25 Best Online Teaching Programs 2021

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To become a licensed educator in any state, learners must first earn a degree in teaching. An online degree in teaching can lead to positions at various grade levels, including elementary, middle, and high school. Some students pursuing a teaching degree also study a subject area they plan to teach, such as science or mathematics.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for teachers at all grade levels to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029. The BLS also reports that teachers earn median salaries above the national median for all occupations. Kindergarten and elementary teachers earn a median salary of $59,420, while middle school teachers earn a median salary of $59,660. According to BLS data, high school teachers earn the highest median salary, at $61,660.

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Top 10 The Best Accredited Online Teaching Programs

Rank School Location
1 Purdue University West Lafayette, IN
2 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
3 North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC
4 University of Georgia Athens, GA
5 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, IN
6 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
7 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
8 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
9 Texas A&M University College Station, TX
10 California State University, Fullerton Fullerton, CA

What Can I Do With a Teaching Degree?

Graduates with a teaching degree typically become educators, providing specialized education to children in a certain age group. Most teachers work for the local government as public school teachers, though some teach in private schools. Teaching positions typically require a license. Licensure requirements usually include a teaching degree from an accredited institution.

While teaching degree-holders often become educators, others continue their studies and pursue leadership positions, such as superintendent and principal. To qualify for programs that lead to administrative positions, applicants often need several years of professional teaching experience.

Employment options and earning potential can vary depending on the educator’s subject area. School districts may have different needs, and teachers in certain subjects may be in higher demand.

Accreditation for a Teaching Degree

Learners pursuing an online teaching degree should ensure each prospective school holds accreditation. Accreditation demonstrates that the institution or program meets set standards of academic quality. To receive accreditation, schools and programs undergo regular evaluations by a third-party accrediting agency. All accrediting organizations must hold approval from the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Colleges and universities can receive national or regional accreditation. Aspiring teachers should only consider regionally accredited institutions. Learners attending nationally accredited institutions may experience difficulty securing financial aid. Also, many employers and graduate programs only recognize degrees earned from regionally accredited schools.

Learners pursuing a teaching degree should also look for programs with field-specific accreditation. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education awards accreditation to programs in the education field.


  • Can you go to school online to be a teacher?

    Teaching students can complete most program requirements online. However, state licensure requirements typically include in-class teaching experience.

  • How fast can you get a teaching degree online?

    Most online teaching degrees take four years to complete. However, students who choose accelerated online programs typically graduate sooner.

  • Are online teaching degrees respected?

    Accredited online teaching degrees match the quality of their on-campus counterparts. Most employers recognize online and on-campus degrees equally.

  • How many years does it take to become a teacher?

    Most bachelor’s programs take four years to complete. Additionally, states require up to one year of clinical experience before candidates become eligible for licensure.

What Are the Requirements for a Teaching Degree?

Applicants to online teaching programs must generally submit recommendation letters and SAT or ACT scores. Each school sets unique admission requirements. However, applicants to bachelor’s programs typically need a high school or GED diploma.

Most teaching programs require about 120 credits, which full-time students typically complete in four years. In addition to coursework, teaching degrees that lead to licensure require student-teaching experience, often lasting about one year. Some teaching degrees also require an internship.

Courses in a Teaching Program

The curriculum of a teaching program depends on the grade level the learner intends to teach. For example, aspiring kindergarten teachers may take courses in early childhood development, while future high school teachers generally focus on a subject area. For instance, a future mathematics teacher would study both teaching and mathematics.

Regardless of specialization, some courses are common to most online teaching programs. Most programs begin with fundamental coursework in education strategies. Learners may also study general topics such as course structures, interacting with gifted students, and the ethics of teaching. While specific courses vary by program, teaching programs often include the following courses.

