What is an MEd Degree?

Benefits of an MEd

An educator earning her MEd and helping students with the text Master’s in Education Jobs

MEd stands for master's in education. With an MEd, you can advance your teaching career by gaining insights into new approaches and technologies that inspire learners and transform students. You might be surprised to learn that an MEd also gives you the opportunity to apply your knowledge in other settings – including in charter schools and home schools, nonprofit education programs, higher education and corporate environments.

What is a Master's in Education Degree?

A master’s degree in education (MEd)  typically takes around 2 years to complete and includes coursework focused on using evidence-based research to inform curriculum and instruction, creating useful assessments and developing differentiated instruction to serve the needs of all students.

Strong MEd programs also build your educational leadership skills, address the role of technology in the curriculum and classroom and give you experience designing programs that address the diverse needs of learners in your classroom or work environment.

In an MEd program, you have the opportunity to explore new technology and approaches through the development of lessons, learning assessments, or other projects that can be directly applied in your classroom or workplace. Some online MEd programs offer concentrations that dive deeper into specific content areas, such as:

Dr. Daniel Tanguay with the text Dr. Daniel Tanguay

“Learning methods and approaches are evolving,” said Dr. Daniel Tanguay, senior associate dean of education at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). “Because learning is changing, that means we also have to change the way we instruct our students. The MEd shows teachers how you can shift your instruction to address 21st-century learning.”

This includes the ability to effectively teach students in virtual and hybrid classrooms, something educators nationwide have been navigating since the start of the 2020 pandemic. Earning an MEd that focuses on how to teach online can help you develop and hone the skills you need to instruct students whether they are in a physical space or a virtual environment.

What Jobs Can I Get with an MEd?

Educators who understand how to serve the diverse needs of students are in high demand. A master’s degree in education can position you to succeed in several different roles.

  • Principal: Principals work in public and private elementary, middle and high schools and are responsible for diverse school operations, including curricula, special education programs, building security and their teaching staff. Following school district, state, and federal regulations, they set goals and assess both student achievement and teacher effectiveness. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), principals earn a median salary of $98,490 with an 8% job growth through 2030.
  • School and Career Counselors and Advisors: School counselors help students to develop social and academic skills, primarily in public and private schools. While career advisors help students figure out their career plans and a path for the future, general in a university setting. Both are full-time roles. School and career counselors and advisors earn a median salary of $58,120 with an 11% job growth through 2030, according to BLS.
  • Post-Secondary Teacher: Postsecondary teachers instruct in a variety of academic subjects past the high school level. While most post-secondary teachers work full time, part-time work is common in the field. Typically this field requires at least a master's degree but a PHd is more common. Postsecondary teachers earn a median salary of $80,560 with a 12% job growth through 2030, according to BLS.
  • Post-Secondary Education Administrator: Post-secondary education administrators typically work in a college or university setting where they manage student services, academics and faculty research. They may also hold supervisory roles in admissions, student life, or the registrar’s office. Post-secondary education administrators earn a median annual salary of $97,500 with a 8% job growth through 2030, according to BLS.
  • Instructional Coordinator: Instructional coordinators work in public or private schools at the elementary, secondary and higher education levels. They develop and evaluate school curricula and teaching standards. They develop instructional material, work with teachers and principals to present it, and assess its effectiveness. Instructional coordinators earn a median salary of $66,970 a year with a 10% job growth through 2030, according to BLS.
  • Training and Development Manager: Also known as corporate trainers, training and development managers create, present and coordinate educational programs to enhance the knowledge and skills of an organization’s employees. They might select course content and materials for training programs, or develop video, self-guided instructional manuals, or online programs. They must evaluate whether instructional methods, content, and technology are effective. Training and development managers earn a median salary of $115,640 a year with an 11% job growth through 2030, according to BLS.

Is an MEd Required to Become a Teacher?

The short answer is it depends on where you work and what your previous experience entails. Each state has its own certification process related to teacher licensure. The MEd on its own will not certify someone lacking state licensure to become a classroom teacher in a public school district.

Instead, those looking to teach typically complete undergraduate degree programs approved by a state that directly lead to certification. These programs include the required field experience, as well as a year of student teaching before you can apply for state licensure, according to Tanguay.

However, it is possible for a teacher licensed in another area – for example, math – to enroll in a master’s in education online program that would give them exposure to field experience in another content area. The candidate could then use that experience to obtain certification in a secondary content area, Tanguay said.

In some cases, states experience critical shortages in specific content areas, such as technology integration. A classroom teacher looking to use technology resources more effectively in curriculum and instruction might choose an MEd program focused on technology integration to help gain endorsement as a technology integrator.

“The MEd in itself does not provide a direct pathway to this certification, but because it’s a critical shortage area, it might be something you could work with your school and state department of education to achieve under an alternative plan,” said Tanguay.

In private schools or in higher education settings, an MEd on its own can position you to teach in an organization in which state licensure is not required. However, it is important to check requirements before assuming an MEd will qualify you to teach in any case.

An MEd is not the only master's degree for teachers to achieve, however, as there is a master's degree in teaching (MAT) and a master's of science in education (MS Ed.)

An MAT program focuses on advancing your teaching career. It’s most pursued by people who want a more hands-on teaching experience and want to work directly with students. Similarly, an MS Ed is a program for educators who want to work in the field, improve their skills and someday move into an academic leadership role.

Will an MEd Help Me Get a Promotion?

Teachers who earn an MEd bring credibility to their professions and are highly competitive in the job market. Best of all, many see a bump in salary, making it a strong incentive for them to pursue an advanced degree, said Tanguay.

“If a district is looking for high-quality educators and they are comparing two applicants against each other, the person with the MEd is going to have an advantage,” he said. “The MEd reflects that a candidate has more experience and is capable of taking on more responsibilities required by the job.”

Elementary, middle or high school principals coordinate and make decisions about curricula, oversee teachers and other school staff and ensure a safe and productive learning environment for students, according to BLS. To become a principal, you must already be certified to teach in your state and have years of classroom teaching experience. However, the MEd is required for educators looking to move beyond the role of classroom teacher to the role of principal, assistant principal or curriculum coordinator, for example, according to Tanguay.

"The MEd really gives you a good understanding of assessment, instructional strategies and the expertise to hone in on student learning as it relates to all aspects of an educational environment,” said Tanguay. “The MEd is the pathway that educators will choose because of that theoretical approach.”

Other popular roles outside of the classroom that typically require an MEd include educational consultants, corporate trainers, curriculum developers and assessment specialists, to name a few.

A master’s degree in education can launch you into an educational leadership position, where you can put your knowledge of curriculum and instruction – and how it relates to 21st-century learning – to work.

Explore more benefits of earning an MEd degree that aligns with your goals. 

Krysten Godfrey Maddocks ’11 is a writer and marketing/communication professional. Connect with her on LinkedIn. 

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