Throughout our lives, we turn to teachers to build our foundation for understanding, communicating, and interacting with the world around us. Good teachers allow students to lead great lives through their positive impact. Whether it’s in the early years of elementary school, or later in life during high school or even postsecondary education, we’ve all had at least one teacher who has made a huge difference in our lives. If you’ve dreamed of making that same difference for other students, but you aren’t sure what you should focus on, then you might want to consider a degree in general education. General education programs allow professionals to harness their patience and creativity around a generalized understanding of a broad collection of core subjects. It’s a pathway that allows the opportunity to work in setting that teach children about multiple topics, like in elementary schools, with room to narrow into particular specializations depending on each professional’s goals and interests.
THE CAREER PATH
General education can offer a flexible and rewarding path for developing professionals who aren’t dedicated to one particular subject—such as math—or one particular age group—such as middle school. Programs in general education can allow professionals to explore a range of topics, challenges, and strengths that come along with education before deciding on a path for their career. Many general education programs allow professionals to customize their coursework to suit their professional interests and needs, focusing courses on areas like history or literacy. If you already hold a bachelor's degree, and are interested in changing careers to become a teacher, many online education degree programs can help you gain teacher certification. Programs will prepare professionals for the skills that are needed for daily tasks like:
- Creating lesson plans according to the developmental and learning needs of students
- Assessing students for strengths, challenges, and opportunities
- Grading student assignments, measure and record progress
- Communicating with parents, staff, and other teachers about the progress and needs of students
Depending on the amount of education that a professional has, they can often apply for positions as:
- Elementary Teachers – Working with younger children, usually up to the fifth grade, preparing them with the foundation for future schooling and life skills.
- Middle School Teachers – Working with adolescents, building on the skills of elementary school to prepare for high school and challenges of growing up.
- Teaching Assistants – Professionals that work alongside of a teacher to assist in offering additional supervision, guidance, and attention to students in a particular classroom. Positions as teaching assistants can make a great entry-point for aspiring teachers who want to gain work experience alongside of an education.
The Department of Labor describes education as a field that will continue to be in steady demand of qualified professionals in the coming decade, although the competitiveness for positions can fluctuate with government funding between states. The career is rewarding in many ways beyond just the reliability, it offers an average salary of more than $55,000 each year in addition to the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of students.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
General education is a great entryway for beginning professionals or undecided professionals who are sure about expanding their skills and career. The most important consideration for professionals entering the field of education is whether or not they have the patience and relational skills to work with a variety of subjects and challenges faced by students. If that sounds like you, then a degree in general education may allow you to strengthen your resourcefulness and knowledge that can be further expanded as you develop your career. General education may offer the flexibility and opportunity that you need to succeed as an educator.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
If you are interested in education as a career, you will have to decide on a specific degree major. Earning an associate's will enable you to work in some education jobs, but it will not qualify you to work as a licensed teacher but careers as a teaching assistant can begin with an associate’s degree. To work as a licensed or certified teacher, you'll need a bachelor's degree, along with supervised classroom experience. Many education-focused bachelor's degree majors are available. These range from special education to school counseling. You can also earn a master's or doctorate degree online. These advanced degrees usually focus on a very specific field of study.
Some online programs are teaching-oriented while others are designed for administrators. Consider your career goals. If your goal is to instruct in a public or private K-12 school, focus on programs that have been designed to meet teacher certification or licensing in your home state.
If you're interested in pursuing administration or leadership roles in a school setting, consider earning a bachelor's degree first, then pursuing a master's or doctorate in educational leadership or educational administration. You could also specialize in curriculum and instruction at any level, if teaching isn't your passion. Likewise, technology, library science, coaching and counseling are all great degree options for a career in education. Another possible major is curriculum development.
Regardless of your degree selection, if you want to teach or work inside the public school system make sure the online degree program you choose is accredited by the appropriate agency. Optional programmatic accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) can add extra credibility to your degree and help ensure future employment.
In general, all general education programs will prepare professionals for communicating with students, understanding the development of students at varying ages, and the subjects they will need to cover in their classrooms. The coursework that’s included in general education programs is often adjusted to accommodate specializations in subjects such as math or elementary education, but they generally cover topics such as:
- Principles of Education
- Psychology in Teaching
- Social and Behavioral Science of Human Development
- Classroom Management
- Multicultural Education
Make sure to choose a program that will set you up to meet your education and professional goals and give you the skills you need to succeed. Online general education degree programs vary in price. Expect to pay between $30,000 and $50,000 for an online bachelor's and between $15,000 and $30,000 for a master program.