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Pepperdine | Graduate School of Education and Psychology

How a Master’s Degree Can Improve Your Teaching Career

teacher speaking in front a classroom

Teaching is a rewarding and challenging career that requires continuous learning and growth. As a teacher, you have a significant impact on the lives of your students, so you strive for excellence in your profession. With the education landscape constantly evolving, it's important for teachers to stay up-to-date with the latest teaching strategies, technology, and research.

Pursuing a master's degree in education is one way to achieve this goal. A master's degree can improve your teaching career in many ways, including providing advanced knowledge in your subject area, opening up opportunities for professional development and career advancement, and increasing your annual salary.

Whether you are a new elementary school teacher looking to stand out in a competitive job market or a seasoned special education teacher seeking to enhance your teaching skills, an advanced degree in education can help you achieve your goals and make a positive impact on your students' lives.

Here are 5 ways a master's degree can benefit your teaching career:

  • Keep Up With Advances in Education
  • Increase Your Salary
  • Take on Leadership Roles
  • Stand Out From Your Peers
  • Focus on a Specialty

teacher helping student

Benefits of a Master's Degree for Teachers

With a master's degree, classroom teachers can specialize in a particular area of education, such as curriculum design, special education, or educational technology. They can also pursue roles as school administrators, such as principal or superintendent. A graduate degree is also a great way to stand out from your peers and increase your salary as you seek to expand your career opportunities.

Keep Up With Advances in Education

Master's degree programs provide opportunities for teachers to learn about the latest research and innovations in education. This can include topics such as educational technology, brain-based learning, multicultural education, and differentiated instruction.

A master's degree can also help teachers develop the skills and knowledge needed to implement new teaching strategies and technologies in their classrooms. This can help teachers adapt to the changing needs of their students and stay current with best practices in education.

Advanced degree programs often require students to complete a capstone project or thesis, which provides an opportunity for teachers to conduct research on a topic of interest and contribute to the field of education.

Increase Your Salary

Many school districts and states offer salary incentives or pay scales that reward teachers for earning master's degrees in education. In some cases, earning a master's degree may also qualify a teacher for a higher salary bracket or for a leadership position, such as department chair, curriculum coordinator, or instructional specialist, which typically comes with a higher salary.

The exact amount of annual salary increase that a master's degree can provide for a teacher can vary depending on the school district and state (and sometimes varies from school to school within a district), as well as the teacher's years of experience and other factors. 

Take on Leadership Roles

Master's degree programs often include coursework and training in educational administration and leadership, which can help teachers develop the knowledge and skills needed to effectively lead and manage educational organizations. A master's degree can help teachers gain a deeper understanding of educational policy, research, and best practices, which can help them develop innovative solutions to improve teaching and learning outcomes.

For teachers who want to move beyond the classroom but don't necessarily want to take on a role as a school principal, a master's degree can qualify them for other career options such as department chair, curriculum coordinator, or instructional specialist, which typically come with higher salaries and more opportunities for advancement.

Depending on the specific academic program, some master's programs offer specialized training in areas such as educational technology or assessment and evaluation, which can help teachers develop expertise and practical skills in a particular area and become valuable contributors to their organizations.

Stand Out From Your Peers

Teaching, especially in elementary education and secondary education, is a competitive field. A master's degree demonstrates a higher level of education and expertise in one's field, which can make a candidate more attractive to potential employers who are looking for educators with advanced skills and knowledge.

Focus on a Specialty

Teachers can focus on a variety of specialties, depending on their interests and career goals. Some common specialties that students in graduate programs pursue include:

  • Special Education: Special education teachers work with students with disabilities or special needs, developing specialized teaching strategies and curriculum, and collaborating with other professionals to provide the best possible education for these students.
  • English as a Second Language (ESL): Teachers can specialize in teaching English language learners, developing effective language acquisition strategies, and promoting cultural awareness and sensitivity in the classroom.
  • Curriculum and Instruction: Teachers can focus on developing effective curriculum and teaching strategies, using data and assessment to improve student learning outcomes, and integrating new technologies and teaching methods into their classrooms.
  • Learning Design and Technology: This specialty allows teachers to learn more about student support, evaluation, theory, and the latest advances in instructional technology. 

teacher standing at a board

Best Master's Degrees for Teachers

For teachers who want to advance their careers and increase their earning potential, pursuing a master's degree can be a great option. Some of the best master's degrees for teachers include Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), MS in Learning Design and Technology, and a MS in Leadership in Pre-K to 12 Education.

