In a time where education is more important than ever, choosing to be an educator is admirable. Facilitating the intellectual growth of students is a significant responsibility that requires personal sacrifice — it is well known that teachers deserve more recognition and pay for their work. Many teachers consider obtaining a master’s in education, because it opens the door to higher salaries and administrative positions. It also provides advanced training in teaching methods, educational technology, and pedagogical theory. In short, it is a popular choice among educators because it allows them to continue their impactful work.
A master’s in education offers an opportunity to take educational expertise to the next level. Coursework in curriculum development, instruction, and counseling allows students to sharpen their foundational skills, and working with fellow graduate students provides a valuable opportunity to network. With their cohorts, graduates can share teaching philosophies and strategies that will shape the future of education.
Whether degree holders choose to stay in the classroom or take leadership positions in administration, they can feel confident that they are doing positive work. Providing greater educational opportunity encourages students to think critically, develop cross-cultural understanding, and support social equity. In simple terms, a degree opens the door to a fulfilling career.
What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Education Program?
While taking an online master’s in education program, students can expect the same quality of instruction, support and content materials that they would receive in on-campus classes. Working teachers or teacher assistants can take advantage of the flexible hours an online program offers and earn an advanced degree that helps further their teaching careers and opens up new job opportunities. It’s important to consider all the options and different program offerings to find an online master’s in education degree program that’s right for you.
Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Education Degree
|CONCENTRATION||DESCRIPTION||CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR|
| Early Childhood Education|| An online Master’s concentration in early childhood education prepares students for shaping, coaching and guiding young children through their first years of life when great gains in social, cognitive, physical and emotional development occur.|| Early childhood teaching positions in public or private schools, day care centers or kindergarten institutions. Those with a Master’s in Early Childhood Education can also pursue careers as curriculum developers, managers or administrators at a community college.|
| Elementary Education|| Often offered as its own Master’s degree, an online Master’s concentration in elementary education prepares students to teach students in public or private schools, usually in grades K-6, but this varies by state.|| Elementary teacher in grades K-6, but some states consider elementary to be K-4, and others consider it to be K-8|
| Special Education|| An online Master’s concentration in special education provides an understanding of the characteristics and needs of individuals who qualify for special education services under the IDEA act.|| Special education teaching positions in public or private schools|
| Reading Education|| A specialization in Reading Education helps you deepen your understanding of literacy and how to develop stronger reading and writing skills in the classroom and in small group settings.|| Literacy specialist in public or private K-12 schools|
| Educational Administration|| This concentration provides coursework related to administrative positions in public or private schools.|| Principal, vice principal or head administrator in public or private schools|
Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Education
The type of courses you take for an online master’s degree in education is going to depend on your chosen specialty. When selecting an online program for a master’s in education, remember that each school you investigate offers something unique. Education students should always consider their career goals and how those personal objectives coincide with each school’s curriculum. Also consider how the school delivers the curriculum: depending on the school, all classes may be offered online, while other schools may provide some courses face-to-face or require a certain number of completed practicum hours in a public or private school. Oftentimes, regardless of the school’s location, you can achieve these hours in a place close to you or at the school where you currently work.
Specific coursework is going to depend on your chosen area of concentration and the type of Master of Education program. Some general courses you can expect to take include:
|Classroom management||You’ll learn how to manage a classroom and control student behaviors|
|Educational psychology||You’ll build upon your existing foundation of psychology to learn how young minds work and how kids think|
|Child (or adolescent) growth and development||Depending on your area of concentration, you’ll focus on how children or adolescents grow and develop physically, cognitively and emotionally|
|Foundations of reading and writing||You’ll likely learn strategies for teaching kids how to read and write, which is especially important for literacy teachers or early elementary teachers|
|Content area reading and writing||Usually covers how to read and write in different subject areas, including social studies, science and math|
|Teaching individuals with disabilities||Provides an overview of how to teach students with special needs and what you might need to know for inclusion practices|
|Teaching science in elementary school (or your level of concentration||Concentrates on science concepts and subjects|
|Teaching mathematics in elementary school (or your level of concentration)||You’ll learn strategies and concepts important for mathematics instruction|
|Assessment||Usually covers how to administer assessments, both informal and formal, and how they can help inform your teaching practice|
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s in Education?
The length of your online master’s in education program depends on several factors, including the school and the subject area you’ve chosen as your concentration. In general, if the course is administered entirely online, most schools allow for completing courses at your own pace while meeting certain deadlines along the way.
In general, if taking courses full-time, you can expect to complete an online Master’s degree in Education in about two years. Part-time students can usually finish it in three to four years, depending on their individual pace.
Certifications and Licenses a Master’s in Education Prepares For
After obtaining a master’s in education, the type of certification and license you are eligible for depend on the state where you live, so be sure to research your state’s requirements for teaching licenses. In general, you’ll want to make sure you’ve completed the required coursework, supplied appropriate transcripts, taken any required exams and a completed an application for teacher licensing.
