SECONDARY EDUCATION DEGREE PROGRAMS

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Learn What It Takes to Teach in Junior High and High School

During middle school and high school, adolescents start to develop their own interests and opinions. Secondary school educators teach them the skills to cultivate those interests and challenge and defend their opinions. Read on to see how a top-notch secondary education degree program can prepare future teachers for such a responsibility. The following guide looks specifically at degree options, course overviews and job expectations for junior high and secondary school educators.

MEET THE EXPERT

Karl Metz

Best Secondary Education Degrees Rankings

Rank School Location
1 Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti, MI
2 University of Toledo Toledo, OH
3 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI
4 University of Washington Seattle, WA
5 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ
6 Hastings College Hastings, NE
7 Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, MI
8 CUNY Queens College Queens, NY
9 Rhode Island College Providence, RI
10 LIU Post Brookville, NY
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Best Secondary Education Degrees Rankings


  • OUR METHODOLOGY +

    To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria:

    • Accredited at the institutional level
    • Private nonprofit or public school
    • Minimum of 1 bachelor’s or master’s degree in subject area for 4-year schools
    • Minimum of 1 associate degree or certificate program in subject area for 2-year schools

    Schools were then scored on factors such as:

    • Cost & Financial Aid
    • Number and variety of program offerings
    • Student-teacher ratios
    • Graduation rates (4-year schools only)
    • Placement and support services offered
    • Academic/Career counseling services
    • Employment services
    • Loan default rates

    These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or “bang for your buck” of a college or degree program.


Degree programs adjust curricula often to keep up with innovations within the education sector, and academic rankings must keep pace. Below are the latest rankings of secondary education programs, graded on criteria such as graduation rate, tuition, student-teacher ratio and program size.

  1. Eastern Michigan University
    Location

    Ypsilanti, MI

    Education is a rewarding field, but it is also a challenging one. In order to help hopeful educators meet the realities of the profession, Eastern Michigan University has bachelor’s degree programs that train students to teach chemistry, earth science, mathematics, biology, English, or physics. Those who enroll in these programs can expect to learn techniques for teaching in these specific subjects, as well as how to design and administer classroom assessments, create a curriculum that meets the needs of secondary school students, and effectively use technology in the classroom to enhance learning.

  2. University of Toledo
    Location

    Toledo, OH

    Secondary school teachers need specific skills to work with adolescents. In order to provide these skills, the University of Toledo has a rigorous bachelor’s degree program. Offered through the Judith Herb College of Education, the program includes coursework on working in urban communities, social studies teaching methods, using multimedia in the classroom, and best practices for teaching in a middle school setting. In addition to coursework, students are given field experience through placements at local schools. Graduates of this program can choose to earn their teaching license and begin their career, or continue their education by earning a graduate degree.

  3. Central Michigan University
    Location

    Mount Pleasant, MI

    A teacher’s style has a huge influence on student experience. Those who enroll in the secondary education bachelor’s degree program at Central Michigan University take coursework designed to help them develop a style conducive to learning. In addition to the work done in the classroom, students get hands-on teaching experience that will also help them develop an effective teaching style by applying the theory they learn to real-world settings. To help students prepare to teach a specific subject, the program allows them to choose a content area to focus their studies on, such as mathematics, biology, earth science, history, French, speech, and physical education.

  4. University of Washington
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    The University of Washington-Seattle Campus is dedicated to creating educators that are not only experts in their chosen teaching subjects, but also compassionate, competent professionals who have the skills needed to help adolescents develop into productive adults. The school’s secondary teacher’s education program prepares students to work in middle or high schools through a combination of challenging coursework and hands-on experience. Coursework covers topics such as multicultural education, child abuse, adolescent development, and literacy. In addition, students receive instruction that is content specific, which prepares them to teach subjects such as English, mathematics, social studies, language arts, and physical sciences.

  5. Northern Arizona University
    Location

    Flagstaff, AZ

    Northern Arizona University’s secondary education bachelor’s degree program prepares students to become English teachers, reading tutors, and curriculum specialists. Accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the program helps students gain expertise in grammar, language acquisition, and English language history, as well as the pedagogical best practices for working in a middle or high school setting. In addition to teaching-related coursework, students in this program are required to take electives in areas such as foreign language, science, and history. When students complete the program, they are prepared to pass the state’s English Subject Knowledge and Secondary Professional Knowledge exams, which is necessary to obtain a license.

  6. Hastings College
    Location

    Hastings, NE

    The education program at Hastings College emphasizes experiential learning along with classroom instruction. In fact, students who enroll in the school’s secondary education bachelor’s degree can expect to observe teachers in the classroom during their first semester of the program. As students progress, their time in the classroom increases until they have developed skills such as classroom management and lesson plan creation. In addition, students learn strategies for teaching a number of subjects, such as music, art, chemistry, physical education, and history. The school is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and by the Nebraska State Department of Education.

