Online Teaching Degree: Ranking the Best Programs for ’15

With so many programs available for pursuing online education and teaching degrees, students need as much information as possible prior to making a decision. The following page simplifies the process in two specific ways. First, it provides a listing of online programs in education and teaching from some of today’s best colleges and universities. Second, it breaks down online learning in the field at all levels, from introductory courses at the associate level to advanced research and instruction at the doctorate. Find online degree programs and get an inside view of the online higher educational path.

Meet the Expert: Greg Beatty

Greg Beatty earned his PhD in English from the University of Iowa. He has over twenty years of experience in higher education and has taught traditional, online and hybrid courses at the master’s level and in multiple disciplines. Greg has developed curricula for several colleges and has served on a range of committees and advisory boards. He’s also won grants for course development and awards for teaching.

The biggest lesson I learned as a teacher was it is what students learn that matters, not what I teach, or what I think I’m teaching. And here’s one of my favorite quotations on education: ‘It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.’ (From Aristotle).

Best Online Teaching Degrees for 2015

Students can find online teaching degrees just about anywhere today. Junior colleges, public four-year universities and private institutions continue to add online degree programs in teaching and education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. With so many choices out there, however, the onus is on the students to identify programs that meet their needs. Which ones have the most affordable tuition? Which have top faculty, academic counseling and career placement? And perhaps most importantly, which have accreditation that school districts readily accept?

The following colleges have online teaching degree programs that make a difference. Not only do they have the right balance of cost and quality, but they also boast an increasing collection of program opportunities for aspiring teachers to consider. Let’s see who made our list of the Best Online Teaching Degrees for 2015.

For more information about our criteria and scoring, please visit our methodology page.

ACO Score: 97.28 Student to teacher ratio: 21:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 98% State: Florida

The University of Florida has an online degree program that awards a Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Behavior. The program incorporates studies in health science, sociology, community health and education, building a background for professionals teaching about health and nutrition in schools, nonprofit organizations and other settings.

Students learn to work with diverse groups, promoting healthy lifestyles and educating individuals and communities about health risks. Major courses in the program include personal and family health, health program evaluation and health education materials. The curriculum covers 120 credits of coursework, including a 15-credit internship in the field, usually in the final semester.

The program graduation requirements include a 2.5 GPA in courses for the major and an overall 2.0 GPA at the University of Florida. Applicants to UF are required to submit official ACT or SAT scores for admission to the university and must meet requirements such as course work in a foreign language.

The curriculum in the online bachelor’s degree program is identical to the on-campus program. Online classes at UF include written and prerecorded lectures, as well as discussion boards where students answer questions and share ideas with instructors and each other. Students may participate in interactive labs or work on group projects with peers.

ACO Score: 94.02 Student to teacher ratio: 19:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 96% State: North Carolina

North Carolina A & T University offers an online bachelor’s degree program for students interested in teaching business in the public and private sectors. The Bachelor of Science in Business Education (BTE) with a concentration in information technology is offered fully online and offers concentrations in economics, computer technology, and marketing. A vocational business education program, it trains students in professional teaching standards, information technology, and business fundamentals. Cooperative training is available at businesses and nonprofit organizations, and the information technology concentration prepares students for a variety of careers in the technology field.

Online classes are delivered in a flexible format that allows students to complete assignments on their own schedules. The curriculum is completely online and the same as the on-campus program, but students must complete a 12-week teaching internship at a North Carolina school. Students outside of North Carolina should contact the university for additional information about specific requirements, as there may be restrictions for students in other states.

Because this is a degree completion program, applicants to the business teacher education program must have at least an associate degree. Students should also have a 2.5 undergraduate GPA in their associate degree program.

ACO Score: 92.42 Student to teacher ratio: 18:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 94% State: Georgia

University of Georgia offers an online Bachelor of Science in Special Education for students seeking teacher licensure in grades K-12. This option is a degree completion program, which includes 61 hours of coursework and 30 hours of service learning experiences. Online courses in teaching include language development, students with special needs, teaching students with mild disabilities and classroom behavior management. Because of student teaching and practicum requirements, online students are required to visit the University of Georgia campus on two occasions. In the junior year of the program, students complete a special education practicum, and in the final year, students complete the teaching experience.

Some online course at University of Georgia may be asynchronous and accessible 24-hours per day, while other courses may be delivered on a set schedule, requiring students to log in at specific times to view live lectures and participate in discussions.

Admission into the program requires 60 credits of undergraduate coursework, three professional references and 15 hours of service learning. Additionally, students must take a basic skills assessment exam administered by the state of Georgia. Before applying to the program, students should verify that University of Georgia is approved to offer distance courses in their state.

ACO Score: 92.17 Student to teacher ratio: 16:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 70% State: North Carolina

Adults who want to teach children could pursue an online Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The program operates through the school’s Watson College of Education. Courses are delivered online, however, the curriculum also includes observation, field experience and a practicum.

Learning outcomes associated with the program include understanding course development and the use of technology to enhance education. Among the core courses required to graduate are these:

  • Child Observation and Assessment
  • Infant and Toddler Program Models
  • Adaptive Practices in Early Childhood
  • Preschool Curriculum

A minimum of 15 to 16 hours a semester are needed to finish the program on a full-time basis. Each week it generally takes three times the number of credits in a course to finish coursework and study. For example, it could take nine hours a week to stay apace in a 3-credit course. Graduates from the program can apply for a teaching license for children through kindergarten age.

Admissions applications are accepted online via the SeaLevel portal. SeaNet houses class schedules and a list of online courses related to the undergraduate teaching degree. Other distance learning resources include the Blackboard system, a digital bookstore, web-based lectures, campus email, technology assistance center, online writing consultation and My Seaport. The school uses Seaport to connect students and instructors.

ACO Score: 90.48 Student to teacher ratio: 19:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 89% State: Mississippi

Mississippi State University offers an online bachelor’s degree program in elementary education administered through the College of Education. Instruction is primarily online; however, because of state teaching requirements, the program includes field work in elementary and middle schools, depending on the concentration. In addition, the senior courses in teaching methods incorporate 100+ hours of field work. These classroom experiences lead up to the culminating 15-week full-time internship at a K-8 school, which is required for graduation.

Online classes at Mississippi State University are mainly asynchronous and do not require live participation. Delivered through the Blackboard learning platform, online classes can be accessed 24 hours per day, and the curriculum is the same as for the on-campus teaching program. Graduates who successfully complete the online program and internship are recommended for teacher licensure in Mississippi. To qualify for licensure in another state, students should contact that state’s Department of Education.

