Degrees Needed for an Education Career

An education career is a professional career, requiring education beyond high school.

Public school teachers must be licensed, which typically requires a bachelor’s degree and the completion of an approved teacher education program as well as supervised practice teaching. Most states offer alternative routes to people with degrees in other fields.

Teacher education programs are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Most states require applicants for a teacher’s license to be tested for competency in basic skills, including reading and writing, and to exhibit proficiency in their subject. Most states require teachers to complete a minimum number of hours of continuing education to renew their licenses.

Computers play an important role in education, so teachers need to be computer literate, acquainted with educational software, and able to guide students in usingthe Internet. Teachers use computers to record grades and perform other administrative and clerical duties. They must constantly upgrade their skills so they can instruct and use the latest technology.

Teachers need to be aware of different cultures so they can include multicultural programming in their lesson plans and address the needs of students from varied ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. Site-based management, which allows teachers and parents to participate in decisions about school operations, means that teachers need to be able to make good decisions regarding budgeting, personnel, curricula, and teaching methods.

Degrees Needed for an Education Career

In addition to knowledge about the subjects they teach, the technology they use, and the varied cultures they serve, teachers need to be able to communicate clearly, inspire trust and confidence, and motivate students. They also need to understand students’ emotional needs. They need to be organized, dependable, patient, and creative.

They should be able to work cooperatively and communicate effectively with other teachers, support staff, parents, and community members.

Teachers can attain professional certification – for instance, as reading or math specialists – which demonstrates competency beyond what is required for a license.

What Is an Associate’s Degree?

What is an associate’s degree, and what can it mean to an education career?

An associate’s degree is a two-year degree offered by a community college or junior college. An associate’s degree in early childhood education is normally required to work as an assistant teacher in a preschool, the first step toward becoming a preschool teacher.

Classes required for an associate’s degree include general education courses such as English composition, algebra, and humanities courses.

An associate’s degree can serve as a link between high school and a four-year college for those who have not performed up to their potential in high school. It can offer a second chance at attending a four-year college. However, be sure to check with your community college counselor to determine whether your credits will transfer to the college you want to attend. College counselors can let you know which universities will accept transfers and help you select classes.

An associate’s degree can strengthen competency weaknesses in subject areas – math, English, etc. – needed to teach elementary school, for instance. An associate’s degree gives a second opportunity to learn language proficiency, computer literacy, or other skills needed for an education degree at all levels.

Prerequisites for an associate’s degree include a high school diploma, a GED, or passing an entrance exam that demonstrates competency.

Associate’s degrees that can be applied to education careers include the Associate of Arts, Associate of/in Science, Associate of Arts in Teaching, Associate inFine Arts, Associate of Baccalaureate Studies, or Associate in Technology.

Candidates who desire to teach will want to take the associate’s degree as a transfer degree. This degree allows students to complete the general education requirements prior to transfer to a four-year university.

What Is a Bachelor’s Degree?

What is a bachelor’s degree, and how does it relate to education careers?

A bachelor’s degree is the four-year degree that is the foundation of most careers in education. An undergraduate degree, it is awarded by most colleges and universities.

A broad liberal arts education will help prepare you to become a teacher. All states require at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, and some careers require a master’s.

The bachelor’s degree is required to teach preschool, kindergarten and elementary school, middle school, and high school. Coursework for the bachelor’s degree in education includes theory and practices. Classes are required in language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, physical education, and fine arts. Students also participate in supervised field-based experience.

The degree can be either in education or in the specific specialty area, such as English, math, history, or science.

The two major types of bachelor’s degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) for people specializing in the humanities and arts, and the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) for those who specialize in math and science. The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) is useful for people who want to teach music, drama, painting, sculpture, etc.

A college counselor can help you determine which courses you need for the career direction you desire.

What Is a Master’s Degree?

What is a master’s degree, and how does it relate to an education career?

A master’s degree is a post-graduate degree indicating mastery of a specific field of study. A master’s degree is usually required to teach in a community college.

Master’s candidates specialize either in curriculum and instruction, in counseling, or in administration.

Coursework for the master’s in curriculum and instruction includes teaching classes, public service, and leadership.

Those studying to be mental health counselors will become mental health professionals and work toward state licensing. Those choosing to become guidance or school counselors will study psychology, social work, and law. Students will also take advanced classes in their specific field of specialization.

Individuals interested in becoming school administrators should first be experienced teachers with a master’s degree and a teaching license. They should then take classes specifically designed for school administrators, such as parent and community engagement, supervisory practice, curriculum leadership, cultural leadership, school-based inquiry and reform, empowerment strategies, and organization management.

