What is an education diploma? | better college grades (2023)

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Updated October 12, 2022

Earning a degree in education can lead to exciting new career opportunities. Here, we list the best programs available.

BestCollegeReviews.org is an advertising supported website. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, location or match results are for schools that pay us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other independent editorial information published on this site.

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An educational degree can lead to many careers in teaching, consulting, and management. This page offers a comprehensive overview of education degrees at different levels, including what to look for when choosing a program and how to know which one is right for you.

ODepartment of Labor Statistics(BLS) reports that people in education jobs earned a median annual income of $52,380 in 2020. Teaching opportunities for education graduates continue to expand across the country. The BLS projects that these jobs will grow at a rate of 5%, slightly faster than average.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that people in education jobs earned a median annual income of $52,380 in 2020.

Those interested in working with youth, making changes to the field of education, or teaching others new skills can connect with a degree in education. Advanced degrees can benefit education professionals by providing enhanced knowledge and credentials.

The following sections describe each grade level and concentration available.

get the details

Curriculum|grade levels|Concentrations and Specializations|best schools|frequent questions

What is the field of education?

The field of education expands beyond the classroom. Education-related professions extend to corporate offices, museums, and recreation centers. Educators develop expertise in communicating ideas and information that can be translated to a variety of settings.

Teaching professions in elementary, secondary, and college classrooms are generally derived from degrees of education. The history of teaching dates back to the early years of the United States. From one-room schools to elaborate campuses, the growth of learning environments has created greater opportunities within the field.

People drawn to the field of education are interested in supporting the growth and development of others. Educators often rely on traits like compassion, patience, and resourcefulness.

Should you get a degree in education?

An education degree can offer experience in communicating and presenting information to various audiences. Many professions want these transferable skills.

  • Communication skills:Educators gain experience communicating information in a variety of ways. This transferable skill can open the door to great career opportunities.
  • Impacting the lives of students:Providing emotional support and engaging learning environments can have a profound impact on students' lives, both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Specialized teaching functions:Having a degree in education provides credentials that show your ability to teach different content areas, focusing your career on specialized teaching roles.
  • Career Advancement:Earning educational credentials can support career advancement opportunities in leadership and coaching roles.
  • Salary increase:Earning an educational degree, especially advanced degrees, can increase your salary as an educator.

Career Paths for Education Graduates

Many education graduates seek employment as teachers, an occupation that is constantly growing. Teaching careers can begin immediately upon graduation, with advancement opportunities available based on education level and experience.

A person's degree level can determine the career options available after graduation. For example, preschool teachers only require an associate's degree, while elementary and secondary teachers require a bachelor's degree and a teaching license. Advanced degrees provide access to broader career opportunities and higher salaries.

Non-teaching careers for education courses include corporate educators, museum and recreation educators, and consulting or administrative positions. Each of these pathways allows graduates to apply their skills in a variety of professional settings.

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Job prospects for education graduates

Job growth for careers in education and teaching is steady. EITHERSVB reportsthat education, training, and library occupations are expected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029, which is slightly faster than average.

As enrollments in public and private schools increase, the demand for teachers will also grow. The BLS notes that budget constraints at the local and federal levels can affect growth. Educators with advanced degrees and certificates will have the advantage of landing new jobs.

See how location affects educator pay

The different types of degrees in education.

Education degrees offer diverse career paths. An associate's degree can open doors to careers in education. Higher level degrees offer more flexibility and can further careers in the field.

Most associate's and bachelor's programs require a high school diploma or its equivalent. People curious about the field of education, or aspiring preschool teachers, may find an associate's degree a good option. Those interested in a career teaching elementary, middle, or high school students should consider a bachelor's degree program.

Master's programs generally require a bachelor's degree in education or experience in a related field. Doctoral programs require experience in education and often lead to professorships, administrative positions, or research positions.

Associate Degree

An associate's degree in education is the minimum requirement to enter the field. Not everyone who chooses to pursue an educational career will start with an associate's degree. It is more common for students to earn a bachelor's degree.

An associate's degree in education is a great option for teachers and preschool students who are still deciding on their career path. Additionally, credits earned in an associate's degree can be transferred to a bachelor's degree program.

Associate Curriculum in Education

An associate's degree in education typically consists of two parts: a general education core and introductory education courses.

The general education requirement will cover basic knowledge in history, mathematics, social sciences, and natural sciences. The introductory education portion typically provides basic education and teacher training along with early childhood education and early childhood growth and development.

Below are some examples of courses students can expect to take when enrolling in an associate of education program:

  • Introduction to the teaching profession
  • Integrated Mathematics
  • Child growth and development
  • Composition and Rhetoric
  • Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Early Childhood Education
  • Biology Elements
  • Fundamentals of Education
  • introductory psychology

Associate of Education degrees typically require students to earn approximately 60 credit hours, which take about two years to complete. Accelerated programs are often available that can allow students to earn their degree in less time. Alternatively, part-time programs allow students to work while earning a degree, but take longer to complete than full-time programs.

