What Is Education? A Complete Guide to Education Degrees, Jobs, and Salaries

Smiling male teacher standing in classroom with students at desks

What Is Education and Teaching?

Summers off, casual attire, and supervising awkward school dances are just a few of the perks of being a teacher.

But teaching isn’t the only job you can get in education — you can also work in curriculum design, administration, leadership, and educational politics.

Educating minds is an honorable and essential profession, with abundant opportunities to make a positive change. If you have a passion for teaching, our guide can help you discover your options.

Explore Education Degree Programs

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How Does Accreditation Work for Education Programs?

When a school is accredited, it means it’s been reviewed for high-quality curricula, qualified faculty, and satisfactory educational outcomes.

Accrediting agencies should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Colleges can receive institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation.

Accreditation ensures that future employers will recognize the legitimacy of your education degree. If you wish to further your education down the road, graduate programs will also require you to have an accredited degree.

Finally, to receive your teaching license, you must attend an accredited school.

Here are some teaching program accreditors to look for:

Do You Need Licensure for Teaching Jobs?

If you want to teach in the public school system, you’ll need a state teaching certification or license. Some private and charter schools may not require a teaching license.

The licensing process and requirements vary from state to state, but the steps are generally the same: You must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school and complete a teacher preparation program.

Most college education programs include the teacher preparation curriculum in the coursework — this often involves classroom experience through student teaching.

You’ll also need to pass your state’s teaching exam, which covers basic education skills and specific subject areas like math and writing.

Education Careers: Outlook and Salary

In general, careers in education are growing equal to or slower than the national average for 2021-2031, which is 5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Several teaching careers fall just below the national average. In fact, adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers are projected to have a negative growth rate of -6% over the next decade.

One education career — postsecondary teachers — is an outlier, with an above-average projected growth rate of 12%. So if you’re interested in teaching at the college level, you can expect more employment opportunities.

The median salary for teaching careers ranges between $29,000 and $98,000. Administration roles tend to earn significantly more than entry-level teaching jobs.

To advance in your education career, you’ll often need a master’s degree.

Common Education and Teaching Jobs
Job Minimum Education Required Median Annual Salary (May 2021) Job Growth Rate (2021-2031)
Teacher Assistants Some college, no degree $29,360 5%
Preschool Teachers Some college, no degree $29,360 5%
Kindergarten Teachers Bachelor’s $60,900 4%
Elementary School Teachers Bachelor’s $61,400 4%
Middle School Teachers Bachelor’s $61,320 4%
High School Teachers Bachelor’s $61,820 5%
Special Education Teachers Bachelor’s $61,820 4%
Career and Technical Education Teachers Bachelor’s $61,160 2%
Adult Basic and Secondary Education and ESL Teachers Bachelor’s $59,720 -6%
Instructional Coordinators Master’s $63,740 7%
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals Master’s $98,420 5%
Postsecondary Education Administrators Master’s $96,910 7%
Postsecondary Teachers Master’s or doctorate $79,640 12%

Frequently Asked Questions About Education and Teaching

What is the difference between education and teaching?

The terms “teaching” and “education” are often used interchangeably to describe education jobs.

Teaching more often refers to the in-classroom act of educating students. Education, in contrast, can be used more broadly to refer to academic institutions, administration, leadership, and policymaking.

What are the different types of education?

The three types of education are formal, informal, and nonformal. Formal education refers to a traditional school or institution that awards diplomas, degrees, and/or certificates.

Informal education can take the form of lessons taught at home, reading or researching to gain new knowledge, and learning through practical experience.

Finally, nonformal education entails programs and courses that contain instruction but without any formal credentials. This includes fitness programs, art classes, and swimming lessons.

What can teachers do instead of teaching?

There are many jobs in education that don’t involve teaching. You can work in administration, develop curricula, evaluate other schools for accreditation, try your hand at educational politics and lobbying, or work for teachers’ unions.

Many teachers also go on to work in other fields like human resources and customer service.

How hard is an education degree?

Education degrees don’t have a reputation for being as rigorous as, say, a medical or STEM degree, but difficulty is subjective. If you’re naturally inclined to the skills and content of an education degree, the program may come easier to you than it does for others.

Ultimately, your education specialization, program, and degree level will all help to determine how hard your education degree is.

Is an education degree worth it?

Education professionals typically earn $30,000-$100,00 a year, while tuition costs can range anywhere from $3,000-$40,000 a year. Gauging whether an education degree is worth it will depend on what you value — earning potential, career opportunities, or job satisfaction.

Some careers in education may have a low average salary but are very personally rewarding.