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Online Colleges for K-12 Education

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Article Sources

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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 degree can help you earn a career, it is your K-12 education that can help you earn that degree in the first place. Quality K-12 educators 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 2018-19

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 data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and our own unique methodology, we evaluated 104 schools that offered at least one online associate or bachelor's degree program in K-12 education. Below are our results: the top 10 online colleges for K-12 education.

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Methodology
1

Liberty University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$21,310
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
89%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
127
School Type
4-year

Aspiring teachers have a plethora of options at the Christian-based Liberty University, which offers online programs in K-12 education across every degree level.

  • Associate level: Students can pursue an Associate of Arts in Education to get started in the field.
  • Bachelor's level: Students can pursue an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science in elementary education.
  • Master's level: Students can pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) with specialties in elementary education, middle grades, secondary education or special education. Alternately, they can select a Master of Education (M.Ed.), which has specializations in administration and supervision, math specialist or reading specialist.
  • Doctoral level: Students can choose between an Education Specialist (Ed.S.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) or PhD in Education.

Liberty also features graduate certificate programs to help professionals working in the field to refine their career focus. Options include autism education, middle grades, preschool, gifted education and more.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
 
2

East Carolina University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$7,143
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
42%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
55
School Type
4-year

East Carolina University was founded in 1907 as a teacher training school. While it has evolved into a public, doctoral/ research university and one of the largest universities in North Carolina, it has not lost its dedication to educating teachers since its early days. Online students looking to learn about the delivery of K-12 education have several distance learning programs at North Carolina that might be able to teach them what they want to learn. Options include a Bachelor of Science in elementary education (K-6), a BS in middle grades education, and online master's degree programs in these subjects or several subject specialties, such as reading education, physical education or special education. A handful of add-ons and alternative teacher licensure programs are also available online.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE/CAEP)

Location:

East 5th Street
Greenville, NC 27858-4353
3

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$7,922
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
66%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
55
School Type
4-year

Online K-12 education degree programs are available at the Northwestern State University of Louisiana as Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) programs. These can be pursued in different areas of focus depending on which grades you would like to teach:

  • MAT in early childhood education (grades PK-3)
  • MAT in elementary education (grades 1-5)
  • MAT in middle school education (grades 4-8)
  • MAT in secondary education (grades 6-12)

Alternately, students who have completed an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution can enroll in NSULA's Practitioner Teacher Program (PREP). An intensive, 21-graduate course hour program that begins in summer and ends in spring, the PREP program leads to a Louisiana teaching license in grades 1-5, 4-8, or 6-12.

Accreditation:

  • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
  • Commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
 
4

Kaplan University-Omaha Campus

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$15,352
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
90%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
91
School Type
4-year

*NOTE: Kaplan University has merged with Purdue University Global since this list was made. Please contact Purdue Global University-Omaha to learn whether the merged school can still fulfill your needs.

Prospective students interested in K-12 education degrees can look into Kaplan University's online Master of Science in Education. This online master's degree program is designed for teachers and other education professionals who are already licensed and are seeking more advanced skills.

Students can select one of three concentrations in the degree program, including in educational leadership, teaching literacy and language, or teaching students with special needs. Additionally, students who have National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) status may be able to turn their certification coursework into transfer credits toward Kaplan's MEd program.

5

Chaminade University of Honolulu

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$24,514
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
48%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
21
School Type
4-year

Founded in 1955, Chaminade University of Honolulu is the only Catholic university in Hawaii, and one of three Marianist higher education institutions in the entire country. The university offers two online degree programs in K-12 education: a Bachelor of Science in elementary education (K-6), and a Bachelor of Science in secondary education (6-12). The latter offers a number of licensure track options, namely English, social studies, science and math. Courses follow Chaminade's 15-week semester system, except for the student teaching semester, which understandably follows the schedule of participating public schools instead. Completion of either program licenses the graduate to teach the appropriate grades, in accordance with the Hawaii Teachers Standards Board.

Accreditation:

  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

Location:

3140 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816-1578
6

Midway University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$23,950
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
76%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
25
School Type
4-year

Midway University, a private nonprofit school located in Kentucky, is a rarity on our list for offering grade-specific education specializations at the bachelor's level, rather than only at the master's level. Online students can focus their bachelor's in education on elementary education (P-5), middle school (5-9) or secondary school (8-12). The middle and secondary school tracks even include the option to specialize further onto a specific subject, such as math or English.

