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Master of Education | Context - Context
Online Master of Education
Master of Education In Context

As a comprehensive and practical teaching degree, the Master of Education (M.Ed.) helps certified and aspiring teachers advance. Learning outcomes can be applied in classrooms, or can allow for progression to other parts of your education, depending on your career goals.

A variety of tracks are available within an M.Ed. program, each of which corresponds to a particular set of skills. Common concentrations include education administration, curriculum development, adult education, and counseling. Completing the program usually takes approximately two years of full-time study.

What is the purpose of this degree?

The master’s in education (M.Ed.) can open doors for teachers who seek to enter senior positions in education as well as discover a range of opportunities beyond the classroom. It’s designed to give today’s educators advanced insights into teaching philosophy, current teaching methods, and modern education technologies. It can provide a pathway to becoming a subject matter expert, breaking into education administration, or making the transition into a counselor role.

Possible outcomes from earning your Master of Education are:

  • New opportunities
    The curriculum typically focuses on professional development to prepare students to compete for a wider range of jobs in their area of interest.
  • Specialization:
    The M.Ed. provides unique concentrations to allow teachers to plot a course to achieve their career goals.
  • Improved earning potentials:
    There is a significant pay gap between teachers with bachelor’s degrees and teachers who have earned their master’s degrees in education. [5]
  • Increased effectiveness:
    The skills and experience acquired through graduate level study prepare you for effective modern teaching practice. [6]
Is the degree right for me?

If you have already completed your bachelor’s in education and are looking to improve your career prospects, or if you earned a degree in another area and are looking to switch careers, a Master of Education can work to help you advance. Although classroom experience is considered highly useful, it is not a prerequisite for admission to most programs, and students without logged classroom time can often take additional courses to prepare themselves.

On completion of the program, students without previous teaching experience or certification should be well-prepared for taking state licensing examinations. They should also have a solid grounding in educational theory and practice, should they want to work in public service or community organizations.

For graduates who are already certified teachers, the degree can prepare you to make lateral or upward moves in the education sector to take on leadership roles.

Why earn this degree?

Educators recognize the value of an advanced degree, so an immediate benefit of earning an M.Ed. is to become more competitive in the job market. Most programs provide practical classroom experience to guide you through applying the degree in classroom settings. [10]

Courses cover diverse education topics including a focus on faculty leadership and education administration. Growth in teacher employment is expected to increase by 300,000 new jobs between 2014 and 2024. [32] Due to projected increases in the number of people going to college, postsecondary teachers could see even greater growth, with a 19% growth in jobs nationwide in the same time period. [36] A Master of Education can prepare you to advance to postsecondary teacher roles.

It can also prepare you to pursue salary increases. Salaries for teachers will depend on the location they choose to work in and the subject they teach. For example, according to self-reported salary data compiled by, the average wage for K-12 teachers in New York is about $54,050 and only $41,043 in Florida. [34] Top teachers can make more than $100,000 a year.

How do I choose an M.Ed. program?

The Department of Education recommends speaking to educators for insights into specific programs and researching how many enrolled students graduate and get a job or advance after graduation. [42] It is also important to understand who will be teaching your courses and their reputation and particular areas of expertise.

You should choose a particular path or subject if you have already developed an interest, and perhaps a particular set of skills, in that area. Most M.Ed. programs are shaped with education career paths in mind so students choose a particular path to enter that sector, with topics often including management, instruction, or counseling. The concentration you choose also will have an impact on whether licensing will be required to become admitted.

Other important aspects that should influence your decision are whether the teaching methods suit your lifestyle, whether you have easy access to the school’s campus, whether the school has an online program that can fit your schedule, how many credit hours are required for you to graduate, opportunities for work experience, and the cost of the program.

What are common learning outcomes?

