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What Are the Different Types of Education Degree Programs?

By B. Miller
Updated May 17, 2024
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People who decide they want to work as teachers, educating others, will first need to earn an education degree. There are a number of different types of education degree programs, each designed to lead to a different career path. In nearly all cases, it will be necessary to at least earn a bachelor's degree in order to be qualified to teach. Upper levels may require a master's or doctoral degree, and many of these are now available online. Education degree programs are also divided up into the ages, or student groups, an individual wishes to teach; for instance, early childhood education, secondary education, or special education are some of the most common.

For people who want to teach elementary, middle, or high school, a bachelor's degree is usually sufficient to do so, though a master's may help secure higher pay. These education degree programs are traditionally found in-residence, and will generally require students to sit for a licensing/certification exam at completion. For teachers looking to instruct middle or high school students, generally known as elementary or secondary education, they will often minor in a certain area. This might be mathematics or history, for example, and then will focus primarily on teaching students in those classes. Teachers educating younger students will have a more general degree.

Some education degree programs will also prepare teachers for specific types of instruction. Special education teachers, for instance, will work with students with special needs. Music or visual arts teachers will usually obtain a second degree in the area in which they will teach; for instance, a degree in education combined with a degree in music or fine arts. Others will want to work in the library, and may earn a degree in education as well as library science; this generally requires a master's degree, however.

It is not unusual for educators who want to teach high school, or perhaps who want to work at a local college, to pursue education degree programs at the graduate level, and earn their master's degree. A degree in college counseling is another education degree, but one that does not lead to an actual classroom job. Individuals who want to teach at a four-year college will usually need to earn a Ph.D. in their chosen specialty. Unlike those people who want to teach elementary, middle, or high school students, however, a teaching license is typically not required. Greater emphasis is typically placed on expertise in the subject area than on teaching skills.

Education degree programs are available at all levels, both in-residence and online. Many students find it helpful to earn advanced degrees online, because they can work and earn their degrees at the same time. It is important for these students to ensure that they are earning their degrees from a fully accredited school, however, to be sure they aren't wasting their time and money.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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