Majoring in Education…

Teaching is a great choice for a career. Not only do teachers get summers off, Christmas/winter break, spring break, and all the holidays in between, they are rewarded for enriching students’ lives and giving the gift of education.

An elementary school classroom (Photo courtesy of LizMarie_AK on

In this post, I will look at some of the common elements placed into many programs that focus on a degree in education.

  • Early Childhood Education/Primary Education This area of education focuses on the teaching of students aged 4 to 6 or 7, commonly pre-kindergarten up to first grade. This can also include primary education which consists of pre-kindergarten up to second grade. Skills in early childhood education revolve around beginning to read and development of students’ reading skills—such as comprehension, word recognition, and for smaller children phonics and letter-sound recognition—early math concepts such as counting, adding and subtracting, and basic patterns and shapes, and of course community and interaction development. A lot of the early childhood education takes place in preschools that are sometimes separate from regular public schools. These will require the teacher to have either a CDA (Child Development Associate credential) or a degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE certificate). Both of these can be obtained through an online program.
  • Elementary Education– Teaching elementary education requires the teacher to be in charge of all subjects—reading, writing, mathematics/arithmetic, social studies and science, and some basics in health and physical education but excluding specialty subjects like art, music, and physical education in a single classroom. The grades included in this area typically range from kindergarten to grade 5, and also include the primary grades, while in some states/schools the grades range from kindergarten and pre-kindergarten to grade 6. This is a four year degree program with a teaching certificate in elementary education, usually grades pre-k through sixth grade. A student wanting to teach art or music or physical education must obtain a certification in that subject area, along with a teaching certificate for elementary education.
  • Middle School EducationTeaching middle school takes a lot of patience, as this is an awkward age group to work with, and oftentimes hormones and growing between a child and adult can make some students difficult to deal with. But working with this age group has many rewards. The grades included in middle schools commonly range from grades 6 through 8, but sometimes are broken up differently according to state standards: some states include the sixth grade in elementary school, and middle school will consist of grades 7 through 9. The college student will need to complete a four year degree program focusing on middle school education and a subject area such as math, reading, language arts, science, history/social studies, art, physical education, and music-related areas (band, chorus, music appreciation, etc.). In my opinion it would be best to obtain certification for grades K through 8 in addition to the certification in the subject area to be taught.
  • High School/Secondary Education When majoring in secondary education, the college student will study philosophies of teaching at high school level, management, and the subject area that they will be teaching. High schools typically range from grades 9 through 12, though some states group middle schools from grades 7 through 9, resulting in grades 10 through 12 being the high school grades. There are many areas of study that a high school teacher can become certified in to teach secondary education. Some subjects include reading, English, mathematics, sciences (biology, anatomy, environmental science, chemistry, physics, etc.) and history. There are specialized subjects like music, art, and physical education, but a certification is required in these subject areas like the academic areas. This can also be a tough age group to work with, mainly because, as students grow older, the demand for high-quality education in more than just the basic subject areas grows with the students. This is the age (well, juniors and seniors, anyway) when students start thinking about college or trade school and choosing a career path for their future. Guidance counselors and teachers work closely together to prepare students for college and the working world after graduating from high school.

These are the basic disciplines of study when majoring in education. Certification exams can be taken at any point (after a four year degree) to enable the teacher to expand his or her options in teaching. In any grade level there are specialized fields that could require more in-depth coverage than just the education major. Certification in ESE/varying exceptionalities,ESOL, etc. can enable an educator to work with a specific type of student, and can be just as rewarding, if not more so, than general education.

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