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Master’s in Teaching (MAT) | Context - Context
Online Master of Teaching (MAT)
Master’s in Teaching (MAT) In Context

The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) is an advanced-level degree designed for students who wish to teach in a pre-K or K-12 classroom environment. Students may be either those with existing teaching certification from an undergraduate degree in education who want to advance their career or those who need to complete appropriate certification to hold their initial teaching license after completing a non-education bachelor’s degree.

A variety of tracks and concentrations are available within a MAT that can help you tailor your degree program to fit your goals. Concentrations within the MAT degree exist as a way for students to integrate further specific coursework from a concentrated area in the K-12 arena to help students gain additional exposure to an area of interest to them. Some commonly offered concentrations within the MAT degree include early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education and special education.

What is the purpose of this degree?

The MAT program is designed to help you develop the competencies you need to become a teacher. This will include pedagogical theory, methodology, and stylistic approach. The MAT helps to set graduates up to operate effectively in the classroom while simultaneously enabling them to acquire teaching experience that can be directly applied to the program’s theoretical knowledge in practice.

Possible outcomes from completing a MAT program include:

New opportunities

Curricula cover professional teaching practice and prepare students for the tests they need to pass in order to hold a teaching license. This makes it suitable for those looking to switch careers and move into education.


The MAT is usually built around a number of professional tracks so students may chart a path that takes them to their particular career goals. Some of these specializations are in high demand.

Improved earning potential

There is a significant pay benefit in acquiring a higher level of education. People with a graduate degree can expect lifetime earnings that are at least double those with just a high-school degree. [1]

Increased effectiveness

A graduate teaching degree provides an advanced proficiency in the area of teaching you choose to study. Some schools will see this as desirable when choosing teachers to hire or in offering salary increments and other benefits. [2]

Personal satisfaction

Teachers often state they enjoy the camaraderie between other teaching staff members and the opportunity to develop mentor relationships with their pupils. In addition, the school year is usually ten months long so there are opportunities to take on personal projects or travel during holiday periods. [3]

Is the MAT right for me?

The Master of Arts in Teaching is best suited to students who hope to acquire their initial teaching license after completing a specialized undergraduate degree. It also provides some value for current professional teachers who wish to develop additional skills or specializations.

Classroom experience is not a prerequisite for entry to MAT programs but it is considered useful, and any relevant experience you have may increase your chance of successfully being admitted to a program. Requirements for graduation will almost certainly include in-person classroom teaching experience so students must consider whether this is practical regarding their own circumstances.

Completion of an MAT program does not in itself generate a permanent teaching license (although some states may offer a temporary license upon graduation), but it does prepare students to take state-mandated licensing examinations. The content covered in an accredited graduate-level Master of Arts in Teaching program should be an adequate basis to handle the necessary licensing in addition to covering educational theory and practice.

Why earn a MAT degree?

Prospective teachers have multiple reasons for enrolling in a MAT program. Professionally, a teacher holding an MAT may be considered an expert in the field, which can increase competitiveness in the job market. This is because Master of Teaching degrees focus heavily on practical classroom experiences, giving graduates an in-depth understanding of teaching and related competencies and techniques.

Students may also consider the range of topics covered by the program’s curriculum as highly useful for their future professional practice. Topics relevant to being an effective teacher, such as linguistic and cultural diversity or working in different educational settings, are usually included in the MAT curriculum. MAT programs also offer concentrations so that students have the opportunity to focus on coursework related to a specific facet of teaching, such as elementary education, secondary education, or special education. This means graduates can leave with a clear pathway into their preferred level of teaching.

Teachers are always in demand, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be nearly 1.9 million job openings for teachers between 2014 and 2024. Elementary school teachers make up the bulk of the profession, and high school teachers were found to have the highest average salary range in this group ($57,200). Other K-12 teachers earned wages in the $50,000 range. [8]

The financial benefits of completing teacher training vary by state and specialist subject. For example, K-12 teachers in New York can earn, on average, $54,050, but that can fall to $41,043 in Florida. [9] Wages can vary state by state due to a number of factors, including cost of living, government budgetary decisions, and professional requirements. Teaching wages top out at better than $100,000 a year.

How do I choose an MAT program?

