Master’s degree in education
It is a cliché that a career in education is rewarding, but it is also true. This is a field where you can have a tangible impact, whether that be in the classroom, or in auxiliary roles that improve the quality of the educational system.
Although teaching encompasses a large percentage of the careers in this sector, it is not the only possibility. Candidates who pursue a master’s of education often plan to move out of teaching and into alternative educational roles. Other reasons they enroll include:
To focus on a specialty
A master’s program allows students to concentrate on a niche area of interest, from special education to teacher leadership.
Teachers understand better than anyone the importance of developing their skillset. A master’s in education can increase their understanding of the education system and improve their skills in the classroom.
To increase earning potential
A master’s in education can lead to higher wages for teachers (some districts give instant wage increases to master’s graduates), and lead to other lucrative jobs in the education sector.
So, if you are looking to improve your teaching skills, strengthen your career options in the educational sector, or increase your salary, read on to find out more about master’s in education programs.
What can you do with a master’s in education?
The best master’s in education can lead to employment opportunities in teaching, curriculum development, administration, and other educational leadership roles. Programs tend to include a wide range of concentrations and certificates, which can increase job prospects both in and out of the classroom.
Should you get a master’s in education?
When answering this question, it is not only important to consider whether a master’s is right for you, but also whether you are right for a career in this field.
Besides having a passion for education, those who succeed tend to be patient and optimistic. They are also ambitious – in terms of their own career, the number of people they can impact, and improving the education system as a whole.
Once you are sure this is the program for you, it is useful to consider the economic impact it might have on your life. The table below shows whether a master’s in education is a good financial decision. All the figures quoted are for 2 years after graduation.
Debt and earnings
Graduate degree premium
Earning over bachelors
Annual debt repayment
The figures above give an indication of the debt incurred by graduates, and their salaries 3 years after graduation. The table on the left compares median debt and median earnings. The right-hand table compares how much a master graduate earns over a bachelor graduate 3 years after graduation, after deducting median debt repayments.
The figures indicate that master’s students earn nearly $20,000 more than bachelor’s holders annually. This may be because some graduates move out of teaching and into other more lucrative roles in the sector. Even so, there is evidence that teachers with higher qualifications earn more money. Whilst this might not be the most important factor, it is encouraging to know that a master’s in education is an economically sound investment.
How to pick a master’s in education program
A key factor is whether the program is accredited. If you attend an unaccredited institution you may be ineligible for doctorate studies, certification, or licensing.
Also investigate the concentrations on offer. These can differ greatly between curriculums, and finding a specialty that interests you can be the deciding factor in which program you choose.
Examples of some of the concentrations on offer include:
This focuses on the foundations of special education and the historical perspectives that have shaped it. It provides knowledge about instructional strategies, classroom assessment, and the IEP policies and procedures necessary for working with special needs students.
Learning about how to be an effective leader and understanding how to manage people can help you to create a more efficient learning environment. It can also prepare you for leadership roles, such as school principal, curriculum coach, or mentor.
English language learner
The focus is on research-based strategies for teaching English to students who want to learn the language. There is an emphasis on strategies for working with culturally and linguistically diverse students.
Can I study a master’s in education online?
Online options are less widely available than in other disciplines, with just 17.2% of programs taught fully online. This might be because many courses include a highly practical component. The best way to become a better educator is to be in the room with your trainer. This allows you to model their behavior and receive direct instructions.
Master’s in education
The above table shows the percentage of programs available either completely in person or fully online. Figures that do not add up to 100% indicate the existence of hybrid programs.
Hybrid program options combining online instruction with face-to-face lessons are also available
How much does a master’s in education cost?
The table below shows the difference in debt and repayment rates based on institution type.
Debt to earnings
Debt to earnings
Debt to earnings
Median earnings and median debt of graduates of this degree program. The debt-to-earnings ratio compares student debt to annual earnings. The lower the debt-to-earnings ratio the better, and total debt should never exceed annual earnings (a debt-to-earnings ratio of 1.0).
The table indicates that 2 years after graduation students of private institutions earn slightly higher salaries. However, this figure is offset by the debt which graduates take on. Public institutions tend to be cheaper, which means their students typically leave with less debt.
Financial aid and scholarships for master’s in education students
A master’s program can be expensive. Luckily there are plenty of ways to make higher education more affordable. Scholarships, grants, and loans are popular ways to pay for a degree. Another popular route is Federal Student Aid, a need-based federal grant awarded to those who qualify for it.
Students of education may also be eligible for loan forgiveness. This means their student debt is wiped out after they have been working in the sector for a specified time period.
What to expect from a master’s in education program
Most programs last for 2 years, although some can be completed in 12-18 months. Generally speaking, students can expect the program to give them a better understanding of the science behind education. They also learn how to become better teachers and leaders. The choice of concentration plays a large role in defining what a student’s curriculum looks like.
What are the admission requirements for a master’s in education?
To be considered for a master’s program in education, you need to first complete a bachelor’s degree in education, or a degree in a related field. Be aware that some programs also require students to have teaching licensure, and even professional experience in the field.
Most schools require a minimum GPA of 2.75-3.0, but the higher your GPA, the more competitive your application. You may also be required to submit letters of recommendation, a goal statement, GRE scores, and a resume.
