Home > The Best Online Teaching Degrees in 2017

The Best Online Teaching Degrees in 2017

As kindergarten student enrollment grows across the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts the need for pre-school and secondary school teachers to increase at an average of 6% through 2024. Middle school and high school teachers are also expected to see job growth increase by 6% over the better part of the next decade. While a career as a professional teacher in public and most private schools requires at least a bachelor’s degree, there are a variety of occupations suited to graduates of online teaching degrees at all level of education and experience.

A typical classroom teacher’s day at any grade level is divided between classroom and non-classroom duties. Classroom duties include instruction and various types of student interaction, combined with non-classroom activities such as lesson planning, student progress assessments, test and homework grading, professional development, and other administrative duties. Entry-level teachers can expect to earn an annual average salary of $54,550 for elementary school and $57,200 for high school. Though varied according to specialty and location, teachers in and out of the classroom are required to obtain certification in their state for most public and private school jobs; check individual certification requirements in your state here.

While each of the following schools is accredited, not all teaching programs are intended to culminate in professional licensure. Tuition information is reported directly from each school’s website.

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Can you Get a Teaching Degree Online?

Yes, you can earn your teaching degree online! Online teaching degrees bypass the inconvenience of attending on-campus classes. Those who work full-time, care for children, or live far away from a university can pursue an online education degree and complete coursework at their convenience.

However, some online programs do have on-site requirements. Student teaching and classroom observation are an important part of a teacher’s training, and a purely online education degree would not provide that experience. Before committing to a program, make sure you can complete all of the school’s academic requirements.

Concentrations

When choosing a concentration for your teaching degree, consider subjects and types of students you would enjoy working with. Considering these options helps you choose a program that will benefit you and advance your career.

Early Childhood Education

Graduates work with young children, from infants to eight-year-olds. Students learn how young minds grow and methods to educate children at these early stages.

Careers this Concentration Prepares You For: Preschool or elementary school teacher, child care center worker or director.

Science Education

Graduates with this concentration teach the sciences to middle or high school students. Specializations include biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental science.

Careers this Concentration Prepares You For: Middle or high school science teacher, science writer or editor.

Special Education

Graduates with a special education degree work with children who have physiological, cognitive, and behavioral differences, using specially tailored teaching methods and environments.

Careers this Concentration Prepares You For: Special education teacher, reading specialist, advocate or consultant for families with children who have special needs.

English as a Second Language (ESL)

An ESL degree prepares graduates to teach people whose native language is not English. ESL teachers help students function effectively in English-speaking environments.

Careers this Concentration Prepares You For: ESL teacher grades K–12, teaching community ESL programs for children or adults, teaching English in other countries.

What Will I Learn in an Online Teaching Program?

Students pursuing online teaching degrees major and minor in subjects they want to teach, and they earn teaching certification through additional coursework. Curricula vary among programs, and students further customize their degrees with concentrations and specializations. Below are foundational courses commonly required in online teaching programs.

  • Child development/child psychology: Students explore the physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development of young minds. Future teachers learn how to effectively educate children and teenagers, helping them absorb information.
  • Teaching methods: This course covers practical aspects of classroom teaching, such as how to deliver lectures, perform demonstrations, explain concepts in a way students understand, and lead class discussions.
  • Curriculum and instructional strategies: This course focuses on developing curricula and designing and presenting lesson plans to help students absorb material and improve learning skills. Students explore strategies for teaching different types of students and material.
  • Classroom management: Students learn to manage behavior and organize classrooms. Coursework covers the federal and state laws that apply to the classroom.
  • Special education: Students learn to design classwork for children with special needs, such as physical or intellectual disabilities, and to effectively integrate those students into the classroom. The course covers relevant federal and state laws.

What Degree Do I Need to be a Teacher?

While many online teaching degree programs prepare students to work in the classroom, others focus on non-classroom job opportunities in education. Students aspiring to be principals, school administrators, or instructional coordinators, can also earn a teaching degree online. Education professionals who do not work in a classroom typically have specialized skills, in addition to a master’s education, making them eligible for higher salaries and advanced job opportunities. Elementary, middle, and high school principals earn an average salary of $90,410, postsecondary education administrators earn an average of $88,580, and instructional coordinators earn an average of $62,270. Many non-classroom educators have some hands-on teaching experience. Some positions, like principal, require additional specialty certification.

