Teaching Degrees: Bachelors, Associates & Online Course Info

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An associate's degree and a bachelor's degree in teaching can lead to a career as a teacher. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Teaching: Degrees at a Glance

If you have a love for children and a desire to teach important academic skills, then a teacher is likely to be an ideal career path. To become a teacher, you must obtain your college degree and complete your state's requirements for licensure and certification. Aspiring schoolteachers require a minimum of a bachelor's degree before they are qualified to teach within a public school system. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), your career outlook is dependent on the area in which you specialize. For example, kindergarten and elementary school teachers are projected to see a 17% increase in jobs from 2010-2020.

Associate's degree programs can prepare you for transfer into a bachelor's program or preschool and assistant teaching careers. The BLS projected that teacher assistants may see a 15% increase in jobs, while preschool teachers may see a 25% increase in jobs between 2010 and 2020.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who Is This Degree For? Individuals considering assistant teaching jobs or those preparing to transfer into a bachelor's program People interested in helping K-12 students learn different academic skills
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean yearly salary) - Childcare worker ($21,000) *
- Preschool teacher ($30,000)*
- Teacher assistant ($25,000)*
- Early childhood/kindergarten teacher ($52,000)*
- Elementary teacher ($55,000)*
- Middle school teacher ($56,000)*
- High school teacher ($57,000)*
- Elementary special education teacher ($56,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - About 60 credit hours
-Internship or classroom experience
- About 120 semester hours, approximately 42 credit hours of upper-level work
- Completion of the chosen major program of study
- Classroom teaching experiences
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Available in limited capacity Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Teaching

Associate degree programs in teaching may be available as general teaching programs or in a particular area, such as early childhood education. No matter which program you complete, your coursework will help you learn how to become a positive educational influence in the lives of your students. You'll examine how to help your students create a solid foundation of academic and social skills.

If becoming an elementary, middle school or high school teacher is your ultimate career goal, you should note that an associate's degree would not allow you to work in these positions. To obtain your licensure and certification to become a teacher in one of these capacities you will need to further your educational degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Degree program can be completed in approximately 2 years, allowing you to enter the work force sooner
  • Course work that you complete may be applied to a bachelor's degree program
  • Transfer students with an associate's degree may have lower total tuition costs

Cons

  • Associate's degree programs may not provide you with the work experience required by some states to hold preschool teaching positions
  • Generally, associate's holders in teaching fields make about $20,000 less than bachelor's holders ($30,000 for preschool teacher vs. $52,000 for early childhood teacher)*
  • Some childcare centers require preschool teachers to have a bachelor's degree; therefore, you may compete for jobs with bachelor's holders*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Courses and Requirements

The curriculum of your program may vary depending on if you are completing an early childhood education program or a transfer program. Transfer programs may only cover the basic requirements necessary to apply to a school of education, while early education programs will train you to work in the field. Some early education programs base their curriculum on the standards created by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. In addition to general education classes, you can expect to complete education core courses, developmental level and education content courses and clinical experience courses. Within your core courses, you may take classes in human development, special needs children, curriculum development and literacy. Coursework will also help you learn how to use a variety of techniques to develop a student's emotional, social, verbal and creative sides. Your hands-on experience will give you the opportunity to apply what you have learned in a real classroom setting under the direct supervision of a mentoring teacher.

Online Degree Options

Although online programs for an associate's degree are not quite as plentiful as higher-level degrees, they do exist in early education. It is typical for online associate's degree programs to offer a curriculum that teaches students how to create an environment that is conducive to learning, use resources within the classroom and identify trends in an educational system.

In today's society, a degree from an accredited online university will not hinder your employment opportunities. Although your coursework will be very similar to that of a campus-based degree program, an online learning format will allow your schedule to be flexible and may even make it possible for you to maintain your current employment.

How to Stand Out With This Degree

To help you stand out against fellow job seekers, you should consider your performance in a few key areas. For instance, top grades on your transcript will definitely show potential employers that you have a solid understanding of the knowledge and skills needed to excel as a teacher. In addition, real-world experiences that you can add to your resume will likely help attest that you are well suited for the responsibilities required by this career path. If you complete an associate's degree program that offers an internship or classroom teaching experience, you will gain hands-on experience communicating with students and teachers.

According to the BLS, preschool teachers also have the option of becoming certified as a child development associate or as a childcare professional. To become certified, you typically need a high school diploma, field experience and coursework.

Bachelor's in Teaching

To become an elementary or secondary teacher you will need to obtain your bachelor's degree. While it is most common for individuals pursuing this career to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree program, it may also be possible for you to become a teacher through a Bachelor of Science degree program. No matter which of these programs you choose to pursue, you will be required to choose a specialization. Specializations are available for elementary to high school students. Additionally, aspiring middle and secondary teachers may choose to focus in a particular area or subject, such as math, reading or science.

In your bachelor's degree coursework, you will be learning a variety of methods and techniques that you will be able to apply in your own classroom. You explore how to properly assess your students, effectively teach a group of students who are at different ability levels and manage the behavior of the students in your classroom.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Bachelor's degree programs in teaching provide you with the student teaching and coursework necessary to gain state certification
  • Most teachers work a 10-month school year and get the summer months off
  • Bachelor's programs are available for several age groups and areas, allowing you to tailor your program towards the students or subjects you're interested in teaching

Cons

  • Once in the work force, you will likely have additional job responsibilities after the workday is complete, which may require you to work nights and weekends
  • Bachelor's holders may be required to complete continuing education hours to maintain licensure and certification
  • Admittance into a teaching program may be open to a limited number of students

Common Courses and Requirements

To become a teacher, you should expect to complete four main components that consist of approximately 120 credit hours. These components contain educationally based classes that will help prepare you for the clinical experiences and student teaching. Your coursework will vary based upon your area of specialization. For example, a student completing a bachelor's program in elementary education may complete courses in classroom technology, educational psychology, literacy learning and elementary school science. No matter which program you pursue, you will have to complete a semester of hands-on student teaching within a classroom under the supervision of a licensed teacher. This full-day experience allows you to demonstrate your knowledge of classroom management, teaching and curriculum development.

Online Degree Options

There are bachelor's degree programs that are offered in a purely online format. An online bachelor's degree program will make it possible for you to work on your degree within a flexible class schedule. Even in this type of learning format, you should expect to be required to complete a semester of student teaching in a classroom setting. Keep in mind, you can choose to obtain your bachelor's degree in teacher education if you are fresh out of high school, or if you have already obtained your associate's degree. This learning environment is ideal for those individuals who have worked in an educational system as a paraprofessional or substitute teacher.

How to Stand Out With This Degree

The job market for teachers can often be quite competitive. To stand out against fellow job seekers it is a good idea to choose an area of specialization within your degree program. For instance, an elementary education major may choose to focus in special education so that he or she will have additional skills that are desirable in the work place.

Creating a portfolio that documents your work within an educational program can demonstrate your teaching skills. It will be important that you use this portfolio to demonstrate your skills and qualifications to potential employers. For example, a strong portfolio will likely show that you have room for improvements, but that you are working on your particular areas of weakness. You can include lessons that you have created, along with evaluations you received during your schooling.

To become a teacher within a public school you must be licensed. State licensure varies, but typically requires you to complete a bachelor's degree program and student teaching, as well as pass a general teaching certification test and a certification test in your specialty.

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