Secondary Education Degree
To become a secondary education teacher in the K-12 school system, aspiring educators must earn a college degree. In most school districts in the United States, secondary education teachers work in high schools and middle schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, "the United States has defined lower secondary education as grades 7 through 9 and upper secondary as grades 10 through 12."
International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) Levels
|ISCED Level||Definition||U.S. Equivalent|
|0||Preprimary||Kindergarten and below|
|2||Lower Secondary||7th-9th grades|
|3||Upper Secondary||10th-12th grades or first 3 years of vocational education|
|5||Higher Education||Community or junior colleges or vocational technical institutes (non-university) leading to an associate's degree|
|University or other 4-year education institution leading to a bachelor's degree|
|A University or professional institute leading to a master's or doctor's degree|
Graduates of secondary education degree programs will master the theories of teaching, planning, and implementing a curriculum as well as their chosen area of concentration.
Teaching fields from which you may choose include:
- Biological science
- Physical science
- General science
- Social studies
- Physical education
- Foreign language
Secondary education degree programs combine the elements of theory and practice within the curriculum and provide aspiring middle and high school teachers with the foundation and experience needed to work with students from urban and rural communities across a range of ability levels.
Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education
How Do I Know If a Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education Is Right for Me?
If you're seeking a bachelor's degree in secondary education, you are likely interested in teaching middle school and high school students. You have option of earning a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. Whether your program awards you a B.A. or a B.S. depends on the institution you attend and the subject matter you plan to teach.
For example, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas offers a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education that is similar to the university's Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education but requires an additional two courses in the same foreign language.
A bachelor's degree is the minimum degree requirement for educators in most states.
Bachelor's Program Admission Requirements
Most secondary education degree programs require passing scores on state mandated exams prior to official acceptance into the program. Some schools also require letters of reference, a minimum GPA, and prerequisite courses.
Depending on a student's course load, an average bachelor's degree will take four years to complete. Generally, anywhere from one to two of those years are focused on meeting general studies requirements.
Combined with a teaching certificate or credential, a bachelor's degree in secondary education will qualify you to teach the subject area of your training in K-12 schools.
Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State
Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.
Courses Common to Secondary Education Bachelor's Degree Programs
Although each college will have its own curriculum, the following courses are part of a bachelor's in secondary education program.
Secondary Teaching Methods
Teaching grades seven through 12 requires a different set of skills from those needed to teach young children. The Secondary Teaching Methods course will help you learn the techniques for teaching older students and higher levels of abstract thinking.
Secondary school teachers must implement appropriate classroom management methods for their students' unique needs at this stage of development. Classroom Management covers the basics in classroom management techniques to ensure that your classroom and teaching to stay on track.
In Adolescent Psychology, you'll learn about the life changes during the teenage years develop an understanding of adolescent behavior and the ways in which you can support them at this stage in their development.
Potential Course Topics and Research Interests in Secondary Education Bachelor's Programs
A four-year bachelor's degree in secondary education requires mastery of the subject matter and the completion of at least one block of teaching practicum. Many states have implemented two or three practicum blocks, as time in the classroom with a mentor benefits teacher practice. Programs vary between institutions, but most programs require mastery of the following objectives:
- Develop a time-effective and efficient method of lesson planning that encompasses differentiated instruction and evidence-based evaluation
- Objectively assess student work for established learning objectives, culling out exemplars to retain from year to year
- Develop a scope of knowledge in teachable subjects in order to effectively teach curriculum
- Learn about educational, social, and developmental milestones of high school students
- Learn and practice an effective and inclusive array of teaching principles
- Learn through practice effective interaction skills to use with fellow teachers, administrators and support staff
- Effectively maintain the classroom environment and school culture by networking with other school and district stakeholders
- Foster proactive, neutral, and evidence-based relationships with families and students about student achievement
- Practice student-teacher, family-teacher, and collegial conflict resolution
- Practice and refine classroom management skills
- Create opportunities for formal and informal mentorship throughout undergrad studies, volunteer work and practicum placement
- Access collegial support and ‘team teaching' opportunities throughout coursework, volunteer work and practicum
- Observe classroom procedures and routines as a teacher in the practicum classroom
- Survey youth and teen developmental and cognitive milestones as they relate to secondary educational coursework and timelines
- Review and report on effective teaching practice for children in the same classroom environment but who are at different developmental or academic levels
- Enhance and diversify teaching practices for youths who are from diverse cultural backgrounds
- Critically examine the relationship between schools and their communities over time
- Debate aspects of the ‘ideal' school through various social and cultural ideologies
- Learn foundational concepts related to language and literacy at the secondary level as they impact learning and teaching high school students
- Gain practical skills that are key to helping children retain and expand language, reading fluency, and other English skills
- Gain practical skills that are critical to helping students learn problem solving, advanced operations, algebra, calculous, and geometry
- Create effective pedagogical groupings of students for instructional purposes, group work and classroom management
Online Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education
Earning a bachelor's degree in secondary education online can be an attractive option for those who are also working or caring for a family full time.
