Choosing a Specialization in Education (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 20, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Teachers have many options when choosing a specialization, and their decisions can determine which subjects they can teach. Each specialization has its own educational, practical and technical qualifications. Knowing how to choose a specialization can inform you of the different factors to consider and make the determination process easier. In this article, we explore the different types of specializations, explain how to choose a specialization in education, and share some tips for choosing the right one.

How to choose a specialization in education

Here are some steps you can take to choose the specialization in education that suits your interests and can help you reach your professional goals:

1. Pick an age group

Educational professionals frequently choose their specialization based on the age group they prefer to teach. Some people aspire to be early childhood education teachers to help young students develop fundamental skills. Others may aspire to be high school guidance counsellors to assist students in choosing a career path. Selecting the age group of the students you want to work with can help you decide on a degree path and area of specialization.

2. Think about the type of role you want

Consider what kind of role you want to play in the field of education before enrolling in college. A degree in education or a specific subject can help you become a teacher. You can also consider studying counselling, speech therapy, or social work. Once you decide on the type of role you want, you can plan an educational path to help you achieve your career goals.

Related: How To Become a Guidance Counsellor

3. Analyze your strengths

It's a good idea to think about your strengths in addition to your personal preferences. For example, you can ask your friends and family about the academic positions they believe you would excel in. They can give suggestions like becoming a kindergarten teacher if you enjoy working with children. You can also consider teaching high school science or math if you have strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Understanding your strengths can help you find a role you'll enjoy and excel in.

Related: How to Answer "What Is Your Greatest Strength?" (With Examples)

4. Research educational degree programs

Start looking for related degree programs at colleges and universities once you've developed a comprehensive education career path. You can meet with academic supervisors to take a campus tour, ask questions, and learn more about what the school offers. Consider which factors are important to you when researching them, such as class location, schedule and course offerings.

Types of education specializations

Getting a degree in education allows you to choose the area you can work in as a teacher. Many colleges and universities provide degree paths and options to specialize in specific roles, like school counselling or special education. The following are some degree types and specializations you can choose:

Early childhood education

Early childhood education focuses on children who are just starting school. It usually ranges from children three to eight years old. This is typically from preschool to second grade. The age at which compulsory education begins varies by province. Early childhood educators with a high school diploma or an associate degree can work in preschools or pre-kindergarten programs in some provinces, but most positions in this specialization typically require at least a bachelor's degree in early childhood education.

Related: How to Become a Kindergarten Teacher in 6 Steps (With Skills)

Elementary education

Candidates with a bachelor's degree in elementary education are typically qualified to work with students from kindergarten to fifth grade, though some provinces consider sixth grade to be elementary school still. Teachers at this level usually teach a wide range of subjects, like mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies. Some may specialize in areas like music, art or physical education. In addition, schools frequently hire other educational professionals to assist students, such as behavioural development specialists and reading specialists at this grade level.

Related: How To Become an Elementary Teacher (Step-by-Step Guide)

Middle school education

Middle school education typically entails teaching or working with students in grades six through eight. You may require a bachelor's degree to be a middle school teacher, also known as a junior high or intermediate schoolteacher. Some middle school teachers pursue a degree in a specific subject area because they may teach only one or two subjects. Middle schools can hire educational specialists, and professionals like school counsellors can assist students in preparing for the transition to high school.

High school education

High school educational professionals serve students in grades nine through twelve. They usually have a bachelor's degree, preferably in the subject they intend to teach. High school teachers can also receive specialized training and certification to teach courses at various levels, like honours or advanced. High schools frequently hire educational specialists, including school administrators, media specialists, and curriculum development specialists. School counsellors at this level can help students prepare for college, vocational school, the military, or their careers.

Related: How To Become a High School Teacher (With Common Duties)

Higher education

Higher education, also known as postsecondary education, encompasses all levels of education following high school. Postsecondary professionals typically hold a master's or doctoral degree in their field, which they can use to teach students and conduct research. Higher education employees can also hold support positions like academic advisors or college deans. Some higher education professionals can also work in adult education programs, teaching adults who want to earn a high school diploma. These adults can also develop specialized skills but may not want to pursue a degree.

Related: 16 Common Careers in Education (With Salary Details)

Tips for choosing an education specialization

The following are some tips to help you determine the best education specialization for you:

Choose the level of education you want to pursue

Education specializations encompass a wide range of degree types and levels. For example, some positions in early childhood education may require an associate degree, whereas a career as a college professor typically requires a doctorate. Selecting the education level you're comfortable pursuing can assist you in eliminating some specializations while thoroughly evaluating others.

Create lists before making decisions

Choosing an educational specialization may take some time, but staying organized allows you to manage information more effectively. You can list each aspect, such as degree paths, universities, and job roles, so you can compare them after completing your research. Putting a checkmark next to each option you eliminate can give you a sense of accomplishment and motivate you to continue the process.

Think about your previous work experience

If you have prior work experience or a degree in education, you can use your credentials to launch a new career in the field. Similarly, other jobs may indicate an interest in a career, such as working as a childcare specialist or tutor. Many skills are transferable across occupations, so making a list of those you use in your current or previous jobs can help you choose an educational specialization.

Related: How to Gain Teaching Work Experience

Questions to determine an educational specialization

You can ask yourself questions to help choose which academic specialization fits your professional goals and career outlook. These questions are:

What interests me?

It's a good idea to start by thinking about the career you see yourself doing and what you're most interested in studying. This process can narrow your options to a few possibilities. You can research each specialization further and determine the specific areas you see yourself excelling in, which can help you pick a college degree focus or career path.

What doesn't interest me?

This is another way to determine a possible career path. Without choosing careers you see yourself doing, you can also remove career fields you don't see yourself doing. After doing exhaustive research, you can list all the possible options and then cross off those that pique your interest less. You can use factors like the fields you feel you can fit into comfortably and those that might challenge you.

What's the current state and career outlook of this interest area?

It's a good idea to consider the current job market of your field of interest and its future through future projections. This can help you avoid careers that are dwindling in priority or have poor future projections. Try to pinpoint smaller specializations with steady growth opportunities within a broader field and delve into that field. You can apply this reasoning to your degree specialization when determining the best courses to take in college. You can find statistics online for more research and reach an informed decision.

How can this specialization help my professional goals?

This factor is especially important for broad degree programs in college. Determining how a degree can benefit your career and future professional goals is a good idea. You can also go into specifics and consider how a particular specialization can benefit you. Consider drafting a list of careers or degrees that pique your interest and research each one. You can write out the future career you want and find the specialization that best matches the training and skills it requires. This may put you in a better position to get jobs in that field.

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