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Why Earn a Master of Arts in Teaching

Philip D. Adams
By Philip D. Adams

Across the state of Maryland, as in school districts nationwide, a longstanding shortage of teachers has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to pose significant challenges for public school systems. As of August 2022, nearly every county in Maryland reported at least one teacher vacancy, led by Prince George’s County with about 900 vacancies. Baltimore City alone had 240 vacancies.1

Why are school systems finding these positions so hard to staff? Data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization, indicates that among the key contributing factors has been the increasingly stressful working conditions brought on by the disruptions of the pandemic. Although the past school year has seen an end to most school closings and a return to relative normalcy, the shortage of new teachers has only grown more acute. (2)

The silver lining is that these vacancies offer a unique opportunity for Marylanders with a passion for education to begin or advance their careers as teachers.

Monica Simonsen, director of education programs at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), says the national narrative about the teacher shortage does not tell the whole story.

"Data shows that enrollments and completions in teacher education programs are on the rise, while public school enrollment is declining," said Simonsen. "However, the demand outweighs the supply, and now is a great time to enter the profession. With a guaranteed minimum starting salary of $60,000 (by July 2026) in Maryland3, step increases, and excellent benefits, teaching provides a stable and rewarding career for traditional age students and career changers."

UMGC offers an accelerated pathway to your master’s degree and certification to help fill these vacancies.

Why People Choose Teaching as a Profession

While there are many fields and levels of education that one can choose to enter, those who decide to become teachers in the first place are often motivated more by their desire to contribute to society than to profit personally. Some of the top reasons, according to  why people enter the teaching profession are 

  • Helping students succeed academically: Fostering the principles of diligence and persistence, helping students overcome obstacles, and supporting them in their pursuit of academic excellence can be extremely gratifying and is one of the primary reasons why people become teachers.

  • Impacting students' personal lives: The chance to become a positive role model for young people, setting good examples for effective communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, and other areas of personal development can be a very attractive aspect of the teaching profession.

  • Dedication to the community: Teachers typically have plenty of opportunities to give back to their communities by participating in fund-raising efforts and other volunteer work—often with students—and by simply helping to turn out good citizens and future leaders.

  • Lifelong learning: To keep their teaching credentials current, teachers are often required to take continuing education (CE) courses, where they can learn the latest pedagogical theories and best practices, as well as age- and specialty-specific teaching methods. Beyond CE, many teachers find learning to be a two-way street, where, in the course of their instruction, they often have as much opportunity to learn from their students as their students have from them.

  • Chances to be creative: Within the parameters of officially approved curriculum and assessment, the role of a teacher offers many opportunities for creativity. Developing lesson plans and assignments, selecting and preparing materials, and creating a vibrant classroom atmosphere conducive to learning are some of the ways in which teachers can put their own stamp on the educational process. (4)

Another aspect of teaching that makes it a fulfilling job is the opportunity to associate and collaborate with a group of one's peers. 

"[W]hat is often overlooked are the meaningful connections that are formed among colleagues in a school building," said Simonsen. "While you may be the one adult in a room teaching a lesson, you do so with the support, modeling, and encouragement of a team of like-minded professionals."

Conditional Certification: Teach While You Learn

In Maryland, many districts are looking to “grow their own” teachers by encouraging and supporting staff and other community members to obtain their certification. Marylanders who are interested in teaching may have the opportunity to be hired with a conditional certification, requiring them to obtain their full certification within a few years. Depending on the school district, school system employees are often eligible for tuition remission or assistance. 

UMGC offers an online master’s program that allows those conditionally certified teachers to take classes on their own time while applying their skills in the classroom.

“The best way to learn to teach is to practice teaching,” said Simonsen, “and the UMGC MAT provides multiple opportunities for teacher candidates to participate in field experiences in their own communities.”


The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at UMGC can help prepare you for your Maryland teaching certification and for a rewarding career in education. Leveraging innovative educational technology to meet the needs of diverse learners in a wide range of secondary school environments, this program is designed for students with a bachelor's degree who want to earn Maryland teaching certification in secondary education in a range of subject areas.

You’ll gain skills and knowledge through coursework that draws from the expertise and experience of UMGC’s respected faculty. In the MAT program, you'll learn to develop instruction that embraces evidence-based practices and innovative technology, apply different approaches to assessing student competencies, build effective communications skills, and expand your own knowledge with hands-on experience.

The MAT is a 30-credit program that you can complete entirely online. Completing the program makes you eligible for the Maryland Standard Professional Certificate I (SPC I), which is granted by the Maryland State Department of Education. 

Depending on how many credits you complete each term and the number of credits you're able to transfer, you could graduate in as little as two years. Also, if you’ve completed your undergraduate degree at UMGC, you may be able to reduce your coursework for the MAT program by up to 12 credits, saving you time and money.

If you have yet to complete a bachelor's degree, UMGC can help you earn your degree in one of more than 30 bachelor’s programs, many in high-demand subject areas. With our flexible transfer credit options, you may be eligible to transfer up to 90 credits for your previous college courses, military education and training, workplace learning, and industry certifications.

Why Choose UMGC?

UMGC has been serving the higher education needs of working adults and servicemembers for more than 75 years. It’s the mission for which we were founded, and the reason we’ve grown to become the largest provider of postsecondary education in Maryland. UMGC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and is a constituent institution of the University System of Maryland

UMGC offers online courses that you can access virtually anywhere in the world. Our online courses are built from the ground up specifically for the virtual environment. As innovators in online education since 1997, UMGC delivers a seamless, collaborative, and satisfying online classroom experience.  

To provide a truly online experience, we’ve replaced bulky, expensive textbooks with no-cost digital course materials in nearly every course. The materials are easy to download within your online classroom and continually updated to reflect the latest academic content and teaching models. 

To support you throughout your academic journey, UMGC provides dedicated success coaches who can help you map out your educational goals and assist with class selection. And wherever you are in your career, you'll always have access to UMGC’s lifetime career services to help you find and land the position you want.

If you’re someone with a thirst for knowledge who aspires to become a positive influence in the lives of young people, a career in teaching might be your calling. A Master of Arts in Teaching at UMGC can prepare you for a fulfilling vocation to help meet the growing need for teachers here in Maryland.

"Teachers have the unique opportunity to serve as mentors and role models and to change the trajectory of kids’ lives," said Simonsen. "The transfer-friendly admissions process and flexible course options make UMGC an ideal option for aspiring middle and high school teachers at any stage of their educational journey."

Learn More About Education at UMGC

Discover our online graduate programs in education. A UMGC admissions advisor can help you get started.


1 Disparate Maryland school board candidates united on teacher shortage concerns. Maryland Matters. Capital News Service. October 25, 2022
2 The pandemic has exacerbated a long-standing national shortage of teachers. J. Schmitt, K. deCourcy. Economic Policy Institute. December 6, 2022
3 Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Maryland State Department of Education. 2023
4 Should I Become a Teacher? 20 Reasons To Consider. April 28, 2023.

Reference on this webpage to any third-party entity or product does not constitute or imply endorsement by UMGC nor does it constitute or imply endorsement of UMGC by the third party.