Some bachelor's degrees can be earned fully online, but secondary education degree programs generally require observations within a classroom setting. However, completing even part of one's classes online can save time and money by eliminating the commute.
Because physical attendance in a traditional college classroom is not required, students can complete their studies when and where it is convenient for them. The decision is completely up to the student and how they wish to coordinate their studies with their daily schedule.
Many students these days have jobs to keep up with and families to care for. These responsibilities restrict their time and ability to attend classes on a campus. In many cases, these constraints prevent people from pursuing a degree-and subsequently, their career goals-altogether.
Luckily, online education has eliminated this obstacle because students in online degree programs do not have to worry about missing class due to work or family obligations.
Opportunity and Accessibility
With online degree programs, students are able to enroll in programs regardless of their geographic location, scheduling restrictions, or physical ability.
Students have even reported better concentration and focus in online classes because there are fewer distractions from other students and classroom activity.
Example of a School's Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education Program
University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)
Bachelor's in Secondary Education
Program Overview: This program is designed to prepare secondary teachers to step into the classroom. Those that complete the program will be licensed in the state of Nevada.
Required Courses: Core courses are required of all education majors. Subject specific courses depend on the specialization of your choice. Visit the college website for details regarding the requirements for your subject area.
Admission Requirements: Proof of graduation and a 3.0 GPA from an accredited or approved high school is necessary for admission to the university. This is in addition to a complete application. If all high school credits as needed have not been attained, you may have an ACT composite score of at least 22, an SAT score (EBRW and math) of at least 1120 (score of 1040 for exams taken prior to March 2016), or a Nevada Advanced High School Diploma.
Tuition: A full-time resident student in the 2022-2023 academic year can attend classes for approximately $4,629 per semester during the fall and spring semesters. However, additional hours above 12 credits will result in higher costs overall.
Master's Degree in Secondary Education
How Do I Know If a Master's Degree in Secondary Education Is Right for Me?
A Master's Degree in Secondary Education is for individuals who wish to further their careers in the field of education.
You will need a bachelor's degree to earn a master's degree in secondary education. You may also need a valid teaching license or certification and any of the following prerequisites to be admitted to a master's program.
- A GRE score within the last three to five years
- Passing scores on the PRAXIS exams in your area of study
- Demonstrated professional experience in a related field
A master's degree can usually be completed in two years but may take longer. Some colleges offer accelerated programs, which can be completed in as little a year.
Look for a master's program at a regionally accredited university at minimum. Ideally, the program you choose will be accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) as well.
Courses Needed for a Master's Degree in Secondary Education
Secondary education master's programs generally include courses that cover legal, cultural, and technology-related topics.
Law and American Education
Educators in secondary classrooms must be aware of legal issues that arise in secondary schools. Master's program students will explore these laws, legal reasoning, and the importance of contemporary legal concerns in American schools.
Language and Culture
This class explores language (phonology, morphology, syntax) through a cultural lens that examines the relationship between language, culture and thought and the implications of linguistic and cultural differences in a classroom setting.
Technology Applications for Learning Environments
As a teacher in the 21st century, you must be familiar with the advancing technologies available in and outside the classroom. This course covers the technology resources needed for classroom instruction.
