Do Online Graduate Programs Require Field-Based Experiences?

Janelle Cox
Janelle Cox
M.S. in Education
A teacher talks with two adult students in a classroom.

If you’re considering studying for online graduate programs in education, then you may be interested in what the requirements entail. Most traditional graduate schools of education require education-related fields to complete field-based learning experiences to receive their degree. However, distance learning candidates may be left to wonder if the same requirements are also meant for them.

What Role Do Field-Based Experiences Play in Graduate Programs?

Field-based learning in graduate school aims to help prepare students to become effective educators. The experience provides candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter, apply it, and put it into practice.

Whether you call them internships, job shadowing, practicums, or field-based experiences, the fact remains the same, this experience plays a crucial role in your professional development. The reason for this is that it allows you to gain relevant experience in your chosen field.

If you’re a candidate entering the field of education, you must spend time in classroom and school observing and participating in daily activities to get a sense of what the specific job position requires. Ultimately, its purpose serves to give you real-world, hands-on experience to help you apply the theories that you’ve learned in your program.

Do Online Graduate Degrees Require Field-Based Experiences?

If you’re researching online graduate degree programs you’ve probably noticed that the majority of the schools require some type of field-based experience component. You may also notice that with online graduate programs this is the only face-to-face element of the curriculum and usually occurs at the end of the program.

Let’s look at an example. If you were to pursue a master’s in education with grades PreK-4 certification, you would notice this is an online program that will take two years and earn you 42 credits. This online program is geared toward adults pursuing a graduate degree while still working in the classroom. For this specific school and degree, field-based experience is built into the course and a 12-week student teaching experience at the end of the program.

Typically, the graduate programs that require field-based experiences or internships are those who are pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree in teaching early childhood education, special education, middle and secondary education, and those alike.

However, suppose you were to pursue a master’s degree in literacy specialist education and already hold a teaching certificate. Perhaps you notice this program is 100% an online cohort where no face-to-face meetings or field-based experience is required. Other programs where you already have a teaching license but are looking to advance your career or further your skills such as in instructional technology or trauma or resilience do not require field-based experience as part of the program.

What are the Benefits of Earning your Graduate Degree?

Obtaining a graduate degree in education provides an avenue for not only personal growth but also an opportunity for career advancement. Studying for your advanced degree takes time and is a lot of work, but the investment will pay off. Here are a few of the benefits of earning your graduate degree.

Improves Teaching Skills

An advanced degree will better equip you to meet the needs of your students. It will give you the tools to help you become a better teacher. If you choose to pursue a special area of interest, then you will become an expert in that specific subject matter and be better able to put your recent knowledge of the subject matter to use in the classroom.

Potential Increase in Salary

An educator with an advanced degree has the potential for a salary increase. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $1,300 per week while those who have a master’s degree earn nearly $1,500 a week. While the actual amount will depend on where you teach, you will more than likely earn a higher income with a graduate degree.

Gives you More Job Opportunities

An advanced degree will open the door for more job opportunities. A graduate degree in education will give you the qualifications you’ll need to become a teacher if you have a bachelor’s degree in another field.

If you’re already a teacher, an advanced degree in education or other specialties can qualify you to become a principal, administrator, cooperate trainer, or other specialty positions. It also keeps you competitive. You’ll be more appealing as a new hire and this will help you to stand out above the rest of the applicants.

If you’re ready to enroll in a graduate program, be sure to explore our available 190+ master’s, doctoral, and licensure programs to help find the program that is right for you!

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