If you think teaching might be a rewarding career, a good way to find out is to earn an online or on-campus associate degree in education. A two-year degree is less expensive and time-consuming than getting the traditional bachelor’s program, and it could be a good way to gauge if a teaching career is something you’ll enjoy for the long-term. After all, working as teacher assistants or preschool teachers isn't for everyone. If you decide to pursue teaching, continuing your education with an online baccalaureate degree is relatively easy, and you may even have the experience of already having been in a classroom or a job as a child care worker to help you along.
An associate degree in education is usually available either as an Associate of Arts in Education or as an Associate of Science. these associate in education programs are available from local community college options and from larger colleges and universities, as well as being available through online courses from schools all over the country. Whether you choose an Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science depends on your education goals. Either of these degrees in education will let you move of into a bachelor's program. Their core courses will cover general education and basics such as reading and mathematics. An education program at this level may also cover core courses in early childhood education, elementary education, child development, and even childcare management. Eligibility requirements will vary by program, but are likely to consist of not much more than a high school diploma or an equal level of education.
- You can get into a classroom faster by completin an associate degree in education program. With a two-year degree in education, students can get paraprofessional educators positions such as a teacher’s aides or teaching assistants. In some states, you can even teach preschool or work as a substitute teacher.
- Starting out in a paraprofessional position is a good way to determine if you want to dedicate yourself to pursuing a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education or elementary education and to become a certified lead educator. It’s also a good way to get a foothold in a school district so that, in the event you do decide to pursue a higher-level education program and become a lead teacher, employment opportunities will be more readily available.
- You will make less than a lead teacher. Obviously, since the lead teacher has more education and possibly more experience in childcare management, your income will be lower than those who have gone the extra mile to earn their education degree and credentials.
- The chance to lead a classroom isn’t very high. Your lead teacher will most likely let you help with the curriculum, but the teaching will mainly be their job and you will be there to assist.
- Without pursuing a higher degree, there is little room for advancement.
- Jobs are becoming scarce for those without at least a bachelor’s degree, as more and more states realize the importance of early education and tighten the requirements for teachers.
- Certain certifications can only be pursued with a bachelor’s degree.
Certificate Vs. Associate's in Education
In the field of education, certificates are generally attained at the undergraduate or graduate level. Therefore, they are usually not attainable by someone with an associate degree. Certificates in education usually indicate that the person has extra knowledge in a certain element of education, or in teaching certain age groups or specific subjects. For example, a teacher can earn an online certificate in early childhood education, which indicates that the teacher has gained extra knowledge to assist with teaching students enrolled in preschool or kindergarten. Another example would be a certificate in special education, which indicates that a teacher has additional education for teaching children with educational challenges and special needs.
What Education Associate Degrees are Available?
There are four main types of associate degrees:
- Associate of Science (AS):
This designation is reserved for degrees focused around the sciences such as math, biology, chemistry, or general science and they are often less accessible through online education.
- Associates of Arts (AA):
This designation is for two-year degrees in the arts and humanities such as English, psychology, or history and are often more accessible through online education.
- Associates in Applied Science (AAS):
These degrees cover similar material as the AS but are more focused on getting the graduate into the work force rather than preparing them for higher levels of education. Applied degrees may be equally accessible through online or on-campus education, but it depends on the school you wish to attend.
- Associates in Applied Arts (AAA):
This degree covers the same areas as the AA, but it’s usually a terminal degree that prepares the degree holder to work in his chosen field.
To summarize, if you are seriously contemplating continuing your education in the future, then getting an AS or AA is ideal, whether you attend online or on-campus. But, if you intend to work in your field with just a two-year degree for the foreseeable future, then getting an AAS or AAA might be your best bet.
Admission Requirements to Enter an Associate in Education Degree Program
In order to be admitted into an associate in an education degree program you’ll need to meet the following requirements whether they plan to attend online, in a traditional classroom, or through a hybrid program (with online and in-person courses):
- Must have a high school diploma or GED
- Take the ACT or SAT and achieve the minimum required score, if required (The minimum score varies by school)
- Fill out the application for the school you want to attend
- Pay the application fee (if required)
- Submit transcripts from all schools previously attended - including online courses
- Supply any other requested information that the school might want - This could include admission essays, a resume, proof of community involvement, letters of recommendation, etc. These requirements tend to vary by school so it’s important that you follow the school’s application process to the letter.
