prepare you to earn an advanced degree or certification.
Ball State University, located Muncie, Indiana, offers nearly 200 areas of study to its nearly 20,000 undergraduates. A public, research institution, it is well ranked by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly. Ball State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Arkansas Tech University
College Choice Score: 86
Credit Hour Cost: $438
For those interested in teaching children in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, the Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education degree from Arkansas Tech University can be mostly earned online, though some on-campus visits are required. Offered through the College of Education, this program seeks to foster successful and innovative professionals who will commit themselves to diverse, evolving communities of learners. A notably hands-on learning experience, students at Arkansas Tech are required to participate in internships and teacher preparation programs.
As an Arkansas Tech student you can study online at your own pace; there are no posted class times and coursework can be completed and submitted when it’s most convenient for you. However, there are due dates for assignments and exams. You will work closely with your teachers as well as with academic advisors, tutors, and career counselors.
With a relatively small campus of around 10k undergraduate students, Arkansas Tech University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and located in Russellville. They offer many online degrees (bachelors, masters, and specialist) and certifications through their eTech distance education program.
Dakota State University
College Choice Score: 83.5
Credit Hour Cost: $333
Dakota State University (DSU) offers an online bachelors degree in special education at the elementary level. This program prepares students to create K–12 classrooms for all abilities, including those who have autism, behavior, cognitive, and/or learning disabilities. As a DSU student you will learn more than teaching across abilities, though; you will learn how to track students’ progress, modify your curriculum, promote challenges, and encourage milestones. Field experience and practicums will add to your DSU experience, as you are required to complete a year-long residency in a public school of your choosing.
This program can be completed online and is a full bachelors degree. No prior classes or credits are necessary to enroll. Once accepted you can anticipate a traditional academic experience, one that will take approximately four years to finish. You will take a number of humanities, science, and social science classes in addition to your major and specialization classes. You will also graduate with official teaching certification and licensure that qualifies you to teach children with developmental disabilities in grades K–12.
Dakota State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
College Choice Score: 83.25
Credit Hour Cost: $395
A Christian university that brings its faith perspective into the classroom, Regent University has a huge distance education program. They have dozens of education degrees, at all undergraduate and advanced levels and in dozens of areas, including an online BS in Early Childhood Education. Unique to this curriculum, in addition to its Christian foundation and worldview, is that it gives students a comprehensive understanding of education as well as business operations.
As an online Regent student you will discover how to help children (birth through age 8) thrive by creating effective lessons plans, implementing proven teaching strategies, and learning how best to assess children’s progress. You will also learn the basics of business, personnel law, marketing, and management. Regent provides the opportunity to combine a degree with certification (also online) in a range of areas, from certification in advancing leadership to certification in law, higher education, teaching English to speakers of other languages, and much more.
Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Their online learning platform is well-regarded by many, and was recently counted among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
Mississippi State University
College Choice Score: 81.5
Credit Hour Cost: $319
Though Mississippi State University (MSU) offers less online degrees then some of the other schools on our list, they take good care of their online and distance education students. For example, they first provide prospective students with an assessment quiz that determines whether online learning through MSU will be a good fit. They then provide accepted students with scholarships, access to online tutoring and writing guidance, and proctoring help, making distance education at MSU flexible, community oriented, and still hands-on, as education students are required to complete field work.
The online BS in Elementary Education at MSU comes with the option of adding one of two concentrations, in either Early Childhood Education or Middle School Studies. As this is a full online bachelors degree you will take all your gen ed courses as well as major classes that cover child development, curriculum building, working with parents, and more. You will then participate in a year of student teaching. By graduation you will be licensed to teach in the state of Mississippi. If you’re looking to teach outside of Mississippi, you can apply this degree to your own Department of Education to find out how to fulfill your state’s requirements.
Mississippi State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and their education programs are accredited by NCATE. MSU is a high research university well-ranked by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly.
Texas Tech University
College Choice Score: 80.25
Credit Hour Cost: $440
The online education degree offered by Texas Tech University allows students to pay tuition rates comparable to resident students of Texas, regardless of home state. The curriculum prepares students to work as teachers or childcare workers with classes like curriculum development, incorporating technology into the lives of young children, and child development. Students must complete 120 credits to graduate Texas Tech’s online education degree. Though all courses are online, some may require components like CDs or telephone conferencing.
College Choice Score: 80
Credit Hour Cost: $479
You can earn an online Bachelor of Science in Education from Drexel University that prepares you for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade elementary or special education teaching. This program takes only a little over two years to complete, so it’s necessary you have already attained your general education credits, and it is only available on a part-time basis. Up to 90 credit hours can be transferred to fulfill Drexel’s liberal arts requirements.
Some classes you can anticipate taking as an online Drexel education student include literacy and content skill development, special education foundations, the history and philosophy of education, typical and atypical development, pedagogy, diversity and today’s teacher, creating a positive classroom climate, teaching in urban contexts, and multimedia in instructional design, among others. You will also have to take a full year of student teaching experience, but upon graduation you will be fully certified to teach in Pennsylvania or transfer your educational credit to your own state’s requirements.
Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Drexel University is a private, research university with multiple campuses in Philadelphia and nationally and globally ranked by ARWU, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Washington Monthly, QS World University Rankings, and Times Higher Education.