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Master’s in Education Requirements & Outcomes

November 21, 2022

Teachers lead students to better outcomes, so it’s natural that many educators seek leadership roles as they advance their teaching careers. While individuals who earn a bachelor’s degree may be qualified for entry-level education positions, those interested in pursuing leadership or managerial roles, or positions with greater autonomy, may choose to pursue an advanced education.

Earning a master’s degree in a related field, such as a Master of Education (MEd) in Education Policy and Leadership, can equip individuals with the advanced knowledge needed to pursue higher-level positions in education. 

What Is a Master’s in Education? Master’s in Education Options

A master’s in education is an advanced degree designed to help individuals further their professional development. Students can specialize in areas such as special education, early childhood education, education policy, or educational leadership, among others, depending on their interests. 

In addition to helping individuals develop instructional skills in a particular area, earning an MEd also helps them gain expertise in leading students to achieve better outcomes. 

There are many options for master’s in education program graduates, such as:

  • School principal
  • Corporate trainer
  • School superintendent
  • School counselor
  • Childcare director
  • Higher education administrator
  • Learning specialist

Educators interested in applying to a master’s in education program can choose from several specialization tracks. Common concentrations for MEd programs include the following:

MEd in Early Education

This type of master’s degree program is designed for educators interested in improving their understanding of and skills in teaching prekindergarten through grade three. Topics covered in an MEd in early education often include:

  • Methodologies for teaching young students
  • Educational psychology 
  • Emotional and social growth in young learners

On completion of this program, graduates are well-prepared to meet the emotional, social, and educational needs of young learners.

MEd in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Aspiring educators interested in teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects are likely to be drawn toward this program concentration. Coursework in an MEd in STEM often focuses on preparing individuals to become leaders in STEM education. Sample course topics include: 

  • Engineering concepts and principles
  • Advanced mathematics
  • How students learn STEM subjects

MEd in Education Policy and Leadership

This MEd concentration provides educators with the foundational knowledge needed to transform schools and pursue leadership positions in state and federal education agencies, such as the Department of Education, nonprofits, and public and private school districts. 

Coursework in this concentration is designed to provide individuals with the skills needed to administer educational programs and policies. Sample course topics include:

  • Educational leadership and organizational change
  • Education law and policy
  • Education and public policy

MEd in Special Education

This concentration provides students with the advanced knowledge and skills required to meet the diverse needs of special needs students, such as those with orthopedic, visual, and hearing impairments; intellectual disabilities, such as Down syndrome; and learning disabilities, such as language processing disorder and dyslexia. 

Coursework topics in an MEd in special education often include:

  • Assessment strategies
  • Foundations in special education
  • Methods for teaching math and language arts to students with special needs

MEd in Curriculum and Instruction

This MEd concentration is designed for educators interested in becoming leaders in instruction and curriculum design. It provides students with broad knowledge in a variety of topics, including research-based best practices in teaching and how to provide developmentally appropriate modules for students of various ages and educational backgrounds. 

Coursework topics in this concentration may include:

  • Theories and trends in curriculum design 
  • Teaching in diverse classrooms
  • Creating learning environments for gifted children

Core Courses in an MEd Program

As noted above, coursework in an MEd program can vary depending on the program’s area of concentration. For example, while courses in a program with a special education concentration emphasize instruction methodologies for students with mild to moderate disabilities, courses in a program with a STEM concentration focus on techniques and best practices for teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, core coursework topics in all Master of Education programs often include:

  • Teaching English-language learners
  • Teaching English as a second language (ESL) learners
  • Theories in educational leadership
  • Accountability in student learning 
  • Foundations in child growth and development
  • Trends in early childhood, middle school, and high school education
  • Curriculum planning and assessment

How Long It Takes to Get a Master’s Degree in Education

The length of time it takes to complete a master’s degree in education can vary based on several factors, such as the credit hour requirement of the program and whether an individual is enrolled as a part-time or full-time student. For example, although some MEd programs require students to complete 30 credit hours before they’re eligible to graduate, other programs may require students to complete between 36 and 40 credit hours before they’re eligible to graduate. 

