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Degrees for a Career in Education

Educators aren't just school teachers. People who get education degrees work as corporate trainers, professional development leaders, guidance counselors, administrators, and much more. What educators share is a passion for their subject, and the desire to help others succeed in learning.

Degree Programs for School Teachers

Many jobs in education are available through schools, including preschools, public schools, and private schools. Each of these has somewhat different educational requirements.

  • While some preschool teachers enter the field with as little as a high school diploma, there is a growing trend toward higher education requirements. Some schools require an associate's degree, but bachelor's degrees in early childhood education or child development are the top degrees for those who want the best job opportunities.
  • The best college degree for public school teachers is a bachelor's degree through a teacher education program and a teaching license. After working in the field for a few years, many public school teachers obtain master's degrees in education. In many states, teachers with master's degrees are offered higher salaries.
  • Teachers at private schools tend to hold a broader range of degrees. A bachelor's degree in the subject of study is the top college degree, and many teachers have related work experience. Top candidates often hold master's degrees, particularly at prestigious schools.

Degrees for School Administrators and Curriculum Developers

Some school teachers advance their careers by becoming administrators, such as principals and superintendents, curriculum developers, and instructional coordinators. These professions nearly always require an advanced degree, including:

  • Master of Education (MEd)
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Teaching

While generally not required, a terminal degree is often the best degree for applicants interested in highly competitive jobs--i.e. those with the highest salaries. Terminal degrees in education include:

  • Education Specialist (EdS)
  • Doctor of Education (EdD)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education

Degrees in Adult Education

Adult education is a broad field and encompasses basic and remedial adult education, corporate training, distance instruction, professional development, and community-based education. Degree requirements are similarly wide-ranging.

  • For teachers of basic adult education and community-based education, a bachelor of arts in education is generally the top degree, although some professionals may go on to earn a master's degree.
  • Corporate trainers and professional development instructors often need a bachelor's degree and related work experience. However, master's degrees in adult education tailored to these professions are becoming more common, making it easier for people to enter these careers with less on-the-job experience.
  • Distance educators usually need a terminal degree, such as a PhD, EdD, or MBA. If you have impressive work experience in your field, a master's degree in adult education with a specialization in distance education could be the best degree in education for you.

Terminal Degrees: A Requirement for College Professors

Because jobs in academia are becoming increasingly competitive, it is rare for someone to find a college teaching position with only a master's degree. Terminal degrees at a doctorate level are the standard for college professors. Terminal master's degrees are also sufficient in some fields; an MBA or MFA would be suitable for college-level instructors of business or art, respectively.


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  • Why Earn Your Degree from GCU?
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  • 100% Online Education Degrees - Ashford University
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  • Go Higher with a career-enhancing degree from Concordia Nebraska you can earn fully online. All our online programs are designed to give you the flexibility to study around your schedule. 
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An accredited online university, Capella University offers bachelor’s, master’s/MBA, doctoral, and certificate programs designed to take you to the forefront of your profession. Our competency-based curriculum delivers both foundational knowledge and real-world skills, so that what you’re learning in your courses is immediately applicable to your career goals.

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