Some master's programs are aimed at current teachers who want to improve their teaching skills, while others are open to individuals with bachelor's degrees who want to become teachers. These degrees can be completed in two years or less of full time study. Doctoral programs in education train students for administrative and leadership roles. These programs emphasize education research and require students to hold a master's degree. Students may choose an area of concentration and many schools allow students to work with advisers to craft a plan of study that meets their specific goals.
Programs may be partially or fully online. Students in a master's program have the option to specialize in certain fields of education, such as early childhood, elementary, secondary, or special education, while doctoral students can specialize in early childhood education, educational policy, and literacy. Some schools require students to possess a teaching license before entering a master's degree program, while doctoral degree programs are usually reserved for those with some work experience. A teaching practicum or dissertation are required for master's and doctoral students, respectively.
Master of Arts in Teaching
A Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program may combine teaching courses with taking classes in a chosen content area such as biology, mathematics, science, English, or history. These programs also include instruction in classroom pedagogy, lesson planning, educational psychology, and student assessment. An internship may be required for graduation. Some common courses in this program include:
- Educational leadership
- Curriculum theory
- Educational technology
- Sociology of teaching
- Education in America
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Education
A Ph.D. program prepares students for greater leadership roles as educators. Students learn about the systems and policies that drive current education by incorporating research and practice in a number of subject areas, including the sociology of higher education, ethics in educational leadership, and theories in teacher education. Graduates may go on to become professors, school administrators, researchers, or policy makers. Possible courses in a Ph.D. program include:
- Ethics in higher education
- Research and analysis
- Teaching and learning
- Education policy
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers at the levels of preschool through high school held over 3 million total jobs in the United States in 2014. Employment opportunities are projected to rise by 6% for all teaching positions (www.bls.gov). Based on data from the BLS, the median salary for elementary school teachers was $54,890 in 2015. For high school teachers the median salary was $57,200. The BLS reports that teachers earning a master's degree can often see a raise in salary.
In 2014 the BLS reported that elementary, middle, and high school principals held over 240,000 jobs in the United States and they expect employment in these positions to rise 6% percent by 2024. Opportunities are predicted to be good due to a need for more schools to handle the growing student population.
Both master's and doctoral degrees in education build upon undergraduate learning in the field to improve a student's opportunities to find work in an academic setting, with more options and higher pay available to those with higher levels of education.