The U.S. public school teacher shortage has motivated schools to offer more secondary education online degrees, attracting future teachers with their convenience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median annual salary of $61,660 for high school teachers. The position garners a wage higher than the median annual salary of $39,810 for all occupations.
Many education graduate programs view a degree in secondary education as meeting the educational requirement for admission. Online teaching degree holders who pursue a graduate degree in education can qualify for postsecondary teaching jobs or top-level research positions. A secondary education program also prepares graduates for non-classroom jobs, including career counselors, corporate trainers, and instructional designers.
Teaching Secondary Education? Ask these Questions
Q. How long does it take to earn a degree in secondary education?
A bachelor’s degree in secondary education typically comprises 120 credits and takes four years of full-time enrollment to complete.
Q. What is a degree in secondary education?
With a teaching license, a secondary education online degree qualifies holders to teach grades 7-12, or middle and high school subjects.
Q. Can you teach middle school with a secondary education degree?
Yes. In many U.S. school districts, graduates of a secondary education program can teach middle school subjects.
Q. What can I do with a degree in secondary education?
Aside from qualifying graduates to teach at the high school and middle school levels, a degree in secondary education can also lead to jobs in curriculum development, education administration, and career counseling.
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Why Get a Degree in Secondary Education?
An accredited degree in secondary education meets the educational requirement for a teaching license in most states. Additionally, a secondary education program provides excellent preparation for postgraduate study in education or a related field.
Earning a secondary education online degree often saves enrollees time and money. Many programs follow accelerated delivery schedules, allowing students to graduate earlier than most on-campus enrollees. Online learners do not incur additional housing and transportation expenses, which can yield substantial savings during a four-year program.
National Center for Education Statistics data shows undergraduate attendance costs at public four-year institutions came to an average of $20,598 in 2018-19. One year of enrollment at a private nonprofit college or university amounted to $47,541 on average. Both figures include tuition, fees, room, and board. Students can expect to pay similar amounts for a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.
Online enrollees often do not pay for on-campus room and board, significantly lowering the cost of attendance. Without on-campus housing expenses, students paid $9,212 to attend public institutions and $34,758 to enroll at private nonprofit schools. In addition, some schools allow out-of-state online enrollees to pay in-state tuition. This savings opportunity could prove significant, so students should find out if a prospective institution offers this option.
Calculating the Cost of a College Degree
Students pursuing a degree in secondary education can compare the attendance costs among institutions with the calculation tool below. A school’s website usually contains much of the required information. Online enrollees should keep in mind that some schools charge off-campus students additional technology fees, calculated per credit or per course.
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Several factors influence the salary levels of secondary educators, including their professional arena and state. BLS data shows elementary and secondary schools hire the highest number of professionals in this field, with 979,330 positions in 2020. However, state government agencies and religious organizations pay the highest mean salaries for secondary educators at $83,010 and $70,580, respectively.
The states that paid the highest salaries for secondary school teachers include New York, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Professionals in these states garnered annual mean wages of $88,890, $86,900, $84,130, $78,900, and $78,510, respectively.
A degree in secondary education qualifies graduates to become career or technical education teachers at vocational schools or junior colleges. Secondary education degree-holders who earn a master’s in education typically qualify to teach collegiately. Postsecondary teachers earn a median annual salary of $79,540. The BLS projects a 9% growth rate for these jobs, much higher than the average growth rate of 4% for all occupations.
Courses in Secondary Education
A secondary education program usually requires degree candidates to declare two majors: secondary education and their future subject. A typical secondary education curriculum includes coursework in assistive technology, instructional strategies, and characteristics and development of adolescent learners.
Secondary education programs include fieldwork allowing students to observe teachers in an actual classroom setting. Candidates undergo supervised contact with high school or middle school enrollees, usually as teacher aides. The courses below represent some of the most common classes in a secondary education program.
