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Types of Education Degrees – Associate’s to Doctoral

different types of education degrees leads to career opportunities

The different types of Education degrees are some of the most important and desired in the country. Students can acquire these degrees and guarantee themselves steady careers throughout their lives. However, there are many education degrees to pursue as different degrees prepare you for different career paths.

This guide breaks down degrees in education in detail. By the end, you will know what education degree you should pursue and what careers you might enjoy.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

— Nelson Mandela

Types of Education Degrees

There are many different types of education degrees. Certain degrees may be ideal for starter careers or future career opportunities. Students wishing to pursue careers in education should note that bachelor’s and master’s-level degree programs are the most important. These qualify students for most education career-track opportunities.

Types of Education Degrees: Associate Degrees

Associate degrees are the basic degree requirements to enter the educational field overall. Students typically study for two years to receive this degree. However, note that the majority of associate-level degrees are not enough to qualify one to become a teacher.

Instead, associate degrees in education, teaching, or related topics are more often stepping stones. Students may opt for this degree on their way to a bachelor’s degree. Generally, associate degrees will only be in education or teaching. They won’t have a different title or focus (since there aren’t enough credits to create a concentration).

Associate degrees in education or teaching are good choices for future preschool teachers. They can also be solid degree choices for students who aren’t sure what degree they want to pursue in the long term. An education associate’s degree is a versatile program that includes credits in many different fields.

Therefore, after acquiring an associate degree, you can transfer to a bachelor’s program in other fields if you discover that education is not your goal anymore.

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Types of Education Degrees: Bachelor’s Degrees

Bachelor’s degrees are where education training truly becomes important. Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science or the Arts in Education. Either degree will be appropriate for acquiring a teaching job.

Even more importantly, bachelor’s degrees in education often include concentration opportunities. Read below for more information on these concentrations.

Bachelor’s degrees are the standard certificates necessary to become a teacher in all states. These degrees are either Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Art (BA). A student can get a BS or BA degree in:

  • Education
  • Teaching
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Library Science
  • Special Education
  • Educational Administration
  • Elementary Education

The name of the degree indicates the focus or primary coursework material. For example, a BS in Education will train students to become teachers or similar professionals. It doesn’t focus on one form of education, such as elementary education or high school teaching. Instead, it’s a generalized degree suitable for teachers at various levels.

Students who know what level they wish to teach should pursue a degree for that level. For example, if a student knows they want to become a high school teacher, a BS or BA in High School Education is ideal.

Different bachelor’s degrees will have other curriculum focuses. These make those degrees better or worse matches for different educational career opportunities.

Types of Education Degrees: Master’s Degrees

Master’s degrees, also called graduate degrees, are advanced diplomas that mark candidates as good potential teachers. Programs are either Master of Science (MS) or Master of Art (MA) degrees. A student can get an MS or MA degree in:

  • Education
  • Educational Administration
  • Elementary Education
  • Educational Psychology
  • Higher Education Administration
  • Educational Technology
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Special Education

Most master’s teaching degrees are in science, though some are in the arts. Regardless, master’s degrees include more significant opportunities for curriculum concentration. They also prepare future educators for a more comprehensive array of work.

For example, future education administrators like principals usually need master’s degrees instead of bachelor’s. Graduate degrees teach topics such as how to:

  • Structure lesson plans
  • Balance school budgets
  • Organize school administrative resources

Some teachers begin with a bachelor’s degree in their chosen subject and work as teachers for some years. They gradually earn a graduate degree and become administrators, like principals or superintendents, over their careers.

Master’s degrees are not strictly necessary to become a teacher. However, they lend a significant advantage when applicants try to stand out in the crowded teaching field.
Furthermore, master’s degrees are sometimes required to be a professor at a college. Certain community colleges may only require bachelor’s degrees from their teachers. However, most four-year universities do require master’s degrees from their teachers, if not a higher degree.

Types of Education Degrees: Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral degrees are the highest and rarest type of degree in education. The two primary types are Educational Doctorates and Doctor of Philosophy in Education degrees. They’re not necessary to become a teacher at an elementary or high school. However, they may be required to become a professor at a college. Those seeking administrative or research positions typically pursue a doctoral degree.

For example, superintendents for big school districts usually have doctoral degrees. These degrees focus more on high-level educational concepts, such as cognition, learning, and instruction strategies. Their curricula may also focus on learning leadership, how education intersects with culture and society, and more.

Generally, students only need to pursue doctoral degrees if they wish to become school administrators. These degrees are not necessary for most other positions in the educational field.

Program Concentrations or Specializations

Many education degree programs offer students the opportunity to pursue concentrations or specializations. Concentrations let students focus their studies within the broader education field. Some concentrations include:

These concentrations allow students to tailor general education degrees to fit their future career desires. For example, a student can apply to a university that offers a generalized Bachelor of Science in Education. However, they know they want to teach special education students in the future.

