Are you interested in pursuing a career in education? Whether you are currently teaching or almost finished with your undergraduate program for teacher preparation, choosing to earn an online or even traditional master’s degree in education from an early childhood education program may be beneficial and move you toward your future goals. Depending on the specific program type completed, graduate students who study to be educators will be more than qualified for teaching positions at public and private schools for children from birth to age eight (preschool), middle, and high school grade students. The coursework or core courses in these graduate student's childhood educator programs will cover literacy to leadership.
Many states offer higher salaries to individuals with a master’s degree in education vs. an undergraduate degree. Additionally, you cannot teach at a college or university without at least a master’s degree, though those with an undergraduate degree can earn professional licensure and meet eligibility requirements for some career advancement options while also gaining a valid initial teacher license in elementary and secondary education, science education, educational technology, or another specialty. Indeed, prospective students for an in-person or online master's in education program will need to have already completed their lower-level academics and have earned a valid teaching license or certificate from an educator preparation and licensure program in the state in which they wish to teach preschool, elementary school, etc. The initial education degree program prepares students for their teaching license and classroom, but in person or online master's in education programs prepare licensed teachers for the next step in exceptional tudent education, curriculum development and research and evaluation methods.
While a master’s degree in education greatly helps individuals interested in working as public school teachers or college professors, other employment options are also available. They may choose a childhood education program administrator track, for one, which will focus even more on leadership content. It is not uncommon for graduates to find work in the following positions:
- School Principal
- School District Administrator
- Curriculum Specialist
- Corporate Trainer
- Higher Education
- Digital Learning and Classroom Technologist
- Child Care Director
- Educational Consultant
- Educational Policy Analyst
Every state requires public school educators have a teaching license or certification. To attain the appropriate credentials, earning an undergraduate degree in education is essential, but earning a graduate degree in education is not. However, while it is common for educators to find work with only a bachelor’s degree, there are many reasons to consider enrolling in a Master of Education program or even completing one class at a time online while you continue working. Keep the following advantages and disadvantages in mind.
- There many benefits to pursuing a master’s degree in education, whether online or on the evenings and weekends. One of the main and most alluring benefits is the potential for a higher salary. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, many occupations pay more to individuals with a graduate degree. Because educational institutions want to offer the best education possible, they are often willing to pay more to ensure employees are highly qualified. This makes a Master of Education a great way to provide career advancement to existing professionals.
- A master’s in education also serves as a means to improve teaching skills and update knowledge of relevant teaching practices, as well as allowing educators to complete continuing education units for their professional licensure program. Education is a continually changing field with new and more effective methods of instruction being developed all the time. Completing another academic program not only strengthens knowledge in a specific subject area of study, such as literacy, but also enhances understanding of the teaching process itself.
- Additionally, a master’s in education can lead to more employment opportunities. Employers often give preference to these professionals when making hiring decisions and are more likely to consider them for administration positions as they become available. Jobs in administration offer higher salaries, more benefits, and a greater ability to positively impact learning environments but you must meet eligibility requirements to be offered access to them.
- For some, earning a master’s degree in education provides an alternative means of becoming certified. Those who have already completed an undergraduate degree program in an unrelated field can enroll in a graduate program that offers licensure as part of the degree. This can be immensely helpful for new educators as it ensures they have all the necessary resources and guidance while they are getting started. Though you might find some of these online, there may still be in-person requirements for certification.
- Further, those who intend to pursue a doctorate will need to first earn a master’s degree, whether online or not. Aspiring public college and university professors or administrators should plan accordingly.
- While there are many reasons to consider pursuing a Master of Sciene in Education, Master of Education, or a program administrator track, it's important to be aware of potential drawbacks as well. The most significant of them being the additional time it takes graduate students to complete a graduate program from an accredited institution. A bachelor’s degree already takes approximately four years to complete; pursuing a master’s degree from a college of education afterward adds about two more years, and individuals enrolled online, part-time could be in school much longer.
- Spending more years in school may also mean accruing more debt. Students will be responsible for paying off any loans after graduation. Those who opt to find work after earning a bachelor’s degree will likely owe less and be able to start making payments sooner.
