What is an Education Degree?

Do you love working with ideas? Are you passionate about helping others learn and grow?

If so, a degree in education might be for you. Educators play a vital role in society, both within the school system and beyond. They provide students with the support and guidance needed to excel academically, professionally, and personally.

It might come as a surprise, but you don’t have to love children to study education. Graduates in this field can work with anyone from preschoolers to senior citizens. Some simply pursue an education degree to become better learners themselves.

Whatever your reason for choosing this degree, an education background will provide you with essential teaching skills. You’ll take courses like educational psychology, student assessment, and human development. Along the way, you’ll learn to create lesson plans, understand group dynamics, manage a classroom, and more.

Program Options

Education degrees come in all shapes and sizes: online and in-person, full-time and part-time. Most involve some form of practicum or internship to help you build practical skills. The best fit for you will depend on your goals, interests, and lifestyle:

Associate Degree in Education - Two Year Duration
Not ready for a bachelor’s degree just yet? While it isn’t enough to become a professional teacher (since a bachelor’s degree is mandatory in every state), an Associate Degree in Education can be a great starting point to help kick-start a career in education.

The curriculum will include classes such as: theories of childhood development, educational trends, education fundamentals, introduction to elementary education, education technology, math education fundamentals, and liberal arts coursework (such as history, art, math, science, and psychology).

Bachelor’s Degree in Education - Four Year Duration
A bachelor’s degree is the bare minimum for any licensed teaching position. Students wanting to teach in elementary schools generally go for a Liberal Studies Degree. Those wanting to teach in high schools typically specialize in one or two subject areas. Regardless of the path chosen, all students will need to sit for the state’s Board of Education certification examination.

Coursework may include: pedagogy (methods of teaching), educational psychology, educational policy and leadership, assessment, curriculum development and lesson planning, social justice, special education, and instructional technology.

Master’s Degree in Education - Two to Three Year Duration
Required for some teaching jobs, a Master’s Degree in Education is a great way to increase your skills, knowledge, and opportunities for promotion. It is often pursued by educators that want to advance in their career.

The following are examples of the categories of study: curriculum and instruction, counselor education, school counseling, neuroscience in education, academic enrichment, higher education and student affairs, adult education, special education, religious education, media and technology, and prep for a doctorate degree.

Similar degrees include the Master of Arts in Education (MAEd or MAE) and the Master of Science in Education (MSEd or MSE). The Master of Arts in Teaching, however, is quite different.

Doctoral Degree in Education - Three Year Duration
This degree prepares students for academic, research, administrative, clinical, or professional positions in educational, civil, private organizations, or public institutions. Examples of careers are: school superintendent, human resource director, or principal.

Majors within the Doctor of Education degree may include: counseling, curriculum and instruction/curriculum and teaching, educational administration, education policy, educational psychology, educational technology, higher education, human resource development, language/linguistics, leadership or technology/innovation in instruction.

Specialty Teaching Degrees
Interested in teaching special education, English as a second language, or early childhood education? There’s a specialized training program for each of these careers.

Degrees Similar to Education

It can be difficult to decide whether to study education or a related subject, like counseling or counseling psychology. All three degrees focus on people—on understanding how they think, feel, and thrive. Like teachers, many counselors and psychologists work in schools, helping young people develop their skills and confidence.

While educators teach students to explore and learn from the world around them, counselors and psychologists play more of a guidance role. By providing support, therapy, and resources, they help clients overcome troubling times and make difficult life decisions.

Skills You’ll Learn

A degree in education will provide you with valuable transferrable skills, no matter what path you choose. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

The most important quality of any teacher, taking it slow will help both you and your students succeed.

Education students learn to express ideas clearly in words and in writing. Passionate and enthusiastic, they practice engaging even the most reluctant students with course content.

Critical thinking
Asking critical questions is one of the best ways to teach—as well as to learn. A background in education helps you ask what, when, how, who, and why.

Managing a classroom of students is no small feat. In any education degree, you’ll learn to set deadlines, plan for the future, balance priorities, schedule your time, and more.

What Can You Do with an Education Degree?

A degree in education can prepare you for success in a wide range of careers—both in the classroom and beyond. Here are just a few options to consider:

It’s the obvious choice, but many education graduates do go on to teach. Teachers are found in high school, post secondary, preschool, and primary education settings. They can work in the private or public sector, online or overseas, and even offer private tutoring from their own homes.

Educational Administration
A managerial position, education administrators work at all levels of the schooling system. They hire and train staff, develop programming, manage budgets, and direct the overall mission of the institution at which they work.

Library Science
Library science combines knowledge and tools from education, management, information technology, and other fields. Similar to education, this industry is dedicated to preserving and sharing knowledge with others.

Special Education Teaching
Special education teachers work with students’ unique learning needs to help them thrive academically and socially. This profession tends to involve more one-on-one tutoring and support than a "standard" teaching job. But for many, it is equally—if not more—rewarding.

Curriculum Design
What should students study at school? What materials or tools will help them learn most effectively? Curriculum design is a practice that addresses these questions and more. A key aspect of any teaching job, it’s also a career in and of itself.

Like educators, school counselors help students gain valuable skills, confidence, and self-awareness. Empathetic education graduates can be a natural fit for a counseling role, using their patience and communication abilities to guide young people in their personal development

Instructional Technology
The educational tools an instructor uses in the classroom can be equally—sometimes more—important than the instructor themselves. The instructional technology industry strives to build and improve learning tools and resources that allow students to truly excel.

Business Management
Finally, some education graduates decide to leave the field entirely and enter the business world. They make great managers, using their mentorship abilities to train, supervise, and guide employees towards success.

Case Study

It may come as a surprise, but organizations like the YMCA love to hire education graduates. Why? Every year, YMCAs around the world need to find qualified leaders to run summer camp programs for children and youth. Not only do education students have hands-on experience working with kids, they also possess the enthusiasm and organization needed to keep a rowdy bunch of campers in check.

Becoming a counselor at one of these camps is a perfect fit for anyone with an education degree. For full-time teachers who get summers off, the seasonal work is an opportunity to gain extra cash. But some educators enjoy the camp environment so much that they choose to pursue this career full-time. Either way, it’s a great way to stay fit, have fun, and get out in nature!


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