Therefore, they take the above degree program with a concentration in Special Education. When they graduate, they are qualified to teach special ed classes in their state (and usually throughout the country).

In these ways, program concentrations help students meet their career goals, even if the program itself has a broader focus.

Education Program Curricula

Education program curricula vary depending on the level of the degree program itself. However, practically all education degrees begin with a core set of general education classes. These ensure that future teachers and educators have a strong knowledge background across several disciplines.

In the second half of a degree program, education majors may complete classes on the following subjects:

  • Developmental Psychology
  • Foundations of Education
  • Principles of Communication
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Curriculum and Teaching
  • Inclusion and English Learners
  • Educational Research Methodology
  • Cognition and Learning
  • Curriculum Development and Assessment
  • Differentiating Instruction in Inclusive Classrooms
  • School Change
  • Immigration and Curriculum

Education degree programs prepare future teachers and administrators to educate evolving student bodies. The educational needs of today’s students are different from those of several years ago. Therefore, the curricula for education programs are constantly changing.

Skills You Need to Get a Degree in Education

Education degrees are achievable for many students. They do not require as much focus on complicated mathematics or scientific concepts as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) degrees. However, these majors do require a certain set of skills for students to thrive.

Generally, good teachers or education majors need the following skills:

  • Strong communication skills, especially when speaking with children or teenagers
  • Good cooperation skills. Many teachers must cooperate, both with parents and other educators.
  • Strong time management skills. Teachers frequently have to work 10 to 12-hour days during the school year. Their jobs require them to bring a lot of work home, so time management is essential.
  • Strong organizational skills for the same reasons described above
  • Empathy and people skills. The best teachers can connect with their students and make them feel appreciated and safe in classroom environments.
  • Confidence. Education majors will encounter combative parents or students from time to time. They need to have the confidence to weather these challenges and maintain their courses.
  • Strong understanding of core subject materials. For example, a math teacher needs to know their math subjects inside and out. That way, they can answer questions their students pose to them. The same is true for science teachers, English teachers, and teachers of specific subjects.

Furthermore, the educational industry is heavily regulated and supervised by federal and state governments. Therefore, teachers need to know how to navigate the politics inherent in the education system.

Politics affect what teachers may teach, when subjects can occur in the curriculum, and what topics teachers can broach with their students. Therefore, strong communication and political analysis skills complement most education majors. These skills are essential for future school superintendents, curricula developers, and other administrators.

Education Degree Candidates

Education programs appeal to specific students. The people most suited to education or teaching programs:

  • Love to learn about learning. They enjoy discovering the secrets about how the educational process works and why certain teaching techniques are successful.
  • Love working with children
  • Enjoy contributing to society in a positive, tangible way
  • Don’t mind long hours or lots of responsibilities. For example, many educators also coach sports teams, contribute to extracurricular activities, and so on.

Teachers specifically must enjoy working with children and teenagers. Many teachers become second parents to many of their students during the school year. They spend the majority of their days around young people and other educators. Therefore, you should only consider teaching as a career if you like spreading knowledge to children and spending most of your time around them.

As a bonus, many educational workers enjoy long breaks, especially during the holidays or summer. However, note that some teachers and other educational professionals do still have to work during these breaks.

Careers for Different Types of Education Degree Graduates

Those who hold degrees in education have a lot of career opportunities.

Naturally, most education professionals find employment with either a state or federal government. That’s because school districts are run by state governments, and those standards are in turn affected by federal mandates.

However, some education majors can find employment in the private sector. Private schools often offer more flexible career opportunities and potentially higher pay. But this varies heavily by state and by the institution.

On the plus side, getting a job as a teacher is relatively straightforward. The government actively recruits teachers all the time. However, that doesn’t mean a new education graduate will get the job they desire.

Many of the schools that need teachers the most are also those least desirable to work at. They may have difficult student demographics or crowded classrooms. Generally, education majors can land more comfortable teaching positions at districts they desire as they acquire seniority and experience.

Elementary & Middle School Teachers

Many education majors become elementary or middle school teachers. Elementary school teachers may teach kindergarten exclusively or teach grades one through five. The exact definition of an elementary school teacher depends on the state and school district. For example, some middle school teachers teach grades 6 through 8. Others may teach grades seven and eight only. Therefore, elementary teachers in this district would also need to teach grade 6 students.

Of course, it’s important to note that elementary teachers don’t need degrees in education. In fact, many elementary teachers can acquire these positions with bachelor’s degrees in subjects like math or English. However, teaching or education degrees do accelerate one to the head of an application pile. They can help future teachers get jobs if a local school district is quite competitive.

