How Do You Specialize an Education Degree To Teach Different Grade Levels?

Education SpecializationsOne of the top concerns that aspiring educators have is how they can specialize an education degree to teach different grade levels, ranging from elementary to secondary settings. The answer to this question, like so many within the education field, tends to vary on a state-to-state basis. In many cases, students will make specific academic choices during their time in an undergraduate degree program. These choices will teach them the fundamentals of education at the level they have chosen, result in a teacher licensure for a certain grade level, and determine where they are eligible to teach. In other states, the options are a bit more open and subject to fewer stringent regulations.

The Education Option: Choose a Degree Program at the Right Level

Education degrees at the undergraduate level, where most students pursue the education needed to become a licensed teacher, are typically split into three categories, according to US News and World Report. The first is elementary education, which traditionally covers students in kindergarten through the fifth grade. The second option available is known as “middle grades education” or “middle school education.” In this track, students will work toward a teach license that allows them to teach grades 5 through 9. A final track, secondary education, will allow graduates to become educators at the high school level. It’s worth noting that many states allow teachers with a secondary education certification to teach at the middle school level as well.

As with virtually every other program and major at the undergraduate level, students are certainly permitted to choose a double major and broaden their certification options upon graduation. This is actually essential in many states, since students cannot even take a licensure test for a subject or grade level that they have not studied at the undergraduate level. For this reason, it’s a good idea to choose carefully and always opt for more undergraduate teaching courses rather than fewer.

In Some States, Teachers Can Simply Take More Certification Exams

While many states only allow educators to sit for the PRAXIS-II examination that covers their undergraduate material, a significant minority of states do allow educators to sit for any certification exam that they wish to take. This means that, in some states, a student with a secondary education degree could sit for an elementary education exam. An educator with a degree in mathematics education could sit for the Spanish exam. It’s important to view state requirements regarding exam eligibility to see if this might be possible, especially because it could broaden the teacher’s horizons as they seek their first job or look for a position that blends multiple skill sets. As the education industry continues to change, utilizing an “open exam” law could allow students to be dual-certified or triple-certified in today’s fastest growing content areas or grade levels.

Related Resource: Breakthrough Collaborative

Specialization Can Come Through Concentrations or Certifications

Educators should keep in mind that specializing their degree is probably the easiest way to pick a grade level that best matches their skills and expectations. Even so, in some states, it may be possible to pursue virtually any education degree and still pick the specialization and grade level that provides the best fit. As with virtually all parts of the education industry, teachers should take time to do some diligent research on their state’s regulations and how they can fit their career into those guidelines. This will make it easy to specialize an education degree to teach different grade levels nationwide.