Associate degrees in education and teaching are often stepping stones to bachelor's programs. However, associate degrees can also qualify students for entry-level positions. Consider the following educational degrees and median salaries for associate degree holders.

ChargeAverage annual salary (2020)
teacher assistants$ 28.900
preschool teachers$ 31.930
library assistants$ 31.840


Bachelor's degrees open up the most job opportunities in the field of education. Holders of a bachelor's degree can obtain a teacher's license to teach at the kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school levels. Students typically take four years of full-time study to complete a bachelor's degree. Students can also pursue accelerated or online baccalaureate programs.

Education Graduation Curriculum

The curriculum for a bachelor's degree in education varies depending on the specific career goals of the student. For example, someone who wants to teach in elementary school will complete different courses than someone who wants to teach in high school. In addition, students can also major in special education or ESL.

Despite these differences, most education degree programs include a core liberal arts component. This is similar to the general education requirements for an associate program. Below are some examples of liberal arts courses that students can expect to take during their first few years in a baccalaureate education and teaching program:

  • Fundamentals of Education
  • History of The United States
  • Growth and Human Development
  • developmental psychology
  • mathematics for educators
  • Communication principles
  • Health, fitness and wellness

Specific postgraduate courses cover topics such as teaching methods, classroom management, educational theory, and specific courses in English, mathematics, and social studies. The curriculum varies depending on the grade level the student wants to teach after graduation, whether it be preschool, elementary, middle, or high school.

Below are some examples of course titles for teaching at various grade levels:

Early Childhood Educationprimary educationHigh School (Elementary and High School)
Exceptional Learning and InclusionFundamentals of diverse students.Social contexts of education
Introduction to Early Childhood EducationElementary Methods of Social Studieslearning and developing
Promotion of early social-emotional developmentTeaching Exceptional Studentsthe reflective practitioner
Health, safety and nutrition in early childhoodIntroduction to children's literatureReading and Writing Assessment and Instructional Strategies
Language development in young children.Educational Philosophy for TeachersDisciplinary Literacy
Fundamentals of Multicultural EducationEducational Technology for Teaching and LearningMiddle and high school teaching methods.
Instructional Design: Theory and PracticeCreate a positive classroom climateAdolescent Psychology
Early Childhood Development CurriculumChildren's literatureBehavior Management
Creative experiences for children.Creating and managing engaging learning environmentsCurriculum and Secondary Instruction
Family and upbringing throughout the life cycleMathematics for primary teachers.Secondary Classroom and Behavior Management

Holders of bachelor's degrees in education and teaching earn significantly more per year than holders of associate's degrees. Consider the following jobs, along with their respective median salaries for people with a minimum of a bachelor's degree in education:

ChargeAverage annual salary (2020)
high school teacher$ 62.870
high school teacher$ 60.810
special education teacher$ 61.420
Technical and Vocational Education Teacher$ 59.140
ESL teacher$ 55.350
Training and Development Manager$ 115.640

master's degree

Masters of Education are advanced degrees that allow students to delve into education and instruction topics or a specific content area. There are different types of master's degrees in education available, depending on the student's educational background and specific career interests. It is important that students review program offerings carefully to ensure they select a Master of Education that will help them achieve their goals as educators.

There are two basic types of master's degrees in education and teaching: a master's degree in teaching (MAT) and a master's degree in education (M.Ed.). A MAT program focuses on the teaching of a specific subject (for example, English, biology, history, etc.). An M.Ed. The program covers educational theories and teaching practices. Despite these distinctions, there is also overlap between the two programs.

Some master's programs are designed for educators who already have a bachelor's degree in education. Other programs are designed for students with an academic background outside of the field of education they want to teach. The latter types of programs may include more prerequisites and foundation courses in education and introductory teaching methods.

Master's programs for teachers will allow students to specialize in a specific content area or seek endorsements that allow them to teach additional subjects such as ESL or special education.

Curriculum of the Master of Education

The Master of Education curriculum can vary. Below are some examples of concentrations and specialty areas available in a Master of Education curriculum.

  • educational leadership
  • Differentiated instruction in inclusive classrooms
  • Curriculum and Teaching
  • Inclusion and English Learners
  • Curriculum development and evaluation
  • Social Justice and Educational Equity
  • cognition and learning
  • Educational Research Methodology
  • Qualitative Methods in Educational Research

In addition to these sample concentrations, below you will find specific course titles from the Master of Teaching and Education programs.