To be admitted into this online program, applicants must have a 2.75 GPA for 44 hours of core coursework, including general education. Students must take the Praxis or ACT exam, submit to a background check and have 40 hours of relevant work experience with children. For interested individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree, MSU also has online master’s degree programs for educators.

ACO Score: 90.22 Student to teacher ratio: 12:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 100% State: Hawaii

Aspiring teachers who attend Chaminade University of Honolulu can choose from three bachelor’s degree programs in education online: early childhood education, elementary education, and secondary education. The degrees are offered through the Office of Professional and Continuing Education (PACE).

Students in the early childhood education program must complete 120 credit hours of instruction including general education, electives and major requirements. Students must also meet additional requirements, such as a passing grade on the PPST exam in order to enter the teacher education program.

Those in the elementary education program prepare to teach students in grades K-6. Licensure is part of this program, which is approved by the Hawaii Department of Education and ensured reciprocity through over 40 states and the District of Columbia.

The degree in secondary education offers specialized tracks in English, social studies, math and science. This program is designed to prepare students to teach grades 7-12. As with all other bachelor’s degrees in education, students can take their courses online, but must complete the required observation and participation activities in order to finish the program. This field work can be completed during the final year of study. Students who apply to the bachelor’s degree programs online can expect the same services that on-campus students enjoy, including tech and career services, library access, and campus ministries.

ACO Score: 90.19 Student to teacher ratio: 6:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 79% State: California

Those pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Christian education can find it through Bethesda University. The Bachelor of Arts in religion with a concentration on Christian education prepares students to serve churches, church agencies and other ministries for people of all ages. The program illustrates major teaching methods and prepares students to apply those to their religious work.

Students take 126 credit hours to complete the degree program; 45 hours are in general education, 30 in bible and theology studies, and 51 hours in professional studies, including education courses such as educational administration, development of ministry, foundations of education and the like. Students might be able to transfer credits from an accredited institution in order to meet the general education requirements.

Students use the Moodle Learning System to complete their assignments and communicate with peers and professors. Though students can work at a time that is convenient for them, they are expected to meet weekly deadlines. Courses are taught on the same semester schedule as on-campus classes, so students can expect to complete their bachelor’s degree within four years.

ACO Score: 90.04 Student to teacher ratio: 26:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 93% State: Florida

A bachelor’s degree in early childhood education is available through FIU Online, the distance learning arm of Florida International University. This fully online program focuses on the early childhood development track, addressing the cognitive, language and social/emotional development of children. The courses also address general and early education practices and theories.

Students earn 120 credit hours in the program, divided evenly between upper and lower division courses. Thirty credit hours focus on foundations, curriculum, teaching methods and early childhood education. Another 30 hours of coursework targets family and community studies, literary, language and reading development. Nine hours of elective courses are also required. This early childhood education bachelor’s degree does not result in teacher certification. Individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree can explore the university’s online options for master’s degrees in education.

Candidates for admission to the early childhood education bachelor’s degree program must have completed either 60 credit hours satisfying general education/core requirements or an associate degree from a Florida public university. Applications are accepted during the spring, summer and fall terms. Students need least a 2.5 GPA for their lower-division work in order to be accepted. Upon enrollment, each student is paired with a coach to assist them in navigating through their online degree program at Florida International University.

ACO Score: 89.94 Student to teacher ratio: 22:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 84% State: Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point now offers a number of degree programs fully online, many through the University of Wisconsin eCampus system. Currently, Stevens Point students have access to more than 30 online bachelor’s programs and 40 online master’s programs, as well as a handful of online associate degree programs and two online doctorate in nursing (PhD and DNP).

To help get started, the university offers an online degree checklist to ensure aspiring distance learners are making a smart academic decision. The list begins with carefully researching eCampus programs to find the one that fits career goals. The second and perhaps most important step is test-driving an online class. UW-Stevens Point students can preview online classes and take a 30-minute readiness assessment to see if online learning makes sense. The checklist finishes with an analysis of credits earned elsewhere and their transferability, as well as a meeting with a financial aid advisor to discuss payment options.

ACO Score: 89.93 Student to teacher ratio: 12:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 99% State: North Dakota

Founded in 1890 as a North Dakota teacher’s college, Valley City State University has grown to become a nationally recognized institution offering more than 80 undergraduate programs. During the last five years, the school has consistently ranked in one of the top two spots on the U.S. News list of best public colleges in the Midwest.

Although the school now provides degrees in everything from math to music, its roots are in education. Currently, online students can earn a bachelor’s degree in education in the following specializations.

  • Business
  • Education
  • History
  • Technology
  • Career and technical

With the exception of the career and technical education degree, these programs are designed to prepare students to teach at the junior and senior high school level. The career and technical program may lead to teaching jobs at Career and Technical Education public school programs, post-secondary schools and technical colleges.

Valley City State University is nationally accredited, and its programs meet all the requirements needed for North Dakota teacher licensure. However, the school notes online students residing in other states should contact their state licensing boards to confirm whether the program meets requirements there.

The university makes laptops available for distance education students who do not have access to their own and even provide laptops free of charge to eligible online students.

ACO Score: 89.92 Student to teacher ratio: 17:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 98% State: North Dakota

Mayville State University has embraced online learning in a big way, with a choice of undergraduate degree programs in education. The school also offers certificates and endorsements for teachers through distance learning. The online degree programs include:

  • Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education
  • Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education
  • Bachelor of Science in Education with emphasis in Special Education
  • Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education

The ECE bachelor’s degree uses interactive video classes available in North Dakota and may require on-campus summer sessions, depending on a candidate’s prior background. The special education and mathematics education degrees can be earned entirely online. For the math education program, participants who already have a bachelor’s degree need to complete the core mathematics and professional education requirements.

Students can expect small class sizes of 20 students or less, and courses taught by the same professors who teach the on-campus programs. Mayville State University uses the Moodle learning platform. To ensure academic honesty, some professors require proctors for examinations; students can request approval of their own proctors prior to the testing date. Distance education students can take advantage of opportunities for school services, including the library, career services, tutoring and an online bookstore.

ACO Score: 89.77 Student to teacher ratio: 20:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 95% State: Arkansas

Aspiring teachers who want to work with young children in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade can earn their education through the Bachelor of Science in early childhood education program at Arkansas Tech University. Offered as a partnership with North Arkansas Community College and Ozarka Community College, approximately 50 percent of the coursework is accessed online. In addition to general education requirements, coursework that prepares students to become teachers includes studies in child development, curriculum strategies, diagnosis and assessment, guidance of young children, and language and literacy. The program ends with a required internship in an educational setting.

