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5 of the Best Master's Degrees for Teachers

Teachers help foster a life-long love of learning in their students, so it makes sense that they would be life-long learners themselves. Pursuing personal higher education allows us to lead by example and provides many more career opportunities than simply having a bachelor's degree does.

Although often not required to become a teacher, master's programs for teachers have a lot to offer anyone interested in education, including:

  • The further development of one's teaching abilities.
  • Establishment of stronger job security.
  • An increase in one's earning potential.
  • Career advancement opportunities both in the classroom and in administration.

Whether you're looking to enhance your understanding of different educational theories and develop new teaching techniques or are interested in pursuing an administrative career in K-12 or postsecondary education, a master's degree can help you realize your dreams. Read on to learn more about what the best master's degrees for teachers are and which master's teaching degrees are right for you.

Do Teachers Need a Master's Degree? 

What is normally required to teach at the K-12 level is a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and a teaching license from the state in which one plans to teach. Not accounting for a few exceptions, below is a handy guide covering the minimum requirements for teaching at various levels. Make sure to check your state's requirements to ensure you can meet their standards.

When is a Bachelor's Degree Required?

K-12 teachers require bachelor's degrees to work. Public school teachers must possess both a bachelor's degree and a state teaching license or certificate. Private school teachers only require a bachelor's degree to work, but greatly benefit from seeking certification.

When Are Master's Degrees or Doctorates Required?

Postsecondary educators require at least a master's degree to teach. Work at community colleges or lower-level classes at four-year colleges and universities may be available. For higher level courses and tenure-track positions, four-year colleges and universities require a doctorate, although terminal master's degrees may suffice in some instances. 

What Should I Get My Master's in if I'm a Teacher?

Although a master's degree may not be necessary for a career in teaching, as lifelong practitioners in teaching and learning, master's degrees for teachers have a lot to offer. Pursuing Master of Arts in teaching programs can help educators better hone their crafts and become more dedicated professionals. Here are five of the most useful master's programs for teachers.

Master of Arts in Teaching

A Master of Arts in teaching (MAT) is a great, practical degree for the educator hoping to take the next step in their teaching career. The time to complete a Master of Arts in teaching program depends on the program one chooses and if they pursue their studies full-time or part-time. Master of Arts in teaching programs offer great versatility and help prepare students with the skills necessary to succeed in the classroom over the course of their K-12 teaching careers.

Pepperdine's Master of Arts in Teaching program helps students apply theory in practical settings to improve as educators. MAT students pursue single or multiple subject preliminary teaching credentials as they complete their degrees.  Some of the required and elective courses on offer include:

  • Instructional Design for Teaching.
  • Literacy Theory and Methods.
  • Educational Foundations, Equity, and Social Justice. 
  • Teaching Students with Exceptional Needs. 
  • Advanced Methods in English
  • Advanced Methods in Math

You will learn the subject-specific skills to better teach elementary school or high school and develop the pedagogical and technical attributes top administrators need to effectively run an educational institution. A Master of Arts in teaching degree will prepare you to guide your students' learning journeys more effectively.

Master's in Educational Leadership

Master's programs for teachers looking to improve their educational leadership come with a few different specializations. You can focus on leadership in various settings, including in pre-K to 12 education, higher education, and organizational leadership and learning. For educators who want to have more of a say in how the day-to-day operations of an educational institution are run, a Master's in Educational Leadership can provide a solid foundation for career progression.

You will be learning many important skills and develop crucial attributes to better facilitate the overall student, faculty, and staff experience, including:

  • Leadership skills and methods.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Transmedia communication.
  • Program design.
  • Policy management.
  • Collaborative teamwork. 

A master's degree specializing in educational leadership will prepare students to affect change in cohesive, well-structured ways. Some of the courses one can expect to develop these leadership skills include:

  • Virtual Learning, Collaboration, and Transmedia
  • Ethics, Values, and Inclusion
  • Economics, Finance, and Policy in Education
  • Family and Community Engagement
  • Organization Design and Culture

No matter which specialization you choose, the skills you learn with a master's degree in educational leadership will help you become a more effective teacher, principal, administrator, or counselor, and provide you with the necessary skillset to transition to other roles requiring strong leadership—in or out of education.

For more information about master's programs for teachers in educational leadership and their specializations, consider the following from Pepperdine University:

Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology is proud to offer a variety of leadership specializations to help students affect more positive change.

Master's in Special Education

A master's in special education program is ideal for teachers wanting to enhance their skill set to better prepare them to meet the educational needs of students with special needs. People who undertake studies for a master's in special education will learn how to better understand the various special needs students may have and how to more effectively create an inclusive and engaging learning environment.

Educators looking to enhance their teaching abilities to reach more students learn to adapt their pedagogical approach and leadership abilities. The courses one can expect to take while completing a master's in special education may focus on issues pertaining to:

  • Autism spectrum disorders.
  • Mild developmental disabilities.
  • Inclusive curriculum design.
  • Applied behavior analysis.
  • Early intervention.

A master's degree in special education will help students prepare to take on new challenges in their careers and better facilitate the learning of individuals with special needs. Pursuing this degree can set you apart for new career opportunities and greater financial reward.

Master's in Curriculum and Instruction

Master's programs for teachers focusing on curriculum and instruction are good options for those who went to develop more engaging learning materials to better reach students in accessible and challenging ways. You will also learn to improve the delivery and organization of your classroom instruction, for both in-person and virtual learning.

In ever-more fluid educational settings, having the ability to adapt your instruction materials and delivery is crucial. Coursework in a master's in curriculum and instruction will help students develop necessary skills for innovative learning, including:

  • Theories to better deal with contemporary learning issues.
  • Curriculum design and evaluation for self-improvement.
  • Specialized teaching methods for students with varying strengths and weaknesses.
  • Technological implementation to maximize learning potential.

Pepperdine University's Master of Science in Learning Design and Technology places an added emphasis on new learning and emerging technologies, rethinking instruction, and expanding learning spaces. Learning how to optimize student learning through emerging technologies to better reflect an ever-changing world is a crucial skill for professionals in education and many other fields.

Master's in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages/ TESOL

Degrees for teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) provide teachers of all levels with essential skills for improving instruction. Educators learn how to help students acquire English as a second language and navigate the complexities associated with language acquisition.

The skills learned pursuing these degrees allow educators to become more competitive in the job market both in the United States and internationally. Students can use these skills to become ESL teachers in pre-K to 12 and higher education settings, international teachers, and language consultants.

  • Coursework to develop these skills often includes:
  • Applied linguistics.
  • Language curriculum and program design.
  • Language pedagogy.
  • Sociolinguistics and culture.

Pepperdine University offers a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages that provides students with the necessary theoretical training and real world, hands-on experience to become more effective teachers at home and abroad.

Teachers, Get Your Master's Degree at Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology

Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology provides many opportunities for both early-career educators and seasoned veterans to take the next step in their careers.

Our master's degrees for teachers prepare students for many careers in education and offer an excellent foundation for those hoping to pursue Doctorate work.

Request information from one of our dedicated enrollment officers for how to apply to Pepperdine's GSEP master's programs for teachers today!


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