Teachers: Is There a Master’s Degree in Your Future?

7 min read

Comparing Some of the Top Teacher Master’s Degree Options

Teachers love to learn.

In fact, an estimated 52% of the nation’s 3.3 million public school teachers have a masters’ degree or higher. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 57% of public school teachers hold a postbaccalaureate degree (i.e., a master’s, education specialist or doctoral degree).

For the many who have earned their teaching master’s degree and the many more who aspire to, a passion for knowledge and the desire to be an even better teacher are among key motivators.

Whether it’s a Master of Education (MEd), a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) or one of any number of teaching master’s degree programs that focus on a specific subject area, there is a wide range of master’s degrees for teachers to choose from.

If you are among the many educators who is considering earning a graduate degree, read on to explore the best master’s degrees for teachers to get depending upon your goals, your interests and more.

This report will also examine some of the many benefits of earning your master’s, as well as the potential advantages of enrolling in your teaching master’s program online.

Why Should Teachers Get a Master’s Degree?

Reasons for teachers to get a master's degree

There is a wide range of reasons and benefits that motivate teachers to earn their master’s degree. These include:

  • The desire to become an even better teacher
  • Making a greater impact in the lives of your students
  • Reinvigorating your passion for your profession
  • Developing a deeper understanding of educational theories and strategies
  • Building a foundation for educational leadership opportunities
  • Positioning yourself for a possible pay increase
  • Strengthening your position in the competitive job market

Master’s Degree Options for Teachers

The following are some of the top masters degree options for teachers:

Master of Education

A Master of Education (MEd) degree has long been a favored option for educators who wish to expand their understanding of teaching theories, pedagogy, strategies and more. This degree is considered ideal for teachers seeking new ways to make a greater impact in the lives of their students, as well as those with aspirations of expanding their career beyond the classroom — for example, becoming a school principal, designing curriculum, working in a college or university setting, or positioning yourself for business roles such as a corporate trainer.

Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)

A Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) is designed to help equip current and prospective teachers with the practical, hands-on skills needed to be effective in the classroom. Like the MEd, it can also be a great way to gain additional subject-specific skills and strategies in such areas as Elementary and Secondary Education, Special Education, Gifted & Talented Education and more. If you are looking to change careers to become a teacher, the MAT can help prepare you for initial licensure in your state. MAT programs typically include a required student teaching component, which will enable you to practice in and experience an actual classroom.

Master’s in English Education

A master’s degree in English Education (offered as a specialization at some institutions) is typically focused on helping teachers develop a deeper understanding of how students learn the English language and communicate through reading and writing. This is especially helpful for those seeking to teach English to non-native speakers, including in English as a Second Language (ESL) and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) programs. Curriculum focus may include emphasis on language-learning theory, as well as insights, activities and techniques for use in the classroom.

Master’s in Mathematics Education

This graduate degree program (or master’s degree specialization option) is helpful for teachers seeking to improve their ability to teach middle and high school students the math skills needed to succeed in academics, the workplace and life. Programs focused on teaching secondary students are likely to focus on strategies for helping pupils understand such discipline as algebra, geometry, calculus and trigonometry.

Master’s in Special Education

Special education teachers are motivated by a desire to provide specialized instruction designed to meet the unique learning needs of students with a range of challenges or disabilities. Advanced degree programs in special education, often taught as a specialization with an MEd program, typically focus on effective teaching techniques and strategies for creating meaningful learning experiences for these children, as well as developing lesson plans that address students’ specific disabilities.

Teaching Master’s Degree Concentrations and Specializations

Master of Education program concentration options

Curriculum and Instruction

A specialization in curriculum and instruction is often considered one of the most flexible options when it comes to selecting a concentration option in a Master of Education degree program. Focused on a range of topics including educational theory, student data evaluation and much more, it is often chosen by educators who aspire to become a curriculum developer or instructional coordinator.

