Requirements for a Career in Education

Hoping to get a job in education? Check out our guide to learn more about your career choices and education requirements.

portrait of Mikeie Reiland
by Mikeie Reiland

Published October 14, 2022

Edited by Margaret Weinhold
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Requirements for a Career in Education
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Did you know that many students choose to pursue a degree in education? Education is a popular major for a good reason.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2021, education, training, and library occupations paid a median annual wage of $57,220.

Looking to begin your career in education? Well, there are many education degrees you can pursue to do so. Read on to learn more about the requirements for careers in education.

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Ready to start your journey?

What Are Common Education Careers?

There are many different career paths in education that you can take.

Perhaps the most common path is becoming a classroom teacher. Many people aspire to careers as elementary, middle, or high school teachers. But after several years in the classroom, you can also advance into administration, serving as an instructional coordinator, coach, or school principal.

Education professionals can also work in K-12 schools in nonclassroom environments. Many schools hire counselors to help students apply to college and deal with social and emotional challenges. Some schools also hire social workers to perform similar tasks and provide similar support.

You can also find work in colleges and universities. There, you can conduct your own research and teach courses. You can also handle student affairs and other administrative functions as a dean or provost.

Which Degree Should You Get to Work in Education?

You can pursue various careers in education — it all depends on your degree and aspirations. And each degree offers different opportunities.

Associate Degree

An associate degree in education can provide the first steps and the foundation for students aspiring to a career in the field.

Like most associate degrees, an associate in education program requires students to complete about 60 credits of coursework. Learners can graduate in about two years of full-time study.

Most associate in education programs blend general education coursework with major-focused, classroom-based courses.

Plus, graduates can use their general education credits to transfer to a four-year school and pursue a bachelor's degree in education. Or, they can enter the workforce and pursue roles like preschool teacher, childcare center director, or paraprofessional.

According to NCES, in 2020-2021, one year of tuition at two-year public colleges cost an average of $3,501.

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in education can prepare you for more career options than an associate degree in the field.

Most bachelor's in education programs require students to complete around 120 credits. Degree-seekers can graduate in about four years — or eight semesters — of full-time study.

The career options that bachelor's degree-holders in education can pursue depend on their major. Possible jobs include elementary, middle, or high school teachers.

According to NCES, in 2020-2021, the average cost of one year of tuition and fees at a four-year school was $19,020. So students can expect to spend about $80,000 on tuition for a typical bachelor's degree in education.

Master's Degree

A master's degree in education opens the door to high-level supervisory positions with more responsibility. Plus, these positions often come with a salary increase.

Possible careers for master's degree-holders in education include elementary, middle, or high school teachers. Teachers who work in public schools are often paid based on salary schedules, which automatically award higher salaries to advanced degree-holders.

Graduates with master's degrees can also pursue high-level education positions as instructional coordinators or curriculum designers.

Some school districts hire candidates for assistant principal and principal positions who hold master's degrees. But others prefer candidates with doctoral degrees.

Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree in education (Ed.D.) is the highest-level degree in the field. Doctoral degree-holders qualify for the highest-ranking positions with the most responsibility and the highest salaries.

Doctoral programs vary widely in terms of credit requirements and completion times. Some programs require students to write a dissertation. Others require a capstone project or seminar instead.

Tuition rates for Ed.D. programs vary widely. But doctoral students can sometimes receive tuition waivers and cost-of-living stipends if they enroll in Ph.D. programs and teach undergraduate courses or perform research.

Possible careers for doctoral degree-holders in education include professor, principal, and postsecondary education administrator.

Required Exams and Certifications

All states require public school teachers to earn a state-issued teaching license before they can work in K-12 classrooms.

To earn this license in most states, candidates must complete an approved educator preparation program, which is usually a bachelor's or master's degree. They must also pass a standardized test.

The most common standardized test for prospective teachers is the PRAXIS. Many states require future educators to pass both a general knowledge PRAXIS and a PRAXIS in the specific content area they plan to teach.

Tests vary but usually consist of multiple-choice questions and a written section. You must register for the PRAXIS several months in advance and pay a fee.

Internships and Student Teaching

Most state-approved educator preparation programs include a practicum experience and student teaching. These program features prepare future educators to succeed in the classroom by pairing them with an experienced, practicing teacher.

Student teachers assist the licensed teacher in the classroom, often eventually getting to plan and lead some of their own lessons.

Student teaching requirements vary by program and by state. But most states require a certain number of student teaching hours for licensure.

Check your state board of education's specific student teaching requirements and list of approved educator preparation programs to know what requirements you must meet.

What to Include in Your Education Resume

Education resumes aren't so different from other resumes. But when you write your resume, make sure to highlight a few specific elements.

Make sure to include all relevant education experience, including previous jobs in schools and teaching settings. You can also include any volunteer experience in relevant settings.

You should include your own education in your resume, too. This is especially helpful if you attended an approved educator preparation program, such as a bachelor's or master's in education program at an accredited school. Mentioning your education lets potential employers know you're qualified.

You can also include awards you have received and professional certifications you've completed.

Pro tip: If you can speak another language — include that too! It adds value to both you and the school.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Career in Education

How long does it take to become a teacher?

Since most bachelor's degrees take four years of full-time study to complete, it usually takes 4-5 years to become a teacher.

Some bachelor's programs in education — and most master's programs in education — prepare you to meet licensure requirements and take you through the licensure process.

Keep in mind that no degree can guarantee you a job, and many school districts may not be hiring. You may need to start as a substitute teacher or teaching assistant before running your own classroom.

What is the highest-paying job in education?

The highest-paying job in education goes to school principals. According to the BLS, as of May 2021, elementary, middle, and high school principals earned a median annual salary of $98,420. And the top 10% of earners in the field made more than $153,520 annually.

Another career that earns a high salary? Postsecondary education administrators. As of May 2021, the BLS reports that these professionals made a median annual wage of $96,910. Plus, the top 10% of earners in the field made more than $190,770 annually.

Is education a good career?

The value of any career is subjective and depends on your goals, circumstances, and characteristics. But for most educators, education is a good career choice.

The field provides a relatively high median annual wage, a high level of demand and stability, and a stable projected growth rate.

And even though many education careers are challenging, many educators find their jobs personally and professionally rewarding.

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