Working in the education field takes a special kind of person. There has to be a balance between a love of learning and a desire to help students reach their full potential. You must be patient but also driven to help every kind of student succeed. Many teachers are choosing to go back and get their Master’s degree. Masters of Education degrees can open doors to new classrooms or offices, new career paths, and sometimes even increased levels of power. All it takes from you is a bit of money and somewhere around 18 semester hours worth of coursework.
About Online M.Ed. Degrees
Teachers don’t have a lot of free time, but you don’t need me to tell you that.
As our world becomes more tech-savvy, the higher education options are following suit. Online programs typically have a more flexible schedule, which is a must-have if you’re planning on getting your Master’s while still working full-time. Depending on which program you choose to enroll in, all of your classes might be online, some will have scheduled or chat-like discussions, or if you choose, you could still attend some classes on campus.
Some programs will result in a Master of Education (M.Ed.), while others are a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). However, that designation is not as important as the specialization you choose.
Online M.Ed. Specializations
When choosing a program, you’ll want to think about what you want to do after you graduate. What is your goal? Are you planning on staying in a classroom or do you want to move up the ladder?
Choosing a specialization will result in gaining expertise and experience in that particular field, so choose wisely not randomly. Not all programs offer the same specialization options, so take that into consideration when choosing where to get your degree.
Specializing in educational leadership or administration is exactly what it sounds like. If you want to be a principal or think it’s time to get out of the classroom, this is a very popular degree.
Having said that, not all those who get their administrative degree choose to use it. Quite a few teachers and school counselors actually hold an administrative degree as well.
English as a second language (ESL) or English language learners (ELL) is also a popular specialization. If you work in an ESL/ELL classroom, a Master’s will help you learn extra strategies for working with these students and their families. This is a degree that will benefit the students 100% of the time.
I have a special place in my heart for students in the special education population. I admire and appreciate those who work with these students every day. Getting a Master’s with a focus on special education will keep you aware of current trends, new approaches, and research in the field.
Curriculum & Instructional Design
If you choose to specialize in curriculum and design of instruction, you may quickly become a hot commodity in your district. If you’re part of a large district, you might even be able to find a position working at the district level. Between the Common Core and individual state standards, schools are always trying to figure out the best way to fit everything into a day.
While these may be the top 4 most popular M.Ed. specializations, it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Others include content areas (e.g., mathematics, literacy, science, etc.), career & technical education (CTE), eLearning/technology, early childhood education, or elementary or secondary education in general.
What to Look For in an Online Master’s in Education Program
When you’re looking at different M.Ed. programs, do your research. Each program, whether on- or off-campus is going to be different.
Consider these factors:
State and Program Requirements
You already have a teaching license, but does the state you work in require you to jump through any other hoops when getting your Master’s? Does it have to be a certain number of credits to bump you up the pay scale?
What does the program itself require? Is there a practicum/internship component? Will you have to take time out of your work schedule to complete observation hours? And if so, is your employer (i.e., your administrative team or district) okay with that?
Don’t put yourself in a position where you can’t finish what you started because of logistical roadblocks.
Is the program you’re interested in well accredited? When you’re teaching in your classroom you must adhere to state standards. The same should go for the classes you’ll be taking. If the program isn’t accredited by a reputable accrediting body–run.
You want your degree to work for you as much as you had to work to earn it. For more information on accreditation, check out this article.
How much is it going to cost you to get your Master’s? Online programs can sometimes be cheaper than attending classes on campus, but that difference might not be as significant as you’d anticipated.
In comparison to a teacher’s salary, it’s still expensive.
If you’re currently a teacher, you work with people every single day. Taking classes online will not offer that face-to-face experience that you might need. See what options are available and what classes are like. Are they live, video classes that allow for interactions between classmates and professors?
Will those classes get you to the skill level that you need to reach your career goals? Does your plan of study include all the classes you feel like you’d need to take to become an expert in the field? Is there something missing?
And, perhaps most importantly, are you actually spending time observing or working with people currently in the role your hope to attain? Will you be completing an internship to get hands-on training as an administrator, developing curriculum, or applying new research to special education approaches in the classroom?
Yes, there is an endless list of pros to getting your Master’s Degree in Education. But it isn’t something you should just jump in to. Do your research and make sure the program is right for you and will get you where you want to be.
Remember, by getting your M.Ed. you aren’t only improving your life, you’re also bettering the education that your students receive. And isn’t that why you chose to teach in the first place?