2023 Best 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).
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 Teacher Licensure Degrees
The country always needs teachers, and many colleges offer education and teaching degrees to satisfy that need. The goal of these programs is to prepare you for a teaching career by completing coursework in pedagogy, developmental psychology, and educational technology. You'll also take classes in the subjects you intend to teach. Below, we give information that may help you as a candidate for an education degree at any level.
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 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 ensure their online teacher preparation program (TPP) meets the specific requirements.
What Do You Learn in an Online Teaching Program?
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.
Common Courses in a Online Teaching Programs
Keep in mind that program courses vary depending on the degree concentration. Online education degrees can focus on an area, such as an early childhood education bachelor's program, where students explore the science behind brain development and learning interaction at the preschool level. Then there's an elementary education degree, which offers students an understanding of teaching methods and classroom management.
Below are some common courses students take to earn a bachelor's degree in teaching:
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:
What Can You Do With a Teaching Degree?
The obvious answer to this question is that you can become a teacher. But not all teachers have the same experiences, so we give details of several types of teaching below.
Preschool teachers nurture very young minds, introducing children to educational concepts and preparing them for kindergarten. A large part of the job is socializing students to work and play together, which takes patience and a keen knowledge of child psychology and development.
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically educate students aged 5-12. They teach reading, science, social studies, and math using a curriculum that grows more complex the older the students get. The data analytics company Burning Glass Technologies lists communication, collaboration, and organization as some of the top-requested soft skills in job posts for these teachers.
Middle School Teachers
Middle school teachers cover seventh and eighth grades, and even sixth grade in many districts. Teachers at this level tend to concentrate on one subject area, such as English or science, because the content is increasingly complex. As with elementary school teachers, many employers request aptitude with communication skills, teamwork, and organization.
High School Teachers
High school teachers instruct teenage students in a wide range of subjects, preparing some to enter the workforce and others to continue their education. These teachers may take on additional responsibilities, such as coaching sports teams or advising clubs and student organizations.
Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers guide students with mental, physical, or emotional challenges. They can work at any grade level but tend to specialize in one age group. As a special education instructor, you might run your own classroom or work with smaller groups of students who are integrated into other classes but need occasional help.
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.
Three basic kinds of licensure are available: temporary, initial, and professional.
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.
Earning your teacher certification depends on where you live and what you want to teach. In fact, it may even be called "licensure" in some states rather than "certification." Thankfully, the non-profit Teach.org — a collaboration between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Education — has a helpful guide to teaching certifications in all areas of the country.
No matter where you live, the traditional certification path involves a few key steps:
- Earning a bachelor's or master's degree in education from an accredited institution
- Passing both a basic skills test and a test of your subject area knowledge
- Passing a background check
However, you can still seek certification in most areas of the country if you hold a bachelor's diploma in a subject other than education. Most states have created alternative paths to certification that could allow you to start teaching with a provisional certification as long as you commit to educating yourself about the teaching profession. In this case, the state will ask you to earn one of three additional credentials depending on its policy:
- A certificate of completion from a state-approved teaching academy with a certification program
- A one-year certificate in education from an accredited college
- An MAT
Because certification requirements differ by state, you may wonder whether another state will recognize your certification if you decide to move. As with everything else relating to this topic, the answer depends on the states in question. Most states have some level of certification reciprocity, but they might require you to take additional coursework or exams at some point. The Education Commission of the States breaks down reciprocity details by state, so consult this helpful resource if you're considering a move.
Is an Education Degree Worth It?
Your goals, interests, and personal circumstances are different from everyone else's, so the real question is whether an education degree is worth it for you. As with any career, this major comes with possible pros and cons, some of which we outline below. Much of the available data is a few years old because the bulk of recent research on teaching and teacher education has focused on COVID-19's effects rather than perennial topics.
If you're specifically considering a graduate degree, check out one expert's opinion on whether an online master's in education is worth it.
Education degrees seem to adequately prepare graduates for the teaching profession. Burning Glass data indicates that employers ask for skills that are well-covered in most teacher preparation programs, such as experience with lesson planning and student progress reports.
Data suggests that U.S. teachers are generally satisfied with their jobs. According to the wide-ranging Teaching and Learning International Survey, 90% of respondents said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their work.
Math, science, and special education teachers are especially in demand. The Brookings Institution notes that some states even issue "emergency certifications" to cover the gap in qualified teachers. Earning a teaching degree with one of these specializations may improve your marketability.
Teachers earn relatively low pay, especially at younger grade levels and early in their careers. The median annual salary for teachers as a whole is $50,000, $13,000 less than the median wage for U.S. employees with a baccalaureate degree. The NCES reports that 55% of teachers are dissatisfied with their pay. In general, private schools pay less than public schools, which may be an additional consideration.
Teacher turnover is highest in high-poverty districts, indicating that even well-intentioned education graduates find these conditions overwhelming. While it's not accurate to say that there's a general teacher shortage nationwide, data does indicate that public school teachers leave their jobs at a steady rate in the neediest rural and urban areas — and school districts have a hard time replacing them.
What Are the Best Colleges for Education Majors?
Education is a popular major, and a large number of schools offer degrees in the discipline. This is good news for you as an applicant because you have plenty of choice in what and how you study to become a teacher.
Below, we've collected pages from our site that highlight the diverse array of education degrees at the best online schools available:
FAQs About Online Teaching Licensure Programs
What Are the Best States To Be a Teacher?
Although there is a lot to consider when deciding on the best state to be a teacher — from pensions and classroom conditions to how much funding a school receives — some may prefer to judge the best state based on salary. According to the BLS, the states that rank amongst the highest paying for education teachers are New York, California, and New Jersey, with mean annual salaries of $103,120, $101,630, and $88,850, respectively.
What Degree Do You Need To Be A Teacher?
In some states, you can become a substitute teacher with an associate degree in education. But you need a bachelor's degree and certification to be a full-time teacher anywhere.
How Long Does It Take To Earn a Teaching Degree Online?
You can earn an online bachelor's degree in four years if you maintain a full-time study schedule, and this gives you the minimum degree needed to become a certified teacher. In reality, however, students often take longer to graduate.