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Education Major Overview

By Zach Skillings

Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: November 16th, 2023
Education Major Overview

If you enjoy sharing knowledge and helping others, you may want to consider an education major. Students in this field develop the skills needed to become teachers – one of the most important professions in our society. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about majoring in education. 

Also see: How to choose a major

What is an education major?

Education majors study how people learn and how to best teach them. They seek to understand the various influences that affect students’ abilities to learn, and how to utilize effective teaching practices. Education majors may focus on a specific age group such as early childhood, elementary, middle, or high school. They may also specialize in a particular subject such as literature, math, or science. Most students major in education to become teachers, although there’s other career options as well. We’ll cover job possibilities later on. 

Coursework to expect

Through their coursework, education majors develop the skills needed to become effective teachers. Course topics include educational psychology, child development, school health, and safety issues, and contemporary issues in education. Students also take coursework in curriculum development and learn how to develop effective lesson plans. It’s common for students to choose a track specifically tailored to a particular age range or subject. Many programs also offer hands-on teaching experiences in community- and school-based settings. 

Below are some potential courses you may encounter as an education major:

  • Educational Psychology
  • Sociology of Education
  • Learning and Teaching with Technology
  • Educational Assessment
  • Student Teaching
  • Teaching in 21st Century Classrooms 
  • Teaching in Middle and Secondary Schools 
  • Foundations of Special Education 
  • Education and Society 
  • Early Childhood Language and Literacy 

Student teaching 

Student teaching is a hands-on learning experience that education majors typically complete while obtaining their teaching degree. During student teaching, you will intern in a classroom or another setting in order to gain true experience in the field. These experiences are typically unpaid and can last anywhere from 14 weeks to 1 year. 

During student teaching, you will typically be paired with a certified educator who will work with and support you throughout your student teaching experience. You will have the opportunity to put your knowledge from your major into practice during this time. 

Opportunities after graduation

Although teaching is the obvious career path for education majors, it’s not the only option. Education majors can also pursue positions and graduate programs related to the following areas: 

  • Library sciences
  • Instructional technology
  • Special education
  • Museum curation 
  • Administration
  • Curriculum design
  • Counseling
  • Managerial training

Also see: Everything you need to know about TEACH Grants

Jobs you can get with an education degree

Whether you want to teach preschoolers or college students, there’s a range of job possibilities for those with an education degree. If you choose to venture outside the realm of traditional teaching, other career paths include counseling, library sciences, museum curation, and school administration. Below are some popular career choices for education majors, along with median annual salaries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

1. K-12 teacher

K-12 teachers educate students in public and private schools, working with grades ranging from kindergarten to high school. They typically specialize in a specific subject area or age group. Elementary school teachers cover a range of subjects, while middle and high school teachers focus on fewer subjects.

2022 Median Pay: $62,360 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 1%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

2. College professor

Professors teach at the college/university level. Just like K-12 teachers, they typically specialize in a specific subject area. In addition to their teaching responsibilities, many professors conduct research and publish scholarly papers or books. 

2022 Median Pay: $80,840 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 8% 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. School and career counselors

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills to prepare them for life after graduation. They’re employed by both public and private K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities. Career counselors help people explore occupations and make career decisions. 

2022 Median Pay: $60,140 per year
Projected Growth (2012-2032): 5%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Librarian

Librarians help patrons find books and other resources, conduct research, and set up systems for cataloging and shelving books. They’re typically employed by local governments, universities, and K-12 schools. 

2022 Median Pay: $61,660 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 3% 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

5. Instructional coordinator

Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop educational material, implement it with teachers and principals, and assess its effectiveness. They also observe teachers in the classroom, review student test data, and conduct teacher training workshops. 

2022 Median Pay: $66,490 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 2%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

6. Archivists and curators

Archivists catalog and preserve historically valuable documents, while curators oversee collections of historical items. They typically work for institutions such as museums, governments, and colleges. Job responsibilities include setting up exhibits and providing educational services to the public. 

2022 Median Pay: $53,420 per year

Projected Growth (2022-2032): 10%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Online learning

It is important to consider the nature of our education system currently. Online learning has had a significant impact on the field of education, including education majors. Now, education majors may be taught how to use online platforms to help their students learn. 

Additionally, education majors may even have some classes online or obtain their degree through an online program. Therefore, it may be important to become familiar with online platforms if you are considering becoming an education major. 

Further reading: Online vs. in-person college: Which is right for you?

How do I know if this major is right for me? 

If you’re considering a major in education, ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Are you patient, compassionate, and willing to take on challenges? 
  2. Do you enjoy gaining and sharing knowledge? 
  3. Are you passionate about helping young people achieve their potential? 
  4. Do you seek to improve the state of the world around you? 

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then an education major could be right for you!

Final thoughts

Overall, an education major is a study that focuses on preparing students to become teachers and educators in a variety of environments. Typically, education majors are interested in becoming K-12 or special education teachers. However, there are an abundance of careers available to education majors that are not just teachers such as a librarian or a school counselor. 

When pursuing an education major, often you will need to participate in student teaching which provides hands-on opportunities to apply skills in real-life classroom settings. 

After graduating with a degree in education, often you will need to obtain a teaching certificate or license which can vary by state. Typically, you can obtain licensure by passing exams and meeting other requirements set by the education authorities.

Education majors can lead to careers in teaching at various levels and in a variety of subjects. However, the specific focus and requirements of an education major can vary depending on the institution and the level of education being pursued. 

Keep reading:

Frequently asked questions about the education major

How long does it take to complete an education major degree?

Typically, the duration of an education major program is a 4-year bachelor’s degree. However, some students may also pursue a master’s degree in education which can take an additional 1-2 years.

What certifications are required for education majors?

To become a teacher in the United States, you will typically need to earn a state-specific teaching certification or licensure. These requirements vary by state, but they often involve passing exams and fulfilling student teaching requirements.

Can education majors work in fields other than teaching?

Absolutely! The skills and knowledge acquired through an education major can be applied to other careers such as educational administration and curriculum development.

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