Get Your Master’s in Education and Teach in California

Get Your Master’s in Education and Teach in California
California administrators earn some of the highest incomes in the nation. According to Salary.com, the median salary for a California school principal is slightly under $121,000. Image from Unsplash
Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella November 16, 2020

Demand for education leaders in California is high. So, too, are salaries for educational leadership positions. A Master of Education (MEd) degree you to take advantage of these opportunities.

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If you want to help improve California’s education system, earning a Master of Education (MEd) from a Golden State school is a great way to start. The MEd is an advanced degree that prepares you to fill essential senior teacher or school administrator roles.

Demand for qualified education professionals is high in California, and so too are the salaries these professionals draw. The annual median income for California K-12 education administrators is $128,880, fourth-highest in the nation (according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). This means you can take a job that benefits others without sacrificing your earning potential—a balance that not many people achieve.

It makes sense to earn a Master of Education degree in California, given that 12 of the top 100 spots on US News & World Report‘s 2021 Best Education Schools list go to California schools. Many of these institutions are part of the state’s public university system, meaning residents get an excellent education at a fair price.

Read on for more reasons why you should earn a Master of Education in California. This article covers:

  • Why earn a Master of Education in California?
  • What is a Master of Education?
  • What can you do with a Master of Education in California?
  • Which California schools offer a Master of Education?

Why earn a master of education in California?

California is in the midst of overhauling its education system. Improved teacher preparation programs and incentives are starting to bring in more and better-trained educators, but the work is far from done.

The state faces potential administrator shortages in rural and low income areas—especially in those with a high English as a second language student populations. Additionally, according to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, “The demand for employment of elementary, middle, and high school principals will grow 6 percent nationwide by the year 2022 due to population increases.” In California and across the country, there is a growing need for young, ambitious, multicultural, and bilingual professionals to pursue administrative roles in K-12 and post-secondary education settings.

California administrators earn some of the highest incomes in the nation. According to Salary.com, the median salary for a California school principal is slightly under $121,000. Compare that to the national median for school principals, which is just over $108,000.

Though most MEd-holders become administrators, the degree also qualifies holders for senior teaching positions. Teaching with a master’s can lead to a higher salary (usually $2,800 more in the first year, increasing to a maximum of $7,000). California has the second-highest annual mean income in the nation for secondary school and elementary school teachers—$85,080 and $82,560 respectively, according to the BLS.

Finally, annual graduate-level in-state tuition at a state school typically ranges around $10,000, much less than you’d pay at a private college for a similar education. Another benefit of attending a California MEd program is it can prepare you for state-specific licensure in your chosen field. Some MEds are linked with California teacher accreditation or prepare students for the Administrative Services Credential. If you know you want to work in California, completing graduate school there streamlines the process.



University and Program Name Learn More

What is a Master of Education?

For the most part, the MEd is not a teaching degree—though it can lead to teacher leadership positions. If you’re looking to become an educator, you’re likely better off with a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) or Master of Science in Teaching (MST). Most people who pursue a master’s in education seek administrative positions. Still, there’s no one size fits all MEd; what you learn depends heavily on your chosen concentration, and by extension, the graduate program you attend.

Here is a breakdown of a few specializations:

  • Curriculum and instruction: Graduates take on roles in curriculum design, educational policy, and instructional design. Similarly to a policy and leadership degree, an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction can prepare you for a principalship, but you’ll spend more credit hours analyzing curricula.
  • Elementary education: One of the few focuses that might advance a teaching career, rather than move past it—graduates may become lead teachers or help develop academic plans. Degree tracks within this focus include special education, social justice, and reading specialist.
  • Policy and leadership: The degree path has a variety of tracks within the concentration, including policy studies and higher education administration, which can lead to a career as a principal, policy analyst, or university dean. Regardless of track, a policy and leadership MEd likely includes courses in economics, policy, and finance.

While the MEd is the focus of this article, it’s not the only graduate degree in the field. It’s important to note that Master of Arts in Education, Master of Science in Education, Doctor of Education (EdD), or even PhD programs can prepare you for careers in:

  • Early childhood education
  • Educational administration
  • Educational leadership

What can you do with a Master of Education in California?

A California Master’s in Education puts you on track to work in education leadership—not just for schools but also nonprofits and government organizations, such as the state or federal Department of Education. In addition to the previously mentioned careers, MEd-holders can become a:

The jobs you can hold frequently depend on the track you choose, which can have specific requirements. For instance, admissions requirements for school psychology and school counseling tracks often include relevant bachelor’s degree-level coursework in psychology.

Which California schools offer a Master of Education?

California Lutheran University

Graduate School of Educaiton

Thousand Oaks, California

Cal Lutheran offers a three-course MEd in Teacher Leadership add on degree-option to those who complete a preliminary teaching credential. Naturally, this degree-path only makes sense for those pursuing a teaching career because you take credentialing courses that also count towards the MEd. If you are a teacher returning to school, this degree likely doesn’t make sense. Tuition is $790 per credit. The program takes between 12 and 18 months to complete.

Saint Mary’s College of California __

Kalmanovitz School of Education

Moraga, California

St. Mary’s offers a Master of Education in Special Education that complements the school’s education specialist credential (a teaching degree). Graduate students take 12 master’s degree units on top of the 32 credential units. This degree involves substantial special education research; students complete either a thesis or applied synthesis project. It can be finished in as little as three terms, though some projects may take longer.

University of California – Los Angeles

Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

Los Angeles, California

This top five education school offers four diverse on-campus MEd options. The one-year student affairs degree offers “early-career professionals” broad training in student development theory, higher education foundations, and research. You may also decide to complete the Principal Leadership Institute, a 14-month MEd that leads to initial administrative licensure, or the Teacher Education Program. Finally, UCLA offers the Transformative Coaching and Leadership MEd, which prepares students for “careers in coaching and sports leadership in professional and collegiate athletics, K-12 schools, and community-based sports organizations.”

One of the best reasons for attending UCLA is the affordability. California residents pay an estimated yearly cost of around $17,500 for any graduate program.

University of California – Riverside

Graduate School of Education

Riverside, California

Students complete UC Riverside’s 36-to-64 unit MEd program in either one or two years. They can choose from three specializations:

  • Applied Behavior Analytics
  • Diversity and Equity
  • Higher Education Administration and Policy

The school is highly ranked (79th on the US News & World Report list) but does not require GRE scores. Students complete the program on-campus—full- or part-time—though most classes take place during evenings.

University of California – San Diego

Department of Education Studies

San Diego, California

This online master’s degree program accepts applicants with two or more years of teaching experience only. Admitted students choose from several specialty areas, including:

  • STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics)
  • Inclusive Learning: Special Education and Universal Design
  • Literacy and Digital Learning
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • School Leadership

Every student must take five foundation courses, including cognition and learning, social justice, a capstone, and two research courses—no matter which concentration area they choose. The program takes 20 months to complete.

University of California – Santa Barbara

The Gevirtz Graduate School of Education

Santa Barbara

UC – Santa Barbara ranks 56th on US News & World Report‘s list of top education schools. The school offers an in-person Master’s of Education in Teaching to students also completing a teaching credential program at the school. This campus-based program is designed to help each graduate “become a teacher leader with a deep, responsible, creative vision of students and their learning.” Students must complete both the MEd program and California Teaching Credential within four years of admission.

This article was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most recent data on the subject.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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