When choosing any academic program or school, the Department of Education recommends considering matters such as academic reputation, school costs, accreditation, flexibility with your schedule, and whether the program you are looking at will provide you with the skills you need for your chosen career, among others. [10]

In choosing a MAT program, many students use the research on the professional backgrounds of the professors who will be teaching their courses, the concentration offerings within the program’s curriculum, and the overall reputation of the program and university. Often this information will be available on the program’s website, but you also can call for more information, or do your own research on third-party websites.

What are common learning outcomes?

Teacher education programs in the U.S. are accredited by a body such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). It’s fairly common for states to require teachers applying for a license to hold a credential from an accredited program. In order for a MAT program to receive industry-standard accreditation, the program’s curriculum and outcomes will need to prove students learn: [11]

  • To apply teaching practices in a flexible way that supports students to be career or college-ready
  • To use research and evidence to both understand the teaching profession and measure their students’ progress
  • To apply standards for technology when designing, implementing, and assessing learning experiences for students
  • To model and apply technology standards as they design, implement, and assess learning experiences that engage students
  • To apply laws and policies, codes of ethics, and professional standards relevant to their specialization
  • How to work within communities. This may include opportunities to use new technologies in order to work together.
Master’s in Teaching (MAT) Career Advancement

The Master of Arts in Teaching is designed to help teachers and professors teacher learn what they need to know in order to find employment in education. Graduates of an MAT program may work as: [12]

Elementary School Teachers (with an average salary of $43,737)
High School Teachers (with an average salary of $48,001)
Special Education Teachers (with an average salary of $45,120 to $49,263)
Middle School Teachers (with an average salary of $45,991)

Which careers require this specific degree?

Employer and state licensing requirements vary. Students who have graduated from an MAT program and completed additional requirements for a teaching license will be able to become employed in public schools. Their teaching license can indicate where their specialties lie, in areas such as early childhood education; elementary, middle, or high school education; or special education.

These positions may also be obtained by teachers who only hold an undergraduate degree, although the MAT can help such candidates improve their career prospects and earnings.

How does the MAT affect salary potential in the field?

Teachers with graduate-level qualifications earn 10% more on average than those with bachelor’s degrees. After 10 years, the average annual salary gap between teachers with master’s degrees and those with bachelor’s degrees is $4,500. [13]

How do the career opportunities vary from state to state and internationally?

Teaching jobs are available globally in both brick-and-mortar schools and online. In the U.S., reciprocity agreements between states are in place to help teachers move around. Reciprocity agreements grant states the power to recognize certifications from other states. This allows graduate teachers to be considered for teaching posts in other states, providing they meet that state’s additional requirements. [14]

Teaching overseas is another popular choice, and many American teachers are working in locations such as China, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Master’s in Teaching (MAT) Curriculum

When deciding on which program to attend, curriculum is an important factor. Some related things you may consider regarding curriculum include:

  • The program you select is accredited.
  • The program’s core competencies and specializations match your abilities and interests
  • The college’s academic infrastructure is appropriate for your program, including the provision of facilities and resources
  • The faculty has the experience and resources to deliver the degree content to a high standard
  • The coursework goes deep enough for you to develop your knowledge and will allow you to expand your areas of knowledge
  • The program will allow you to progress into your chosen career
  • There are opportunities to gain practical experience in your field

Whether the school you are considering is accredited is a very important factor as well, as this may affect your future employability. It could also be useful to talk to existing or former students about the view employers have of their training, or to read student testimonials. This and other information often can be found at the program’s website, although you may have to do independent research or contact a program representative directly.

What is the standard set of core courses for a MAT program?

Core coursework for Master of Teaching programs typically include foundational work in subjects like:

  • Teaching methods
  • Student learning styles
  • Linguistic and cultural diversity
  • Assessment and evaluation in the classroom
  • How to work collaboratively with colleagues
  • Curriculum management and implementation
  • Reading and literacy
Concentrations or specializations

There are a number of ways you can specialize your degree to fit your interests and aspirations. Some specializations commonly offered in Master of Teaching programs include:

  • Elementary education
  • Middle education
  • Secondary education
  • Special education
  • STEM

Concentrations will typically give you the opportunity to tailor your program to fit your goals. For example, the elementary education specialization typically involves teaching math, literacy, social studies, science, and English language. Secondary education requires students to choose a specialization from English, social studies, science, and math. Special education programs can prepare students to work with a number of different groups of young people, including the hard of hearing or those with behavioral disorders.

