I was fortunate to get my master’s in education as a path towards teacher licensure, and I didn’t realize how valuable a master’s degree would be — I kind of just “fell into” the path, which ended up opening doors and also increasing my pay substantially.
More and more of my colleagues are pursuing a master’s degree — online options open doors for working parents, teachers who don’t live close to a university, and so many others who are looking for unique, tailored programs that fit their needs. I also have colleagues who are switching careers into teaching, and many master’s programs provide options for teacher certification, like the program I attended. To answer questions about this path and about a master’s degree in education in general, I did some research and combined it with my personal experience to create the guide below!
Can a master’s degree in education provide a path to getting a teacher’s license?
Not all M.Ed. programs provide a “licensure track,” which would help you earn a teacher’s certification in a state, but some M.Ed. programs do offer pathways for initial licensure. The key is to do some research to find a program that can offer teacher licensing. And, if you find a great program online through one state, you may be able to transfer your initial license from one state to a different state through licensure reciprocity. You need to check with your desired state to make sure this is an option, though. Being extremely thorough with your research is important — you do not want to finish a program and find out that your license will not transfer to a place you would like to teach.
Can I get a master’s degree in education with a bachelor’s degree in something else?
From personal experience, I can answer this question with an enthusiastic, “YES!”
I can’t verify every single program around the world, but I can tell you that when I switched careers into education, I was accepted to a master’s in education program with a bachelor’s in economics and international relations. I had no formal teacher training beyond the “crash course” training I received in the Peace Corps.
I work with several teachers who are in a “Transition to Teaching” Master’s program that is approved by our state licensing board as a path towards teacher licensure. Check with your state licensing board and research programs in your area to see what the options are for you and your specific major (if it’s not in education) — But, in my experience, the doors for non-education majors to get an M.Ed. and transition to teaching is opening more widely than ever before!
What are the benefits of an M.Ed.?
Here is a quick run-down of potential benefits from getting your M.Ed.
- Reinvigorating your passion for education
- Open doors to new positions
- Pay increase
- Enhances your knowledge
Can I do my M.Ed. online?
Yes, in today’s world, you can do your master’s in education completely online. Many universities offer this option, but you will need to research the opportunities first to find a program that best fits your needs. Costs vary with online programs as do course requirements.
My master’s program was an online and face-to-face hybrid. We worked online during the academic school year, and then, during the summer, we had face-to-face classes on campus. I loved this option because I got to know my classmates and professors more closely. When we were online during the year, I felt like I knew my classmates as I interacted with them in discussion boards and on group projects.
What M.Ed. concentration should I choose?
This will depend on your goals, and you can ask yourself these questions:
- What do you hope to accomplish with the masters program?
- Are you hoping to start a new role within education (ex. administration, library science, instruction coach, etc.)?
- Are you looking to become even more of a content expert (ex. Science teacher concentrating on Science)?
- Are you wanting to delve into a topic that has changed since you started teaching (ex. Technology)?
- Are you hoping to learn a new field to help you in your classroom (ex. ELL teaching)?
A master’s degree is a huge investment in both time and money, so you should take time to be fairly certain you are choosing a concentration that fits your future goals. If you finish one masters degree and then think, “Oh, wait, I should have studied school counseling” or “I want to be a school librarian” or “I think I’d like to be a principal,” you may be kicking yourself for not having fully considered the possibilities before starting your first master’s program. Being strategic in your knowing your career goals or at least the potential for a career goal/change can save you time and money in the long run!
Is an online master’s degree in education better than in-person?
This question will vary from person to person. As I mentioned above, I loved the hybrid option — where I got to have face-to-face classes in the summer and online classes during the school year. For many teachers, however, in-person classes are just not an option. If I hadn’t lived right next to a university, I would not have wanted to travel and live on campus during the summer. Right now, I live in a rural area, and we don’t have the option for in-person master’s classes — so my masters-pursuing colleagues are all studying online, and it’s a great option!
A program is what you make of it — so it’s difficult to say that one is better than the other. Online provides much more flexibility, so for most teachers, that aspect tips the scale in its favor!
Should I get my M.Ed. before I start teaching?
This will definitely vary from person-to-person and has some pros and cons. If you get your M.Ed. before you start teaching, you will likely not get as much from your program compared to a teacher who already has a classroom and students. Obviously, there are exceptions to any rule, but because an M.Ed. provides so many practical, researched-based best practices, a teacher may be better off having a classroom to use those strategies in. Those strategies become less theoretical and instantly implementable into a real-life classroom.
I had a split experience with my M.Ed. as I was not teaching my first year in the program, but I was teaching the second year of the program. I was able to not only implement the class-specific strategies I was learning, but I also had the opportunity to complete my action research (required for my M.Ed. program) in my own classroom. Trying to do an action research project before I started teaching would have been extremely difficult, and I felt fortunate that I had a classroom for the second year of my Masters Degree.
In the past, some teachers have worried that a school might not hire them because with a master’s degree in education, they would be more “expensive” to pay versus a teacher without a Masters. This, from my experience, is something many mid- to late-career teachers mentioned as something they had heard rumors of from a few years ago. These experienced teachers said that when they were looking for their first job, they were advised to wait and get hired somewhere before starting a master’s degree program — so that “being expensive” would not hurt their job prospects.
However, in my personal experience, sitting on many hiring committees and being hired with a master’s degree myself, I have never heard this arise. Instead, the principals I’ve worked for have been impressed with a master’s degree. With teacher shortages spreading across the country, I have a difficult time imagining a teacher being eliminated because they are too qualified.
Ultimately, if you have connections in a prospective district, I would reach out to find out what the hiring practices and job prospects are locally to get the best idea on the timing for your M.Ed.
If you have any advice about pursuing a master’s in education, a transition-to-teaching program, or other topics, comment below! I’d love to hear from you!