Education Degrees: Courses Structure, Specializations & Career | Top Universities

Wherever you go in the world, education is considered to be one of the central roles of society - and teaching is considered almost universally to be one of the most noble and respectable professions.

Like all such professions, it is a big job, for which practitioners must be trained to a high level using the latest techniques. Whether it’s the all-round skills needed to teach younger children or the subject-specific expertise necessary to train students at more advanced levels, it is crucial that teachers get it right.

Add on the pressures of dealing with young people facing the challenges of growing up, and you have a profession which is not for the faint-hearted. Ergo, neither are education degrees.

 

Types of education degrees

While most education degrees are designed to prepare students for work in various educator roles, some are more theory based. The latter types of education degrees focus on analyzing current and past education systems and debating their strengths and flaws.

The goal of these courses is ultimately about improving education, drawing on research looking at everything from the way children learn to the best governmental structure for schools and how to keep the teachers themselves motivated.

While education is almost universally acknowledged to be of key importance for individuals and societies, education systems themselves are fairly diverse. For this reason, it’s usually beneficial to study your education degree, and complete your teacher training, in the same country where you intend to work.

At master's or PhD level? Read our graduate-level guide to education degrees

Education specializations

Primary education

Primary school is a crucial stage in a young person’s mental and social development, and therefore being a primary school teacher is a big responsibly. However, it can also be very rewarding.

As well as studying the professional aspects of being a teacher, a degree in primary education will give you a basic grounding in the subjects you will be teaching your precocious charges. Courses will feature placements, so you’ll get a hands-on taste of the working world too.

Secondary education

Unlike the more general requirements of primary school teaching, secondary school teachers need to be fairly expert in their particular subject area. Therefore, secondary school teacher training will need to take place alongside studies in another subject.

Alternatively, you might complete a bachelor’s degree in the subject which you want to teach, and then do a graduate qualification in secondary education afterwards. Placements will also form a key part of your training.

Education studies

As the name suggests, education studies is the study of education itself. This is an interdisciplinary subject, looking at things like the psychology of learning, the role played by societal and sociological factors, and the history of education.

Study this if you want to understand the bigger picture of education, and perhaps work towards changing education systems for the better – be it in an administrative, managerial or research capacity.

Special education

This is the branch of education which trains teachers to deal with students who have special needs. Special education is an extremely challenging discipline, as (even more than usual) each child will have their own specific individual needs.

But if you’re cut out for this specialization, it can be very fulfilling, giving you an opportunity to make a real difference. And, by virtue of the fact that it is not for everyone, it can also offer very strong employment prospects.

Discover the world’s top universities to study education

Education careers

No matter what the economic climate, teachers will always be in demand. Training as a teacher, therefore, will render you eminently employable.

In addition, many countries worldwide are reportage a shortage of teachers – particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. So if you’re looking to shore-up your career prospects, you could do a lot worse than to enter the teaching profession.

The same applies for those working in the education sector but not as teachers. Where there is mass teaching, a strong all-round education infrastructure will be required.

Beyond the classroom, education careers are also available in management, administration, research and advisory roles. All of these fields offer scope to contribute to the improvement of education systems and techniques, and help education providers adapt to changing contexts and new challenges.

A background in education can also be useful for those who work in any sort of position which involves working with young people, or generally sharing knowledge. Examples include exhibition curators, community youth workers and social workers.

Discover the world’s top universities to study education

Key Skills

Common skills gained from an education degree include:

  • People skills
  • Excellent spoken and written communication
  • A framework for keeping up with an ever-evolving profession
  • The ability to deal with sensitive issues in an informed manner
  • Expertise in a single subject or across a spectrum
  • Firsthand experience of the field you’re about to enter
  • Organization and planning skills
  • An ability to think creatively and present ideas in new ways
  • Flexibility and adaptability