All online courses are delivered through eTech, which makes use of the Blackboard learning system. The OneTech Portal allows students to communicate with peers and professors via email. Students who want to pursue online education must be accepted as a student at Arkansas Tech University, then enroll in the proper online courses. Technical help is available via email, online or through an around-the-clock phone help desk.

Students who reside outside of Arkansas may not be eligible to take online courses through Arkansas Tech University. Additional information can be obtained through the state’s higher education commission.

ACO Score: 89.77 Student to teacher ratio: 19:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 96% State: Virginia

Students looking for online studies in the field of education can find degree programs at Liberty University. Majors in early childhood education, elementary education and special education are offered through Liberty University Online.

Students in the elementary education degree program can opt for a fifth year of college in order to prepare them for licensure qualifications in the state of Virginia.

These online bachelor’s degrees are awarded in interdisciplinary studies, and the programs seek to build a base in Christian education. A related online program is the bachelor’s degree in Biblical and educational studies. Also available are online associate degrees in education and early childhood education.

Though these baccalaureate programs are entirely online, they often include a practicum for field experience. To reach the 120 credit hours required, students can request to use prior learning and life experience for college credit. Some credentials might be accepted for transfer, including the child development associate, Christian child development education or the preschool associate credential. For transfer students, 30 hours of coursework must be taken through Liberty University, as well as 50 percent of courses required for the major.

Each course is delivered in an eight-week format. Students have the option of attending a one-week intensive course at the campus in Lynchburg, as well as the opportunity to attend tours and commencement ceremonies.

ACO Score: 89.73 Student to teacher ratio: 13:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 72% State: Alaska

For students living in rural Alaska communities, University of Alaska Southeast offers two online bachelor’s degree programs in teaching. The Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education program is for students seeking Alaska teacher certification in grades K-8. A 128-credit program, it includes 48 hours of upper division courses, including 23 credits of breadth requirements related to the major, including humanities, social science and mathematics for elementary school teachers. Courses in the education major include curriculum and instruction, educational technology, literacy and language development and multicultural education.

The online bachelor’s degree program in special education prepares students to work with exceptional students in secondary schools. The curriculum is similar to the elementary education program, with added courses in special education topics, such as assessment and intervention, assessment of students with disabilities and inclusive classrooms.

In the final year of each program program, students complete student teaching and field work experiences. The elementary education program culminates in a professional portfolio presentation, and the special education program culminates in a practicum and seminar.

To be admitted into the programs, students must first complete all general education courses. Additional requirements include a 2.75 GPA, Praxis exam scores, and a background check.

ACO Score: 89.6 Student to teacher ratio: 14:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 100% State: South Carolina

North Greenville University offers two options for students seeking an online bachelor’s degree program in teaching. The bachelor’s degree program in early childhood education is offered fully online and prepares students for teacher licensure and positions in early childhood care centers, as well as teaching positions in elementary schools. Although classes are completely online, students must still complete a 140-hour teaching experience in the fall of their senior year. Additionally, a 60-day, full-time teaching internship is required for graduation.

The online bachelor’s degree program in elementary education prepares students for teacher licensure in grades 2-6. Courses in the program include language arts assessment, classroom management, professional development, and curriculum development. Elementary education students must also fulfill the field experience and internship requirement. At the completion of the program, students are recommended for teacher licensure in South Carolina.

To be admitted into the program, students must first fulfill 45 credits of general education requirements. Applying to the teacher education program is a separate process from applying to the university, and university students are not guaranteed placement into the teacher education programs. Current students must take the Praxis II exam, maintain a 2.75 GPA, and pass a background check.

ACO Score: 89.56 Student to teacher ratio: 13:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 80% State: Hawaii

At the University of Hawaii at Manoa, students can earn a Bachelor of Education in Elementary Education or Special Education primarily through online coursework. Students travel to the UH campus on select weekends and take online classes over the course of a two-year cohort program. The elementary education program is designed to prepare students to teach in K-6 schools, while the special education program prepares students to teach grades K-3. In addition to taking online courses, students complete three semesters of field experiences with a mentor and one semester of student teaching. A 48-month program, it requires students to attend on a full-time basis. The student teaching experiences may be completed on any of the Hawaiian Islands.

To be admitted into the licensure-track program, applicants must first complete 55 credits of coursework at UH or hold an associate’s degree. Additionally, applicants are required to complete an admissions interview and take a basic skills test administered by the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board. To demonstrate knowledge of working with children, applicants need 40 hours of documented experience working with K-6 students or K-3 students. Before the student teaching experience, students must take the Praxis exam.

ACO Score: 89.41 Student to teacher ratio: 16:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 85% State: Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa offers a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education as a 2+2 distance learning program. To finish the degree within two years, adults must have an Associate of Arts prior to starting the program. While the majority of the instruction is delivered online, education majors complete at least 100 hours of classroom teaching. Generally, they work alongside a licensed teacher as they complete the field experience requirements.

The program aims to prepare adults to work with elementary aged children and develop materials to engage them with innovative learning techniques. Participants learn how to use computer programs to design early childhood training modules. Courses students can expect to take include:

  • Elementary Curriculum
  • Applications in Elementary Social Studies Teaching
  • Issues and Trends in Curriculum
  • Methods of Teaching Visual and Performing Arts

Admissions requirements include an education major and completion of at least 24 college credit hours. Other admissions criteria include a cumulative 2.5 GPA or higher, as well as a minimum grade of C- for oral communications, writing and research courses. Candidates need credits from a community college that satisfy the University of Northern Iowa’s liberal art core requirements.

The school’s virtual campus offers tutorials on distance learning, interactive video conferencing, email, MyUniverse, CatID, e-textbooks and digital access to library services as well as other resources.

ACO Score: 88.88 Student to teacher ratio: 20:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 83% State: Nebraska

For would-be teachers, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers online studies for a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in early childhood education in a mobile society. The program, provided through the Office of Online & Distance Education, is part of the child, youth and family studies major. While course work is delivered online, this degree program includes three different opportunities to gain field experience, culminating in a capstone practicum worth 6 credit hours.

Admissions requirements include a minimum 2.5 GPA, 30 college credit hours and a criminal background check. A total of 120 credits are needed to graduate with the online bachelor’s degree. There are 39 elective credits, 51 credits of core courses and 30 credits in general education.

The curriculum is designed for educators of children up to 8 years of age whose parents are significantly mobile, for example, serving in the military. Core courses include:

  • Administration and Supervision in Early Childhood Settings
  • Diversity in the Lives of Young Children and Families
  • Assessing Young Children
  • Young Children with Special Needs
  • Technology and Young Children

Instructional technology includes video conferences, discussion forums and the Blackboard learning platform. Course catalogs, class assignments, seminar webcasts and digital lectures are accessed through the school’s online portal. Other virtual campus resources include academic advising, library access, chat rooms, teleconferences and email.