In order for a program to receive industry-standard accreditation, its administrators will need to prove students learn: [7]

  • 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 in their lesson plans to help engage with students
  • To apply laws and policies, codes of ethics, and professional standards relevant to their specialization
  • From experience with mutually beneficial school and community arrangements, including opportunities for technology-based collaborations
Master of Education Career Advancement
As of April 2017, graduates from an M.Ed. program were working as: [8]
  • Elementary School Teachers (average salary $49,800)
  • High School Teachers (average salary $51,944)
  • Special Education Teachers (average salary $47,104)
  • Middle School Teachers (average salary $50,806)
  • Instructional Designers (average salary $60,805)
  • School Counselors (average salary $50,519)
  • Head Teachers (average salary $49,493)

According to a report by the Council of State Governments, teachers with advanced degrees earn 10 percent more, on average, than those with bachelor’s degrees in the U.S. After 10 years, the average annual salary gap between teachers with master’s degrees and those with bachelor’s degrees is $4,500. [9]

Where are people with this degree working?

Graduates holding this degree can work in a variety of settings. The three most common focus areas for M.Ed. programs can work to help you transition into a new education environment as follows:

  • Curriculum and Instruction:
    Prepare to work within curriculum development, leadership, and human development.
  • Counselor Education:
    Move into a school guidance counselor role and provide support to students throughout their educational career.
  • Educational Administration:
    Progress to school management positions and focus on operational, legal, and community issues.
Common career paths

Career paths through teaching will depend on the setting in which you find employment. Here are a few examples:

  • In schools:
    A wide range of roles includes management, administration, instructional design, and all levels of teaching.
  • In government:
    Educators can move to roles that look at the bigger picture of how education is delivered and its priorities. This may involve advocating policy or working in research. This path could see a graduate take a role in a think tank or branches of government such as the Department of Education. [35]
  • The corporate world:
    Some educators pivot to become entrepreneurs or corporate trainers. They may look to harness the skills and knowledge acquired from working in the teaching field to build their own companies [65] or work within large organizations to oversee staff training and development. [66]
Which careers require this specific degree?

Employer requirements vary. Students with a bachelor’s teaching qualification are often restricted to working in elementary, junior high, or high school settings. Teachers with a master’s degree may work at any level, including college and graduate facilities.

Ready to discover how the Master of Education can benefit you?
How does the M.Ed. affect salary potential in the field?

Teachers with master’s degrees are eligible for promotions, and many schools offer higher compensation for advanced degrees. [39]

Teaching roles that require master’s-level training can lead to higher earnings, and this advantage increases as the teacher acquires professional experience. The salary difference can be an average of $3,205 at the beginning of a career, but go as high as $8,411. In some parts of the country this disparity is much bigger, as much as $30,000 a year. [67]

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

Teaching jobs are available globally. In the U.S., reciprocity agreements can allow a higher degree of mobility in teaching. Reciprocity agreements grant states the power to recognize certifications from other states. This allows M.Ed. graduates to be considered for teaching posts in other states, providing they meet that state’s additional requirements.

Each state is different, but completing an accredited M.Ed. program can prepare you for many opportunities within the U.S. Teaching overseas can be a popular choice, with many American teachers working in locations such as China, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates. [38]

Master of Education Curriculum

While your curriculum will vary depending on the program through which you choose to study, there are several common topics that you can expect to cover throughout the program. These include: [11]

  • Instructional design
  • Leadership
  • Classroom technology
  • Reading and literacy

Typical core courses

While curricula will vary by program, they tend to share some characteristics. Typical required courses you may come across during your program include:

  • Curriculum design
  • Instructional theory
  • Research foundations
  • Class management
  • Student assessment
  • Education leadership

Typical elective courses

Your online Master of Education program may also offer a variety of elective courses. Common elective courses include:

  • School finance
  • Educational organizations
  • Adolescent or adult literacy
  • Online teaching
  • Differentiated learning
  • Educational psychology
Are there typically prerequisite courses for entering this degree program?