Which MAT concentrations/specializations are in high-demand and why?

The need for special education teachers is rising faster than many professions, and there is a lack of highly qualified candidates. [17] Schools also report vacancies in science and technology fields and bilingual and English language teachers. [18]

Experiential learning, internships, and field placement

Earning your MAT will typically require significant classroom teaching time. How this is done may depend on whether you choose an on-campus or online program, as well as your long-term career plans. Some schools may also apply a charge to cover the time the supervising teacher spends in the classroom with the student.

Will this experience count toward my licensure or certification?

Student teachers will need to show a certain amount of supervised teaching experience in order to be eligible for consideration for a teaching license. The exact number of hours will depend on the rules in your state, but often times, your experiential learning component will count toward this requirement.

Do MAT programs require thesis or capstone projects?

A survey of various MAT programs indicates that many MAT programs require a final project in which students demonstrate skills developed during their graduate study. A review of sample curriculums suggested this is usually completed during the last or penultimate semesters of the program and will count towards the credit hours needed to graduate.

Master’s in Teaching (MAT) Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

Master’s in Teaching (MAT) Admissions Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Master’s in Teaching (MAT) Alternative Degree/Field of Study

The Master of Education (M.Ed.) is a common alternative to the MAT. This program focuses on teaching careers that will take the student outside of the classroom, so the scope of the curriculum is typically wider than the MAT. The M.Ed. also looks to topics such as educational law, accounting, and administration. The M.Ed. is usually completed by students that already have the right to work as teachers, while the MAT is intended to help prospective teachers develop pedagogical skills.

The Master of Science in Education is often a preferred path for teachers interested in educational research. There may also be an alternative route to certification where graduates with a bachelor’s degree can train for their teaching qualification, in practice, under the supervision of a qualified teacher. [4]

Master’s in Teaching (MAT) Industry Associations/Organizations

There are a number of groups working in the education sector in which students and professionals may come together for networking and discussion. These include:

  • The American Federation of Teachers [20]
  • The Association of Teacher Educators [21]
  • The Department of Education [22]
  • The Association of American Educators [23]
  • The National Association of Special Education Teachers [24]
Master’s in Teaching (MAT) Licensure/Certification

To move from teacher training to teaching practice, students will need to obtain a license from the state in which they hope to practice. The usual requirements are to have completed an accredited teaching degree program and to pass that state’s specific qualification demands.

Requirements and prerequisites will vary by state, but they may include passing standardized tests such as the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educator Tests. These measure subject-specific skills, as well as knowledge of pedagogy and teaching methods. These tests are a mix of multiple choice and essay questions and can take up to four hours to complete.

The National Evaluation Series (NES) is another testing method used to establish a teacher’s suitability to hold state teaching responsibilities. When states require the NES, they typically require it in conjunction with state-specific examinations that probe an applicant’s understanding of their topic. These are completed on a computer and the results may be portable between states. This means a teacher that passes could be eligible for employment in a number of states without having to take the test again.

Can other degrees lead to this licensure or certification?

The MAT is not required for licensure, but it can be beneficial for long-term career prospects. The other common paths toward teaching licensure include the master’s in education (M.Ed.) or a four-year bachelor’s degree in education. Graduates from either of these types of programs will also have to pass the additional testing described above in order to hold a license.

What are the steps required to achieve licensure or certification?

The process for licensing varies among states. Some state authorities will issue a temporary teaching license once a student has completed his or her initial teacher training. All applicants will need to pass additional standardized tests, such as the Praxis test or the NES, to show that they meet the specific demands of the state in which they want to teach. Once this extra requirement is met, a permanent teaching credential can be provided.

Teaching preparation programs are usually designed to meet the requirements for teachers in the state in which the college is based. Some states may have reciprocity arrangements in place, which allow teachers or aspiring teachers to transfer their license between states.

If you intend to work in a state other than that in which you will train, you should check to make sure your program will meet the requirements of your state before you enroll.

