When it comes to jobs that are personally rewarding, teaching is hard to beat. For many in the field, the profession isn't about money or prestige. Rather, the opportunity to make a profound, positive impact on the next generation is what makes this job attractive. Plus, many people appreciate having the opportunity to work on the same schedule as their kids. Being able to take the summer off is a bonus as well.
Since teachers have such important jobs, it's not surprising there are strict education standards for those hoping to enter the field. Future teachers will need a bachelor's degree and state licensure to get started, but some schools may prefer those with an advanced degree for certain positions.
K-12 education degree programs are offered both on-campuses as well as online. Students should confirm online K-12 education degrees are properly accredited and will include any mandated student or demonstration teaching requirements. Keep reading to learn more about the top schools for K-12 education degrees, career outlook and where to find financial aid.
Best colleges for K-12 education degree programs
According to a methodology that considered the number of education degree options offered, the prominence of a school's program and other factors related to student success, these are the ten best colleges for K-12 education degree programs.
Southern Oregon University takes the number one spot on the list of top colleges for K-12 education degrees. Based in Ashland, SOU promises to help students succeed at every level. There are 36 areas of study for the school's 6,200 member student body.
The elementary education program at Southern Oregon University is available with or without initial teaching licensure. Incoming freshmen have the option of using the accelerated baccalaureate program that will allow them to graduate with either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in three years. A Master of Arts and Master of Science in education are also available at the school.
Among other things, SOU ranks high for the prominence of its education program and the number of student support services it offers.
Named for the fourth Chief Justice of the United States, Marshall University offers both traditional and online degrees for K-12 education. Its College of Education and Professional Development is oldest part of the university and has a long legacy of teacher preparation.
Marshall University offers bachelor's degrees in elementary education and secondary education. There are also seven master's degrees, two education specialist degrees and two Doctor of Education degrees available. Through MUOnline, there are online K-12 education degrees at the graduate level.
The university is an accredited, public institution and has its main campus in Huntington, West Virginia. A second campus is located in South Charleston. It was founded in 1837 and has a student body of more than 13,500.
The University of Montana - Western features affordable tuition, a number of student support services and an open admissions policy. Plus, it has one of the more innovative learning systems in the countries. Rather than take multiple classes simultaneously, Montana Western students enroll in one class at a time.
The school's education department is the oldest one in the state. Students can choose from a number of early, elementary and secondary education programs. Plus, there are K-12 education degree programs in art, music and physical education. Within the field of secondary education, students can earn degrees in eight different specialties such as earth science, math and modern history.
UMW is a public institution and was founded in 1893. It has its campus in Dillon.
You don't have to be a big school to be one of the best colleges for K-12 education degree programs. Sinte Gleska University is a small institution that was designed to meet the needs of the Lakota people. It ranked fourth for, among other things, having the most affordable tuition and the lowest student-faculty ratio of the schools on this list.
SGU offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. There is an associate degree and two bachelor's degrees that focus on elementary education. At the graduate level, students can earn a Master of Education. While SGU has an open admissions policy, enrollment in the teacher education program is not automatic.
Sinte Gleska University has its campus in Mission, South Dakota.
As one of the public universities in Kansas, Emporia State University offers both traditional and online degrees for K-12 education. The school has one of the more prominent education programs on this list and offers academic advising and career placement services to help its students succeed.
Within The Teachers College at Emporia State, students have a wide variety of degree options. Bachelor's degrees include majors in elementary, middle and secondary education as well as specialty fields such as art and athletic training. There are also graduate degrees and a restricted licensure program for those who are changing careers to become a teacher.
Emporia State University was founded in 1863 as a teachers college. Today, it offers degrees in a variety of fields. Its campus is in Emporia.
Harding University makes the list of top colleges for K-12 education because of its record of student success. It has the best graduation rate of the schools on this list, and that may be partly because of the flexible scheduling options the school provides. There are online, night and weekend classes. Plus, students get career counseling and access to placement services when they graduate.
The university's Cannon-Clary College of Education prepares teachers to not only educate others but integrate their faith into their work. Undergraduate degrees include elementary, middle and secondary education as well as programs for specific K-12 subjects such as foreign language, drama and music. There are also numerous graduate degrees available.
Harding is a private, Christian institution. Its main campus is in Searcy, Arkansas.
Known as UMF, the University of Maine at Farmington has the most prominent K-12 education program of the schools on this list. It also has the second best graduation rate and the second lowest student-faculty ratio.
The school is well-known for its education program, and several graduates have gone on to win teaching awards and accolades. Students interested in teaching within the K-12 grades can choose from elementary, secondary/middle, special education and school health education degrees at the undergraduate level. In addition to classroom learning, students participate in a practicum during their second year. Student teaching occurs during senior year. There are also graduate degrees, certificates and an alternate route to special education certification available.
The University of Maine at Farmington enrolls approximately 1,600 students.
Founded in 1905 as the Fourth District Normal School, Missouri State was created with the intention of preparing teachers. Today, as a public university, it has expanded its degree options but continues to be a good choice for future educators.