Students that have not studied education previously may be required to take prerequisite courses. [6] Check with your school to confirm if these are required to be completed at the school or if transfer credits may be applied.

What are the options for concentrations or specializations?

Common M.Ed. specializations reflect typical education career paths. They include subjects such as:

  • Curriculum and instruction:
    Prepares teachers to design effective education programs.
  • Counselor education:
    Prepares you for a career supporting students throughout their educational careers as a guidance counselor.
  • Educational administration:
    Helps teach you the competencies to take on management positions.
  • Adult education:
    Offers the skills needed to promote lifelong learning and target instruction at an older age group.
  • Educational leadership:
    Focuses on the administrative aspects of academic institutions, including school finance, legal issues in academia, data, and educator management. Ideal for educators interested in pursuing administrative roles.
  • Special education:
    Designed for educators working with special needs populations, this concentration can help you develop the diverse skill set needed to successfully serve the unique needs of your students.
  • STEM education:
    Helps prepare graduates to promote science, technology, engineering, and math skills in the classroom. Learn to lead and improve STEM education at any level.
What concentrations/specializations are in high demand and why?

Employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to increase by 13% from 2014 to 2024. That is faster than the average growth for all occupations. [21] While postsecondary educators are in demand across the board, some concentrations have higher needs than others. Many schools report difficulties filling science and technology vacancies, giving STEM educators an advantage in the job market. Special education and bilingual teachers are also in high demand. [21]

Experiential learning, internships and field placement

The M.Ed. will usually require classroom teaching. How this is done may depend on whether the student is taking an on-campus or online program and their long-term career plans. Based on a survey of several online M.Ed. programs, your practicum may be in a formal or informal education environment. If you have plans to enter avenues other than classroom teaching, experiential learning could also include internships, fellowships or formal observation hours.

Will this experience count toward my licensure or certification?

On-the-job experience is particularly important for student-teachers as supervised educational experience hours are required to sit for licensure. States have different licensure requirements, including rules about qualifying experience hours, but they will typically allow hours earned during degree study, over the course of an internship, or in a classroom setting. [23]

Do M.Ed. programs require a thesis or capstone project?

Typically, the M.Ed. does require a final project in which students demonstrate skills developed during their graduate study. This could be a piece of academic research, or it could be presented through more practical applications, such as a grant proposal, curriculum materials, or projects that bring technology into the classroom, such as educational apps for tablets. [41]

Master of Education 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 of Education Admission 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.

Alternative Degree/Field of Study Overview

If you’d like to approach teaching from another angle, there are several degree options you might consider. These include:

Master of Teaching: This does not include instruction in management functions in the way the M.Ed. does. Its focus is often on the role of diversity in learning, incorporation of technology in the classroom, and integration of the common core standards.
Master of Science in Education: This degree can help you if you are interested in educational research.

In addition, you could choose to pursue a more specialized education degree. These include degrees such as:

M.Ed. in Special Education
M.Ed. in Curriculum Instruction
M.Ed. in Higher Education
M.Ed. in Learning, Cognition, and Development
M.Ed. in Foundations in Behavior Analysis
M.Ed. in Adult and Continuing Education

Relevant Industry Associations/Organizations Overview

Industry associations bring together like-minded educators and education stakeholders for networking and discussion. Here are a few education organizations to know:

The American Federation of Teachers [60]
The Association of Teacher Educators [61]
The Department of Education [62]
The Association of American Educators [63]
The National Association of Special Education Teachers [64]

Master of Education Accreditation Overview
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 M.Ed.?

Accreditation is handled by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). This body was formed in 2013 from the merger of the former National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).

What does accreditation mean for your degree or licensure?

