The Basics of a Master of Arts in Teaching Degree
“Teachers affect eternity; they can never tell where their influence stops.”
--Henry (Brooks) Adams, American Historian
What exactly is a Master of Arts in Teaching Degree?
Students enrolled in a Master of Arts in Teaching degree program focus on three key curriculum goals:
- Acquiring in-depth knowledge of specialized subject areas to teach in the classroom;
- Studying various theories of education;
- Improving pedagogical skills, including a practical understanding of educational leadership and curriculum design.
A MAT degree differs from other degree programs such as Master’s in Education (MED) and Master of Science in Education (MSED); it's designed for practicing pre-school, elementary and secondary-grade teachers, rather than for educators seeking more advanced degrees and professorships. MAT programs offer a range of subject areas to choose from, including literacy, mathematics, science, art, and social studies; typically do not require a thesis; and give students the option to focus on general or special education needs.
The Value of a Masters of Arts in Teaching Degree
Teachers are a national resource and the demand for new teachers will continue to grow over the next several years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Employment of preschool teachers will increase by 19 percent over the next five years;
- Kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers: 13 percent growth;
- Secondary school vocational education teachers: 10 percent growth;
- Middle school vocational education teachers: 3 percent growth.
Moreover, prospective teachers who’ve obtained a masters-level education can expect to earn $35,000-50,000 within the first five years of employment, and even more, should they transition to administrative jobs.
Teachers who successfully complete a Master of Arts Degree (MAT, also known as Master in Arts, or MIT) in Teaching will start a faster career track to better promotions, job security and seniority. At the same time, many public schools require MAT credentials as an adjunct to state licensing. (Most MAT programs enable students to obtain their certification while completing course and field work.)
MAT degrees can open other career doors as well, and are especially valued in such areas as:
- Adult and continuing education programs
- Human resources counseling
- Religious and couples counseling
- Training and counseling in correctional facilities
- Vocational schools
- Community colleges
Obtaining a MAT Degree
Many institutions, both ground-based and online, offer masters programs in education, from top-ranked tier-one universities to smaller, less prominent colleges. Eligibility requirements vary from school to school, but most on-campus and online Master of Arts in Teaching programs generally want applicants to hold bachelor's degrees. Some programs also require students to be licensed teachers, while others admit those with no previous teaching experience, allowing students to complete their credential requirements while currently enrolled in the program.
The Master of Arts in Teaching graduate degree is offered at many universities as a “fifth-year” program, combining intensive coursework with hands-on, classroom-centered training. Standard MAT programs require about 30 semester credits of class work and a semester of student teaching, considered a critical component of the program. Most fifth-year MAT programs can be completed in 12-15 months of full-time study, and some entry requirements may be waived, such as GRE scores.
For students who have already completed their 4-year matriculation, then decide to pursue a masters degree in teaching, GRE- and MAT-test scores are required for admission; however, for these post-graduate programs, prior teaching experience is NOT required.
The Flex or Online Option
Another popular alternative for those already teaching is to obtain a MAT degree in a "Flex" program, attending school at night and on weekends, or through an online school. The online option has become especially popular today because it allows practicing teachers to continue their tenure track while enhancing their value in the classroom. Online degree programs offer great flexibility in scheduling and access, but most still require an in-class component for students who are not yet licensed teachers. That said, almost all online programs will automatically match you to a school or facility that conveniently allows you to fulfill your field-based requirements.
If you are planning to pursue an online MAT degree, you should evaluate the following factors:
- Is the school accredited?
- Is it affiliated with an established ground-based institution?
- What exactly will my diploma say?
- What are the tuition costs? (Many schools offer tuition guarantees which ensure that your fees stay constant throughout your matriculation.)
- What are the admission requirements?
- What is their teaching platform/format for online study?
- Can I expect to graduate in a reasonable amount of time?
You can obtain a wealth of additional resource information about institutions which offer Master of Arts in Teaching degree programs from the AllEducationSchools guide.