20 Best Online Colleges to Earn Your Teaching Credential in 2018-19

Feb 26, 2018 | By Shannon Lee
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Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following criteria:

  1. Level of institution is either “Four or more years” or “At least 2 but less than 4 years”
  2. At least 1% of students are taking at least some of the classes via distance education
  3. Data is reported for all 11 ranking variables listed in the Methodology section
  4. Answered “Yes” to IPEDS data point “Teacher certification (below the postsecondary level,” “Teacher certification: Students can complete their preparation in certain areas of specialization,” and “Teacher certification: Approved by the state for initial certification or licensure of teachers”
  5. Answered “Implied no” to IPEDS data point “Teacher certification: Students must complete their preparation at another institution for certain areas of specialization”

We ranked 2,868 colleges on 11 criteria, using 2015-16 data from the National Center for Education Statistics:

  1. Number of programs offered via distance education
  2. Percentage of students participating in distance education classes
  3. Average in-state tuition for undergraduate and graduate students
  4. Average out-of-state tuition for undergraduate and graduate students
  5. Total electronic library collections, including digital books, databases and media
  6. Availability of academic/ career counseling services
  7. Availability of job placement services for graduates
  8. Offers dual credit
  9. Offers credit for life experience
  10. Offers advanced placement (AP) credit
  11. Offers credit for military training

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.

Methodology Sources


  1. Interview with Jasmine Williams Cage, conducted by Kenya McCullum in February 2018
  2. Interview with Alyson Rudy, conducted by Kenya McCullum in February 2018
  3. Interview with Jodi Mansfield, conducted by Kenya McCullum in February 2018
  4. Preschool Teachers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2017,
  5. Your Lesson Plan for Becoming a Preschool Teacher, Rasmussen College, Accessed January 2018,
  6. Preschool Teacher Salary Information, U.S. News & World Report, Accessed January 2018,
  7. Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2017,
  8. How to Become an Elementary School Teacher - Salary, Job Description and Educational Requirements, Concordia University-Portland, Accessed January 2018,
  9. Teacher Licensure State Requirements, Western Governors University, Accessed January 2018,
  10. Middle School Teachers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2017,
  11. Middle School Teacher Salary Information, U.S. News & World Report, Accessed January 2018,
  12. High School Teachers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2017,
  13. High School Teacher Salary Information, U.S. News & World Report, Accessed January 2018,
  14. High School Teacher Salary, PayScale, Accessed January 2018,
  15. Postsecondary Teachers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2017,
  16. Professor or College Instructor Career Profile, Truity, Accessed January 2018,
  17. Professor Careers, The Princeton Review, Accessed January 2018,
  18. Special Education Teachers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2017,
  19. How to Become a Special Education Teacher, Rasmussen College, Accessed January 2018,
  20. Online Special Education Degree, U.S. News & World Report, Accessed January 2018,
  21. Librarians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2017,
  22. Library Education & Licensing, American Association of School Librarians, Accessed January 2018,
  23. School Librarian Salary, PayScale, Accessed January 2018,
  24. Education Requirements, American Association of Law Libraries, Accessed January 2018,
  25. Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2017,
  26. Postsecondary Education Administrators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2017,
  27. Online Master's in Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, Accessed January 2018,
  28. Academics, OCampus, Oklahoma State University,
  29. Area of Study: Education, Old Dominion University Online,
  30. Champlain College Online,
  31. Degrees and Certificates, University of Minnesota Online,
  32. Distance Degrees, Texas A&M University,
  33. Education Programs, University of Cincinnati Online,
  34. Indiana Wesleyan University,
  35. Liberty University Online Programs,
  36. Master's Programs, Saint Leo University Online,
  37. Office of Alternative Licensure, College of Education, East Carolina University,
  38. Online & Regional Site Degrees, Certificate, and Certification Preparation Programs, Texas Tech University,
  39. Online Degrees and Programs, Mizzou Online,
  40. Online Education Programs from Drexel University, Drexel University Online,
  41. Online Only 2017-2018 Academic Year, Northern Arizona University,
  42. Online Programs, Johns Hopkins School of Education,
  43. Online Programs and Certificates, UF College of Education,
  44. Substitute Teaching Certificate, University of Central Florida,
  45. Teacher Certification, Sam Houston State University,
  46. Teacher Certification in Oklahoma, College of Education, University of Oklahoma,
  47. Teacher Licensure, Online and Distance Education, North Carolina State University,


