Bachelor’s in Secondary Education Program Guide

October 29, 2020

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Many teachers feel drawn to the secondary education profession because of a desire to improve the lives of their students, but the field offers solid job prospects and above average earnings potential as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median high school teacher earned around $59,000 in 2017, which is significantly higher than the median pay for all other occupations. The BLS also projects average employment growth for high school teachers, though demand varies considerably by region due to state and local budget constraints.

According to the BLS, the median high school teacher earned around $59,000 in 2017, which is significantly higher than the median pay for all other occupations.

A bachelor's degree in secondary education helps set you on the path to both personal fulfillment and professional success. In addition, if you choose to specialize in a subject like STEM education, special education, or English as a second language, you will have the opportunity to serve a high-needs population and develop a competitive edge in the job market at the same time.

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

Should I Get a Bachelor's in Secondary Education?

If you want to teach in a K-12 classroom, you must have at least a bachelor's degree. An undergraduate degree in secondary education allows you to easily meet all of the requirements for state licensure as a high school teacher.

In the first and second year of a program, expect to take courses in math, science, communication, and the humanities in order to meet general education requirements. Foundational coursework for a secondary education major in subjects like human growth and development, education exceptional students, and an introduction to educational technologies is also required.

The latter two years of an undergraduate programs allows for a more customizable curriculum. For example, you may take courses in literacy instruction and assessment to prepare for a career teaching English. You may instead choose to take classes in laboratory management and the history of scientific inquiry to qualify for jobs as a science teacher. Schools offering secondary education programs typically offer endorsements in a variety of areas, including social science, mathematics, special education, and technical education.

Regardless of your area of endorsement, a student teaching experience to qualify for licensure is required in most states. Make sure to confirm whether your program of choice can help facilitate a student teaching placement, especially if you attend an online program. If you do not complete a teaching practicum, some states may allow you to apply for a provisional teaching license. Teachers with a provisional license work under the close supervision of a mentor teacher for at least one year before applying for full licensure.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Secondary Education?

A degree in secondary education largely prepares students to teach at a public or private middle school or high school. Depending on the state's individual licensure requirements, a bachelor's in special education may also qualify students for jobs in adult education or special education. Some graduates choose to work in alternative settings, such as teaching in a high school equivalency program to help students earn a GED.

High School Teacher

High school teachers instruct students, typically in grades 9-12. They also help prepare their students for life after graduation, whether that involves applying to college or finding a job with their high school diploma. In addition to instructional responsibilities, teachers must also perform a wide variety of administrative tasks.

Median Annual Salary: $59,170*

Middle School Teacher

Middle school teachers have many of the same responsibilities as high school teachers, though they typically work with students in grades six through eight. Some middle school teachers, especially those at smaller schools, may need to instruct students across multiple subjects rather than specializing in a particular area.

Median Annual Salary: $57,720*

Career or Technical Education Teacher

Career and technical education teachers lead programs in areas like health care, auto repair, and the culinary arts. While they often work for public school districts, some may work instead for nonprofit organizations or for business councils to help prepare students for entry-level work in their community.

Median Annual Salary: $55,240*

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers work with students with a variety of mental, emotional, social, and physical disabilities. They often provide personalized support to each of their students, including the creation and implementation of individualized education programs, or IEPs. Some states may allow you to serve as a special education teacher with just a secondary education degree, but others specifically require an on-campus or online undergraduate degree in special education.

Median Annual Salary: $58,980*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose a Bachelor's in Secondary Education Program

Many colleges and universities offer secondary education degrees, meaning you have an abundance of options when selecting a program. As a way to narrow the scope of your decision and determine which program best suits your needs, consider some of the questions listed here.

On campus or online? While earning an online secondary education degree often appeals most strongly to students with jobs or family obligations, some students prefer the structure and support that come with a more traditional classroom experience and opt for an on-campus program.

How long do you plan to study? Generally speaking, earning a bachelor's degree requires four years of full-time study, though you can graduate sooner if you have previously earned college-level credit. Part-time students may need even more time to complete all of their graduation requirements.

What do you hope to spend? The cost of tuition varies a great deal from program to program, especially between public and private institutions. Attending a university out of state also increases the cost of tuition, but online students may pay less for tuition than their on-campus counterparts.

Can your program match you with a student teaching opportunity? Many colleges partner with local school districts to help students develop teaching experience and meet the requirements for state licensure.

Where is your school located? Location can greatly shape the educational experience of on-campus and online students, especially when it comes to locating a host for a student teaching experience.

Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Secondary Education

As you research programs, you encounter three different kinds of accreditation: regional, national, and programmatic. Nonprofit schools generally receive regional accreditation, and for-profit schools often receive national accreditation. Programmatic accreditors tend to work within a particular subject area or professional discipline.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation serves as the primary programmatic accreditor within the field of secondary education.

