In the US, most aspiring teachers chose one of two pathways into the profession. First, there are students who enroll directly into a bachelor of education program. These are usually highly focused students who have always known that they want to pursue a career in teaching. Second, there are students who choose to complete a bachelor of arts, bachelor of science or bachelor of fine arts degree (sometimes also a master’s degree), and then complete a bachelor of education degree leading to teacher certification. In addition, there are students who choose to complete a bachelor of arts degree in education, but in contrast to the first two pathways, this option may or may not lead to some form of teacher certification. While bachelor of education degrees are offered as a pathways to teacher certification, bachelor of arts or BAs in education usually do not lead to teacher certification and rather aim to introduce students to the field of education studies. Nevertheless, many students who complete a BA in education or educational studies do go on to enroll in bachelor of education programs and having already completed a degree in the education field, they are often considered preferred candidates.

Degree Requirements

The content of a BA in education depends on whether or not the degree has been designed as a pathway to teacher certification or not. In cases where the degree is not a pathway to teacher certification, coursework tends to focus on topics such as the history of education, social issues in education and educational theory. In addition to gaining a thorough knowledge of how educational philosophies have changed over time or contemporary issues in education (e.g., the impact of different social and cultural factors on high school graduation rates), students acquire many of the research skills needed to carry out research in the social sciences. As such, students who complete a BA in education typically graduate with quantitative research skills (e.g., they understand how to read and even generate basic statistics) and qualitative research skills (e.g., they have experience carrying out participant observations or interviews).

Areas of Specialization

While students usually do not choose an area of specialization while pursuing educational studies at the undergraduate level, they may begin to develop specific interest (e.g., educational philosophy or the history of education). Programs with capstone requirements, which may include a senior project or thesis, provide opportunities for students to begin pursuing their own specialized research interest, which may lay the groundwork for further investigations at the graduate level.


Again, it is important to note that many bachelor of arts degrees in education are not designed as pathways to teacher certification, but there are some exceptions (e.g., Goddard College’s bachelor of arts in education includes an option that enables candidates to certify to each some subjects in Vermont, and Lesley University offers a bachelor of arts in middle school education that leads to initial teacher licensure).  However, in many instances, a bachelor of arts in education is pursued for the same reasons one might pursue a bachelor of arts in English or anthropology—out of a genuine interest in the subject matter, which in this case includes education, schools, teaching and pedagogy. The most obvious next step for someone who has completed a bachelor of arts in education, then, is to complete a master of arts in education and eventually, a PhD in education with the goal of establishing themselves as an educational researcher. Since educational studies is recognized as a social science discipline, some students who complete an undergraduate degrees in education go on to pursue graduate degrees in other social science disciplines (e.g., sociology). Other graduates go on to complete degrees that do lead to teacher certification and subsequently, pursue a teaching career at the elementary, middle or high school level. Finally, many graduates do not complete any additional education and choose to work in the governmental or non-profit sectors in research, policy or advocacy positions.

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