Prospective teachers can have confidence that accredited programs are current, relevant, and research-based, and will prepare them for licensing examinations. [54]

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

The CAEP evaluates M.Ed. programs based on five standards: [56]

Standard 1 focuses on candidate outcomes specific to advanced-level study.
Standard 2 allows for flexibility specific to clinical experiences that encompass the uniqueness and diversity found at the advanced level.
Standard 3 emphasizes the admission of qualified candidates who have demonstrated the proficiency for advanced-level study.
Standard 4 focuses on completer and employer satisfaction.
Standard 5 requests evidence on a quality assurance system specific to continuous improvement. This works to ensure that graduates from an accredited teaching program are competent and caring educators.

Master of Education Licensure/Certification Overview

Teaching requires a state-issued license. [25] Each state has its own exams and requirements for licensure in addition to the basic teaching certificate that comes from completing an accredited teacher training program.

The state-administered exams can include 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. [26]

The National Evaluation Series (NES) is another testing method used to establish a teacher’s suitability to hold state teaching responsibilities. The NES is currently used in just a few states and is often taken in combination 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. [68]

Can other degrees lead to this licensure or certification?

The master’s in teaching and bachelor’s in education are also common paths to a teaching license.

What career opportunities are available to those without licensure?

Private schools do not have the same certification requirements as public schools or colleges do. As such, they may appoint persons with undergraduate degrees in relevant subjects to teaching positions, and they may not require the same level of certification that public schools and universities do. [31]

What are the steps required to achieve licensure or certification?

After completing their program of study in education, teachers may receive their initial teaching credential, on either a temporary or permanent basis. This shows they are generally able to teach in their area. [27] However, to get a job, student teachers will then usually have to pass additional examinations, such as the Praxis test, which is required to practice in 40 states and U.S. territories, to show they meet the specific demands of the state they want to teach in and receive their first state license. [69]

Teaching preparation programs are usually designed to meet the requirements for teachers in the state in which the college is based. There may be reciprocity arrangements in place, which can allow teachers or aspiring teachers to transfer their license between states fairly easily, [28] but some states may require additional testing.

What are the licensure requirements for all individual states?

There is no standard national teaching requirement; eligibility is managed on a state level. This means that, although teachers across the country are in many cases taking the same tests (such as Praxis or 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. [29]

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

Completing coursework in a teacher preparation program accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is one of the common certification requirements across all states, subjects, and grade levels. [30]

The History and Evolution of This Profession

Teacher training in any real sense first emerged in the 1820s as public schools sprang up across the country and reformers realized that better teachers were needed than the young men of varying talents that had filled the role before this time. By the 1840s, teachers were often well-educated women and there were requirements that they were academically competent and attended ongoing training. This was often taught through training organizations known as “normal schools.” [1]

As America headed into the 1870s, most states insisted a teacher had passed certification tests that covered history, geography and the English language. Teacher training methods were developing and varied by state; from short courses in educational methods in Massachusetts to teacher institutes in New York City. Certification had no national standard and was highly inconsistent between areas. [2]

In the early 20th century, normal schools had evolved into teachers colleges with the ability to grant degrees in education. Universities also took on teacher education, often targeting men who hoped for leadership and research positions while women — more likely to remain in the classroom — earned their credentials in teaching colleges. [3]

The teaching profession spent much of the 20th century locked in struggles to improve conditions and further progress toward common standards was thwarted. [4] Today, the traditional divide between teaching schools and universities has crumbled but the divide in the subject remains. On the one hand, practical skills are required for the classroom, and on the other, advanced managerial skills go beyond pedagogy and instruction.

Master of Education Tuition and Fees Overview
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.

Will I qualify for loan forgiveness?

Teachers that go on to work in areas that have a population typically on a low income 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 [45] in return for working in areas that need them most. 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 October 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)

While many may use master’s in teaching and master’s in education interchangeably, there is a difference.
Master of Arts in Teaching degrees are designed for teachers who want hands-on experience with their students. MAT programs focus on advanced coursework in a specific subject area to develop the student’s expertise. These programs teach students how to become better and more sophisticated teachers. Often, they will require fieldwork in which the MAT student is placed as a student teacher to practice the advanced educational theory.

