An advanced degree can benefit your teaching career in many ways, augmenting your knowledge of a subject or refining your teaching skills. Apart from the Ph.D., there are two degrees that educators may earn: a Master of Arts in Teaching, or M.A.T., or a Master of Education, or M.Ed. While the M.A.T. is good for advancing a teaching career, the M.Ed. qualifies graduates to work in managerial positions within the education system.
While there is some overlap in the admissions standards for M.A.T. and M.Ed. programs, the two tend to differ in some ways. For example, because the M.Ed. is often considered to be a higher-level qualification than the M.A.T., admissions committees often expect a student to have completed some sort of graduate-level work. Some schools, such as the University of South Carolina, also require that M.Ed. students to hold a valid teaching certificate in at least one state and to have previously taught in a classroom.
While the M.A.T. degree is focused on producing effective teachers, the M.Ed. is focused on producing effective education administrators and education researchers. This means M.A.T. degree programs, like the one offered at the University of South Carolina, include courses on effective teaching and human growth and development. Typically, much of the M.A.T. curriculum is centered around student teaching and internship experiences. An M.Ed. program, on the other hand, focuses on developing students with a thorough understanding of the theory and analysis of education, not just classroom instruction. At the University of Southern Carolina, core courses include one called "Introduction to Action Research." As this course title suggests, M.Ed. students should be prepared to conduct rigorous analytical research.
Options for Specialization
Whether a student is enrolled in an M.A.T. or an M.Ed. program, numerous specialization options are available. In the case of the M.A.T., these are almost always structured around the type of students a prospective teacher hopes to teach. A student's specialization might revolve around a grade-level -- elementary, middle or high school -- and a choice of subject -- history, math or science, for example. In M.Ed. programs, however, the choice of specialization varies based on the program. Harvard's Graduate School of Education offers specializations in more than ten subjects, including language and literacy, education policy and management, and arts in education.
Career Outcomes and Licensure
Because the admissions requirements and curricula for M.A.T. and M.Ed. degrees are so different, the career options vary considerably. An M.A.T degree is designed for students who either have or are hoping to secure licensure as a teacher, so graduates will typically become teachers at the elementary, middle or high school levels. M.Ed. career outcomes vary more. Students may or may not be required to pursue licensure since the programs are designed for students interested in becoming principals, curriculum designers or other leaders in the education field.
- University of South Carolina: Department of Instruction and Teacher Education: FAQ's
- University of South Carolina: Master of Arts in Teaching: Elementary Education
- University of South Carolina: Department of Instruction and Teacher Education: M.Ed in Teaching
- Harvard Graduate School of Education: Master of Education
- Boston University School of Education: Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
- Boston University School of Education: Master of Education
- University of South Carolina: College of Education: The M.Ed in Early Childhood Education
Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan, Textbooks.com, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.