Each state manages their own teacher licensing. This means that although teachers across the country are taking the same licensing tests, such as Praxis or the NES, the pass thresholds and preferred skills may be different. Details of each state’s system can be found on the Department of Education’s website. Students may need to complete ongoing professional training throughout their career in order to keep their license. [15]

Does a program have to have certain accreditations for a student to obtain licensure?

This will depend on individual state rules. Accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is often needed for a teacher preparation program to be considered high-quality and research-based. [5]

Master’s in Teaching (MAT) Accreditation

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

Is there an accrediting body for the MAT?

Teacher training programs in the U.S. are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The Department of Education recognizes the council. [6] CAEP was formed in 2013 to replace two previous organizations that oversaw education accreditation — the former National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). [7] The new body hoped to streamline the accreditation process to be as effective as possible.

What does it mean for a college or program to have this accreditation?

The CAEP evaluates MAT programs based on the quality of teaching provided by its graduates and whether there is a culture of evidence-based practice in how that training is delivered. This has been consolidated into five standards, which require that those admitted to the program have proven their worth for a place and that educational standards are monitored and continuously improved. CAEP takes into consideration whether employers and graduates are happy with a program. [27]

What does accreditation mean for your degree or licensure?

Many states will require teacher training programs to hold CAEP accreditation for graduates to qualify for a teaching license. Accreditation also provides reassurance to student and prospective employers that their training is up to date, useful, and based on sound academic principles. [28]

The History and Evolution of This Profession

Teacher education programs in the U.S. first emerged to meet the need for well-qualified educators after public schools were set up across the country in the 1820s. Prior to this, there were no specific requirements for teaching posts, and they were often taken by young women. Within 20 years, schools — called “normal schools” — were established to help teachers show their academic competence and were expected to engage with ongoing professional development. [29]

Certification tests for teachers were in place by the 1870s. These covered topics like history, geography, and the English language. There was no national standard for these, and their depth and length varied from state to state. [25]

Normal schools gradually evolved to become more formal teaching colleges by the beginning of the 20th century. Teacher preparation programs were also being offered by universities by this time. These were more targeted toward educators interested in leadership and research positions. Men were more likely to take on these types of programs, while women often attended a training college. [19]

The tension between teaching schools and universities is no longer relevant, but prospective teachers will still choose their path of study depending on their preference for spending time in the classroom versus taking on a leadership role.

Master’s in Teaching (MAT) Tuition and Fees

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Loan forgiveness for teachers

Teachers that go on to work in areas of great need or in locations that have a low-income population may qualify for the cancellation or deferment of federal student loans. This may also be the case in areas where there is a teacher shortage. This is thanks to opportunities offered by either federal or local programs to relieve teachers of portions of their student debt in return for working in areas that need them most. [16] The deal on offer will depend on the types of loan you have:

  • Perkins Loans may be canceled for those working full-time in a low-income school or those teaching in certain areas.
  • Stafford Loans received from Oct. 1, 1998, onward may be eligible for part-cancellation if the teacher that received them has worked in a low-income school for five years.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A Master of Teaching helps prepare both experienced and new teachers to lead classrooms in elementary and secondary education settings, as well as special education, professional development, and other areas of concentration. It can help teachers prepare for state teaching certification, and it differs from the Master of Education (M.Ed.) by focusing on practical classroom teaching rather than placing emphasis on research and theory.

The Master of Teaching is the degree of choice for new teachers or teachers seeking certification in a certain subject area. Qualified applicants typically hold a bachelor’s degree in their desired subject area for teaching. This includes standard subjects such as math or science, as well as more diverse subjects such as dance or foreign language. Depending on your program, a Master of Teaching could also appeal to professionals seeking a career as a coach, online instructor, or teacher supervisor.

The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.

There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded. [34]

Most Master of Teaching programs do require applicants to demonstrate proficiency in their subject and require a minimum undergraduate GPA to apply. The required GPA will vary from program to program, so be sure to note the requirements for each program of interest. [35] [36] [37]

Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.

