Accredited Online Teaching Degree Guide for 2018

If you’re passionate about helping to shape the minds of the future, consider a career in education. There are a few accredited online programs that offer the training and technical skills you need to pursue a career in education or to receive teacher certification.

Teachers work at every level of education from preschool to college. Public, charter, and private schools in both urban and rural areas hire people with education degrees. Teachers certified in the United States can also work at international schools around the world.

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People with education degrees can find jobs in many fields besides teaching. Many education majors become instructional designers, writers, tutors, child caretakers, and business owners. A degree in education prepares you future long-term success.


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Quick Questions

Why is accreditation important for an online education program?

When choosing an education program with the goal of becoming a certified teacher, or to pursue a graduate degree in the future, you need to receive a bachelor’s degree from an NCATE-accredited program. In addition, only colleges that have met their state’s quality standards qualify for federal financial aid funds that can be vital to most students’ completion of their educational goals.

Within the field of education, you should look for programs accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Why does NCATE Accreditation matter?

Programs without NCATE accreditation may offer coursework that does not transfer to other higher education programs or count towards a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and may also be insufficient to become certified as a teacher.

What kinds of online education degree programs are available to me?

Online education degree programs are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. You will need at least a bachelor’s degree to be able to earn your teaching certification and teach at the elementary, middle school or high school level.

Will an online education degree prevent me from obtaining state certification?

A long as your online program is accredited and meets the educational requirements for certification in the state in which you choose to teach, your online degree is completely valid.

Can I complete all requirements for becoming a teacher online?

While you can complete most of the coursework through online programs, you cannot fulfill your student teaching requirement online. Individuals seeking certification in K-12 education will need to complete a term of supervised, full-time classroom teaching experience that typically lasts between 12 and 20 weeks.

Available Degrees

Depending on your interests, there are a number of degree programs in education, with many options available online:

  • Bachelor of Science in Education (BEd): This degree is the foundational degree for certification as a teacher. Students wishing to teach in lower grade levels (elementary school and middle school) will study general subjects and focus more on developmental coursework and curriculum development. For secondary education (high school), there will also be coursework in one or two teaching specialties (e.g. math, science, foreign language, English, social studies).
    • Many states also allow you to earn a regular B.A./B.S. degree in a subject field, and with additional education coursework, qualify to take the certification exam, and become licensed as a teacher in that subject at the secondary level.
  • MS Curriculum and Instruction: This can be an alternate path to teaching certification for those holding degrees in fields other than education; it also offers advanced instruction in curriculum design, research, and education techniques.
  • MS Special Education (K–12): This degree addresses the particular concerns of special education and prepares teachers to work within diverse populations with physical and/or learning challenges.
  • MA English Language Learning/English as a Second Language: This degree provides advanced study for individuals who may wish to teach English to non-native speakers.
  • MEd Instructional Design: This degree is ideal for those who would like to produce training and education programs for adult learners within private industry, governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations.
  • MEd Learning and Technology: This degree provides advanced study and research in the field of technology use in the classroom, and allows graduates to design and implement technological improvements in schools and other educational facilities.
  • Doctorate of Education (EdD): The EdD prepares students to teach at the college level as well as engage in educational research.

Online Degrees and Accreditation

Online education degree programs are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. You will need at least a bachelor’s degree to be able to earn your teaching certification and teach at the elementary, middle school or high school level.

Remember that, while you can complete most of the coursework through online programs, you cannot fulfill your student teaching requirement online. Individuals seeking certification in K-12 education will need to complete a term of supervised, full-time classroom teaching experience that typically lasts between 12 and 20 weeks.

When choosing an online program in education, you should look for institutions accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE accredits both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

NCATE offers upper-level institutions accreditation based on the following eligibility requirements:

  • Knowledge, Skills and Professional Dispositions: The institution providing the program must prepare candidates to meet professional, state and institutional standards.
  • Assessment System and Unit Evaluation: The program must have an assessment system that ensures that candidates are suitable for graduation requirements.
  • Field Experience and Clinical Practice: NCATE requires students to participate in clinical field experiences so they can demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary for effective teaching.
  • Diversity: The program must provide a diverse curriculum that allows students to demonstrate and apply skills necessary to teaching diversity.
  • Qualifications, Performance and Development: Faculty are required to model professional practices, including the assessment of their own performance and abilities.
  • Unit Governance and Resources: The program must obtain the proper resources, technology, authority and personnel to prepare candidates for professional, state and institutional standards.

