When pursuing a profession in education, prospective educators have a wide variety of degrees to choose from. They can earn a bachelor’s degree in education and begin teaching from there or pursue a master’s or doctorate without a bachelor’s in teaching. However, educators with a master’s degree have the opportunity for higher earning potential and access to more secondary education opportunities. For educators hoping to prepare for teaching certification and to teach in secondary education, one great option is to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT).
“A Master of Arts in Teaching prepares teachers with practical skills and is designed to align with a teaching certification,” says Monica Simonsen, the program director for education at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). “Earning an MAT prepares graduates to pursue a teaching license and begin their careers as classroom teachers.”
What are the benefits of earning a master’s degree in education?
Higher salary. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, “On average, a master's degree earns teachers an additional $2,760 in their first year of teaching compared to a bachelor's degree. This salary advantage expands to an average of $7,358 per year by the time a teacher reaches the maximum point of the pay scale.”1 This earning potential is a huge benefit and can make earning a master’s degree a worthwhile investment. This allows educators to truly maximize their income while also maximizing their education in a subject area.
More career options in secondary education. Because secondary education covers such a broad range of subjects and testing, the requirements to teach are higher and therefore more exclusive. For someone with a bachelor’s degree, some states require them to have earned their degree specifically in secondary education or in a “teachable subject” such as chemistry. With an MAT, educators can enter the job field with fewer limits on what they can teach, and it makes them more desirable to employers.
Additional teaching expertise that can help in the classroom and beyond. “Teaching is a highly stable career and most districts provide excellent benefits, including healthcare and pensions,” says Simonsen. “More importantly, building ‘master teacher’ skills helps graduates prepare to deliver high-quality instruction to their students, which is a significant investment in the community’s overall wellbeing.”
The MAT program can prepare a teacher to cover subjects ranging from earth science to Mandarin, as well as from in-person learning to online learning. An MAT can also equip teachers with the ability to assess student learning and address inequities in academia.
“An MAT is designed to prepare students for classroom instruction, but the skills teachers acquire can be transferred to other industries,” says Simonsen. “There are opportunities outside of a school building, including online teaching/tutoring, curriculum development, and even opportunities for training and development in other fields.”
What is the difference between an MAT and an MEd?
At UMGC, there are some notable differences between the MAT and MEd programs:
Teaching certification. When teachers earn an MAT from UMGC, they become eligible to earn the Maryland teaching certification in secondary education as a public or private school classroom teacher. At UMGC, the MEd does not lead to a teacher certification in Maryland, although graduates may be eligible for licenses or endorsements in other states.
“Typically, an MAT is designed to prepare teachers to develop skills for classroom instruction and aligned with one or more certification areas. Most MEd programs are designed to enhance student knowledge around a focus area such as administration or curriculum design. An MEd is often appropriate for someone with an undergraduate degree and initial teaching certification looking for continued professional growth.”
Fieldwork. At UMGC, MAT students are required to complete an 18-week teaching internship. This experience allows them to get first-level experience in the classroom and meet educators who they can network with for possible future opportunities. MEd students complete clinical fieldwork to learn how to integrate technology into the classroom.
Grade level. With an MAT, teachers gain the expertise to teach specifically in secondary education. Teachers with an MEd become prepared to teach Pre-K through 12th grade.
Credits. At UMGC, the MAT is a 30-credit program, while the MEd is a 33-credit program.
What should you look for in an MAT program?
When choosing which MAT program is right for you, be sure to consider some key points:
How long is the program? While most master’s degree programs are an average of two years long, some may not include the time it takes to complete required internships. Be sure to check if the timeline coincides with your timeline and goals. At UMGC, depending on how many courses are taken each term (fall, spring, summer), you should be able to complete the program within two years.
Is the program flexible? Teaching internships require a level of in-person attendance, but are the other classes in the program also required to be taken in-person? This could lead to a lack of flexibility for you as a student to complete all your assignments. If the classes have online options, this could greatly increase your ability to learn on your own time and manage your schedule. At UMGC, we allow students to complete their internships in their respective communities, often as the “teacher of record.” This allows them to teach their own class, and it becomes a paid internship.
Does it prepare you for a teaching certification? One of the biggest benefits of UMGC’s MAT program is the eligibility to earn a teaching certification. However, this eligibility is not guaranteed depending on the college you are receiving it from. Make sure you check the program details to know if you will be prepared.
Are a range of subjects covered? As a secondary education teacher, you will be expected to cover a wide variety of topics, so it is essential that your education prepares you. Look at the courses you will be taking to determine if the program best prepares you for your teaching career.
At UMGC, students can earn both an MAT and an MEd to enhance their career opportunities. Both the MAT and MEd are accredited by the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP). The MAT program prepares educators to leverage innovative educational technology and meet the needs of diverse learners in a wide range of secondary school environments.