Early Childhood Education

Are you curious about how the actions of young children connect to their cognitive capabilities, learning styles and academic and emotional growth? Master’s degree programs in this area of study include a focus on combining strong observational and analytical skills to develop strategies to help students learn. In addition to classroom teaching, educators who opt to focus their graduate studies on early childhood education often become academic scholars or public policy advocates and specialists.

Higher Education

This field of study explores the unique need of post-secondary students, both academically and in terms of guidance intended to encourage personal development as well as academic excellence. Such programs typically focus on various aspects of educational leadership and are often selected by educators who are interested in the college or university administration track or in working for nonprofits or agencies that help shape higher education policy.

Educational Leadership

Earning a master’s degree with a specialization in educational or school leadership is a common pathway for those interested in working as principals, superintendents or other administrative roles. Areas of focus include instructional leadership, ethical and professional norms, educational equity, meaningful engagement with families and communities, data-driven decision making and more. The emphasis on leadership is also considered valuable in fields outside of education.

Teaching English Language Learners

The practice of teaching English to non-native speakers goes by a number of different names — ESL (English as a Second Language), ELL (English Language Learners), TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) — and is a sought-after specialty that applies to young students as well as adult learners. Bilingual education is vitally important when it comes to helping students of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds succeed in school and in life. Specializing in this field can also create opportunities for educators who are interested in working as English teachers in other countries.

School Counseling

Always in demand, school counselors are an important presence at most elementary, middle and high schools. Areas of focus include working with K-12 students who are experiencing challenges inside or outside of the school environment or exhibiting problematic behaviors. But this diverse role also typically includes helping secondary students with academic achievement, career development and college admissions. In both scenarios, counselors need to be good listeners while providing valuable guidance for educational achievement and overall success.

Educational Technology

A master’s degree specializing in educational technology provides a comprehensive understanding of how ongoing technological breakthroughs connect to providing the most enriching educational experience. It also helps teachers prepare students for success in our increasingly digital world. Such programs cover both theoretical aspects of incorporating technology into the educational experience, as well as the countless new tech tools teachers can now use to enhance student learning.


The STEAM master’s degree specialization takes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to the next level by adding Arts (liberal, social, manual, physical and fine arts) to the framework for integrated instruction. STEAM empowers teachers to employ a project-based learning approach that crosses all of these disciplines in solving everyday problems. Increasing emphasis on STEAM education connects to the belief that it establishes a foundation for innovation in key areas essential to individual success, as well as human progress.

What You Can Do With a Master’s Degree for Teachers

Master’s degrees for teachers can also be a great investment when it comes to positioning yourself for a range of additional opportunities outside the public school classroom. For example:

  • Administrative positions, in K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities
  • Post-secondary instructor and professor roles
  • Curriculum development specialists
  • Media and technology specialists
  • Corporate trainers
  • Private tutors
  • Educational policy analysts
  • Child care directors
  • Educational coordinator roles in museums and cultural organizations

Career Outlook for Educators

New opportunities are becoming available for primary and secondary education teachers.

“The writing is on the blackboard: Opportunities are arising for primary and secondary education teachers,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which cites ongoing robust job growth coupled with a large number of teachers expected to leave their positions each year.

Widely considered to be one of society’s most important jobs — inspiring the young minds of our future leaders — teachers are always in demand.

Additionally, a BLS report examining graduate degree “wage premiums” for those who hold a master’s over a bachelor’s degree indicates significant differentials in the education field.

When it comes to earning a master’s degree in the education field, the most recent BLS data reveals: “Education administrators had the highest percentage wage premium, with 44 percent higher wages for master’s degree holders than for bachelor’s degree holders. The wage premium for preschool and kindergarten teachers was nearly as high, at 43 percent.” The differential for elementary and secondary school teachers ranged from 24 to 28 percent.

Opportunities to earn your teaching master’s degree online now provide additional incentive to act on your desire to go back to school. High-quality programs like the University of San Diego’s online Master of Education degree are designed to give you maximum flexibility to balance your studies with the demands of work and everyday life.

Top 11 Reasons to get Your Master of Education Degree

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