Of the 689 institutionally accredited online education schools, only a select few are NCATE accredited.

Course of Study

Students who attend a top accredited online education college can anticipate taking a variety of classes to prepare them for teaching in public and private schools. Accredited online education classes will offer students basic knowledge in:

  • Perspectives in Education: Students study and explore the characteristics and role of a professional educator, focusing on the social, philosophical and political aspects of teaching.
  • Curriculum Planning and Implementation: These courses involve teaching methods, lesson planning and implementation, and assessment strategies.
  • Student Teaching and Classroom Management: Students pursuing a top accredited online education degree learn basic classroom management skills by instructing in a real classroom setting.

There are generally no special prerequisites for an education program, except for eligibility for admission into the undergraduate college of your choice and completion of any core curriculum as required by your college, such as courses in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and arts and culture.


There are many career options open to people with education degrees. Here are a few to consider:

  • Teacher (Preschool, Elementary, Middle, High School)
    Teach students in a variety of educational settings
  • Instructional designer
    Design curriculum for publishers or companies
  • Coordinator for adult learners or alternative education programs
    Design curriculum for publishers or companies
  • Corporate trainer
    Implement trainings for new hires and professional development for staff in corporate settings
  • Writer/Editor
    Write content for websites, magazine, or books

Licensing, Certifications and Exams

Obtaining teaching certification is the final step to becoming a classroom teacher. To qualify for your license, you must complete a variety of requirements determined by the state in which you wish to teach, and in some cases, pass the Praxis Examination administered by the Educational Testing Services.

While licensing requirements will vary state by state, the minimum requirements to receive certification include:

  • Obtaining a bachelor’s degree
  • Completing a teacher preparation program, which includes undergraduate, master’s, or alternative certification
  • Completion of required classroom hours of student teaching and mentorship
  • Criminal background check
  • Citizenship confirmation
  • General teaching certification exam

Visit Teach.Org’s Teaching Certification page to find out about state-specific licensing requirements.

Future Outlook for Primary Career

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates an approximate 17% increase in new teaching jobs for kindergarten, elementary and middle school grades between 2010 and 2020. Although a slower rate of growth is anticipated for high school level teachers, a 7% increase between 2010 and 2020, those who are qualified to teach science and math-related courses will be in higher demand.

Tenure-track positions for college professors are projected to be highly competitive; however, increased employment opportunities for temporary/adjunct and part-time professors are expected.

The job market for certified teachers varies widely by location, with some school districts desperate to hire teachers and others with highly competitive positions. It’s worth considering whether or not you would be willing to relocate to find a good teaching position.

Salary Expectations

The median yearly salary for classroom teachers is $53,000 to $56,000. The median salary for full-time faculty in the field of education is $83,000. Teacher salaries vary greatly depending on which state or city you look at. Some urban districts pay new to mid-level teachers close to $65,000 a year.

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Marketable skills

Pursuing a degree in education and teaching will provide you with a wide array of marketable skills that can be useful both within the teaching profession as well as in careers outside of education. These include:

  • Advanced Communication Skills:  In the field of education, expect to develop excellent verbal and written skills, as well as public speaking and presentation skills. These skills will be highly marketable in other fields as well.
  • Problem Solving: As trained teachers for diverse student populations, students develop unique problem solving skills needed to engage students in classroom settings.
  • Leadership: As mentors and guides for student success, teachers develop innovative methods both for instruction as well as for inspiring and motivating students to learn and grow on a developmental level.

Other marketable skills include:

  • Human development
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Technology and computers
  • Counseling and mediation

Undergraduate Internships

Because student-teaching work is expected as part of the coursework, internships are not often an essential part of obtaining and education degree. However, if you are planning to work in a field other than teaching with your degree, you might want to consider internships that involve:

  • Working with a trainer in a company
  • Assisting at camps for children with special needs
  • Aiding in a law office
  • Writing blogs or article
  • Providing assistance for people who speak languages other than English

Professional Associations

Suggested online programs

NCATE has been reviewing new online courses for accreditation and has added additional approved programs within the past few years.

The following programs offer accredited programs for individuals in a number of different states:

The University of Massachusetts (UMass Online)

  • The UMass Graduate School of Education has been accredited by NCATE.

Western Governors University’s Teacher’s College

  • The first online program certified by NCATE for teacher certification. Offers accredited bachelor’s degrees in education, as well as post-baccalaureate certification programs and master’s degrees.


  • The first ‘alternative’ online teacher certification program accredited by NCATE, for students seeking certification in Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Idaho.