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Education Degrees
When selecting a school for an online master’s in education, a major consideration should always be program accreditation. Accreditation is important because it determines whether a program meets minimum standards of quality and delivers appropriate coursework to lead to education licensure. It’s also important for employment purposes; many schools and institutions require that your degree be obtained from an accredited master’s in education program.
School accreditation comes in either regional or national accreditation forms. Regional accreditation for master’s in education programs is usually considered more prestigious, especially because requirements and standards for educational licensure and coursework vary widely by state.
When looking for an accredited online master’s in education, students should focus their search on programs accredited by bodies such as the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) or an education-specific accreditation agency such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
Pay attention also to programs that are certified by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These organizations certify the quality of accrediting agencies and ensure that schools offering online master’s in education programs adhere to the highest possible standards of academic excellence.
Employment Outlook for Master’s in Education Graduates
Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s
While a bachelor’s degree can definitely help you obtain entry-level teaching positions or even teaching assistant positions, a master’s degree propels you further in your teaching career. Public school districts and private schools are much more likely to hire someone with a master’s degree than without. For instance, a recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that the unemployment rate for teachers with a master’s degree was much lower (1.9 percent) compared to those with a bachelor’s and some professional experience at 3.9 percent.
In addition to opening up more job opportunities, an online master’s in education degree can boost your salary.
Average Salaries for Master's in Education Degree Holders
According to statistics from the National Center on Education Statistics, teacher’s with a master’s degree earned a median salary of $57,831 during the 2011-2012 school year, while teachers with a bachelor’s degree earned a median salary of $46,343 during the same academic year. Furthermore, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), 96 percent of the 112 major school districts in the United States pay teachers a higher salary if they have a master’s degree.
Master's v. Bachelor's
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Based on their chosen area of concentration, teachers with an online master’s in education degree can pursue many career opportunities. An M.Ed. degree lets you work with elementary, secondary or high school-aged students, qualify for more jobs and earn a higher salary.
|JOB TITLE||JOB DESCRIPTION||MEDIAN SALARY||PROJECTED GROWTH RATE|
|Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers||Teachers at the kindergarten and elementary school level instruct young students, usually in grades K-6, in basic subjects such as math, reading, history and science, to prepare them for future schooling. These teachers work in public and private schools during school hours when students are present. Typically, they spend mornings, nights and weekends preparing lessons and grading papers. Unless they’re employed at a year-round school, most kindergarten and elementary school teachers do not work during the summer.||$56,000 per year||7%|
|Middle School Teachers||Middle school teachers educate students who are usually in sixth through eighth grades. In general, they help students build their knowledge of the fundamentals they learned in elementary school while preparing them for high school.||$57,720 per year||8%|
|High School Teachers||High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation, whether they seek enrollment in college or employment. While some high school teaching positions are available to individuals with a bachelor’s degree, preference is usually given to high school teachers with master’s degrees.||$59,170 per year||8%|
|Special Education Teachers||Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioral disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects in smaller groups.||$58,980 per year||8%|
|K-12 Principal||Principals at the elementary, middle or high school level oversee and monitor all daily operations within a school. They manage the school’s curriculum, faculty, finances, administrative functions and educational resources.||$94,390 per year||8%|
Maintaining professional connections and learning about different educational approaches and methodologies is crucial to your success as a teacher. Professional organizations offer a great opportunity for teachers to learn about their chosen career. Be sure to research local organizations specific to your state or district as well. Here are three of the top national organizations for education.
The National Council on Teacher Quality: This organization creates policies that improve the quality of classroom education and work environments for professional educators.
The National Educational Association: The NEA is a full-service national organization that focuses on improving public education from preschool to graduate-level studies. It provides resources on current regulations, strategies for securing financial support and tools teachers can use in the classroom to create high-quality lesson plans and units.
The Association of American Educators: Serving members in all 50 states, the Association of American Educators creates tools and resources that help increase student achievement and positive classroom outcomes.
Financing Your Online Master’s in Education
While many online degrees may be less expensive than attending courses on campus, many students still need financial aid to help pay for their online degree. The first step toward securing financing is to apply for federal aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Completing this form allows you to learn about many grants, loans and other financial aid options available to you from the federal government. Private grants and scholarships are other viable financial aid options available for teachers. Check out some of the resources below to get started.
Eligibility: TEACH recipients are eligible for up to $4000 annually in exchange for a four-year commitment to teaching at a school that serves low-income students.
STEM Teacher Graduate Scholarship
Eligibility: Students pursuing a graduate degree or credential/license to teach in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering or math) at a U.S. school in grades K-12
Teacher.org Inspire Our Future Scholarship
Eligibility: Minimum GPA 3.5, 18 years or older, open to experienced teachers continuing their education or a teacher candidate who has just begun the process.