By Susan Ott
Many classroom teachers decide at some point in their careers to go back to school for a Master’s degree in Education. Some choose to obtain their master’s for better pay, some to update their knowledge, and others to move into another field within education besides teaching. Whatever your reasons, you’re probably wondering which type of Master’s in Education is right for you. There are many options to choose from, ranging from general to highly specialized. Read on to understand your options and decide which program would be best for you to pursue.
Why Are You Going Back to School?
Before you choose a Master’s in Education degree program, it’s important to identify your reasons for going back to school in the first place. If you love your teaching job and simply want to learn more to hone your skills, get better results within the classroom, or even become a department head, then a more general master’s of education is probably right for you. If, however, you wish to move into a different area than teaching, such as administration, counseling, technology professional or learning specialist, a more specific degree is what you’ll need to take your career to the next level. Making these important decisions before you start your graduate program will save you time and money and help you achieve your goals more quickly.
General Master’s in Education
A broader, more general Master’s of Education can be obtained in these categories: Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Secondary Education and a General Master’s of Education. These degrees are for teachers who wish to continue teaching, but want additional training. If you enjoy the age group you teach, it’s best to get your master’s in that category. Some programs combine early childhood education and elementary education, so your experience is more versatile, especially if teaching kindergarten is your niche. Also, those who specialize in secondary education can choose a program that focuses on the subject they teach, such as history, science, math, etc.
A general master’s in education focuses on educational theory and technique, taking what you learned in your bachelor’s degree to a deeper level. You’ll also learn the latest laws, practices and trends within the field of education, so you can take them back to your classroom and your school. Basically, with this degree, you can learn how to better teach within your subject area(s), motivate your students and help them learn to the best of their abilities, and organize not only your lessons and units, but be a leader in your school (this is particularly helpful for experienced teachers looking to become a department head or manage another area of the school while continuing to teach). So if you see yourself continuing in the classroom, then a more general master’s in education is a good fit for you.
Specialized Master’s in Education
Teachers who wish to advance their education so that they can move beyond the classroom into a different area of education should strongly consider a more specialized master’s in education.
A master’s in education which focuses on special education is for teachers who want to specifically teach kids with mental and physical disabilities. Another area that falls under special education is gifted education, good for teachers who wish to be a resource teacher for gifted students. Some special education teachers have a set class and room, while others travel around the school or even between schools to provide learning support and enrichment to students with special or gifted needs. Teachers who obtain this graduate degree can also prepare to become a special education administrator or someone who oversees special education policy at the district level.
A master’s of education with a concentration in the learning support fields would include specializations such as: ESL (English as a Second Language), bilingual education, reading education and support, and writing education and support. Teachers who choose this specialization are usually working towards a career as a learning support specialist or teacher. Many of these professionals work with many different students within one school (sometimes two) to give special instruction and resources to those children who need extra help in a particular area. This degree will build on your general teaching experience and train you how to help students in one specific area who need specialized training to catch up with their grade level.
Getting some years of teaching experience before becoming a school counselor is not only beneficial, it is required in some states. So if the highlight of your teaching experience has been helping your students on a personal level, than getting a Master’s of Education in School Counseling may be a great fit for you. This degree will equip you to become a school guidance counselor, focusing heavily on psychology courses. Some school counselors even teach special lessons in the classroom related to topics such as character education, emotions, peer pressure and bullying, to name a few. This field is a highly interpersonal one, so if that’s what you enjoy most about teaching, it may be a great fit for you. Keep in mind, however, that school counselors need specific licensure, just like teachers, in addition to a master’s degree. Make sure you research your state’s requirements before deciding on a program of study.
Administration & Leadership
Teachers who wish to move on to an administrative position within their school or district should choose a master’s of education within this area of study. Many teachers feel that the challenge and pay of an administrative position like a principal is a satisfying step after the classroom. Those who are tired of the day to day routine of the classroom but who still want to help students and equip schools to run as smoothly as possible should choose this concentration. A program in administration and educational leadership will focus heavily on educational policies and management, so graduates can also pursue careers as district administrators.
Media & Technology
With technology becoming central to the school experience through computers and other related media, schools are looking for professionals who can organize the technology within a school or district as well as teach these skills to students and teachers. This master’s in education can equip you for a job as a technology teacher or an IT professional or educator for a school, district or even a region or state. Many media specialists within the educational system work with teachers and students, since teachers also need to be instructed on how to use the latest technologies within their classrooms. So this specialty is a good fit for those who enjoy a varied experience at work, yet wish to continue within the field of education.
Making the Right Choice
While there are many different options for a Master’s of Education, the choices vary greatly depending on your future career goals. Just getting a master’s degree will, in most cases, increase your pay as well as possibly lead to more challenging and fulfilling job opportunities. Decide what you love about your current teaching position, as well as what you’d like to change, and let that guide your future career decisions. There’s no right or wrong Master’s degree in Education program, just one that will suit your needs and goals best.