Accredited Online Teacher Licensure Programs
Online teaching degrees, including those that lead to licensure, are offered by a wide variety of colleges nationwide. Below, we highlight online schools offering all levels of teaching degrees and teacher certification programs. You can also explore our best online master's programs in teaching list if you're specifically interested in a degree at this level. Earning a degree can be the first step toward obtaining a career in this field. In addition, public school teachers in all fifty states must have a valid teaching license. Many states also require that teachers have an accredited degree by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
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Online Teaching Licensure Programs
Much like lawyers and medical practitioners, aspiring teachers must acquire a professional license to be able to practice in a given area. The following schools offer state-recognized online degrees that qualify students to apply for licensure. While most online schools on this list prepare students for licensure exams in the state in which the campus is located, Western Governors University helps students prepare for licensure in any of the 50 states. Read more about licensing requirements below.
Overview of Online Teaching Licensure Programs
A teaching licensure program is designed to prepare students for a career as an educator by equipping individuals with the knowledge and experience to gain licensure or certification in one or several states.
In general, online teaching licensure programs train students on how to present information at different educational levels, including how to prepare and deliver lesson plans. Since a crucial component of these programs involves gaining field experience, students are often required to complete 60 hours of classroom teaching as part of their online teaching credential programs. In certain cases, a program culminates in students taking state board exams to gain their teaching license online.
It is important to distinguish between education degrees and an online teaching degree with licensure:
Although undergraduate and graduate programs prepare students to apply for licensure, the former also includes general education credits and the latter gives students a chance to specialize in a particular area of study.
By contrast, post-baccalaureate teaching licensure programs are more narrowly designed to help students meet state certification requirements. These online programs cost $10,000-$30,000, require 30 credit hours, and can be completed in two years with a part-time schedule. As such, these programs are well-suited for individuals who do not have an education degree but still hope to obtain their online teaching credential.
Can You Get A Teaching Degree Online?
Colleges and universities are increasingly offering online degrees, so it is possible to pursue online teaching programs. Students typically have the option to choose between full -and part-time learning formats in an online setting. Furthermore, online degrees in teaching and teacher certifications offer individuals the chance to learn asynchronously, allowing them to take classes at their own pace. Some online teaching degree programs also help students arrange their in-person teaching hours with the schools in their vicinity.
The best colleges for teaching degrees offer fully accredited programs. Students should attend a degree program that an accreditation agency has carefully evaluated and vetted. States typically require teaching license applicants to have an accredited bachelor's or master's degree to ensure that educators have received adequate schooling.
Students can check the accreditation status of any school by visiting the U.S. Department of Education website.
The Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) is an accrediting board that specifically evaluates and advocates for teacher training programs. Students should check their state's teacher licensing board to make sure that their online teacher preparation program (TPP) meets the specific requirements.
Licensing and Certification Requirements for Teachers
Students must complete a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and a state-recognized TPP to apply for a teaching certification or licensure.
Three basic kinds of licensure are available: temporary, initial, and professional. A temporary teaching license is nonrenewable and valid for a short period. On the other hand, an initial license is required for professional licensure, remains valid for five years, and can be renewed a limited number of times. This professional credential is valid for five years and is renewable every five years thereafter.
In addition to meeting state-specific requirements, students must pass board exams — such as the Praxis II test or another state-developed exam — to earn their teaching license. The certification board involves a criminal background check and drug test.
Students looking for online teaching degrees that will enable them to apply for licensure should refer to our list of the top colleges and universities offering a TPP. Each school on this list offers at least one online teaching degree, which includes a TPP.
Levels of Teaching Degrees
Online teaching degrees are offered at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.
While an associate degree equips students with specific skills, a bachelor's is the minimum requirement to become a certified teacher.
Additionally, graduate credentials offer students the chance to land careers in educational administration or research. Those who don't have a higher education degree but are interested in becoming teachers can opt for an alternative certification program.
At the associate level, students develop their skills in communicating information to learners by completing coursework at a community college on education fundamentals and classroom management. While an associate degree can allow graduates to transfer credits to a four-year degree program — thereby saving some money in the long-run — and even prepare them for tutoring and preschool roles, it is not enough to become a certified teacher.
The best option for students interested in becoming teachers is to obtain a bachelor’s degree. In addition to completing general courses, students finish the necessary coursework to meet state certification requirements. This degree also prepares students for graduate-level study.
Students with an undergraduate degree in a field unrelated to education can still meet teacher licensure requirements by attaining a master’s program in education, which could be anything from educational leadership to elementary education or secondary education. In addition to becoming teachers, master's degree holders may work as school principals, superintendents, or in similar administrative capacities at K-12 schools.
Individuals interested in researching education should probably enroll in a Doctorate of Education program. This credential is designed to develop students’ knowledge in various areas, such as educational policy or pedagogy. Graduates may land careers in the higher education industry as professors or administrators. As education specialists, they may also work within governmental departments emphasizing their subject of expertise, such as curriculum development.
ACPs are designed for adults with undergraduate degrees in non-education fields who are ready to transition into full-time teaching. While ACPs prepare students for teacher certifications, they don't always offer licensure tracks, such as early childhood education or special education. However, they may benefit those seeking a quick career change to an educator.
Common Courses in a Online Teaching Programs
An online bachelor's in teaching includes coursework in education psychology, educational technology, and classroom management, to name a few. Programs also give students teaching experience so they may develop crucial communication, listening, and multitasking skills. This is typically done through a practicum, which involves students either observing licensed teachers for a certain number of hours per week or teaching a K-12 class to complete a specific number of credit hours.
