A woman looks at a master’s degree on her computer.

Advantages of a Master’s Degree for Educators

Whether you’re a current teacher or interested in a career change, you have probably heard some of the intense rumors about the education field. It seems like every day the media is discussing how student behavior is worse than ever before, teachers are underpaid, pensions are being reconsidered, teachers are done and leaving the field in droves, and more. The job is stuck under a microscope in today’s world and now, more than ever, strong teachers are needed.

I recently completed my sixth and most difficult year teaching. While I put in the hard work to be exceptional, I definitely credit Georgetown College with my success. Without the classes and faculty, I am not sure I would have the necessary skills to be a successful teacher. I knew attending Georgetown College would change my life, but I had no idea how much.

What Degrees are Available?

When making the big decision to pursue a graduate degree in education, there are so many options out there to choose from and it can be a daunting task. The decision on which to choose really depends on the end result.

Below are several of the options available to those wanting to work in education and their similarities and differences:

Master’s of Arts in Teaching

The M.A.T is a specialized degree that focuses primarily on the art of teaching. Those who decide to pursue an M.A.T. want to become a teacher and can either go through the traditional route or alternative route to certification.

The traditional route means they are working on their masters and gaining experience through student teaching. The alternative route (initial teaching certification) is available for those with undergraduate degrees in high-need areas such as math, science, and special education.

Instead of doing traditional student teaching, they work as a full-time teacher while working on their master’s courses. This allows them to gain experience while also getting those dire-need positions filled. This unique degree will enable teachers to focus on the “why” behind teaching. It takes teachers’ incredible skills and makes them stronger and more refined using research-backed methods.

Teaching Certification

If someone wants to teach, they have to acquire a teaching certification which can be done several ways. The most direct way is to get a bachelor’s in education, apply for certification after graduation, and pass all necessary tests. In some instances, a person who has an undergraduate degree in a subject other than education can go through an alternate route to certification. One of those alternatives is teaching while working on getting an M.A.T. degree.

Master’s of Education (M. Ed.)

A M.Ed is a master’s degree for someone who is wanting to pursue a role in administration or work outside of a classroom with an education focus. It is not as specialized as the M.A.T. degree and focuses less on teaching practices and more on the big picture.

Go Further with Doctorate Degrees (Ed. D and Ph.D)

Doctorate degrees are meant for those wishing to work in education reform, as superintendents, educational research, and more. These degrees will look at teaching practices from a different lens and are not meant for someone trying to perfect skills directly in their classroom.

What You’ll Learn in a Master’s Program

The curriculum of the M.A.T. is diverse and allows for flexibility. While the course load is specifically designed to teach teachers how to teach, they have flexibility within those classes for the students to focus on their content area and on developing their own classroom culture. The courses give the prospective teachers a large number of ready-to-use resources for them to use in their classrooms.

Some of the classes that students get to experience include:

  • History and Philosophy of Education
  • Human Development, Behavior, and Learning
  • Introduction to Special Education
  • Teaching a Diverse Society
  • Classroom Applications of Technology
  • Literacy Practices
  • Capstone Research Project

I graduated from the M.A.T. program a couple of years ago, and I still use the information learned from these classes each day I teach. In fact, most of the textbooks from the class are a feature in my classroom. I use them from time to time when I need to address something specific in my classroom.

At no time did I feel like I was taking a class that wasn’t important to my career; they are created to apply to classrooms. Some districts may not be as diverse as others, but it is still essential to understand teaching diverse populations. Many teachers are not certified as special education teachers but work with the special education population.

Some of the courses, like Classroom Applications of Technology, have become a bigger skill after experiencing the pandemic, and I can imagine those classes have taken on a whole new role in educating educators.

Advantages of an Master’s Degree

The master’s degree can be used as a starting point, a place to improve skills, or just a stepping stone to something more. How the degree is used all depends on the person pursuing the degree.

New, Stronger Skills

After receiving my M.A.T. I felt strong enough to try new practices in my classroom and was not afraid because the program gave me such a strong teaching foundation. Since graduating, I have been allowed to travel to different states to learn new skills, presented findings from my own classroom, and I have worked on helping several hundred students successfully learn the science curriculum.

Salary

The pay increase is a bonus since everyone needs money to survive. Pay varies from district to district, but each district offers a pay raise with a master’s degree. For those who utilize the alternative route to certification, the pay generally starts on the low end of the scale until the master’s degree is complete. A few districts will give a small percentage of a raise once half of the program is completed. This is an obvious draw to the program.

In the end, Georgetown College’s master’s programs are an excellent choice for those who want to strengthen their skills and work to improve their education career. The kids deserve the best teachers, and Georgetown is helping build those teachers.