Best Online Secondary Education Degrees

Holland Webb, MA
Updated April 17, 2024
Edited by
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Secondary educators help adolescents prepare for a career, college, trade school, relationships, and social experiences. These professionals help cultivate students’ interests, inspire them to think big, and challenge them to broaden their views of the world.

Becoming a high school teacher starts with earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. This four-year academic program partially fulfills the requirements for state licensure as a teacher in all 50 states.

Once you become a teacher, you can pursue a master’s or doctoral degree if you aspire to serve as a principal, instructional coordinator, educational technologist, or an instructor of pre-service teachers.

Use this guide to learn more about earning your online secondary education degree, how to become a teacher, and what this field could mean for your future.

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Best Online Secondary Education Degrees

#1 Best Online Secondary Education Degrees

Buena Vista University

  • Location-markerStorm Lake, IA
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$37,518
  • Out-of-state$37,518
  • Retention Rate76%
  • Acceptance Rate78%
  • Students Enrolled1,242
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment59%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Secondary Education Degrees

Chaminade University of Honolulu

  • Location-markerHonolulu, HI
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$27,340
  • Out-of-state$27,340
  • Retention Rate71%
  • Acceptance Rate93%
  • Students Enrolled1,685
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment63%
  • AccreditationYes

Did You Know…

Nationwide, there are 63 retirement systems offering teacher benefits?

Why Get an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education?

Teachers prepare the leaders of tomorrow, making this career a potentially fulfilling and interesting job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers pull in a median annual salary near average for American workers, but teaching has not always been a widely respected field.

Only in the mid-1800s did education in the U.S. become compulsory, free, and professionalized. Soon, schools began educating aspiring teachers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 1.9 million secondary teachers now work in the U.S. Most of these educators serve in traditional public schools or public charter schools, but some teachers work in private schools or instruct online learners.

Today, public school teachers in all 50 states must hold state licensure, which includes a qualifying bachelor’s degree. The benefits of earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education include:

  • State Certification: You must hold a bachelor’s degree in education to be licensed as a teacher. If you have a degree in another field, you need to pursue an alternative path to licensure.
  • Personal Fulfillment: Teaching can be a vibrant career, and many educators find working with older students particularly fulfilling. High school teachers with an athletic bent may also earn extra money by coaching their school’s sports teams.
  • Opportunities for Specialization: Unlike an elementary teacher, a high school teacher specializes in a content area such as science or social studies. If you enjoy a particular subject, this degree — and career — could be a great fit.

What to Expect From a Secondary Education Degree Program

A secondary education program helps graduates meet their state’s requirements for teacher licensure at the high school level. This four-year program typically requires 120 undergraduate credits, including courses in education and the subject matter graduates hope to teach. Learners also complete a student teaching experience.

Most colleges require you to pursue a concentration in a content area, usually math, science, social studies, or language arts. However, at some schools, you may pursue a specialization in something like world languages, agriculture, government, or skilled and technical sciences.

Expect to spend about $13,000 a year on tuition to earn an education degree. Although this number can be helpful, you may be able to earn your degree for much less by attending a public school in your state, applying for scholarships, or enrolling in the TEACH grant program.

Admissions Requirements

Each college or university sets its own admission requirements, so specifics vary between schools. However, most bachelor’s degrees in education require the following components for admission:

  • GED certificate, high school diploma, or qualifying homeschool program
    • Accelerated programs may ask for an associate degree
  • Minimum 2.5 GPA
  • Qualifying scores on the ACT, SAT, or other admissions test (some schools waive this requirement)
  • An application, resume, essay, and letters of reference

If you still need to meet your prospective school’s minimum requirements for admission, you can ask about taking a bridge program or pursuing an associate degree.

Popular Courses

A bachelor’s degree in secondary education typically requires coursework in instructional methodologies, analytical methods, classroom management, social-emotional learning, and educational technology and philosophy. You also take courses in your instructional field, usually, science, math, social studies, or language arts.

Common education courses may include the following:

  • Child and Adolescent Development: Students explore human development from childhood through adolescence. Topics include the major theories and models of social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. The course also considers the developmental effects of abuse and neglect on children and adolescents.
  • Technology for Educators: This course covers the appropriate use of technology in modern classrooms. Topics include creating a Google Apps classroom, understanding the rewired brain, and artificial intelligence in the K-12 classroom. Students also consider the social impact of technology on adolescent learning.
  • Diversity in 21st-century Schools: Learners study the most common diversity trends in contemporary educational settings. The course covers the unique needs of individuals and student groups. Topics include race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and cultural relativism and universalism.

Graduation Requirements

A typical bachelor’s degree in secondary education requires 120 credits, which includes a general core, a series of education courses, electives, and a concentration or minor. Secondary education degrees generally call for you to minor or concentrate in the field you intend to teach, such as math, science, or language arts.

You also need to complete a student teaching experience, which is an unpaid classroom teaching experience under the direction of a licensed and experienced teacher. Student teaching generally requires 12-14 weeks of supervised teaching practice during your senior year and offers six credits toward your degree.

Paying for an Online Degree in Secondary Education

The NCES Data Lab reports that a bachelor’s degree in education generally costs $13,109 in annual tuition. This average can vary widely between schools; in-state public schools often cost the least, and high-profile private schools often charge the most.

