Secondary Education Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a secondary education degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Study Secondary Education: Degrees at a Glance

Secondary teachers can find careers nationwide, and your degree will make it possible for you to work within a public or private school and educate students in grades 7-12. While an associate's degree program will provide you with basic education courses, a bachelor's degree will be necessary for you to become a licensed teacher.

To be a successful educator, you should have a desire to help students learn and excel academically, know how to effectively communicate and be eager to identify solutions to educational challenges. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for high school teachers is projected to grow 7% from 2010-2020.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who are interested in teaching and want a head start on their bachelor's degree People who want to help teach students skills and lessons that will prepare them for life after high school
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) None: a bachelor's degree is required for becoming a secondary teacher. These are designed as transfer programs. - High school teacher ($57,000)*
- Career and technical education teacher ($56,000)*
- Special education teacher ($59,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Complete approximately 60 credit hours - Complete about 120 credit hours
- Earn a passing score on certification exams
- Complete a semester of student teaching
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes, but to become a teacher, you will have to use this degree as a transfer program Yes, but you should still expect to complete classroom teaching in a school environment

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Associate's Degree in Secondary Education

An associate's degree program in secondary education will prepare you to enter a bachelor's degree program at a 4-year learning institution. You will be expected to complete general education courses, pre-education classes and a small amount of classes that are specific to the subject area you plan to teach. Admittance into a bachelor's degree program can often be very competitive, so it will be important that you maintain a satisfactory GPA while completing your degree program.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Completing an associate's degree program will give you the chance to ensure this career path is a suitable fit for you
  • The coursework in an associate's degree program will transfer to your bachelor's degree program
  • Upon completion of your associate's degree program, you will be able to enter a 4-year teaching program as a junior

Cons

  • You will not be able to work as a secondary teacher without furthering your educational degree
  • This degree program is not readily available in an online format
  • The majority of coursework in an associate's degree program will be general education classes; only a small amount of your classes will be directed towards helping you learn how to become a high school teacher

Common Courses and Requirements

An associate's degree program in secondary education requires you to complete approximately 60 credit hours and will contain general education classes in areas like mathematics, humanities, sciences and communications. You can also expect to take pre-education classes, as well as classes that are specifically aligned with the subject area you plan to teach.

Online Degree Options

While there are online programs that will allow you to earn an associate's degree in secondary education, the majority of these programs will still require some campus-based classes. It is important to understand that even if you choose an online learning format to obtain your associate's degree, you will still need to transfer to a bachelor's degree program in order to become a teacher. Although an online degree program may not be suitable for everyone, it may allow you to maintain previous responsibilities while working on your degree.

Stand Out with this Degree

To stand out in this field, it will be important that you have a GPA that shows good academic standing throughout your coursework. In addition, this is likely to help you gain admittance into a bachelor's degree program. Volunteering and gaining experience in working with students could also be beneficial. Opportunities may be available with organizations, churches and youth camps.

Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education

Bachelor's degree programs in secondary education are designed to teach you the fundamentals of how to become a successful teacher. Your degree program will require you to complete approximately 120 credit hours; these credits include general education courses, classes that are specific to your area of emphasis, electives and core education courses.

Prior to graduation, you will have to complete a semester of student teaching. It will also be necessary for you to earn a passing score on your state's certification examination. As a secondary education teacher, you will generally work the hours of a typical school day. However, it is common for teachers to also spend time after school and on the weekends preparing for upcoming lessons or grading papers.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The coursework in a bachelor's degree program is designed to prepare you to teach a specific subject area
  • Enables you to work in an environment teaching students valuable life and academic skills
  • Most school districts have schedules that give their teachers time off during the summer months

Cons

  • Having only one focus area may make it more difficult to find employment
  • Enrollment in high schools is not expected to grow as fast as other educational levels*
  • You will likely have tasks that must be completed after your school day is complete, such as grading papers and lesson planning

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Courses and Requirements

After completing the requirements of your degree program, you may still have additional requirements that you must meet in order to become certified to teach in your state. The coursework will help you learn how to communicate with high school students and how to effectively manage your classroom. You will also learn how to create lesson plans and assess student progress.

Online Degree Options

While there are many bachelor's degree programs that are available in an online format, programs will still require that students complete some on-campus or classroom-based learning. For instance, the majority of online bachelor's degree programs require students to complete classroom teaching experiences, as well as student teaching prior to graduation. These components must be conducted within a real-world classroom setting.

Stand Out with this Degree

One sure way for you to stand out against fellow job seekers is to obtain certification to teach students whose primary language is not English. In addition, gaining a thorough knowledge of different computer software programs will allow you to incorporate a variety of technology into your lesson plans. Potential employers will view this factor as a welcome addition to your resume.

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