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Online Education & Teaching Degrees: The Best Programs for 2018

Updated on: 12/26/2017

Teachers have a vital job: to help mold future generations of society. With such an important task, it’s understandable that teachers must meet stringent certification or licensing requirements. One of the first steps to meeting these requirements is getting a teaching degree. Luckily, there are a variety of academic paths available to future teachers, including online degrees. In this guide, readers will gain a broad understanding of how to complete an online teaching degree and the overall process for becoming a teacher.

The 50 Best Online Education and Teaching Degrees in 2018

All else being equal, it’s nice to attend the best online school and get the highest quality and most prestigious teaching degree. But there are other factors prospective students must consider when choosing the best school for them. For instance, if finances are a concern, prospective teachers may look for the school with the lowest cost of attendance. For a student who wants the best access to professors, a school with a small faculty-to-student ratio may be a factor to focus on. Our ranking system looks at these and many other important factors students should consider when choosing a school. All ranked schools are great for future teachers as they are affordable, have accredited teacher preparation programs and offer a variety of opportunities for specialization.

  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution

  • At least 1 online associate degree or certificate program in subject area (2-year schools)

  • At least 1 online bachelor’s or master’s degree in subject area (4-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)

Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:

  • Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates

  • Count and breadth of online programs available

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)

  • % of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college

  • Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college

  • Availability of academic/career counseling services

  • Availability of job placement services for students and graduates

  • 3-year loan default rate

  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

*PBV: is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.

Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.

  • Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Mount Vernon, OH 99.75 $15,845 2 100% 13:160%no yes yes
2 Salem College Winston Salem, NC 99.25 $24,990 1 98% 11:164%yes yes yes
3 Judson College Marion, AL 99.09 $15,204 5 98% 9:141%yes yes yes
4 University of Vermont Burlington, VT 98.27 $14,184 1 90% 15:176%no yes yes
5 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 98.27 $6,423 1 43% 14:190%no yes yes
6 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 97.90 $9,826 3 55% 24:167%yes yes yes
7 Newman University Wichita, KS 97.70 $23,700 4 98% 14:150%yes yes yes
8 University of Missouri-St Louis Saint Louis, MO 97.69 $9,474 2 84% 17:146%no yes yes
9 Mississippi College Clinton, MS 97.64 $14,670 3 98% 15:153%no yes yes
10 Mississippi State University Mississippi State, MS 97.53 $7,140 1 74% 19:161%yes yes yes
11 University of Saint Mary Leavenworth, KS 97.48 $23,750 4 96% 8:153%yes yes yes
12 University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville, AL 97.32 $9,158 1 74% 16:148%no yes yes
13 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS 97.30 $6,980 11 76% 17:145%no yes yes
14 Arizona State University-West Glendale, AZ 97.30 $9,138 1 82% 12:155%no yes yes
15 Northwest Missouri State University Maryville, MO 97.27 $4,288 3 94% 20:148%no yes yes
16 Jackson State University Jackson, MS 97.21 $6,602 8 54% 18:139%no yes yes
17 Valley City State University Valley City, ND 97.20 $5,027 6 98% 11:146%no yes yes
18 Murray State University Murray, KY 97.08 $6,360 2 72% 15:153%yes yes yes
19 Freed-Hardeman University Henderson, TN 97.00 $20,468 1 100% 13:152%yes yes yes
20 Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus, OH 96.99 $9,168 2 79% 19:183%no yes yes
21 Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe, AZ 96.99 $9,454 1 83% 23:159%no yes yes
22 Graceland University-Lamoni Lamoni, IA 96.93 $24,570 3 100% 16:147%yes yes yes
23 North Greenville University Tigerville, SC 96.92 $15,510 5 98% 14:155%yes yes yes
24 Carson-Newman University Jefferson City, TN 96.91 $23,300 5 99% 13:150%no yes yes
25 Mississippi University for Women Columbus, MS 96.89 $5,540 1 78% 14:139%no yes yes
26 Texas A & M University-Texarkana Texarkana, TX 96.89 $4,569 1 94% 9:1N/Ayes yes yes
27 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL 96.84 $9,265 1 89% 14:143%yes yes yes
28 Cairn University-Langhorne Langhorne, PA 96.82 $23,035 2 100% 13:168%yes yes yes
29 University of Virginia-Main Campus Charlottesville, VA 96.81 $10,484 3 27% 15:193%no yes yes
30 University of Maine Orono, ME 96.78 $8,370 5 86% 16:156%no yes yes
31 Wayland Baptist University Plainview, TX 96.65 $11,880 12 91% 10:133%yes yes yes
32 Webster University Saint Louis, MO 96.65 $24,500 5 95% 13:159%yes yes yes
33 Siena Heights University Adrian, MI 96.54 $22,100 1 100% 12:143%yes yes yes
34 Colorado Christian University Lakewood, CO 96.53 $20,435 1 98% 15:136%yes yes yes
35 Gallaudet University Washington, DC 96.52 $14,498 2 88% 6:148%yes yes yes
36 Southern Nazarene University Bethany, OK 96.48 $21,990 1 99% 14:147%yes yes yes
37 University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, AL 96.40 $7,510 5 72% 18:153%yes yes yes
38 Harding University Searcy, AR 96.37 $16,560 12 96% 16:162%no yes yes
39 University of Toledo Toledo, OH 96.33 $8,052 4 89% 20:146%yes yes yes
40 Citadel Military College of South Carolina Charleston, SC 96.32 $150 1 41% 13:169%no yes yes
41 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ 96.28 $8,072 13 64% 18:149%no yes yes
42 Dakota Wesleyan University Mitchell, SD 96.27 $23,550 4 98% 13:144%yes yes yes
43 Brescia University Owensboro, KY 96.25 $19,500 1 96% 13:130%no yes yes
44 Iowa State University Ames, IA 96.24 $6,648 5 74% 19:168%no yes yes
45 Southern Arkansas University Main Campus Magnolia, AR 96.20 $6,300 10 82% 17:130%no yes yes
46 Fontbonne University Saint Louis, MO 96.05 $22,770 3 93% 11:137%yes yes yes
47 King University Bristol, TN 96.05 $24,316 1 86% 16:152%yes yes yes
48 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin Odessa, TX 96.05 $4,029 3 88% 20:127%no yes yes
49 University of Wyoming Laramie, WY 96.04 $2,712 1 66% 14:154%yes yes yes
50 University of Mobile Mobile, AL 96.03 $18,720 2 97% 13:149%no yes yes

