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What is an Educator?

A career in education is a wonderful thing. No matter what specialization they choose, all Alabama educators are engaged with one of the most important jobs in our nation: teaching the next generations of leaders and workers. The entire profession works as a system of interconnected people who all share a passion for educating youngsters. In fact, the profession goes far beyond merely cramming information into students so that they can perform on a standardized exam. It includes helping them maneuver themselves as growing women and men with responsibilities and duties.

In fact, the education field goes far beyond high school and encompasses college and university instruction and administration. Corporations also rely on educational professionals to help design training materials, and even retirees love to take courses on a variety of topics they may have missed the first time around. Wherever people are expected to learn and grow, educators are there to help them reach their goals.

Like most states, Alabama's teachers must complete a comprehensive teacher preparation program, pass the PRAXIS II subject exam for their specialty, and pass a background check, etc. To help budding educators learn and grow, the state's colleges and universities have provided education programs that are tailored to meet the requirements of the Alabama State Department of Education.

To find the best program for you, first determine what part of education intrigues you the most. Some are in love with specific academic topics, such as Mathematics, History, or Literature and might prefer teaching high school students. Others might have more holistic ideas of education and will likely prefer middle grades or even younger students, who need more attention from a purely developmental standpoint. Still others may be fascinated with creating curriculum and instructional materials. Below you are sure to find insights into the field of education, including a list of Alabama's finest online education programs.

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Education Degree Options in Alabama

Associate Degree in Education (AS)

While you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in education to become a licensed teacher in Alabama, you can still start a career with an associate education degree. Depending on your state's regulations, you may be able to land a full-time job in a school as a paraprofessional, also known as a teacher's assistant. You can also find jobs as a school administrator and substitute teacher. Keep in mind that the standards for substitute teachers can vary from district to district, so be sure to investigate their requirements. Yet another option for aspiring teachers is an associate degree in early childhood education that will help you land a job with a preschool. If you later wish to achieve a full Alabama teaching credential, you will have loads of experience in the classroom.

There may even be other opportunities to teach in programs for prisoners or as a tutor for younger students. Keep in mind that any experience as an instructor inside a classroom will help you in the long run. If your goal is a Bachelor’s in Education and a teaching license, this experience will look great on a resume.

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Bachelor's Degree in Education (BS)

A four-year, bachelor’s degree in education is the threshold degree level for all licensed teachers. During your undergraduate years, you can specialize in the level you wish to teach. Whether you aim to teach kindergarten, elementary school, middle grades, or high school you will surely find a program that your state board of education recognizes as preparing the best teachers. For those who desire to teach high school students you can focus on your subject area, such as Literature, Mathematics, or Science, to name a few.

Many of Alabama's education degree programs also support specialty concentrations such as Special Education, Gifted Education, and perhaps even Technical or Vocational education. You may apply these concentrations to your chosen age group, though vocational and technical instruction is largely the domain of high school teachers.

Master's Degree in Education (MS or MC)

Though not necessary to attain a teaching certificate, a master’s degree in education from an Alabama college or university will certainly enhance your career. The added instruction will inform your work in the classroom and it will also mean a larger paycheck. Alabama's school systems encourage teachers to earn an advanced degree in education because that helps elevate the status of their school, thus providing added funding, etc.

An MEd can even help take your career in a new direction. For instance, you could choose an MEd in counseling and then leave the classroom for a counselor's office. You could also take graduate courses to gain specific skill sets for a special education classroom. For instance, some specialize in deaf education, instruction for the blind, as well as deeper work in learning disorders or even behavioral disorders.

PhD Degree in Education (PhD)

This is one of the rarer degrees in Alabama education, but attaining a EdD (Doctor of Education) or a PhD is vital if you wish to become a school administrator. Even if you remain in the classroom, your doctorate will elevate your salary while also giving you deeper insights into the instructional process and how to best serve the needs of your students. Keep in mind that your doctoral degree will be an extension of the work you did for your master’s degree. You may be able to focus on a specific issue within your field for your dissertation. However, if you have a master’s degree in special education, for instance, you'll likely need to stick with that general field for your EdD or PhD dissertation.

A doctoral degree in education also is useful if you wish to teach future teachers. While Alabama colleges and universities allow instructors to work with only a master’s degree in education, a doctoral degree in education is more likely to pave the way to a full-time, or even a tenured position.

Become a Teaching Professional in Alabama

To become an educational professional/teacher, you should first determine that this is the field for you. Teaching is a highly demanding field that asks you to be a parent, social worker, administrator, caregiver, and instructor and sometimes you need to be all of the above in the same moment. Thus, you need to have a deep love for children and have a desire to help them become the best adults possible.

Keep in mind that there are also many different career paths available for education professionals. You can teach in a traditional classroom with an Alabama teacher's license, or you can specialize in special education, counseling, educational research, curriculum development, or administration.

