An associate's degree in education is an entry-level college degree, possibly the first one you might pursue after earning your high school diploma or an equivalent certification. You obtain your associate's degree in education upon successful completion of up to two years of study as well as a practicum. Two-year community colleges are the primary places to find associate degree programs, although many four-year colleges and universities also offer two-year degree programs. Another alternative is taking online associate degree classes for education, although keep in mind you usually must complete a practicum in a physical location for hands-on experience and application.
Depending on the specific school you attend, you might complete your practicum independent of, or concurrent with, your courses. The practicum provides valuable hands-on application of your classroom learning and gives you a glimpse into what that specific career position is like, whether in a preschool, high school or other type of school. With two years of study for a traditional associate's degree program, or about 18 months for an online program, you can enter a new profession in education.
You typically can choose from several concentrations for your associate's degree in education, including early childhood, elementary, secondary and special education. On the other hand, you might prefer to choose a specific subject area, such as mathematics or science. Some schools also offer concentrations in therapy assistant programs, such as speech, physical or occupational therapy.
The general program of study for an associate's degree in education includes basic courses in college-level grammar and composition, mathematics or algebra and humanities or psychology, among others. After you successfully complete these courses, you take electives relevant to your concentration. For instance, if you choose early childhood education, some of your electives might include literacy and child growth and development. For special education, you might take courses addressing developmental disorders and assistive technology.
A few specific tracks within an associate's degree program in education include general studies, paraprofessional studies, early childhood education and special education. Keep in mind that an associate's degree in education will not prepare you to become a full-time teacher but rather a classroom aide or assistant, preschool teacher or a paraprofessional such as a speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA) or occupational therapy assistant (OTA). If you want to advance to a full-time teaching position, an associate's degree is a good steppingstone toward that goal, which requires advanced education training.