2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Eastern Wyoming College Torrington, WY 99.22 $1,992 3 87% 18:1N/Ano yes yes
2 East Mississippi Community College Scooba, MS 97.60 $2,200 4 66% 13:1N/Ayes yes yes
3 Western Texas College Snyder, TX 97.55 $1,950 2 48% 16:1N/Ayes yes yes
4 Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson, KS 96.68 $2,432 2 65% 15:1N/Ayes yes yes
5 Otero Junior College La Junta, CO 96.61 $3,747 3 87% 17:1N/Ano no yes
6 Colorado Northwestern Community College Rangely, CO 96.37 $3,394 5 57% 12:1N/Ayes no yes
7 Snead State Community College Boaz, AL 96.06 $3,390 3 55% 23:1N/Ayes yes yes
8 Arizona Western College Yuma, AZ 95.58 $1,824 5 16% 21:1N/Ano yes yes
9 College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls, ID 95.54 $3,760 9 45% 19:1N/Ano yes yes
10 Roane State Community College Harriman, TN 95.38 $3,528 1 6% 16:1N/Ayes yes yes
11 Casper College Casper, WY 95.35 $1,992 1 46% 13:1N/Ano yes yes
12 Highland Community College Highland, KS 95.32 $2,112 1 62% 20:1N/Ayes yes yes
13 Western Oklahoma State College Altus, OK 95.30 $1,977 3 69% 17:1N/Ayes no yes
14 Barton County Community College Great Bend, KS 94.94 $1,984 2 55% 23:1N/Ayes yes yes
15 Tulsa Community College Tulsa, OK 94.82 $2,103 3 41% 18:1N/Ayes yes yes
16 Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City, KS 94.77 $2,190 1 21% 13:1N/Ayes yes yes
17 Gadsden State Community College Gadsden, AL 94.64 $2,712 1 25% 18:1N/Ayes yes yes
18 Yavapai College Prescott, AZ 94.55 $1,896 1 17% 23:1N/Ayes no yes
19 Taft College Taft, CA 94.46 $1,380 3 80% 28:1N/Ano yes yes
20 Mid-Plains Community College North Platte, NE 94.35 $2,370 3 68% 9:1N/Ano no yes
21 Lake Region State College Devils Lake, ND 94.33 $3,197 2 60% 13:1N/Ayes yes yes
22 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston, MS 94.33 $2,300 5 43% 21:1N/Ayes yes yes
23 Southwest Virginia Community College Richlands, VA 94.32 $3,060 3 54% 22:1N/Ayes yes yes
24 Dawson Community College Glendive, MT 94.31 $3,226 1 77% 11:1N/Ayes no yes
25 Arkansas Northeastern College Blytheville, AR 94.25 $2,016 1 30% 13:1N/Ayes yes yes
26 Bevill State Community College Jasper, AL 93.88 $3,390 3 31% 16:1N/Ayes yes yes
27 Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia, MS 93.66 $2,550 3 28% 25:1N/Ayes yes yes
28 Lassen Community College Susanville, CA 93.65 $1,104 1 49% 21:1N/Ano yes yes
29 Allen County Community College Iola, KS 93.38 $1,824 5 72% 16:1N/Ano no yes
30 Carl Albert State College Poteau, OK 93.30 $2,073 3 34% 24:1N/Ayes yes yes
31 Eastern Oklahoma State College Wilburton, OK 93.19 $2,682 1 42% 19:1N/Ayes yes yes
32 Tyler Junior College Tyler, TX 93.10 $2,310 2 20% 20:1N/Ano yes yes
33 Jefferson State Community College Birmingham, AL 93.08 $3,390 2 15% 20:1N/Ayes yes yes
34 Grayson College Denison, TX 93.08 $2,088 2 29% 21:1N/Ayes yes yes
35 Rose State College Midwest City, OK 93.04 $2,595 3 32% 18:1N/Ano yes yes
36 Mississippi Delta Community College Moorhead, MS 92.95 $2,490 1 54% 18:1N/Ano yes yes
37 Odessa College Odessa, TX 92.92 $3,240 10 22% 19:1N/Ano yes yes
38 Northeast Community College Norfolk, NE 92.89 $2,475 3 34% 17:1N/Ayes yes yes
39 Pamlico Community College Grantsboro, NC 92.84 $2,304 2 21% 9:1N/Ayes yes yes
40 Southwestern Oregon Community College Coos Bay, OR 92.64 $3,915 4 47% 15:1N/Ayes yes yes
41 Arkansas State University-Mountain Home Mountain Home, AR 92.59 $2,136 1 21% 17:1N/Ayes yes yes
42 Central Arizona College Coolidge, AZ 92.58 $2,400 2 20% 16:1N/Ano no yes
43 Laramie County Community College Cheyenne, WY 92.49 $1,992 1 43% 14:1N/Ano no yes
44 Estrella Mountain Community College Avondale, AZ 92.39 $2,016 1 22% 22:1N/Ayes yes yes
45 West Kentucky Community and Technical College Paducah, KY 92.35 $3,528 2 N/A 18:1N/Ano yes yes
46 Trinity Valley Community College Athens, TX 92.34 $960 3 31% 24:1N/Ano yes yes
47 Nebraska Indian Community College Macy, NE 92.26 $4,080 1 77% 6:1N/Ayes no yes
48 Holmes Community College Goodman, MS 92.18 $2,000 6 38% 18:1N/Ano yes yes
49 Kilgore College Kilgore, TX 92.12 $2,376 1 22% 20:1N/Ayes yes yes
50 South Arkansas Community College El Dorado, AR 92.12 $2,184 3 5% 13:1N/Ayes yes yes

