Getting a degree in education is a popular choice when it comes to securing a well-paying job with great benefits. A degree in education will give students a general background in education and teaching while allowing one to specialize in a specific grade level (elementary or secondary) and particular subject areas such as English, math, foreign languages, or special education. You can get an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctoral degree in education. A degree in education will prepare a student to meet state certification requirements and attain professional licensure.
Associate Degree in Education
An Associate Degree in Education is typically a 2 year/60-unit route of study. Associate degrees are a desirable asset for those beginning a career in education. Jobs such as teacher aides, reading instructors, and library technicians are all jobs that can be secured with an associate degree. In addition to fulfilling job requirements, school districts typically pay based on a scale that accounts for formal education and years of experience. Many entry level and paraprofessional jobs in education can be started with a high school diploma while one is actively enrolled in an associate degree program. Having an associate degree will secure a higher level on the pay scale, prepare a student for a bachelor’s degree, and introduce the employee to a career in education.
Recently there has been a pendulum shift in education with a growing appreciation and need for educational programs in practical and vocational arts. This has led many districts and states to amend the baseline requirement for teacher licensure to an associate degree for certain classes. In addition, some critical need areas such as science, math, and special education grant temporary or emergency teacher licensure so one can teach with an associate’s for a period of time while pursuing their bachelor’s.
You can earn your Associate Degree in Education through an online degree program, or a campus-based (in-person) degree program. Most community colleges will offer a degree in education and there are an abundance of reputable online and campus-based schools that specialize in 2-year education degrees.
Keep in mind if you intend on pursuing a long-term career in education, that pay is commensurate with formal education. Make certain that your associate degree is from an accredited institution so that your credits will transfer favorably for the next degree you choose to pursue.
Jobs you can get with an Associate Degree in Education:
A teacher’s aide works an average of 6 hours a day, 170 days a year! Average median salary is $30,000.
Early Education Teacher
Pre-school teachers work an average of 180 days a year and have summers off! Average median salary is $35,000.
Work in the private or public sector. Average median salary is $37,000.
Vocational Arts Teacher
Teach a wide range of students from middle school to adults; work year-round or get summers off! Average median salary is $65,000.
Bachelor’s Degree in Education
Getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Education will qualify you for a wide variety of jobs and significantly increases your salary potential. Most school districts and states require a bachelor’s degree to teach core K-12 classes. School district pay scales account for formal education and years of experience. For those schools or positions that do not require a bachelor’s degree or employers that do not have a set pay scale, having a bachelor’s degree is an attribute that is easily used in salary negotiations.
If you are intending on gaining certification and state professional licensure for teaching, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education will help secure the necessary requirements. In addition, many colleges have agreements with local school districts to help transition the degree seeking student-teachers into contracted teachers upon successful completion of the degree program.
Jobs you can get with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education:
Teacher: Work an average of 180 days a year and have summers off! Average median salary is $65,000.
Adult Education Specialist: Work a flex schedule on a 10- or 12-month contract. Average median salary is $59,000.
Media Specialist: Work in the public or private sector; work for a school and get summers off! Average median salary is $62,000.
Master’s Degree in Education
A Master’s Degree in Education will open up a wide variety of job opportunities and offer a significant pay bump from a bachelor’s degree. Typically, those already working in the field of education choose to pursue a Master’s in Education (MEd) to secure a significant increase on the pay scale. Others pursue an MEd to explore a variety of job opportunities outside of the classroom.
MEd programs typically take 2 years. There are accelerated programs that can reasonably be completed in a year or extended programs that allow a working professional to take just a few classes at a time. Online MEd programs are extremely popular with those already working in the field of education. In fact, many school districts have higher education partners that make MEd programs more accessible to district employees. The benefits of such partnerships with higher education programs is two-fold: the degree-seeking student gains desirable skills and knowledge in their field (and a pay raise upon receipt of the master’s degree) and the district increases their number of highly qualified employees which increases student and school success rates (and funding).
Some universities offer a combination or fast-track master’s in conjunction with an undergraduate degree in education. Some master’s programs secure a teacher certification and state licensure upon completion, while other programs focus on post-secondary education and prepare for teaching at the college level.