Educational Foundations
This introductory course explores the history of education and its role in society. Learners also examine social issues and trends associated with public and private education. Coursework may address common motivations for educators. Learners gain the skills necessary to develop their personal teaching philosophy.
Introduction to Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
This class explores the fundamentals of designing courses, applying concepts from educational philosophies and child psychology to determine best practices for education. Students research various philosophies and determine which philosophies to pair with certain student populations. This class prepares learners to design curricula for students with diverse backgrounds.
Fundamentals of Diverse Learners
This course provides crucial skills for students who plan to become licensed educators. Coursework covers fundamental topics related to teaching diverse learners and prepares future educators to identify the educational needs of individual students. Learners prepare to adjust their teaching style to effectively educate English as a second language students, gifted and talented students, and students with learning disabilities.
Legal and Ethical Issues in Education
This course introduces legal and ethical issues that teachers commonly encounter. Coursework examines the impacts these issues can have on educators. Learners also explore the potential influence of such issues on classroom dynamics and education. Because a teacher’s actions can profoundly impact students at any level, educators must remain attentive to legal and ethical standards.
Classroom Management
In addition to designing courses, teachers must actively manage classrooms. This class covers strategies for dealing with disruptive students, keeping students motivated throughout the school year, and maintaining thorough records. Students learn how to manage classroom materials to ensure that lessons go as scheduled.

How to Become a Teacher

Teachers at the elementary, middle, or high school level need at least a bachelor’s degree. Some high schools prefer teaching candidates with a master’s degree. During or after their bachelor’s program, aspiring educators complete student teaching to gain practical experience and to qualify for a teaching license.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, teachers must obtain licensure to qualify for positions in public schools. However, teachers who work at private institutions may not need state licensure. Each private school sets its own standards.

Certifications and Licensure for Teaching Majors

While most teachers earn state licensure, those who plan to work in private schools may pursue professional certification instead. Voluntary certifications demonstrate excellence in a specific area and can increase a teacher’s employment opportunities.

Elementary Education Certification

Teachers with at least a bachelor’s degree can obtain this certification from the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE). This credential meets certain states’ requirements to work in elementary education. Candidates may hold a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, and most teachers complete the certification requirements in one year.

National Board Certification

Best for experienced educators, this certification program helps teachers learn new classroom skills. This credential may lead to higher earning potential. Candidates need a bachelor’s degree, a teaching license, and at least three years of professional teaching experience.

Special Education Certification

The ABCTE offers this certification to help teachers secure special education positions within private schools. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree and must pass a professional teaching knowledge exam. This certification can qualify holders for special education teaching positions in Florida, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Utah.

Professional Organizations for Teachers

Teaching students and licensed educators can benefit from joining professional organizations. Membership benefits often include continuing education opportunities, access to job boards, and invitations to networking events. The professional organizations below accept members who are pursuing a degree in teaching.

  • National Education Association With more than three million members, NEA supports education professionals and students. The association provides advocacy and networking opportunities, and members receive marketplace discounts, access to insurance, and financial advising.

  • American Federation of Teachers Founded in 1916, AFT represents more than 1.7 million education professionals, including K-12 teachers. Members receive benefits including strategies to relieve student debt and information about mortgage and home services. The AFT has more than 3,000 local affiliates, allowing members to network with educators in their community.

  • Association for Middle Level Education AMLE supports middle school educators through resources including a job board, professional development classes, online courses, and leadership opportunities. The organization hosts an annual conference and publishes industry news and research.

  • National Council of Teachers of English Aspiring English teachers can join NCTE to access journals, conferences, and online resources. The council represents English, language arts, and writing teachers. NCTE provides opportunities for new teachers to connect and network with experienced professionals.

Scholarships for Teaching Students

Scholarships can help learners cover costs associated with earning an online degree in teaching. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment. Many awards are reserved specifically for applicants pursuing a teaching degree. See below for some scholarships available to students pursuing a teaching degree.