How much do teachers make?

The profession isn’t known for making teachers wealthy, but individuals can expect reasonable incomes, especially when obtaining graduate degrees and teaching students at secondary school and beyond. Besides a teacher’s terminal degree, the amount of experience plays a major role in determining how much a teacher makes. For a broad overview of what individuals can expect from teaching at different grades with varying levels of experience, check out the following chart.

Occupation Median Annual Salary: Entry-level Median Annual Salary: Mid-level Median Annual Salary: Late-career
Elementary Ed $39,374 $44,223 $56,372
Middle school teacher $40,551 $45,070 $59,689
High school/secondary ed $41,355 $47,880 $60,505
Professor/post-secondary $59,007 $68,751 $98,638

Source: Payscale

Explore Associate Degree
programs to Become a Teacher

What Online Degree Do I Need to Become a Teacher?

Most teaching positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, although a few teachers, especially at the preschool level, may be able to get meet eligibility requirements with just an associate degree. A bachelor’s degree is also the common minimum requirement for those looking to teach at a career or technical school. However, they must have sufficient practical experience to supplement the bachelor’s degree.

A master’s degree is common for teachers at the upper-grade levels or those who want to specialize in counseling or administrative roles. And for those who want to teach at the university level, a doctorate degree is generally needed, although a master’s degree is often accepted at the community or junior college level.

Explore Bachelor’s Degree
programs to Become a Teacher

What Are the Steps to Earn an Online Education Degree?

Getting an online teaching degree is probably the single most significant step in becoming a teacher, but it’s hardly the only one. There are many other steps necessary to choose the right school and program to best achieve your professional and academic goals.

But in addition to following these steps, students should ensure they have the internal qualities that can help them succeed in teaching, including interpersonal skills, communication skills and patience. With these traits, as well as careful attention to the following steps, an individual can look forward to a promising future in education.

  1. Any career in teaching will require a postsecondary degree, which in turn requires a high school diploma or GED. Time to complete: Four years.