ACO Score: 88.87 Student to teacher ratio: 11:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 90% State: New Hampshire

The School of Education at Granite State College offers several degree programs entirely online. These include the bachelor’s degree in education as well as the early childhood education (ECE) programs for associate or bachelor’s degrees. The online ECE and education baccalaureate programs have an optional track to prepare for teacher certification in the state of New Hampshire.

These online bachelor’s degree programs require four years of study and completion of 40 courses. Many programs also require a portfolio for graduation. Though the courses are entirely online, students complete field work during their final year of study in order to be eligible to pursue teacher certification.

Through the online degree completion program, students with an associate degree and the proper transfer credits can complete their bachelor’s degree in education from Granite State College. The program might require as few as 15 courses, and relevant life experience could potentially count toward college credit.

Students in online classes can attend full-time or part-time, and flexible learning options allow them to choose a format that suits them. Asynchronous learning means that students work at their own pace as long as they meet established deadlines. Distance education relies on student interaction with peers and professors through discussion boards, emails and the like. In addition, the teacher education program encourages participants to use tablets in the field.

ACO Score: 88.61 Student to teacher ratio: 17:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 92% State: South Carolina

The University of South Carolina Columbia offers a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education through a blended instructional delivery format. Graduation requires between 122 and 128 credits, including 64 credits available online from USC’s Palmetto College, in addition to at least 60 credits earned previously. The curriculum includes multiple opportunities for field work through a practicum and internships.

The program is structured to prepare adults to teach grades 2 through 6. Courses built into the curriculum include:

  • Issues and Trends in Teaching and Learning
  • Learners and the Diversity of Learning
  • Schools in Communities
  • Introduction to Exceptional Children
  • Nature and Management of Elementary Classrooms

Graduates of the elementary education degree program are recommended for teacher certification. Some states may require advanced credentials such as a Master of Education before teachers can lead classroom instruction independently. On a full-time basis, it takes approximately four to five years to earn this undergraduate degree, including prior studies. Students may be expected to attend instructor led lectures and discussions as scheduled. However, there is the option to complete self-paced courses. Some of the school’s online learning models are available year round. Digital technology used in the program includes video conferencing, campus email and discussion forums.

ACO Score: 88.57 Student to teacher ratio: 41:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 80% State: Utah

As one of the pioneers in online education, Western Governors University was created by 19 U.S. state governors as a way to improve access to higher education. The virtual university offers flat rate tuition and operates under a competency model which may make it possible to earn a degree in less time.

Its online teacher’s college offers the following Bachelor of Arts degree options in the field of education.

  • Interdisciplinary Studies (K-8)
  • Special Education (K-12)
  • Mathematics (5-9 or 5-12)
  • Science (5-9)
  • Science – Chemistry (5-12)
  • Science – Physics (5-12)
  • Science – Biological science (5-12)
  • Science – Geosciences (5-12)

Western Governors University was the first fully online school to be accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and its secondary teacher programs have been ranked number one by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

Students at Western Governors University work with a mentor to develop a personalized degree plan. Terms at the schools run six months in length, and students are expected to earn 12 competency units each term. In addition to online coursework, teaching students must complete a 12-20 week period of demonstration teaching which provides supervised, in-classroom experience.

ACO Score: 88.56 Student to teacher ratio: 11:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 90% State: Ohio

Students who are seeking a degree in ministerial education can find fully online programs through God’s Bible School and College at both the associate and bachelor’s level. The college’s Aldersgate Distance Education Program allows students to choose from fully online courses or hybrid courses blending distance learning with attendance at on-campus sessions in Ohio a few times each semester.

Students who enroll in the ministerial education bachelor’s degree program can choose from tracks such as education, Christian counseling or youth ministry. Courses focus on the Bible and theology, church history and religion, and preaching. In addition, electives can steer students toward the track they prefer. Online study options range from general education requirements to courses in Greek and Hebrew. Non-credit Christian service activities are required for graduation.

Distance education makes frequent use of recorded lectures, and allows students to work at their own pace, as long as they meet instructors’ deadlines. Students who want to learn more about the online learning methods and delivery systems can preview a course for free before enrolling. Though course requirements differ, in most cases students are expected to log onto the online portal at least once per week. Those with slow Internet connections have the advantage of uploading assignments through the installed “player” while they are offline.

ACO Score: 88.43 Student to teacher ratio: 14:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 95% State: New York

For students interested in working with young children, SUNY Empire State College offers an online bachelor’s degree program in educational studies. Although it is not a teacher certification program that leads to state licensure, the program is transferrable to post-bachelor’s teacher education programs. Additionally, students who complete a bachelor’s degree can transfer into the college’s Master of Arts in Teaching program, which does lead to state licensure. Students in the bachelor’s degree program can choose from a variety of concentrations, including early childhood or adult education, lifelong learning, training and staff development, family education and instructional technologies.

Offered by the Center for Distance Learning, online courses at SUNY Empire State College allow students to work at their own pace, without having to log in to online courses on a set schedule. Courses are completely online and do not require any travel to campus, although some courses may require students to take proctored exams at a test site. Depending on the course, instructional materials may include traditional textbooks and/or e-books, online discussions, videos, and, software. Online classes are delivered thorough the Moodle online learning platform and specific technical requirements can vary from course to course.

ACO Score: 88.39 Student to teacher ratio: 15:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 95% State: New Mexico

Established in 1893, Western New Mexico University currently offers more than 70 fields of study and nearly 200 online courses each semester. The university prides itself on being an affordable higher education option with a low instate tuition rate and special discounts for students in certain other states.

Western New Mexico University offers 15 online degrees at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels. For undergraduates interested in education, there is a bachelor’s degree in career and technical education which can lead to a teaching career at the secondary or postsecondary level.

The Bachelor of Applied Science in Career and Technical Education is a 2+2 program, meaning students are expected to have already earned their associate degree or have an equivalent level of education. Online classes for the program are asynchronous so students can study at whatever time is convenient for them. However, field experience is required prior to graduation.

Online students should expect to spend 6-15 hours per week on a class, and Western New Mexico University notes most successful students log-in to their courses five to seven times per week.

For those who need extra help, the university provides assistance through Smarthinking, an electronic service connecting students to live tutors. Online students also have access to the university library and its electronic resources.