Additionally, while full-time students often find they can complete their MEd program in approximately two years, part-time students may find it takes them three to five years to complete their studies, depending on their course load.

Master’s in Education Requirements for Admission

Admissions requirements for MEd programs can vary depending on the college or university. For example, some programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree, but other master’s in education programs offer students the opportunity to earn both their undergraduate and graduate degrees in a combined bachelor’s-master’s degree program.  

Additionally, some programs require applicants to submit standardized test scores, such as Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, as part of their application packet, but others do not. Typical MEd admissions requirements include:

  • Submission of a resume or CV
  • Payment of an application fee
  • Submission of a completed application 
  • Submission of official college transcripts from all past colleges and universities an applicant has attended
  • A minimum undergraduate grade point average (GPA) or quality point average (QPA)
  • Submission of between one and three letters of recommendation
  • Completion of a minimum number of years of full-time work experience

Possible Career Paths for MEd Graduates

Graduates of MEd programs can pursue any of a host of career opportunities in the public, private, and educational sectors. Roles include the following:

School Principal

School principals oversee the day-to-day operations and activities at the institution they work for. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that most professionals aspiring to advance to this position must meet an advanced degree requirement, such as a master’s in education policy and leadership, in addition to prior teaching experience to be considered for this role. Other typical job duties for elementary school principals include:

  • Counseling students
  • Developing and implementing curriculum standards
  • Evaluating teachers’ performance
  • Establishing class schedules

Payscale reports that, as of June 2022, the median salary for elementary school principals was around $85,900 per year. 

Corporate Trainer

Corporate trainers are educators who work in a corporate setting. They provide training on various topics, such as leadership, time management, and communication, to management and staff. While some professionals in this field work for one organization, full-time and in-house, others work with consulting firms to provide training services on a short-term or as-needed basis. Most corporate trainers have advanced degrees or experience in the field of education.  

Typical job duties for corporate trainers include:

  • Developing specialized curricula based on the needs of their clients or the organization they work for
  • Providing skills training
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of training programs
  • Developing and teaching courses on professional development 

Payscale reports that, as of June 2022, the median salary for corporate trainers was around $57,800 per year. 

School Superintendent

A school superintendent’s role is akin to that of a CEO. In addition to overseeing the budgets, general administration, and operations of all of the schools in the district they work for, school superintendents play a key role in liaising between teachers, school staff, and the school board. School superintendents should earn a relevant master’s degree, such as an MEd in education policy and leadership, to qualify for the role. Other typical duties for school superintendents include:

  • Communicating the school board’s vision to school principals and staff
  • Regulating school curricula and programming
  • Hiring school principals and administrators
  • Communicating with members of the media as needed

Payscale reports that, as of June 2022, the median school superintendent salary was around $125,900.

School Counselor

School counselors listen to and address students’ concerns about a variety of issues, including social issues, such as bullying; academic concerns, such as truancy and poor study habits; and personal matters, such as problems at home. Most positions in this field require at least a master’s degree in a related field and excellent interpersonal and communication skills. 

Although their exact duties can vary based on the age group of the students they work with, common daily duties for school counselors include:

  • Providing students with guidance on how to deal with personal, social, and academic problems
  • Providing students with individual or group counseling as needed
  • Implementing and overseeing programs designed to combat bullying, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy, among other topics
  • Referring students to other professionals, such as mental health professionals or substance abuse counselors, as needed

Payscale reports that, as of June 2022, the median salary for school counselors was around $51,100 per year. 

