Earning a master’s degree sets a person up for greater job opportunities and pay. Educators wishing to pursue graduate studies, however, often wonder which degree program to select. The answer depends heavily on individual preference and career goals.
Master of Arts in Teaching
Given the name, it comes as no surprise that most students who seek a MAT are interested in teaching. Some are current teachers looking to increase their knowledge of a specific academic subject or to learn how to more effectively teach at a certain grade level. Others have a bachelor’s degree in a discipline besides education but now want to become qualified to teach.
Programs focus on practical skills to bring to the classroom. Students in a MAT program often spend time in actual classrooms observing or practicing teaching strategies they’ve learned.
Courses vary by institution as well as the interest of the individual student. Some common topics covered in MAT programs include:
- History and philosophy of education
- Learning styles
- Multicultural perspectives
- Educational technology
- Developmental psychology
- Instructional communication
- Classroom management
Classes taken also depend on one’s specialization. Colleges frequently offer concentrations in early childhood, elementary education, middle school education, high school education, special education, and gifted education.
Master of Education
Sometimes, teachers pursue a M.Ed. However, many people who choose this degree program do so because of interest in careers outside of the classroom. Studies focus on understanding and critically evaluating the practice of education.
Schools usually require principals and other top administrators to hold a M.Ed. Likewise, the degree proves useful to becoming an instructional coordinator, curriculum specialist, school counselor, or educational technology director.
Some areas frequently covered in M.Ed. programs include:
- Educational leadership
- Curriculum design and development
- Educational systems
- Legal issues
- Implementing technology
M.Ed. programs offer a variety of concentrations. Specializations may include educational psychology, classroom technology, economics and policy, higher education, education administration, and school counseling.
Besides the employment opportunities a M.Ed. opens at K-12 institutions, the degree also benefits people looking to work at the collegiate level. Possible postsecondary positions for M.Ed. recipients include provost, dean, admissions counselor, student life director, and registrar.
Similarities between the two degrees
It takes roughly two years to complete either a MAT or a M.Ed. Many students in both programs are working professionals. Online studies prove a popular option because they allow greater flexibility. Degree seekers can continue to hold a job and attend to familial obligations while furthering their education.
In many districts, educators must obtain continuing education credits. This additional training ensures staff members keep adding to their knowledge base and stay alert to developments in their field. Oftentimes, classes taken in pursuit of a master’s degree can count toward fulfilling this obligation. The possibility even exists that teachers could receive some financial reimbursement from their employer.
What both the MAT and M.Ed. definitely have in common is the satisfaction achieved from earning one. Not only do they expand career options and earning potential, these degrees signal commitment and expertise to a very important cause – the education of others.