Before earning your teaching credential, it's important to understand what kind of education suits the teaching career you are hoping to pursue. Let us provide a quick sketch of the typical requirements for some common teaching careers, followed by our list of the 20 best online colleges for earning your teaching credential.

Teacher Degree Tracks

  • Preschool Teacher: The education that preschool teachers should complete depends on where they work, though they are generally required to earn at least an associate's degree. Professionals who want to work in public schools or in Head Start programs should aim even higher, and earn a bachelor's degree in early childhood education. In some states, preschool teachers are required to obtain a teaching credential, which entails completing relevant coursework, field experience and an examination, as well as undergoing observation in the classroom. Granted through the Council for Professional Recognition, the Child Development Associate certification must be renewed every three years. Also, preschool teachers who work in elementary schools may be required to complete continuing education courses.
  • Kindergarten/ Elementary School Teacher: Kindergarten and elementary school teachers should complete an education degree program on the bachelor's degree level. Depending on where professionals teach, they may be required to study teaching while also majoring in a specific area, such as mathematics. In other cases, they can earn a position after earning a degree in a non-teaching subject, provided they also obtain a teaching certification. During their studies, prospective elementary school teachers participate in a teacher aide program designed to familiarize them with the rigors of the classroom. All states require kindergarten teachers to hold a license, which can be kept current by participating in professional development classes each year.
  • Middle School Teacher: In some states, middle school teachers can find employment if they complete an education degree program on the bachelor's level, while taking early childhood education courses that address the psychology of children and how they learn. Other states expect middle school teachers to earn a degree in a specific academic area. In either case, middle school teachers should have a license to work in a public school, which entails completing a teacher aide program where prospective educators earn hands-on experience in the classroom under the supervision of a qualified professional. Also, middle school teachers must submit to a background check and pass general teaching and subject matter examinations to demonstrate their expertise.
  • High School Teacher: Since high school teachers focus on specific academic disciplines, they are required to gain expertise in both their content area and general teaching practices. To that end, these professionals are expected to obtain at least a bachelor's degree, and in some cases a minimum of a master's degree, to start a career in the field. Also, a state-issued license is necessary to teach high school. While specific requirements to obtain a teaching credential differs from one state to the next, generally candidates need to maintain a certain grade point average in their degree program, pass a teaching certification test, and complete a background check.
  • College Professor: The path to becoming a college professor depends on where educators want to teach. Those who want to teach at four-year universities should have a doctoral degree in the field they want to teach in. On the community college and technical school level, professors usually need to earn a master's degree to become eligible for employment. In some cases, college educators may be required to have professional experience in their subject area in addition to an advanced degree. For example, those who want to teach subjects related to art, education, law and health may need to work a certain number of years in the field before earning a teaching job at a college or university.
  • Special Education Teacher: Special education teachers that want to work in public schools should earn a bachelor's degree in special education, or in some cases, a degree in a specific academic discipline. In addition, public school special education teachers should obtain a license, although the type of license required depends on where these professionals work. In some states, teachers can become licensed to work with students of various disabilities; other states require teachers to earn credentials related to specific disabilities. Although private schools do not necessarily have the same requirements, they generally give preference to those who have earned at least a special education bachelor's degree.
  • School Librarian: School librarians are required to earn a master's degree in library science or information studies. In addition, those who work for public schools should obtain certification, which is done by completing an examination like the PRAXIS II Library Media Specialist test. Librarians who work in a special type of library may also be required to earn a degree in that subject area. For example, some law schools may expect their librarians to hold a law degree in addition to a library science or information studies degree. Similarly, earning a subject matter degree may be a requirement to work at a medical school library.
  • Educational Administrator: The degree path of an educational administrator career can differ depending on the specific position students are pursuing in the field. For example, elementary, middle and high school principals generally earn a master's degree in education administration or education leadership. These professionals should also have a substantial amount of experience as a teacher, as well as a license if they wish to work for a public school system. Postsecondary education administrators may be able to earn a position with a bachelor's degree if they want to work for a community college; otherwise, a master's degree is generally expected in disciplines such as marketing, accounting or social work. Those who want to pursue careers as college deans or provosts typically complete a Ph.D. in curriculum design, though some can find employment with a doctorate in the specific topic they have teaching experience in. In addition, several years of teaching on the college level is a requirement.