Jobs you can get with a Master’s Degree in Education:
K-12 Teacher: Work an average of 180 days a year and have summers off! Average median salary is $65,000.
Curriculum and Instruction: Typically available at a school level for a 180-day contract and summers off or the district level for a 10-month contract. Average median salary is $69,000.
Postsecondary Teachers: Teach as an adjunct just a couple of classes a semester or teach full-time and start your path to tenure! Average median salary is $90,000.
If you want to go even further with your education, you can earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Education. There are a wide variety of concentrations including Educational Administration, Curriculum and Instruction, Adult Education, Special Education, and Postsecondary Education.
As with associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees there are a wide variety of doctoral programs to choose from for both online degree programs and campus-based programs.
Online vs Campus Based: Which Education Degree Is Right For You?
Campus-based degrees (also referred to as in-person schooling) require students to attend class at a physical location on a set schedule. Many campus-based classes may also have an online component offered, allowing students to lighten the load of their in-person obligations for the class. Some degree programs are also, by design, hybrid for in-person and online schooling. Hybrid programs offer the students and teachers the opportunity to significantly scale back their campus-based obligations.
Any degree that requires in-person classes is considered a campus-based degree, regardless of how many of these classes may be hybrid or offered online. Online degrees are designed to be conducted solely online, with a few exceptions for programs that have in-person requirements such as practicums, student teaching rotations, field study, etc.
Online degrees, if they are offered by a reputable school, are just as valid and valued as campus-based degrees. This is especially true when on a specific career track and the degree is in conjunction with earning a professional licensure, such as in education.
For some, the ability to earn an online degree means they will actually succeed in their post-secondary education goals. For others, an online only offering could lead to academic ruin. More often than not, an unearned online degree rests not with the potential of the student but the ability to utilize the autonomy of programs to their advantage. Conversely, a campus-based degree is rarely a good fit for those that have specific time constraints and a variety of other time sensitive obligations.
How To Determine Which Type of Degree Is The Best Fit For You
The ability to personalize one’s post-secondary education is of incalculable value so choosing the appropriate degree type, online or campus-based, is essential for success. Answer the following questions to determine which type of degree is the best fit for you!
Do you have a reliable computer and internet? It should come as no surprise that without these two essentials an online degree, and furthermore any distance learning class, is not a good fit. Schools and districts provide employees with all the computer and digital resources needed for their job, although personal use is discouraged and usually prohibited regardless if it is for educational advancement.
Do you have basic computer competency? If you do not have basic computer skills then a campus-based program, with a couple of introductory computer courses, is a great option. Most jobs in education will require some degree of computer competency so planning ahead for this is key.
Do you have excellent written communication skills? Online programs require consistently good written communication skills. If a student cannot effectively communicate via the written word, then online classes are not a good fit. In-person classes will also require some degree of written work, but it is not an essential aspect for success. Although excellent written communication skills are a positive attribute for many careers in education, there are very few job positions that require it with the exception of English teachers, curriculum development, and the like.
Do you have responsible time management? It is imperative that a student in an online program is able to autonomously and successfully complete requirements as instructed. The inability to responsibly and appropriately dedicate time and resources to online classes is a problem many students don’t foresee until it is too late. Responsible time management is also a desired quality for a career in education although it is by no means a prerequisite as some jobs are more autonomous than others.
If you answered yes to all the questions above, then an online program may be the degree you’re looking for! All of the considerations above hold equal value and the lack of any of the above attributes will lend itself to academic struggles. If an online degree isn’t a good fit, then consider a campus-based degree. In-person learning is an invaluable experience and a time proven route to success. Campus-based degrees offer many opportunities for success including traditional and hybrid programs.
Born in SoCal yet raised Tampa, Florida - Leah earned her undergraduate BA in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida. Leah earned her MA in the MALAS at San Diego State University, while also completing a graduate teaching certificate in English for Secondary Education. An avid traveler, she has visited more than 60 countries. With the birth of her son Spencer in 2012, Leah embarked on her biggest adventure (yet) as parent and Coast Guard wife.