Most students do not pay for their education entirely out of pocket. Scholarships, grants, work-study programs, savings, and student loans can all help you meet expenses.

Funded by the Daughters of the American Revolution, this scholarship provides up to $1,500 to a secondary education student who is older than 25 and has earned a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Applicants must be in their sophomore year.

Graduates who work for an eligible employer, such as a government agency or qualifying nonprofit organization, may receive loan forgiveness after making 120 payments on an accepted repayment plan. Only direct loans qualify for forgiveness.

The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant provides funding for education majors who meet eligibility requirements. This grant comes with the requirement that recipients teach in a high-need field or low-income setting for at least four years after graduation

Jobs for Bachelor’s in Secondary Education Graduates

A bachelor’s degree in secondary education can prepare you for a school-based career as a classroom teacher. However, depending on your background and other education, you may decide to teach in a nontraditional setting such as a community college, correctional institution, or an education program for lifelong learners or working professionals.

High School Teacher

High school teachers prepare lessons, manage classrooms, deliver instructional content, assess student learning, and participate in school-wide initiatives. Their goal is to prepare students aged 14-18 for college or the job market.

  • Median Annual Salary: $62,360
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +1%

Career and Technical Education Teachers

These educators teach technical or trade subjects such as agriculture, auto mechanics, or healthcare in middle schools, high schools, trade schools, or community colleges. This career generally requires hands-on experience in the field as well as a degree.

  • Median Annual Salary: $61,450
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +0%

Adult Basic and Secondary Education and ESL Teachers

Adult educators help adult learners complete their high school education. ESL teachers instruct English learners in the fundamental skills of English, such as reading and grammar. These professionals may teach in public schools, private schools, or non-traditional educational settings.

  • Median Annual Salary: $58,590
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): -13%

Should You Get a Different Degree in Secondary Education?

Earning an associate degree in secondary education at a community college can help you save money on the way to your four-year program. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree, you may want to consider a master’s degree that qualifies you for state licensure. If you are a current teacher who aspires to leadership or postsecondary education, a doctorate may be right for you.

Associate Degrees in Secondary Education

An associate degree in secondary education provides the first two years of a four-year bachelor’s degree. This program offers foundational instruction in educational philosophy, classroom management, and general education.

An associate degree does not qualify you for teacher licensure, but may prepare you to be a teaching assistant, which earns an average annual salary of $27,864, according to Payscale in January 2024.

Master’s Degrees in Secondary Education

A master’s degree in secondary education requires 1-2 years of study. This degree can equip you with skills in pedagogy, classroom management, and instructional design; or it can position you for initial teacher licensure. In March 2024, Payscale found that people with an M.Ed. earned an average of $66,000 per year.

Doctoral Degrees in Secondary Education

An Ed.D. or Ph.D. takes 3-5 years to complete, and you can gain skills in instruction, program evaluation, and research. After graduation, you may pursue a career as a principal, superintendent, policy analyst, or postsecondary teacher. In January 2024, Payscale found that people with an Ed.D. in education earned an average of $88,000 annually.

How Do You Choose the Right Secondary Education Program?

When deciding on a secondary education program, consider cost and accessibility, but don’t stop there. Also look at other factors like the ones below:

  • Accreditation: Only consider a school with institutional accreditation from a regional association such as the New England Commission of Higher Education. You may also want to look for a college with programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
  • Staff Diversity: A diverse faculty can help you prepare to teach a diverse group of learners.
  • Earning Potential: Your school should tell you the number of its education graduates employed within six months of graduation and their average salary.
  • Alumni Network: Alumni support can help in your job search. Does the education program have a robust alumni network within your community?
  • Admissions Requirements: Will your prospective school offer to help you meet any prerequisites you may be lacking?
  • Future Education Opportunities: Can you easily transition into a master’s or doctoral program at this school using your degree.

Explore Different Education Degrees

Questions About Degrees in Secondary Education

What age range can I teach with a secondary education degree?

In some states, a secondary education degree helps you meet state licensure requirements to teach grades 6-12 or ages 12-18. In other states, you may only qualify for licensure in grades 9-12 with this degree. A master’s or doctoral degree in the field may also equip you to teach adults at the community college or university level.

How fast can I get a teaching degree?

To become licensed as a teacher, you need a bachelor’s degree, which takes about four years. However, transfer credits, CLEP tests, AP credits, and credits for life experience can all help you finish faster. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than teaching, you need a post-bachelor’s certificate or a master’s degree to teach. These programs generally take 18-24 months to complete.

Is a bachelor’s in secondary education worth it?

A bachelor’s degree in secondary education generally prepares you to be a high school teacher, a career with a median annual salary of $62,360, according to the BLS in 2022. It can also qualify you to pursue a master’s degree or doctorate in education, leading to a higher paying career as an instructional coordinator, which pays a median of $66,490, or school principal with a median of $101,320.

Do you need a bachelor’s in secondary education to be a high school or junior high teacher?

You need a four-year degree or higher to be a state-licensed teacher. Private school certification organizations like the Association of Christian Schools International also require the same educational qualifications.

While some teachers with non-education degrees receive licensure through a non-traditional pathway, most educators hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree with a major or minor in education and extensive coursework in their subject.

Which professional organizations should I join to help my career?

Many professional organizations can help advance your career as a teacher, including the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Secondary teachers can also join associations relevant to their subject, such as the National Council for the Social Studies or the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

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