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Online Education Degrees

Online degrees in education help train individuals to teach students of their own. Through coursework and field-based experience, graduates can develop the skills necessary to lead classes and facilitate learning. Students may learn about different methods of teaching, strategies to motivate learners, and the instructional standards that they must meet in the classroom. Generally, these programs help prepare potential teachers for state certification or licensure, which is a requirement for teaching in a public school.

Online Degrees in Education

Often more flexible and convenient than brick-and-mortar programs, online degrees in education typically allow students to choose when and where they attend class and complete coursework. Curriculum tends to focus on models and theories of instruction, as well as assessment, classroom management, and designing and implementing lesson plans. Along with practical teaching skills, students usually explore the learning process itself through courses in cognitive development and/or psychology.

Most programs contain a student teaching component, where students gain hands-on experience in the field. Working with a cooperating teacher, students practice interacting with pupils and leading real classrooms. Requirements vary according to state, but generally, graduates must complete a certain minimum of verified instruction hours before they can apply for a teaching license.

Education Degree Specializations

Online colleges may offer teaching degrees in several different concentrations, depending on the demographic one wants to work with. Typical degree specializations include early childhood education, special education, elementary education, secondary education, adult education, and education administration or leadership.

  • Associate Degree in Education − This degree program can typically be completed in as little as two years of full-time study, sometimes less. Along with the fundamentals of teaching, programs usually cover general education requirements, such as math, English, and science. Graduates may find employment as preschool teachers, or apply their credits towards a bachelor's program in the field.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Education − A bachelor's program usually takes four years of full-time study to complete. Typically offered as a B.A., B.S., or B.Ed., this degree is the minimum requirement for teaching at the K-12 level. Students can expect to learn the tools necessary to deliver effective and engaging instruction in professional settings. Most programs include extensive student teaching sessions and lead to certification exams.
  • Master's Degree in Education − For experienced educators looking to advance their skills, or those with a bachelor's degree in another field who want to become teachers, a master's degree generally takes an additional two years to complete. Curriculum typically emphasizes learning theory and faculty administration, and can include field study as well. Along with core courses, students may be required to complete electives in a professional focus area, such as educational leadership, learning technology, or English language development.
  • Doctoral Degree in Education − Online doctoral programs and requirements vary according to each student's goals, experience, and study focus, taking anywhere from three to six years to complete. Many colleges offer the degree as a Ph.D., a research degree that's focused on exploring and advancing learning theory, or an Ed.D, a practitioner's degree, for those interested in curriculum development and collegiate level instruction. Both options typically culminate in a dissertation, or original contribution by the student to the field of education. Depending on their focus, graduates could pursue career opportunities as administrators or postsecondary teachers.

Related Careers in Education

With a degree in education, graduates can pursue a variety of instruction and administrative roles in schools, tutoring centers, or other learning programs. Public schools require teachers to hold proper state licensure or certification, but many private schools may not. Some potential career opportunities could include:

  • Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher − Primary school instructors teach young children educational foundations, such as basic math and reading skills. Along with preparing students for the next level of schooling, these teachers help kids develop proper behavior, communicating academic and social progress to the child's parents. These positions in early childhood education typically require a bachelor's degree.
  • Special Education Teacher − A bachelor's degree in special education prepares one to mentor or teach children and adults with learning, mental, behavior, or physical disabilities. These instructors help special needs students acquire basic academic comprehension, as well as develop independent living skills.
  • Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal − Principals oversee all operations at a school, managing staff as well as budgets and finances. As the public face of their institution, these professionals work with community members, superintendents, and legislators to improve policy and ensure their facilities meet statewide and national standards. Most schools require principals to hold a master's degree in education administration or leadership.
  • Adult Literacy or GED Teacher With a bachelor's degree in adult education, graduates can pursue a position working with adults who lack certain basic education skills. Typically, these instructors help older students improve reading and writing proficiencies, attain their GED or high diploma, or even learn English as a second language.

Education Industry Trends

Thanks to the ever-growing student population, and stricter education standards, the demand for qualified teaching professionals is expected to remain on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, 2012) projects that employment of the following occupations should increase over the next decade:

  • Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers − 17 percent job growth nationwide between 2010 and 2020
  • Special Education Teachers − 17 percent job growth nationwide between 2010 and 2020
  • Adult Literacy and GED Teachers − 15 percent job growth nationwide between 2010 and 2020

Sources:
International Association for K-12 Online Learning, http://www.inacol.org/
Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Projections of Education Statistics to 2021, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2013008

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