A common misconception about educational qualifications is that they are only useful for future classroom teachers.
However, educational degrees can lead to all sorts of careers: they are often held by educational administrators, policy makers, researchers, technologists, curriculum designers, learning scientists, school counselors or psychologists, manufacturers of standardized tests and authors of textbooks. Employees of education-focused government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels—such as the US Department of Education—often also have graduate degrees in education, and the same is true of representatives of education-related charities and nonprofit organizations.
Here’s what you need to know about the hierarchy of degrees and how to choose the right one.
This is how you can tell whether an educational qualification is a good fit
An interest in helping others learn and a desire to work with children are common and compelling reasons for studying education, says Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. Education graduates tend to earn less than people who get a comparable level of education in other fields, so the majority of people who become educators do so for non-financial reasons, he adds.
According to an August 2022 report by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that analyzes working conditions for low- and middle-income workers in the United States, the pay gap between teachers and similarly educated professionals reached an all-time high in the year 2021, when teachers received an average of 23.5% less wages compared to other workers with comparable qualifications.
However, some apprenticeships typically result in six-figure salaries. For example, according to a recent report by AASA, the average salary of U.S. school district superintendents, most of whom have doctorates, was $147,000 in 2022.
Laura W. Perna, vice chancellor for faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, says educational degree recipients can use their degrees to do good work and benefit society. “When we think about the important issues that need to be addressed in our world, you need to know that so much of the answer comes down to education,” says Perna.
Stacey Ludwig Johnson, senior vice president and executive dean of the School of Education at Western Governors University, an online university, emphasizes that schools and school districts aren’t the only places where educational degree recipients can use their skills. For example, an educator can work as a corporate trainer, helping a company improve the skills of its workforce, she says.
The many types of educational majors
Although some education majors focus on teacher education, others focus on educational administration, policy, or technology. Some educational degrees examine the unique challenges faced by rural or urban schools.
Among the teacher training courses, some focus on a specific level of education, such as B. Preschool, elementary school, middle school or high school. Teacher training programs may also focus on how to teach a particular subject, or they may emphasize teaching methods that work well for a specific student population, such as B. adult learners, multilingual learners or people with disabilities.
When comparing specializations for educational degrees, keep in mind that the earning potential of educators varies widely depending on what part of the educational system they are trained for and what skills their job typically requires. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for US college teachers, who typically had a bachelor’s degree, was about $61,820 as of May 2021. That’s about twice the average salary of preschool teachers who typically had a staff degree and earned $30,210. The median salary among principals, who typically had a master’s degree, was $98,420.
Sometimes educators with the same level of education earn different amounts depending on their focus. For example, BLS data shows that teachers specializing in basic adult education generally had the same education as high school teachers — a bachelor’s degree — but their average 2021 salary was about $2,100 less.
Qualifications and how to find the right level
Management positions in the education sector usually require a completed education. The more training educators there are, the higher their salaries tend to be. For example, according to PayScale, a compensation data company, the average base salary for US workers with a Bachelor of Education or B.Ed. degree was $57,000, while the median annual base salary among those with a Doctor of Education or Ed.D. degrees, was $80,000.
Prospective students should analyze the resumes of people who have jobs they are interested in to find out the highest level of education they aspire to, experts say.
Many preschool teaching jobs require at least a two-year associate degree in early childhood education. Teacher assistants or paraprofessionals typically require at least two years of college courses or an associate degree to work in public school classrooms.
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education required for an entry-level K-12 teaching position in a US public school.
Some states require teachers to pursue a master’s degree within several years of beginning teaching in order to maintain their license. Teachers can also move up the pay scale with a master’s degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 58% of U.S. public school teachers teaching in the 2017-18 school year had degrees greater than a bachelor’s degree.
Instructional coordinators, or curriculum specialists, the education administrators who oversee curriculum, standards, teaching materials and often assessments, typically have master’s degrees and their median salary was $63,740 as of May 2021, BLS data shows.
College and university administrators, who earned an average annual salary of $96,910 as of May 2021, also typically have master’s degrees, according to the BLS. Working in education policy also usually requires a master’s degree.
Master’s degrees in education typically require two years of coursework.
College faculties that research and teach about education usually have a PhD or Ph.D., and sometimes they have an Ed.D. Degree. According to PayScale, the average salary for an employee with a Ph.D. in education was $87,000. Doctoral programs in education usually last at least three years and often last longer.
School district administration positions sometimes require a doctorate, and certain leadership positions in government agencies and nonprofit organizations are reserved for those with doctorates. Education researchers often have doctorates, as do school psychologists.
Guide to finding out how much schooling you need
When deciding how high their degree they want, student teachers should think about how much expertise and skills their desired job requires, says Carol Basile, dean of Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “The higher up you go in an educational institution, the more you want a PhD,” she says.