Course Topics and Research Interests in Secondary Education Master's Programs
Pursuing a master's degree in secondary education offers you a unique opportunity to further your scholarly and professional development. Upon completion of the degree, you will be qualified to work as a classroom teacher, an administrator, an educational leader, or a researcher.
Core elements of most master's programs include:
- Examination of leadership in educational institutions and in other organizational, professional, and community settings
- Enhancement of learning for the social, cultural, digital and economic needs of today's students
- In-depth evaluation of programs and persons to assess performance appraisals, participatory evaluation, evaluation capacity building, psychometrics, standardized testing, and large-scale assessment
- Curriculum and policy studies for current and historic educational systems through a global context
- Analysis of educational movements that inform current understanding of curriculum and policy in education
- Communication of current issues in education to administrators, educators, and researchers
- Examination of the impact of societies, cultures, and languages on education
- Critical discourse of the social, historical, cultural, and linguistic dimensions of education
- Critical discourse of the effects of power, diversity, gender and marginalization on students' education
- Contemporary perspectives on culture and literacy
- Examination of education, the minority student population, and paths of educational mobility
- Analysis of historical perspectives on institutionalization
- Second language education and its impact on English language learners and their immediate familial groupings
- Current research and practices as applied to the teaching and learning processes in the secondary school environment
- Pedagogical study across a range of contexts in the secondary environment
- Consideration of adult education, learning, and motivation in the secondary school environment
- Critical analysis of educational technologies and their impact on the secondary school learner and classroom
- Planned and ad hoc professional development and its impact on teacher practice in the secondary school environment
- Special education services for secondary students and inclusive classroom environments
- Specific subjects in the high school environment
Online Master's Degree in Secondary Education
You can earn your master's degree in secondary education at a convenient pace and on a personalized schedule by enrolling in an online master's program. Some unique characteristics of online master's programs include their suitability to internally motivated learners and the flexibility they offer.
Proactive learners are excellent candidates for an online learning environment. Such learners are able to motivate themselves to remain organized, engaged, and on top of their coursework. If this describes you, you will likely find success in an online secondary education master's program.
Potential master's degree candidates are often discouraged by the time commitment of a traditional on-campus program. Fortunately, online degree programs have eliminated this obstacle. Online and hybrid programs allow students to complete assignments on a schedule that is convenient for them.
Example of a School's Master's Degree in Secondary Education Program
California State University, Fullerton
Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Secondary Education
Program Overview: This program is designed to help secondary classroom teachers upgrade their skills, techniques, and knowledge to prepare to become curriculum leaders in the field.
Required Courses: You must complete at least 31 units. All units must be approved by an advisor prior to scheduling. Core course work will account for the majority of units.
Admission Requirements: Master's students should hold an acceptable bachelor's degree from an institution accredited by a regional accrediting association or have completed equivalent academic preparation. Students be in good academic standing at the last college or university attended and have a grade-point average of at least 2.5 on the last degree completed or in the last 60 semester units attempted.
Tuition: Tuition for master's students will range between $2,000 and $4,000 per semester, based on the program and residency requirements.
Doctorate Degree in Secondary Education
How Do I Know If a Doctorate in Secondary Education Is Right for Me?
Educators who wish to further their knowledge and advance their expertise in the field are appropriate candidates for a doctoral degree in secondary education. Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs are research-focused and challenging.
Doctorate program graduates typically hold either a doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.) or a doctor of education degree (Ed.D.). Typically, Ed.D. holders plan to stay in the education system or serve on a local board of education long term.
Doctoral Program Admission Requirements
Doctoral students must have completed a master's degree program in a related field and obtained a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Some schools will accept students with a bachelor's degree if the program offers a joint master's degree and doctorate program. However, most programs will require teaching experience, teacher certification, and a master's degree.
If a you already hold a master's degree, you can complete a doctorate in secondary education in roughly six to nine semesters. If you don't have a master's degree, you will need an additional two to four semesters to earn your doctorate.
