Bachelor’s in secondary education
Teachers are inspirational and influential community members. Consider this well-known quote from an anonymous author, “Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.” In other words, teachers do so much more than simply teach their students’ academic curricula needed to pass exams and advance to the next grade. Teachers motivate, guide, and inspire students as they plan and construct their adulthood. They encourage talents and interests and discourage negative behaviors and beliefs. They open a world of possibilities with their life experiences, knowledge, and enthusiasm about the future. The positive feedback from an art or science teacher, or athletics coach can be the impetus that drives a student to become a graphic designer, physicist, or Olympic wrestler.
Secondary school teachers generally educate children from the age of 12-18, in a single subject. This single subject, be it math, science, art, etc. is supplemented by the development of skills needed to become a successful citizen. A bachelor’s in secondary education can provide potential teachers with the knowledge and expertise to take on this important job.
What do I need to apply?
To be considered for admission to a 4-year bachelor’s program, the university will require transcripts from your high school or 2-year program with a minimum of a 2.5 to 3.5 GPA. For impacted programs at competitive universities, showing a 3.0 GPA is recommended. If you are applying from high school you will need academic references, SAT or ACT scores, and a personal statement. Applications are submitted online and often incur a processing fee of between $50-$100. You can expect a response from the admissions department within 6 to 8 weeks, via mail or email.
Online vs. on-campus
Bachelor’s programs in secondary education are available as on-campus, online, and hybrid study programs. The choice is yours to make and most likely will be based on your location, financial situation, family, and extracurricular activities. For example, you may live far from campus, have family obligations, or sport engagements which take place during traditional class times. For situations like this, some students may prefer to have online or hybrid programs. Everyone’s situation is different, and the choice of university, degree, and attendance type will reflect the unique situation of each student. That said, the one factor that applies to all students is the strong recommendation to confirm that your program and university have been accredited before signing your enrollment acceptance form.
Does my university need to be accredited?
Accreditation agencies approve and endorse university programs that have reached a set of educational standards required for validation by the US Department of Education. This is a formal recognition which is accepted by other academic institutions, certification and licensing agencies, and future employers. To transfer your credits to another university, apply for a credential, or receive professional recognition, and before you apply to a bachelor’s program check that it is listed on the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
What will I learn?
Coursework in a bachelor’s program in secondary education will take 2 years if you are transferring from a community college, and 4 years if you are applying from high school. During your bachelor’s program you will learn the content and skills necessary to teach grades 6-12. In addition to the possible courses listed below, you will also take courses which correspond to the subject you wish to teach. For example, if your plan is to teach science education, then you would take additional courses in physics, chemistry, biology, environmental sciences, etc.
Introduction to education
This course focuses on the influences that history, laws, and government policies have had on educational reform. It will also look at the educational and psychological theories that have shaped public and private education in America.
It is important that prospective teachers understand how a culturally diverse classroom or workplace can positively or negatively impact the educational experience of students and teachers. You will learn about prejudice and biases, and the policies and procedures that may restrict achievement. Moreover, you will develop a deeper understanding of why race, ethnicity, gender, language, and culture demand representation and appreciation in your future classroom.
This course will introduce you to psychological research and principles which have influenced our understanding of learning, instructional methods, and classroom interactions.
Curriculum, instruction, assessment
This course examines the importance of curricula, instruction, and assessment in education. An understanding and mastery of these practices helps teachers enhance the education of their students.
Student teaching, or fieldwork, is an important part of a secondary education program. This gives prospective teachers the opportunity to apply knowledge from their coursework into practice. These experiences are usually in off-campus settings selected by university faculty from the education department. This portion of the program is required to be eligible for licensure.
Program concentrations are selected by you based on what subject you’d like to teach. As a single-subject teacher, it is important for you to have expertise in the subject you plan to teach. For example, if you want to teach high school chemistry then you will need to take additional science classes to qualify for a chemistry teaching position.
