A bachelor's degree satisfies licensing requirements in most states, but earning a master's degree in an education field opens up new opportunities and benefits. In return for the time and cost investment, teachers reap personal, professional and financial rewards.
Many school districts offer a pay increase for teachers who hold a master's degree with the specific amount varying by state. The average salary difference for a first-year teacher is $3,100, according to the 2007-2008 Schools and Staffing Survey from the National Center for Education Statistics. After 10 years of teaching, the pay difference between a bachelor's and master's degree increases to $4,500. Some districts offer tuition reimbursement to cover part of your cost to earn the master's degree.
A master's degree allows a teacher to explore a specific content area for in-depth knowledge that isn't gained from a bachelor's degree in education. An elementary teacher might earn an advanced degree as a reading specialist. The additional knowledge gained through the degree program allows the teacher to better instruct her students. For example, in education technology classes, teachers learn ways to effectively incorporate technology into the classroom. If knowledge gain is the primary goal, choose a master's degree focus that aligns with the needs of your students.
The education field requires you to major in a specific content area or age range for licensing. An elementary teacher needs to complete a college program in elementary education. Her license specifies that age range. A master's degree in education opens up a new career path for a teacher. Specializing in a different content area allows you to move into a different teaching position. For example, a master's degree in special education allows you to move from the general classroom to a special education teaching position. A teacher with a bachelor's degree in elementary education might get a master's degree in early childhood education. You also have the opportunity to move into a different position within the school, such as a school counselor or library specialist position.
Advancement into educational leadership positions is a potential benefit for earning an advanced degree. Most administrative and school leadership positions require candidates to have at least a master's degree in a related field. Possible leadership positions within education include principal, assistant principal, dean of students, superintendent and curriculum specialist. These leadership positions offer new challenges and responsibilities.