A doctoral degree in secondary education can be costly, but financial aid through FAFSA, grants, loans, and internships are often available. In addition, many employing schools will reimburse the cost of tuition for teachers in high-demand subject areas, such as foreign language, math, science, and advanced classes, who agree to a minimum number of years at the school.
Earning a doctorate in the field of secondary education can open doors to advanced positions within the industry. Careers in school administration and academic coaching, among many other areas in the field of education, offer greater upward mobility and higher salaries.
Courses Typical to Secondary Education Doctorate Programs
The goal of a doctorate program in secondary education is to prepare top educators to create, assess, and teach best practices in education. Educators who hold a doctorate may also teach future educators in their area of expertise.
Educational Research Methods
Doctoral research is an integral part of the educational process at this level. The Educational Research Methods course introduces students to qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods for research in education and will prepare you for the hours of research needed for your dissertation.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Educational Process
As a doctorate-level teacher, you are likely to hold a higher position within the school system. This means that you may be responsible for evaluating an educational process in a single classroom or an entire school system.
Holding a Ph.D. or Ed.D. can move you toward leadership roles within a school system. Faculty Leadership is a course designed to prepare students for these roles by introducing them to proven leadership techniques.
Potential Course Topics and Research Interests in Secondary Education PhD Programs
Educators who are interested in becoming doctoral candidates in the field of secondary education may apply to a select number of programs throughout the nation. Often, candidates must declare a specialty on which they will focus, such as curriculum and pedagogy, cognition, literacy, assessment, policy, leadership, or special education.
Students continue their research in a practical or clinical setting depending on their interests and goals.
Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs are highly individual but do have some similar foundational objectives, including researching and analyzing:
- Causative links between power, culture, race, class, ethnicity, wealth, gender, and family background and their effects on the secondary education environment
- Current educational policy and decision-making processes through the secondary school perspective
- Student growth, assessment, and achievement at the secondary level through cross-cultural research
- Educational policy creation and management at the secondary level
- Policy makers, and relevant cultural contexts in order to identify causative links
- Causative relationships between communication style and culture in the classroom environment and their effects on secondary students
- Secondary school leadership and governance practices and map knowledge mobilization
- Theories of positive teaching practices and policies for secondary students
- Social and historical eras that have advanced institutional secondary school teaching
- Schemas of learning, motivation, and cognitive processes at the secondary level
- Students' literacy and numeracy skills in their first language
- Correlative factors between secondary educational goals, culture, and technology
- Organizational behavior to improve educational systems
- Educational leadership and its historical and future impact on education and students in high schools
- Educational leadership process at the secondary level
- Social, funding, and political trends that influence educational policy development and deployment
- Social and gender perspectives of teachers and in the classroom with the intent to promote educational and cultural equity and mobility
Online Doctorate in Secondary Education
Choosing to get a doctorate degree online typically means a hybrid program that is a combination of online courses and brief face to face seminars during the dissertation process. An online program is a true time saver for those working or raising a family in addition to attending school.
As an online doctoral student, you will benefit from:
- Greater flexibility
- More opportunity and accessibility
As with any online degree, motivated, proactive learners are best suited to this mode of learning. Doctoral candidates, having already completed many years of education, will be familiar with their learning style and know whether they will thrive as an online student.
Example of a School's Doctorate in Secondary Education Program
Kennesaw State University
Ed.D in Secondary Education - Mathematics
Program Overview: This Ed.D program is designed for candidates that hold a Master's Degree and wish to develop the skills, knowledge, and disposition to serve as learner-centered specialists.
Required Courses: A minimum of 30 credit hours with previous approval are required for graduation.
Admission Requirements: A master's degree in education or a related field from an accredited institution is a requirement. A valid and renewable teaching certificate, at least three years professional experience, a competitive GRE score, and letters of reference are also needed. You must submit an application with a non-refundable $60 application fee.
Tuition: Tuition and fees are different for residents and non-residents and range from approximately $2,000 to $4,000 per semester with a full course load of 12 credits during the 2023 academic year.
