October 18, 2016

Degrees Needed for Education Careers

Different teaching careers require different degrees. For example, it is possible to work in the education field without a bachelor’s degree. Teacher aides are required only to have high school diplomas and some college experience; an associate’s degree may be adequate for teacher’s aides and those with jobs outside of the classroom. Teacher aides also need to have the appropriate certification for the states they work in. Most elementary and secondary school teachers, on the other hand, are expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree is necessary for some secondary positions because the teachers focus on specific subject matter. Teachers in every grade need to make sure they are certified to teach in their local areas. Education specialists, such as reading specialists, will need additional certification.

Education requirements at the college level are stricter. It is almost impossible to teach without at least a master’s degree. Most college professors have PhDs. Undergraduate courses, however, are usually taught by teaching assistants who are working toward their doctorates and simply need to finish their dissertations. University and college educators are required to have more education, but they do not have to hold any state-mandated teaching certifications.

Associate’s Degree

Some education careers, such as student aides, do not require anything beyond an associate’s degree and proper certification. Obtaining an associate’s degree is similar to reaching other degrees; it simply takes less time because the programs are shorter and more specialized. In order to enter a program that offers an associate’s degree, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED.

Associate’s degrees usually require students to earn 60 credits. Credits are also known as units and are earned when students pass their courses. Coursework typically includes a broad range of subjects as well as different specific areas of study.

  • For example, a student will take math and English along with classes specific to their declared program, such as graphic design. Students can earn either an Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree. People attempting to earn an associate’s degree usually do so in about two years.

The shorter timeframe is one advantage that associate’s degrees offer over bachelor’s degrees. People with associate’s degrees are able to enter the workforce faster but have a stepping-stone to further education. With many of the basic classes already completed, people with associate’s degrees may go on to earn their bachelor’s degrees later.

Bachelor’s Degree

Most education careers at the elementary school level require teachers to have bachelor’s degrees. Bachelor’s degrees provide more job and advancement opportunities than associate’s degrees do. Earning a bachelor’s degree takes longer than earning an associate’s degree. Traditionally, bachelor’s degrees require four years of classes, but more and more students are taking five or more years to complete their degrees. The number of credit hours needed to graduate depends on the school and the chosen area of study. Most bachelor’s degrees require roughly 126 credit hours.

Each student can choose to earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS). The student’s area of concentration or major will determine if he or she receives a BA or BS. Secondary school teachers may teach the subjects that they majored in to their students. Many universities have schools of education that also teach subjects relating to child psychology and developmental theory. Future teachers can choose to major or minor in education.

Bachelor’s degrees allow teachers to work while they pursue their master’s degrees. Some secondary schools require their instructors to have master’s degrees in the subjects they teach, but most allow teachers to work as long as they still pursue this qualification.

Master’s Degree

Many teaching careers require or can be enhanced by master’s degrees. A master’s degree typically takes two years to earn, after acquiring a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree program operates like an undergraduate program, but the classes are called seminars and include more discussion than instruction. A master’s degree may only take two years to complete, but quite a bit of work is required to pass. Everyone who attempts to finish a master’s program must do more than finish the classes. Candidates must either write and defend a master’s thesis or pass comprehensive exams.

Like other degrees, master’s degrees are categorized into science and art.

  • A Master of Arts (MA) includes the humanities, such as English or history.
  • A master’s degree in education is a Master of Science (MS) degree because of the psychological aspects of the program.
  • Master’s degrees are offered for special education, and many schools encourage teachers to earn master’s degrees in their given subjects.

Teachers who take the time to obtain a master’s degree usually receive higher salaries as a result. Master’s degrees may eventually lead to completing a doctorate since most of the basic graduate courses are already finished with the master’s degree coursework.


Teaching jobs that demand a doctorate typically are college level positions, although not everyone who has a doctorate teaches. Doctorates are available in most fields of study. Students may work toward a doctorate without a master’s degree, but a bachelor’s degree is required. Some schools offer doctoral candidates the opportunity to earn their master’s degrees while in the doctoral program.

  • A doctorate may take seven years to obtain when candidates enter with only undergraduate coursework.
  • PhD programs demand graduate-level coursework, usually 48 credit hours.
  • Candidates are also required to take comprehensive exams that test the students’ understanding of the subject matter.
  • These exams may be written, oral, or a combination. Candidates must pass their comprehensives in order to move on in the program.

After passing the necessary comprehensives, each candidate is required to research and write a dissertation. The dissertation topic has to be approved by an advisor. During this time period, many graduate students work as teaching assistants and gain experience teaching undergraduate classes. The final step to earning a doctorate is completing and defending the dissertation to a chosen committee of experts. A well-defended dissertation means the candidate will be recommended for the degree and awarded it at graduation.

Continuing Education in Education Careers

Continuing education is mandated in most education careers. Educators at every level should want and are able to improve their abilities and marketability, and there are different ways for teachers to develop professionally. It is possible to choose to attend seminars or workshops or to continue their education online. The educational requirements for educators are continually increasing. Earning certifications or endorsements will provide an edge during a job search and can help established teachers receive more money in their paychecks.

  • Most continuing education courses are offered through colleges and universities as graduate-level classes. Educators have the option of attending many of these classes online. A typical course counts for two semester hours and is priced accordingly. Some learning institutions, however, reimburse the cost of continuing education classes. Check with the school to find out its policy on tuition reimbursement.

Before signing up for any type of continuing education for educators, get a list of courses that the state and school district accept for salary advancements and state certificates. Continuing education courses allow teachers to specialize in specific areas, such as classroom management, administration, and special education. Most education professionals have busy schedules, and so continuing education classes are short. They do not take an entire semester to complete. In fact, many courses can be finished within three weeks.

  • Teacher seminars and workshops are usually conducted onsite. The length of time for each one varies, but most last only a few days. Seminars and workshops help teachers improve their skills, but they are not always applicable to certifications or endorsements. Potential students should determine whether or not a seminar is accepted by a credit agency before attending one.
  • Different teaching associations hold conferences with workshops for their active members. These meetings allow educators in specific fields to discuss trends and effective teaching methods. For example, the National Association of Special Education Teachers meets regularly to develop members’ skills. It offers a variety of seminars and teleconferences that speak to the needs of special educators while satisfying their continuing education requirements.
  • Educators never stop learning. The continuing education classes that teachers take provide them with valuable insights that allow them to serve their students better. Some of the courses, such as seminars, provide teachers opportunities to learn from their peers, while others let them work independently. No matter the setting, continuing education is important to keep educators informed, certified, and be able to increase their pay rates.