Choosing the Right Teaching Degree: A Guide for Future Educators

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Pick­ing the right col­lege degree is always a dif­fi­cult choice. Some stu­dents know pret­ty clear­ly what career is the best fit for their life goals and pick the degree that will help get them there. Oth­er stu­dents spend time explor­ing dif­fer­ent class­es and labs until they have a good sense for what they can do well. And then there are stu­dents who know they want to start a career in K‑12 teach­ing or edu­ca­tion­al admin­is­tra­tion but are con­fused by the wide range of teach­ing degrees, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, and career pathways. 

For stu­dents look­ing to change careers to teach­ing, pick­ing the right accel­er­at­ed pro­gram and man­ag­ing state teach­ing require­ments can be sim­i­lar­ly com­pli­cat­ed. This quick guide will help get you start­ed in design­ing your teach­ing career edu­ca­tion and pathway.

What is a Teaching Degree?

A teach­ing degree will pro­vide the knowl­edge, the­o­ry, skills, and prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence to be an effec­tive edu­ca­tor or admin­is­tra­tor. Teach­ing degrees are gen­er­al­ly cat­e­go­rized into Bach­e­lor’s, Mas­ter’s, and Doc­tor­al pro­grams. These degree pro­grams also empha­size spe­cif­ic phas­es of edu­ca­tion, such as ear­ly child­hood, ele­men­tary edu­ca­tion, and sec­ondary edu­ca­tion. Oth­er pro­grams will empha­size spe­cial edu­ca­tion or edu­ca­tion­al admin­is­tra­tion. In addi­tion, there are a wide range of spe­cial­ized cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and pro­grams for every­thing from teach­ing STEM to Music or Art Education.

Types of Teaching Degrees

There are a lot of dif­fer­ent types of teach­ing degrees. It is impor­tant to spend time think­ing through where you want to teach, what you want to teach, and what class­room envi­ron­ment you think may fit you best. Each type of teacher edu­ca­tion pro­gram will also have dif­fer­ent state cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and licens­ing require­ments, which are impor­tant to con­sid­er as you begin pick­ing where you want to get a degree. Here is a gen­er­al list of the types of teacher edu­ca­tion degrees. This is not even com­pre­hen­sive, which should give you a feel for how com­plex plan­ning your teach­ing career can get:

Bach­e­lor’s (BA, BSc, or BSEd)Ear­ly Child­hood Education
Bach­e­lor’s (BA, BSc, or BSEd)Ele­men­tary Education
Bach­e­lor’s (BA, BSc, or BSEd)Spe­cial Education
Bach­e­lor’s (BA, BSc, or BSEd)Teach­ing Eng­lish to Speak­er’s of Oth­er Lan­guages (TESOL)
Bach­e­lor’s (BA, BSc, or BSEd)Music Edu­ca­tion
Bach­e­lor’s (BA, BSc, or BSEd)Phys­i­cal Education
Bach­e­lor’s (BA, BSc, or BSEd)Art Edu­ca­tion
Bach­e­lor’s (BA, BSc, or BSEd)Sec­ondary Edu­ca­tion (with spe­cif­ic sub­ject emphasis)
Mas­ter’s (MAT or MSc)Ear­ly Child­hood Education
Mas­ter’s (MAT or MSc)Teach­ing (with spe­cif­ic sub­ject emphasis)
Mas­ter’s (MAT or MSc)Teach­ing Eng­lish to Speak­er’s of Oth­er Lan­guages (TESOL)
Mas­ter’s (MAT or MSc)Edu­ca­tion­al Technology
Mas­ter’s (MAT or MSc)Cur­ricu­lum and Instruction
Mas­ter’s (MAT or MSc)Edu­ca­tion­al Leadership
Mas­ter’s (MAT or MSc)Coun­sel­ing Psychology
Mas­ter’s (MAT or MSc)High­er Education
Doc­tor­al (EdD or PhD)Cur­ricu­lum and Instruction
Doc­tor­al (EdD or PhD)Instruc­tion­al Design and Technology
Doc­tor­al (EdD or PhD)Coun­sel­ing Psychology
Doc­tor­al (EdD or PhD)Edu­ca­tion­al Leadership

Things to Consider Before Getting a Teaching Degree

  • Licen­sure and Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion: Each state has dif­fer­ent require­ments for licen­sure and teacher cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. It is impor­tant to pick a pro­gram that will pre­pare you for this process and ensure you are work­ing toward the right type of licen­sure. Some col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties will mar­ket their suc­cess rate get­ting stu­dents licensed and cer­ti­fied, as this can accel­er­at­ed your path­way to the classroom.
  • Cur­rent Expe­ri­ence: You may already have a teach­ing degree, a dif­fer­ent bach­e­lor’s degree, or teach­ing expe­ri­ence. If this is the case, con­sid­er what spe­cif­ic skills you want to build or where you want to work in an edu­ca­tion sys­tem. There is such a wide vari­ety of spe­cial­iza­tions and emphases that this can be a dif­fi­cult, but impor­tant, choice.
  • Career Goals: Imag­ine your­self in the class­room. What are you teach­ing? How old are the stu­dents? Per­haps you do not see your­self in a class­room, but in a spe­cial edu­ca­tion envi­ron­ment, admin­is­tra­tive office, or tech­nol­o­gy suite. Spend time think­ing through your long term goals and pref­er­ences. Talk to expe­ri­enced teach­ers in these dif­fer­ent areas about what they like about their jobs. Get as much feed­back as you can and be will­ing to piv­ot to a dif­fer­ent teach­ing degree empha­sis if you real­ize some­thing else is a bet­ter fit. 
  • Stu­dent Sup­port: The best pro­gram for you will pro­vide the sup­port you need to learn well, thrive in prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ences, and pass your cer­ti­fi­ca­tion or licen­sure require­ments. In online learn­ing envi­ron­ments, ded­i­cat­ed sup­port staff will help keep you on track and han­dle any tech­ni­cal issues with course­work. Pick­ing an insti­tu­tion known for fac­ul­ty sup­port and avail­abil­i­ty will help you build con­fi­dence and a pro­fes­sion­al network.