ACO Score: 88.36 Student to teacher ratio: 23:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 88% State: Minnesota

Students who want to earn their bachelor’s degree through online courses at Bemidji State University can join the 2+2 program. This program allows a student with a degree from another school to transfer into the online program to complete a Bachelor of Science in elementary education, a program leading to the required teaching certification in Minnesota for grades K-8.

Students who enroll in this program must already have an associate or bachelor’s degree, as well as a 2.5 GPA. Completion of the program requires 120 credits, 63 of which are in the major, and takes about three years regardless of whether a student enters with an associate or bachelor’s degree. Students are provided with mentors who guide them along the way to earning the elementary education degree.

Online courses are delivered through the Distributed Learning in Teacher Education Program, also known as DLiTE. Each year, the online students must participate in three face-to-face sessions at the Minnesota campus in order to complete their degree requirements, during the first session and during finals. The program meets all requirements of the Minnesota Board of Teaching, so graduates are prepared to pursue their Minnesota teaching certification.

ACO Score: 88.21 Student to teacher ratio: 20:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 76% State: Alabama

The University of Alabama has two online bachelor’s degree programs related to teaching. The Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Science is offered with majors in early childhood education and child development practitioner. Although the early childhood development program does not lead to teacher certification, it is a good option for students interested in teaching at an early childhood care center, such as Head Start. Other positions graduates could pursue include childcare center administrator, social services representative, child-daycare provider, and parent counselor. Courses in the program include child growth and development, children’s health and safety, exceptional learners and preschool development. This 120-credit program concludes with an internship at an approved site.

The child development practitioner program is designed for those already working at a Head Start facility. The curriculum teaches students to develop proficiency at designing education programs for preschool children. Courses in the program include program evaluation, child centers and programs, parent and family development, and adolescent child development.

Applications to the University of Alabama are accepted up to one year in advance. For transfer applicants, application deadlines are March 1 for the summer/fall semesters and December 1 for the spring semester.

ACO Score: 87.95 Student to teacher ratio: 14:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 65% State: Delaware

Wilmington University got its start in 1968 with a charter class of only 194 students. Today, the school serves more than 18,000 students at its 14 campus locations as well as through its online degree programs. Wilmington University reports 37 percent of its student body was enrolled in online classes during the 2013-2014 school year.

Wilmington offers several online bachelor’s degree programs for aspiring educators:

  • Early Care and Education (Birth-Grade 2)
  • Elementary Education (K-6)
  • Middle Level Education (6-8)

Each program results in a bachelor’s degree in education studies, and Wilmington University notes these degrees do not qualify graduates to be certified or licensed as teachers. For those wishing to teach in Delaware, the university will automatically transition students meeting minimum standards into an appropriate licensure or certification program. Students in other states should consult their state licensing board before enrolling to learn the teaching requirements there.

The school also offers an online Bachelor of Science in Career and Technical Education for students seeking preparation and certification as a Skilled and Technical Sciences Teacher.

Classes at Wilmington University may run on a 15 week or 7 week schedule, and three semesters and six blocks are offered each year. Coursework is asynchronous, allowing students to review class materials and submit assignments at any time of the day. Technical support is available 24/7.

ACO Score: 87.91 Student to teacher ratio: 18:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 97% State: Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi offers bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and special education through distance learning programs. To complement online instruction, the curriculum includes student teaching as a way to gain field experience. Both of these programs are designed for aspiring teachers, particularly teacher assistants who wish to become certified.

Sample courses could include child psychology or child development, foundations of early childhood education, geometry for elementary school teachers, social studies and foreign languages. Special education majors can expect to take courses such as:

  • Concepts of Wellness
  • Understanding Society: Principles of Sociology
  • Introduction to Field Experience
  • Language and Literacy: Students with Disabilities

Admissions criteria for the elementary education and special education degree programs include a composite ACT score of 21 or higher. Acceptable SAT scores start at 860 for verbal and quantitative. Candidates for student teaching need a 2.75 GPA in the program’s 44 credit hours of core courses. They must also sign up for the statewide assessment system and pass the basic technological literacy exam.

Instructors and students connect during the program with tools like video conferencing, campus email and discussion forums as well as the Learning Enhancement Center and Blackboard Collaborate. These resources are used to deliver proctored examinations, class schedules and course materials.

ACO Score: 87.77 Student to teacher ratio: 8:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 100% State: Ohio

Union Institute and University offers two online bachelor’s degree programs for aspiring teachers. The Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education program prepares students to teach grades K-6 in public and private schools. Graduates of this online program are eligible for teacher licensure in the state of Florida. Additionally, students who choose a concentration in early childhood/primary education are eligible for certification/licensure in preschools and primary schools. There are 48 credit hours of coursework in the major, including foundation courses in education, major courses and electives. Toward the end of the program, students complete a student teaching seminar as well as student teaching experiences.

Union’s Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education program prepares students for teacher licensure in public and private high schools. Secondary education students choose a content area that they wish to teach, including English, mathematics, science or social science. In addition to foundational education courses, students take core courses in areas such as educational assessment, personality theories, abnormal psychology, and instructional practices. The secondary education program has the same student teaching requirements as the elementary education program.

Applicants to the teacher education programs are required to take the Florida Teacher Certification Exams (FTCE), which includes testing in English, mathematics and reading.

ACO Score: 87.72 Student to teacher ratio: 16:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 95% State: Michigan

Students who are interested in the field of technical education can find online opportunities at Ferris State University. The Professional Modularized Teacher Education program, otherwise known as Pro-Mo-TEd, is designed for individuals who want to earn their bachelor’s degree in education and/or seek secondary certification. The program lasts for 12 months, starting during the summer semester. The blended format begins with a two-week intensive training course for face-to-face learning. Courses continue online throughout the fall and spring terms, culminating with a final two-week course on the Michigan campus. The degree is completed with directed field experience and a seminar.

Admission to the program requires prior education and other qualifications, typically an associate degree in an occupational major with a minimum 2.5 GPA, or 56 transferable credits including general education courses such as algebra and English composition. Candidates must also pass the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification – Professional Readiness Exam.

Each professor might take a different approach to online learning, but students are usually required to meet weekly deadlines. Before enrollment, students must take the Online Readiness Tutorial to learn about the technical elements of digital instruction. Students considering enrolling in the program should refer to Ferris State University’s page describing each state’s requirements for online learning.

ACO Score: 87.31 Student to teacher ratio: 25:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 89% State: Arizona

The online bachelor’s degree program of educational studies at Arizona State University can prepare students to interact with and teach children outside of a traditional classroom setting. The Bachelor of Art in Education in conjunction with a master’s degree in education or teacher certification may offer additional teaching career opportunities beyond the scope of the ASU bachelor’s degree.

