It’s possible to work in education without a graduate degree, but having a master's in teaching or education can lead to a host of opportunities—some in specialized, higher-paying careers in the classroom, others in school administration postions. Still others lead to roles outside the public school system in fields like consulting and corporate training.
This article addresses the question what you can do with a master's in teaching? It discusses:
Master's in teaching and education degrees fall into two broad categories:
All three master's degrees pathways (MAT, MST, MEd) tend to be concentration-based and/or subject-specific. The coursework in an MAT or MST program with a mathematics concentration for grades 9-12 is very different from an MAT or MST program with a special needs education concentration. Master of Arts in Teaching programs and Master of Science in Teaching programs may focus on grade level, subject area, student population, or all three. MEd programs offer multiple specializations designed for teachers, administrators, researchers, and specialists.
As you see, the distinction between master's in teaching and education degrees isn't entirely clear-cut. Colleges and universities approach teacher education programs differently. The only way to determine how a given program will support your goals is to read its program guide carefully.
The answer to this question varies by state. Check your local department of education's website to learn the requirements in your state.
You won't need to complete an education graduate program to start teaching anywhere in the US. All 50 states allow educators to begin their careers with a bachelor's degree; many continue to license educators without advanced degrees. However, in some states, earning a master's degree in teaching or education is the only way to maintain licensure after a set number of years.
Nearly all states require teachers to meet professional development requirements as their careers advance; earning a graduate degree typically fulfills this requirement. In addition, in most states, earning a master's degree triggers an automatic pay increase for teachers. For this reason, many teachers pursue master's degrees even when their home state doesn't require them.
While you might not need a master's in teaching or education to advance in careers related to corporate education or curriculum design, having an MAT degree, MST degree, or MEd degree can certainly help you climb the ladder more quickly. If your goal is to advance into a school leadership position, a graduate degree is pretty much essential. Most states require school principals and higher-level district administrators to have master's degrees, though those degrees don't necessarily have to be related to education.
MAT and MST programs train educators (and aspiring teachers) to step into more specialized roles reflecting the needs of today's classrooms. What you do after earning a Master of Art in Teaching or a Master of Science in Teaching depends on the concentration you choose. Popular concentrations include early childhood education, special education instruction, elementary education, middle grades education, secondary education, and English as a second language. Some MST and MAT concentrations are subject-based, like science education and social studies education. Each of these specializations can help you become a better teacher by adding new expertise to your skill set.
You can pursue various career paths with an MAT or MST, including many outside the classroom. Possibilities include:
These professionals help students plan their school year and address any academic issues. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), academic advisors earned a median income of over $60,000 in 2021. The BLS also projects a 10 percent growth in employment for this job from 2021 through 2031, a rate significantly exceeding that of the job market as a whole.
Depending on where they work, art teachers may need a master's degree after their initial certification runs out. A master's may qualify you for art teaching positions above the high school level; the subject does not typically influence teacher salary. That means high school art teachers typically earn around $62,000 per year, while kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn closer to $61,000, according to the BLS. The need for all teachers is growing at an average rate, according to the BLS.
Corporate trainers develop and implement training workshops and training sessions for private companies. These professionals fall in the BLS' training and development specialist category, meaning they earn around $70,000 annually.
These professionals typically work with teachers and administrators to improve lesson plans. Other names for this position include curriculum consultant and education consultant. As instructional coordinators, they earn close to $70,000 per year.
A master's degree can be useful for elementary school teachers, especially if you want to take on a teacher leadership role or start working with special needs students.
Analysts can work for government agencies and school districts assessing policies and even working to create laws. They earn around $63,000 per year, according to PayScale.
Earning an MAT in English Language Arts can help broaden your subject knowledge and lead to better classroom practices.
These professionals perform supervisory tasks, including complying with state regulations, improving program content, and obtaining grants. According to the salary website PayScale, the average education program director earns a salary of around $66,500 per year.
