Should teachers pursue a master’s degree? You can teach without a master’s in much of the United States, after all. A Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) or Master of Education (MEd) may not even make you a better teacher.
That said, the benefits of a teaching or education master’s are undeniable. Educators with advanced degrees earn more money than their bachelor’s-degree-only peers—often a lot more. They also enjoy a broader range of elementary education and secondary education opportunities—including chances to join administration—with a graduate degree.
The question is whether the career-boosting power of a master’s in teaching or master’s in education is worth the cost. If you’re looking at high-profile MAT or MEd programs with a correspondingly high price tag, determining the ROI can be tough. The costs are undoubtedly a little daunting when you’re earning the average teacher’s salary.
Luckily, there are many government, nonprofit, and private scholarships for teachers and future teachers available to help you mitigate the expense of going to grad school. The only reason more people don’t take advantage of this free money is that getting it takes work. First, you have to find the right scholarships. Then, you have to apply for them. Scholarships for teachers are granted based on subject area, academic merit, need, location, and other qualifiers. Applying for multiple scholarships can be a time-consuming process.
Time-consuming, yes, but also undeniably worthwhile for many. Every scholarship dollar is one dollar you don’t have to pay while enrolled in a part-time or full-time master’s program. In this article about scholarships for teachers in graduate school, we cover:
Locating appropriate scholarships can be more challenging than applying for them. That’s because there are millions of scholarships sponsored by thousands of agencies and companies. Most colleges and universities collect information about scholarships available to different departments on their websites, and financial aid counselors can also be helpful resources.
That said, finding scholarships for teachers going to graduate school often means sorting through pages and pages of scholarships that aren’t a good fit to find the handful that are. One way to speed up the process is to use scholarship aggregator sites like Fastweb and Scholarships.com. These sites let you search their huge databases of scholarships by various criteria (e.g., location, degrees earned, or field of education) to narrow down your results to only those you’re most likely to qualify for.
Finding scholarships for teachers in graduate school can be slightly more challenging because not all scholarship search sites differentiate between graduate scholarships and undergraduate scholarships. Sallie Mae has a graduate scholarship search platform on its site with 950,000 scholarships just for graduate students.
Many of these sites require searchers to sign up before they can see the full list of results. To ensure your inbox isn’t overwhelmed with updates, create a new email address just for your scholarship search.
These scholarships exist to help teachers with excellent academic and professional records fund their graduate study. Some merit scholarships restrict eligibility to financially disadvantaged applicants. Still, many exist to reward especially talented teachers, aspiring teachers with high GPAs, or teachers whose extracurricular activities are in some way exceptional.
Need-based scholarships often have only one requirement: applicants must demonstrate financial need, though some need-based scholarships do take academic achievement, demographics, and other factors into account. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, for example, is a full-ride scholarship for low-income minority students pursuing degrees in education (and some other disciplines).
In these scholarship programs for graduate education majors, recipients may not need to meet academic requirements. Instead, they agree to perform some form of service upon the completion of their degrees. A foundation dedicated to bringing qualified teachers into elementary schools and high schools in underserved districts might provide scholarships to teachers in master’s degree programs who commit to teaching in these shortage areas for a specified number of years after graduation.
Students in graduate programs who identify as members of protected or underrepresented minority groups are eligible for this type of scholarship. Some graduate scholarships for teachers are earmarked for racial or ethnic groups, like African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Middle Eastern Americans, or Native Americans. Others are for LGBTQ+ students. To qualify for this type of scholarship, you may also need to be either the first person in your family to be accepted into a higher education program or a first-generation US citizen.
If you’re already a teacher and you’re going back to school to become a subject-matter expert or specialist, look for scholarships specific to your discipline or the specialty area you want to join (like early childhood education or foreign language instruction). Students enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh‘s School of Education to earn an MAT in either Mathematics or Science Education may qualify for specific scholarships that other master’s in teaching students don’t.
