Nearly all states require public school teachers to hold at least a bachelor's degree, either in education or the subject matter in which they plan to teach. Most bachelor's programs consist of 120 credits and require about four years of full-time study.
Students in these programs generally explore subjects like classroom management, curriculum design, and supporting exceptional learners. They may also choose to specialize in fields such as elementary education or literacy instruction. Finally, most programs require a period of supervised classroom experience, commonly known as student teaching.
This page provides an overview of online bachelor's programs in education, with information on admission requirements, common coursework and concentrations, and possible career paths after graduation.
Our ranking of the nation's top online bachelor's programs in education will equip you with the information you need to decide where to earn your degree.
What You Can Do With a Bachelor's in Education
Teaching majors can explore different grade levels and choose an academic concentration for their degrees. A high school teacher can focus on science, math, English, or foreign languages. These options open the doors to numerous teaching careers with the degree seeker deciding which option best suits their professional goals. Educators who pursue additional certifications and advanced degrees can also become administrators, reading coaches, reading specialists, and instructional coordinators.
- Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher
These teachers educate children in multiple subjects, such as social studies and science, as well as basic life skills concepts, including communication. Other professional responsibilities involve building lesson plans, discussing student progress with parents, and creating guidelines for classroom procedures. Teachers of these grade levels commonly need a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $58,600*
- Middle School Teacher
Middle school teachers share many of the same responsibilities as elementary school teachers, such as discussing student progress with parents and constructing lesson plans. However, these educators often teach fewer subjects to students.
Median Annual Salary: $118,370*
- High School Teacher
These teachers educate students in specific fields but may teach more than one course within that academic category. As an example, a science educator may teach chemistry, biology, and natural science during one semester. Additionally, one high school classroom may include freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior students.
Median Annual Salary: $60,320*
- Special Education Teacher
These educators deliver lessons to special needs students. For this task, teachers must determine each student's needs and alter course lectures based on those individual needs. Further responsibilities include discussing a student's progress with parents and overseeing teaching assistants. Students interested in this career should look into teaching degrees with special education focuses.
Median Annual Salary: $59,780*
- Preschool Teacher
Preschool teachers care for children who are too young for kindergarten. These educators create daily lessons and plan academic activities that improve children's communication skills and teach preschool concepts, such as shapes and colors.
Median Annual Salary: $29,780*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Our career guide offers detailed information on education and licensure requirements, teacher employment across states, and some of the most common specializations for education majors.
What to Expect in a Bachelor's in Education Program
The nature of your educational experience will depend on where you choose to earn your online bachelor's in education. For example, some schools allow self-paced learning, while others require students to advance through the program with a cohort of classmates. Coursework and concentrations also vary from program to program, though you can review a list of common classes for education majors below.
Concentrations Offered for a Bachelor’s Degree in Teaching
- Elementary Education
- This concentration includes insight on the best teaching methods for children. Students obtain an understanding of child development and apply this knowledge in required student teaching experiences.
- Science Education
- Some programs allow students to concentrate on specific fields and grade levels. For instance, students may pursue a degree for teaching science at the middle school level. These programs provide information and methods for adolescent students and related academic concepts.
- Secondary Education
- This option focuses on learning needs and classroom environments for high school students. Program candidates may need to select an academic field for additional concentration, such as English, math, French, or history. Secondary education majors may also explore adolescent behavior and teaching methods.
- Special Education
- Special education programs may include a grade-level specification, such as special education for elementary school. These degrees include information on academic fields and guidelines on how to deliver these concepts to special needs children.
- TESOL International Association
- This concentration prepares students for bilingual classrooms. Topics covered may include dialects, culture, and sociolinguistics. Students in TESOL programs may study various academic fields since different languages can surface in any classroom.
Courses in a Bachelor's in Teaching Program
Given the number of concentrations available for a degree in teaching, courses differ from program to program. However, certain courses are common across all concentrations in some form or another. Below are some examples of general education courses that most bachelor's in teaching students will take.
- Child Development
These courses examine aspects of a child's growth, including physical, mental, and cognitive abilities. Certain courses may also cover factors that impact a child's development, such as the media.
- Student Teaching
Many education programs require student teaching experiences at approved schools. These experiences give students the opportunity to use teaching skills in a supervised setting before entering a classroom and teaching on their own.
- Introduction to Education
Courses of this nature examine education based on history, philosophy, and government regulations. Departments can apply these concepts to current educational concerns, such as funding, and learn how to apply those ideas in classrooms.
- Classroom Management
Students in these courses learn strategies to moderate behavior, manage conflict, and maintain a functional classroom. Students may examine these ideas by studying models and theories, and those who complete this course gain insight for teaching careers and administrative positions in education. However, students should note that these higher-level positions may require further credentials and education.
- Developmental Psychology
These courses present degree seekers with information about the aging process with attention to psychology and cognitive growth. This knowledge can then translate into action plans for dealing with students of various ages and developmental levels. The coursework prepares students for careers as teachers, consultants, and administrators.
State Teaching Programs
Read our career guide for education majors to learn more about the field's education and licensure requirements, earning potential, and job prospects.
Interview with Danny Kofke
Danny Kofke is currently a special education teacher in Georgia. He has also taught prekindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and sixth grade and has been an educator for 15 years. Danny's love of teaching and helping others win with money led him to write four personal finance books, including the recently released "The Wealthy Teacher: Lessons For Prospering On A School Teacher's Salary."
- Why did you choose a career in education? Was this something you were always interested in?
I knew I wanted to be a teacher after having Mr. Stutzke in 9th-grade civics. He was just one of those special teachers that many educators have had that led them into teaching. I originally wanted to teach history and coach high school baseball. I ended up taking a semester off college and taught at a preschool. I worked with the 3-year-old class. I realized how much I enjoyed the little ones and decided to change my major to elementary education. As they say, the rest is history!
- What were some of the most crucial skills that you gained in your studies that apply to your job on a daily basis?
I have to admit, it was really difficult to apply much of what I learned in college to my teaching because I really did not know how it applied. I would have to say my student teaching experience was the most valuable time I spent in school. I was blessed to have a wonderful mentor-teacher and I learned how I wanted to run my classroom from her.
- What was the job search like after earning your undergraduate degree? Did you feel prepared to make the transition from student to professional?
I graduated in December and started off by being a substitute teacher. This helped me greatly! I was able to experience a few grade levels (I had student-taught first grade so that was where I felt most comfortable, and subbing helped me branch out to other elementary grades). In addition, there is nothing like the feeling you get after running a class by yourself for the first time. It was through my substitute teaching that I gained the confidence that I could actually be a teacher!
After two months of subbing, I landed a long-term substitute teaching job in a second-grade class and taught that from mid-February until the end of the school year.
- What advice would you give to education students who want to get the most experience they can out of their undergraduate studies?
Volunteer in as many classrooms as possible. Before student teaching, I was able to do this in a few classrooms and observed some great teachers (along with some not-so-great ones). I was able to see — firsthand — sound and not sound teaching practices, which helped shape the way I would eventually run a classroom.
- Do you plan on earning a graduate degree? Why or why not? If so, in what subject?
I do not, at this point. This is my 16th year in teaching, and I am not sure how much longer I will remain in the classroom. After teaching for a few years, I actually wrote a personal finance book for teachers. This led to three more books (and maybe more in the future). These books have led to opportunities outside of teaching. Since I am unsure what my future in education holds, I have decided to spend my extra energy, time, and money on my books.
- What advice would you give to education students who are debating whether to earn their degree online or on campus?
I know earning a degree online is now something many do and, while you can't beat the convenience, I really feel learning on campus is greatly beneficial (at least it was for me). It was great for me to be able to talk with others who had the same fears and concerns that I did.
- Anything else for us?
Teaching is one of the most difficult and rewarding careers there is. It can be easy to get caught up in the negative things we constantly hear about the profession, but tune that out and remember why you became a teacher in the first place — to make this world a little bit better!
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Education Program
It can be overwhelming trying to find the program that best suits your academic interests and professional goals. Start your research by considering each of the five factors listed below.
The accreditation process ensures that a school or program meets certain academic standards and adequately prepares its students for careers in their chosen fields. If you attend an unaccredited program, you may miss out on state and federal financial aid opportunities, and school districts may not recognize your teaching degree.
Concentrations help prepare you for specific careers. For example, if you hope to primarily teach students with intellectual, emotional, or physical disabilities, you should find a program that offers a concentration in special education. If you hope to one day become an instructional coordinator, you may instead benefit from a concentration in curriculum design.
- Delivery Method
Schools typically offer their online programs in either a synchronous or asynchronous format. Synchronous programs require live participation in classes, while asynchronous programs allow you to watch lectures, complete assignments, and contribute to discussions largely on your own schedule. Asynchronous programs often appeal to working professionals and students with family responsibilities.
- Cost and Financial Aid
The overall cost of a program should be one of your top considerations. Generally, public schools cost less than private colleges and universities, especially if you qualify for in-state tuition. To apply for other forms of financial aid, start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many states also provide scholarships and grants specifically for aspiring teachers.
- Field Experience
In most states, you must complete a period of supervised classroom experience to qualify for a teaching license. While in-person programs generally partner with a local school district to provide these student teaching opportunities, online learners may need to find a host school in their own community to meet this requirement.
Bachelor's in Education Program Admissions
Admission requirements and standards can vary considerably from college to college. For example, some schools may require you to take the ACT or SAT, while others admit any student with a high school diploma. You can read more about common prerequisites and application requirements below.
- High School Diploma: Nearly all colleges and universities that offer teaching training programs require applicants to hold either a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) degree. Some programs may further require students to take specific coursework during high school. For example, aspiring math teachers may need to take classes in algebra and geometry.
- Minimum GPA: Some schools also require applicants to maintain a minimum GPA during high school, usually 2.0 or above. If you have a lower GPA than required, you may still qualify for conditional admission. Conditionally admitted students may need to take remedial courses or meet certain benchmarks to remain enrolled in a program.
- Entrance Exam Score: Finally, some programs ask applicants to submit scores from the ACT, SAT, or an equivalent entrance exam. While schools generally do not set a minimum score for admission, you may consider retaking your exam if you scored lower than 1000 on the SAT or lower than 20 on the ACT.
How to Apply
- To apply to most bachelor's in education programs, you must submit official copies of transcripts from any high school, community college, or four-year institution you have attended. Contact your high school guidance counselor or college registrar to get copies of these transcripts. Colleges may charge a small fee to process your request.
- Personal Statement
- Many programs require students to draft a brief personal statement, usually no longer than 1,000 words, explaining their background and motivation for pursuing an undergraduate education degree. Use your personal statement as an opportunity to highlight the strengths of your application and provide context for any weaknesses, like a low GPA.
- Letters of Recommendation
- Along with your other application materials, you generally must submit at least one letter of recommendation from a former teacher, supervisor, or community leader. Try to identify a recommender who can speak to your potential as a teacher, but avoid asking family members or friends. Make sure to give them as much time as possible to write a letter on your behalf.
You should start preparing to apply to college at least one year before you plan to enroll. To begin taking classes in the fall semester, for example, most schools require you to submit all of your application materials by the previous December or January.
First, determine if you need to take an entrance exam like the SAT or ACT. If you do, schedule a date to sit for the test, allowing yourself at least one month to study. As you prepare for your exam, request official copies of your transcripts, reach out to potential recommenders, and start brainstorming topics for your personal statement. Aim to complete your entire application two weeks in advance of the deadline in the event you need to collect additional materials or troubleshoot a technical issue.
Starting on October 1, you can also complete the FAFSA. Do so as early as possible to make sure you qualify for all possible forms of state and federal financial aid.
Resources for Bachelor's in Education Students
In addition to administering the FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education hosts resources to help students and families choose a school, budget for college, and identify private scholarships. Aspiring teachers who commit to working in high-need fields in low-income areas may also qualify for federal TEACH grants.
Usable Knowledge serves as a one-stop repository of research conducted by Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty and advanced doctoral students. Education majors can read research briefs and policy guides on subjects like school design, sexual education, reducing achievement-related stress, and leading conversations related to race and diversity.
NEA represents more than 3 million teachers and educators across the United States. The organization also offers scholarships to education students, advocates for increased college affordability, and provides free access to tools and resources in areas like classroom management, instructional strategies, and supporting the needs of unique learners.
NCTQ aims to improve the support provided to America's teachers. In support of that mission, the council conducts and disseminates research on topics such as teacher preparation, teacher licensure, and student teaching experiences. It also maintains Path to Teach, a website that allows students to compare colleges based on cost, areas of specialization, and other factors.
Education Week is one of the country's leading publications for teachers, administrators, and education students. Readers can find news and policy updates on subjects like student assessment and testing, distance education, English language learners, and state and federal education policy. Education Week also hosts a nationwide jobs board and provides online professional development opportunities.