As I’ve mentioned before, there are many ways to become a teacher. And the best way, when it comes to long-term career options, is to get a relevant degree. With that in mind, many aspiring teachers wonder if they should get a graduate degree instead of a bachelor’s. This depends on a lot of factors.
Time and money
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-teaching profession, getting a Master’s in education is generally a faster option than getting a second bachelor’s degree. Even if you’re able to apply general education credits from your first degree into your second teaching degree, a fresh new bachelor’s in education will likely take at least three years. In contrast, a Master’s can usually be finished in two years, and sometimes slightly less.
A post baccalaureate teaching certificate can be even less time-consuming than a Master’s degree in this case. However, post-bac certification programs are less common than full degree programs, and it’s often not possible to find a suitable post-bac program for the license you’re seeking.
Master’s degrees are also more cost effective in two potential ways. For one thing, less time spent in school nearly always means less money spent on tuition. For another, Master’s degree programs are usually designed to be more accommodating of non-traditional students— students who have adult financial obligations and full time jobs. Graduate classes are often scheduled in a way that allows you to continue working and earning money as you prepare for your new career.
There’s an additional financial concern that may make a Master’s degree less desirable—employability. Most public school systems and many private schools have policies dictating that a Master’s degree holding teacher should be paid more than a teacher who merely has a bachelor’s degree or post-baccalaureate certificate. As a result, Master’s-level teachers may find themselves “priced out” of a given school, school district, or even an entire state when a state is facing budget difficulties.
Still, in other cases, a Master’s can enhance your ability to get the job you want. Prestigious private schools and reputable, well-funded public school systems may prefer to hire teachers with a higher level of education. Additionally, a Master’s degree can make you more eligible for certain desirable duties and responsibilities, such as teaching an Advanced Placement high school class, leading extracurricular programs for gifted and talented students, or securing a seat on a school board.
A Master’s degree can also make a transition from teaching school to teaching college more feasible… sometimes. A Master’s in Education makes you a good candidate for a position as a teacher trainer at a university or community college. However, the best paying tenure-track teacher-training professorships are usually reserved for individuals with doctorates.
For maximum mobility between school teaching and higher education, it’s best to have a Master’s degree in an academic subject instead of a Master’s degree in Education. For example, a teacher who has a Master’s in English Literature that included teaching certification is eligible to teach language arts in a K-12 setting or teach for a college English department. The downside of such a flexible credential is that getting an academic Master’s with a teaching component usually takes longer than getting a Masters in Education. Often, a hybrid academic/teaching Master’s can take three or even three and a half years to complete
The best option for you
If you have just finished up an undergraduate teacher training program and are eligible to begin teaching, I personally recommend not getting a Master’s degree… not at first at least. The benefits of beginning to teacher as soon as you can are great, both professionally and financially. And you can always work your way towards a Master’s over the course of your career. In fact, some school districts will provide tuition reimbursement for a future Master’s degree after your first few years of teaching.
On the other hand, if you already have a bachelor’s degree and need to become qualified to teach, a Master’s may not take much longer than post baccalaureate certificate. And it can impress employers and attract job offers… provided you apply to places that can afford you.