Education Degree & Career Guide

What to expect from an education degree program

An education degree program offers a promising career outlook, with steady demand anticipated over the next decade. While an associate degree prepares students with a strong foundation in the field and the ability to become teaching assistants, those interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree frequently obtain positions as elementary or high school teachers, with salaries surpassing the national median. Furthermore, master’s degree holders can explore roles in educational leadership, curriculum development, or specialized teaching with higher earning potential. Those with a doctorate can find opportunities in academia, research, and top-tier leadership positions, often enjoying six-figure salaries.

Whether pursuing a career in teaching, administration, or educational research, an education degree provides versatile pathways for professional growth and impact, with compensation aligning with increasing expertise and responsibilities.

Types of education degrees

Associate degree

An associate degree in education caters to aspiring educators seeking a concise yet comprehensive entry into the field. Ideal for those searching for foundational knowledge without a bachelor’s degree’s financial and time commitment, the curriculum typically covers educational psychology, teaching methodologies, and classroom management.

This two-year program allows students to enter the workforce with roles like teaching assistant or childcare provider. Graduates often find fulfilling positions in preschools or as support staff in K-12 settings. Moreover, many leverage this degree as a stepping stone, transferring earned credits toward a bachelor’s degree in education.

  • Degrees available: Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS)
  • Minimum credits: 60
  • Average length of program: 2 years full-time

Bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree in education is ideal for individuals planning careers as certified teachers. The curriculum encompasses pedagogical theories, classroom management, and subject-specific methodologies, enriched by hands-on experiences like internships and capstone courses.

Those seeking to enter the workforce immediately commonly pursue teaching positions spanning K-12 education. Many also find roles in educational support, curriculum development, or technology. Furthermore, a bachelor’s in education is an excellent foundation for those planning to enroll in a graduate program, which can provide opportunities for advanced roles or specialization.

  • Degrees available: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Education (BEd)
  • Minimum credits: 120 
  • Average length of program: 4 years full-time

Master’s degree

Designed for educators seeking advanced expertise and leadership roles, a master’s degree in education delves into specialized areas like educational administration, curriculum design, or educational technology. Courses often include research methodologies and may culminate in a thesis or comprehensive project, refining pedagogical skills and equipping educators to address complex challenges in the education sector.

Upon graduation, students often pursue leadership positions such as school principal, curriculum specialist, or educational consultant. This degree can also provide the necessary education to attain careers in university-level teaching or to pursue a doctoral degree for those inclined toward academic research or policy.

  • Degrees available: Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Education (MEd), Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), Master of Science in Education (MSEd)
  • Minimum credits: 30 
  • Average length of program: 2 years full-time

Doctorate degree

Geared towards educators with significant experience, a doctorate in education involves an intensive research-oriented curriculum. Coursework includes advanced educational theory, qualitative and quantitative research methods, and a substantial dissertation project. This terminal degree signifies mastery in the field and provides students with the necessary education to shape educational practices and policies.

Graduates of these programs are prepared for high-level leadership roles in education, such as school district superintendent, university professor, or educational policy analyst.

  • Degrees available: Doctorate of Education (EdD), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Minimum credits: 60
  • Average length of program: 4 years full-time

Specialization options

Education, as a field, offers ambitious professionals a multitude of avenues for specialization, allowing them to align their academic pursuits with their interests and career goals. Regardless of the degree level, this sector provides a range of specialization options, each uniquely designed to cultivate expertise in specific areas. From honing teaching practices in Special Education to navigating the demands of Educational Leadership and Administration, it’s possible to find a specialization in education to meet any related career goal.

  • Special Education: Special Education focuses on teaching methods and strategies for students with diverse learning needs, including those with disabilities. Specialization in this field equips educators to create inclusive classrooms and provide tailored support to students with unique educational requirements.
  • Curriculum and Instruction: This concentration delves into the design, development, and evaluation of educational curricula. It explores instructional strategies, assessment techniques, and technology integration to enhance teaching effectiveness and student learning outcomes.
  • Educational Leadership/Administration: Geared towards those aspiring to lead educational institutions, this concentration emphasizes organizational management, policy development, and leadership skills necessary for roles such as school principals, superintendents, or educational administrators.
  • Higher Education Administration: Focused on postsecondary institutions, this concentration prepares students for administrative roles in colleges and universities. It covers areas like student affairs, enrollment management, and academic administration.
  • Counseling and Guidance: This specialization equips educators with skills in counseling and guidance to support students in personal, academic, and career development. It is most valuable for roles in school counseling or advising.
  • Adult Education: Intended for those working with adult learners, this field of study explores instructional strategies, program development, and assessment techniques tailored to the unique needs of adult education settings.
  • Instructional Design and Technology: This concentration focuses on leveraging technology to enhance educational outcomes. It covers designing and implementing effective instructional materials and technology integration in the learning environment.
  • Early Childhood Education: This discipline addresses the unique needs of young children. It covers developmental psychology, age-appropriate teaching methods, and curriculum design for early childhood settings.
  • Literacy Education: Centering on reading and writing instruction, this specialization delves into literacy development, assessment, and interventions. Educators specializing in literacy contribute to enhancing students’ overall communication skills.

