Teaching schools, or the schools of education at a university, provide specialized degree programs focusing on conveying knowledge from one individual to another, en masse or individually. The teaching degrees these schools offer combine psychology, counseling, leadership and the practices of successful teachers throughout the years. The specializations possible for these teaching degrees include the following:
- Early childhood education -- focus on prekindergarten age
- Childhood or elementary education -- kindergarten to middle school age
- Secondary education -- also known as a single-subject focus
- Special needs education -- emphasis on teaching special needs students
- Physical education -- focus on teaching physical education courses
Teaching schools approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the accrediting body of teacher programs in the nation, foster innovation in teaching and have programs approved by the state the institution resides in. State approval prepares graduates from these teaching programs to take the state's licensing examinations, which all states require their public school teachers to pass, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012).
The curriculum for teaching degrees can vary by degree specialization. Studies for physical education can include first aid and safety, health and fitness, evaluation and management while classes for degrees in childhood education typically cover child development, psychology and communication as well as assessments of learning, literature and mathematics.
Many of these classes can be completed online, and NCATE approval is possible for online teaching schools. However, in order to be licensed, and to complete most NCATE approved teacher programs, prospective teachers need to complete the appropriate amount of field work at an approved institution, which does not allow for a purely online degree in education.
Which education degree do I need?
While teacher degree programs can be offered from the associate up to the doctoral level, degree specializations are not one-size-fits-all in the professional world. A high school diploma or an associate degree may qualify a candidate to be a preschool teacher, while kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and high school teachers typically need a bachelor's degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012). Some schools may require their teachers to have a master's in education in addition to a bachelor's in a specific subject. Master's programs offer studies in areas such as general education.
As for their major, kindergarten or elementary school teachers should have a bachelor's degree in education, the BLS notes (BLS.gov, 2012). However, most public high school teachers need a bachelor's degree with a major in the subject they are expected to teach (BLS.gov, 2012).Therefore, high school history teachers usually have a BA in history but also complete specialized training such as a teacher's education program or an associate degree or minor in education. Receiving only a BA in education without a secondary major, or advanced degree, in a specific subject could possibly prevent employment at the high school level.
Visit our how to become a teacher page for more information about the education requirements for teachers in specific subjects, and what degrees may be needed for specific teaching levels.
Is a degree in education worth it?
According to some, yes. High school teachers were ranked eighth for Best Social Services Jobs and 38th of the 100 Best Jobs by U.S. News & World Report in 2013, based on criteria such as job openings, advancement potential, professional fulfillment and financial considerations. The BLS projects employment opportunities for kindergarten and elementary school teachers to grow about as fast as average between 2010 and 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012).
In addition, the cost of earning an education degree can potentially be lowered through scholarships for teachers and prospective teachers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Scholarships include the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association $5,000 award for students enrolled in a STEM subject for the purpose of teaching at the middle or secondary school level. Recipients of the AFCEA scholarship also can receive a $1,000 grant for up to three years, each year that they teach a STEM subject. The grant is provided for teachers to acquire tools and equipment that can augment STEM education.
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