Education programs and careers

Education is a career choice that never goes out of style. People of all ages have an ongoing need to learn new skills and gain knowledge, and education majors are the logical choice to help meet that need. Today's educators do everything from instructing 1st graders in English basics to helping adults navigate their way around a computer.

Educators aren't just in steady demand. They also may have one of the most fundamentally important jobs available today. In fact, a 2012 study from RAND Education found teachers are the most important school-related factor when it comes to student achievement.

If you've been looking for a rewarding career, it's time to take a closer look at online education programs. We've got answers to all your questions about education degrees and career options.

What types of education degree programs are there?

If you want to major in education, you have a couple different degree options. Which one you select may depend largely on your intended career path:

  • Associate degree: A two-year degree won't let you be licensed as a teacher, but it could be used for jobs such as that of a teaching assistant. Students may also want to earn an associate degree in education to learn more about the field and determine whether it's a good fit for them. Credits from an associate degree can usually be transferred toward a bachelor's degree in education if needed.
  • Bachelor's degree: A four-year degree is the minimum education required by states for licensure as a teacher. Students may be required to major in education and meet other requirements, such as completing a period of student teaching, before being licensed by the state.
  • Master's degree: Although a master's degree isn't required for state licensure, some schools prefer to hire those with an advanced degree and those with a graduate degree may earn higher incomes. In some cases, a Master of Education may qualify someone with a bachelor's degree in another field to become licensed to teach.
  • Doctoral degree: A Doctor of Education may be pursued by someone interested in working at the highest levels of administration (think education administration degrees) or in the field of academic research.

What types of education careers are available?

5 surprising career choices for education majors

Not every education major goes on to become a teacher. Online education programs can prepare students to go on to the following careers as well:

    1. Small business owner: Some education majors may become their own boss by opening an education-related business such as a learning center or tutoring website.
      2. Writer or publisher: Others may develop their own learning materials such as curriculum guides, worksheets and supplemental aids to market to teachers and schools.
        3. Educational consultant: Teachers with years of experience in the classroom may put that expertise to work by providing consultancy work. They may be employed by a firm or work independently to provide schools and teachers with strategies to improve student outcomes. Some may be hired to help homeschooling families.
          4. Sales representative: Education programs may give individuals the perfect background to work as a sales representative for a textbook publisher or similar company.
            5. Instructional designer: Educational programs, including online learning platforms, need designers who can combine education expertise with technological know-how.

              Teaching is the most common career choice for education majors. However, even within this profession, there is a variety of positions available.

              • Teaching assistants: Assistants don't need to have a degree, but they do play an integral role in classrooms across the country. Also known as teacher aides, paraprofessionals or paraeducators, these individuals help teachers, supervise students and reinforce lessons as needed.
              • Preschool teachers: Preschool teachers may not need a four-year degree or licensure, depending on their state or employer. Those who want to work in a Head Start program need at least an associate degree. Teachers at this level may develop and implement a curriculum focused on early learning skills.
              • Kindergarten and elementary teachers: Teachers working with young children not only teach academic skills but may also be responsible for instructing students in social skills. Educators at this level typically need a bachelor's degree in elementary education.
              • Middle school teachers: At the middle school level, teachers may specialize in a specific area of instruction such as math, science or English. Depending on their state, they may have to have a major in their area of expertise as well as a major or minor in education.
              • High school teachers: To teach at the high school level, most states require individuals earn a bachelor's degree in their teaching subject area. In many schools, a teacher will then provide instruction in that subject exclusively.
              • Special education teachers: Teachers who want to work with students with physical, mental or learning disabilities often need to earn a specific degree in special education. For their job, they may work as part of a team to meet the needs of these students.

              Other educators may work with adults and teach college or vocational classes. For these jobs, teachers may be required to have a master's or doctoral degree although they don't necessarily have to have a major in education.

              Can you become a teacher through online education programs?

              Yes, a number of colleges and universities offer education programs online, like the ones listed below.

              Depending on the school, you may be able to earn anything from an associate degree in education to a Doctor of Education degree online. If you want to become a teacher at the elementary, middle or high school levels, look for a school that will help place you in a student teaching assignment or otherwise assist in ensuring you meet all your state's requirements for licensure.

              How much do educators make?

              An educator's income can vary depending on their education, experience and career path.

              According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following represent the nationwide average income for teachers at various levels in 2014:

              • Preschool teachers: $32,040
              • Kindergarten teachers: $53,480
              • Elementary teachers: $56,830
              • Middle school teachers: $57,620
              • High school teachers: $59,330

              Postsecondary teachers earn more with their income depending on their subject matter.

              Education majors who pursue non-traditional career paths, such as that of a business owner or consultant, may also find their income potential is greater.

              Who should become an educator?

              Education programs aren't for everyone. Teachers and educators need to have a specific skillset that will let them be successful in the classroom and within their profession.

              For example, educators need to be patient and empathetic. They have to be creative and innovative to adjust their lessons to fit a variety of learning styles. Enthusiasm and dedication are two other traits shared by great educators. Physical education teachers might need to crave an active workday, everyday.

              Teaching can be a thankless job at times, particularly if you're in front of a room of teenagers who would rather be anywhere other than school. The educators who shine in their jobs aren't in it for a paycheck or a pat on the back. Instead, they are the ones with a deep desire to make a difference in the world. If a career in education sounds right for you, start your journey by requesting info from the schools of your choice, below.


              1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition
              2. What to do With a Degree in Education, http://careerplanning.about.com/od/exploringoccupations/a/degree-in-education.htm
              3. TEACH, University of Southern California, http://teach.com
              4. Becoming an Educational Consultant, http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/free-resources/edupreneurs/becoming-a-consultant
              5. Teachers Matter: Understanding Teachers' Impact on Student Achievement, RAND Education, http://www.rand.org/education/projects/measuring-teacher-effectiveness/teachers-matter.html

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