This program is for individuals who want to teach social science at the middle or high school level. The coursework for this track will include western civilization, American government, geography, U.S history, statistics, teaching social science, and English composition.
When picking a science program you may also need to choose which branch of science you’d like to teach. Depending on the university, biology, physics, chemistry, and general science are available program options. Coursework may include trigonometry, statistics, biology, physics, chemistry, and science curriculum. Some schools may offer programs in specific branches of science. For example, if you choose a chemistry program, you may have the option of taking classes in subjects that include organic chemistry, biochemistry, or analytical chemistry. Alternatively, if you choose a biology concentration, in addition to biology courses, it may be possible to take a chemistry course. Some institutions may offer a science concentration where all the science branches are equally represented.
If you are an art lover, then perhaps studying to become a school art teacher is the option you plan to follow. In an art education concentration program, coursework can include art history, world art, and various art skills and techniques like drawing, design, ceramics, and printmaking.
This program is designed to prepare students to work as mathematics teachers. Mathematics coursework could include statistics, calculus, geometry, differential equations, algebra, logic, and teaching mathematics. Depending on the institution you may be able to choose the program based on what branch of mathematics you’d like to teach while others may offer mathematics in its entirety.
English language arts
An English language arts program can prepare you to teach students about American and world literature, classic works of fiction by Shakespeare and other literary legends, young adult literature, and skills needed to write, review, and appreciate English literature in all formats.
According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, around 60 to 75 percent of the global population speak at least 2 languages. Teaching a world language is a great way to introduce students to traditions, ideas, historical contexts, and countries. If you’re interested in teaching a foreign language then your university could have concentrations available in languages like Spanish, German, French, or Japanese. Coursework in a world language program will explore the language you’ve chosen, its history, culture, and how to teach it.
How to obtain a teaching license?
Obtaining a teaching license is a non-negotiable step that you need to take before you are legally allowed to start teaching in a middle school or high school. Licensure is required by all 50 states, so check your state’s requirements before applying for licensure.
A 4-year bachelor’s degree is the minimum academic requirement to be a teacher at the secondary level. The minimum GPA requirement varies by state, although a minimum of a 3.0 GPA in all bachelor-level coursework is generally required to be considered for licensure.
A teacher preparation program can be taken alongside or after your bachelor’s coursework. It will be dependent on what your institution offers, and your preference. It will usually require student-teaching or fieldwork experience to give you classroom experience, and together with the bachelor’s program, will take 4 to 5 years to complete depending on the institution.
Assessment exams, like the Praxis Series, are typically taken before your teacher preparation program and after. This shows you have adequate knowledge in general education like math, reading, and writing. Subject tests are also taken by individuals who want licensure as a certain type of teacher.
Apply for teacher certification
Once you have completed the necessary education, student-teaching, and passed your state’s assessment exam then you are able to apply for your state’s license or certification. Some states may also require a criminal background check.
What’s the cost?
According to US News, the cost of an online bachelor’s degree ranges from $38,496 to $60,593. The annual tuition for in-state students 2020-2021 was $11,171, and for out-of-state students was $26,809.
Many prospective students feel deterred by the future burden of debt incurred from an undergraduate education. Thankfully there are financial aid options available to eligible students to ease the financial burden of an academic program. Information about financial aid, scholarships, grants, and loans is available on the Federal Student Aid (FASDA) website, where you can also complete the FASFA, which is a free online application form for student financial aid. Undergraduate students under the age of 24, are assessed as dependents, which means that your family income details will be required. Visit the website for details about what needs to be submitted with your application, and for information about deadlines.
Once you have earned a teaching credential or license you are ready to apply for employment in a public or private school classroom. The concentration or subject you studied generally relates to the age group and place you are qualified to teach. For example, if you want to teach advanced mathematics, like calculus, then it is unlikely you will educate 7th graders because the content is too advanced for that age group. However, if you studied English language arts, then you could teach any grade, but the content would be dependent on the age group.