Master’s in education degrees are advanced studies designed to progress teachers into spheres beyond the classroom. While working and aspiring teachers pursuing the degree can still remain in the classroom, M.Ed. programs give teachers the tools to take on leadership and administrative roles in the school system.

There are several reasons that teachers pursue their M.Ed. Teachers with an M.Ed. can establish themselves as a highly qualified expert in their field. [70] Others may pursue the degree as an opportunity to expand their knowledge of teaching and advanced coursework in teaching. [70] Many see the M.Ed. as a platform to raise their salary. According to a recent study, M.Ed. graduates can earn up to 10% more than their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees. [71]

No — attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.

M.Ed. programs prepare students to expand their careers beyond the classroom into specialized or leadership roles in education. That being said, M.Ed. degrees are generally classified into three main categories of study: Curriculum and Instruction, Counselor Education, and Educational Administration. [70] Within those categories fall many areas of specialization. Students will finished their programs prepared to take on a wide variety of roles, from school psychology to special education.

When choosing a program, you should consider factors such as the following:

Accreditation: Is the program accredited?
Flexibility: Is the program on campus or delivered online? If online, does the institution required synchronous sessions? Are there optional synchronous sessions?
Student support: What support systems are in place for your success?
Travel requirements: Will you need to pay for additional travel arrangements to meet degree requirements?
Interactive learning: What type of learning management system is used?
Faculty expertise: Do faculty have a strong theoretical and practical knowledge base in the field?
Fees: Are there any additional fees besides tuition?

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students who may be working around a busy work schedule or home life. 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 the course. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

Generally, M.Ed. programs require a teaching license. They are geared toward those who are alreading working in the classroom and wish to gain additional certifications and experience, or for those looking to work in the field of education but outside of the classroom. [72]

Other prerequisites may vary from program to program and the specialization chosen. Students should check with their program to determine their prerequisites.

Usually, M.Ed. programs require a teaching license, though there are some programs for those with no prior teaching experience. [72] Admission requirements will vary by program, but typical requirements include transcripts, minimum of a 3.0 GPA, letters of reference, and possibly a written essay and interview.

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.

Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.

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. [72]

Start with a cost-benefit analysis based on the price of the degree and potential ROI. Weigh the full cost against the positive outcomes you expect as a graduate, which may include a boost in earning potential, upward mobility, or job satisfaction.

Completion ranges from one to two years depending on the program and the specialty chosen.

Courses will vary based on specialty chosen. NCATE sets standards and guidelines for specialization areas that all accredited programs must adhere to. In general, students can expect to take courses in teaching theory, leadership, law, and those that relate to their specialization.

Additional licensure will vary depending on specialty. For many administrative focused programs there are no additional certifications. For practice-based degrees, teachers may have to take exams to become certified to practice their specialty. Refer to your specialty track for certification/licensure requirements.

There are a wide variety of specializations available to the M.Ed. student. Be careful to choose a program that aligns with your career goals and interests. Not every school will offer the same choices. Here is a list of some potential specializations available to you:
Educational psychology
School counseling
Higher education
Museum education
Economics and policy
Classroom technology
Instructional design
Reading and literacy
Curriculum development

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)is the national accrediting body for educational programs recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Attending an accredited institution ensures that the program has met rigorous quality standards and students are prepared to enter the education field.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)has identified four key goals for accrediting and developing standards for accreditation. [70]

To develop and maintain high standards for the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions required of educators and for the units and programs that prepare them to practice
To operate an efficient and effective accreditation system to assess the quality of educator preparation units and their programs
To offer advice and limited technical assistance to educator preparation units in improving their quality and the quality of their students
To communicate effectively with all interested parties, including the public, about its work and to co-ordinate with others also having responsibility for the improvement of educator preparation and other aspects of educator quality.

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.

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 establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.

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. [52]

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.


[58] .