Guide to an Online Teaching Degree

Interested in becoming a teacher? Explore our guide to online teaching degrees to learn about education options and career paths.
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Updated on May 23, 2024
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If you're creative, communicative, and passionate about learning, you can find rewarding work as a teacher. More than 49.4 million students were enrolled in public K-12 schools as of 2021, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And schools need skilled teachers to inspire and educate students of all ages.

Pursuing a teaching degree online can help you find a new job or progress in your current education career. Our guide offers an overview of degree levels, common jobs, and teaching licensure requirements.

Online Teaching Degree Overview

Types of Degrees

  • Associate in Education
  • Bachelor of Education
  • Master of Education
  • Doctorate in Education

Purpose

Online teaching degrees build theoretical knowledge and practical skills in education. These programs most commonly prepare you to work as a K-12 teacher in public or private schools. Depending on your level of education, you may also find work in education administration, curriculum planning, educational research, or higher education.

Curriculum

Education curriculum requirements vary widely depending on your degree level and program specialization. However, most online teaching degrees focus on education theory and best practices for classroom instruction. Other common course topics include educational psychology, education policy, and diversity in the classroom.

Featured Online Teaching Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Types of Online Teaching Degrees

You can pursue online teaching degrees at all academic levels, from an associate degree up to a doctorate. The chart below highlights average salary levels for teaching majors based on education level.

Average Salaries for Teaching Majors by Degree Level, 2024
Degree Level Average Annual Salary
Associate (AA) in Education $60,000
Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) $63,000
Master of Education (M.Ed.) $65,000
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) $89,000
Source: Payscale

Online Associate Degree in Education

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At the associate level, online teaching degrees focus on the basics of education, building foundational knowledge in teaching practices and educational theory. An associate degree in education can prepare you for a career in early childhood education, such as a preschool teacher. You can also work as a paraeducator, assisting teachers in the classroom.

An associate degree in education can prepare you to transfer into a bachelor's program, which is required for K-12 teaching. Common courses in an associate program include:

  • Theories of Child Development
  • Introduction to Early Childhood Education
  • Curriculum and Assessment
  • Principles of Education
  • Instructional Strategies

Online Bachelor's Degree in Education

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A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for most teaching and education jobs. Earning a bachelor's from an accredited school can prepare you to earn teaching licensure, which lets you teach at K-12 schools. You can also work in special education, preschool education, and education administration.

An online bachelor's in education builds comprehensive knowledge of teaching practices. If you plan to teach middle or high school, you can also choose a subject concentration, such as science or language arts. Common courses include:

  • Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
  • Educational Technology
  • Classroom Management
  • Inclusive Education
  • Introduction to Educational Psychology

Online Master's Degree in Education

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At the master's level, online teaching degrees build specialized knowledge in one concentration area. Common concentrations include special education, curriculum and instruction, or subject area education (such as math or English). Master's programs may also focus on educational policy, administration, and leadership.

A master's in education can prepare you to teach K-12, but this level of education also opens up job opportunities such as school principal or educational coordinator. These programs generally build expert knowledge for teaching practice or educational administration. Coursework varies widely by specialization, but some typical courses include:

  • Technology Applications for Teachers
  • Economics of Education
  • Psychology of Classroom Management

Online Doctoral Degree in Education

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A doctorate in education is the highest degree available in the education field. At this level, most programs prepare you for advanced positions in academia, education research, or education administration. This degree can prepare you for many career paths, including higher education administration, education consulting, and district superintendent.

Curriculum plans vary widely among doctoral degree programs in education, but most include a significant research component. You typically complete a dissertation that contributes new research to your field of specialization. Common doctoral courses include:

  • Educational Research Methods
  • Instructional Design
  • Educational Policy
  • Educational Leadership

Why Get a Teaching Degree Online?

  • Increased Job Opportunities: Most careers in the education field require a college degree, and you'll need at least a bachelor's if you want to teach at public K-12 schools. Earning an advanced degree can also help you pursue educational leadership roles.
  • Increased Salary Potential: Along with increased job opportunities comes increased salary potential. Earning a teaching degree online can help you advance in your current job or make you more competitive for other jobs that pay more.
  • Networking Opportunities: Online teaching degrees put you in the company of dedicated teachers and other educational professionals. Networking with peers and faculty can increase your professional opportunities both before and after you graduate.
  • Education Expertise: Whether you're looking to develop your skills as a teacher, a researcher, or an administrator, earning a teaching degree online builds specialized skills and expertise. That means better connections with students and better professional outcomes for you.
  • Flexibility: Many online teaching degrees cater to working professionals, allowing you to complete courses when they suit your schedule. This also means you can keep your current job while you earn a degree.

Teaching Licensure and Certification

If you want to teach at a public K-12 school, you'll need to earn state licensure. While licensure requirements vary among states, you'll complete a similar process regardless of where you live. You can fulfill your licensure requirements while completing your teaching degree online.

All states require you to complete student teaching hours and take a licensure exam. However, specific requirements vary widely between states. Oregon, for example, requires 60 hours of student teaching in your subject area, while Texas only requires 30 hours.

Checklist for Becoming a Teacher

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree (or an associate degree if you want to teach preschool).
  2. Complete your student teaching hours. Specific requirements vary by state.
  3. Pass your licensing exam. You may need to complete an additional exam for specific subject area certification.
  4. Pass a criminal background check. To work at a school, you'll need a clean criminal record.
  5. Find a teaching job that suits your skills, whether that means a public, private, or charter school.

Learn How to Become a Teacher in Your State

License Reciprocity

If you already hold teaching licensure, you may be able to transfer your license to other states depending on their reciprocity regulations. Reciprocity policies vary widely among states, so it's important to consult individual state requirements to determine if your license can transfer.

Many states require you to complete additional education or training before transferring your teaching license. Reciprocity requirements may also differ based on your level of teaching experience.

Substitute Teaching Licensure

You can also pursue substitute teaching if you're uncertain about committing to a full-time teaching position. Substitute positions pay less but may offer greater flexibility in scheduling.

Substitute teaching licensing requirements vary widely among states and even among individual school districts. For example, in Washington state, substitute teachers must hold a bachelor's degree, while some school districts in Texas only require a high school diploma. In general, the licensing process for substitute teachers is less rigorous than licensing for full-time teachers.

What Can You Do With an Online Teaching Degree?

Online teaching degrees prepare you for many different career paths in the education field. This chart highlights five popular careers along with their corresponding annual salaries. Keep in mind that advanced degrees usually correspond to higher average salary levels.

Popular Jobs With a Degree in Teaching
Job Median Annual Salary (May 2023)
High School Teacher $65,220
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal $103,460
Postsecondary Teacher $84,380
Instructional Coordinator $74,620
Preschool Teachers $37,130
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Teaching Degrees

Is an online degree in education worth it?

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An online teaching degree program can prepare you for a career in education, making the degree a practical choice if you want to enter the field. Pursuing a program online can also help you obtain career training without having to relocate or quit your current job. Nearly all education jobs require at least a bachelor's, making a degree necessary if you want to teach.

What is the fastest teaching degree you can get online?

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An associate degree in education usually takes about two years to complete, making it the fastest teaching degree available. However, to teach at the K-12 level, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree, which usually takes about four years to complete.

Is accreditation important for an online degree in education?

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You should confirm both institutional and programmatic accreditation when researching teaching degrees online. Regional accreditation serves colleges and universities, while programmatic accreditation serves individual teaching programs. Both the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) accredit individual teaching programs.


Note: The insights on this page were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed April 15, 2024.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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