Master of Education
Faculties of education offer many degrees, including the master of education degree. Unlike the master of arts in teaching, which is usually offered as a pathway to teacher licensure for people who have already completed a bachelor’s degree, the master of education degree is generally not a pathway to licensure. It is instead offered as a degree for certified teachers seeking to gain an additional credential in the education field. In some cases, people with an interest in educational issues, who are not certified teachers, also enroll in master of education programs in order to pursue research in the education field.
Either way, the focus of the master of education, or MEd, is on acquiring an advanced knowledge of educational studies rather than teacher certification.
Since a high percentage of people pursuing MEds are practicing teachers, many MEd programs permit students to enroll on a part-time basis. For this reason, courses are frequently held in the evening hours, or offered as an intensive program during summer. Due to the nature of the degree, the average age of students enrolled in MEd programs is somewhat older than the average age of students enrolled in most master’s level programs in the arts and sciences.
Degree Requirements for a Master of Education
Depending on the nature of the program, requirements for a master of education vary. In most cases, candidates are expected to complete course work at the graduate level (usually eight to ten courses), complete a major research paper, a major research project, or master’s thesis.
Students enrolled in programs with a thesis option, may complete less course work, since the thesis — an original written work that is usually 100 to 150 pages in length — is considered equivalent to two or more graduate-level courses. Students who opt to complete a thesis are typically also expected to defend their thesis in front a panel of experts in their chosen area of specialization.
Areas of Specialization
The American Educational Research Association (AERA), is the largest academic society for educational researchers in the US. The AERA lists twelve major scholarly and scientific areas of research, including the following:
- administration and leadership
- curriculum studies
- learning and instruction
- counseling and human development
- social context of education
- research, assessment and evaluation
- education in the professions
- postsecondary education
- teaching and teacher education
- politics and educational policy
MEd candidates may pursue course work and independent research in one or more of these areas, or in a subfield of one or more of these areas. For example, in large faculties of education, candidates can choose from thirteen different areas of concentration that range from arts education and human development, to psychology, school leadership, and technology.
Because many MEd candidates are already practicing teachers who are seeking to advance their careers within the school system, many candidates opt to pursue areas of research directly applicable to the administration of schools, like leadership or evaluation.
Careers Outlook for a Master of Education
Upon completion of a MEd, there are many available career paths. Practicing teachers may return to their schools or school boards, but in new roles, including those with increased levels of responsibility. For example: They may assume a specialist, department chair, or vice-principal position.
Other practicing teachers continue working as classroom teachers, but with a master’s degree, they can expect to receive a higher salary since the pay scale for teachers increases with seniority and levels of education. Other MEds, including those who are not certified teachers, might find work in the non-profit sector and with governmental agencies, including the US Department of Education. They may also find work in educational publishing. Finally, some MEds decide to further their education and pursue either a doctorate of education or doctorate of philosophy in education.