Overview of a Master's in Education
What Education Master’s Degrees are Available?
There are a few different types of education master’s degrees available. It’s important to realize that specific program titles and concentrations can vary widely from institution to institution, but most colleges and universities offer one of the following, whether online or not: Master of Education (MEd), Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), or Master of Science in Education (MSEd). All three degree types help prepare graduates for employment, but there are some differences worth noting.
Master of Education (MEd)
A Master of Education (MEd) is a good option for seasoned professionals who want to enhance their knowledge and teaching skills in a broader sense. Most programs are geared toward moving beyond the classroom, though it’s not a requirement. Students usually take courses on research methodologies, instructional material development, and educational material effectiveness. Graduates are often better prepared for administrative jobs.
Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
A Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) is often preferred by professionals who want to enhance their knowledge and teaching skills within a certain concentration, but is also ideal for people interested in entering the field. This flexible degree option has numerous concentrations and usually includes licensure. Although many programs also include classes in educational philosophy, child psychology, educational ethics, and education research methods, much of the coursework will relate to the specific area of study.
Master of Arts (MA)
A Master of Arts (MA) degree generally offers exposure to various liberal arts subjects. In addition to education courses, students may also be expected to complete coursework in English, social sciences, and language. These programs offer flexibility and can be customized by taking a number of elective courses. Licensure is often included.
Master of Science (MS)
A Master of Science (MS) degree can vary quite drastically depending on the institution offering it. In most cases, this option is available to individuals who already have an undergraduate degree and are certified to teach, as licensure is rarely included. They are generally designed to provide enhanced knowledge and skills in the field but may also help graduates qualify for advanced positions in education.
Admission Requirements to Enter a Master’s Education Degree Program
Every college and university has standards they expect incoming graduate students to meet before enrolling. This applies for those who wish to attend online and those who are not attending online courses equally. Every institution is different, but some of the most common requirements include:
- Bachelor’s degree in education or a relevant field
- Minimum overall academic grade point average
- Passing GMAT or GRE scores
- Professional/academic resume
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
Teaching licensure may or may not be required, depending on what degree type you’re going for and your career goals. It’s also possible that the institution will stipulate that candidates have professional experience.
How Long Does it Take to Earn a Master’s Degree in Education?
Full-time students can often complete a master’s degree in education in approximately two years. Students enrolled part-time, however, are unlikely to graduate within this time frame. Taking only a few classes per semester can put graduation off for up to five years.
Master’s programs generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework, but this can vary depending on the institution and concentration. It may be possible to find a college or university that offers an accelerated degree program. Students can also use graduate-level transfer credits to graduate sooner.
Potential Careers in Education with an Master’s Degree
There are numerous employment opportunities available to individuals who have graduated from a master’s degree program in education. Some of the most popular job options include high school English teacher, child care director, curriculum specialist, corporate trainer, and school principal.
- High School Teacher:
High school teachers are responsible for helping prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons as well as various skills that students will need to succeed in college and/or the job market. These professionals also create, administer, and grade assignments and tests specifically designed to measure student progress. According to PayScale, the average salary for a high school English teacher is $49,500.
- Child Care Director:
Child care directors are responsible for overseeing child care facilities. They supervise teachers, teaching assistants, and all other childcare associates, ensuring all standards and regulations are met. These professionals also coordinate hiring and new employee training programs. They may support educators in other ways, as needed. According to PayScale, the average salary for a child care director is $40,000.
- Curriculum Specialist:
Curriculum specialists are responsible for analyzing the effectiveness of teachings in the classroom. They also help design initiatives to improve instruction as well as develop and refine tests, scoring guides, and curriculum. These professionals may provide additional courses to fill academic gaps and meet known needs. According to PayScale, the average salary for a curriculum specialist is $57,600.
- Corporate Trainer:
Corporate trainers work for companies or organizations to develop, revise, and deliver training to employees. Depending on the situation, they may perform instruction in traditional or online settings. These professionals must also ensure all training rooms and materials are prepared, as well as track attendance, class satisfaction, and training success. According to PayScale, the average salary for a corporate trainer is $55,700.
