Once a teacher makes the decision to pursue a master's degree, the next choice must be made on which type of degree program fits his or her long-term educational goals. Careful examination of how they envision their career path will help teachers determine which degree best matches their personal objectives.
Two degrees with names that on face value appear to be the same are the Master's in Teaching- also known as Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) and the Master of Education (M.Ed.). If a teacher's goal is to become more competent in the pedagogy and practical skills of teaching, then the MAT route may be the best choice. If the goal is for entering a different branch of education, such as counselor, curriculum director or administrator, then the M.Ed. would be a more advantageous degree choice. Either program of study will take approximately four semesters to successfully complete.
Master's in Teaching
The MAT focuses on building skills attained in the bachelor's program. MAT is an alternate route for those who already have bachelor degrees in different fields but desire to become teachers. EDge, the Phi Delta Kappa journal that reports on the latest information for educators, identifies MAT as attracting professionals to the teaching field in its November/December 2009 issue. MAT programs attract teachers and potential teachers because the focus of their studies and research is in a specific discipline area- usually the subject a teacher is already teaching. Teachers whose motivation is to continue in the classroom working directly with students may decide the MAT is a more useful degree choice. MAT coursework is directed at improving teacher performance through such topics as methodology, teaching styles, identifying the diversity in student learning styles and creating differentiated instruction and assessments. The learning is directed in the teacher's chosen major area of teaching. For example, math teachers focus on applied methodology and pedagogy of teaching math; English teachers focus on English, etc.
Master in Education
The M.Ed. track involves another decision that must be made- which major or specialized area to follow for the degree. Several different concentrations can be earned in the M.Ed. track. Special Education, Adult Education and Educational Leadership are additional specializations in addition to those already mentioned that can be designated as part of the M.Ed. For example, a degree specializing in Special Education would read "Master of Education in Special Education." Practical approaches to classroom instruction are addressed in the M.Ed. but students also research and examine theory and teaching implementation practices in a broader sense than what is presented in the MAT programs. Most teachers deciding on the M.Ed. still stay in the classroom; however, the option is open for moving out of the classroom into a different realm of the educational world if their educational goals shift during the course of their teaching careers.
Some states require teachers to earn credits beyond their bachelor's degree to retain or advance their level of certification. By earning credits that can be counted toward a master's degree, the teacher recognizes the value of studies in terms of time and money. To ensure the quality of the program, Teach.com wisely recommends students consider only those programs that have been accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Regardless of which master's degree program a teacher decides to follow, she or he will develop an improved understanding of pedagogy and methodology to improve the education of their students.