Online Associate Degree in Education

Teaching is a rewarding career that helps students of all ages, from children to working adults. An associate degree in teaching is the most basic education degree available. Graduates can obtain entry-level positions as preschool teachers, paraeducators, or directors of childcare facilities. Many also pursue a bachelor's degree to become fully-licensed teachers or administrators.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities for preschool teachers will increase by 10% by 2026.

Within each teaching program, students choose between several concentrations, including early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education, and special education. These concentrations introduce students to teaching methods for different age groups and populations. An early childhood education specialization is ideal for students who want to become daycare teachers, while a secondary education degree benefits those who want to teach older children.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities for preschool teachers will increase by 10% by 2026, a growth rate that is faster than average for all occupations. Prospective students interested in a career in education may prefer the flexibility and accessibility of an online teaching program over an on-campus program.

An associate degree in teaching online prepares graduates for a range of careers in teaching and related fields. Graduates usually go on to obtain a bachelor's degree, but there are many positions available to those with only an associate degree. Graduates primarily work in early childhood education as preschool teachers or daycare teachers. They can also pursue careers in childcare administration.

In these positions, graduates provide educational and caregiving services for young children. They teach vital skills such as language development, communication and social interaction, and early reading and writing skills. Paraeducators provide support for teachers in K-12 classrooms, working with students of all ages and assisting with classroom management.

An associate degree does not qualify graduates to become licensed teachers, as state licensing boards require at least a bachelor's degree. However, an associate degree does prepare graduates to continue their education in teaching. Graduates can work entry-level positions while simultaneously pursuing a bachelor's in education. Students can transfer all credits earned from their associate program into a bachelor's program, allowing them to skip prerequisites and general education requirements.

Many two-year colleges require applicants to provide high school transcripts. Some schools also set GPA minimums or request standardized test scores. These requirements vary by school and program, so prospective students should carefully research potential programs before enrolling.

Prerequisites for an Online Teaching Associate Degree

  • High School Diploma/GED

    Most associate in teaching programs require a high school diploma or equivalent. This ensures that students are ready for college-level coursework in an associate teaching program.

  • Minimum GPA

    Some associate degrees set minimum GPA requirements for new students. Some programs may provisionally admit students who fall below the minimum GPA.

  • Test Scores

    Most community colleges and other associate-degree granting institutions do not require test scores in order to enroll. However, some schools accept SAT or ACT scores, particularly for students who fail to meet the GPA minimum.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Associate in Teaching

Curriculum for an Online Associate in Teaching

Each online associate in teaching program designs its own curriculum to best meet the needs of their students. Some programs may specialize in certain areas such as early childhood education or special education, while other programs emphasize general teaching skills. Although specific coursework varies by program, many online teaching degrees include courses on the following topics.

Example Courses

Introduction to Teaching Most online associate in teaching programs offer an introductory course that covers the basics of the teaching profession. This course may include an opportunity to observe working teachers.
Early Childhood Education Coursework in early childhood education emphasizes the principles and methods of teaching young children. An early childhood education associate degree online includes specialized coursework in best practices, play-based learning, and skills assessment for young learners.
Teaching Reading Reading is a central skill for children at all grade levels. Students in this course learn the best practices for teaching reading skills at various ages. The class also covers different types of reading and how to assess reading skills.
Student Teaching Experience Some associate in teaching programs require field experience in education, either as a standalone course or as part of the coursework for other classes. At the associate level, this component usually involves observing teachers. Students in an online teaching program can usually complete the field experience at a local school in their community.
Introduction to Special Education Future teachers who want to instruct students with diverse learning needs may benefit from an introductory course in special education. This course covers how to facilitate learning for students with learning disabilities.

How Long Does it Take to get an Online Associate in Teaching?

Before enrolling in an online associate in teaching program, prospective students should research how long each program takes to complete. Most associate programs require 60 credits of coursework and can be completed in two years. However, several factors affect the length of an online degree, including the program's structure, course requirements, and a student's schedule outside of class. Students must also consider whether they plan to enroll full-time or part-time. Some programs may also require a practicum or student teaching experience, which may not be offered in the summer. Prospective students can contact an admissions advisor to learn more about program duration.

Students have many options when it comes to choosing an online associate degree in education. Prospective students must evaluate potential programs on several factors including cost, location, time to completion, and specializations.

When evaluating the cost of a program, students should examine the cost per credit as well as the total credits required. Most associate degrees require 60 credits of coursework. The length of time to degree can also influence cost. For example, part-time programs spread out the cost of a degree over time, which may be beneficial for those who work full-time while earning their degree. However, some schools provide incentives for enrolling in a full course load. Students can obtain financial assistance in the form of research scholarships, grants, and loans. All students should fill out the FAFSA, which helps prospective students learn about their federal grant and loan opportunities.

Since online students are not restricted to schools in their local area, they can choose from the best programs in the country. When selecting an online program, prospective students should research access to support resources and determine if a program includes student teaching requirements. Distance learners should also examine the specializations offered in each program. Students who plan to earn a bachelor's degree in elementary education may prefer an associate program, which offers prerequisite classes for the bachelor's degree at a cheaper cost.

Finding Accredited Online Teaching Programs

Prospective students should always check the accreditation status of any online teaching program. Accreditation is a voluntary process that requires institutions of higher learning to meet certain educational and professional standards. Students enrolled in accredited programs qualify for federal financial aid. Graduates from accredited institutions also fare better on the job market, while graduates from unaccredited schools may have a hard time finding employment. Accreditation is especially important for transferring into a bachelor's program and obtaining a teaching license.