Whether you complete your bachelor's degree at Midway or are applying as a graduate student, the university's online Master in Education program is an option for taking your teaching skills to another level. Continuing the trend of options for focus, the Midway M.Ed. offers two concentrations: environmental education endorsement in environmental science, or environmental education across the curriculum.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
 
7

Ball State University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$9,774
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
43%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
66
School Type
4-year

A public research university based in Indiana, Ball State University hosts online K-12 education programs for students who are interested in becoming teachers. This includes both a Master of Arts in Education (MAE) in elementary education and a Master of Arts (MA) in secondary education. The MAE encourages students to select a focus area such as autism, computer education, gifted and talented education or English as a New Language. Meanwhile, the MA allows students to explore extracurricular topics through electives, or to enhance their foundational skills with additional core coursework.

Alternately, BSU students may choose to enroll in the online "Transition to Teaching K-6" program, comprised of graduate-level classes that can help students hone their skills for earning a teaching license. Students can complete the student teaching component of this program at an approved facility close to where they live -- even if they live out of state!

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
 
8

Concordia University-Saint Paul

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$21,750
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
67%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
53
School Type
4-year

Individuals interested in a teaching career may want to consider the online master's degree program of Concordia University-Saint Paul, a university that was founded in 1893. This 42-credit master's degree program is designed to touch on subjects such as literacy, psychology and diversity, all of which can be important for a teaching career in a K-6 classroom.

Students do not even have to complete the entire master's degree in order to seek teacher licensure; the licensure portion of the program can be completed on its own for 36 credits. This can be especially useful for students who have already earned a teaching license and are specifically looking to add the K-6 teaching license to what they have already completed.

9

University of North Carolina at Greenboro

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$7,250
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
44%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
21
School Type
4-year

Although the University of North Carolina at Greensboro was initially founded in 1891 to offer opportunities to women, it has broadened its scope to offer on-campus and distance-based learning opportunities to all students, regardless of gender. Individuals who want to become K-6 math teachers at public or private schools may be interested in this nonprofit university's online Master of Education in teacher education: elementary mathematics education. Students enrolled in this program are expected to use research-based instruction and study new developments in math, with the goal of learning how to teach math in an elementary school- or community-based setting.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
 
10

Nova Southeastern University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$29,930
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
50%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
102
School Type
4-year

An online Master of Science in Education degree program with a specialization in elementary education is available through Nova Southeastern University, a nonprofit research university located in Florida. Students in this program should expect to learn about research-based instruction and how to teach K-6 students in subjects such as literacy, science and math.

The capstone project for completing this program is the "applied professional experience," where candidates collect samples of their students' work, assess them and reflect upon them. The work from the applied professional experience is gathered into a portfolio, which can be a useful asset when it comes to looking for a teaching position after graduation.

Accreditation:

  • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
 

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
  • Pedagogy
  • 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
  • Reading
  • 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.

Self-Enrichment Education Teachers
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2017 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$44,630
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
46,300
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
14.9
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
High school diploma or equivalent

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.

Kindergarten Teachers
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2017 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$57,110
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
16,700
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
7.9
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
Bachelor's degree

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.

Elementary School Teachers
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2017 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$60,830
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
112,800
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
7.4
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
Bachelor's degree

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.

Middle School Teachers
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2017 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$61,040
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
50,500
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
7.5
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
Bachelor's degree

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
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2017 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$62,860
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
79,500
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
7.5
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
Bachelor's degree

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.

 
Article Sources
Methodology

Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following four criteria for the specific subject being ranked:

  • Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject, either in an online or hybrid format
  • Have at least 1% of students attending some form of distance education
  • Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2016-17
  • Have reported data for all 11 ranking variables listed below

We ranked 1,813 colleges and universities in the United States on 11 criteria, using 2016-17 data from IPEDS:

  1. Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
  2. Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered via distance education at any level
  3. Ratio of students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
  4. Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
  5. Graduation rate
  6. Retention rate
  7. The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Prepaid, Guaranteed, Other)
  8. Services (Academic/Career, Placement for Completers)
  9. Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)
  10. Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
  11. Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students

All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.

NOTE: Schools' tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.

Methodology Sources

  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
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