Best Online Colleges to Earn Your Teaching Credential in 2018-19

Earning a teaching credential is an exciting step for aspiring teachers, as it is necessary to move into the workforce and put a hard-earned teaching education to good use. Fortunately, those who are busy with work and school obligations can turn to the online teaching credential to complete this requirement.

In an online teaching credential program, the courses for the credential can be taken through the distance education means offered by the school. Meanwhile, the student teaching portion of the credential can be completed at a number of other schools that the college has made agreements with. This allows students to enroll in a credential program offered in another city or even another state without forcing them to pack up and move.

But where can a student find such an online credential? The search is over: here is our ranking of the 20 best online colleges for earning your teaching credential. Curious about our methodology? Check out the bottom of the page for more information.

1. Indiana Wesleyan University - Marion (Marion, IN)

Founded in 1920, this private, nonprofit university offers numerous options for teachers at the master's level, as well as a bachelor's program in early childhood education. Students who choose to pursue the licensure track can complete not only their typical bachelor's degree work, but also 16 weeks of full-time experience in a P-3 school setting. The university also offers numerous courses in professional development and licensure renewal.

2. East Carolina University (Greenville, NC)

East Carolina University offers a wealth of opportunity for those interested in teaching. The Alternative Licensure and Add-On Licensure programs provide students with the opportunity to complete coursework before teaching, to begin teaching while still attending school, or to add another subject area onto an existing teaching license.

3. Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ)

When seeking to earn your teaching credential online, students can look to Northern Arizona University, where over 31,000 students have already discovered programs in early childhood education, autism spectrum disorders, elementary education, educational technology, community college teaching and learning, and much more. The school's Teacher Intern Preparation Program (TIPP) allows students to enter a teaching contract while they complete the requirements for an Arizona Teaching Certificate.

4. Champlain College (Burlington, VT)

This small private college was founded in 1878, long before online learning was even a glimmer of an idea. Since then, Champlain College has made up for lost time with more than 50 online degree programs, including a few in the education department. Champlain's master's programs in early childhood education and administration can potentially be completed within one year, thanks to accelerated courses.

5. Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)

In addition to flexible courses that offer students a greater range of scheduling freedom, Liberty University also offers programs grounded in Biblical principles. Those with an eye toward teaching, especially teaching with a religious emphasis, can choose from dozens of options, including master's degrees in elementary education, middle grades, secondary education or special education, any of which can help to prepare students for licensure.


What challenges did you face as an online student? What advice would you give to other online students to help them overcome these challenges?

When earning an online degree, time management is key. As an online student, one must be highly motivated and self-driven. In contrast to a college classroom setting in front of a professor, much time devoted to the chosen program and instruction is more like a self-study. Yes, there is open communication between the professor and the student, but the difference is you're given the syllabus with a "calendar of events" and the student is expected to plan accordingly and meet all deadlines. There is no one giving constant reminders as to what is upcoming and what is due.

I started my master's degree online through Regent University in January 2012, when my children were 12, 8 and 6. I was also teaching full time. I had to learn to juggle the needs of work, home and children as well as the program I was enrolled in. Ultimately, each student has to weigh their existing commitments, as well as the demands of their desired program. And the student must also be honest about their strengths and weaknesses. An online program can definitely be a convenient way to earn a degree, but if one lacks drive and self-motivation, an online program may not be the best option.