Below are some common courses students take to earn a bachelor's degree in teaching.
Often offered in programs that focus on elementary education, this course covers the fundamentals of childhood development and learning. Students learn about how different external factors — such as family and society — impact the cognitive processes behind learning.
Issues in Education
In this class, students are introduced to the teaching profession and learn about topics, such as classroom diversity and student achievement. Students also gain a better understanding of the education sector’s complexity and major challenges facing teachers at different levels.
Students taking this class learn how to make educational environments more inclusive by using evidence-based methods to promote individual and collective learning. Some versions of this class also cover how to monitor and evaluate student performances.
Principles of Instructional Design
This course focuses closely on teaching methods as they pertain to developing effective and age-appropriate curricula. The faculty emphasize how to best design learning outcomes, assign spaces throughout a semester, and boost student motivation.
Law and Ethics in Special Education
Typically, this class is included in a special education program. The faculty introduce students to the legal, moral, and civil principles concerning teaching populations with disabilities. For example, this discussion may include learning about the federal and state laws that govern educational service delivery as well as how to identify and handle ethical conflicts that may arise.
Keep in mind that program courses vary depending on the degree concentration. Online education degrees can focus on an area, such as early childhood education, where students explore the science behind brain development and learning interaction at the preschool level. Then there's elementary education, which offers students an understanding of teaching methods and classroom management.
Students may have the opportunity to take specialized courses as part of a teaching or education degree, or they may enroll in programs designed around a particular subject area.
Students pursuing an online bachelor's in teaching can choose from various degree concentrations within the field, which help them complete the relevant coursework for specific types of teacher certifications, thus preparing them for specific jobs in education.
Below is a brief list of concentrations available under a bachelor's degree in teaching:
Elementary Education: This concentration provides prospective teachers with the skills and knowledge to teach children by covering subjects, such as childhood learning and development. Often, they graduate prepared to apply for teaching licensure at the elementary level.
Special Education: Some may be interested in teaching individuals with special needs. This specialization prepares graduates to work with young children who have specific cognitive, physical, or emotional learning difficulties.
Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL): A concentration in TESL is well-suited for those interested in teaching English to non-native speakers in either the K-12 level or adult education. Students must complete courses in linguistics, reading, writing, and intercultural communication.
Careers with a Teaching License
A teaching or education degree, along with appropriate licensure, can prepare students for many types of teaching careers. Importantly, not all teachers work in public or private schools. Instead, some may work in adult education centers, after-school programs, or as private tutors. Graduates with these credentials have been trained to design and deliver lesson plans, creatively communicate concepts to learners with diverse abilities, and encourage their students to think critically.
Below is a list of career opportunities for aspiring teachers with a bachelor's degree and teaching license, with salary and job outlook data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
Adult basic, secondary, and English as a second language teachers work primarily with adult learners, helping them develop fundamental skills — such as reading and writing — to reach the equivalent of a high school level. Some may also help their students with job placement.
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers introduce young children to various subjects, such as math, science, and English. They care for students throughout the school day, supervising them through recess and escorting them to lunch. Additionally, elementary school teachers assess students' learning progress to determine whether some have specific educational needs.
High school teachers work in the secondary education system, helping students prepare for college. In addition to planning and delivering lessons in particular subject areas, they work with individual students, communicate with parents, and supervise students outside of the classroom.
Special education teachers interact closely with students who have specific cognitive or physical learning needs. They also work one-on-one with students to assess their abilities, design appropriate learning strategies, and monitor both their performance and education goals.
What Are the Best States To Be a Teacher?
There is a lot to consider when deciding on the best states to be a teacher, from pensions and classroom conditions to how much funding a school receives. Some teachers might prefer to judge the best state based simply on salary. It might be a surprise to learn that as of May 2021, Alaska boasted the highest annual mean wage for postsecondary teachers at $108,680. However, they do have a significantly lower number of employed college-level teachers overall.
At the secondary level, California, New York, and Massachusetts rank amongst the top three highest paying states for teachers.
For graduates who want the best odds of securing a teaching job regardless of salary, Texas, New York, California, and Pennsylvania each stand in the top five states with the highest employment of secondary and postsecondary teachers.
Funding a Teaching Degree Program
Students pursuing an online education degree are eligible for various forms of financial aid.
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a student’s first step to apply for aid. The U.S. Department of Education uses this application to determine how much federal or state aid they are eligible for. Additionally, many colleges and universities use the FAFSA to award scholarships and grants.
One of the best ways to earn tuition assistance is through scholarships because students don't have to pay back this funding. They can also apply for grants awarded by universities and professional teaching associations.
Distance learners can also apply for student loans. Federal and state loans are often the best options for students because they offer the lowest interest rates.
Although online students can apply for aid to fund their teaching degree, they may have additional eligibility requirements. For instance, online learners may have to provide evidence of their full-time enrollment and/or meet state residency requirements when applying for specific grants and scholarships.
Earning an accredited teacher licensure program is an essential step to become a professional educator. Individuals hoping to secure a teaching role after graduation should earn their online teaching degree in the state they intend to work in. This allows for a more fluid process when it comes to obtaining a license. When it comes to salary, teachers at the secondary level or below earn right around the national average across all occupations.
There are a handful of teaching paths to choose from, depending on a student's preferred academic level. A degree concentration will help narrow the coursework to fit a student's specific career goals.
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