To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor's) in that subject online
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2014-15
Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on five criteria:
- In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
- Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
- Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Online Program Offerings, Western New Mexico University, Accessed March 2017, http://online.wnmu.edu/offerings/
- Bachelor of Science in Education, Western New Mexico University, Accessed March 2017, http://soe.wnmu.edu/undergraduate/bs/
- SOE History, Western New Mexico University, Accessed March 2017 http://soe.wnmu.edu/about/history/
- Accreditation, Eastern Wyoming College, Accessed March 2017, https://ewc.wy.edu/about-eastern-wyoming-college/accreditation/
- About, Eastern Wyoming College, Accessed March 2017, https://ewc.wy.edu/about-eastern-wyoming-college/
- Approved Electives for Education Majors, Eastern Wyoming College, Accessed March 2017, https://ewc.wy.edu/academic-services/majors/education/approved-electives-for-education/
- Online Degree Catalog, Hobe Sound Bible College, Accessed March 2017, https://www.hobeonline.com/academics/degree-programs/
- Accreditation, Hobe Sound Bible College, Accessed March 2017, https://www.hobeonline.com/academics/accreditation/
- Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, University of Louisiana at Monroe, Accessed March 2017, http://www.ulm.edu/onlinedegrees/bs_ee.html
- Accreditation, Fort Hays State University, Accessed March 2017, https://www.fhsu.edu/academic/aqip/accreditation
- Virtual College, Fort Hays State University, Accessed March 2017, http://www.fhsu.edu/virtualcollege/
- Elementary Education, Fort Hays State University, Accessed March 2017, http://www.fhsu.edu/virtualcollege/degrees/Bachelors/elementary-education/
- Elementary Education with Special Education Minor, Fort Hays State University, Accessed March 2017, http://www.fhsu.edu/virtualcollege/degrees/Bachelors/elementary-education-with-special-education-minor/
- Institutional Accreditation, Casper College, Accessed March 2017, http://www.caspercollege.edu/about/accreditation/hlc
- Specialized Accreditation, Casper College, Accessed March 2017, http://www.caspercollege.edu/about/accreditations-memberships
- About, Casper College, Accessed March 2017, http://www.caspercollege.edu/about
- DLC Programs and Courses, Casper College, Accessed March 2017,
- Secondary Education: Social Studies, Casper College, Accessed March 2017, http://www.caspercollege.edu/secondary-education-social-studies
- Secondary Education: Mathematics, Casper College, Accessed March 2017, http://www.caspercollege.edu/secondary-education-mathematics
- Mayville State granted 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation, Mayville State University, Accessed March 2017, http://www.mayvillestate.edu/about-msu/news-events/campus-news/mayville-state-granted-10-year-reaffirmation-accreditation/
- B.S.Ed. in Mathematics Education, Mayville State University, Accessed March 2017, http://www.mayvillestate.edu/msu-online/msu-online/programs/bsed-mathematics-education/
- About Us, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Accessed March 2017, http://www.chaminade.edu/about/about-chaminade-university
- Marianist Heritage, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Accessed March 2017, http://www.chaminade.edu/about/about-chaminade-university
- B.S. Elementary Education, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Accessed March 2017,
- B.S. Secondary Education, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Accessed March 2017, http://www.chaminade.edu/pace/secondaryeducation
- Accreditation & Affiliations, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Accessed March 2017, http://www.chaminade.edu/about/accreditation-affiliations
- Accreditation, Northwest Mississippi Community College, Accessed March 2017, http://www.northwestms.edu/index.php/?page_id=1050
- Elementary Education, Northwest Mississippi Community College, Accessed March 2017, http://www.northwestms.edu/index.php/?page_id=4064
- Business & Computer Teacher Education, Northwest Mississippi Community College, Accessed March 2017, http://www.northwestms.edu/index.php/?page_id=4096
- e-Learning Home, Northwest Mississippi Community College, Accessed March 2017, http://www.northwestms.edu/index.php/?page_id=581
- Accreditation, East Carolina University, Accessed March 2017, http://www.ecu.edu/ipar/accreditation/#
- Department of Elementary Education and Middle Grades Education, East Carolina University, Accessed March 2017, http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/ugcat/ElemMidEd.cfm
- Department of Special Education, Foundations and Research, East Carolina University, Accessed March 2017, http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/ugcat/SPED.cfm
- Online Distance Education, East Carolina University, Accessed March 2017, http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/ugcat/DistanceEd.cfm
- Bachelor of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies (Elementary Education), Western Governors University, https://www.wgu.edu/education/teacher_certification_elementary_bachelor_degree
- Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Management, Hampton Online, http://huonline.hamptonu.edu/programs/phd_edleadmgmt.cfm
- High School Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 17, 2015, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm#tab-1
- K-12 Educational Leadership, Widener University, http://www.widener.edu/academics/schools/shsp/education/graduate/doctor/k12_ed_leadership/default.aspx
- K-12 Studies in Education Specialization, Capella University, https://www.capella.edu/online-degrees/masters-k-12-studies/
- Middle School Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 17, 2015, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm#tab-1