  2. Depending on where you want to teach, only an associate degree may be necessary. However, most likely a bachelor’s or master’s degree will be needed. Time to complete: Varies.

  3. To become a certified or licensed teacher, students must complete an accredited teacher preparation program. Time to complete: Varies.

  4. To enroll in many degree programs, taking the SAT, ACT and/or Praxis exams will be needed. At the graduated level, students may also need to take the GRE. Time to complete: Three or more months.

  5. Students should except to provide any of the following: all high school and postsecondary academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, submission of test scores/results, a personal statement, resume and an interview. Time to complete: Three to six months.

  6. The level of background checks will vary among states, but can include submission of fingerprints. Schools will require background checks if it’s also a necessary element of certification or licensing (it often is). Time to complete: Three or more months.

  7. Students interested in receiving financial aid should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is necessary when applying for the vast majority of government and school-based financial aid, including scholarships, grants, loans and work study. Time to complete: Three or more months.

  8. Keep in mind that there are sometimes state-specific class requirements. Students must consult with their academic advisors to make sure they take the necessary coursework for the state they intend to become licensed in. Time to complete: One to four years.

  9. While sometimes required before admission, most students will take this during their junior or senior years, before beginning supervised teaching. Time to complete: Varies.

  10. Often lasting a semester, students must complete a student teaching experience under the supervision of faculty members. Time to complete: Three or more months.

  11. The precise certification process will depend on the credential sought and the state the student seeks it in. Time to complete: A few weeks to a few months.

  12. The vast majority of states will require students to pass multiple exams before becoming licensed. These exams will cover general teaching knowledge in major academic subject areas as well as the class subject the student intends to teach. Time to complete: Up to a few months.

  13. Even before graduating, students should be engaged in the job hunt and networking as much as possible. Time to complete: Varies.

  14. Depending on the state, the student may be given a temporary certification and may need to renew it to a permanent one. Time to complete: Varies.

  15. This is one of the most advanced and prestigious certifications a teacher can receive. It is not required to become a teacher, but can make it easier to become certified in other states and advance your teaching career. Time to complete: Three or more years (minimum three years of teaching or school counselor experience required for eligibility).

Explore Online Degree
Programs to Become a Teacher

How Do I Find the Top Accredited Online Education Program?

There are numerous online teaching programs available, which is great in that it provides a wide range of choices for students to consider. But the disadvantage is that it makes finding the best program more difficult. To choose the best online education program, a prospective student should take several factors into consideration.

One factor to think about is how a course is presented. Online programs have a wide range of course delivery options, such as synchronous and asynchronous leaning. Depending on the need for flexibility, asynchronous learning may be an absolute necessity, as it allows students to take classes anytime, anywhere.

Also evaluate the specializations offered. Teaching degrees can include a wide range of areas, such as early childhood, special education, mathematics, English, academic leadership, research methods and health and fitness. Assuming a student doesn’t have a set area they want to focus on, it might be best to choose a school with the greatest selection of concentrations available. The following search tool will help students with that goal.

Start your School Search

Are There Scholarships and Grants for Teachers?

Given the need for teachers, many organizations have stepped up to offer scholarships and grants specifically for those who will educate the future members of society. As a result, teaching related scholarships and grants provide some of the biggest opportunities for students looking for gift-based financial aid options.

Scholarships do not need to be repaid and are primarily awarded based on an applicant’s merits. As a result, students who apply for scholarships can expect to provide copies of academic transcripts, essays and evidence of an interest or desire to teach. Here’s a small sampling of scholarships available for teachers.

Like scholarships, grants do not need to be paid back. But unlike scholarships, the primary basis for awarding grants is financial need, not academic merit (although that is often a factor). So when applying for a grant, providing evidence of financial need, such as a completed FAFSA, is necessary.

  • TEACH Grant

    The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant is for students who will teach in a high-need subject and low-income areas of the country.

  • Teacher.org

    A website devoted to the teaching profession that includes a list of grants and scholarships for teachers.

Even with the high numbers of scholarships and grants available, students often find themselves struggling to pay for school and make a living after graduation. To help alleviate this burden, loan forgiveness options are available that will reduce or eliminate student loans under certain conditions, such as teaching in an underserved area.

  • Teach.org

    Includes a wealth of information, including scholarships, housing assistance and loan forgiveness.

  • Federal Student Aid – How to Replay Your Loans

    Several federal programs allow students who become teachers or teach in a public service position to have their school loans forgiven.

Remember, accreditation is critical for obtaining an education. When it comes to teaching, it’s extremely difficult – if not impossible – to obtain the necessary licensure or certification without going through an accredited program. Additionally, almost all financial aid awards will require students to enroll in an accredited school or program to receive the financial help.