How long does it take to earn an Associate Degree in Education?
In most cases, an associate degree in education can be completed in two years. However, there are cases where it might take longer. For example, for students who are going to school part-time, it could take an extra year or more. Most schools require that a two-year degree be completed within four years of starting the program. Although it is possible for it to take less than two years to complete a program, this doesn’t happen often, especially if there is an observation and student teaching requirement. However, students may choose to take extra online courses during the school year, or to take an online course over the summer to speed up their education.
Potential Careers in Education with an Associates
Although a traditional teaching job is generally not attainable with an associate degree in education, there are still job options available to those with a two-year degree. Some of them even allow workers to teach in a certain capacity.
Below are some of the jobs someone with an associate degree in education is qualified to hold:
- Teaching Assistant:
You’ll assist the lead teacher in executing curriculum plans and may be in charge of managing the students when they aren’t in a classroom setting, such as in the gym or while on the playground. This person could also be tasked with riding the bus or taking care of other duties as they’re assigned.
Average Salary - $24,314
- Preschool Teacher:
In this position, you’ll work with children younger than school age, generally between 3 and 5 years old. A preschool teacher helps these children prepare to start school by setting and reaching certain educational benchmarks. The classroom generally has two teachers as classes in preschools can be on the larger side or may consist of students of different ages and abilities.
Average Salary - $32,500
- Childcare Worker:
when parents of young children work, they need reliable people to take care of their children. Childcare workers can work in a daycare setting or they can offer services in client homes. These people ensure that children are safe, fed, entertained, and educated. The worker might use a prepared curriculum or allow free play as a learning tool for the child.
Average Salary - $30,554
Salary by Occupation
|Middle School teacher||$40,300||$48,100||$59,100|
|Special Education Teacher, Early Education||$40,500||$49,200||$60,900|
Options to Advance
To advance an education career, additional education will be required because of state and federal mandates. Some school districts have levels of paraprofessionals, but once you’ve reached the top tier of that profession you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in education to advance further. If you are interested in pursuing this career, you might consider taking courses online. Many programs offer the majority of classes online, with only a few in-person courses and your student teaching internship at the end, which must be done in person at a school where you will teach at the level you are looking to receive certification.
Colleges That Offer a Traditional Associates in Education
Potomac State College of West Virginia University
Potomac State is a satellite university attached to West Virginia University. The public institution offers two- and four-year degree programs in math and sciences as well as the humanities and art. Students who attain two-year degrees from Potomac State can transfer to WVUs main campus to continue their education.
- Associate Degree in Education
Montana State University Billings
Montana State University in Billings is a public college that offers two and four-year degree programs. With an enrollment of 4300, class sizes are small enough for interaction with professors, but still large enough for classroom discussions.
- Associate Degree in General Education
SUNY Empire State College
Saratoga Springs, NY
SUNY (State University of New York) Empire State College has an enrollment of 10,400 students who are pursuing pre-degree certificates through Master’s degrees. The school has a student to teacher ratio of 15:1. For students who want to pursue higher degrees, as the option of going to other SUNY schools is available.
- Associate Degree in General Education
Weber State University
Weber State has an enrollment of over 28,000 students. The school offers several degree programs from a certificate up to a doctoral degree.
- Associate Degree in General Education
Colleges That Offer Online Associate Degrees in Education
Hagerstown Community College
Hagerstown Community College is a brick and mortar college with a large online presence. Most of its degree and certificate offerings can be completed either on campus or online. This flexibility is ideal for students who are pursuing an education while working.
- Associate Degree in General Education
Arizona Western College
With an enrollment around 12,000 Arizona Western offers programs in a variety of areas to its students. The education programs provide classroom learning as well as an in-class practicum. This can be completed at a school in the student’s area, while the rest of the program is completed online.
- Associate in Arts - Elementary Education
- Associates in Science - Secondary Education
Lone Star College System
The Woodlands, TX
Lone Star offers online education degrees to its students. The programs require a summer semester, as well as an in-classroom observation and student teaching. The program is transferrable to other colleges in the event the student wants to pursue further education.
- Associate of Arts in Teaching
Education Degrees & Career Paths