PDK Educational Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports aspiring K-12 educators. PDK International awards this scholarship to about 100 students each year. Applicants must hold membership with Educators Rising, Educators Rising Collegiate, Pi Lambda Theta, or PDK Association.
Amount: $500-$5,000

Nancy Larson Foundation College Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This award from the Nancy Larson Foundation supports college juniors and seniors who are studying to become elementary school teachers. Graduate students can also apply. Candidates must submit official transcripts, a resume, and a written narrative detailing their personal experiences. The foundation selects five scholarship recipients each year.
Amount: $1,000


Who Can Apply: This federal grant supports education students. Recipients can renew the grant up to four times. Applicants must complete the FAFSA. They must also be enrolled in an eligible program and must meet academic and financial requirements. Recipients agree to teach in a high-need subject or a school that serves students from low-income families for four years after graduation.
Amount: $4,000

Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Learners who plan to pursue a STEM degree and a career in K-12 education can apply. The scholarship program provides funding to institutions, which then extend scholarships to students. Prospective education students should research eligible programs to qualify for this scholarship.
Amount: Varies

Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports students with Hispanic heritage. Current high school seniors, undergraduate students, graduate students, and community college students who plan to transfer to a four-year program can apply. Learners who plan to study a STEM field receive preference.
Amount: $500-$5,000

25 Best Online Teaching Programs 2021

  1. Purdue University

    West Lafayette, IN



    Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue ranks among the nation's top public research institutions. The university serves learners who cannot attend on-campus courses through its comprehensive online school, Purdue Global.

    Purdue's online master of education presents current educators with four options of study: applied behavioral analysis, curriculum and instruction, design and technology, and special education. The options take 18-22 months, depending on which route students select. Also, while current educators or those working within the education industry benefit most from the master of education, not all programs require educational experience. For example, the master's in learning design and technology only requires a bachelor's degree, resume, personal statement, three recommendation letters, and official transcripts.

    After selecting an education major for their master's, some learners can further specialize their degrees. The master's in special education allows for six different concentrations. Course requirements vary based on students' selected route.

  2. Johns Hopkins University

    Baltimore, MD



    Johns Hopkins, one of the world's most well-respected schools, offers many options for students who want to pursue a degree in teaching. The university focuses heavily on graduate programs for current professionals who want to advance their careers.

    Those interested in an online teaching degree can enroll in Johns Hopkins' global doctor of education. Created for working students, the online doctoral program is only available part time and takes 3-7 years to complete, depending on required credits and student focus. The program begins every fall and only accepts applicants once per year.

    Enrollees complete 90-93 credits to graduate. However, some students can transfer up to 37 credits completed during their master's degree. Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA. Other application materials include a personal statement, a resume or CV, and three recommendation letters.

  3. North Carolina State University

    Raleigh, NC



    One of the state's premier public universities, Raleigh-based NC State provides learners with an affordable education. Over 36,000 students attend NC State and enjoy connections with local employers.

    NC State's 36-credit online master of education features a specialization in adult and continuing professional education, community college teaching, or health professions education. The degree leads to careers within community colleges, vocational schools, and trade schools. NC State charges the same per-credit tuition rate for all learners, regardless of residency.

    Applicants must demonstrate a background in education. Aside from a bachelor's degree, NC State only requires learners to submit their undergraduate transcript, work history, and reason for applying for the master's degree.

  4. University of Georgia

    Athens, GA



    Chartered in 1785 as one of the earliest public institutions of higher education, UGA uses its years of experience to educate learners for modern careers. The school emphasizes hands-on learning and research, two factors that extend to the university's online programs.

    The online master of education features multiple focuses, including educational philosophy, reading education, science education, and middle grades education. Requirements and program length vary by option, but learners can anticipate completing 36 hours over two years. While online learners do not gain hands-on experience in person, UGA builds upon students' professional experience with scenarios and group learning.

    UGA allows students to transfer up to six hours, reducing program duration and cost. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and must complete a statement of purpose and demonstrate professional experience.

  5. Indiana University-Bloomington

    Bloomington, IN



    IU in Bloomington, the school's main campus, offers more than 550 academic programs. Across all of the university's campuses, including the growing online school, IU educates more than 110,000 learners each year.

