Considering a Master’s in Education? Follow These 5 Steps Before Choosing a Program
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Do you want a master's degree in education but aren't sure where to start?
Well, finding the right program for you might not be as tricky as you think — as long as you know what to search for. Whether it's online or in person, a master's degree in education can help you increase your knowledge, expertise, and marketability.
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In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an average growth rate of 7% in education, training, and library jobs between 2021 and 2031. Plus, according to a 2022 report from Brown University's Annenberg Institute, some states are experiencing teacher shortages, resulting in even more job opportunities in those areas.
You can also tailor your education to match your career goals by specializing in an area of interest. Popular concentrations for education majors include curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, and educational technology.
As you consider a master's degree in education, follow these five steps for choosing a program.
Your Checklist for Choosing a Master's in Education Program
Do your learning goals match the program's goals?
Have you considered both in-person and on-campus options?
Does the cost of the program fall within your budget?
Do you have all of the prerequisites you need for the program?
Are the fieldwork requirements doable for you?
1. Define Your Learning Goals
Ask yourself: Why are you considering pursuing your master's degree in education?
Answering this question might be more helpful than you think. Knowing your why can help you define your learning goals and narrow your program search.
You can tailor your search to programs that specialize in the role you want. For example, if you're looking to step into the administrative side of education as a superintendent or principal, you may want to pursue a program that emphasizes educational leadership.
Happy to keep teaching but looking for a way to increase your knowledge and pay?
Many schools will raise your salary as you increase your education. If this is your goal, you'll want to review your school's pay scale contract and search for programs that focus on the content you teach.
2. Compare Online vs. In-Person Programs
Take the time to compare online versus in-person programs.
If you value convenience and flexibility, then consider a master's in education online. But if you're looking to advance your career close to home, in-person networking at a local university may be a better fit.
You might be wondering if you can expect the same faculty credentials online as in person. Well, many faculty who teach in person also teach online. So you'll receive the same quality of education regardless of the instruction mode.
If you find an online master's in education program that interests you, research the faculty to find out more.
3. Consider Program Costs
Curious about the cost of a master's degree?
The average cost for a master's degree in education between 2015 and 2016 was around $54,180, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Many factors can influence tuition costs, including the length of the program and the university's reputation, whether the school is public or private, and whether the program is in-person or online.
Be aware of hidden costs you might not have initially considered, too.
For example, the cost of textbooks, housing, and in-state versus out-of-state tuition further influence how much you spend on your master's degree in education.
4. Research Admission Requirements and Program Prerequisites
Most in-person and online master's in education programs hold similar admission requirements: a bachelor's degree, official transcripts, and letters of recommendation.
Still, some schools may require a personal statement, a minimum GPA, and GRE scores.
Before committing to any program, make sure its prerequisites make sense for you. Program websites should outline the required prerequisites. If not, contact the school and it can point you in the right direction.
5. Look at Fieldwork Requirements
Don't forget about the real-world requirement: fieldwork.
Fieldwork for a master's degree in education involves research and teaching in a classroom setting.
So even if you're earning your master's in education online, you can likely expect to perform your fieldwork in person. Fieldwork gives you the opportunity to apply the new knowledge you've been learning in a practical, hands-on way.
Performing fieldwork can also meet teacher certification renewal requirements depending on the program and the state you're in.
That said, not every master's degree in education program requires fieldwork. There may be exceptions or alternative options, especially if you're currently working as an educator.
Pro Tip: Don't forget the "why" and the "how." Determine why you want to learn and how you learn best. This exercise will help you find the program that's right for you!