  7. Western Michigan University
    Location

    Kalamazoo, MI

    Western Michigan University has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education that prepares students to work as teachers, curriculum specialists, grant writers, educational administrators, student affairs professionals, and media center specialists. Graduates of the program have landed jobs in schools, libraries, camps, hospitals, and museums. Students who want to become teachers get the skills and knowledge they need to instruct students in the sixth through twelfth grades. With a combination of classroom work and experiential learning opportunities, students learn the principles that make a successful educator in a variety of subjects—including earth science, history, English, music, and Spanish.

  8. CUNY Queens College
    Location

    Queens, NY

    Those who want to earn a teaching certification in New York can get the training they need through CUNY Queens College&rsquo;s secondary education bachelor&rsquo;s degree programs. Students can choose to focus on a variety of teaching disciplines, which allows them to learn both pedagogical principles and expertise in the subject they want to teach. For example, the school&rsquo;s science adolescent education program prepares students to become biology, physics, earth science, or chemistry teachers. In addition, students can earn teachers education degrees in areas such as art, English, mathematics, music, physical education, and world languages.</p>

  9. Rhode Island College
    Location

    Providence, RI

    Established in 1854, Rhode Island College was founded in order to prepare students to work as educators around the state. To that end, the school offers bachelor’s degree programs in secondary education that give students the skills and knowledge they need to teach art, world languages, mathematics, social studies, and history. Students in these programs are required to take coursework in areas such as educational psychology, secondary education teaching methods, instructional design, and inclusive education. There are also additional requirements related to the subject area that students choose to teach in.

  10. LIU Post
    Location

    Brookville, NY

    LIU Post has a bachelor’s degree program in adolescence education that prepares students to work in middle and high schools. In order to familiarize students with the techniques that result in maximum learning outcomes, program requirements include coursework in the physical, emotional, and social development of adolescents; parental empowerment; peer cooperation; and student motivation. In addition, students are required to choose a concentration in order to learn how to effectively teach a specific subject. The school, which is accredited by the Commission of Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, also offers education master’s degrees for those who want to continue their studies.

Similar Education Degrees

Secondary education degrees are part of the larger field of education. Here are examples of the age ranges and school grades that different education degree programs prepare students to teach.


Early Childhood Education

Preschool through 3rd grade
Ages: 0-5
READ MORE

Elementary Education
Kindergarten through 6th grade
Ages: 6-12
READ MORE

Secondary Education
6th through 12th grades
Ages: 13-18

Special Education
Preschool through 12th grade, special education classes
Ages: 0-22
READ MORE

What are you most looking forward to when you become a licensed secondary teacher?

I am looking forward to finding ways to make learning exciting and interesting for my students. I also look forward to getting to know all of my students individually so I can help them get on a path towards success after high school. The teenage years are a volatile time for so many people, and sometimes all they need is one person saying, ‘Hey, I’m actually listening’ or ‘you’re doing a great job.’Karl Metz

A Closer Look: Secondary Education Degree Options

Students may not start out knowing they want to teach junior high or high school, but fortunately there are many different higher education routes that can eventually lead to teaching, such long as the basic teaching requirements are met. An associate degree introduces basic concepts and can lead to a bachelor’s degree in education or any other field. Once students realize their passion for teaching, they can pursue a master’s degree in secondary education and take the same teacher certification exams as graduates from bachelor’s programs in education. For those interested in pursuing administrator jobs or teaching future secondary school teachers, doctoral programs delve into secondary education even more deeply.

Secondary Education Associate Degrees

Type of Schools: Community colleges, online colleges
Time to Complete: Two years, full-time
Career Opportunities:Teacher aides, library assistants, day care instructors

Associate degree programs in secondary education may qualify graduates to assist certified educators, but more often these programs serve as a jumping-off point to further education. Associate degrees are a way for students to complete basic coursework. Topics cover the fundamentals of classroom management, teaching strategies and lesson planning. To apply to an associate degree program, students must have a high school diploma or GED.

Associate degree programs in secondary education are a way to get general education courses out of the way before going on to take the last two years of a four-year degree at another institution. However, some courses, such as the following, may focus on education. 

INVESTIGATING CRITICAL AND CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN EDUCATION

Students in this class engage with current educational controversies and examine the evolving roles of American teachers.

FUNDAMENTALS OF SPEAKING

This course teaches students essential speaking and listening skills and prepares students for delivering lectures and guiding classroom discussions.

