Imagine you’ve just earned your bachelor’s degree, and now you’re wondering whether to start teaching right away or to go straight for a master’s in teaching degree. Or, in a second common scenario, you’re already teaching, and you love it, but there are some limitations — salary, your desire to learn expanded education techniques and your eligibility for promotions.
In both cases, you wonder whether getting a master’s degree is worth the cost and the time it would take. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, read on to help you decide whether a Master of Arts in teaching is worth it.
How to Decide Whether a Master's in Teaching Is Right for You
What would be your primary motivation to get a Master of Arts degree in teaching? There’s no getting around the fact that doing so takes time and money. But it’s important to know the ways in which you hope the degree will pay off for you.
You want to increase your knowledge.
If your primary desire is to expand your understanding of and expertise in the education world, the decision is a no-brainer. A master’s degree in teaching allows for more exploration of education theory, classroom practices, education policy and management, field research on particular topics of interest, leadership opportunities and technological innovations.
You’re afraid you won’t go back to school if you begin teaching.
This is a real risk. Once you’ve gotten a job and started your career, settled into an apartment and had to deal with real-world living expenses, it can be difficult to take the downsizing in salary that going back to school may entail. Many teaching students who intend to do this never end up going back. In this case, pursuing an online graduate-level degree in education can help you balance a full-time or part-time job while still working.
You want to increase your salary.
If increasing your teacher salary is your biggest motivation, you should know that chances are good that you’ll increase earning potential with a masters degree — but it’s not guaranteed. Factors that directly affect teacher salaries include the state in which you live; whether you teach in a public or private school; and whether you work in a rural, suburban or urban classroom setting.
What Are the Benefits of a Master's in Teaching?
Aside from the statistics related to potential salary increase, there are other benefits you could reap by earning a master’s degree in teaching.
You may obtain a bigger frame of reference for your teaching, and the increased knowledge can benefit you for the rest of your career. By studying subjects related to educational theories of learning, cultural perspectives, inquiry and research, at-risk students, trends in assessment or the psychology of the developing brain, you’ll be more prepared and more confident about your job in the classroom.
You may also have an expanded list of potential employers available to you. While not all teaching positions require a master’s degree, some do. You could also be considered more seriously for school principal or school administrator positions, now or in the future.
How Does Life Change After a Teaching Master's?
In addition to increasing confidence and knowledge in the classroom, a teaching master’s may give you access to positions that offer greater benefits than typical teaching jobs do. Benefits, of course, vary from school to school and university to university. As an elementary or secondary school teacher, having a teaching master’s degree and its potentially higher salary may allow you to spend your summers free of the part-time jobs that many teachers use to supplement their income. And as a university professor, those benefits can include paid sabbatical leave and advanced scholarship programs in addition to health care coverage.
Your networking opportunities may also increase with a master’s degree. Right now, if you are a classroom teacher, your primary peers are those who also teach at your school. The opportunity to study under professors with different areas of expertise and to meet like-minded educators can give you contacts that you’ll take with you after you’ve earned your degree.
Master of Arts in Teaching Alternatives
The Master of Arts in teaching is not the only master’s degree available to those who desire an advanced teaching or education degree. Here’s a list of master’s degree possibilities that may suit those who have a specific focus they want to pursue:
Master of Science in Teaching (MST)
Master of Science in teaching programs focus on prospective teachers seeking initial teacher certification and on current teachers looking to expand their teaching skills with some hands-on field-based experiences. An MST is largely made for newcomers to the education field.
Master of Education (MEd)
Master’s degree in education programs typically offer a few possible majors/specialties: curriculum and instruction, counselor education, educational administration, leadership/administration, educational technology, special education or teaching English-language learners. Those who pursue this degree may desire to be classroom teachers but may also be interested in administration positions or in teaching outside the traditional K–12 classroom (e.g., working in adult literacy).
Doctorate in Education (EdD)
If you’re interested in going further than your master’s degree, the next step is a doctorate in education. These programs typically offer a handful of core courses that are supplemented by classes that focus on an individual’s specialty concentration, such as curriculum, leadership or counseling. This doctorate can be completed in as little as three years, which is just one year longer than a typical Master of Arts in teaching degree.
Master’s in School Counseling
If you enjoy working with students but want to get out of the classroom and into a more guiding role, you may consider a master’s degree in school counseling. Obtaining a master’s in counseling can help you transition to a new position outside of the classroom but still in a school setting.
Consider Continuing Your Education
After exploring different on-campus and online degree options, only you know which program is right for you. The reasons to pursue a master’s degree in teaching are many: increased expertise in your profession, the potential for a higher salary, the increase in the positions that may be available to you and the benefits that better networking can bring.