By Susan Ott
Going back to school to get a teacher’s master’s degree is something many educators pursue during the course of their careers. Not only can obtaining a master’s result in a salary increase, but it can help professionally as well, opening doors to new and different career opportunities.
Earning a master’s of education online can be the most economical and convenient approach for teachers continuing to teach while they go back to school. And while teaching master’s degrees from some online schools require supervised classroom work (often called “verified field experiences”), there is generally no travel required to the actual college — all your classes are taken online. Programs of this type have grown in popularity, and there are now online master’s degrees across many majors including curriculum and instruction, math or English teaching, counseling, administration and special ed.
Teaching is a huge job, which goes way beyond a traditional forty-hour workweek. From planning lessons and units to holding conferences and grading papers, teachers put in many hours in addition to their daily school schedules. So for many educators, going back to school can seem like an impossibility; but choosing to complete your master’s online will save you precious time and be more convenient than attending a physical school.
Instead of wasting hours commuting and sitting in classes, going to school online is as simple as turning on your computer. You can work and study at your own pace, from work or home, whenever you have the time. The convenience of being able to do some school work during a prep period, lunch break, or between school and conferences or after school activities is a big bonus. Many programs can be completed in as little as 12 or 18 months, depending on the pace you choose for your degree. Or, you may elect to take a bit longer to get your degree but complete your coursework during the summer months when you’re off, allowing you to do more classes at a time.
For many teachers, a master’s degree takes a lot of extra money that they just don’t have. Not only can tuition and books be expensive, the gas money to commute and the expense of food on the go as you travel from your teaching job to your night classes can really add up. However, many online graduate programs can significantly cut these costs, making going back to school affordable, even on a teacher’s salary. Also, with teaching comes a lot of perks in many school districts. You may be able to get a very low-interest loan through your teachers’ credit union that you could pay off with the pay increase you receive upon graduation. You can also check with your state and the federal government for programs that cancel some or all of student loan debt for those who use their degree to teach for a certain number of years afterwards (the federal Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program for Teachers is one).
Since teaching requires face-to-face interaction with other people all day long, having to attend classes with even more people can be a challenge. Many teachers just want to come home and relax in peace at the end of the day instead of answering more questions. Online graduate school is a great solution to this problem, since you can learn in the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas if you wish. By being able to fit school into your life, you can avoid feeling completely depleted, with nothing left to give. If you’ve had a long, stressful day, you can choose not to “do school,” and save the work for the next day or the weekend when you have more time and energy. The choice is yours. And since your job requires constant interaction with students, colleagues and parents, online schooling can provide a welcome relief by allowing you to learn and study quietly, without having to assert and defend yourself in yet another classroom setting.
Reach Your Goals
Obtaining a master’s of education degree means that you’re even more qualified than before, which can open up new and better career opportunities and also means a pay increase, even if you choose to stay in your current position. Therefore, earning a master’s can mean greater financial security, which is a huge benefit for all of your hard work.
Unlike other jobs in which raises can be subjective, public school teaching automatically increases pay for each year you work and each credential you earn (many private schools also increase pay for credentials, though the scale may be less objective). Think of the pay scale as a large chart: across the top is a list of degrees, from bachelor’s (required) to PhD, and down the left-hand column is the number of years’ experience. A new teacher with zero years’ experience and only a bachelor’s degree starts in the top left-hand corner, at the lowest pay. For every year you teach, the pay increases down the first column, and when you add a graduate degree, the pay increases across the chart as well. This means you can dramatically increase your earning potential when you obtain a teacher’s graduate degree.
And if you’re hoping to branch out beyond the traditional classroom or into new subject areas, a master’s in education online can help you do that. Whether your goal is to teach a new grade or subject, become a specialist or move into administration, a master’s degree can aid you in achieving it in a way that’s convenient for you, allowing you to keep teaching while you go back to school without losing your mind in the process.