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND LEARNING

Students learn about classroom management, planning and assessment, all through the lens of cognitive, psychological and social development. The course also examines how parents and teachers can support children in an educational environment.

TEACHING AND LEARNING

Students explore various learning processes and apply this knowledge to teaching young people in a range of education settings and contexts.

Secondary Education Bachelor’s Degrees

Type of Schools:Online colleges, four-year colleges and universities
Time to Complete: Four years, full-time
Career Opportunities:Middle school teachers or high school teachers (in a specific subject area), career and technical education instructors

Those enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program for secondary education will learn how to teach middle school and high school students in diverse, ever-changing classrooms in a way that fosters a love of learning. Degree programs focus on one of several educational topics, including mathematics, social studies, art, foreign language, earth and space science, physics, biology, chemistry, and English or language arts. To gain entry to a bachelor’s degree program, students must hold a high school diploma or GED. To successfully complete the program, they typically have to complete an extended student teaching assignment.

While bachelor’s degree programs in secondary education may focus on science or the arts, depending on what area the program student is interested in teaching, the following are examples of classes that all future secondary educators may be required to take. 

STANDARDS-BASED EDUCATION IN SECONDARY EDUCATION

This class exposes students to a state’s specific guidelines for educational quality standards.

SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR EDUCATORS

Students acquire classroom management skills and explore student engagement techniques that foster positive learning environments.

TECHNOLOGY INFUSION

This course examines how to select and integrate current technology in the classroom.

SURVEY OF SPECIAL EDUCATION: MILD-TO-MODERATE DISABILITIES

Students learn about educational needs for adolescents with cognitive, linguistic, social or emotional disorders, as well as laws and regulations around special education.

Secondary Education Master’s Degrees

Type of Schools: Online colleges, four-year universities
Time to Complete: Eight months to two years, full-time
Career Opportunities: Middle school teachers or high school teachers (in a specific subject area), career and technical education instructors, instructional coordinators, administrators

A master’s in secondary education is a high-level qualification. Such programs are open to students who have no prior teaching experience, though they require that applicants have completed a bachelor’s degree and taken the GMAT or GRE. At the same time, teachers hoping to advance their careers may also enroll in master’s programs. Some programs also have applicants take a basic competency exam for their state’s education standards. Students in a secondary education master’s degree program spend part of the program teaching in a middle school or high school classroom.

Classes in master’s degree teaching programs are designed to teach education techniques and theory to people who completed their bachelor’s degree in a subject other than teaching and want to earn their credentials, or educators who hope to advance their careers. Many of the master’s degree classes are similar to bachelor’s classes but cover more material more quickly, as the examples below demonstrate. 

MODELS, THEORIES AND STRATEGIES FOR SECONDARY EDUCATION

This course introduces theoretical models of teaching and learning. Students apply these models to plan lessons and create effective teaching strategies.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SECONDARY STUDENT

Students learn to relate to secondary students throughout their years in junior high and high school.

RESEARCH RESOURCES FOR THE CLASSROOM

Customized learning and teaching resources enhance classroom learning, and this class provides methods of developing these tools within a budget.

CURRICULUM CONSTRUCTS AND ASSESSMENT: SECONDARY METHODS

Students learn curriculum-building and assessment strategies, including integrated content and interdisciplinary teaching.

Secondary Education Doctorate Degrees (PhD, EdD, EdS)

Type of Schools: Online colleges, four-year universities
Time to Complete: Three to four years
Career Opportunities: University educators, researchers, instructional coordinators, administrators

A PhD in secondary education prepares graduates for university careers, where they can teach future secondary teachers about the process of inspiring learning in adolescents. Getting an EdD prepares graduates to take on leadership roles in schools that educate K-12 children. A Specialist in Education degree, or EdS, is an option just below the doctorate level for graduate students pursuing careers as supervisory instructors, department chairs or administrators. All three programs require applicants to have a completed master’s in education.

There are a lot of different secondary education topics that doctoral programs address, from curriculum development to administrative concerns. And doctoral students ultimately become experts in a specific area. The classes below are examples of a few high-level courses that postgraduate students might choose to take, depending on their area of further interest. 

DIVERSITY AND THE COMMUNITIES OF ALL LEARNERS

Students in this course explore issues related to teaching in culturally, economically and cognitively diverse secondary schools and addressing individual learners’ needs.

CURRICULUM THEORY

This class explores the nature, function, development and evaluation of educational curriculums.

THE TEACHER AND SECONDARY SCHOOL ORGANIZATION

This course delves into the functions of school employees, how to organize professionals and volunteers effectively, and how to engage laypeople in the secondary education field.

RESEARCH PROJECT IN SECONDARY EDUCATION

Students in this class demonstrate their ability to identify, analyze and suggest solutions to problems within their educational topic of interest. They must defend their project and take an oral exam at the end of this class.