No. While some experienced teachers leverage the degree to pursue additional certifications, the Master of Teaching is primarily aimed at new teachers and those seeking to transition to teaching mid-career. [39]

This depends on how you plan to use your Master of Teaching degree. For teachers seeking certification in a specific subject area, some programs require that you hold an undergraduate degree in that subject. Other programs are more flexible to allow educators to pursue alternate paths in education, including lead teacher or coach. [31] [35] [37]

The curriculum of each Master of Teaching program will vary depending on the institution, the intended program learning outcomes, and your chosen specialization. At the core, most programs focus on curriculum design, teaching practice, and education research and theory, geared to prepare new teachers for state certification at the K-12 level. As teaching practice evolves, many programs include an increased focus on education technology. [38] [39]

The majority of programs include a practicum or supervised teaching seminar to ensure that graduates emerge capable of executing excellent classroom instruction. The extent of the practicum experience will be unique to each program, though, so if you have requirements for your ideal practicum experience, it’s best to discuss this component with each admissions office. The practicum is also important for graduates seeking to prepare for certifications. [14] [15] [16]

Yes. Many universities offer online Master of Teaching programs. Considering online degrees can be useful for teachers who wish to pursue a specific specialization, allowing you to explore a wider range of curricula to find the best program fit. Master of Teaching degrees span a variety of unique specialties, so an art teacher might have different priorities than an ESL instructor when comparing programs. [31] [38] [14]

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

The most common specializations for Master of Teaching programs are broad categories of education, such as secondary education, elementary education, or ESL. Within these categories, students can further specialize within a subject area. This is where you find your niche in education, whether it’s math, foreign language, health, science, art, dance, or a multiple-subject approach that can help you cast a wider net in your career. There are also opportunities within various programs to focus on education leadership, curriculum design, or education technology.

For many students, deciding on a program is tied to certification goals. Be sure to check state licensing requirements to ensure your program of choice adequately prepares you to achieve your certification aims. [32] [38]

The concentration or specialization you choose for your Master of Teaching can affect your career options. It’s wise to explore teacher employability in your region to assess whether teachers with certain specialties are in higher demand than others.

Within broader concentrations, elementary teachers comprise approximately 37% of workers within preschools, kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools. Those who focus on elementary education can join a large segment of the teaching population that in 2014 included more than 1.3 million teachers. Employment for all teachers is expected to grow by 6-7%, with demand only plateauing for those who wish to teach career education in secondary schools. [30]

Within subject area specializations, there is opportunity to examine the field to assess where your greatest opportunity will be. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, high schools are reporting difficulties finding teachers in math, science, English as a second language, and special education. [31] It’s best for each teacher to explore his or her individual region to decide which track of a Master of Teaching program could have the most positive impact on career options.

Yes, you will need a certification to teach in public schools, and these certifications differ by location, school, and subject area. [30] Acquiring additional certifications or degrees can also positively impact your career options. For example, in kindergarten and elementary education, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that teachers with certifications typically enjoy a higher quality and volume of job opportunities. [32] Many teachers opt to earn National Board Certification as well, because this makes it easier for them to transition between teaching roles in different states. [33]

Most commonly, people with a Master of Teaching pursue careers as public school teachers. The purpose of the degree is to generate master’s-level teachers of certain subjects, such as math or science, as well as improve the quality of instruction in classes for certain student populations, such as special education or English as a second language students. Common settings for degree graduates include kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. Some students also use the degree to become lead teachers who would work in more administrative capacities. [31] [30] [32] [33]

Possible job titles and average salaries for graduates of Master of Teaching programs include kindergarten, elementary, and middle school teachers ($52,620), [34] high school teachers ($58,030), [35] special education teachers ($57,910), athletic coaches ($41,000), [36] or lead teacher jobs like curriculum coordinator ($49,203). [37]

Industry growth for teachers remains strong, with jobs added in every teaching sector except career education teachers in high schools. Kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teachers will see 6-7% growth in the number of available jobs between 2014 and 2024. During that period, the highest number of jobs will be added in elementary education (378,700), followed by secondary education (284,000), and middle schools (175,500).

Accreditation helps determine if an institution meets or exceeds the minimum standards of quality set out by recognized regional or national accreditation agencies. A list of regional and national institutional accrediting agencies can be found at the U.S. Department of Education. However, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) serves as a primary accrediting body for education-related programs.

Yes, accreditation can affect your qualifications for certification, so it’s important to note that programs have been accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). [38]

Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. [39]

Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance.