Types of Education Degrees

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An education degree can lead to many career paths in teaching, consulting, and administration. This page offers a comprehensive look at education degrees at different levels, including what to look for when choosing a program and how to know which one is right for you.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that people in education jobs earned a median annual income of $52,380 in 2020. Teaching opportunities for education graduates continue to expand across the country. The BLS projects that these jobs will grow at a rate of 5%, which is slightly faster than average.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that people in education jobs earned a median annual income of $52,380 in 2020.

Those interested in working with youth, making changes in the field of education, or teaching new skills to others may connect with an education degree. Advanced degrees can benefit education professionals by providing expertise and improved credentials.

The sections below describe each education degree level and concentrations available.

What Is the Field of Education?

The education field expands beyond the classroom. Education-related professions extend to corporate offices, museums, and recreation centers. Educators develop expertise in communicating ideas and information that can translate across a variety of environments.

Teaching professions in primary, secondary, and collegiate classrooms commonly stem from education degrees. The history of teaching dates back to the earliest years of the United States. From one-room schoolhouses to elaborate campuses, the growth of teaching environments has led to increased opportunities within the field.

People drawn to the education field are interested in supporting the growth and development of others. Educators often rely on characteristics such as compassion, patience, and resourcefulness.

Should You Get a Degree in Education?

An education degree can offer expertise in communicating and presenting information to diverse audiences. Many professions desire these transferable skills.

  • Communication Skills: Educators gain expertise in communicating information in a variety of ways. This transferable skill can open the door to vast professional opportunities.
  • Impact Student Lives: Providing emotional support and engaging learning environments can profoundly impact students’ lives inside and outside the classroom.
  • Specialized Teaching Roles: Holding a degree in education provides credentials that showcase your ability to teach distinct content areas, focusing your career on specialized teaching roles.
  • Professional Advancement: Earning education credentials can support career advancement opportunities in leadership and coaching roles.
  • Increased Salary: Earning an education degree, particularly advanced degrees, can increase your salary as an educator.

Career Paths for Education Majors

Many education majors seek employment as teachers, a steadily growing occupation. Teaching careers can begin immediately after graduation, with advancement opportunities available based on education level and experience.

A person’s degree level may determine available career options after graduation. For example, preschool teachers only require an associate degree, while elementary and middle school teachers require a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license. Advanced degrees provide access to broader career opportunities and higher salaries.

Non-teaching careers for education majors include corporate educators, museum and recreation educators, and consulting or administrative positions. Each of these paths allows graduates to apply their skills to diverse career environments.

Job Outlook for Education Majors

Job growth for careers in education and teaching is steady. The BLS reports that education, training, and library occupations are expected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029, which is slightly faster than average.

As enrollment increases in public and private schools, the demand for teachers will also grow. The BLS notes that budgetary constrictions at the local and federal levels could impact growth. Educators with advanced degrees and certificates will have the advantage for securing new jobs.

See How Location Affects Salary for Educators

Elementary School Teachers Special Education Teachers Education Administrators

The Different Types of Degrees in Education

Education degrees offer diverse career paths. An associate degree can open the doors to careers in education. Higher-level degrees offer more flexibility and can advance careers in the field.

Most bachelor’s and associate programs require a high school diploma or equivalent. People curious about the education field, or aspiring preschool teachers, may find an associate degree a good fit. Those interested in a career teaching elementary, middle, or high school students should consider a bachelor’s degree program.

Master’s programs typically require a bachelor’s degree in education or experience in a related field. Doctoral programs require a background in education and typically lead to professorships, administrative roles, or research positions.

Associate Degree

An associate degree in education is the minimal requirement to enter the field. Not everyone who chooses to pursue an education career will begin with an associate degree. It’s more common for students to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

An associate degree in education is an excellent option for preschool teachers and students who are still deciding on their career path. Additionally, credits earned in an associate degree can transfer to a bachelor’s program.

Associate Degree in Education Curriculum

An associate degree in education will typically consist of two parts: a general education core and introductory education courses.

The general education requirement will cover basic knowledge in history, mathematics, social sciences, and natural sciences. The introductory education portion will usually provide foundational training in education and teaching, along with early childhood education, and childhood growth and development.

Below are some sample courses students can expect to take when they enroll in an associate program in education:

  • Introduction to the Teaching Profession
  • Integrated Mathematics
  • Child Growth and Development
  • Composition and Rhetoric
  • Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Early Childhood Education
  • Elements of Biology
  • Foundations of Education
  • Introductory Psychology

Associate degrees in education usually require students to earn approximately 60 credit hours, which take about two years to complete. Accelerated programs are often available, which may allow students to earn their degree in less time. Alternatively, part-time programs enable students to work while earning a degree, but take longer to complete than full-time programs.

Associate degrees in education and teaching are often stepping stones to bachelor’s programs. However, associate degrees can also qualify students for entry-level positions. Consider the following education jobs and median salaries for associate-degree holders.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2020)
Teacher Assistants $28,900
Preschool Teachers $31,930
Library Assistants $31,840
Source: BLS

Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor’s degrees open up the largest number of job opportunities in the education field. Bachelor’s holders can pursue teacher licensure to teach at the early education, elementary, middle, and high school levels. Students typically take four years of full-time study to complete a bachelor’s degree. Learners can also pursue accelerated or online bachelor’s programs.

Bachelor’s Degree in Education Curriculum

The curriculum for a bachelor’s in education will vary depending on the student’s specific career goals. For instance, someone who wants to teach elementary school will complete different coursework than an individual who wants to teach high school. Furthermore, students can also specialize in special education or ESL.

Despite these differences, most bachelor’s in education programs include a core liberal arts component. This is similar to the general education requirements for an associate program. Below are some sample liberal arts courses students can expect to take during their first years in a bachelor’s education and teaching program:

  • Foundations of Education
  • United States History
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Mathematics for Educators
  • Principles of Communication
  • Health, Fitness, and Wellness

Degree-specific courses cover topics such as instructional methods, classroom management, educational theory, and subject-specific courses in English, math, and social studies. The curriculum will vary depending on the grade level the student wants to teach upon graduation, whether it be preschool, elementary, school, or middle and high school.

Below are some sample course titles for teaching at various education levels:

Early Childhood Education Elementary Education Secondary Education (Middle and High School)
Exceptional Learning and Inclusion Fundamentals of Diverse Learners Social Contexts of Education
Introduction to Early Childhood Education Elementary Social Studies Methods Learning and Development
Promoting Early Socioemotional Development Teaching Exceptional Learners The Reflective Practitioner
Early Childhood Health, Safety, and Nutrition Introduction to Children’s Literature Strategies for Reading and Writing Assessment and Instruction
Language Development in Young Children Educational Philosophy for Teachers Disciplinary Literacy
Foundations of Multicultural Education Educational Technology for Teaching and Learning Secondary and Middle School Methods
Instructional Design: Theory and Practice Creating a Positive Classroom Climate Adolescent Psychology
Developmental Curriculum in Early Childhood Education Children’s Literature Behavior Management
Creative Experiences for Children Creating and Managing Engaging Learning Environments Secondary Curriculum and Instruction
Family and Parenthood Across the Life Cycle Mathematics for Elementary Teachers Secondary Classroom and Behavior Management

Bachelor’s degree-holders in the field of education and teaching earn significantly more per year than associate-degree holders. Consider the following jobs along with their respective median salaries for individuals with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in education:

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2020)
High School Teacher $62,870
Middle School Teacher $60,810
Special Education Teacher $61,420
Career and Technical Education Teacher $59,140
ESL Teacher $55,350
Training and Development Manager $115,640
Source: BLS
Learn More About Becoming a Special Education Teacher

Master’s Degree

Master’s in education are advanced degrees that allow students to delve deeper into education and instruction topics or a specific content area. Different types of master’s degrees in education are available depending on the student’s academic background and specific career interests. It’s important for students to examine program offerings carefully to be sure they select a master’s in education that will help them achieve their goals as an educator.

There are two basic types of master’s degrees in education and teaching: a master of arts in teaching (MAT) and a masters of education (M.Ed.). A MAT program focuses on teaching a specific subject matter (i.e. English, Biology, History, etc.). An M.Ed. program covers the theories of education and instructional practices. Despite these distinctions, there is also overlap between the two programs.

Some master’s programs are designed for educators who already hold a bachelor’s in education. Other programs are designed for students with academic backgrounds outside of the education field who desire to teach. The latter types of programs may include more prerequisite and foundational courses in education and introductory teaching methods.

Master’s programs for teachers will allow students to specialize in a specific content area or pursue endorsements that allow them to teach additional subjects, such as ESL or special education.

Master’s Degree in Education Curriculum

The curriculum for master’s degrees in education can vary. Below are some examples of concentrations and specialty areas available in a master’s in education curriculum.

  • Educational Leadership
  • Differentiating Instruction in Inclusive Classrooms
  • Curriculum and Teaching
  • Inclusion and English Learners
  • Curriculum Development and Assessment
  • Social Justice and Educational Equity
  • Cognition and Learning
  • Educational Research Methodology
  • Qualitative Methods in Educational Research

In addition to these sample concentrations, below you will find specific course titles from master’s programs in teaching and education.

