Guide to Master of Education Degrees
--James A. Garfield
What Is a Master of Education Degree?
As both an art and a science, professional teaching requires both practical knowledge of a subject and the ability to convey it to students in understandable ways. The constant development of new technologies and methods requires dedicated teachers to take an active interest in their own education and growth as professionals.
Some states require teachers to have a master's degree in education. In other states, teachers enroll in Master of Education (M.Ed.) programs for professional development. In either case, the program consists of approximately 30-45 credit hours and can result in salary increases, licensure renewal, and the confidence of knowing you have mastered all the methods necessary to be a qualified and exemplary teacher, instructor, or trainer. Online master's degrees in education are popular among working teachers who don't want to leave the tenure track while they study.
A master's degree in education isn't just for teachers, however. It can apply to a range of careers that do not involve either teaching or school administration, such as counseling, educational technology or education policy.
As education is one of the most important elements of a civilized society, it is vital that teachers take their professional development to the furthest extent possible. A Master of Education degree gives teachers the tools and techniques they need to effectively educate their students.
Education Career Outlook
As the second largest industry in the U.S., the educational services industry enjoys stable growth that mirrors the expansion of the national population. Teachers can expect to earn salaries that increase in proportion to their own education and their years of service. The U.S. Department of Labor rates overall benefits in the industry as "good."
Master of Education Degree Programs
M.Ed. programs usually require their applicants to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, including certain coursework required by the department. In addition, many programs require one or more years of successful teaching experience, a statement of professional goals, and one or more letters of recommendation.
Master of Education programs vary widely. Some programs focus on learning to work with students of a specific age group. Other programs help develop a teacher's skill in a particular subject area. Still other programs specialize in technology, curriculum, and material development rather than on teaching.
Master of Education Degrees Online
Technical advances in distance learning allow many accredited online universities to offer a wide variety of master's degree programs using chat rooms, photo logs, and even videoconferencing to educate their students. These programs are particularly useful to working adults, especially teachers who want to boost their career prospects without leaving the tenure track at their schools. Online M.Ed. programs are among the most prevalent in the distance learning industry, since so many education professionals are required to earn master's degrees at some point in their careers.
Master of Education in Early Childhood Education
A master's degree in early childhood education (ECE) is designed for professionals seeking expertise in this critical and highly specialized field. ECE usually covers education and development of children from birth to about third or fourth grade. ECE coursework varies, but generally includes classes on:
- Instructional strategies
- Teaching methodologies
- The impact of family and cultural diversity on early childhood
- Theories of early childhood development
Master of Education in Elementary Education
Professionals working with pre-adolescents often pursue a master's degree in elementary education, which focuses on teaching strategies and subject-matter expertise for a volatile young audience. The M.Ed. curriculum generally includes courses in:
- Advanced teaching strategies
- The impact of technology on education
- Curriculum development and modification
- Literature for children
- Literature for adolescents
Master of Education in Special Education
The master's degree in special education prepares teachers to work with students who have various physical and learning disabilities. This degree also prepares graduates for work in private and public agencies serving people with disabilities, and in other related social services fields. Educators may specialize in such areas as:
- Learning disabilities
- Visual impairment
- Vocational special education
- Physical and health impairments
Master of Education in Higher Education
Higher education administrators have enormously complex jobs overseeing not only the well-being and education of their students, but the progress of their faculty in research projects and the engagement of their institution with the community. Designed for experienced academics pursuing careers in colleges and universities, the master's degree in higher education emphasizes:
- Theories of student development
- College student affairs
- Leadership and institutional strategy
- Administration of large, complex organizations
Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction
A Master of Education in curriculum and instruction offers an understanding of educational theories. This kind of program also prepares teachers to create effective curricula and instruction material for diverse populations and settings, regardless of student age. Many programs emphasize contemporary educational issues like:
- Effective classroom behavior management
- Diversity issues
- Learning styles
- Integration of technology in the curriculum
Master of Education in Educational Technology
The use of technology in education can overwhelm teachers as easily as it can help them. An M.Ed. in educational technology shows educators how to effectively integrate technology with teaching strategies and educational research. Graduates can expect to master ways to create and apply technology-based methodologies like the Internet. Participants learn strategies to teach more effectively and to develop technology-driven curriculum and support materials. This new field is a growing one, and of particular interest to educators who want to work on the cutting edge of the education industry. Online degree programs in educational technology have become more widely available, as students can learn new technologies by using them.
What Can You Do With a Master of Education Degree?
With an advanced degree in education, you can qualify for wider career opportunities at all levels, including administrative, counseling, and postsecondary positions. More specialized degrees in elementary education, special education, and curriculum development give further opportunities for higher earnings and professional advancement.
Elementary educators use creative means and tools to teach basic skills and introduce children to the fundamentals of mathematics, language, science, and social studies. This specialty is rewarding for teachers who enjoy working with younger children.
Specializing in a particular subject such as English or mathematics, secondary education teachers help students become more familiar with subjects introduced in elementary school. Some secondary teachers also help students deal with academic problems, such as choosing the right college or career, and supervise extracurricular activities.
Some students with learning or physical disabilities require attention that they cannot receive in the traditional classroom environment. Special education teachers work with these students--ranging in age from toddlers to twenties--utilizing modified teaching tools and methods to accommodate students' special needs. Special education teachers also help students develop socially acceptable behavior while teaching them how to feel comfortable in social situations.
Detail oriented and skilled at managing, education administrators provide direction, leadership, and vision of educational activities in schools, colleges, universities, businesses, institutions, museums, community organizations, and more. They set institutional goals and standards while establishing the procedures and policies for carrying them out. Other responsibilities include:
- developing academic programs
- monitoring students' progress
- hiring, training, and motivating teachers and staff
- administrative recordkeeping
- budget preparation
- public relations
Using research and creativity, curriculum designers evaluate school curricula and recommend changes. They help find and develop the latest teaching methods, textbooks, and other instruction materials, as well as coordinate and train teachers in how to use them. They are responsible for equipment purchases and the use of technology in schools.
Most college professors have graduate degrees in their particular field of study, rather than in education (unless, of course, they are education professors). M.Ed. programs in higher education focus primarily on leadership and administration at colleges, universities and technical schools.
Certification, Licensure and Associations
Most states require educators to earn a license before they teach. In researching Master of Education programs, candidates should find out which programs offer licensure in addition to the graduate degree. Many programs also offer optional certificate programs that students may pursue through elective credits.
Other Associations and Certification Bodies
- Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation
- The Distance Education and Training Council
- The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
- Council for Advancement and Support of Education
- Teacher Education Accreditation Council
- Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation
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