- High School Principal:
High school principals are responsible for overseeing the administration, curriculum, programming, services, and academic resources for a particular school. They create and communicate school goals to staff and parents, as well as maintain productive relations with the community and school board. These professionals also establish academic and behavioral standards, administering discipline when they are not upheld. According to PayScale, the average salary for a principal or headmaster is $93,500.
Salary by Occupation
|Middle School teacher||$40,300||$48,100||$59,100|
|Special Education Teacher, Early Education||$40,500||$49,200||$60,900|
Options to Advance
Individuals with a master’s degree in education often choose to teach at public or private K-12 schools, but may also find work as college professors at private institutions. These are not the only available courses of action, however. Graduates can choose from a wide variety of administrative positions, each with different advancement possibilities.
Those who want to become college or university professors for public institutions may need to earn a doctoral degree to satisfy hiring requirements. Additional academic certifications of any kind can also enhance employee appeal and marketability.
Colleges That Offer a Master’s Degree in Education
There are many institutions that offer traditional master’s degrees in education. Students attend courses on campus but can be enrolled full- or part-time.
Ohio State University
Ohio State University offers several master’s degree programs in education. These accommodate students seeking to earn their initial licenses, as well as those who want in-depth practice within a defined specialization. Students can choose from specializations in early childhood education, mathematics education, science education, hearing impairments, educational administration, educational policy, special education, and educational psychology, among others.
- Master of Arts (MA) in Education: Teaching and Learning
- Master of Education (MEd) in Education: Teaching and Learning
- Master of Arts (MA) in Educational Studies
- Agricultural Teacher Education – Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
- Art Teacher Education – Master’s Degree
- Learning Sciences – Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
University of Washington
The University of Washington offers numerous master’s degrees in education, many of which place additional focus on language, literacy, and culture. These programs are designed to provide advanced preparation in understanding and applying various educational techniques. Students can choose between specializations in social studies, multicultural education, language, instructional leadership, and teaching and curriculum.
- MEd in Special Education
- MEd in Curriculum and Instruction
- MEd in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
- MEd in Educational Psychology
- MEd in Instructional Leadership
- Master in Teaching (MIT) in Teacher Education
- MA for English Teachers
- Biology Teacher Education – Master’s Degree
- Educational Administration and Supervision – Master’s Degree
- Educational Statistics and Research Methods – Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
- Elementary Education – Master’s Degree
- Foreign Language Teacher Education – Master’s Degree
- Higher Education/Higher Education Administration – Master’s Degree
- Learning Sciences – Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
- Mathematics Teacher Education – Master’s Degree
- Music Teacher Education – Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
- Physical Education Teaching and Coaching – Master’s Degree
- Science Teacher Education – Master’s Degree
- Social Studies Teacher Education – Master’s Degree
- Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language/ESL – Master’s Degree
Marquette University offers an MEd licensure program with numerous specializations, including educational administration, elementary education, secondary education, student affairs in higher education, and STEM education. The MA program also offers a specialization in educational policy and foundations for teachers who want to combine the study of foundation in education with research in a particular area of interest.
- MEd in Education Policy and Leadership
- MA in Education Policy and Leadership
- Counselor Education/School Counseling and Guidance Services – Master’s Degree
Los Angeles, California
Pepperdine University offers a variety of MA and MS degrees for individuals interested in pursuing careers as teachers, principals, or administrators. The programs are dedicated to building scholar-practitioners through hands-on learning and providing a solid foundation in education.
- MS in Learning Design and Innovation
- MS in Leadership in PreK-12 Education
- MA in Social Entrepreneurship and Change
- MA in Teaching with Preliminary Teaching Credential
- MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
- MS in Leadership in Higher Education
- MS in Organizational Leadership and Learning
- Urban Education and Leadership – Master’s Degree
Washington State University
Washington State University offers both MEd and MA degrees in education. There are a variety of programs available that allow students to specialize easily. These options allow for rigorous and individually tailored curriculum. Students can choose between non-thesis programs designed to help current educators further develop their knowledge and research-based programs intended to assist with doctoral degree preparation.
