Gaining the credentials needed to teach in the state of Texas is becoming more convenient than ever, with several online options available for students.
While some choose to get their bachelor’s degree in education through an online program, many are choosing instead to get a teacher certification through an online alternative educator preparation program. In fact, almost 50% of all new teachers to the Texas education system come from alternative education programs.
You may be asking yourself, is an online program for you, and if so, which is better: an online education degree or an online teacher certification program? Below, we’ll provide some answers that will help you decide which path is better as you pursue your teaching goals.
One of the biggest benefits of an online education program is the flexibility that allows you to complete coursework around your schedule. This is especially beneficial for those who work, have families or other time-consuming obligations. So, if you like to study early in the morning, late at night, or at any time in between, an online program makes this possible.
An online degree or certification program also allows for geographic flexibility. Typically, no commuting is required, so you can enroll in a program on the other side of Texas opposite of where you live. Getting in your car daily to go to class is only relevant if you prefer to study at your local coffee shop rather than your kitchen table.
Online courses allow you to be as comfortable as you like, whether it’s studying in your PJs or poolside on hot, summer days. Some people can also concentrate better taking courses online than in a traditional classroom environment.
One side bonus to completing an online program is that you’ll gain new technical skills that you can then use to your advantage when you get your own classroom. Many online courses will require you to navigate different learning management systems and programs, as well as create and share documents.
If your goal is to have a bachelor’s degree, or don’t meet the requirements for a teacher certification program, pursuing a degree in education may be a better option for you. The biggest benefit to this path is that teacher preparation programs are typically blended with a university bachelor’s degree program. That means college coursework incorporates state teacher credential requirements, allowing you to both earn a bachelor’s degree and teaching certification at the same time.
Many colleges and universities also offer post-baccalaureate programs. These are designed for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree, but not in education. Participants in these programs complete credential requirements for a teaching certificate, but do so through a university setting and by enrolling in university coursework.
This might be of particular interest to you if you are considering a graduate-level degree, or if you want to continue your education at the school where you earned your bachelor’s degree.
Though signing up as an online student doesn’t necessarily mean you will be on campus, you can still enjoy many of the perks that come with being enrolled at a college or university. These include student discounts, first dibs on sporting event tickets, access to student health plans and eligibility for specific student loans and scholarships.
Attending a university - whether in-person or online - can be a significant investment. The average annual in-state college tuition in Texas for the 2017-2018 academic year was $10,584. An online university program may be even higher. Research has found that degrees offered through online universities typically are more expensive than paying in-state tuition at a public school.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in any major from an accredited institution of higher learning, you can qualify for an alternative teacher certification program. This path might be of interest for those wanting to change careers, go back to work after taking time off to stay at home with kids, or those who are unemployed and looking for a new direction to take.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Texas Administration Code (TAC) require that you also:
While earning a bachelor’s degree is one path toward a teaching profession you can take, you don’t necessarily need one to get a teaching certificate. The TEA and TAC, however, do require you to meet certain criteria that include years of work experience. That criteria can be found in our article, How To Become A Teacher With A Texas Alternative Certification Program.
This can be especially beneficial for those who want to experience a career change, but had a career that didn’t require a 4-year degree, such as emergency services, some nursing professions and various technical or trade jobs.
As a retiree, you may be looking for opportunities that provide additional fulfillment. Many pursue teaching as a second or even third career. Some want a new challenge, or to keep active. Others want to give back or earn supplemental income for retirement. An online teaching certification program is a convenient way for retirees to achieve these goals and convert their professional expertise to the classroom.
Alternative teacher certification programs are a popular option among members of the Armed Forces who are looking for a new career after serving their country. In recent years, Texas has added a legal requirement that says an Educator Preparation Program must have a procedure in place to allow credit for military service and training that is related to the certification a student seeks.
Online programs offer a lot of flexibility, but you can miss out on important opportunities to network and develop professional connections. If this is important to you, look for an alternative teaching credential program that offers a curriculum of both online and in-person coursework, providing you with the best of both worlds.
Program costs can be a concern for anyone. It’s important to look for a program that knows you have enough on your plate as you’re navigating your way through your teacher certification program. At ECAP, for example, we defer over 94% of fees until you start teaching. Fees are then split up into manageable monthly payments. Our application fee is completely free as well.
Online education provides countless benefits, from flexibility to alternative learning environments. It can be a great option for those wanting to switch careers or go back into the workforce after retirement or serving their country.
However, not all online programs are created equal, and not all are the perfect fit. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of getting your teaching certification through a bachelor’s degree program at a university versus an alternative teacher certification program.
It’s also important to understand the benefits you can receive by enrolling in a teacher certification program that offers both online learning and in-person networking and group work opportunities.
Doing a little homework will save you time and money, and put you on the education path you desire more quickly so that you can fulfill your dream of becoming a teacher.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank. In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.