Online education degree programs offer numerous choices, with credentials ranging from associate to doctorate. Students can also find a variety of specialties to focus on, whether they are most interested in a certain age group, a particular subject or a specific aspect of learning. The time of completion for online programs can vary according to the school and the student's schedule.
Online associate degrees in education
Programs at this level could include online associate degrees in early childhood education. Programs like these are designed to provide students with knowledge, skills and training so that they can work with young children. Courses might include early childhood psychology, language and literacy development for young children, and curriculum development for early childhood education as well as subjects such as health, safety and nutrition. Depending on state requirements, holders of these degrees could seek work as a teacher's assistant, day care instructor or pre-kindergarten teacher, or they could continue their education, working toward a bachelor's degree.
Online bachelor's degrees in education
Numerous online education bachelor's degrees are offered, including special, pre-kindergarten primary, elementary and secondary education. In general, the elementary emphasis covers multiple subjects, while secondary education programs target a specific subject like biology, English, math or social studies. Along with general education, students take classes on topics ranging from classroom management to learning theory and educational psychology. These programs may qualify students to pursue a teaching certificate or license, depending on state regulations.
Aside from student teaching, it may be possible to complete the required coursework online. With the necessary prerequisites, career options for these degree holders may include teaching elementary school, kindergarten, industrial arts, adult education, physical education and special education. Other potential occupations are athletic coach/director, guidance counselor, corporate trainer, academic adviser, recreation program coordinator, tutor, education consultant, educational materials writer, librarian and more. Some careers require a teaching license, and requirements vary from state to state.
Online master's degrees in education
The many available online master's degrees may emphasize topics such as teaching, higher education, curriculum development, learning technologies, or global and international education. Advanced studies allow the student to focus on a specific education level and/or subject. Classes often include a written project, or thesis, which students must defend.
Along with certain teaching positions, holders of master's degrees could explore career paths such as corporate trainer, career counselor, school technology consultant, education policy developer, educational coordinator or curriculum developer. Different states and employers have varying requirements -- for example, many school districts require instructional coordinators to hold at least a master's degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012).
Online doctoral degrees in education
The highest education degree available online is a doctorate. While some programs can be obtained entirely online, others require some type of on-campus component that varies from school to school. For instance, a doctorate of education (Ed.D.) may require students to visit campus at different points during the program to participate in various activities. With many Ed.D.s, students focus on a specific area, like health care, distance education, human services administration or nursing education.
Some education-related Ph.D.s are not teaching-focused, such as doctor of philosophy degrees in areas like educational technology and educational leadership. Program curricula vary from school to school, and may include research, a dissertation and seminars. Among other options, those who complete education doctorates could seek work as professors, administrators, researchers, policy analysts, evaluators, assessment specialists and administrators in education or other fields.
Choosing online education degree programs
Given the many options for online studies, aspiring students should determine their main topic of interest and research the requirements in their state. For example, some states require special education teachers to earn a master's degree in the subject after achieving their certification (BLS.gov, 2012). Individuals interested in online education studies can contact schools directly and speak with admissions counselors about qualifications and prerequisites.