Childcare Center Director

Similar to school principals, childcare directors oversee the daily operations of the facility they work for. In addition to supervising staff and developing educational standards, professionals in this field are also responsible for all aspects of the center’s functioning, including before- and after-school programs, daily activities, and facility safety protocols. While there isn’t usually a master’s in education requirement for this role, an advanced education can help graduates gain essential leadership skills for running childcare centers. Other common duties for childcare center directors include:

  • Hiring, onboarding, and training childcare staff
  • Developing educational programs 
  • Preparing and monitoring budgets
  • Establishing policies, such as pickup and drop-off procedures, and communicating them to parents and caregivers

The BLS reports that, as of May 2021, the median annual wage for childcare center directors was $47,310.

Higher Education Administrator

Higher education administrators work in postsecondary institutions in a variety of capacities. They may hold roles in admissions, student affairs, or work as provost or dean of a university. They ensure that postsecondary institutions run smoothly from an administrative standpoint, and may also help implement policies to do so. Most higher education administrators need a master’s degree. Their duties may include: 

  • Overseeing course admissions and registration
  • Producing, monitoring, and analyzing student data 
  • Helping students with housing, academics, or other personal issues 
  • Managing and maintaining extracurricular programs or activities

According to the BLS, higher education administrators earn a median annual salary of $96,910 as of May 2021.

Learning Specialist 

Learning specialists support students who need additional academic guidance. They work with students and their families to develop individualized strategies to help students succeed. They may also teach other educators and parents about learning differences in students. A bachelor’s degree is required for becoming a learning specialist, but some employers have an advanced degree requirement, like a master’s in education. Other duties for learning specialists include: 

  • Providing resources to parents and teachers for student success 
  • Assessing students for potential learning differences 
  • Utilizing and understanding teaching method developments 

The average annual salary for a learning specialist is $60,046 as of June 2022, according to Payscale. 

Benefits of an Online MEd Program

Individuals interested in pursuing a master’s in education have numerous in-person and online programs to choose from; however, earning an MEd online comes with valuable benefits. 

  • Online learning is flexible: Traditional in-person college requires students to drive to campus to attend lectures. Adult learners who have familial and professional obligations, including but not limited to attending their children’s sporting events or needing to travel to attend corporate events, may find that carving out time for on-campus learning can be difficult.

    Online MEd programs allow students to stream lectures and complete their coursework from anywhere they have an internet connection. 
  • Online learning is accessible: Unlike traditional in-person master’s degree programs, online programs allow students to attend their lectures from any location that has a Wi-Fi connection. This holds true regardless of whether a student is at their desk at home or lounging poolside at a hotel on the Caribbean coast.
  • Online programs allow students to apply newly learned skills in real time: One of the greatest benefits associated with online college is the opportunity to study and upskill while working. This may help students gain more advantages and autonomy in their current position. 
  • Students have an opportunity to refine their time-management skills: Time management ranks high among employers’ most sought-after skills. Taking classes online, while balancing coursework against professional and personal obligations, helps students develop an in-demand skill that is helpful not only in their studies but in their professorial roles as well.
  • Online learning isn’t limited by geography: With traditional in-person master’s programs, students either need to move to live close to the school they want to attend or enroll at a school that is within driving distance of where they live. Online MEd programs allow students to evaluate course offerings at colleges and universities throughout the US, and choose the degree program that best aligns with their goals and professional interests.

Earn Your MEd and Take Your Teaching Career to the Next Level

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in education and training professions will grow by 10 percent between 2020 and 2030, which is about as fast as the average growth projected for all occupations. Roughly 920,500 new jobs are projected to be added during that period, and additional teachers and education professionals will be needed to meet that demand.

Professionals interested in pursuing advanced, managerial, and/or more autonomous roles in this field are likely to find that completing a master’s degree program, such as an online Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership program, can prepare them for the next step in their professional journey.  

Are you ready to take the next step in your professional journey? Discover how earning an online Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership degree from American University can equip you with the personal leadership and collaboration skills to influence policy and effect equitable change in education to benefit the students of tomorrow.