Getting Your Teaching Degree Online

Getting Your Teaching Degree Online

With the demand for teachers growing, many professionals looking for a new career are returning to the classroom with the goal to get a teaching degree fast. According to the New York Times, many professionals looking for a second or third career are attracted by teaching's steady paycheck, generous vacation schedule and the rewards of working with and shaping young minds.

Many want to know how to get a teaching degree online because they are already busy with their existing career as well as the responsibilities of family life. Online, students can get a teaching degree fast by studying when and where they want. Unlike face-to-face classes, online programs using the latest technology often allow students to personalize their studies so they can concentrate on areas where they are weak and spend less time on topics they've already mastered. Technology is redefining how to get a teaching degree online.

"Both personalized and adaptive learning technologies allow a professor to recognize where each student is in his/her individual learning processes," said Joe Chapman, director of student services for Arizona State University Online. "This is hugely helpful in terms of identifying where students need help in order to succeed."

Requirements to Becoming a Teacher

Teachers need to have at least a bachelor's degree and to be state certified. In some states, depending on the grade level, some middle school teachers need to get a master's degree after they have been certified.

While all states require teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree, some states also require middle school teachers to major in a specific concentration, such as science, math or history, in order to teach that content. In contrast, other states only require middle school teachers to major in elementary education. Private school teachers are not required to meet these state standards, but private schools are typically looking for teachers who meet them.

Likewise, kindergarten and elementary school teachers need to have a bachelor's degree. Preschool teachers, meanwhile, only need a high school diploma, although they must be certified in early childhood education.

Kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and high school teachers all have to complete fieldwork as student teachers, during which they work with a mentor and gain hands-on experience in a classroom. These training sessions vary in length by state.

Certification and Licensing

Teacher certification requirements vary by state, although a bachelor's degree and student teaching experience are mandatory in all states. Some states also require teachers to maintain a minimum grade-point average while in school and to pass a general teaching certification test after their studies are completed. They may also need to pass a test that measures their knowledge of the subject matter they plan to teach.

In some states, students who have a bachelor's in something other than education can teach under the supervision of an experienced teacher and earn their certification that way. Elsewhere, these students will have to take education classes before they can be certified.

Teachers are typically required to take annual professional development courses in order to maintain their teacher's license.

Online Teaching Degree Programs

There are many different types of online teaching degrees. Here is a short list of some of the most common:

  • Early Childhood Education Degree Online
  • Elementary Education Degree Online
  • High School/Secondary Teaching Degree Online
  • Special Education Degree Online
  • Master's in Education Degree Online

Advice on Getting Your Teaching Degree Online

To find out more about the difference between getting your teaching degree online, versus getting it at an on-campus college, we sat down with Joe Chapman, Director of Student Services for Arizona State Online.

Q: Why are online classes better for some people than face-to-face classes?

For many people considering going back to school or earning a degree, a traditional college setting isn't a feasible option. Many are working full time, raising a family or are possibly serving our country overseas, and online education is an alternative solution that provides the access and flexibility that on-campus courses do not. With numerous degree programs available, online education is a great option for those with hectic lifestyles who need to study on their own time -- when and where they can. Online programs have the ability to create personalized and flexible learning experiences to better serve nontraditional students both inside the classroom, through teaching and learning technologies, and outside the classroom, through student services.

Q: What are the key technologies that give online education an advantage over traditional face-to-face classrooms?

Student success in online courses requires personalized and adaptive learning technologies. These technologies re-humanize and individualize teaching in a way that will never be possible inside a large lecture. Students can self-direct their study and customize their learning path, yet all students come out of a class with the same learning objectives mastered. Adaptive learning technologies help faculty teach a hundred students in a single section effectively and efficiently, ultimately setting more students up for better successes.

Q: What should students look for in an online school?

The first step students should take is to ensure the program they are applying to is accredited. The Department of Education has a 'College Navigator' tool on its website which is a quick way for students to verify the accreditation of a school they are considering. Students should also ensure that the credits they earn in an online degree program can be transferred to another program should they decide to switch schools. If credits from a program aren't eligible to be transferred to other programs, it may be because other schools don't consider the courses up to their academic standards, which is a huge red flag in itself.

Finally, students should research the support services offered by the programs they are considering. At ASU Online, each student has an academic coach that stays with them from admission through graduation, ensuring they are on track to graduate and providing advice and assistance throughout the students' time in the program. The system includes triggers for coaches to communicate proactively in case of potential issues that may hinder a student's success. This personal level of support helps ensure the success of students and provides them with a consistent advisor who is familiar with their academic background.

Q: How can you tell if online learning will be right for you?

Online learning requires a lot of self-discipline and motivation from students. Students must set their own study schedules, stay on top of assignments and required reading, and hold themselves accountable in order to be successful in an online learning environment. While there is consistent communication with professors and regular interaction with classmates, students are solely responsible for maintaining their study habits. Without the structure and routine of an on-campus class schedule, students must motivate themselves to keep their own schedule and not 'let life get in the way.' If a student has trouble holding themselves accountable or requires lots of pushing from others, then online learning may not be the right fit for them.


  1. New York Times, "Teaching as a Second Act, or Maybe Even a Third," March 24, 2015,
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Oct. 12, 2015,
  3. Interview with Joe Chapman, Director of Student Services for Arizona State Online