Getting Your Master’s in Education
There are many different routes you can take to earn a master’s degree in education and a number of different types of master’s degrees you can earn. Sometimes the difference between a certificate and master’s program is only 15 credits, but some master’s programs take an additional year or more to complete, depending on your previous degree and the requirements of your master’s.
Admissions Requirements for a Master’s Degree in Education Program
To get accepted into a master’s in education, you’ll first need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. You’ll generally also need to choose a specialty. These include a Master’s in Teaching or a Master of Education. Here are the general differences between the two:
- For a Master in Teaching (MIT or MAT) degree, you’ll decide whether you want to teach elementary or secondary school, and what subject you’ll teach. Special education as well as other focuses are also popular choices.
- For a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree, you’ll choose between the following specialties: Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Psychology, Educational Leadership and Policy, or Special Education.
Besides choosing your master’s type, other admissions requirements typically include the following:
|Passing the GRE General Test||International students must submit TOEFL scores|
|Successfully pass state required basic skills tests and assessments||Hold a GPA of 3.0|
|Send sealed transcripts from each previous school||Write a Statement of Purpose or Goal Statement|
|Submit two to three letters of recommendation||Submit a professional resume or CV|
|Submit scholarly writing samples, such as course papers, articles or essays||Successfully pass an admission interview|
Coursework depends on your area of expertise, but will consist of upper-level courses (400- and 500-level, and above), educational research, exams and term papers.
Students must often complete a final project to fulfill their degree requirements. Depending on the school and specialty, your final project may be comprised of one-or any combination-of the following:
- A master’s thesis overseen by an adviser
- A written exam
- A non-thesis work (research project, internship or special assignment)
How Long Should My Master’s in Education Program Take?
As a rule, master’s degree programs take two to three years to complete, including a Capstone project. This time frame may change depending upon the program you select. For example, the 4+1 program merges your master’s coursework with your bachelor’s degree classes so you complete both in five years. Online programs can be determined by your schedule. But a traditional school master’s program typically takes two years with additional time for your project and preparation externship.
Master’s in Education Program Choices
One of the biggest benefits of holding a master’s degree in teaching is the ability to become a National Board Certified Teacher, whose certification will follow them throughout the country. Higher salaries, more advancement opportunities and the option of transitioning into school leadership positions such as educational administration or leadership roles are other common perks.
Fifth Year Master’s Degree in Education
Fifth year master’s degree programs allow college graduates to take another year of coursework and intensive student teaching to qualify for a teaching credential and a master’s in education. Additional state requirements may have to be completed to become a certified teacher; however, almost all master’s programs meet state requirements. Many secondary teachers choose this degree because it allows them to focus on their subject area as an undergraduate, then learn pedagogy-the art of teaching-as part of their graduate education.
Master’s Degree in Education (MEd)
Of all of your educational master’s degree options, the MEd tends to be the most general degree you can get. Teachers interested in entering educational administration, leadership or research and policy do well with this degree as it provides a nice base for further educational opportunities, such as an educational specialist degree or doctorate. It is often a requirement for guidance counselors and other counseling professions.
Online Master’s Degree in Education
In states where a master’s degree isn’t required to start teaching, students with a bachelor’s degree may be able to continue teaching while earning their master’s degree at night or online from an accredited program. An online master’s degree in education is a great option if you work full-time or cannot commute to class, giving you the flexibility to fit continuing education into your busy schedule.
Master’s in Education Specializations
Once you have identified the master’s program type that will best suit your lifestyle and education needs, you’ll want to consider where you want to focus your postgraduate degree. If you focused your bachelor’s degree on an area of education and want to continue honing your skills within your master’s, here are some of the most common specializations where you can point your educational energy and expertise:
|Special Education||Curriculum and Instruction|
|Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics Integrated Instruction||Literacy and Digital Learning|
|Educational Administration and Leadership|
Typical Curriculum for a Master’s in Education
Depending upon your specialization, your coursework will differ for each program. Using Educational Administration and Leadership as the master’s focus, here are the types of courses* you can expect to take:
|Qualitative Methods in Educational Research||3|
|Data Driven Decision Making||3|
|Social Justice and Educational Equity||3|
|Ethical Leadership in School Reform||3|
|Educational Research Methodology||3|
|Cognition and Learning||3|
Regardless of specialization, some coursework will transcend focus, as it lays the groundwork for success in advanced education careers. Classes such as Qualitative Methods in Educational Research and Data Driven Decision Making, for example, are mandatory core curriculum. But as a contrast, take a look at this sampling of specialized coursework for the Curriculum and Instruction specialization:
|Teaching Digital Readers||3|
|Teaching Students on the Autism Spectrum||3|
|Designing Learning Environments for All||3|
|Critical Media Literacy in the Classroom||3|
|Identifying and Responding to the Needs of Diverse Learners||3|
|Disability in Education Policy and Law||3|
|Communication, Technology and Curriculum Design||3|
*University of San Diego, Master’s in Education Curriculum
You can see how classes are tailored to your area of focus. Besides your classroom coursework, you’ll need to use part of your program (usually a semester and a set number of credits) to complete your Capstone project and participate in a teaching or leadership school and community preparation program.
Salaries for Master’s in Education Degree Holders
The 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Employment Projects tracks the unemployment rate and median national weekly earnings by educational attainment so you can understand the value of your postgraduate degree. Take a look at how education affects salary:
|Degree||Unemployment Rate||Median Weekly Salary|
|Master’s degree||2.6 %||$1,574|
You can see that you’ll earn over $200 a week more than a bachelor’s degree holder on average when you earn your Master’s in Education. That winds up earning you $5,000 more annually.
Let’s look at some specific careers in education. The 2021 BLS reports the following median annual salaries for careers that require a master’s in the education field. Using the specializations above, are median national averages in related career fields:
|Education Career||Median Annual Salary|
|Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator||$63,740|
|Training and Development Manager||$120,130|
|STEM Program Manager||$137,900|
Careers and Job Outlook for Master’s in Education Degree Holders
Once you earn your master’s, you’re set to embark upon a career in the higher echelons of education. Whether as a school leader, educator, or innovator and policy-maker, you’ll be prepared to tackle the challenges that are sure to come your way as you deal with the evolving education landscape, budgets and bureaucracy, and all kinds of student bodies.
The BLS rates the job growth national average for all professions at 5 percent through 2031, and using that as our baseline, let’s take a look at some job growth date for educational administration careers requiring a master’s degree in education:
|Postsecondary Education Administrator||7% job growth, as fast as average|
|Elementary, Middle and High School Principal||5% job growth, as fast as average|
|Instruction and Curriculum Coordinators||7% job growth, faster than average|
|School Librarian||6% job growth, as fast as average|