Courses for the 120-credit hour BAE include general education, as well as nutrition, physical activity, learning methods, cultural diversity, literature for children, professional development, community learning, and parent involvement. All courses are taken through the Learning Studio program, enhanced by the Google Apps for Education partnership.

Classes are offered in 7.5 week sessions. The quality of the courses is constantly monitored by the Quality Matters program, a peer-review process that ensures the online courses provide the same quality as courses taught in the on-campus classrooms.

Students who choose to take the bachelor of educational studies online have the same benefits as campus students, including access to library materials, career services, tutoring, and tech support. They also go through a detailed student orientation with instruction on how to get the most out of the course delivery program, seek out help when necessary, and in other ways facilitate their online educational experience.

ACO Score: 86.31 Student to teacher ratio: 24:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 97% State: Louisiana

University of Louisiana – Monroe offers an online bachelor’s degree program in elementary education, which prepares students for licensure to teach grades K-5. Apart from the student teaching requirements, the program is offered fully online, with courses in general studies, professional and pedagogical studies, and integrative studies. In the content studies phase of the program, students take courses that will prepare them to teach classes at the elementary school level, including health and physical education, social studies, science, math, and language arts. Courses related to the teaching profession include classroom management, student assessment, educational psychology, and behavior intervention. During the student teaching experience, students commit one semester to working with a mentor at an elementary school. Graduates receive endorsement for teacher licensure in the state of Louisiana.

Online students at University of Louisiana – Monroe spend an average of 5-18 hours per week on academics. As part of the university’s distance learning program, students have access to an online homework application that allows them to set up homework reminders and organize assignments. Before they can be admitted into the teacher education program, students must take the reading, writing and math sections of the Praxis I exam.

ACO Score: 85.44 Student to teacher ratio: 24:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 91% State: Colorado

The online academic programs available from Colorado Mesa University include opportunities for aspiring teachers. A Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts degree program focuses on elementary teaching, with a choice of concentrations — English or social science. Though all courses can be taken online, students must complete the observation and participation requirements in person, traditionally during the final year of study. In addition, some examinations are proctored, depending on the particular course.

This distance learning bachelor’s degree program is designed to prepare graduates seeking elementary education licensure for teaching grades K-6 in the state of Colorado. Completion of the program requires 125-6 total credit hours, over 200 hours of in-class experience and a field achievement exit exam.

The online elementary education program has prerequisites such as a minimum of 60 hours of general education course credits and a 2.8 GPA. Before being admitted to the licensure preparation program, students must also take the Foundations of Education class.

The university adheres to the “Quality Matters” program supporting quality assurance for online education. Courses may use digital instructional tools such as the Desire2Learn platform and billboards for threaded discussions. Colorado Mesa University is currently not able to serve residents of all U.S. states with online degree programs; prospective students should check for further information before applying.

ACO Score: 85.33 Student to teacher ratio: 18:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 95% State: New Mexico

The College of Education at Mexico State University offers a bachelor’s degree program in elementary education that can be completed primarily off-site. Rather than taking courses at home or somewhere with an Internet connection—as is the case with traditional online programs—off-site students participate in interactive TV courses (ITV) at a New Mexico State University site in Carlsbad, Grants or Alamogordo. The ITV program is a good option for students living in New Mexico who need some flexibility with respect to location.

Accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education program requires 132 credits of coursework, including 55 credits of upper division courses, along with research projects and field experiences. Required courses include educational psychology, multicultural education, elementary math, and survey of programs for exceptional learners.

Applicants to the teacher education program must complete pre-professional courses before being considered for admission. Admission into the College of Education is competitive. Applicants must have letters of recommendation, a 2.5 GPA, and documentation of professional experience in a diverse workplace. Additionally, students must achieve a score of 240 or higher on the New Mexico Assessment of Teacher Basic Skills test.

ACO Score: 84.22 Student to teacher ratio: 18:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 89% State: Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts Amherst’s College of Education offers a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education for those interested in working with young children, especially at the preschool level. This degree completion program offers fully online coursework. Out of the 120 credits needed for graduation, 45 must be earned at UMass Amherst. Core courses taken during the junior year could include:

  • Introduction to Early Childhood
  • Introduction to Special Education
  • Principles and Teaching Reading and the Language Arts
  • Principles/Methods of Teaching Mathematics

The senior year offers additional courses with a practical focus on topics such as planning and assessment, early childhood teaching, and young children in families and schools. Graduation requirements could include a student teaching practicum and an early childhood education seminar.

Online studies are administered via University Without Walls, a program offering individualized academic options. The school’s online portal, Blackboard Learn, campus email and video conferencing are tools that are used to deliver exam scores, course assignments and tutoring.

Semesters for these courses are 14 weeks long. Students should apply for admission into the program by February of their sophomore year. Qualifications include a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA, a personal statement, and passing scores on communication and literacy skills tests. Childcare professionals and military service members may apply to have some work experience transferred as college credits.

ACO Score: 82.62 Student to teacher ratio: 16:1 % Students Receiving Aid: 86% State: Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin-Superior offers an online elementary education degree. Minors associated with the program are early childhood, health education, geography, language arts, social studies, science, and special education. The special education minor does not come with certification. It is an adaptive education or supplemental teaching minor.

Core courses in the program are supplemented with two Health and Human Performance courses. These courses are offered during the summer over a three-week block. Field experience or an internship is also required. This field experience is conducted in a classroom and administered through the school’s Office of Field Experiences.

Curriculum and internships prepare students to sit for a teaching license. Courses associated with the program include:

  • Cultural Images in Materials for Children and Adolescents
  • Instructional Technologies: Evaluation, Production and Application
  • Teaching Health, Physical Education in the Elementary, Middle Schools
  • Curriculum & Assessment in Early Childhood
  • Introduction to Experiences in Kindergarten

UW Help, Distance Learning Wisconsin, digital bookstore and the Distance Learning Center are resources that are used to deliver live lectures, store course materials, class schedules, and student exam scores. Admission into the program is processed online. High school transcripts are required. Transfer students should submit transcripts from previous colleges and universities they attended.

A Guide to Online Education and Teaching Degrees

For some people, a career in education means teaching. Spending hours in the classroom developing and delivering lessons, answering questions and helping students prepare for their next educational step. While true for many, some educators choose a path that doesn’t involve instruction. For example, graduates of online education degree programs can work as school administrators, instructional coordinators, vocational instructors and curriculum developers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). All of these careers require at least a bachelor’s degree, although there are job opportunities for individuals at the associate level, as well. Let’s begin by looking at the most common online education and teaching degrees and how they fit on the higher educational timeline.

