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Earn Your Associates in Education Online

An online associate degree in education may qualify you to teach preschool and can be the precursor to a bachelor's degree in education, which may allow you to teach at the elementary school level and beyond. If you wish to work in education and want a course of study that allows for flexibility in your schedule, an online associate degree in education may be a viable starting point for you. It is important to make sure that the degree program you select is accredited and can qualify you for a teacher's certification, if such a credential is required in your state.

Coursework for an Online Associate Degree in Education

An associate degree in education typically consists of a core set of classes in the fundamentals of teaching, as well as classes in key subjects such as math, English and science. Some community colleges have associate of arts in teaching (AAT) programs that specifically prepare students to transfer to four-year colleges for a bachelor's in education. Courses included in an associate degree in education may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Introduction to Psychology -- the fundamentals of human thought and behavior, as well as human emotions, cognitive development and learning.
  • Child Development -- the cognitive, emotional and physical development of children from infancy to early childhood; the interactions between a child's environment and his or her maturation.
  • Learning and Teaching Principles -- the key principles and methods of teaching young children effectively; and how to build productive child-teacher relationships and create a supportive learning environment for children individually and within a group.
  • Math for Elementary School -- basic math principles, including whole numbers, basic operations, fractions and decimals.
  • English Language and Composition -- college-level writing and composition, including forming, developing, organizing, and articulating written arguments; building college-level vocabulary; and improving grammar skills.
  • Developmental Reading and Writing -- the fundamentals of English writing, including basic grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure.
  • Multicultural Education -- how cultural differences impact students' social and academic experiences at school; the methods and principles for bringing students of different cultural backgrounds together into a cohesive classroom.

Teacher Certifications and Licenses

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most states have rigorous certification requirements for all teachers at public schools, from preschool up to high school. Preschool teachers at public schools typically need a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a related field and must also pass a certification or licensing exam.

A teacher who has received his or her teaching license may have to complete continuing education courses in order to maintain a license. Each state has its own educator licensing organization that outlines specific licensing requirements, so individuals interested in earning a teacher's license in their state of residence should check the relevant organization's website for specific guidelines and requirements.

Preschool teachers who participate in the federally funded Head Start program, which connects teachers to low-income children to help them build crucial academic skills, must hold at least an associate degree in early childhood education or a field that is relevant to education.

Depending on their state of residence, individuals who wish to work at a child care center do not necessarily need a bachelor's degree, but they do often need some postsecondary education. Such individuals may still need to be licensed by a nationally recognized organization, depending on their state's regulations. Examples of certifications for child care workers include the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification, provided by the Council for Professional Recognition, and the Child Care Professional (CCP) certification, provided by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation.

Salary and Employment Outlook for Teachers

The BLS reported that the annual mean salary for preschool teachers was $31,420 in 2013. Preschool teachers have a projected national employment growth of 17 percent for 2012-22.

Individuals who complete their associate degree in education, transfer to a four-year college, and earn their bachelor's degree in the same or a related field may qualify to become a kindergarten or elementary school teacher. In 2013, the average annual salaries for these occupations were as follows:

  • Kindergarten teachers: $52,840
  • Elementary school teachers: $56,320

Individuals looking for more information on associate degree in education programs and potential careers they can pursue with the degree can contact individual schools. A list of accredited early childhood associate degree programs can be found on the National Association for the Education of Young Children's website.

Sources:

Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252021.htm

Head Start, naeyc.org, National Association for the Education of Young Children, https://www.naeyc.org/policy/federal/headstart

How to Become a Teacher in California, Commission on Teacher Credentialing, http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/teach.html

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm

Preschool Teachers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm

Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252011.htm

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