You’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and now, the time is right for you to go back to school to earn a degree in education. Does this describe you? If so, you may have questions about whether to apply to a program featuring in-person courses or one that is primarily or entirely online. One of the big questions you may have is: do schools hire teachers with online degrees?
Although online programs are a relatively new form of education, the answer to your question is “yes.” Most school districts have no problem with applicants who have online degrees. Let’s unpack that a bit more, though, and take a closer look at how hiring managers view online degrees.
How Do Employers Perceive Online Degrees?
In a survey conducted by Northeastern University in 2018 titled Educational Credentials Come of Age, online credentialing was one of the factors surveyed. The study showed that a solid 61 percent majority of hiring managers felt that online degrees were either of the same quality or of higher quality than in-person programs. Seventy-one percent of these HR professionals said they had hired someone with an online degree.
In the five years since this report was published, we have survived a global pandemic that made online education even more common. In fact, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 75 percent of undergraduate students were enrolled in at least one online course in 2020. With this many students graduating from online courses, human resources staff have become even more likely to accept qualified job applicants, no matter how they earned their degrees.
Finding a Respectable Online Degree Program
Although online degree programs have generally become more respectable, each prospective student needs to do their homework to ensure that they are enrolling in a legitimate program and will be well-regarded by hiring managers. How do you do that? There are several factors to consider to find the best online degree programs.
One is to be sure that the program is accredited. Accreditation is a process that schools go through periodically, often every five to ten years, to ensure that the education they offer adheres to the highest academic standards. If you go to an accredited school, you can be sure that your program, as well as the professors teaching in it, have passed a robust examination from an unbiased accrediting agency.
Accrediting agencies must be recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). To ensure that your school is accredited, look first on the website. You can often find the accrediting agency on the “about us” page or ask an admissions person who accredits the school. Then go to CHEA’s website to ensure that this agency is an established one that is equipped to review and accredit your school properly.
Another way to ensure that your chosen school is respectable is to look at whether it is a for-profit or nonprofit organization. A for-profit school is there to make money for shareholders or owners. To do that, it may cut corners when it comes to paying for the best teaching staff or offering the highest level of support services to students.
On the other hand, a nonprofit school is not intended to make money but, instead, is meant to benefit the common good. Your tuition money and any other finances the school owns are kept in an endowment and are used to provide a better educational experience for students. Because of this, you are better served by choosing a program in a nonprofit institution. Since most colleges and universities are nonprofit, you should be able to find a desirable program for your needs at such an institution.
Although you are under no obligation to mention that you earned your degree online when you apply for a job, you should be honest if you are asked in an interview. However, you can turn this around for your own benefit with little difficulty. Consider these facts, which you can highlight as needed:
- Online students generally are more motivated to earn their degree in a timely manner, showing that they are able to set their sights on a goal and stick with it.
- Since many online students are also juggling a job and/or family commitments, online students tend to have excellent time management skills and are able to prioritize tasks effectively.
- Since it can be more of a challenge to connect with professors or other students in an online program, online students tend to have highly-developed communication skills that they use when forging relationships and managing networking opportunities.
- Many online students are looking to save money on their education and learn how to manage their finances in a fiscally conservative way.
All of these traits are transferable: in other words, they are life skills that serve you well both in college and on the job. In fact, they give you an added edge when you’re applying for a position. It’s up to you to show the recruiter that not only are you a good teacher, but you also have these additional traits that you have learned and practiced throughout the time you were in school, traits that make you a better and more well-rounded applicant for the job.
Top Online Degrees for Teachers
There is a broad range of jobs within the world of education, including secondary education, special education, and gifted and talented education. Online programs exist across the U.S. for any of these three fields.
High school teachers are needed across the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the field will grow by five percent over the next decade, resulting in a need for nearly 50,000 new teachers. The median pay for a secondary-level instructor was $61,820 in 2021, making this a desirable job prospect for many educators. Educational requirements to become a high school teacher vary depending on your location and may be either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. Online master’s degree programs are very common, and earning a master’s degree can lead to increased responsibilities and earnings.
Another growing field in education is special ed, and the BLS predicts that the U.S. will need 20,600 new special ed teachers by 2031. Special education teachers earn a median salary of $61,820 per year, but that varies greatly depending on the level of education the teacher has.
Individuals can become special ed teachers with a bachelor’s degree, which is generally accepted for new teachers just starting out. Many educators, however, go back to school to earn a master’s degree in special education, and online master’s programs are increasingly common. The need for master’s-trained special ed teachers is especially acute at the preschool level, where the BLS projects eight percent growth over the next decade.
For special ed professionals who wish to go further in their education, many online doctoral programs are available, leading to a Ph.D. For these high-level professionals, the salary may be $100,040 or more, and they will be well-equipped to hold leadership positions in their districts.
Gifted and talented education
Roughly 3.2 million students are enrolled in gifted and talented programs in the U.S., and teachers trained to work with this demographic are in need throughout the country. Many of these teachers have a master’s degree in education with a specialization in gifted and talented education, and many of them earn their degrees online.
All of these top-degree specializations for teachers are readily available online. No matter where you live, you can access an online degree that suits you as long as you have an internet connection. There’s never been a better time to begin your education degree online so that you can get into a classroom quickly and make a difference for the next generation of students.