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The best associate degrees in education

Table of Contents

    Introduction to education

    People choose to become educators because they’re passionate about impacting the next generation. They enjoy teaching and take pride in the crucial role they play in their students’ lives. If you’re considering a career in teaching, earning an associate degree in education may be a great place to start.

    In this article, you’ll learn about the top 10 schools offering this degree, including the average costs, course concentrations, and length of the program. You can also read about career prospects, overall salary outlook, and financial aid opportunities.

    Why pursue an associate degree in education?

    An associate degree in education usually takes 2-3 years to complete. It’s a faster and more affordable option available to people who don’t want to study for 4 years before finding employment. The program typically prepares students with the knowledge and skills required to start working in the classroom. Upon completion, associate degree graduates can pursue various career paths, including:

    • Teacher’s assistant
    • Preschool teacher
    • Childcare worker
    • Tutor

    A 4-year bachelor’s degree is typically required to teach grades K-12. You can usually choose to transfer your associate degree credits to a bachelor’s program. In this case, education students are typically advised to take the Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST) while pursuing their postsecondary studies.

    Fortunately, some schools build this requirement into their curriculums. If you wish to pursue high-level educational positions, you can later continue to earn a master’s degree. Whatever teaching profession you wish to pursue, an associate’s degree in education may be an ideal choice if you want to:

    • Increase your opportunities to enter the teaching workforce
    • Gain hands-on experience
    • Lay an excellent foundation to pursue further education

    Top 10 associate degree programs in education

    Our criteria for selecting the following programs and schools include graduation rates and tuition costs. We have focused on programs aimed at elementary school positions, although the majority of these colleges also offer associate degree programs for secondary and early childhood education.

    • Eastern New Mexico University

      Eastern New Mexico University Roswell, New Mexico
      Eastern New Mexico University

      Located in the state of New Mexico, Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell (ENMU-Roswell) provides affordable and high-quality on-campus education. Among its 80+ certificate and associate degree programs, you’ll find 3 associate’s of science in teacher education – being in early childhood education, elementary education, and secondary education. The university keeps its faculty-student ratio low with smaller classrooms for optimal learning and provides additional tutoring and student support services.

      As a transfer degree, it’s ideal for students who plan to pursue their 4-year bachelor’s degree. ENMU-Roswell also offers B.A. and B.S. degree programs in education with elementary (K-8) and special education (Pre-K-12) licensure.
      The A.S. education program prepares students for study paths leading to teacher certification with educational and general education coursework.

      Examples include:

      • Elementary mathematical concepts
      • Structured observation of teachers
      • Developmental psychology.
      Read more
    • Garden City Community College

      Garden City Community College Garden City, Kansas
      Garden City Community College

      Located in Kansas and established in 1919, Garden City Community College (GCCC) has a total enrollment of 2,072 students. The college provides an array of certificate and associate degree programs but doesn’t offer bachelor’s degree programs.

      There are 3 associate of science programs in childhood, elementary, and secondary education available. Students can choose to study part- or full-time, and there’s also an online distance-learning option. These programs are flexible and cater to the varying requirements of 4-year bachelor’s degrees in education.

      With any one of these A.S. qualifications, you’ll have the opportunity to deepen your understanding of subjects regarding schools, teachers, students, foundations, and the teaching profession. For example, coursework for the Associate of Science in Elementary Education includes:

      • Foundations of education
      • General psychology
      • Introduction to sociology
      Read more
    • Highland Community College

      Highland Community College Highland, Kansas
      Highland Community College

      Highland Community College (HCC) has been providing high-quality education for over 150 years. HCC offers associate degree programs in 50 concentration areas with 15 technical education degree programs. Whether as a stepping stone to a 4-year degree or for professional or personal development, HCC provides affordable access to higher education to its 3,000 students in Northeast Kansas and online.

      HCC has associate’s in arts (A.A.) programs available for elementary and secondary education. It also offers an A.S. in childhood development. These curriculums are designed for those who intend to earn their associate degrees and then transfer to another institution to earn a bachelor’s degree. The A.A. in elementary education program includes coursework such as:

      • General psychology
      • Introduction to education
      • Children’s literature
      Read more
    • Mesalands Community College

      Mesalands Community College Tucumcari, New Mexico
      Mesalands Community College

      Mesalands Community College is an independent educational institution and 2-year college that offers academic transfer courses, adult basic education, and certificate and degree programs to its 1,700 students.

      At Mesalands, students can choose to pursue an A.A. in elementary education or secondary education. There are also early childhood development and bilingual education programs available.

      These programs equip students with the interpersonal skills and strategies crucial to provide successful educational experiences to diverse demographics of children. They also prepare students for individualized instruction and cover subjects that fall under social and natural sciences, and humanities. Coursework may include:

      • Social and behavioral science
      • Structured observations in teaching
      • Growth and development

      Read more
    • Northeast Community College

      Northeast Community College Norfolk, Nebraska
      Northeast Community College

      Located in Nebraska, Northeast Community College provides over 130 course concentrations to its 6,000+ students.Students can choose to pursue certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs on campus and online. These include associate of arts degree programs with concentrations in both elementary and secondary education.

      There are also curriculums for early childhood development and education paraprofessionals. Afterward, students can choose to earn their bachelor’s degrees at a 4-year institution. The college also offers opportunities to gain practical experience while completing coursework. The education – elementary program may include coursework such as:

      • Child and adolescent psychology
      • Psychology of learning
      • Introduction to professional education

      Read more
    • Orange Coast College

      Orange Coast College Costa Mesa, California
      Orange Coast College

      Established in 1948, Orange Coast College (OCC) is a 2-year community college that offers honors classes, online classes, and over 50 certificate and associate degree programs. It enrolls over 25,000 students each semester on the 125-acre campus in Costa Mesa, Southern California.