Online directories of accredited schools and programs are provided by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, as well as the Department of Education.

To receive accreditation, a school must show that it meets certain educational standards and adequately prepares its graduates for careers in their chosen professions. If you attend an unaccredited school, you may not qualify for federal financial aid. In addition, other accredited institutions may not accept your transfer credits, and potential employers may not even recognize your degree.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

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

Bachelor's in Secondary Education Program Admissions

To apply to a bachelor's in secondary education program, a high school diploma or GED is required. In addition to a high school transcript, colleges and universities may require other materials, including letters of recommendation, a personal essay, standardized test scores, and a professional resume. Most schools also charge a small application fee.

After submitting an application, a member of the program's admission team may reach out to schedule an interview. While an interview can provide the opportunity to elaborate and add additional context to your application materials, many online programs have started to skip the admissions interview altogether.

Applying to at least three schools can improve the chances of admission, as applying to too many takes additional time, energy, and money. In addition, try to apply to at least one "safety school," a program where you feel confident you meet or exceed the admission requirements.


Many schools require students to maintain at least a 2.0 high school GPA to apply to an undergraduate program.

Admission Materials

Your college application may require a significant investment of time. Start your application early and try to use The Common Application to apply to multiple programs at the same time. You must submit transcripts as part of your application. Contact your high school or GED provider directly to do so. Your program may ask for up to three letters of recommendation. You can ask former teachers, bosses, or community leaders for a recommendation, though you should avoid asking friends and family members. The majority of colleges and universities offering secondary education degrees require students to submit their scores from either the ACT or the SAT. Generally speaking, these institutions do not require a minimum score, though your results can have a large impact on your school's admissions decision. You should expect to pay a small application fee, usually around $50-$100.

What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Secondary Education Program?

While teacher preparation programs share much of the same introductory coursework and student teaching requirements, expect many opportunities to customize your individual course of study. Some programs offer a concentration within secondary education. The cost and length of your education can also vary a great deal from program to program.

Concentrations Offered for a Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education
Concentration Description Careers
Mathematics Education Students who plan to become middle or high school math teachers choose this specialization. Depending on the grades in which they hope to teach, students may take coursework in algebra, calculus, geometry, discrete mathematics, number theory, and statistics. This concentration requires a student teaching experience in a math class. Algebra teacher, math coach
Science Education This area of concentration helps students prepare for roles as biology, chemistry, and physics teachers. Courses in this concentration cover scientific subject matter as well as curriculum design for the sciences, assessments in STEM fields, and the history of science education. Biology teacher, STEM support specialist
English Education To begin a career as an English or language arts teacher, students pursuing their secondary education degree often take coursework in rhetoric, advanced literary studies, composition, grammar, and serving students who speak English as a second language. Students can also choose from electives like the works of Shakespeare or modern American literature. College writing instructor, english teacher
Social Sciences Education The term social sciences encompasses many different academic disciplines, including history, economics, psychology, and political science. As such, students in this concentration area often choose a secondary content area in which to specialize, such as U.S. history or geography. The choice of this content area also determines the kind of classroom in which these students complete their teaching practicum. History teacher, civics teacher
Career and Technical Education By electing to concentrate in career or technical education, students prepare for jobs as business teachers, auto repair instructors, or nursing educators. They may also work in agricultural, healthcare, or architecture and construction education. Given the wide variety of career paths within this concentration, students must often carefully design their own course of study. Director of vocational studies, business teacher

Courses in a Bachelor's in Secondary Education Program

Most bachelor's in secondary education programs begin with general education classes and foundational coursework in subjects like educational psychology and instructional design. As a program advances, students may have the option to select courses in preparation for an endorsement in an area like mathematics or literacy instruction.

Issues in Education

As a foundational course, this class offers students a broad overview of many challenges in the field of education, including diversity in the classroom, teaching as a profession, the fundamentals of classroom management, supporting student achievement, and maintaining accountability.

Introduction to Education Policy

Students in this course examine the history of American education policy, from the early days of public education in New England through the distance learning revolution of the modern era. Students analyze and debate education policy issues such as school choice, integration, unionization, classroom size, and the need for holistic support services.

Principles of Instructional Design

In this course, students explore various learning theories, including cognitive, constructivist, behavioral, and social learning. They also learn about topics such as learning engagement, learning styles, and student motivation. Eventually, students apply this theoretical knowledge by jointly designing a course curriculum to meet prescribed learning outcomes.

Human Development and Learning

Teachers at all levels benefit from a solid understanding of how humans develop and process new information. This course focuses specifically on the science of brain development in children ages 6-18, as well as how neuroscience relates to memory, behavior, executive function, and maximizing the efficiency of the learning process.