Online Education and Teaching Degree Timeline

Everyone follows their own unique career path. For that reason, students enter online teaching and education degree programs from many different starting points, depending on where they are and where they want to be. With so many options available, it is important for students to understand all of the opportunities open to them in an online teaching program. This timeline identifies the various steps from associate degree to doctorate, and looks at the decisions to be made along the way.

Associate Degree Online – Two Years

An online associate degree in teaching and education serves as a great first step, and can help students prepare for introductory careers such as teaching assistant and teacher’s aide. Prospective students can choose from a wide range of associate degree programs in education, including early childhood, elementary education, special education and K-12, depending on their area of interest. In addition to sharpening critical thinking and writing skills with general courses in humanities and sciences, students learn fundamental teaching principles by taking courses in child development, literacy, child psychology and educational technology.

Many students pursue an associate degree with the intention of transferring to a bachelor’s program after graduation. Although this can be a cost-effective way to earn an undergraduate degree, it is important to meet with an academic advisor at both institutions as early as possible. Academic advisors can identify which courses students should take and provide tips that will simplify the transfer process later on.

College of Southern Nevada
  • Enrollment: 53,482
  • Tuition: $2,700
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Nevada
  • Associate of Arts With An Elementary Education Emphasis
  • Associate of Arts With An Early Childhood Emphasis
Seminole State College of Florida
  • Enrollment: 27,853
  • Tuition: $3,131
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Associate in Arts Major in Technical Education And Industry Training
  • Associate in Arts Major in Social Science Education
Troy University
  • Enrollment: 22,220
  • Tuition: $6,844
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Alabama
  • Associate of Science in General Education - Sociology
  • Associate of Science in General Education - Social Science

Bachelor’s Degree Online – Four Years

The online bachelor’s degree in education and teaching expands on concepts introduced at the associate level in order to prepare students for professional licensure and classroom teaching. Because there are so many specialties within the field of education, colleges and universities offer a many types of online teaching degrees, such as:

  • Bachelor’s in elementary education: This degree is for students without prior education experience who want to teach at the elementary level. Some schools offer a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (K-8) with a comparable curriculum. Elementary education programs blend academic theory with relevant coursework, field experiences and student teaching to prepare students for licensure.
  • Bachelor’s in early childhood education: Students without prior teaching experience who want to work with children specifically in grades pre-K through grade 3 have the option of earning an early childhood education degree. The curriculum focuses on skills needed to shape the academic, social and cognitive skills of young children in the classroom while preparing students in the program for licensure.
  • Bachelor’s in special education: To become a special education teacher and work with children who have mild to moderate disabilities, students must earn a special education degree. In fact, many public school districts require special education teachers to have dual licensure in elementary education and special education.
  • Bachelor’s in education – other degrees: Students can earn online education and teaching bachelor’s degrees with specializations in core subject areas such as math, science, and English. Some institutions also offer bachelor’s degrees in education that focus on technology, foreign language and other subjects.

No matter which online education program in which a student enrolls, there are certain courses they all have in common. These courses provide students with the foundational skills and academic knowledge to be competent and effective educators in any classroom. Below are a few examples of some of the core teaching courses included in years three and four of a bachelor’s in education degree:

Instructional strategies: Focuses on effective instructional planning and the development of lesson using a variety of approaches and technologies. Strategies covered include teaming, skill shaping, motivation, adaptation and inclusion.

Foundations for education: Examines what it means to be a teacher in terms of society’s expectations and challenges and the way students think about social structures by providing a historical and sociological perspective of education.

Child development: Covers physical, social, emotional, intellectual and language theories of development in children from conception through adolescence. Areas of study include differences in brain development, temperament and biology.

The exceptional child: Provides an overview of teaching exceptional children with emphasis on methods and materials for integrating students into the general classroom. Coursework includes legislation relating to individuals with disabilities.

Classroom and behavior management: Introduces best practices in classroom management including organization, student behavior, and making transitions. Also includes an overview of federal and state laws pertaining to the classroom.

Student Teaching

In order to graduate with an online teaching degree and qualify for teacher licensure, a student teaching internship must be successfully completed. Student teaching is a full-time instructional experience closely supervised by a college advisor and an experienced classroom teacher trained to be part of the program. Student teachers typically spent eight to twelve weeks in one or more traditional classroom settings, honing the skills learned in their online education and teaching program.

In online teaching programs, student teachers are placed in the appropriate grade level in a public school district or independent private school based on their major and previous placements. For example, elementary education majors usually have the opportunity to student teach in a primary grade (K-2) and an intermediate grade (4-6). Even though it doesn’t come with a paycheck, student teaching is a challenging full-time job. Student teachers generally arrive in the morning well before the class comes in and don’t leave until long after the children leave for the day. Before and after-school time is spent planning and collaborating with the cooperating teacher.

The two main responsibilities of a student teacher are preparing and presenting daily lesson plans. Cooperating teachers help them to ease into teaching duties a little at a time. By the end of the internship, student teachers are completely integrated and have total control of instructional time. Student teaching is an important component of an online education and teaching degree program, providing hands-on experience and the opportunity to network with other educators in the school system.

Florida International University
  • Enrollment: 51,334
  • Tuition: $6,417
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education
Western Governors University
  • Enrollment: 43,356
  • Tuition: $6,070
  • College Type: Private
  • State: Utah
  • Bachelor of Arts in Special Education (K-12)
  • Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Preparation Program Elementary Education (K-8)
Arizona State University
  • Enrollment: 43,072
  • Tuition: $9,724
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Arizona
  • Bachelor of Arts in Education - Educational Studies
University of Florida
  • Enrollment: 35,895
  • Tuition: $6,143
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Education And Behavior

Master’s Degree in Education Online – Six Years

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 52 percent of public school teachers have a master’s degree or higher. All master’s degree in education students must have a bachelor’s degree in some area. However, there are two types of graduate students who enroll in online education degree programs. First, there are the licensed teachers with classroom experience who want to expand their knowledge and develop advanced teaching skills. Second, there are individuals without classroom experience who want to pursue initial certification at the same time as they earn a master’s degree in education. These students must take foundational education courses in classroom management, teaching theory, child development and other areas as well as take part in a supervised student teaching internship.

An online master’s degree in education is a significant commitment. Students can choose from a variety of specializations, including administration, curriculum & development, higher education, counseling and more. It takes most students between 18 months and 2 years to earn an online master’s degree in education, although it varies. Some students work in a school system full-time and can only take a class at a time. The benefit of teaching while in graduate school is that these teachers can apply new skills and strategies immediately. Other students prefer to focus on graduate studies full-time in an accelerated program that can be finished in as little as one year.