The Best Education Degree Programs

This list features some of the best education degree programs in the U.S. The schools on this list are non-profit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with high standards for post-secondary education.

We evaluated each degree program on tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and student resources as well as admission, retention, and graduation rates. We also compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications, including U.S. News & World Report. Using this data, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Online Associate Degrees

Online Bachelor’s Degrees

Online Master’s Degrees

Online Doctorate Degrees

What Can I Do With a Degree in Education?

A degree in education is unique because it opens a gateway to a spectrum of impactful career paths at any academic level.

For example, graduates can quickly enter the field with an associate’s degree and secure roles as teaching assistants or childcare providers. Those pursuing bachelor’s degrees can seek teaching opportunities in K-12 classrooms and educational support roles. Advancing to a master’s degree qualifies educators for leadership roles as school administrators, curriculum specialists, or higher education instructors. The pinnacle, a Doctorate in Education, positions professionals for top-tier leadership roles, such as superintendents, university deans, or educational consultants, shaping the future of education through research, policy, and transformative leadership.

At every level, an education degree is a versatile foundation, empowering individuals to contribute meaningfully to educational environments in many ways.

Elementary School Teacher

Median annual salary: $61,620
Job outlook: 1% increase through 2032

Elementary school teachers are crucial in laying the foundation for children’s academic and social development. They create engaging lesson plans, instruct students in various subjects, and foster a positive and inclusive classroom environment.

A bachelor’s degree in education or a related field is typically required to become an elementary school teacher. Additionally, completing a teacher preparation program and obtaining state licensure is essential to ensure educators are well-equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to educate young learners.

School Principal

Median annual salary: $101,320
Job outlook: 1% increase through 2032

School principals serve as educational leaders and the administrative head of a school, overseeing its overall operation, staff management, and cultivating a positive learning environment. They are pivotal in curriculum development, student discipline, and the implementation of school policies. Principals also engage with parents, collaborate with teachers, and work to create a supportive school structure.

To qualify for this leadership position, educators typically need a master’s degree in education or a related field, although some schools may require a doctorate in education or education administration. Prior teaching experience and state-level certification are also commonly needed, ensuring principals bring a comprehensive understanding of educational practices and leadership skills to their role.

University Registrar

Median annual salary: $99,940
Job outlook: 4% increase through 2032

A university registrar is a critical administrative professional responsible for managing student records, course registrations, and academic policies. They coordinate class schedules, ensure compliance with academic regulations, and oversee the implementation of graduation systems.

Typically, a master’s degree in higher education administration, student affairs, or a related field is required for this position. Relevant experience in university administration, strong organizational skills, and a comprehensive understanding of academic policies and procedures are essential for success.

Student Resources and Organizations

Pursuing a degree in education is often a rewarding experience with steady job prospects on the other side, but taking the first step can be daunting. Whether you aspire to become a classroom teacher, educational leader, or researcher, the following articles will provide the insights and guidance you need to make this decision effectively.

High school students eager to pursue a career in education can lay a solid foundation by engaging in pre-professional organizations or clubs. Joining groups like Future Educators of America (FEA), Educators Rising, or the National Honor Society can provide opportunities for mentorship, networking, and hands-on exposure to the field. These organizations offer a platform to explore teaching methodologies, connect with like-minded peers, and gain valuable insights from seasoned educators. Additionally, seeking internships, volunteering at local schools, and participating in relevant workshops can boost practical skills.

Frequently Asked Questions: Education Degrees

Should I get an education degree in person or online?

Whether to pursue your education degree in person or online will ultimately depend on your preferences and lifestyle circumstances, as both options have their merits.

In-person programs offer face-to-face interaction, networking opportunities, and hands-on experiences, which can benefit students who excel in traditional classroom settings. However, they may require a more structured schedule and can be less flexible for those with significant work or family commitments.

On the other hand, online education degrees offer flexibility, accessibility, and the ability to study from anywhere. This format suits self-motivated individuals who can manage their time effectively. However, online programs may lack some of the in-person networking and immediate feedback opportunities.

Is an education degree worth it?

Yes, an education degree can be worth it, especially for those genuinely enthusiastic about the field. While pursuing a career in teaching demands dedication and time, the return on investment (ROI) is often favorable. The field anticipates steady demand over the next decade, and salaries for educators typically surpass the national median. Beyond financial considerations, the intrinsic rewards of positively impacting students’ lives contribute significantly to the overall worth of an education degree.

How much does an education degree cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost for a four-year undergraduate degree in the 2021-2022 academic year was $26,903, while a two-year graduate degree averaged $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year. However, these figures are general averages, and actual costs depend on the specific institution, the degree level, whether it’s a public or private school, and the student’s residency status. Other expenses like books, accommodation, and miscellaneous fees contribute to the overall cost.

Interested in a degree instead?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.