By Kim Wood
If you are reading this, you have probably worked hard very hard to earn your Bachelor’s degree and become a teacher. It is also safe to assume that you have invested a very large amount of time and money pursuing this goal. And if you are fortunate enough to have secured a teaching position, you already spend the majority of your time “at school.” Going back to school for an advanced degree is probably not at the top of your “to-do” list, but it is something that you should seriously consider.
First, let’s be honest and upfront. Can you continue to be a K-12 classroom teacher and renew your teacher certification without ever completing a Master’s degree? The answer is almost always YES! Nearly every state has on-going professional development requirements for renewing teacher certification, and most of these states only require a teacher to take a specific number of additional graduate-level college courses to remain current. Only a very few states (Massachusetts and New York) require the completion of a Masters in Education degree to receive a professional license or tenure.
The bottom line is this: You are probably going to be required by your state’s education department (view state teaching certification and licensure information) to successfully complete a specific number of graduate-level courses anyway! Why stop with simply “credits” on your transcript, when you will have to journey more than half-way there already? There are many career advantages and opportunities for you as an educator if you complete your Master’s degree in Education and earn the official “alphabet soup” of M.A. or M.E.:
Before Wondering “Do I Need A Masters in Education?” – Decide On Whether You “Can”
Deciding to get your Master’s in Education can be a difficult one. There are so many factors to consider that it isn’t as simple as “If I can afford this, I should probably do it”. We wanted to try and break down each of these factors so you have a better idea of what to consider before going to graduate school. Calculate the cost, time required, and potential benefits of each factor to help you make the decision on moving forward with your M.Ed.
Additional Time to Complete a Masters in Education Degree
This isn’t something that is all that new with just about any master’s program. You will need to take courses which will take time and many are in the professional world and have to decide if they have time to do so. As many Master’s in Education students are current teachers, you should look to see if there are summer classes available to make course completion easier.
Trying to juggle between a professional career and taking courses can be a difficult one but if you can time courses during your “time off” (we use that term loosely) it will be easier to focus on the completion of your master’s program.
The total time required to complete the M.Ed. program will vary on whether you’re a part-time or full-time student. The total number of credit hours required will vary but you can try to estimate around 36 total hours depending on the school and specialty you’re considering. If you can manage 9 hours in a semester, it is likely going to take you around two years to complete (assuming 9 hours completed in the Fall semester and 9 hours completed in the Spring semester). There is no way to guarantee that but it should give you an idea of how to estimate your specific program and anticipated length of completion. Reach out to an advisor at the school you’re considering to try and gain more information about the difficulty of their Master’s in Education courses and typical class loads of part-time/full-time students are.
Top Featured Masters in Education Programs
Cost of a Masters in Education
We cannot reiterate enough that there isn’t some magical bullet to predict the cost of different schools because each one will see the cost vary greatly. Your geographic location, how much the school values their Masters in Education degree, and several other factors.
Don’t forget any additional cost that could be incurred outside of the degree itself like food, transportation, and other cost of living expenses. If you plan to be a full-time student, you should also understand the cost of not working full-time while attaining the degree too.
When is the Right Time to Get An M.Ed.?
Trying to decide on whether you need a Master’s degree or not is a difficult one and often trying to figure out the “right time” could be a factor in that decision. You will see students in a Master’s in Education program in varying situations with their life. There will likely be some teachers taking courses outside of their full-time teaching job while others are students that just completed a B.S. degree.
If timing is a big factor in your decision on whether getting your M.Ed. is worth it, you should also consider what restrictions might exist if you wait. It’s always easier to put something off that is challenging and time consuming so be careful in allowing this to be the main driver in determining whether you should get the master’s degree or not.
Do You Really Need a Masters in Education?
This is a very hard question to answer because it involves trying to understand what requirements each state has for teachers in multiple positions and institutions. You also don’t know where a career path can take you over the years and that future dream job you want could require the Master’s degree.
You will see that many teaching positions simply require a bachelor’s degree but that is the research you will have to do. Depending on what kind of entry level job you’re trying to attain combined with where you see yourself in 5 years will likely make the answer to this question very dynamic.
A Master’s in Education can also provide you with more future flexibility in changing roles within the field. Many of us believe that we will love the job we get but may find that we’re a better fit for other roles or levels of teaching. M.Ed. degrees could potentially give you that flexibility.
Benefits of a Masters of Education
Calculating the potential benefits is another big part of deciding on why you might need a master’s level degree.
Increasing and Keeping Knowledge Current
A common characteristic of many educators are their desire to be a lifelong learner. Some of the best teachers at every level know that there is ALWAYS more to know. Pursuing a Master’s degree in Education will help you stay connected with the new trends, technologies and methods and keep you current in your chosen field.
Appealing to Potential Employers
Completing a Master’s degree in Education is not easy and can earn you the respect of many administrators, colleagues, parents and board members. It is a visible demonstration of your dedication as a professional educator and can be a deciding factor when deciding tenure.
If you’re being evaluated on paper next to candidates that only have a Bachelor’s degree, you might find yourself with a leg up over those other candidates.
Potential Networking Opportunities
Many school administrators and other teachers might be in your classes (or teaching them!) which is a good opportunity for you to network. The ability to talk to people across the professional spectrum is a valuable tool to have when trying to gain employment later.
Potential for Higher Pay
This one is simple, even if you aren’t a math teacher. Earning your Master’s degree in Education could place you higher on the pay scale rubric, so you could earn more over time by completing your advanced degree.
As we mentioned before, a Master’s in Education can often supply you with a level of flexibility that a Bachelor’s degree might not have. Most educators begin their career as classroom teachers, but many teachers pursue an advanced degree in order to move to another education-related role. The following positions usually require a minimum of a Master’s degree in Education:
- School Counselor – view Masters in School Counseling Degrees ➥
- School Administrator – view Masters in School Administration Degrees ➥
- Content/Subject Area Specialist – view Masters in Education Degree Specialties ➥
- Curriculum Director – view Masters in Curriculum & Instruction Degrees ➥
There are many additional career possibilities both in and out of the traditional K-12 educational system for educators who have earned their advanced degree:
- Educational Consultant
- Textbook Author
- Educational Researcher
- Community/Two-Year College Instructor
- Corporate Trainer
Reasons You Might Not Go To Graduate School
While we’re obviously big proponents of gaining your master’s in education degree, we realize that it isn’t for everybody. We also realize that not everybody needs this level of degree. Here are a few reasons why you might not need to get your M.Ed.
Many Master’s or graduate programs have a large amount of candidates which creates a level of competition. There are some schools that will not have an opening for you or determine you’re not the student they’re looking for in their program.
If you’ve never written a thesis for your other levels of education, you should do some research into whether one is required in the master’s program you’re considering. A thesis is very different from the usual coursework you might be used to and can be overwhelming for those that aren’t familiar with the concept.
Cost or Debt
Many graduate programs are not cheap and will require you to pay large sums for tuition or incur debt. Understand the math before you jump in or cost might be too scary for you when considering the need for a Master’s in Education degree.
Higher Salary Jobs are not a Guarantee
While there are some reasons to believe that you have an opportunity for higher salary jobs with a master’s level degree in education, there is no guarantees. You will need to understand that there is a chance you might not see an increase to your salary. View the top teaching careers for Masters Degree students for more detailed information.
Lastly, we encourage you to use my thoughts and ideas as inspiration, but don’t take my word for it. Seek out other teachers and administrators and ask them what they think. Finding a mentor who can offer specific advice regarding your field of interest, your school district, your state and your profession will be invaluable. I wish you much success as you begin your journey!