What coursework has been most valuable so far in your program?

The coursework I have found most valuable has been writing practice lesson plans, learning how to construct a quality test and researching what is happening in the adolescent brain. I have also found it valuable to watch my classmates teach practice lessons so I can observe their styles and consider which techniques of theirs I want to emulate.Karl Metz

Secondary Education Programs: Pre-Enrollment Checklist

  • Public speaking exposure
    A large part of a teacher’s job is conveying information to students verbally. Preparing to deliver lessons is a large part of building this confidence, but there are other techniques secondary education programs can teach their students.
  • Fieldwork
    oWhile classroom work is incredibly helpful for getting ready to work with students, teachers are truly tested when they have to interact with a classroom. Programs should provide opportunities and require work with real middle school and high school classes, both as an observer and as a student teacher.
  • Opportunity to specialize
    Secondary school educators teach one subject area to several different grade levels. Potential teachers should look for programs that offer an emphasis in the topic they are interested in teaching.
  • Accreditation
    A degree from an accredited school is a requirement to be hired at nearly all high schools. The individual secondary education degree program should also be accredited. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation is the primary accreditor of secondary education degree programs in the U.S.
  • Experienced professors
    Asking questions and receiving thoughtful answers is a major part of the student-teacher relationship, not only for secondary school students but for secondary school teachers in training. Instructors who have participated in the American secondary school system can impart firsthand experience to students in a degree program.

Where Can I Teach with a Secondary Education Degree?

There is a steady, nationwide need for good secondary school teachers. Educators who are passionate about learning and are devoted to encouraging their students may find employment opportunities in public, private, charter or vocational schools. Here are a few broad areas that secondary education program graduates may find jobs in:

BROWSE CAREER PROFILES

High School Teachers

High school teachers are responsible for planning and teaching lessons, monitoring students’ progress, and preparing students for standardized testing. They specialize in teaching one subject area and may teach several different classes within that area to students of varying grade levels, ages and abilities.

Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%
Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $57,200
Minimum Education Bachelor’s degree and state licensure or certification

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers plan and teach lessons in their subject area, assess their classes’ development, and prepare students to take standardized tests. They may teach several rotating classes of students of varying grade levels or stay with one class for most of the day. They may also co-teach with another instructor.

Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%
Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $55,860
Minimum Education Bachelor’s degree and state licensure or certification

Career & Technical Education Teachers – High School

Professionals in this field instruct students on developing skills that apply to a specific occupation within industries such as healthcare or information technology. They help students apply their knowledge to hands-on work and maintain a safe learning environment in laboratories or workshops.

Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%
Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $52,800
Minimum Education Bachelor’s degree and experience working in the field they teach, plus state licensure or certification

Teacher Assistants – Middle School & High School

Teaching assistants work with licensed teachers. They are responsible for working with small groups of students to reinforce lessons presented by teachers. They also help teachers prepare materials, supervise students and track attendance and grades.

Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%
Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $24,900
Minimum Education Associate degree or at least two years of college

In-Depth: Secondary School Teacher Employment & Salary by State

After getting a degree and choosing what to teach, selecting a school to teach at is another step in a secondary education teacher’s career path. Not only should a school’s mission and its student body feel right, but pay and location are also important factors when looking into a teaching position. Below are employment rates and wage data for secondary school teachers in each state.

[state map]

Essential Skills & Certifications for Professionals

  • Attentiveness 
    Because teachers expect their classes to pay attention during lessons, they should provide that same engagement when interacting with their students. It is important to notice what a student is struggling with, worried about, or interested in. An attentive teacher can show a student that their contributions in class and in life are valuable.
  • State certification 
    Education degree programs prepare graduates to take state licensure exams. These tests cover topics such as classroom management skills, professionalism and diversity. States may also require applicants to have CPR and suicide prevention training, a minimum number of teaching hours, or other prerequisites before bestowing a teaching certificate.
  • Understand state laws 
    Some programs prepare educators to teach according to national standards, but different states have their own requirements that secondary students must meet. Potential teachers should research secondary education standards within the state they wish to teach in.
  • Confidence 
    After all of the work teachers put into learning the curriculum, planning lessons and developing creative ways for students to learn, the last step in the process is to confidently and clearly convey that information to students. Degree programs teach public speaking and classroom management to help educators develop these skills.
  • Background check 
    Working with minors requires professionals to pass a mandatory background check and submit fingerprints. Potential teachers must have clean records.
  • Passion 
    Teachers should enjoy teaching! They should feel excited about their subject and the material they are going to teach. There are many creative ways to inspire a love of learning in students, but believing in the importance of education is the first step.

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