Frameworks in Education
Students examine the structure and foundation of U.S. education. Participants study the various social, political, economic, and legal issues impacting the quality and delivery of educational services. The course helps enrollees identify and develop the skills and knowledge required for a successful teaching career.
Instructional Strategies for Adolescent Students
The class introduces different teaching components and how to create a supportive and positive learning environment for adolescent students. Learners design lesson plans and implement classroom strategies addressing the educational and behavioral needs of diverse student populations.
Pedagogy and Assessment in Effective Instruction
Degree-seekers learn how to interpret and use data from standardized tests and other assessments in making instructional decisions. The course guides students in assessing students’ developmental and academic needs and developing culturally sensitive pedagogy to address those needs within their content areas.
Certifications and Licensure for Secondary Education
States require secondary school teachers to acquire licensure before they begin their teaching career. State education boards determine licensure requirements, so they vary by state. Industry-recognized professional organizations administer different certifications, but most states do not require them. That said, certification presents the holder as a committed professional with specialized knowledge and skills in specific practice areas.
The American Academy of Special Education Professionals reserves this credential for master’s-trained special education practitioners. Applicants must complete five certificates of advanced professional development in areas including principles of IEP development and response to intervention. After completing the certificates, applicants must pass a 50-question multiple choice exam.
The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing administers the CHES credential. The certification measures a candidate’s interpretation and application of knowledge in the seven areas of responsibility as specified in A Competency-Based Framework for Health Education Specialists 2015. Applicants must show completion of at least 25 credits of accredited coursework directly relevant to the areas of responsibility.
The American Board awards the certification to applicants with at least a bachelor’s degree who pass a standard background check. The program requires candidates pass the Professional Teaching Knowledge Exam (PTK), consisting of 145 multiple choice questions and a writing component. Applicants must also pass the American Board General Science Exam after the PTK.
Scholarships for Secondary Education
The critical need for teachers usually means that education students can find financial support from various sources, starting with institutional aid. Students in or entering a secondary education program can explore scholarship opportunities from professional organizations and nonprofit private groups, like those below.
Barbara Lotze Scholarships for Future Physics Teachers
Who Can Apply: The American Association of Physics Teachers accepts applications from undergraduate students enrolled in a physics teacher preparation program. Applicants submit recommendation letters.
Prospective 7-12 Secondary Teacher Course Work Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Texas Instruments Demana-Waits Fund supports this program for full-time students pursuing a degree leading to a career as a certified teacher of secondary school mathematics. Applicants of at least sophomore status qualify with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Valley City State University, located in Valley City, North Dakota, offers several bachelor's degrees designed to lead to careers in secondary education that can be earned online. Specific majors include business education, career and technical education, English education, history education, social science education and technology education. Coursework can be completed fully online, but some degrees include field experience elements that students must complete with approved education providers in their areas. For example, business education majors must complete their 12-week student teaching field experiences in secondary classrooms. All degree programs are nationally accredited and meet requirements for North Dakota teacher licensure, and most other states accept VCSU teacher education graduates for required licensure. Students outside of North Dakota are advised, however, to contact the appropriate licensing boards in their states to confirm that a VCSU education degree will meet all licensing requirements. All VCSU online students pay the same low tuition rates as North Dakota residents regardless of where they live.
Established in 1963, The University of Central Florida is public state institution based in Orlando. Its online program in technical education and industry training is designed to produce graduates who can find successful careers in middle or secondary schools, correctional institutions, post-secondary adult technical institutions and community colleges. UCF graduates also move on to hold various instructional or training positions in business or industry. Students in the program partake in a required mentored internship course that is built around their specific professional goals. The internship takes place over 1 or 2 semesters and is the only in-person requirement for the degree; however, depending on the instructor, it may be possible for students to satisfy the internship course requirement remotely, by acting as an assistant teacher for web-based courses. Students may transfer credits toward their degrees at UCF; application requirements and transfer credit limitations depend on how many credits you already have completed at the time of your acceptance to UCF.