MA in Teaching

A MA in Teaching is a great option for:

  • prospective teachers who already have a bachelor's degree and want to pursue a teaching career and initial teaching license 
  • elementary and secondary school teachers who want to enhance their teaching skills

A Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) is a graduate-level program designed to prepare individuals for careers in education. The program provides advanced knowledge and skills in teaching and learning theories, educational psychology, curriculum development, assessment and evaluation, and classroom management.

In an MAT program, you will learn about the latest teaching strategies, techniques, and technologies used in the classroom. You will also develop the skills needed to create engaging and effective lesson plans, assess student learning, and evaluate the effectiveness of your teaching methods.

The curriculum typically includes courses in education theory and research, child and adolescent development, educational technology, instructional design, literacy and numeracy instruction, and classroom management.

In addition to coursework, MA in Teaching programs often require students to complete a practicum or student teaching experience, which provides hands-on experience in a classroom setting under the guidance of an experienced teacher. This practical experience is essential for developing the skills and confidence needed to be an effective teacher.

Those who wish to become elementary school teachers typically pursue a multiple-subject license, while those who wish to become middle school or high school teachers typically pursue a single-subject license.

MS in Learning Design and Technology

A MS in Learning Design and Technology is a great option for:

  • a teacher looking for a leadership role outside the classroom such as a curriculum developer, instructional designer, or a director of technology
  • those who wish to continue on and pursue a doctoral degree in the education field, particularly an EdD in Learning Technologies

A Master of Science (MS) in Learning Design in Technology is a graduate-level program that focuses on the intersection of technology, education, and design. The program is designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills to create effective and engaging learning experiences using technology.

In an MS in Learning Design in Technology program, students learn about learning theories, instructional design principles, and the use of technology in education. They also develop skills in project management, multimedia design, and assessment and evaluation.

The program covers a wide range of topics, including new learning and emerging technologies, virtual learning, critical thinking and communication, and program design and evaluation. 

An MS in Learning Design in Technology can help teachers create more engaging and effective learning experiences for their students by incorporating technology into their teaching practice. It can also improve teachers' skills in designing and developing instructional materials, such as online courses, multimedia presentations, and interactive simulations.

MS in Leadership in Pre-K to 12 Education

A MS in Leadership in Pre-K to 12 Education is a great option for:

  • current teachers who wish to take on administrative roles such as school principal or assistant principal
  • current teachers who wish to take on non-administrative leadership roles such as a department head or chief academic officer

A Master of Science (MS) in Leadership in Pre-K to 12 Education is a graduate-level program designed for educators who wish to take on leadership roles in education. The program focuses on developing leadership skills and knowledge specific to the pre-K to 12th grade levels.

The curriculum of an MS in Leadership in Pre-K to 12 Education program includes courses in educational leadership, organizational management, instructional leadership, and school law and policy. Students also learn about curriculum development, assessment and evaluation, and human resource management. The program may also include a practicum or internship component, providing hands-on experience in a leadership role.

The MS in Leadership in Pre-K to 12 Education degree is ideal for educators who want to move beyond the classroom and take on leadership roles in their schools or districts. This includes roles such as principal, assistant principal, department head, curriculum coordinator, or instructional specialist. The degree can also be valuable for educators who want to transition into administrative or leadership roles in education policy, government agencies, or non-profit organizations.

teacher standing with a group of students

Advance Your Teaching Career With a Master's Degree From Pepperdine University

At Pepperdine University's School of Education and Psychology, graduate students can choose from one of seven master's degree programs, including:

A Master's degree can open up a wide range of new career opportunities for current educators as well as those seeking initial licensure. The graduate school offers both in-person and online programs to fit the needs of busy professionals. To learn more about the different graduate degree programs available for educators, click here.