- MEd & MA in Curriculum and Instruction
- MEd & MA in Educational Leadership
- MA in Educational Psychology
- MEd & MA in Education: Language, Literacy, and Technology
- MEd & MA in Special Education
- Adult and Continuing Education Administration – Master’s Degree
- Adult Literacy/Tutor – Master’s Degree
- Agriculture Teacher Education – Master’s Degree
- Elementary Education and Teaching – Master’s Degree
- Higher Education/Higher Education Administration – Master’s Degree
- Secondary Education and Teaching – Master’s Degree
- Special Education and Teaching – Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
- Teacher Education and Professional Development – Master’s & Doctorate Degrees
- Teaching English as a Second Language or Foreign Language/ESL – Master’s Degree
Colleges That Offer Online Master’s Degrees in Education
There are many institutions that offer online master’s degrees in education. Distance learning programs allow students to take classes from anywhere in the world.
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University offers several online MEd and one MS degree program. Depending on the program selected, students may register for asynchronous or synchronous classes. Synchronous courses offer face-to-face interactions with instructors and other students via video conferencing. Graduates learn research-based best practices and practical application and leadership skills.
- MEd in Curriculum and Instruction: Reading and Literacy
- MS in Curriculum and Instruction: Reading and Literacy
- MEd in Urban Education
- MEd in Curriculum and Instruction: STEM
Clemson, South Carolina
Clemson University offers several online MEd degrees for distance learners. All options offer graduates the opportunity to advance their professional standing and to personalize their academic experiences. Most programs can be completed with or without South Carolina licensure, and some options include the potential for out-of-state certification.
- MEd in Teaching and Learning
- MEd in Literacy
- MEd in Administration and Supervision
University of Saint Francis
Fort Wayne, Indiana
The University of Saint Francis offers two online master’s degrees for education students. The programs are designed to prepare students for initial Indiana licensure or to refresh professional proficiencies in preparation for career advancement. Students can expect to graduate with a strengthened ability to teach in and outside of the classroom.
- Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
- MS in Education
Mayville State University
Mayville, North Dakota
Mayville State University offers an MAT degree completely online. The program is designed for people without a bachelor’s degree in education but who want to enter the teaching profession. This option is flexible and affordable for adult learners who want to become secondary teachers. Mayville State University was designated one of the most affordable online colleges by the Sr. Education Group in 2018.
- Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
Kansas State University
Kansas State University offers several online master’s degrees in education. One program is designed for people with and without a bachelor’s degree in education who want to become educators or administrators. Field experiences are coordinated with accredited schools no matter where students reside and graduates are eligible to apply for an initial teaching license.
- MS in Early Childhood Education
- MS in Educational Leadership
- MA in Teaching: Elementary Education
- MA in Teaching: Secondary Education
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the admission requirements for an online master’s in education?
The requirements for admission to a master’s in gifted and talented education are similar to any other master’s program. The main difference you will find is an experience requirement that you have taught in a classroom for a certain period of time. This may only be a year or two, but it means that it will be more difficult to get into these programs right after completing your undergraduate education. Some good news is that many programs have dropped the requirements for the GRE or GMAT for education master’s. This can mean it’s easier to get in once you have some experience under your belt.
Will earning a master’s increase how much I can make?
The general consensus is that earning a master’s degree will increase how much you can earn. This concept stands on solid ground in education, as many teachers are paid according to a pay scale and one of the few ways to move to the top of that payscale is to earn a mater’s degree. It’s clear that, in this field, even experience will not increase your salary the way that an increase in education will. Teachers with master’s degrees make more than those with bachelor’s,even if they have the same number of years of experience.
Can I earn a master’s degree in education online?
Yes. It’s very easy to earn a master’s degree in education online. In fact, you can use the courses for a master’s degree to fulfill your continued educational credit requirements each year. These are available from schools all over the country in formats that can be counted as CEU credits. However, make sure to check with your board of education if you are hoping to use these credits in this way.
Can I choose a concentration in my master’s degree in education?
There are plenty of options when it comes to concentrations in education when you are looking to earn a master’s degree in the field. Here are just some of the options, though you should check with your local department of education if you are looking to get into a field and are unsure which concentration would be the best option for you.
- Counselor Education
- Curriculum and Instruction
- Special Education
- Early Childhood
- Educational Administration or Leadership
- Educational Technology
- Gifted and Talented Education
- And More