What Courses Do You Take in a Bachelor’s in Education Program?

Future teachers may want to major in education in college. Find out what courses you might take in a bachelor's in education program.
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Ellery Weil, Ph.D., is a historian and education writer. When she's not writing about education for BestColleges, she specializes in turn-of-the-twentieth-century women's history. Her writing has been published on three continents. She holds degrees ...
Updated on April 6, 2023
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  • Education is one of the most popular college majors in the U.S.
  • Education majors can take many different courses, including those outside of their department.
  • The grade or subject you want to teach may influence your course choices

Did you know that first lady Jill Biden holds two postgraduate degrees in education?

If you're an aspiring teacher looking to start college or declare a major, you may have already considered pursuing a bachelor's degree in education. With teachers always in high demand, education degree-holders have opportunities for work across the nation.

It's no surprise, then, that education is one of the 10 most popular majors in the U.S. But what does majoring in education actually involve? What kinds of classes will you take for your education degree? Take a closer look at a few common courses students take during an education bachelor's program.

Educational Psychology and Human Development

One of the most commonly required courses for education majors, Educational Psychology and Human Development (sometimes called Educational Psychology or Learning and Cognition) examines how the brain interacts with schooling.

Depending on the program, and whether your focus is on elementary or secondary education, you'll learn about early childhood developmental psychology and how it interacts with education. Alternatively, you may dive into adolescent psychology and its impact on a classroom setting.

This course may be required or available as an elective. Many future teachers find it helpful, and it's offered by schools like the University of New Mexico in the Southwest to Barnard College in New York City.

Comparative Education

From school to school, state to state, and country to country, education can look very different. Comparative Education explores various approaches to teaching and learning and examines how they stack up against each other.

This course covers educational systems in different countries, as well as different educational methods, like the Montessori system or teaching language by immersion instead of in a traditional classroom.

Comparative Education may go by various names, including Education and Social Transformation at UCLA, Introduction to Global Education at NYU, and Education Outside the U.S. for a course that focuses on an international perspective.

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Educational Foundations in a Multicultural Society/Race and Ethnicity in Education

As a teacher, you'll interact with students from many backgrounds, some of whom may have experienced racism and other challenges before they even started school. Your college is aware of this, which is why many bachelor's programs in education require at least one course on teaching and learning in a multicultural and multiracial society.

Schools like NYU and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, generally require some version of a multicultural or race and ethnicity educational course. This applies to both undergraduate and postgraduate programs in education.

Creating School and Classroom Culture

For students focusing on elementary education, creating a welcoming and supportive classroom environment is important. At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the bachelor's program in elementary education has a class specifically devoted to creating a supportive and healthy culture in your classroom. Other colleges like Swarthmore offer classes similar to educational theory.

In such a class, you'll learn how to manage student behavior and discipline in a way that is sensitive and effective. You'll also explore the developmental and psychological reasons supporting healthy classroom techniques.

Education and Public Policy

Education in the U.S., particularly within the public school system, is heavily impacted by government policy. For this reason, many colleges offer education majors a chance to study the relationship between public policy and the education system.

From Stanford on the West Coast to Columbia on the East, many schools offer courses on public policy in education, either as a requirement or an elective. These courses may be particularly useful if you want to teach in the public school system.

Philosophy of Education

Becoming a good teacher can mean developing your own sense of what education means to you and your students. Philosophy of Education can help with that. The course is offered either as a requirement or as an elective at bachelor's degree programs in education across the country.

In a philosophy of education course, sometimes called Pedagogy, like at Columbia, or Theory and Practice at Cornell, you will learn the theory that underlies teaching and learning in different subjects and levels. This can help shape lesson plans and inform how you interact with your students.

History of the University

The university as an institution is one of the oldest and most celebrated places of education and learning. While you may not be planning to teach at the university level, studying the history of higher education can be a valuable part of your learning.

History of the University explores educational institutions from around the world, including schools over 1,000 years old. This course also explores how universities developed into the modern institutions we know today.

Many schools offer History of the University classes as part of their education program, including schools for education like NYU and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Gender, Sexuality, and Schooling

While many schools offer or require courses on the impact of race in teaching and learning, Barnard College offers an elective course on gender and sexuality. Wesleyan University also offers a similar course.

This course discusses the history of gender and sexuality to help contextualize contemporary understandings of identity, which cannot always translate neatly into our understanding of the history of education. The course also discusses how to create a welcoming learning environment that supports the education of students of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

Bottom Line

There are several courses you can take in your bachelor's in education program, from required general courses to highly specialized electives. If you want to teach a specific subject, like a foreign language or natural science, you may also need to take focus courses. These combined courses will help prepare you for your first day in class — as a teacher, not a student.

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