Liberty University
  • Enrollment: 42,537
  • Tuition: $9,170
  • College Type: Private
  • State: Virginia
  • Master of Education (M.Ed.)
  • Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.)
University of Florida
  • Enrollment: 20,747
  • Tuition: $12,642
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Master of Science in Agricultural Education And Communication
  • Master of Music in Music Education
University of Maryland
  • Enrollment: 20,021
  • Tuition: $8,514
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Maryland
  • Master of Arts in Teaching

Doctor of Education Online – Eight+ Years

A Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD) prepares students to strategically manage and lead complex education organizations in the areas of budgeting, teacher management and operations. Many graduates go on to careers in educational policy, research and school district administration. Some programs allow doctoral students to specialize in a specific area such as curriculum and instruction or educational technology.

Doctoral students take a combination of required and elective courses and seminars culminating in a doctoral project under the direction of an adviser. The project becomes the basis for a dissertation, which is the main component of the program. A doctoral student must research, write and successfully defend the dissertation in front of a doctoral committee.

In addition to delivering coursework in a virtual classroom setting, most online doctoral programs in education require students to attend several residency sessions over the course of the program. During these residencies, students spend up to a week networking and studying with professionals in their field and interacting with faculty to prepare their dissertation.

University of Florida
  • Enrollment: 20,747
  • Tuition: $12,642
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Doctor of Education in Curriculum And Instruction - Curriculum Teaching And Teacher Education
  • Doctor of Education Higher Education Administration
University of Michigan
  • Enrollment: 16,341
  • Tuition: $19,792
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Michigan
  • Md/Master of Arts (Education)

Recognizing an Effective Online Education Program

With so many online education degree programs offered by private and public institutions of all sizes, it is important to be able to identify signs of an effective program before enrolling. There are a number of qualities shared by well-established education programs. Let’s take a look at four ways to find a strong online education program.

Opportunities for Specialization

Educators work in a wide range of roles, as teachers, principals, superintendents, college instructors and more. Even within a school, educators can specialize in one subject area, such as reading, special education or social studies. An effective online teaching program takes this into consideration by offering multiple areas of specialization so that educators can further define their focus.

State Licensing Preparation

In addition to meeting a number of formal education requirements, all public school teachers must be licensed or certified in their state. An education degree program should offer assistance navigating the often complex teacher licensure regulations. It should also fully prepare graduates for obtaining state licensure and certification after graduation.

Student Support

No matter which online teaching and education degree program a student is enrolled in, support is the key to success. For example, students benefit from being assigned an online academic advisor who can guide them through the process of online learning and answer questions that arise along the way. In addition, virtual tools are essential to an online program because students need to be able to access materials 24/7 and communicate with instructors on a regular basis. Finally, faculty support is important. An experienced and well-educated can make a big difference in the quality of education received at an online college or university.


Accreditation is critical to all higher education programs, whether offered on-campus or online. In the U.S., institutional accreditation is handled by one of six regional agencies. In addition, education degree programs can receive academic accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). When choosing an online education degree program, it is important to make sure the college or university is fully accredited both institutionally and academically.

The Importance of Teaching Certification and Licensure

For most occupations, professional certification is a credential awarded by a professional association or organization. However, in the field of education, certification refers to state licensing or certification the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

State Licensing

Although state teacher certification requirements vary, the U.S. Department of Education explains that there are certain core requirements common to certification programs across the country. For example, all states require proof of a four-year degree earned from a regionally accredited institution. In addition, applicants must submit proof of the following:

  1. Student teaching experience. As discussed previously, student teaching is a full-time instructional experience of 8-12 weeks completed under the supervision of a college adviser and experienced classroom teacher. It is usually completed during the course of a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree program.
  2. Exam results. Applicants for licensure must pass three tests: a general knowledge teaching certification exam, professional education teacher certification exam, and a content-specific test for the subject/grade level they want to teach.
  3. Background check. rocedures for criminal background are available at the each state’s Department of Education website.

National Board of Professional Teaching Standards Certification:

National Board Certification is an advanced credential offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). It complements but does not replace a state teacher’s license in grades K-12. Applicants must participate in a voluntary assessment program. To qualify for this rigorous, peer-reviewed process, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, a valid teaching license, and three years of teaching experience.

Interview with an Online Education Degree Program Graduate

Students and alumni of online education and teaching degree programs can provide a unique look at the successes and challenges of the journey. They can share their perspective on the process of choosing and applying to an online education program, taking the required online courses, and graduating as a teacher seeking employment in the field. Let’s hear from Jennifer Monahan, a certified elementary school teacher with a master’s degree in education earned online.

1. Can you give us an overview of your educational path from undergraduate school to becoming an elementary school teacher?

I actually graduated from a traditional college in upstate New York with a bachelor’s degree in English. I didn’t decide to become a teacher until I had worked in sales for about a year. I checked out a lot of programs before finding an online program through the University of Phoenix that was very flexible, so that I could keep working until it was time to do my student teaching. I was able to fulfill the requirements for getting certified as a teacher and earning a master’s degree simultaneously.

2. How long did it take to complete the entire process?

I started out as a part-time grad student, so it took me a little longer. I finished the whole program in 2 ½ years with my teaching license and master’s degree in education. But there were people in my program who managed to get everything done within two years, which I think is more typical.

3. What was it like to do your student teaching as a graduate student?

I was a little older than some of the other student teachers at the school where I was assigned. I think there were 5 of us in all. I found it was a benefit to be a bit older because I was very confident about my passion for teaching. I was also closer in age to many of the teachers. But all of the student teachers had the same duties and responsibilities. It was a little scary to be “the teacher” at first. But it didn’t happen all at once and my supervising teacher was there to guide me along the way. I spent many hours before and after the school day working with her on developing lesson plans, preparing materials, etc. and she was so helpful and supportive.

4. How long did it take to find a teaching job after you graduated?

My school district is one of the most popular districts in the state. I found it easier to get a job as a teacher’s assistant for a year—which is how I got into the school where I teach now. I worked with the third grade team for a year and they really got to know me well. When one of the teachers on the team left on maternity leave, I was hired as a full-time substitute. When she decided to leave permanently, I was given the position. It was a little bit different path but with the same great result- I love my third grade classroom.

5. What was the biggest challenge along the way from starting your degree to starting your teaching career?

I think the biggest challenge was setting aside the 12 weeks to student teach after working full-time for so long. But I knew about it well in advance and was able to work it out with my job. I also set aside financial aid money from my student loans to cover expenses during that time. It wasn’t a particularly difficult situation. It just took time to work out all the kinks.