Most aspiring education professionals need at least a bachelor’s degree, though online teaching degrees are available at every level of education, from associate to doctoral. Earning a teaching degree online is ideal for a variety of specializations, such as special education and early childhood development. An associate degree provides an introduction to education, with diverse but somewhat limited job opportunities in areas such as preschool education. As the minimum requirement for most classroom teaching jobs, a bachelor’s degree provides the most flexible salaries and job opportunities.

Graduates with a master’s degree can pursue administrative occupations in education, as a principal or instruction coordinator, along with options beyond the classroom. PhD holders are eligible to teach at the postsecondary level, to pursue a niche specialization, and to earn the highest income among teaching professionals. Non-classroom teachers may further increase their professional opportunities by pursuing a specialty certification.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Teaching Degree?

Many factors impact the completion time for an online education degree, such as the type of degree, credit hour requirements, the program’s timing, and whether the student is enrolled full- or part-time.

Potential Careers for Teaching Degree Graduates

When they think of a teaching career, most people picture a traditional school teacher or a professor at a university. However, teaching is a broad career with many different paths. An associate degree qualifies graduates to work as preschool or substitute teachers, and advanced degrees lead to careers as school administrators. Some teaching students specialize in special education classes, English as a second language, or counselling. Graduates also pursue positions as corporate trainers or tutors. An online teaching degree opens doors to a variety of career opportunities.

  • School teacher (K–12)

    The majority of teaching jobs are positions teaching in traditional K–12 classrooms. Since students of various ages have specific educational needs, elementary and secondary teachers must meet different requirements. A bachelor’s degree and teaching certification are required for these positions.

  • English as a second language (ESL) teacher

    ESL teachers educate students of any age who are not native English speakers. Such positions may involve teaching school-age children in traditional classroom settings or adults in community or corporate programs. Some ESL teachers go abroad to teach adult students who wish to learn English to advance career or immigration opportunities.

  • Educational consultant

    Educational consultants help parents and students navigate high school and college education options. They are familiar with the programs offered at various schools and recommend programs based on an individual student’s needs. They may also help with the application and enrollment process. These positions require a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s degree is often preferred.

Salary Expectations for People With Teaching Degrees

A teacher’s education level determines their potential salary. Advanced degrees open broader career options, opportunities for advancement, and higher earning potential. However, a teacher’s experience level is almost as important as their degree; the longer a teacher spends in their career, the higher their salary is likely to be. The table below illustrates salary growth over a teacher’s career.

Salary by State

STATE AVG. STARTING SALARY
Alabama $36,198
Alaska $44,166
Arkansas $32,691
Arizona $31,874
California $41,259
Colorado $32,126
Connecticut $42,924
District of Columbia $51,539
Delaware $39,338
Florida $35,166
Georgia $33,664
Hawaii $41,027
Iowa $33,226
Idaho $31,159
Illinois $37,166
Indiana $34,696
Kansas $33,386
Kentucky $35,166
Louisiana $38,655
Massachusetts $40,600
Maryland $43,235
Maine $31,835
Michigan $35,901
Minnesota $34,505
Missouri $30,064
Mississippi $31,184
Montana $27,274
North Carolina $30,778
North Dakota $32,019
Nebraska $30,844
New Hampshire $34,280
New Jersey $48,631
New Mexico $31,960
Nevada $35,358
New York $43,839
Ohio $33,096
Oklahoma $31,606
Oregon $33,549
Pennsylvania $41,901
Rhode Island $39,196
South Carolina $32,306
South Dakota $29,851
Tennessee $34,098
Texas $38,091
Utah $33,081
Virginia $37,848
Vermont $35,541
Washington $36,335
Wisconsin $33,546
West Virginia $32,533
Wyoming $43,269

Accreditation for Online Teaching Programs

Before pursuing an online teaching degree, be sure to select an accredited program. Accreditation shows employers that your education has prepared you for your career. Unaccredited institutions offering teaching degrees online are sometimes called “diploma mills.” These institutions provide substandard education, and employers do not view them as respected schools. Choosing an accredited program ensures that the time and money spent to earn your teaching degree online will advance your career.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits educator preparation programs at every level. CAEP reviews schools and programs to ensure they meet high standards. Look for CAEP accreditation information on the websites of prospective schools.


*The schools listed above are sponsored. Sponsored school listings are distinct paid advertisements and are clearly marked with a “SPONSORED” or “FEATURED” tag to distinguish them from editorially ranked schools. Learn more about how we rank schools or contact us with questions.


To determine the best online Teaching degrees, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 5 best online Teaching programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.

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