Specialty Secondary Education Degree Programs
A secondary math teacher may be responsible for teaching basic math classes or specialized classes such as algebra, calculus, geometry, or trigonometry. Typically, a math teacher will teach each of these classes over time and will be required to demonstrate their understanding of teaching methods and math concepts.
Math is a high-need discipline in schools across the country, and grants are often available to help with certification costs.
A secondary science teacher may teach grade-level basic science courses or specialized classes such as biology, chemistry, advanced placement classes, or other science-related areas. As such, you may study general science with a minor or major in specific areas.
The high need for science teachers may qualify them for educational grants that can cover a portion of their student loans.
Secondary English instructors teach reading and writing skills to students at varying levels. Some teachers may be required to teach advanced placement English classes to prepare students for placement exams.
English teachers must be highly proficient in writing, well versed in reading techniques, and qualified in teaching techniques.
A secondary social studies teacher may teach world history, civics, and some advanced classes. Thus, they will take courses in history, world studies, and civics at various secondary levels. These courses are in addition to technology, technique, and curriculum classes that are required of most educators.
Physical Education (PE)
A secondary physical education teacher will be in charge of teaching gym classes. A degree in this area will require physical education classes, growth and development courses, and safety education courses. These teachers also teach sports and sportsmanship to students in middle and high school.
Secondary Education Degree Scholarships
Earning a degree in secondary education may require some financial forethought. There are many grants and scholarships available for students who want to become secondary education teachers.
Cortland's Urban Recruitment of Educators (CURE) Scholarship
To apply to C.U.R.E., you must major in an area of education and maintain high academic achievement. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to teach in high-needs schools in urban areas. First priority is given to applicants from groups that have been traditionally underrepresented or underserved in the field.
Barbara Lotze Scholarships for Future Teachers
If you are studying to become a high school physics teacher, you may be eligible for a stipend of up to $3,000 and a complimentary AAPT Student Membership for one year. The American Association of Physics Teachers offers the Barbara Lotze Scholarships for Future Teachers, which may be granted to a student for each of four years. Applicant must be an undergraduate student enrolled in an accredited college or university (or high school senior accepted for such enrollment) pursuing a degree leading to a career as a high school physics teacher.
Learn about other Scholarships and Grants available to you.
Career Pathways with a Degree in Secondary Education
Earning a degree in Secondary Education can open up many career opportunities.
With a secondary education degree and a subject-specific teaching credential, you will qualify for a rewarding career as a high school or middle school teacher. Alternatively, you may choose to apply your talent and skills to academic coaching or teaching advanced placement courses.
Advanced Placement Teacher
Advanced placement (AP) teachers typically teach one or two advanced classes in a specific subject area, such as history, biology, or English. These education professionals may also teach basic-level classes. A bachelor's degree can qualify you to teach advanced placement courses, but a master's degree is generally preferred. The median average salary for an advanced placement teacher is between $46,000 and $78,000 each year.
Middle School Teacher
Middle school teachers teach grades six through eight, typically only one subject area across grade levels. Middle school teachers introduce students to advanced thinking and problem-solving skills they'll need for future classes. The median annual salary for a middle school teacher with a bachelor's degree is between $61,320 per year.
Learn more about becoming a Middle School Teacher.
High School Teacher
A high school teacher is typically responsible for a single subject area and may teach to several grade levels.
High school teachers usually minor in a general subject area-such as reading, math, science, social studies, or an elective-during a bachelor's degree program. However, earning a master's or doctorate degree offers opportunities for career and salary growth. Job growth for secondary education is rising at an average to above average rate.
The annual median salary for high school teachings is $61,820.
If you are interested in becoming a high school teacher, click the link to learn more.
An academic coach must have a minimum of three to five years' experience and a master's or doctoral degree. These professionals are leaders who teach fellow educators to implement new strategies and plans to ensure that educational standards and goals are being met within a school and region.
Academic coaches may address all areas and disciplines, or they may concentrate on specific subjects for individual schools, school districts, or counties. An academic coach median salary is $63,740 per year. Employment is projected to grow 7 percent from 2021 to 2031.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for High school teachers, Middle School teachers, and Instructional Coordinators reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.