Bachelor’s in Teaching vs. Master’s in Teaching: Which Degree is Best for You?
by Seth Sosebee
You’ve completed your bachelor’s degree in teaching at a four-year institution. Now you’re wondering, do I need an advanced degree? The answer may vary, based on your career goals and financial situation.
Depending on the type of teaching you have in mind, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient. However, if you plan to pursue a master’s in teaching, you need to consider certain logistical and financial factors. The answers to these questions may help you in your decision:
1. What’s the difference between a bachelor’s and a master’s in teaching?
Let’s look at the distinction between the two degrees:
- Bachelor’s degree in education requirements
Teachers who’ve earned a bachelor of arts in education at a four-year institution have satisfied two sets of requirements. First, they’ve completed the requisite coursework to become a graduate of that college or university. They’ve also earned a teaching degree, having fulfilled the requirements for that major. A bachelor’s degree is broad in scope because students take courses in subject areas both in and out of their career focus.
- Master’s degree in teaching requirements
The two significant differences between undergraduate and graduate degrees in teaching are program length and specificity of coursework. BA degrees typically take three to five years to complete. A Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree requires two more years, though some universities offer a one-year program. MAT programs only admit students with a college degree, and courses focus on specific teaching topics such as child development and pedagogical theory.
2. What kind of salary can I expect?
The National Council on Teacher Quality reports that 88 percent of school districts in the United States offer additional pay to teachers with advanced degrees. This same report shows that the average additional annual compensation for first-year teachers is $2,760, while more experienced teachers garner an average of $7,358 more.
Keep in mind, teacher salaries vary between states, as do the rewards for those with a master’s degree in teaching. For example, 12 percent of school districts offer no additional pay for those with a higher degree. When deciding whether or not to go to graduate school, find out whether your district requires a higher degree and if you will be rewarded for your efforts.
3. What about student loan debt?
Graduate school often means taking on additional student loan debt, on top of your undergraduate education loans. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, college students who graduated in 2017 owe, on average, $28,650 in student loans. This amount equates to 53 percent of the average annual salary for a North Carolina teacher.
People under the age of 30 own the largest percentage of student loan debt in the United States. Given that the debt-to-income ratio for a person can limit their loan options in the future, teachers borrowing money for advanced degree programs need to be cautious.
4. Is a master’s degree in teaching worth it?
Whether an advanced degree makes sense for you depends on your circumstances. Consider these factors in deciding whether a MAT is worth the investment of time and money:
Yes, it makes sense for you if:
- You can pay for graduate school out-of-pocket, or with the support of family.
- You are committed to a career in education. Eventually, the degree will pay for itself, but it may take over a decade.
- You can afford to take on debt because you don’t have undergraduate loans.
No, the degree may not make sense if:
- You plan to test the waters of teaching, but you’re not sure you’ll work in the field long enough for the advanced degree to pay for itself.
- The district in which you aim to teach does not provide additional compensation to teachers with advanced degrees.
- You are saddled with large amounts of debt from home loans or college.
Still deciding on whether to pursue a master’s in teaching degree? Whatever path you choose, our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder are invaluable tools in highlighting your education, experience and skills for jobs you decide to go after. These tools can walk you step-by-step through the process of creating your application materials.