The University of Wisconsin-Stout is a public university with 4 undergraduate majors focused on preparing students for teaching careers in secondary education. Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science degree with a specialization in family and consumer sciences education, marketing and business education, special education or technology education. All of these degrees may be completed entirely online, and the marketing and business concentration also has an additional hybrid option. The bachelor's degrees require either 120 or 121 credits to graduate. Some concentrations at UW-Stout require a 2.75 GPA or higher to remain in good standing. Graduates of these programs should be able to secure teaching positions at the middle school and high school levels, as well as in special education and vocational programs. Programs are designed to meet licensure requirements in the state of Wisconsin. In most cases, incoming students may transfer credits toward the general education requirements if the credits were earned at an accredited institution.
At Mayville State, aspiring teachers can complete the Bachelor of Science in Education with a specialization in mathematics education program entirely online. Students can attend either part time or full time, and should finish their degree ready to teach math at the secondary level. Courses are synchronous and taught using the cohort style, so that students work along with their classmates, collaborating on assignments and class discussions, and starting and finishing classes at the same time. Students majoring in secondary education must also choose a minor concentration in business administration, special needs, general science, library media and information science, or accounting. If you plan on taking classes during the summer semester, you can finish this education degree in 8 semesters or about 3 years. A total of 128 credits are required to graduate, but only 30 credit hours at the 300/400 level must be completed at Mayville. All other credits may be transferred from accredited colleges if the courses align with the major and are approved by Mayville.
Established in 1899, Northern Arizona University is a public research institution that offers a variety of online education degrees. Distance learners can earn bachelor's degrees in career and technical/occupational education, elementary education, special education and early childhood education. All of these fully online bachelor's programs require 120 credits to graduate. The occupational education program allows students to transfer up to 90 credits from another accredited programs; the remaining programs accept up to 64 transfer credits. Depending on your major and focus area, you may be able to earn a certificate in an additional specialized area, such as special education or early childhood education. NAU graduates with degrees in education can find teaching positions with high schools, middle schools, vocational programs and tutoring services, and as curriculum specialists. Students may also work in the field more generally, pursuing non-teaching roles in the education system. These programs do not lead to state teaching certification.
Judson College offers a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education with 2 concentrations focused on teaching grades 6-12: secondary English/language arts and general social studies. All online courses at Judson are taught in the cohort, synchronous style, and may be started during any of the 3 semesters each academic year. As a result, distance learners start and finish classes at the same times as on-campus students. Judson utilizes the Moodlerooms learning system to keep all students on task and working through the same course content in a collaborative and participatory way. All distance learners must maintain a 2.75 GPA throughout the program, and must finish their general studies courses before taking major-specific education courses; the full degree takes between 2 and 4 years to complete. Judson only certifies Alabama candidates, and all of the school's students are placed in Alabama schools for required field experiences and clinical practice observations. For transfer students, a maximum of 64 semester credits may be transferred from a 2-year college. Those holding an associate degree in a parallel field of study automatically satisfy the general education core requirements at Judson.
The Hobe Sound Bible College is a Christian college in Florida with roots in the Methodist church. It offers a bachelor's degree in secondary education that can be earned online after completing 129 total credit hours. No on-campus work is required. Students work toward their degrees by exploring a variety of required bible-related, general education and professional education courses. You must choose from one specialized subject area; the selection may change from year to year. In most cases, available concentrations include English, social studies, biological science and physical science. Any additional specializations offered at HSBC require the same amount of credit hours for graduation. All students must also complete 2-3 non-credit courses, including assistant teaching. Hobe is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education, and credits usually transfer to major theological institutions of higher learning. Incoming transfer credits of a "C" or higher may be counted toward your degree. Depending on whether students have transfer credits, most are able to complete the degree in 4 years. Graduates with a degree in secondary education go on to be teachers in various roles at both Christian and secular schools.