Though not common, gym teachers may have master's degrees, especially in states like New York State that require them after initial licensure. According to ZipRecruiter, physical education teachers earn average annual incomes ranging from $35,000 (Louisiana) to $55,000 (Hawaii).
Secondary school teachers may earn a master's after initial licensure to complete subject-specific training.
Instructional designers can work in and outside the school system (including for businesses and the military) to design, review, implement, and refine learning systems, models, and materials. Instructional coordinators who work for the government earn nearly $79,000 per year.
Kindergarten teachers who choose to earn this degree commonly do it to obtain a teaching leadership role, transition to curriculum development, or focus on early childhood development—especially among special needs students.
Graduates from the Columbia University literacy specialist program typically "become teachers who develop best practice methods and illustrate what's possible in the teaching of reading and writing." This kind of degree can lead to leadership positions in literacy, curriculum development, and school leadership.
These professionals are hired to coach teachers, helping them develop more impactful teaching strategies. Glassdoor reports that math instructional coaches earn an average annual income of $56,000.
Middle school teachers typically earn a master's to advance their certification or learn better teaching strategies.
Museum educators may work with school groups on class field trips. They also may design workshops and perform administrative tasks, such as running outreach programs. According to PayScale, museum educators earn around $15 per hour. Those in high-level positions earn more.
You may decide to pursue advanced music education to specialize in an area like teaching music during early childhood or music technology.
While you do not need a master's degree to be a private tutor, it can certainly help. What you make as a private tutor depends heavily on your education and experience. Comparably reports that annual incomes for private tutors range from $19,000 to $84,000. Exclusive private tutors can charge $200 per hour or more.
Most states don't require special education teachers to have a master's degree, but having one can better prepare you to work with students with learning disabilities. According to the BLS, the median pay for special education teachers was $62,000 in 2021.
As a standardized test developer, you will be responsible for creating and refining exams. The average test developer salary is $70,000, according to PayScale.
Though certification is often good enough to teach English as a second language, a master's degree can provide better qualifications. You'll likely learn about English language history, how to teach another subject while teaching English, and how to improve reading comprehension. The BLS notes that adult basic and high school ESL teachers earned a median income of $60,000 in 2021. Demand for this position is expected to decline in the coming years.
Test prep specialists work with standardized test preparation companies to tutor students or teach classes. They may work as private tutors, meaning they can set their rates. Most companies pay hourly rates, which vary by organization.
Textbook authors develop print materials for the classroom. These professionals earned a median income of over $69,000 in 2021.
Career pathways for MEd holders vary more widely. There are many more MEd concentrations than there are MAT and MST concentrations, making this the most versatile graduate degree option for educators. You can even complete an online program.
There are Master of Education programs that focus on classroom management, student engagement, learning theories, models of instruction, specific grade levels, and specific subjects. There are also master's in education programs for teachers who want to transition into related fields like educational administration, curriculum design, instructional technology, educational consulting, or school counseling. Examples of common MEd concentrations include:
Students specializing in Applied Human Development at Boston University "develop an understanding of the intersecting dimensions of human development."
This concentration leads to a career as an athletics administrator—usually at the collegiate level.
A counseling concentration provides the necessary tools to help kids through the developmental stage of their lives, typically as a school counselor.
This specialization prepares you to complete job functions like designing curricula, developing education policies, and implementing best pedagogical practices.
An educational psychology concentration prepares you for careers in program evaluation and therapy. You may work with students with learning disabilities and those with behavioral issues.
This concentration prepares you to bring technology improvements into schools. That often means identifying learning-enhancing equipment rather than adding more screens to the classroom.
Most MEd programs offer an early childhood education program. The Clemson University program prepares students to create modern "experiential learning opportunities for young children that are grounded in inquiry practices."
With a degree in higher education administration, you'll be qualified to work in program development at the undergraduate level.
Often combined with education technology coursework, this focus prepares students to create education programs.
This program is popular among those who want to teach internationally or work with multicultural students. Students complete globally focused teacher leadership and pedagogy courses.
This degree can help you become a literacy specialist—both in teaching and policy. Another specialization with a multicultural focus, this concentration can prepare you for an ESL career.
