An evolution in the educational world has begun due to COVID-19, and numerous questions will spring up as new teachers evaluate varying pathways toward individual career paths and veteran professionals review final career opportunities. Educators have a chance to reform the ways in which they teach students, as well as reflect and learn for themselves.
So, while we tend to focus on technology in life and in our classrooms, we cannot forget about decisions regarding our continuous learning. There is no doubt that educators love learning as much as their students. It is one of the main reasons they entered the education profession, besides the students themselves, of course. So it becomes an important task to consider: should I go to grad school during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Determine Your Goals
You must begin setting goals by determining what is important in your life and then realistically considering why you are moving toward that type of decision-making. In this case, what might a graduate school degree accomplish for you? With so many elements in education changing post-COVID-19, you will want to figure out a focus.
A graduate degree that hones in on pedagogy in a digital age may be invaluable, especially by improving skillsets that help comprehend how to incorporate and monitor digital education. If teaching is not going to be a final stop, you might want to polish your leadership and communication skills in graduate school for administrative positions.
Evaluate Unique Benefits
Graduate education programs provide unique benefits for teachers. Just like creating a focus on your plans, you must also evaluate the benefits of the graduate school program. Firstly, you will become more marketable to school districts. Having several degrees or certifications illustrates your abilities in different capacities and will certainly catch the attention of school districts that are consistently looking for the best candidates. School districts are ecstatic when they find a candidate who can do more than teach in one area. Highlighting your advanced capabilities may provide other pathways for school districts to offer you, as well make you a high-demand candidate.
Secondly, during your evaluation, consider the flexibility your graduate degree can provide. Complementing your skills in multiple areas will not only open a gateway of options, but will also provide chances to maneuver around in your chosen job. It can ultimately create pathways to experience different responsibilities in order to strengthen a resume. You will be up-to-date on all areas of educational expertise based on current research and technological advancements in education.
Finally, when evaluating your plan, consider the economic implications of your decisions. Graduate degrees may allow you to begin getting paid at much higher rates, which impacts everything you do in your career for retirement. So, while it seems like it can be overwhelming when reviewing finances, check to see if your district will pay for it through a tuition reimbursement program. This is a unique benefit for educators that shouldn’t be overlooked. You will have valuable experience in the field and action research to directly support your learning.
Consider High-Demand Areas
Because there are so many avenues to consider, you should research the high-demand areas before committing to a graduate school program. For example, administration is often a natural pathway for educators who love a challenge. And with turnover rates somewhat high for administrators, typically serving 1-3 years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2019, there were over a 190,000 jobs in administration with an average pay of $95,410.
As well, emotional health challenges are becoming one of the biggest priorities for educators and administrators. Depending on your certifications and work experience within the education profession, you may consider graduate school for counseling or psychology. It is certainly in high demand, especially pertaining to mental health liaisons and school psychologists. It might be both a determined goal and focused alignment on students and their well being that promotes you as a top candidate in your choice of districts.
Identify Possible Challenges
The challenges are endless when it comes to education and graduate degrees due to so many variables, which is why it is so important to pinpoint your goals before committing to a program. What will be the most challenging aspect of graduate school? If it is experience in the field, you may try to find ways to get observations at local school districts through video and web conferencing tools. Interview veteran teachers, who will provide true examples of the types of challenges you may face, which will help strengthen your final decision.
Your reflection in this area is of the utmost importance. Are there economic reasons that must be prioritized? How about distance education challenges regarding connectivity during your learning program? Are there personal health reasons or family concerns to consider during the pandemic that may prevent you from joining a graduate school program?
Consider the Value of Your Cohort
The value of your cohort may very well depend on your choice of school, since the definitions vary. While some places might focus on innovation in teaching strategies, others may show significant ideas pertaining to simply collaborating and supporting each other. This, once again, reflects back on your determined goals for earning a graduate degree. Secondarily, whether in person or online, you will develop important friendships with others who are experiencing the same priceless education as you.
Throughout my own master’s degree program, my cohort members and their personalities were integral in helping me complete components of the program. I have maintained several relationships as we have moved on in our own districts. And when I recently started as an administrator, I joined a cohort designed specifically for new administrators that focused on making leadership-oriented decisions using both data-driven and student-based scenarios. Collaboration and communication about experiences were the focus of our whole cohort.
Consider all of these concepts as you select a focused pathway for your graduate degree during the COVID-19 pandemic.