High School Teachers

High school teachers typically only teach a few subjects. In contrast, elementary school teachers often teach most core subjects to their students.

High school teachers may teach math exclusively. Alternatively, they may teach related subjects, such as math and physics or English and US history. It depends heavily on the school district, seniority, and classroom needs.

In addition, high school teachers typically must participate in extracurricular activities. They may also be required to lead sports teams or help with extracurricular activities for the first few years.

As with elementary school teachers, high school teachers don’t necessarily need teaching degrees. Bachelor’s or master’s degrees in science, English, or another core subject are often enough to qualify one for a teaching position. That said, specific teaching or education degrees do make applicants more competitive for open positions.

College Professors

Some education majors, especially those with master’s degrees, may become college professors. These postsecondary educators typically teach one or two subjects at most. Depending on their seniority, they may teach several classes or only one class per day. Professors may teach in-person, hybrid, or online courses or a combination of different types.

College professors enjoy excellent career stability, especially once they get tenure. Many tenured professors only teach a few classes and spend most of their time researching. Many college professors also get doctoral degrees either in education or, more commonly, a specific subject they’re interested in.

College professors enjoy greater public respect and social admiration compared to other teachers. Note that college professors may not make much money early in their careers and may be required to teach summer school.

For all of the above teaching jobs, a few fundamental principles hold:

  • Teachers start with low salaries, but they earn more money as they stick with it.
  • Most professors can eventually acquire tenure after seven or so years of working at the same college or university. Tenure makes it almost impossible for a teacher to lose their job.
  • Most teachers gain greater classroom flexibility and schedule wiggle room as they acquire experience and seniority.

In essence, teaching jobs become better the longer teachers stick with them.

Other Education Professionals

In addition to teaching careers, education majors can pursue other professions in this industry, the type of education degree influences the type of career one can have. The most common occupations are school administrators, like principals or superintendents.

Principals oversee a single school and handle a lot of the day-to-day administrative work required for their school. They may oversee the hiring of new teachers, the school budget, and upcoming calendar events.

Superintendents, in contrast, oversee and administrate several schools within the same district. They may report directly to their state’s Department of Education or educational administrator. Superintendents, like principals, ensure that schools meet specific academic or student performance benchmarks.

These responsibilities are essential because those benchmark results impact how much money each school or district gets every year. Of course, those with a master’s or doctoral degree in education can also eventually work for their state’s Department of Education.

Therefore, students interested in education degrees should keep in mind they don’t have to be teachers. They can still work in the educational field as curricula developers, politicians, and administrators. Most of these advanced positions do require some time in the industry in addition to higher degrees, however.

A Note on Licensure Requirements

Furthermore, all teaching jobs (with the potential exception of some private school teaching jobs) require state licensure. Every state has different licensure requirements. However, those requirements are usually:

  • Pass a specific teaching exam
  • Have a degree from an accredited university in education or the subject one wishes to teach
  • Complete continuing education credits every couple of years

State licensure is needed to acquire employment at a public school, like high school and most universities. If a teacher wishes to switch states, they’ll need to get licensure for that state if they want to keep teaching.

Alternative Careers for Education Majors

Aside from working in the education industry, different types of education degrees can lead to alternative careers. For example, many education majors get into jobs in the sectors of:

  • Law
  • Business
  • Administration
  • Politics

A bachelor’s or master’s degree is often enough to get one’s foot in the door for these industries. Most education majors do enter the education industry to one extent or another.

Current Job Outlook for Education Majors

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers enjoy good career prospects. For example, high school teaching positions should grow by 8% over the next ten years. Elementary school teaching positions can increase by about the same rate over the same timeframe.

Because every state needs new educators, these positions will never go away. Furthermore, the US population is still increasing. That means more children who need qualified educators to teach them.

Salaries, however, can vary from position to position. Pay may be affected by seniority, state of residence, and teaching position. For instance, high school teachers generally make more money than elementary school teachers. Here are some average salaries for careers in education according to the BLS:

  • Kindergarten and elementary teachers make about $61,350 per year
  • Middle school teachers make about $61,320 per year
  • High school teachers make about $61,820 per year
  • Postsecondary teachers like professors make about $79,640 per year
  • Principals for elementary, middle, and high schools make approximately $98,420 per year
  • Education administrators make roughly $102,000 per year on average

Types of Education Degrees in Conclusion

Ultimately, various types of education degrees are achievable, meaningful, and great ideas for steady career seekers. With a degree in education, you’ll be well equipped to have a stable career throughout your life. You’ll also have many options for advancement (both professionally and financially).

Even better, many of the best degrees in education are available via online programs. is host to catalogs of top online schools that can help you find the best online education degree for your needs. Check it out today!

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