- Online Education Programs, Drexel University, https://online.drexel.edu/online-degrees/education-degrees/index.aspx
- Certificate Subjects, Florida Department of Education, http://www.fldoe.org/teaching/certification/certificate-subjects/
- Foreign Language Education K-12 Certification, Saint Joseph's University, https://www.sju.edu/majors-programs/graduate-arts-sciences/certificates/foreign-language-education-k-12-certification
- Graduate Programs, St. Cloud State University, https://www.stcloudstate.edu/gradadmissions/program/default.aspx
- Health Education, K-12 Certification, Plymouth State University, https://www.plymouth.edu/graduate/academics/degrees/masters/med/health-education/k-12-health-education/
- K-12 Administrator Certification Programs, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, https://elpa.education.wisc.edu/elpa/academics/K12Certification
It's no coincidence that the names of your elementary school teachers are so often offered as a security question on websites. A memorable educator can have a profound influence on a person's life. And while a college education can get you into a career, it is your K-12 education that can get you into college. Those who can provide quality K-12 education are vital to our society's health. A teaching degree is nearly essential for this field, and fortunately many schools offer the option and convenience of earning such a degree online.
Best Online Colleges for K-12 Education in 2018
Selecting an online school for a particular field of study often proves challenging since, unlike brick-and-mortar programs, you can't necessarily rely on campus tours and other in-person evaluations. Therefore, online research - including rankings - can help introduce prospective students to the top programs of study for a given academic discipline.
Using a unique methodology, we evaluated 104 schools that offered at least one online associate or bachelor's degree program in K-12 education, and ranked them based on five criteria. Below are the resulting top 10 online programs for aspiring K-12 teachers:
Western New Mexico University
Eastern Wyoming College
Hobe Sound Bible College
University of Louisiana at Monroe
Fort Hays State University
Mayville State University
Chaminade University of Honolulu
Northwest Mississippi Community College
East Carolina University
Degree Overview: K-12 Education
Students seeking online K-12 education degrees might wonder what they will encounter when they enroll. We've scoured numerous programs through online colleges for education to give students an overview of the courses they may take, as well as the specializations they can choose and the skills they might earn throughout their journey. Here's a peek at what students might be able to expect.
Online K-12 Education Courses
Though there are associate degrees that focus on K-12 education, students should keep in mind that those are designed to allow students to earn credits that transfer to the bachelor's degree. Since those who work in public schools for K-12 education must hold a bachelor's degree in order to teach, the associate degree does not prepare a student for entry-level work in the field.
Those pursuing online bachelor's degree programs in K-12 education can usually complete their degree in about four years, though accelerated degrees can cut that time down by six months to a year. Students at this level can choose the broad K-12 education program, but most choose to specialize in an area that suits their specific career goals, such as elementary education or secondary education.
Regardless of the specialization, some courses will remain the same. A sampling of the most common courses in K-12 education degree programs includes the following:
- Foundations of Teaching
- Teacher Education Foundations
- Effective Teaching Practices
Keep in mind that students who choose to earn their bachelor's degree in any teaching discipline will be expected to complete field work. This can be completed in the student's local area through an agreement with the student's online college and the local school district. Students should look at the particulars of their program for specific information on what will be expected from them for this hands-on component.
Those who desire a more administrative position will likely want to continue their education into a master's degree program, where specializations are the name of the game. Students can choose from a wide variety of options, such as:
- M.S. in Education Improvement and Transformation
- M.S. in Learning Technologies
- M.S. in Teaching, Learning and Curriculum: Advanced Studies
- M.S. in Special Education
Those who are interested in higher administration positions, as well as research opportunities in the world of education, can turn to the doctoral degree. Programs at this level will almost unanimously include a strong research component and a focus on leadership courses. The doctoral program is designed to prepare students for the rigors of working in leadership, policy, government and other decision-making positions with the responsibility of improving education for the K-12 set.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
Whether at the bachelor's, master's or doctoral levels, the goal of a degree program is the same: preparing students to handle work in the K-12 system. Naturally, teaching career-relevant skills is a critical part of this goal. During their programs, students should be working to hone their communication skills, both in listening and instructing. This is helpful not only for teaching students, but for working with other educators as well. Students must also learn to exercise patience, not just with their students, but with the "red tape" that often accompanies budgets, policies and other administrative factors that play into a school system.