Assessment of Student Learning

Assessments summarize how well a teacher's curriculum impacts their students' learning. In this class, students learn to distinguish between formative and summative evaluation data. They also develop and use grading rubrics, explore the effectiveness of online and technology-based learning, and examine issues like plagiarism.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Secondary Education?

Most bachelor's in secondary education programs consist of 120 credits. Full-time students usually earn their degree in about four years, though part-time students may need anywhere from six to eight years to meet all of the graduation requirements.

The majority of students who earn their degree in less than four years do so by applying previously earned college-level credits towards their bachelor's. Many public universities allow students to apply 60 credits, or the equivalent of an associate degree. Some online programs may allow up to 90 transfer credits, meaning students potentially earn their degree in as little as one year of full-time study.

Students in educator preparation programs should also remember to factor in the time required to complete a student teaching experience. While requirements vary from state to state, most licensure boards recommend that aspiring teachers complete no less than ten weeks of full-time and supervised teaching in a classroom setting.

How Much Is a Bachelor's in Secondary Education?

The total amount spent on a secondary education degree depends on several factors. To begin with, tuition across programs varies tremendously. Public institutions may charge residents of their state a fraction of what that student might pay at a private university. Expect to pay anywhere from $200-$600 per credit hour in tuition, meaning a 120-credit degree may cost between $24,000 and $72,000.

On top of tuition, educational expenses like books, course materials, and student fees also affect the overall cost of a bachelor's degree in secondary education. On campus students need to pay for room and board as well. Online students can avoid this expense, but some schools may require a technology fee.

Thankfully, the demand for teachers, coupled with the critical importance of the profession, means that many financial aid opportunities exist for students hoping to enter the field. In addition to federal teacher grants and student loan forgiveness for educators, most states offer some form of aid to students who pledge to teach in a public school for a minimum of three years. The first step in finding financial aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Secondary Education Prepares For

A bachelor's in secondary education prepares students for continuing education with a master's in education, as well as pursue certifications and licensure. Below are a few certifications available to graduates with a secondary education degree.

State Licensure

Teaching in a public school in the United States requires some form of state licensure. The exact requirements vary from state to state, but generally speaking, applicants must have a bachelor's degree, complete a certain number of hours of student teaching, and pass a teacher certification exam. Teachers must also earn continuing education credits to maintain licensure.

Continuing Education Credits

Teachers often seek out professional development opportunities like those offered by the National Education Association. By completing online trainings in areas like educational leadership, special education, and meeting the needs of the whole student, teachers can earn continuing education credits.

PBS Media Literacy Educator Certification

Some highly specialized certifications do exist, such as the PBS Media Literacy Educator Certification. This credential allows teachers to signal their expertise in helping students critically examine their role as media producers and consumers. To qualify for certification, applicants must submit a digital portfolio demonstrating their media literacy competency.

Resources for Secondary Education Students

U.S. Department of Education

The ED offers a variety of grants, fellowships, and student loans for aspiring teachers. The TEACH Grant program, in particular, can provide up to $4,000 per year to qualifying students.

Teach Tomorrow Financial Aid Guide

Teach Tomorrow, a site that curates resources for education students, offers this financial aid guide to help future teachers understand financial aid opportunities available to them.

Usable Knowledge

Offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this online learning portal offers easily digestible and research-backed guidance for teachers, parents, and education administrators.

Annenberg Learner

Annenberg Learner provides more formalized learning opportunities for education students and established teachers alike. In addition to training modules, the site also hosts lesson plans broken down by subject matter and grade level.

Professional Organizations in Secondary Education

After earning a secondary education degree, joining a professional organization may increase. Some of these organizations act as unions, representing their members and lobbying for higher wages and increased education funding across the board. Other groups primarily work to provide professional development and continuing education opportunities to teachers.

The NEA represents more than 3 million educators across the United States. In addition to serving as the largest teachers' union, the association provides free lesson plans and teaching strategies, hosts a variety of online professional development trainings, and provides scholarships for teachers looking to continue their education. Founded in 1916, the AFT represents roughly 1.7 million teachers and education professionals. The national organization conducts research and advocates on matters of policy. NCTM serves math teachers and works to improve the quality of public mathematics education. Members can access classroom resources, scholarly research, and a variety of professional development offerings. For more than 70 years, NSTA has supported the work of science educators in K-12 classrooms. The association organizes research and networking conferences and publishes five scholarly journals. While not a teacher-specific organization, NASSP merits inclusion here because of its extensive collection of professional learning resources. The association's career center also offers guidance for teachers who hope to take on school leadership roles.
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