  • Global Child: Development and Education
  • Disability in Contexts
  • Immigration and Curriculum
  • Principles and Methods in Parent Education and Involvement
  • School Change
  • Theory and Research in Education Technology
  • Culture and Politics in Second Language Education

Teachers with master’s degrees can expect to earn significantly more than those with a bachelor’s. Additionally, master’s degrees in education can qualify graduates for other high-paying positions in the field.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2020)
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals $98,490
Instructional Coordinators $66,970
School and Career Counselors $58,120
Postsecondary Education Administrators $97,500
Source: BLS
Explore How to Become an Education Administrator

Doctoral Degree

Doctoral degrees in education represent the highest level of learning in the field. Doctoral programs typically last three-years and require approximately 50-60 credits. There are several different types of doctoral programs in education.

  • Ph.D. in Education (numerous concentrations available)
  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
  • Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration
  • Ed.D. in School Psychology
  • Ed.D. in Educational Technology
  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership
  • Ed.D. in Teaching and Learning

Doctoral Degree in Education Curriculum

The curriculum will vary based on the type of doctoral degree the student pursues along with concentrations and/or specialty areas they choose. These courses tend to be highly rigorous and focus on current research in the field. Most courses will require students to either conduct or analyze educational research. We list some sample doctoral courses below.

  • Leading the Future of Education
  • Thinking Strategically About Education Reform
  • Innovation and the Diffusion of Learning Technologies
  • Leaders of Learning
  • Culture, Institutions, and Society
  • Introduction to Qualitative Research
  • Current Issues in Special Education Policy and Practice
  • Cognition, Learning, and Instruction: Childhood to Adolescence
  • Data Analysis in Educational Research
  • Economics of Higher Education

Doctoral education students may also need to complete a research-based thesis and/or dissertation. They may also be required to pass a comprehensive examination and/or present a final project.

Educators with doctoral degrees can expect to earn more than those with a master’s or bachelor’s degree. College-level teachers with advanced degrees tend to earn higher salaries than primary and secondary teachers.

Job Title Average Annual Salary (August 2021)
Postsecondary Teachers $88,551
School Superintendent $119,890
Academic Dean $96,440
Provost $154,180
Chief Learning Officer $155,550
Source: PayScale

Education Concentrations and Specializations

Concentrations provide an opportunity to focus your studies within the education field. Students can pursue specialized education programs, such as instructional design or education leadership.

Some programs focus on general education, providing a comprehensive understanding of the field. Without a specialization or concentration, a more generalized education degree can provide graduates with a variety of career options.

A concentration within a broad program offers a dedicated plan of study. Education concentrations include art education, inclusive early childhood education, and bilingual elementary education.

How to Select a Concentration

Selecting a concentration can prepare you for a specialized career in the field of education. A concentration can provide expertise and a boost of your credentials. Carefully reflect on which concentration is right for you and how it might guide your career.

Before selecting a concentration, consider the questions below as guidelines.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Your strengths and weaknesses offer critical information about your ability to excel. Assess whether your strengths align with the requirements of a concentration. Determine if your weaknesses require additional support for you to succeed.
Do the classes in this concentration cover what you want to learn?
A concentration should offer classes that connect to your learning goals. Review all course offerings and requirements to determine if they meet your needs.
Does this concentration align with your intended career?
Career alignment can include relevant courses or required internships. Some concentrations may better connect with your intended career path than others.
Is your concentration in demand or growing?
It can be helpful to understand the demand of your chosen concentration or career path before beginning your program. High-growth opportunities could support your career path upon graduation.

Top-Ranked Programs

Each ranked school holds national or regional accreditation, proving that the institution meets standards of academic quality. Some accrediting bodies for education degree programs include:

  • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission (TRACS)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission

Our ranking methodology reviews school’s academic quality, affordability, reputation, program offerings, and enrollment information.

Explore Top Online Schools in Different Education Specializations

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does a degree in education cost?

    Associate degrees cost less than bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Tuition, fees, plus room and board for bachelor’s degrees from public institutions were $18,380 in 2018-2019. Tuition costs rise for private institutions and with degree levels.

  • Is getting a degree in education worth it?

    Getting a degree in education provides credentials and knowledge for entering the field. Some careers require a degree in education. An education degree is worthwhile for those interested in pursuing a career in an education related field.

  • What jobs can you get with a degree in education?

    A degree in education can lead to teaching, counseling, or administrative jobs. Additionally, an education degree can build the foundation for a consulting or corporate career training employees.

  • What is the best degree for teaching?

    Most teaching positions require a bachelor’s degree in education. Aspiring teachers should also consider specializing in areas such as elementary or special education to further enhance their degrees.

  • How much do teachers make?

    According to the BLS, people in education, training, and library occupations earn a median annual salary of $52,380. Preschool teachers tend to make less money and require only an associate degree. Postsecondary teachers tend to earn a higher salary and require an advanced degree.


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