Getting an Education—in Education—Online

teacher and pupil online

By Sarah Stevenson

If struggling to balance family life and career continues to elude you while you pursue your degree, you might want to think about getting an education online. Instead of adhering to a traditional school's rigid class schedule and incurring campus fees, you'll be free to work from home, as early—or as late—as you wish. Your family will appreciate your being there, and your boss will be pleased you're doing your job while pursuing your ambitions—educational goals that may very well help you advance in your current job.

Whether your interest lies in administration, in teaching elementary school students, or in teaching a specific secondary school subject such as biology or history, getting your degree or certification in education online will prepare you for a rewarding and inspiring career.

Besides the traditional educational route to teacher certification, it is possible to pursue a career in education online from an accredited institution. In both cases, though, it is essential to be aware of the distinctive certification requirements for the specific U.S. state or territory where you would like to teach, as they often vary from place to place. This information is usually available from the state Department of Education.

All states require that prospective teachers receive appropriate certification (also called licensing), which is generally granted upon completion of a degree program and submission of application materials. It also usually includes verification of student teaching experience and completion of the Praxis I and/or II tests, which are teacher training assessments administered by the Educational Testing Service.

If you are interested in teaching in a private school, the requirements may be somewhat different. Again, you must familiarize yourself with the individual requirements of the state and the institution where you are interested in teaching.

Learn to Teach by Going Online

The first step to a fulfilling career in teaching is a solid educational foundation, and thanks to ever-expanding developments in technology and pedagogical practices, it is becoming increasingly possible to get degrees and certificates in education online. Many online schools offer certification for new teachers that meets the licensing requirements of various states, as well as offering continuing education for current teachers.

One of the most outstanding benefits to online education is the convenience of flexible scheduling around work and other commitments. But can you really learn to be a teacher and manage a classroom when you learn via the online format? Several online education programs also require practical components such as field experience, student teaching and observation, so that prospective teachers have the opportunity to examine different teaching styles in action and apply their knowledge in a classroom setting. In this way, teachers pursuing their education online can also gain critical in-person experience.

The Route to K-12 Certification

There are two main routes to earning K-12 teacher certification, whether you are pursuing your education online or in person:

  •  The traditional route usually consists of a bachelor's degree in education and sometimes a Master of Education or Master of Arts in teaching, in addition to participating in a state-approved certification program.
  • Alternative teacher certification enables college graduates without an education degree to pursue accelerated coursework and practical experience in preparation to meet state certification requirements. In an alternative program, students may even be able to start teaching in the classroom prior to fully completing their certification.

Degree Programs

  • Associate's Degree in Education: An associate's degree imparts the foundational concepts needed to teach various academic subjects in the classroom, as well as how to teach skills such as writing, problem solving and critical thinking. An associate's degree generally prepares you to enter a bachelor's degree program in education.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Education: In a bachelor's degree program, students learn higher-level classroom management skills, theories and methods of education, and other professional skills that will prepare them to meet the requirements of a state certification program.
  • Master's Degree in Education or Teaching: A master's degree, whether it is a Master of Arts or a Master of Education, offers specialized teacher training in fields ranging from early childhood education to secondary teacher education to adult education. Often, potential teachers who possess a bachelor's degree in an area other than education will pursue a master's degree in education in order to prepare for certification.
  • Doctoral Degree in Education: A doctorate in education prepares you to be a leader in the educational field, through administration at the school or district level, supervision of curriculum or instruction, pursuit of pedagogical research, or analysis of educational policy matters. Doctoral degrees may also prepare the holder to work in higher education or instructional media and technology.