Which is Right for You? Master of Arts in Teaching vs. Master of Education

4 min read
Masters of Education vs. Master of Arts in Teaching

If you are considering a master’s degree in the education field to launch or advance your teaching career or to position yourself for opportunities outside the classroom, you are no doubt “doing your homework.”

Specifically, this includes developing a thorough understanding of the two primary options to determine which is right for you — a Master of Education or a Master of Arts in Teaching.

In your research, you are likely to come across reports stating that an M.Ed. is focused largely on administration and other non-teaching opportunities while an MAT is focused on teaching. While this assessment is partly true, it is an overly simplistic explanation that does not tell the whole story.

While it’s true that a Master of Arts in Teaching is typically designed for those who are already teachers or those who plan to teach in the classroom, the best Master of Education degree programs offer the flexibility to sharpen your teaching skills, position yourself for school leadership roles and also build a strong foundation from which to explore other interests in the world of education. The goal of this post is to provide a helpful overview of the M.Ed. vs. MAT breakdown.

One of the key similarities between the two degrees is that they’re both a proven way to pursue your passion for education while also expanding your career opportunities and earning potential.

What is an M.Ed. (Master of Education)?

 A Master of Education degree is designed for current educators who wish to expand their understanding of teaching theories, pedagogy, strategies and more. Though the degree is well-suited to teachers seeking new ways to make an even greater impact in the lives of their students, those who choose the M.Ed. pathway often hold aspirations of expanding their career beyond the classroom.

For example, if you are interested in becoming a school principal, designing curriculum working in a college or university setting, or positioning yourself for business roles such as a corporate trainer, an M.Ed. will equip you with the skills required to be successful.

In addition, M.Ed. programs typically offer students the choice of specializing in specific areas such as:

  • Curriculum & Instruction
  • School Leadership
  • Inclusive Learning & Special Education
  • Literacy & Digital Learning
  • STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics)

Traditionally, M.Ed. programs take about two years to complete; and now more schools offer flexible online formats that enable you to work a full-time teaching job while working toward your Master of Education degree. Most M.Ed. degrees will prepare you for initial licensure in your state.

What is an MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching)

A Master of Arts in Teaching is designed to give current and prospective teachers the hands-on, practical skills they need to be effective in the classroom.

If you are currently teaching and wish to gain additional subject-specific skills and strategies, an MAT offers many opportunities to focus on:

  • Childhood Education
  • Elementary Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Special Education
  • Gifted & Talented Education
  • And more

Similarly, if you are looking to change careers and move into the teaching field, the MAT will offer you the education you need to do so and prepare you for initial licensure in your state. Another reason the MAT degree is an excellent option for career changers is that there is typically a required student teaching component, which will enable you to practice and experience an actual classroom.

Much like the M.Ed. degree, MAT degree programs typically take about two years to complete and are offered in varying formats at many schools across the country.

[RELATED] 10 Traits of Successful School Leaders >>

M.Ed. vs. MAT [Career Opportunities and Salaries]

Teachers choose to become teachers because they love to teach, not to become millionaires. However, earning a master’s degree not only helps you expand your spectrum of career opportunities, it can also significantly increase your earning potential.

Though estimates vary greatly, a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 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.

According to the most recent BLS data, “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.

The following is national median salary data for jobs commonly held to education professionals possessing a Master of Education or a Master of Arts in Teaching:

M.Ed. job titles and salaries:

  • School Principal – $94,390
  • Post-Secondary Education Administrator – $92,360
  • Training and Development Manager (Corporate Trainer) – $108,250
  • Curriculum Developer – $62,270
  • Media Specialist – $46,849
  • Special Education Teacher — $59,780
  • Instructional Coordinator – $64,450
  • School Counselor – $55,410

MAT job titles and salaries:

  • Elementary School Teacher – $58,230
  • Middle School Teacher – $58,600
  • High School Teacher – $60,320
  • Adult Literacy & HS Equivalency Diploma Teacher – $53,630
  • Special Education Teacher — $59,780

Master of Education vs. Master of Arts in Teaching [Comparison Table]

Time to Complete 2 years 2 years
Ideal For Current, licensed educators looking to move into leadership roles or improve their own instructional strategies Those looking to launch or advance a teaching career
Program Focus Comprehensive understanding of the practice of education Practical skills and subject-specific information
Teaching Experience? Yes No
Sample Coursework Educational Leadership, Curriculum Design, Educational Research Methodology, Cognition & Learning History and Philosophy of Education, Learner Differences, Technology & Instruction, Foundations in Literacy
Common Careers Principal
Curriculum Developer Instructional Coordinator
Reading Specialist
High School Teacher
Special Education Teacher
Middle School Teacher
Elementary School Teacher

Earning Your Education Master’s Degree Online

Thanks to advancements in online learning, your ability to earn your education master’s degree online while continuing to work in your current job is greater than ever before. Many top M.Ed. programs also offer a variety of specializations that enable you to focus on your areas of interest.

For example, the highly regarded online Master of Education program offered by the University of San Diego, designed for educators with two or more years of teaching experience, is valuable whether you wish to transform your classroom or transition into school leadership while also positioning yourself to explore other opportunities in the world of education.

[RELATED] Download our free eBook to learn the top reasons to earn your Master of Education degree >>

Top 11 Reasons to get Your Master of Education Degree

Free 22-page Book