Special credentials sought by master’s of education students
During their studies, students can take advantage of various certificate opportunities. These include:
Adult learning certificate
This focuses on adult curriculum design, learning theories, teaching methods, and program evaluation. These skills are essential if you are considering teaching adults after graduation.
Graduate certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
The main benefit of this course is key knowledge and solid hands-on field practice. It helps students assess and support those with an ASD, showing them how and when to implement evidence-based interventions.
College teaching certificate
This prepares you to educate students at a higher education level. Some universities and community colleges accept educators with a master’s degree. This certificate provides additional knowledge and skills before you step into the classroom.
What type of courses are there in a master’s of education program?
Core courses that master’s of education students need to complete may include:
This course covers the theories that have shaped our understanding of education and human development. Students learn about cognitive, behavioral, and social learning theories, with a focus on how these are implemented in the classroom.
By discussing topical issues, educators can enhance student learning and academic success. Understanding the theories behind the practice can provide additional insight.
This course can prepare you to work in curriculum writing, design, or teaching. Typically, such courses cover the components of an effective curriculum, as well as the different assessment techniques used to measure its effectiveness.
This course is especially relevant for those who want to become teachers. It focuses on the foundations of teaching and education, and examines the complexities of school life, the importance of classroom management, and educational reform.
A written thesis is the final requirement of some programs. The thesis proves that you have achieved all the necessary knowledge, and can demonstrate that you have exceptional writing and research skills.
What type of master’s degrees are there in education?
The 3 main types of master’s in education degrees are:
- Master of Education (M.Ed.)
- Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed)
- Master of Arts in Education (M.A.Ed)
Typically, a master’s of education emphasizes theory over practice. It is often taken by students who have been teaching for some time and are now looking to move into a role beyond the classroom.
A master’s of science (M.S.) or master’s of arts (M.A.) in education tends to focus on additional teacher training. Candidates commonly choose a specific subject area that they intend to teach, such as history, science, or math.
What careers can I have with a master’s degree in education?
A master’s degree can lead to multiple roles within the education sector, both in the classroom and beyond. Note that to become a teacher in a public school, additional requirements, specifically a teaching license, are necessary before you enter a classroom.
Some of the jobs open to graduates of a master’s in education program include:
Postsecondary professorMedian salary: 81K US$
Some institutions and community colleges accept a master’s degree for postsecondary level teaching positions. As well as lecturing, professors create coursework, assign homework, test students, and grade student work.
Director of educationMedian salary: 66K US$
Directors look at ways to increase funding for public schools and develop policies to improve school performance. Other tasks include facilitating reports, organizing community outreach, and supervising staff.
Curriculum writerMedian salary: 53K US$
A curriculum writer creates the curriculum for a school district, reviews education materials to ensure they have met educational standards, trains instructional staff, and guides teachers.
The next steps
Upon completion of a master’s, some students choose to continue their educational journey with further qualifications. The options available include:
Ed.D. in education
A doctorate of education degree is aimed at students who want leadership or administrative roles, as opposed to research positions. Graduates can use this degree in a range of different ways, from working in K-12 schools to jobs in government and healthcare. The program is practice-based and uses research to solve current issues within the education system.
Ph.D. in leadership and administration
This research-based degree focuses on leadership qualities, effective teaching strategies, and administrative tasks. It prepares students for work in management, administrative, or district leadership positions. Graduates possess excellent problem-solving skills, effective communication, and knowledge of educational data.
Ph.D. in special education
A doctoral degree in special education covers topics on diverse learners, research in special education, law and policy, and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). It is excellent preparation for working with special needs students in the education, healthcare, or government sectors. Advanced research skills, critical thinking and creative curriculum development, are just some of the tools that students of this program gain.
Whether you are looking to improve your teaching skills or move into another area of education entirely, a master’s of education is an excellent choice. In this highly versatile program, students can choose a concentration based on their career goals, giving them the best possible chance of success in their chosen position.
Frequently asked questions
Is getting a master’s in education worth it?
If you are looking to bolster your position in education or expand into other areas, enrolling in a master’s in education can be an excellent choice. It is also a sound investment financially. On average, master’s holders earn $19,655 more than bachelor’s holders.
What master’s in education should I get?
The 3 main types of master’s programs are: master’s in education, master’s of science in education, and master’s of arts in education. If you are looking to move into areas beyond teaching, then a master’s in education is often considered the most logical choice.
Can you get a master’s in education without a bachelor’s?
To apply for a master’s, students need to first complete a bachelor’s degree. This undergraduate degree does not need to be in education, but can be in a related field.
Can you teach college with a master’s in education?
Some college teaching positions are available to master’s-educated candidates, but most require a doctorate.
What is the difference between a master’s in education and a master’s in teaching?
A master’s in education tends to cover broader subject areas. The emphasis of a master’s in teaching is on providing advanced practical skills for teachers.
Information is available about loans, grants, scholarships and other financial aid to help students pay for higher education. Additionally, students have access to information about credential requirements by state, news resources and educational data.
This association builds a network of university professors to share ideas, learn about current issues, attend state conferences and read news reports about topics in higher education.
This organization helps state boards maintain quality and equity in education. They provide helpful information on curriculum and instruction regarding state content standards and research-based approaches.