  • Global Child: Development and Education
  • Deficiency in Contexts
  • Immigration and Curriculum
  • Principles and methods in parental education and involvement
  • school change
  • Theory and Research in Educational Technology
  • Culture and politics in the teaching of a second language

Teachers with a master's degree can expect to earn significantly more than those with a bachelor's degree. Additionally, master's degrees in education can qualify graduates for other high-paying positions in the field.

ChargeAverage annual salary (2020)
Principals of Primary, Secondary and High School$ 98.490
Instructional Coordinators$ 66.970
School and professional counselors$ 58.120
Higher Education Administrators$ 97.500


Doctorates in education represent the highest level of learning in the field. PhD programs typically last three years and require approximately 50-60 credits. There are several different types of doctoral programs in education.

  • Doctorate in Education (various concentrations available)
  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
  • Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration
  • Ed.D. in School Psychology
  • Ed.D. in Educational Technology
  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership
  • Ed.D. in Teaching and Learning

Doctorate in Educational Curriculum

The curriculum varies according to the type of PhD the student is pursuing, along with the concentrations and/or areas of specialization chosen. These courses tend to be very rigorous and focus on current research in the field. Most courses will require students to conduct or analyze educational research. We have listed some examples of PhD courses below.

  • Leading the future of education
  • Thinking strategically about education reform
  • Innovation and Diffusion of Learning Technologies
  • learning leaders
  • Culture, Institutions and Society
  • Introduction to Qualitative Research
  • Current Issues in Special Education Policy and Practice
  • Cognition, learning and instruction: from childhood to adolescence
  • Data analysis in educational research
  • Economics of Higher Education

PhD students may also be required to complete a research-based thesis and/or dissertation. They may also be required to pass a full exam and/or submit a capstone project.

Educators with a doctorate can expect to earn more than those with a master's or bachelor's degree. College-level teachers with advanced degrees tend to earn higher salaries than elementary and secondary teachers.

ChargeAverage annual salary (August 2021)
high school teachers$ 88.551
school superintendent$ 119.890
Academic Dean$ 96.440
dean$ 154.180
learning director$ 155.550

Concentrations and Specializations in Education

Concentrations provide an opportunity to focus your studies in the field of education. Students may pursue specialized education programs, such as instructional design or educational leadership.

Some programs focus on general education, providing a comprehensive understanding of the field. Without a major or concentration, a more general education degree can provide graduates with a variety of career options.

A concentration within a broad program offers a dedicated study plan. Educational concentrations include arts education, inclusive early childhood education, and bilingual primary education.

How to select a concentration

Selecting a concentration can prepare you for a specialized career in the field of education. A concentration can provide experience and increase your credentials. Carefully consider which concentration is right for you and how it can guide your career.

Before selecting a concentration, consider the following questions as guidelines.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Your strengths and weaknesses offer critical insight into your ability to excel. Assess whether your strengths align with the requirements of a concentration. Determine if your weaknesses require additional support for you to be successful.
Do the classes in this concentration cover what you want to learn?
A concentration should offer classes that connect with your learning objectives. Please review all course offerings and requirements to determine if they meet your needs.
Does this concentration align with your intended career path?
Career alignment may include relevant courses or required internships. Some concentrations may connect better to your intended career than others.
Is your focus on demand or growth?
It can be helpful to understand the demand for your chosen major or career path before beginning your program. High growth opportunities can support your career after graduation.

Top Rated Programs

Each ranked school has national or regional accreditation, demonstrating that the institution meets academic quality standards. Some accreditation bodies for degree programs in education include:

  • Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE)
  • New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission (TRACS)
  • WASC Commission on Colleges and Universities

Ourclassification methodologyreviews the school's academic quality, accessibility, reputation, program offerings, and enrollment information.

Explore the best online schools in different educational specializations

Frequently asked questions about education diplomas

How much does a degree in education cost?

Associate degrees cost less than bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Tuition, fees, and room and board for bachelor's degrees from public institutions were$18,380 in 2018-2019. Tuition costs increase for private and graduate institutions.

Is college education worth it?

Earning a degree in education provides credentials and knowledge to enter the field. Some careers require a degree in education. A degree in education is worthwhile for those interested in pursuing a career in an education-related field.

What jobs can you get with a degree in education?

A degree in education can lead to teaching, counseling or administrative jobs. Additionally, a degree in education can lay the foundation for a consulting or corporate career in training employees.

What is the best career to teach?

Most teaching positions require a bachelor's degree in education. Aspiring teachers should also consider specializing in areas like elementary or special education to further enhance their degrees.

How much do teachers earn?

According to the BLS, people in education, training, and library occupations earn a median annual salary of $52,380. Preschool teachers tend to earn less money and only require an associate's degree. Post-secondary teachers tend to earn a higher salary and require an advanced degree.

Featured image: Thomas Barwick/DigitalVision/Getty Images

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