This data-focused concentration prepares you to evaluate assessments and interpret assessment results. It's a critical skill because school funding can depend on test results.
Given the varied nature of MEd concentration options, it should come as no surprise that earning a Master of Education can lead down a variety of career paths. You might become a:
In this role, you can support students, especially high schoolers or undergrads, in figuring out where they want to go next in life. This could mean helping students apply for further education or find a trade or profession they enjoy. According to the BLS, school and career counselors and advisors earn a median income of around $60,500. The market for these professionals is growing at a faster than average rate.
Create and improve the lesson plans and program materials that are taught in schools.
These professionals typically help determine which new technology is utilized in schools. They ask the questions like, "are kids going to use the iPad to learn or just play games?" They can work with IT staff and help lead the media center.
There are several kinds of district administrators, including superintendents. These professionals help facilitate education across dozens of schools. Comparably sets average school superintendent salaries at $173,000.
These professionals work towards the goal of improving learning outcomes by providing an outside perspective. They can work with teachers or on a community level. Educational consultants often have a specialty area.
These professionals help to develop and implement curricula at the departmental, school-wide, district, or state level.
Guidance counselors are needed at all levels, including college. They help students through academic and social difficulties. Their job requirements overlap with those of career counselors.
According to the BLS, these professionals "oversee school curriculums and teaching standards." They earn a median income of nearly $67,000.
According to PayScale, the average education program director earns around $66,500 per year to ensure schools are meeting policy standards and correctly implementing programs.
These professionals assess how students perform in a program and make changes to enhance learning. PayScale lists the <a href="https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Assessment_and_Education_Researcher/Salary" target="_blank"average salary for assessment and education researchers as nearly $67,000.
Principals oversee the operation of a school, with a focus on long-term planning and strategy. BLS figures indicate the median pay among elementary, middle, and high school principals is close to $100,000.
As a school psychologist, you can help students through difficulties and conduct interventions. You'll also help diagnose learning disabilities and perform behavior assessments. The median annual income for school psychologists nearly $80,000, according to the BLS.
As a superintendent, you'll oversee a school district. This requires collaborating with multiple principals (plus hiring and firing them), working on the school board, and managing budgets. According to PayScale, the average superintendent earns nearly $136,000 per year.
Vice principals are in charge of most day-to-day operations at individual schools, allowing principals to focus on big-picture issues. According to PayScale, the average salary for a high school vice principal salary is nearly $100,000 per year.
Yes, and so do administrators, consultants, and specialists.
Let's look at teachers first. It's not uncommon for districts to offer additional pay to teachers with master's degrees—about 88 percent of large districts base teacher salaries on education level. In the first year after graduation, a teacher with an MAT, MST, or MEd earns about $2,800 more. When that teacher reaches the top of their earning potential, they may be earning $10,000 more than their colleagues without advanced degrees.
"When I first earned my master's degree, it was a $3,000 difference each year," wrote elementary principal Phillip Crisostomo in a Quora thread about the value of master's degrees in education. "That wasn't a lot, but in 10 years, that is a $30,000 difference, which is more than enough to pay my student loan. Even if I didn't become an administrator, I estimate that my degree would have earned me at least $90,000 more than I would have received otherwise."
Because administrative positions typically require master's degrees, there's not much data out there related to salaries for school administrators who haven't completed graduate school. Plenty of jobs in education administration pay between $90,000 and $100,000—even higher. This means earning a master's degree and transitioning out of teaching into other areas of education can lead to a salary boost.
The more important question is, "Is a master's in teaching or education worth it?" The answer is almost always yes. A master's degree can help you earn more money, whether you stay in the classroom or explore other careers in education. It can lead to opportunities outside the public school system in fields like consulting, curriculum design, and corporate training. And it can make your teaching career more secure because when budget cuts happen, having a master's in education can help you avoid layoffs. Even if you don't need a graduate degree to do your job, it's worth looking into the opportunities it might provide you.
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