Like many schools, the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh has a list of scholarships and grants available on its website. If you can’t find any information about available scholarships on your school website, contact the school’s Education Department to ask for a list of scholarships available to students pursuing graduate teaching degrees.
Many professional associations sponsor scholarships and grants for students enrolled in programs related to specific fields. One such scholarship is the National Council of Teachers of English’s Edwyna Wheadon Postgraduate Training Scholarship Fund for middle and high school English teachers who want to take graduate-level courses.
Not necessarily. There are graduate scholarships for teachers that stipulate that applicants must have completed a teacher education program and have a certain amount of teaching experience or meet specific work requirements to qualify. To be eligible for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ $3,000 Engaging Students in Learning Mathematics Grant, for instance, teachers must teach mathematics in the sixth, seventh, or eighth grade for at least 50 percent of the school day.
There are also, however, many graduate teacher scholarships for college students launching teaching careers or college graduates who want to become second-career teachers. In some cases, these scholarships require applicants to agree to meet specific post-graduation work commitments. The American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences’ Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program is one example of this type of scholarship for aspiring educators. Open to both undergraduates and graduates who plan to teach STEM subjects, it provides recipients with full tuition plus a stipend—provided they teach for two to five years in a high-need school district after graduation.
There are plenty of corporate and company-sponsored scholarships for teachers. Many people searching for scholarships don’t realize that in addition to the scholarships offered by large national and multinational corporations, there are also small businesses that sponsor scholarships at the local level. Sometimes these are offered directly, though programs that award larger scholarships may be overseen by a foundation created to manage the scholarship program.
Corporate scholarships for teachers are often awarded to recipients who plan to teach subjects related to a corporation’s niche. National Geographic Learning sponsors a National Association of Agricultural Educators scholarship for teachers who want to work for agricultural education programs.
Every scholarship-granting organization is looking for different qualities in recipients. Applicants are asked to provide different forms of documentation, depending on what kind of scholarship they’re hoping to receive. When scholarships are based on financial need, applicants may be asked to submit proof of income and other resources (usually by providing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application or tax statements). Organizations and companies that fund merit-based scholarships typically ask for applicants to submit transcripts and test scores. In many cases, applicants must also submit a short essay or personal statement detailing why they deserve the available funds as well as multiple letters of recommendation.
You can maximize the chances that you’ll qualify for graduate scholarships for teachers by applying for various scholarships and always reading application guidelines carefully. Nearly all funding organizations and firms publish all the information you’ll need to apply, including application deadlines, detailed instructions, contact information, downloadable application templates, and a list of essential components.
Here are four tips that can help you get more scholarships:
Teachers pursuing graduate degrees have access to all the conventional funding sources. These include federal government loans, state government loans, and private student loans (which can be used to cover tuition, books, supplies, and even housing), government or private education grants that don’t have to be repaid, and employer tuition reimbursement for those teachers lucky enough to have their degrees partially or fully funded by their districts.
You may also be eligible for one or more loan forgiveness programs for teachers after earning an MAT or MEd. These programs are designed to encourage more people to become school teachers by waiving repayment for subsidized and unsubsidized loans for teachers willing to work for an educational service agency, a school serving low-income families, or an area with a major teacher shortage.
Some financing options are specific to one demographic. Troops to Teachers, for example, is a program run by the Department of Defense to help veterans launch new careers in teaching and address teacher shortages in public schools in underserved areas of the US (especially in subjects like math, science, and special education). Veterans enrolled in the program receive both financial assistance and job coaching.
As you research scholarships, grant programs, fellowship programs, and other funding opportunities, you’ll discover that scholarship award amounts for teachers pursuing graduate degrees in education tend to be more modest than those available to undergraduate students. Don’t let that discourage you from putting in the time and effort it takes to land one or more of them. Keep in mind that the cost of a master’s degree in teaching is often less than the cost of an undergraduate degree in education. More importantly, scholarships add up. A single $2,000 scholarship might seem like a drop in the bucket, but land a few of them, and those scholarships may cover a significant chunk of your degree.
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