So you’re ready for the next step–the Master’s degree. However, you are either teaching overseas or are so busy working that an online course seems like the most efficient way of earning your degree. However, you could waste hours and hours looking for the perfect online Master’s degree in Education. This post is designed to save you some time and help you consider your best options. Before choosing a program, you should carefully consider your personal career goals and choose the degree that will best drive you to reach your ultimate “dream job” in education. Use the following questions as a guide to help you choose the right school.
1. Are you already certified in a particular content area? Perhaps you hold an active certificate in math, science, elementary, history or English. If this is not the case, you can gain your Master’s degree and gain certification at the same time. Most universities specify which programs are for initial certification and which are for professionals who already hold a certificate. Be aware–some Master’s degrees may give you more training in an area such as TESOL, but may not culminate in the awarding of certification to teach in that area. If you are hoping to gain certification through your program, make sure you read the full descriptions and course content of your Master’s degree course.
2. M.A.T., M.Ed., or M.S.Ed? This was, for me, one of the most confusing areas of Master’s programs at universities; there is so much variation in the significance of each title. However, I will try to break it down for you. Most degrees that are for advanced practice in instructional methods such as classroom management, inclusion strategies, instructional technology and reading in the content areas are given the title of M.A.T. (Master of Arts in Teaching) The M.A.T. degree is very useful for those applying for initial certification, and for those who wish to brush up on theory and practices that they may have learned in their 4-year degree. The M.S.Ed. (Master of Science in Education), in contrast, is usually based on research and theory in a specific specialization area such as Educational Leadership, Teacher Leadership, Instructional Technology, and Special Education. Educational Leadership places you on an administrative track, should you be considering that future career. Those hoping for future leadership on the university level may want to pursue and M.S.Ed. An M.Ed. (Master of Education) degree may prepare you for a specific content area such as Secondary Education in English, History, Science or Math, Curriculum and Instruction, Teaching and Learning or Elementary Education. Again, some of these content areas cross over between an M.Ed. and an M.S.Ed., depending on the focus of the program, whether it is research-based or practice-based.
3. What should I look for in a University?
a. Accreditation. If you are looking for an online course, you should consider the accreditation of the university and the specific online degree. Is it accredited regionally and national for the advancement of teacher education? If you are hoping to simply teach in non-accredited schools, then this may not matter so much to you. However, the quality of the course will depend on how much you get out of your studies, and considering the cost of getting a degree, you will most likely want to look for the best education for your money.
b. Course descriptions. When you read the descriptions of the classes, do they seem as though they would align with your educational philosophy and values? For example, some English Education courses that I have seen may contain a class for the purpose of encouraging diversity, not just on racial and cultural boundaries, but also in areas of homosexuality in the classroom. Some schools are more liberal than others, and it really is up to you to research the types of classes you will be taking to make sure that they fit your values and goals.
c. Age of program and age of university. While I was researching, I found an online Master’s degree at a great price. But, after researching, I discovered that the University was a fairly young one. I also noted that the 2008-2009 year was their first time offering the online degree. For some of you, you may be comfortable being the “guinea pig” for the lower cost. However, considering the vast differences between the quality of online courses, length of time offering the program and number of students taking the program does matter. It also helps if the online class follows the same format of an actual physical class that takes place on the campus at the same time.
d. University specialization. Most universities are known for specialization in a certain area. Since I am an English teacher, I most likely will want to choose a university that has fully developed courses in English and the humanities instead of a school whose offerings mostly cover the science, engineering, health and math-based fields. If I am a science teacher, it is better to choose a school that excels in the science professions. Check the other undergraduate and graduate degrees offered. Is there a variety of degrees or limited offerings? What other content areas are offered besides Education?
e. Cost. I don’t know about you, but I definitely end up scraping together funding for my Master’s degree. Credits run from $400-$1,000 a credit for non-residents and from $150-800 for residents. In general, you pay for the name. Private universities are more expensive than public universities as a general rule, especially if they have a prestigious reputation. Christian private schools are certainly no exception to this rule. If you can find a degree for around $400 a credit, you are certainly blessed. I have seen that Georgia residents pay significant less than non-residents. The University of Missouri charges the same online course fee for residents as it does for non-residents, which I consider a nice little bonus.
Where can I find information about all the programs available? You can go to U.S. News & World Report, click on “ratings,” and then “Education.” Type in the search box for “Online Degrees” and then a list will come up for you to narrow your search to Education. You can type on the names of the universities that filled out the reports and find out the tuition, the degrees offered, the accreditation, the year the program was initiated, and everything you need to know! Good luck!