Finally, K-12 education programs help students learn to be more resourceful, making the best use of what they have — whether it's distributing school supplies across a single class or spreading a tight budget across the needs of an entire school district. These skills help students learn how to tackle educational problems presented to them, no matter the level at which they teach or work.
K-12 Education Specializations
Students who choose to pursue K-12 specializations can opt for certificates that provide them with the education they need to put the finishing touch on their career options. By earning certifications in various specializations, educators can be prepared to work with a variety of different students, offer education in selected areas and apply their knowledge to making classrooms more enjoyable or administrative duties more effective.
Graduate certificates are available for working professionals who want to go back to school to specialize in a particular area of K-12 education. Some certificates require students to already hold a master's degree; however, many are available for those who hold a bachelor's degree and a license to teach.
What certifications are available to students can vary wildly between states or even between schools. However, here are a few commonly-available options:
- Foreign Language
- Teaching and Learning
- Early Childhood Special Education
- STEM Education
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Learning Disabilities
- Teacher Leader
Certifications awarded via online schools are often recognized by national organizations; for instance, the prestigious National Board Certification is backed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Because of this national recognition, students who earn certification can carry it with them throughout their career, no matter which state they choose to work in.
K-12 Education Career Outlook
Talented educators are something our country can always use more of. With student numbers swelling and the baby boomer generation considering retirement, education is a field that is expected to expand in the years to come.
While many teachers specialize in reading, writing and arithmetic, those who pursue careers as self-enrichment teachers focus on just about everything else. Unlike more traditional educators, these teachers provide instruction on topics that do not lead to a degree or professional certification. From piano to scuba diving to martial arts, self-enrichment teachers work with students who are interested in bettering themselves in some way.
Like other instructors, those who pursue self-enhancement education teacher careers create a class curriculum, give lectures and monitor students' performance. However, these classes are much less formal, so students are not necessarily expected to complete tests or homework.
Self-enrichment teachers do not need to have a formal education to land a job, but they should demonstrate expertise in the subject they're teaching.
Educators who like working with young children often pursue kindergarten teacher careers, which allow them to find employment at private or public schools. In addition to teaching a variety of subjects, such as English, math, music and art, these teachers are also responsible for promoting the social, mental and physical development of children.
Other responsibilities of kindergarten teachers include ensuring that classroom supplies and materials are fully stocked, supervising teaching assistants, planning field trips and addressing academic and behavioral problems. These professionals are required to keep their knowledge and skills current by participating in continuing education classes, conferences and workshops.
Educators who enter elementary school teacher careers not only teach basic academic subjects; they also help children in the first through fifth grades develop the problem solving and critical thinking skills they will use for the rest of their lives. As a result, teachers need to have strong organizational, listening and speaking skills — as well as patience and creativity.
The daily responsibilities of elementary school teachers include creating age-appropriate lesson plans that cover areas such as reading, social studies, science and mathematics; evaluating students and providing extra help as needed; preparing students to pass state-mandated standardized tests; and working with parents to improve student performance.
Educators in middle school teacher careers, who work with students in the sixth through eighth grades, help to bridge the gap between the basic learning that students received in elementary school and the more complex work they will be expected to master in high school. Like secondary school teachers, these professionals are often responsible for teaching one subject to students in different grade levels, so a math teacher may teach classes to ninth and tenth graders, for example. In other cases, middle school teachers may teach more than one subject, like math and science or English and social studies.
Middle school teachers write lesson plans, create and grade tests and homework assignments and provide assessments to determine students' strengths and weaknesses.
Secondary school teachers work with students in the ninth through twelfth grades, and can be employed by public or private schools. Their duties include creating appropriate lesson plans; grading tests and assignments; identifying students' weaknesses and helping them to improve; and communicating with parents and school administrators. Outside of the classroom, these teachers also supervise extracurricular activities and field trips, as well as work in the lunchroom or detention hall.
In order to be successful, those in secondary school teacher careers must have strong leadership, decision making and conflict resolution skills. Working with adolescents can be unpredictable, so teachers must be able to take control of their classrooms and create a safe and productive learning environment.