Jasmine Williams Cage works for Mecklenburg County Public Schools as a first grade teacher and has touched every grade K-8 over the past 20 years.

6. University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)

When students at University of Florida aren't cheering on the Gators, chances are good that they're working hard to complete degree programs, either on campus or online. UF has truly embraced online learning -- the university offers more than 100 degree programs online, including nine master's programs through the College of Education. These programs strive to prepare students for the Florida Teacher Certification Exam, an important part of being certified to teach at schools across the Sunshine State.

7. Saint Leo University (Saint Leo, FL)

The oldest Catholic higher education institution in the state of Florida, Saint Leo University began offering online courses in the 1990s. Today, numerous programs are available 100% online, including several online teaching programs at the master's level. Though some are designed for working teachers, others are designed to help students to earn their teaching credential. A good example is the master's in exceptional student education, which offers three educational tracks for interested students.

8. Texas A&M University - College Station (College Station, TX)

In the 2016-17 school year, over 62,500 students called themselves Aggies -- the term for those who attend storied Texas A&M University. These Aggies can find a plethora of online programs to choose from, several in the field of teaching. Some of these programs, such as the Master's of Science in health education program, combine earning the master's degree with earning one's teaching credentials, allowing interested students to tackle two birds with one program.

9. Oklahoma State University - Main Campus (Stillwater, OK)

OSU was founded on Christmas Day in 1890 -- a great gift for the people of Oklahoma and beyond. The OSU College of Education, Health and Aviation provides numerous options for students who want to earn their teaching credential, as well as some online options for those who want the flexibility of asynchronous learning. One example is the program for the graduate certificate in online teaching, which provides students with an opportunity to hone their teaching skills in the hopes of teaching online courses to various grade levels.

10. University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)

Over 66,000 students took advantage of UCF's many on- and off-campus degree programs in the 2016-17 school year. Students seeking an opportunity to teach can find it through the university's Substitute Teaching Certificate, which can be taken entirely online. These courses help to prepare an individual to move into teaching in their local school district. Students who are taking online courses from another state might want to check with their local school district to ensure the UCF certificate completion qualifies them to substitute teach in their state.


How did earning a degree online help you reach your educational and career goals?

As an English teacher in South Korea, I have been lucky enough to teach hardworking Korean students for the past seven years, but I knew that I couldn't do this one-year contract job forever. Therefore, I decided to go back for my master's degree at Clarion University in hopes of better positioning myself to get a job at an international school, where I will have more job security and a brighter future.

What challenges did you face as an online student? What advice would you give to other online students to help them overcome these challenges?

As an online student, the biggest focal point is online communication. I mostly relied on email and D2L to communicate with my professors and other classmates. Thankfully, my professors were quick to respond, so my classmates and I could complete the assignments in a timely manner. This, however, made group assignments a bit more challenging because there was less accountability with it being online. Because of this, I recommend asking your group members for their social media accounts as an easier way to contact them.

Alyson Rudy is a Native English Teacher at GEPIK Teachers in Anyang, Gyeonggi-do, Korea. She is a passionate teacher who wants to help shape the minds of young learners through the use of culture in the classroom.

11. University of Cincinnati - Main Campus (Cincinnati, OH)

Founded in 1819, this university in the heart of Cincinnati is currently home to over 44,000 students and over a quarter million alumni. The opportunities through the UC college of education are robust, and the online options are just as impressive. Those looking for an online teaching credential for PreK can find it through the bachelor's degree in early education. Other teaching credentials are available as well, such as those in behavioral analysis and gifted education.

12. University of Oklahoma - Norman Campus (Norman, OK)

University of Oklahoma has a rich history, dating back to 1890 and including a wealth of interesting tidbits, such as the "Boomer Sooner," the Oklahoma land run, and the Sooner Schooner, a wagon pulled by two ponies -- named, appropriately enough, "Boomer" and "Sooner." But the school really shines in academics, with numerous options for those seeking their teaching credential. From master's degree programs that can help prepare students for the licensing exams, to alternative ways of becoming a teacher, University of Oklahoma brings the options right to your fingertips.

13. Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA)

Originally part of the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion University in Virginia is now an institution of higher learning in its own right, with over 100 online programs available across seven colleges. Those programs include many that can lead to licensure for teachers in the state of Virginia, including Special Education, School Librarianship and Teaching License, the Military Career Transition Program, Elementary Teacher K-6 and more.

14. Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)

Located in the heart of Philadelphia, Drexel University has been offering online courses since as early as 1996! Numerous online programs are available at the university, among them options for earning your teaching credential online. These include the post-bachelor's teaching certificate for grades PreK-4 or secondary education, as well as the graduate intern teaching certification in the same categories. Numerous add-on credentials are also available for licensed teachers, including leadership, autism spectrum disorders and more.

15. Sam Houston State University (Huntsville, TX)

The 14th largest college in the state of Texas in 2017, Sam Houston State University's students can pursue professional certifications for principals, superintendents, school librarians, reading specialists and teachers. Teacher certification at SHSU may be completed within 12-24 months, depending upon when someone enrolls and how hard they work. Interested students from outside the state should consult with SHSU to determine if they qualify to enter the university's teaching certification program.


How did earning a degree online help you reach your educational and career goals?

Earning a degree online through Clarion University has helped me in my career path at Rimersburg Head Start and in continuing my education. Being able to receive my degree online has been a true blessing. As a working mother, it gave me the opportunity to complete my assignments around my life. I also had a unique opportunity to attend school along with my daughter, and we graduated together on May 13, 2016 -- on Mother's Day weekend. This was a great memory for us.

What challenges did you face as an online student? What advice would you give to other online students to help them overcome these challenges?

As an online student and older adult, I have faced many challenges along the way that I had to overcome. It had been many years since I had attended school and I had many adjustments to make as far as studying, routine, and many late nights being online completing assignments.

My advice to others that may want to acquire their degree is to just do it. Never give up on your dreams and your future. Online college is a great opportunity for those who need to work college around their lives.

Jodi Mansfield works at Rimersburg Head Start in Pennsylvania. She is married with four children.

16. Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)

One of the world's premiere research universities, Johns Hopkins has made a name for itself in a variety of fields, including education. Students seeking to earn their teaching credential can opt for alternative licensure programs at Johns Hopkins, including those through Teach for America or TNTP (formerly known as The New Teacher Project). These Master of Science in educational studies programs can serve as excellent sources of knowledge for students who are working to obtain their teaching credential or to move forward into more specialized study.

17. North Carolina State University at Raleigh (Raleigh, NC)

Many students at North Carolina State have opted to pursue their teaching certificate through online means. Strong emphasis is placed on various forms of teacher licensure at NC State, with options for agriculture professionals, business and marketing education, and English as a second language, as well as an alternative teacher education program through NC Teach. Though licensure is designed for those in North Carolina, students from other states might be able to apply what they learn to their own state's licensure; check with the licensing board for details.

18. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN)

The University of Minnesota was dedicated to teaching students as early as 1851, a full seven years before Minnesota actually became a state. Today this land-grant university offers a plethora of programs, including several in the education department, and many are available entirely online. One of those is the Master of Education in family education, which can prepare students to earn the parent education specialty teaching license. Other options are available as certificates through online learning.

19. University of Missouri - Columbia (Columbia, MO)

Founded in 1839, "Mizzou" was the first public university west of the Mississippi River. More recently, the university dove into distance learning in a big way, offering over 100 degree programs and over 1,000 courses for those enrolled online. The MU College of Education features dozens of programs, as well as multiple ways to earn an online teaching certificate. Potential certifications include those for principal, superintendent, gifted education and more.

20. Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)

Texas Tech University has been providing distance education, in one form or another, since 1966 (and no, that's not a typo!). Online teaching students have multiple options for education at Texas Tech, but in particular, they may want to look into the Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Principal Professional Certification Preparation Program. This program serves a dual purpose: not only does it give students a chance to earn a master's degree, but it is designed to help students prepare to earn the necessary credentials to become a school principal.

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