While teachers need not earn a master’s degree in the field of education to earn their teacher’s licenses, many still do prefer to earn their graduate degree.
Obtaining a master’s degree in the field of education is a great way to get a higher salary and to enjoy more respect and credibility in the field. Government statistics indicate that teachers with a higher education will earn more money.
For example, the top 10% of elementary school teachers earn $79,000 per year. Most of these teachers have at least a master’s degree and extensive working experience. On the other hand, the median salary for all teachers is $51,600.
So, getting a master’s degree as an educational professional is a good choice, but which one should you get? What’s the difference between a Master of Education (MEd) and a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)?
Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
As the name implies, this advanced degree is geared towards the professional who wants to advance her teaching career and skills specifically. This is the choice for teachers who want to work a lot in the field as student teachers. These students generally want to enjoy a long educational career of teaching in the classroom and working with students generally.
Most MAT degrees focus much of their time on teaching you advanced teaching skills and techniques. Most MAT degrees also focus considerably on pedagogical theories and implementation too. What you should remember with a MAT degree overall is that you will learn how to be a more effective teacher and will learn the most advanced methodologies, technologies, techniques and styles.
Your MAT program will have you as a student teacher in the field for up to a year, and you will work with a highly experienced teacher. You also will have the ability to focus on many different specialties in your graduate program, depending upon your interests.
A solid Master of Arts in Teaching online program to consider is at Western Governor’s University. This program features a specialization in teaching elementary education, which is one of the most common concentrations.
This online graduate degree has material that will prepare you for licensure as a school teacher, along with the coursework to earn you a master’s degree. You will learn how to become a highly trained teacher right from the first day of this program.
WGU was the first 100% online university to obtain their NCATE accreditation for its teaching degree programs. This accreditation is highly desired and shows that all WGU teaching graduates have the skills and knowledge to be an effective teacher.
This two year online graduate program is for the following:
- Professionals who have a bachelor’s degree and want to become a certified teacher in elementary schools.
- Teachers without a license, substitute teachers, people who are changing careers and others who have a bachelor’s degree who want to transition into teaching.
- People who have time to spend at least 15 hours per week on their studies.
The WGU program has developed its teaching program after getting plenty of input from educational leaders who serve on WGU’s Education Program Council. This online MAT requires you to complete classes that will make sure that you have all of the skills and knowledge that you need to be an effective teacher. You also will need to spend a semester teaching in a classroom and complete a capstone project.
Your classes will include:
- Foundations of Teaching Practice Integration
- Mathematics for Elementary Educators
- Instructional Planning and Presentation
- Elementary Reading and Literacy
- Language Arts Instruction and Intervention
- Elementary Mathematics Methods
Master’s in Education (MEd)
A master’s in education or MEd is also a great choice if you are interested in advancing your career in education. But a MEd is usually intended you out of the teacher’s classroom and to work more in the system of education broadly. While there are very successful teachers who get their MEd and still teach, you will have more career options outside the classroom.
Most MEd programs will have concentrations in these three areas:
- Curriculum and instruction: This concentration teaches you advanced skills in teaching and learning, and is a good choice for people who want to start teaching after they have a bachelor’s in another area. Or, you might be a current teacher and want to advance your skills and pay with a better background in theories of education.
- Counselor education: This is the specialty to choose if you want to be a guidance counselor a mental health counselor with students in a school. Depending upon your state, you might need to obtain your master’s in psychology.
- Educational administrator: This prepares you to be a principal or possibly a school administrator at a higher level. This focuses on educational administration, educational law, leadership of faculty, as well as building and community matters.
An excellent MEd degree that also is accredited by NCATE is the MEd program at Liberty University.
While you can focus your studies in this two year online program on becoming a better K-12 teacher, you also may study administration and supervision, school counseling and special education.
Specialty areas are:
- Administration and Supervision
- School Counselor
- Teaching and Learning
If you want to get your MEd specifically focuses on teaching and learning, you will be able to choose many sub concentrations that will provide you with advanced skills:
- Early Childhood Education
- Educational Technology
- Elementary Education
- General Education
- Middle Grades
- Special Education
- Student Services
Each of the three major concentration areas requires you to complete on campus intensives three times. These will require you to be on campus for four or five days.
For the school counselor concentration, you are required to take the following classes; note that the first five classes are your advanced education core classes that all MEd students take:
- Understanding Educational Research and Assessment
- Foundations of Exceptionality
- Human Development Across the Lifespan
- Foundations of Education
- Educational Assessment and Intervention
- Professional, Ethical, and Legal Issues in School Counseling
- Counseling Theories and Techniques
- Career Development and Counseling
- Child and Adolescent Counseling in Schools
- Principles of School Counseling
- School Counseling Program Development and Evaluation
As you are thinking about a MEd vs. MAT, you always should ensure that your program has been accredited by NCATE.
NCATE is the widely respected organization that accredits teaching education programs in the US. It features a voluntary peer review system that has a total evaluation of the teaching program and the university. The review is done by the NCATE Unit Standards.
The Unit Standards have been developed by people who work in all aspects of teaching and education over many decades. Each accreditation process requires an onsite review of every teaching program. This is conducted by a Board of Examiners with an on site visit and at that point, the program’s ability to provide a top notch graduate educational program is reviewed.