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To start your career in education, you should enroll in an education bachelor’s degree program that is acknowledged by the Alabama State Department of Education. Unless you intend to pursue counseling, it is necessary to first major in education. Most will take the teacher preparation track, which is often the only (and best) choice. Your program will surely have a certification officer who is an expert on Alabama's regulations for teaching certificates.

Once you know that you desire a long and fulfilling career in education, it's first important to know what age group you wish to work with. If you are unsure when you are about to enroll in a program, you may wish to find a school whose education department prepares students to teach at any grade level. This way you won't have to transfer if your program doesn't meet your needs.

Once you have your Alabama teaching license, you can enter a classroom and launch your teaching career. If you decide later that you would like to specialize in some way, you can return to school, pass the appropriate PRAXIS examination, and adjust your career path to match. For instance, some educators decide that they want to work with gifted students while others find that they want to specialize and teach science or language. Some of these specializations may require a master’s degree, so consult the Alabama State Department of Education.

Top College Programs in Alabama for Education

  • University of Alabama:
    UA offers students a comprehensive education department that includes counseling, kinesiology, and educational research, among many other sub-fields within the educational sphere. UA students have many online and blended programs to choose from in case they require more flexibility in their schedule. Graduate students of education will likewise find a wide range of topics to pursue.
  • Auburn University:
    Auburn students have no shortage of opportunities when it comes to their education degree. Students can choose between science education, elementary education, and early childhood education to name a few. After a few years in the field, students will find that Auburn's Graduate school of Education has many more options including education specialist degrees. EdS degrees can include foreign languages, library media, music education, or special education, to name a few.
  • Samford University:
    Samford's Orlean Beeson School of Education is among the best teacher preparation programs in Alabama. In fact, they boast a 100% pass rate on the Praxis II licensure tests. On top of that, 100% of Samford education students find jobs or enroll in graduate school within three months of graduation.

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  • University of Alabama at Birmingham:
    UAB's School of Education consistently raises the bar for educators in Alabama. Their program includes specialty areas such as teacher education, kinesiology, instructional design and development, and educational leadership, among other options. University of Alabama at Birmingham also offers future educators the option of learning online.
  • Tuskegee University:
    Among historically black colleges and universities, Tuskegee is one of the very best. Their education program is no small part of that phenomenal success. Students can focus their studies on elementary, secondary, or physical education for their teacher preparation program. In fact, their website reports that their students tend to pass their licensure exams at a rate of 100%.

Careers for Education Graduates

  • Preschool/Kindergarten Teachers:
    For this career path, teachers should start off with a degree in early childhood education. Preschool teachers may not need to pursue full licensure, however, but should still consider a bachelor’s degree in education if they later decide to teach K-3 students.
  • Special Education Teachers:
    SPED teachers are a special breed, but they are not all of a sort. Rather, SPED teachers can specialize in sub-topics such as Behavioral Disorders, Learning Disorders, Hearing Impaired students, or Developmental Disorders. This field tends to pay a bit more than traditional classroom teachers, but keep in mind that for every child in your charge you will need to prepare a detailed individual education plan (IEP).
  • Gifted and Talented Teachers:
    Even the brightest students need special attention so that they can realize their talents. Teachers in this specialty area often were in gifted programs when they were growing up and thus can relate to their students' special needs. Those who wish to concentrate in this field need to add the specialty to their license by taking special courses and passing the appropriate PRAXIS II subject test.
  • College Professors/Assistants:
    To teach at the college or university level you will at least need a master’s degree. However, these days you will need a PhD to find a full-time or tenure track position. Professionals who choose this track tend to have a real passion for their subject area, whether that be mathematics, economics, education, or literature, to name a few.
  • Education Counselors:
    These mental health professionals specialize in helping students overcome the difficulties they face as youngsters both at school and at home. They also help teachers understand the needs of their students. This position requires a master’s degree in school counseling.
  • Primary/Elementary Principals:
    School principals carry the load of the responsibility for their school's operation. They help teachers become better educators and students to become better pupils. To become a principal in Alabama, you'll first need experience in the classroom and then a graduate degree, if not a doctoral degree to land a plumb position.
  • K-12 School Administrators:
    This position is for seasoned educators who likely have earned a master’s degree, at the minimum. For this position an MEd will surely suffice but some professionals decide to earn an MBA with a focus on leadership. Some programs may even offer a dual MBA that is paired with an MEd.
  • College/University Administrators:
    Typically, college and university administrators have doctoral degrees and rise to their position from the ranks of the teaching faculty. For instance, many who preside over specific departments may have degrees in that field, such as education or mathematics. However, they might also be education professionals with a least master’s level degrees in education. Such generalists might serve in administration positions such as Provost, Dean of Students, or in admissions.
  • Instructional Designer:
    This position is surely growing due to the increasing emphasis on online education. Designers might work with schools to improve their curriculum. They might also consult with corporations who seek to train their employees for the next step in their corporate development.

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