    Those interested in an online master's degree in education can choose from 14 programs, each with specific career outcomes. Many of IU's online education degrees focus on a specific subject, such as liberal studies, English, or chemistry. These 100% online options require 30-36 credits and prepare students to become high school teachers. Other options, such as the adult education master's degree, teach students to educate specific groups or secure niche positions within the industry. These options require 36 credits and some only run 80% online, meaning learners must gain in-person experience.

    Regardless of students' chosen degrees, IU charges a per-credit tuition rate with Indiana residents receiving a lower in-state tuition rate.

  6. LeTourneau University

    Longview, TX



    Located in Longview, Texas, LETU enrolls just 3,150 learners, 288 of whom are enrolled in a graduate program. Despite its small size, the private school extends its programs to students outside of Longview through its online degrees. As a Christian school, LETU implements Christian teachings into its master of education degree. This experience could prepare learners for teaching careers within private schools.

    Designed for individuals with a bachelor's degree but no teaching experience, LETU's online teaching degree qualifies students for teacher certification in Texas. Learners can choose from three options: grade four, grades 4-8, or grades 7-12. All three routes require 36 credits and run entirely online. LETU only allows students to complete one course at a time, though courses last just 3-7 weeks.

  7. Michigan State University

    East Lansing, MI



    Consistently ranked among the nation's top public research universities, MSU teaches nearly 50,000 students and maintains a low 16-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    MSU offers five graduate-level education degrees online, four of which only come through online school. The options require at least 30 credits to complete, and most learners take up to two years to earn their degrees. Most online learners continue working full time.

    Application requirements vary by degree, though applicants should first earn professional educational experience related to the degree. MSU prefers candidates with a 3.0 GPA or higher, and the university does not set GRE requirements. Each program accepts new students twice per year.

  8. University of Central Florida

    Orlando, FL



    One of the state's leaders in public education, UCF offers an affordable education, as half of its first-time students graduate with no debt. Learners across the nation can take advantage of affordable tuition through UCF's online school.

    UCF offers several online master's degrees for students interested in education, including a master of exceptional student education. The 33-credit online degree prepares learners to work with K-12 students. Most students take two years to graduate, though part-time learners who continue working might take longer. Graduates are qualified to work with exceptional students at all levels, including internationally.

    To qualify for the master of exceptional student education, applicants should first become certified to work with exceptional students. Other application requirements include relevant professional experience, GRE or GMAT scores, official transcripts, and a professional resume.

  9. Texas A&M University

    College Station, TX



    Established in 1889, TAMUC is part of the extensive Texas A&M University system. Despite the school's small size relative to the system's other universities, TAMUC enrolls roughly 4,000 graduate students, many of whom study online.

    TAMUC offers a variety of master's degrees in education, some of which run entirely online and others in a 50-50 hybrid format. Each degree leads to specific career outcomes, such as educational administration, college education, or high school education. Most options take two years to complete and require 30-36 credits. Some options also allow for a focus. For example, the master of higher education allows for a focus in either administration or college teaching.

    All applicants need a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA or higher and must submit GRE scores. They must also prove a professional background in education. Some programs require that applicants obtain a teaching license in Texas.

  10. California State University, Fullerton

    Fullerton, CA



    An integral part of the CSU system, CSUF provides affordable higher education to enrollees in southern California. The university enrolls nearly 40,000 students from around the world and ranks among one of the state's most diverse schools.

    Best for current educators, particularly those who live and work in California, CSUF's online master's degrees in education lead to various careers and teach new skills to current teachers. Each option takes two years to complete the 30 or more required credits. After selecting a degree, learners can also choose a specialization. For example, the master's program in secondary education offers a mathematics foundation or a general education option.

    CSUF requires applicants to hold accredited bachelor's degrees with a 3.0 GPA on all related academic work. During the application, learners submit a current resume, a statement of purpose, two recommendation letters, and proof of a teaching credential.

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