Pros & Cons of Getting a Master's Degree in Education

A master's degree in education is often the terminal degree for public school teachers. To find out whether or not you want to continue your education with an education graduate degree, check out the pros and cons in this article.

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Earning a master's in education is an opportunity to extend your knowledge in curriculum and teaching theories. Some states even require teachers to have a master's degree for continued licensure. Below, we'll look at some pros and cons for earning your master's degree in education.

Pros of Earning a Master's in Education

Though many states first require only a bachelor's degree in education for initial licensure as a teacher, you may need to complete more education for continued licensing. The following represent some of the pros of earning a master's in education.

Meets Teacher Licensure Requirements

In order to become a licensed teacher in most states, you'll need to complete a bachelor's degree and a teacher education program, which is often included in a bachelor's in education program. If your bachelor's program did not incorporate a teacher education program, though, some states allow a master's degree in education to fulfill this requirement. Once you have completed these programs, you'll be able to continue with the other steps in your initial licensure path to become a public school teacher sanctioned by the state's Department of Education. Additionally, some states require you to pursue a master's degree if you wish to renew your licensure after teaching for a certain amount of time.

Good Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for teachers is currently faster than average. Having a master's degree will better prepare you for the licensing route for teachers. So, the 7-8% increase between 2016-2026 could lead to tens of thousands of more career opportunities. Also, earning a master's degree in education can set you up for work in administration, such as a principal position. Principals also have a favorable outlook.

Position Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Kindergarten Teacher 8%
Elementary School Teacher 7%
Middle School Teacher 8%
Secondary School Teacher 8%
Principal 8%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Higher Pay

Those with a master's degree will improve their marketability and their salaries. As you can see from the table below, having a master's degree can improve your salary by nearly $10,000 a year. For those with a master's degree, administration positions open up, while they are not available to those with just a bachelor's degree.

Position Average Salary with Bachelor's (2017) Average Salary with Master's (2017)*
Elementary School Teacher $41,397 $50,377
Middle School Teacher $46,503 $51,852
Secondary School Teacher $44,944 $53,127
Principal N/A $97,440

Source: *Payscale.com

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Cons of Earning a Master's in Education

A master's in education is a common degree level for public school teachers. If you choose to continue your education at this level, you may find that there are some negatives to that decision.

Unnecessary for Private Schools

Should you know ahead of time that you want to teach at a private school rather than through the public school system, you'll likely find a master's degree is not necessary. In fact, many states only require a bachelor's degree for their private school teachers. This is because most private schools do not have to follow state guidelines. So, if you would like to work at a private school, there is no licensure need for a master's degree.

Limited Grade Options

While having a master's in education prepares you for teaching, you may find that unless you have a concentration in a specific subject, you'll be limited to teaching the lower grades. Most high school teachers focus their master's degree in the education of the subject they wish to teach, such as mathematics education, special education, history education, etc. However, if you do not have the concentration in a specific subject, your education will be more generalized to teach at the middle school or elementary levels. Again, depending on the state requirements, you may need to specialize in that subject or grade level, so be sure to check with your state's department of education for licensure requirements.

More Debt

More schooling usually means more debt. If you continue your education with a master's degree in education, you'll add another two years of tuition, fees, books, and rooming costs. Depending on the university you select for your graduate degree, the total cost will fluctuate. However, a position as a teacher with a public school will offer a better income than a private school would.

If you're deciding whether a master's degree in education is for you, first consider where you'd like to teach. If you want to work for a public school in your state, you'll need to check with the Department of Education in your state to see if a master's degree is a requirement.

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