At Chaminade University of Honolulu, a Roman Catholic institution founded in 1955, distance learners can complete a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education degree entirely online. Full-time students at Chaminade can complete the required 120 credits in 4 years, and should finish prepared for licensure in English, math, science or social studies. Upon graduation, students are licensed to teach grades 6-12 in their core content subject and to work in middle and secondary schools and other educational organizations. You should consult with your academic adviser when selecting elective courses for your desired licensure path. This degree and the accompanying licensure permits you to teach in Hawaii and most other U.S. states. Students applying to Chaminade should have a minimum GPA of 2.0, and should submit a personal statement along with transcripts for any previously earned college credit. For transfer students, up to 90 semester hours of credit may be applied to a bachelor's degree.
Ferris State's Bachelor of Science in technical education ProMoTed is a 12-month degree-completion program that's offered in a hybrid format, combining online coursework with a number of in-person learning activities and experiences. Students interested in this program must fulfill 1 of 2 requirements prior to beginning their studies: Earn an associate degree with a minimum of 40 credit hours in an occupational major with a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA, or earn an associate degree or 56 transferrable credit hours that include intermediate algebra and 2 semesters of English composition. Program participants begin their study with a face-to-face, 2-week, on-campus summer session, followed by fall and spring semesters consisting of online coursework and in-person preteaching experiences. Students then return to campus for a second 2-week, face-to-face intensive summer session. Following completion of all other degree requirements, students are enrolled in an in-person directed teaching experience and seminar to finish their studies. The B.S. in technical education ProMoTeD degree leads to an Interim Occupational Certification through the Michigan Department of Education, and graduates may find career opportunities in industry and vocational education, as well as secondary education. However, this degree does not lead to secondary teacher certification without completion of an academic major and minor (such as math, English, etc.).
For distance learners interested in both business and education, Fort Hays State University offers a dual online degree -- the Bachelor of Science in Business Education Concentration in Business Teacher Licensure and Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. Established in 1902, FHSU is a public institution with over 15,000 students located in Hays, Kansas. This dual degree prepares students for careers teaching business-oriented classes in both middle school and high school. Graduates may also move on to careers as marketing or computer skills teachers, curriculum developers or advisors in organizations such as the Future Business Leaders of America, Business Teachers Association or the Distributive Education Clubs of America. Including general education classes, this dual degree program requires 164 credits for graduation. Incoming students may transfer an associates degree or up to 45 credit hours toward the dual B.S. Full-time students can expect to spend 5 years or more completing all graduation requirements.
Founded on the principles of creating educational programming for busy, working students, Western Governors University is a respected institution for online teacher education. Through WGU's Teachers College Online, students have 4 bachelor's options among secondary science education degrees: secondary biological science, secondary chemistry, secondary physics and secondary earth science. There is also a secondary mathematics education degree option. Depending on the program, students can complete the program within 16 to 48 months. Students may also transfer credits from their associate degree. The programs require between 39-44 courses to complete depending on the degree and include courses in foundations of teaching, pedagogy and demonstration teaching as well as field experience courses. Additional coursework includes subject-specific content courses such as mathematics, chemistry or physics depending on the requirements for the specific degree.
The University of West Florida strives to create tomorrow's leaders through an array of programs offered both in-person and online. For future leaders in education, UWF offers the Bachelor of Arts in Exceptional Student Education program within the College of Education and Professional Studies. This degree can be achieved completed completely online (aside from the field experience) and equips students for the Professional Florida Educator's Certificate in Exceptional Student Education (K-12) including Elementary Education (K-6) with endorsements in reading and English for Speakers of Other Languages or ESOL. The major requires 72 credits to complete in addition to the university's general education requirements. Required courses include Applied Foundations of Education, Literacy for the Emergent Learner, Teaching English to ESOL Students and Curriculum for Teaching Students with Severe Disabilities. Students pursuing the degree are also required to complete 2 capstone field experiences of 100 supervised student teaching hours in a K-12 classroom. The second capstone is specifically focused specifically on teaching to English language learners.
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