Missouri State University has four locations, but its main campus is Springfield is the one that makes the list of best colleges for K-12 education degree programs. The school is notable for its graduation rate and for supporting students through services such as academic advising, career placement and flexible scheduling options.
MSU offers undergraduate, graduate and teacher certification programs. In addition to degrees specifically for future elementary and secondary school teachers, there are five K-12 education specialties available. These include family and consumer sciences, foreign language, music education, art education and physical education.
Like some other schools on this list, Wayne State College was founded as a teachers college. It began as the Nebraska Normal College in 1891. While you can study more than education at Wayne State today, it continues to be a popular choice for educators. According to the school, one in ten Nebraska teachers holds at least one degree from their institution.
There are no shortage of education degree options at Wayne State. The school offers its students a choice of 14 field endorsements, 14 subject endorsements and 10 supplemental endorsements. While some of these are in K-12 subjects, others are intended for a specific grade level such as elementary or high school. Graduate students can select from Education Specialist or a Master of Science degrees.
WSC is a public institution with a campus in Wayne.
Western Oregon University rounds out the list of top schools for K-12 education degrees. WOU says every student matters and backs up that statement by providing a number of support services. What's more, at 14-1, the school has one of the lowest student-faculty ratios among the institutions ranked here.
Education is one of the most popular majors at Western Oregon University. The school's Division of Education and Leadership offers several degree choices that are suitable for new teachers earning their first degree, career changers and existing teachers who want to further their education.
WOU is a public institution and was founded in 1856. Its campus is in Monmouth.
K-12 education degree programs and common career paths
While teaching is the logical career outcome for graduates with a K-12 education degree, there are several different options within the field. However, they all begin by having a bachelor's degree and obtaining licensure from the state in which you want to teach.
While becoming a teacher, you'll find some colleges and universities offer these specialized majors for future educators:
- Health Teacher Education: Degree programs in physical education may be offered through a university's school of health sciences rather than its education department. The curriculum may cover kinesiology and wellness topics in addition to teacher education courses.
- Music Teacher Education: Often housed in colleges of music, these teacher education programs may combine performance classes with teaching instruction. Students may be required to participate in an ensemble as part of their degree program.
- Computer Teacher Education: Schools rely on computer specialists to teach technology skills to students as well as provide support services to other educators and staff members. Programs designed to train computer teachers may cover topics such as computers in education, design and drafting and technology systems.
- Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language: Some colleges and universities have programs specifically for those who want to teach students for whom English is a second language. Known as ESL, ESOL or TESL, these programs may be most often found as either minors or graduate degrees. Learn how to become an ESL teacher.
Financial aid and scholarships for K-12 education majors
Given the great value of qualified teachers, many states offer special financial assistance to those enrolled in K-12 education degree programs. These include grants and scholarships as well as loan forgiveness programs. The federal TEACH Grant is also available for those who agree to teach a high-need subject in a low-income area after they graduate. What's more, there are private scholarships and institutional financial aid available to future teachers.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Accessed October 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh
- Why Consider Becoming a Teacher? The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Accessed October 2017, http://www.unc.edu/uncbest/teacher.html
- Academics, Southern Oregon University, Accessed October 2017, http://www.sou.edu/academics/
- College of Education and Professional Development, Marshall University, Accessed October 2017, http://www.marshall.edu/coepd/
- Education, University of Montana - Western, Accessed October 2017, https://www.umwestern.edu/academics/education.html
- Discover SGU, Sinte Gleska University, Accessed October 2017, http://www.sintegleska.edu/discover-sgu.html
- The Teachers College, Emporia State University, Accessed October 2017, https://www.emporia.edu/teach/
- Education, Harding University, Accessed October 2017, https://www.harding.edu/academics/colleges-departments/education
- Education Programs, University of Maine at Farmington, Accessed October 2017, http://www.umf.maine.edu/umf-education-programs/
- College of Education, University of Missouri, Accessed October 2017, https://education.missouristate.edu/
- School of Education and Counseling, Wayne State College, Accessed October 2017, https://www.wsc.edu/education
- The Division of Education and Leadership, Western Oregon University, Accessed October 2017, http://www.wou.edu/teachered/
- TEACH Grants, Department of Education, Accessed October 2017, https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships/teach
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
- Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education, Grades K-12, Southeastern Louisiana University, Accessed March 2019, http://www.southeastern.edu/acad_research/degrees/healthphysed_bs.html
- Undergraduate Education - Music Education, Michigan State University, Accessed March 2019, https://reg.msu.edu/academicprograms/ProgramDetail.aspx?Program=7309
- Career and Technology Teacher Education, New York City College of Technology, Accessed March 2019, http://www.citytech.cuny.edu/teacher-education/course-listing.aspx
- Graduate Degrees in Teaching ESL, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Accessed March 2019, https://www.uab.edu/education/esl/
- Undergraduate Minor or Certificate in ESL/TESL, University of Minnesota, Accessed March 2019, https://www.cehd.umn.edu/ci/academics/SLE/TESL-minor.html