Master's in Education: Salary and Career Facts

Learn about the career opportunities available to teachers who hold master's degrees. Explore state licensing requirements, average salaries for teaching at different levels, career opportunities and job duties. Schools offering Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Types of Master's Degree Programs in Education are Available?

Master's degree programs in education are aimed at both current and aspiring teachers. The type of program you enroll in should depend on your career goals. Specialization areas vary by school, but are typically divided into early childhood, elementary, secondary and special education. Degrees may also be offered in a variety of subject areas, such as science or math education.

If you're already a licensed teacher, you may choose to enroll in a program that will help you improve your teaching skills. You could also select a master's degree program designed to prepare you for a more specialized teaching position, such as a position as a literacy specialist. If you are an aspiring teacher, you may enroll in a program designed for those who hold bachelor's degrees in an area other than education. For example, if you earned a bachelor's degree in an area like science, you could enroll in a master's degree program in secondary education and prepare for a career as a science teacher. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree to start
Education Field of Study Subject area, education
Key Responsibilities Prepare lesson plans; present lectures and lessons; assign work, administer tests and grade student work and tests; communicate with parents about student progress and conduct
Licensure and/or Certification All public school teachers must be licensed or certified
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% for all elementary teachers; 6% for all middle school teachers; 6% for all high school teachers*
Median Salary (2015) $54,890 for all elementary teachers; $55,860 for all middle school teachers; $57,200 for all high school teachers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do I Need in Addition to My Master's Degree?

In order to teach in the public school system, you need to become licensed by your state board of education. Eligibility requirements vary by state, so it's very important for you to check your state's requirements before enrolling in a master's degree program. Some specific requirements may include:

  • Specific classes, such as special education or technology
  • A minimum number of classes in your subject area
  • The passing of one or more standardized exams
  • Completion of an approved teacher training program
  • Student teaching experience

In addition, you may opt to earn professional certification, which is offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Certification demonstrates that you have reached a level of professionalism and competency beyond what is required for licensure. Benefits of earning certification may include a higher salary, reimbursement of continuing education fees and the ability to transfer your license from one state to another.

What Jobs Can I Apply For?

After earning a master's degree in education, you have several employment options. If you were already teaching, you could either stay at your current job or apply for a position with additional leadership opportunities. For example, you could become a curriculum designer or department chair. If you were looking to begin teaching, you could apply for teaching positions in public schools after satisfying all your state's requirements. You typically don't need to earn a license or certification to teach at a private school, but doing so could strengthen your application.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

As a teacher, you are expected to plan lessons that satisfy district and state curricular standards. Most teachers have one or two hours each day to plan lessons, collaborate with team members and meet with students. However, many teachers work beyond that to grade papers or plan lessons. You will also need to communicate with parents and submit student report cards. You may be expected to attend staff meetings before or after school, and to sponsor student organizations.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

Many school districts compensate teachers on a sliding scale based on seniority and education level. A beginning teacher with zero years of experience and no advanced degree usually earns the lowest amount on the salary ladder. Earning a master's degree often leads to a pay increase, although this practice varies by school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, the lowest ten percent of teachers earned $36,190 or less for elementary school teachers, $37,350 or less for middle school teachers and $37,800 or less for secondary school teachers (www.bls.gov). This number does not account for the level of education teachers attained, but most likely includes teachers with little experience.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Principals at any grade level need a master's degree the profession needs each educator to work well with students, faculty and parents. Reports for state, federal and district reports will be prepared and presented at times. Alternative positions to teaching could include counseling or instructional coordinators. Professionals in this career work with students and teachers in preparation of young people for the post high school years. Only a bachelor's is needed to work in vocational education dealing with students training for a trade. College teaching is an option and requires that master's in education degree to teach in that specialty. A doctorate is better in the university market.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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