The two most common types of master’s degrees are the Master of Arts (M.A.) and the Master of Science (M.S.). They can be course-based (based on classes completed) or research-based, based on researching and writing a thesis and/or publishing in peer-reviewed journals; many programs require both coursework and research.

A bachelor’s degree is required for admission to a master’s program.

In some fields, work on the doctorate begins immediately after the bachelor’s degree, but the master’s can be earned along the way as a result of successfully completing coursework and/or examinations. The bachelor’s degree should be in the same subject, or a closely allied field, as the intended master’s.

What Is a Doctorate?

What is a doctorate, and what does it mean to an education career?

A doctoral degree is the academic degree that qualifies the holder to teach at the college or university level. It can also be useful for work as a school administrator. In some fields of study, a doctorate is a terminal degree.

Doctorates are essentially of two primary types. The first is a research doctorate, awarded to recognize coursework and/or academic research that is publishable in a peer-reviewed academic journal. The best-known form of this degree is the Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D.

Criteria for the research doctorate generally require submitting a substantial body of original research – either a single thesis or dissertation or a portfolio of shorter reports – and an oral examination assessed by a committee of examiners named by the university. U. S. colleges generally require graduate-level courses in the subject as well as in research methods.

The second type of doctorate is the professional doctorate, which in the case of education is an Ed.D. It focuses on teaching methodology rather than subject matter and prepares you to become a teacher or an administrator. There is a history of marginalization of those choosing the Ed.D., because some have questioned awarding doctorates for professional training.

Coursework prepares students to understand, evaluate, and conduct research in education; to improve student learning, teaching practices, and services to special populations; and to improve education overall, especially in reading and math instructional design. Classes include instructional design, special populations, research methods and assessment, and literacy, math, or science interventions.

A doctorate can be completed in about seven years, including undergraduate study, though it could require as many as 10 or more.

Get Your PhD in Education, and Join the Teaching Elite

If you want to advance to the highest echelons of the educational field, earning a doctoral degree such as a PhD in education is a necessary element of your success. This level of education can lead to administrative or supervisory positions such as school district superintendents, college deans, university professors, academic researchers, or curriculum developers at educational institutions, government agencies, or private associations. This degree also brings the higher salaries that go along with decision- and policy-making positions. Most teachers decide to pursue doctorates not for more money, however, but because they wish to make original contributions to the body of knowledge in education.

Reaching this level of influence does not come without hard work, however. Gaining admission to a doctoral degree program is demanding and competitive. Although enrollment requirements can be different depending on the individual program, most graduate degree programs usually expect the following:


  • Bachelor’s Degree. A bachelor’s degree is the basic requirement for enrolling in any graduate degree program because it demonstrates that you have the discipline and motivation to complete a rigorous academic schedule. Most graduate school candidates are in their last year of undergraduate studies or are working professionals who have already earned master’s degrees.
  • Admission Test. Most graduate schools require satisfactory scores on a standardized admission test such as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Both of these exams are designed to assess candidates from differing backgrounds by evaluating their verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing proficiencies, which are important skills toward successfully earning a PhD in education. Most schools prefer to use a particular test but will usually accept alternatives. Be sure to check with the graduate school of your choice to determine which tests and passing scores they recognize.
  • High GPA. Although a high postsecondary grade point average (GPA) is not the only factor for acceptance into graduate school, it is important because it shows how reliably you perform over time. For very selective graduate programs, you usually need an A average (usually from 3.5 to 4.0 and above), while less competitive programs will usually accept GPAs of at least 3.0 or a B.
  • Recommendations. Letters of recommendation are also very important for graduate school admission. Excellent references from qualified sources can often make up for any weaknesses in your grades or test scores. Solicit college faculty members or employers who are familiar with your achievements and abilities.
  • Admission or Personal Essays. These can either be on an assigned topic or an autobiographical account of your life, goals, and experiences. They are used to demonstrate how your particular qualities are applicable to your chosen field of study.


Some graduate school programs also require work experience, especially if your bachelor’s degree is not relevant to your chosen field of graduate study.

Once you have been accepted into a doctorate program, it can take you anywhere from three to five years to complete your degree, depending on the program and whether or not you already have a master’s degree. A PhD in education is research-based and requires you to complete a dissertation in which you investigate a particular topic of educational theory. The conclusion of your dissertation is usually expected to result in new knowledge to the educational field or the reassessment of existing theory.