Students enrolled in accredited programs qualify for federal financial aid.

Prospective students should also check whether the teaching program holds programmatic accreditations. For example, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) both offer accreditation to teaching programs.

Accreditation is a signifier of academic excellence, and researching a program's accreditation status is an important step in choosing an online early childhood education associate program. Students can check whether a school is accredited or not through the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

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After earning an associate degree in teaching, graduates are prepared to pursue entry-level roles in the field of education. Most positions, such as teaching aid and preschool teacher, involve working with young children. These professionals should be enthusiastic about working with young children. Earning a bachelor's degree opens the door to many more opportunities than those described below.

Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers work with children between the ages of three and five. They provide play-based education in social skills, grammar and language, and motor skills. Many preschools provide a Pre-K educational curriculum for children preparing to enter kindergarten.

Childcare Worker

Childcare workers care for young children, most often from birth to kindergarten. These professionals provide basic needs such as feeding, diapering, and safe play. Childcare workers may also offer Pre-K educational material or assist older children in afterschool care programs.

Teacher Assistant

Most associate degree graduates work as teacher assistants or paraprofessionals, often at the elementary level. They help teachers by managing classrooms and giving students additional attention and instruction. Many teacher assistants do not work in the summer.

Daycare Director

Daycare and childcare center directors supervise childcare workers, oversee daycare activities, and run their center's programs. They also design plans and prepare budgets. Some states may require a bachelor's degree in order to work as a daycare director.

Preschool Director

These managers operate preschools. Their tasks include hiring and supervising preschool teachers, overseeing the program's administration, preparing budgets, and designing program plans. In some states, preschool directors must have a bachelor's degree.

Salary Expectations for Associate Degree in Teaching Graduates

Earning an associate degree in teaching prepares graduates for several careers in early childhood education, and salaries ranges from $16,185 a year for education paraprofessionals to salaries in the low $30,000s for childcare directors. The salaries for teaching graduates vary depending on job title and location. Teachers can increase their earning potential by pursuing a bachelor's degree in teaching or a related field such as early childhood education.

Average Salary for Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education Graduates
Daycare Director $31,955
Child Care Center Director $31,868
Preschool Director $30,566
Toddler Teacher $24,846
Education Paraprofessional $16,185

Average Salary and Employment for Education, Training, and Library Occupations

Educational Paths After Earning an Associate Degree in Teaching

An associate degree in teaching prepares graduates to transfer into a bachelor's program. Most teaching positions require at least a bachelor's degree, and state licensing boards also require a bachelor's degree to earn teaching licensure. Earning a bachelor's degree in teaching or a related field can increase your earning potential and job opportunities. Most four-year schools waive general education requirements for incoming students who have already earned an associate degree.

The cost of an associate degree in teaching varies, and many students need outside financial support. Fortunately, students have several options when it comes to paying for an associate degree, including scholarships, loans, grants, and tuition assistance programs. First, teaching students can receive scholarships, which may be offered through private organizations, professional associations, state departments of education, or individual schools. In addition to national scholarships, students should also consider local scholarships and college scholarships.

Teaching students can also obtain loans and grants. Filling out the FAFSA is the first step to receiving federal financial aid. The FAFSA requires income information from students and in some cases their parents. While loans must be paid back, grants do not. State governments operate the TEACH grant program, which provides funding for students planning to teach in low-income areas. Although grants do not need to be paid back, they come with certain stipulations or conditions. For example, TEACH recipients must pay back the amount of the grant if they choose not to teach for at least four years.

Scholarships for Online Associate Degree in Education Students

Students pursuing an online associate degree in teaching can apply for scholarships to fund their education. Applications may require transcripts, personal essays, letters of recommendation, or other materials. In addition to teaching scholarships, associate degree students can apply for several community college scholarships. Below is just a small selection of available financial aid opportunities for associate students.

National Board Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: The American Association for Women in Community Colleges offers eight National Board Scholarships each year. One student per region receives the award. View Scholarship

Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in a two-year college who have a minimum GPA of 3.5 are eligible for this award. Applicants must be Phi Theta Kappa members.

Ventura County Community Foundation Scholarship $800 to $2,500

Who Can Apply: Ventura County, California, offers multiple scholarships for students pursuing an associate degree in education. Applicants must be graduates from Ventura County high schools. View Scholarship

TEACH Grant $4,000

Who Can Apply: TEACH Grants are slightly different than other scholarships. They are open to students who plan to work as teachers in low-income areas in certain high-needs fields. However, if the recipients do not subsequently teach for at least four years, the grant converts to a loan which must be repaid. Associate degree students are eligible for TEACH Grants if their credits are eligible for transfer toward a bachelor's degree program. View Scholarship
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children NAEYC administers an accreditation system for early childhood programs. The association also offers services for early childhood educators, including professional development and educational resources. NAEYC operates over 300 local affiliates.
  • The Association of American Educators AAE is a national association that represents teachers at all levels and advocates for high educational standards. AAE members are eligible for several classroom scholarships and grants. Members can also receive services such as legal protection and liability insurance.
  • The National Education Association NEA represents educators at all levels. With more than 3 million members, it is one of the largest education associations in the world. Founded in 1857, NEA offers professional development resources, discounted legal services, and scholarships to all members.
  • Association for Childhood Education International ACEI is an international organization that advocates for educators and students around the world. ACEI provides a variety of professional development resources for educators and performs research on best practices in the education of children from birth through adolescence.
  • The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ASCD provides support services for teachers as they earn degrees and pursue careers in teaching. Members can access the association's career center, participate in professional development webinars, and receive school supply discounts.
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