      Teaching students can choose from an A.A. in elementary teacher education for transfer degree or an A.S. in early childhood education for transfer degree.

      These are ideal options for those who want to earn their bachelor’s degree in a similar major within the California State university system. The college also offers preschool and toddler teacher certificate programs combined with associate degree requirements. There’s an early childhood administration associate degree program too. Coursework may include:

      • Child growth and development
      • Conceptual physics
      • Introduction to the humanities

      Read more
    • Washington County Community College

      Washington County Community College Calai, Maine
      Washington County Community College

      Washington County Community College (WCCC) is a small college in a rural setting on the coast of Maine. The college offers a diverse range of career, technical, and liberal arts programs. You can choose between certificate programs or transfer and associate degree curriculums. On-campus and online classes are also available. Education programs include A.S. in education and associate in applied science in early childhood education.

      These programs are designed to transfer credits to baccalaureate programs at a 4-year college. Earning either of the above fulfills the requirements for certification as Educational Technician II and other one-on-one career options.

      Besides liberal arts, students will also learn about learning styles, curriculum development, and instructional techniques. Coursework examples include:

      • Introduction to education
      • Learning and the brain
      • Child and adolescent development
      Read more
    • Coffeyville Community College

      Coffeyville Community College Coffeyville, Kansas
      Coffeyville Community College

      Coffeyville Community College offers affordable postsecondary education to its 1,758 students. The main campus is located in Coffeyville, Kansas. Students can graduate with 1 of 4 associate degree options. These include the A.A. in education transfer degree and online A.A. curriculum, designed for those who intend to transfer to a 4-year university or college for their bachelor’s degrees. Students can expect coursework such as:

      • Elementary statistics
      • Developmental psychology
      • Calculus with analytic geometry
      Read more
    • College of the Canyons

      College of the Canyons Santa Clarita, California
      College of the Canyons

      Located in Santa Clarita, California, the college serves more than 33,000 students per year at campuses in Valencia and Canyon Country.

      The 2-year college offers 229 associate degree and certificate programs, including Associate of Arts degrees for transfer degree: elementary teacher education and an A.S for transfer degree: early childhood education. Students who complete these degrees receive guaranteed admission to a California State University, although not to a certain major or campus. Coursework may include:

      • Introduction to teaching in a diverse society
      • Mathematics for elementary school teachers
      • Critical reading, writing, and thinking

      Read more
    • Miles Community College

      Miles Community College Miles City, Montana
      Miles Community College

      Founded in 1939, Miles Community College (MCC) offers a vast array of affordable programs designed to be transferable to 4-year Montana institutions and others across the country. This 2-year college also offers online distance-learning opportunities for high school students, and basic education for adults. It has a total enrollment of 567 students.

      Education students can choose from a few different Associate of Arts degrees in education, like the pathway degree, A.A. health and physical education degree, or even the agricultural education and leadership pathways degree. There are also other associate and certificate degree programs available. Coursework may include:

      • Teaching and learning -a critical introduction to public education
      • Early field experience
      • Introduction to sociology

      Read more

    Career and salary outlook

    With the aging U.S. population, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teachers to rise by 4% between 2019 and 2029. It also predicts the demand for teachers to grow in the coming decade as the number of students increases.

    The latest statistics also show that the unemployment rate for associate degree holders was 2.7% in 2019, while the rate for bachelor’s degree holders was 2.2%. Compared to the rate for high school diploma holders (5.4%), it’s easy to see that a postsecondary degree can positively affect your ability to find employment. An associate degree, along with state certification and licensure requirements in some cases, can qualify you as a teaching assistant or a preschool teacher. According to the BLS, the former earns an annual median wage of $31,930, and the latter earns an annual median salary of $28,900.

    Possible career pathways and earning potential

    Naturally, the better your qualifications, the more you’re likely to earn while enhancing your career opportunities. Education is a wide and varied profession. There are numerous teaching roles and specializations you can pursue, from kindergarten through to high school.

    Whether you have a passion for teaching art or biology or working in public or private schools, there are countless options. Consultation, administration, and school board positions are also possible career pathways. Some professionals even choose advanced positions in higher education. Here are a few possible career opportunities:

    High school teacher

    Professionals in this category typically teach a wide variety of subjects. They can work in public or private institutions and usually hold a bachelor’s degree. High school teachers earn an average base salary of $50,385 per year.


    Library media specialists and librarians help students find information and conduct research for professional and personal and use. They work in schools, government institutions, and other public or private settings. Senior librarians typically have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and earn an average base salary of $59,500 per year.

    College professor

    The duties of a college professor may include holding lectures, conducting experiments, and helping students with research in a specialized subject. They usually hold a graduate-level qualification and earn an average base salary of $88,259 per year.

    School principal

    These educational administrators are usually highly trained and hold a master’s degree. However, some principals have only a bachelor’s degree and work their way up with experience. They oversee the daily operations of elementary, middle, or high schools. Generally, they’re tasked with hiring staff, monitoring student progress, and developing curricula. School principals earn an average base salary of $109,132.

    Financial aid

    Most of the schools we’ve mentioned have financial aid opportunities available for postsecondary students. It’s always a good idea to inquire whether your chosen school offers financial assistance, scholarships, or payment plans. You can start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form to see whether you’re eligible for financial assistance.