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MEd vs. MAT: Developing Leadership Styles in Education

Teacher conducts creative activity with elementary school students.

Leading a classroom and leading a school district have much in common, starting with a dedication to the education of children and adults. That said, though both roles require a leadership style that students and others respond to, taking the lead in classrooms and other school settings requires a different set of skills than leading as an education administrator or a similar role.

The Teacher Leadership Institute of the National Education Association emphasizes the role of teachers willing to “step up and step out of their classrooms” to lead at the school, local, state, and national levels. Doing so allows them to reimagine both individual classrooms and education policy in ways that promote an equitable education for all students.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to innovation in the classroom or to education policy more broadly. Addressing the needs of students from diverse social and economic backgrounds requires using a range of educational leadership styles. The goal of American University’s Online Master of Education (MEd) in Education Policy and Leadership and Online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Elementary Education is to prepare the next generation of educators to take leading roles in solving the challenges that must be overcome in providing all students with an equal education, regardless of their location, socioeconomic status, or abilities.

While there are many similarities between the MAT and MEd in Education Policy and Leadership programs, the degrees differ in their specific goals and the career opportunities they offer. Understanding these distinctions is key for helping students choose between them.

What Is MAT Leadership? What Is MEd Leadership?

The MAT degree program focuses on the practical teaching skills and leadership styles that are most effective in the classroom and other school settings—wherever teachers interact directly with students. These are among the common classroom leadership styles:

  • Autocratic:: Teachers rule
  • Democratic:: Students share responsibility for learning management
  • Bureaucratic:: Teachers follow all administrative rules strictly
  • Benevolent:: Teachers serve as friends and mentors, giving students maximum freedom
  • Transformational:: Teachers strive to change the way students think about themselves

In reality, leadership styles in education borrow some elements from all five of these broad types, as well as concepts from many other sources.

Alternatively, holders of MEd degrees will apply different leadership styles in their work. Their responsibilities entail leading teams comprised of education managers and professionals working in government, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private businesses. In these roles, school principals and other education administrators and professionals rely on the transactional leadership styles of business as well as the transformational styles that emphasize changing people’s view of what’s possible—for themselves and for their communities.

How the MAT and MEd Degrees Are Similar

Experienced education professionals holding a bachelor’s degree will find many similarities between the MAT and MEd in Education Policy and Leadership programs when it comes to their main areas of focus:

  • Transforming the lives of students and the future of education
  • Addressing the needs of schools in the most vulnerable communities
  • Creating innovative curricula based on the latest advances in psychology, neurology, and cultural fluency
  • Using education as the impetus for social change

A primary goal of both the MAT and MEd in Education Policy and Leadership is to instill a passion for education. Groundbreaking research, innovative coursework, and rewarding partnerships provide graduate students with insights into the obstacles teachers face inside and outside of the classroom. Practical skills developed over the course of one of these programs include coaching, familiarity with data analytics, and curriculum and research development and design.

Why the Two Programs’ Differences Are Important

How American University’s MAT and MEd in Education Policy and Leadership approach transforming education is key to determining which program fits best for a specific career. The overarching difference between the two is that the MAT emphasizes the educational needs of individual students in specific school environments, while the MEd in Education Policy and Leadership reimagines ways that various leadership styles in education, all of which are grounded in social justice, can be used to transform entire schools and school systems. Read more to find out about common positions taken by graduates of both of these programs.

How the Degrees Meet the Needs of Teachers and Education Leaders

The MAT and MEd in Education Policy and Leadership programs each address specific career goals of potential candidates. Most MAT students are classroom instructors seeking their advanced degree, while those enrolling in the education leadership program come from both administrative and instructional backgrounds.

The MAT in Elementary Education curriculum has three primary tenets:

  • Converting learning weaknesses into strengths
  • Taking an interdisciplinary approach to creating a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education
  • Instilling a sense of social justice throughout the curriculum

By contrast, the MEd in Education Policy and Leadership prepares tomorrow’s education leaders to influence public policy in ways that ensure a more equitable distribution of educational resources. The result is more opportunities and improved educational outcomes for our most underserved communities.

The two programs are further distinguished by the specializations they offer. The MAT curriculum emphasizes cultural competency and an appreciation of the community’s diversity. In addition to promoting the STEM skills that future careers will depend on, the program strives to engender a sense of community among students and faculty. The program’s coursework includes Effective Teaching for Diverse Students, Teaching Science in the Elementary School, and Methods of Psychoeducational Assessment for Learning Disabilities and Emotional Disturbance.

The MEd in Education Policy and Leadership program might appeal to someone with a strong desire to steer the American educational system toward social justice and equitable education. It promotes different leadership styles in education by providing the tools leaders need to implement effective policy based on law, economics, and cutting-edge education research. The program’s focus on policy studies prepares students to lead education agencies, school districts, and nonprofits. Among its courses are Economic Inquiry in Education, Education Law and Policy, and Quantitative Research in Education.

One way for candidates to know which of the two programs fits them better is to consider the outcomes realized by past graduates of each. Alumni who completed the MAT program are now changing the lives of students in the US and countries around the world. While a degree is no guarantee of employment, former American University students now teach bilingual students, conduct research, design educational games, and serve as curriculum specialists. Alternatively, alumni who earned an MEd in Education Policy and Leadership are employed by government agencies in policy-setting roles, as well as by nonprofit organizations such as Jumpstart and Leadership for Educational Equity.

Typical Future Career Paths for Graduates of Each Program

American University’s online MAT program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparers (CAEP) and is geared toward students seeking a teaching license in elementary education. Many graduates of American University’s MAT program land positions teaching kindergarten through fourth grade students or participating in an early childhood education specialty.

By contrast, graduates of the school’s MEd in Education Policy and Leadership have found their roles in education expanding outside of the classroom, whether by promoting educational opportunities for all children as a member of the government affairs team at Teach for America or by splitting their workday between classroom instruction and mentoring other teachers. Once they attain education administrator positions, they are able to leverage their training in various educational leadership styles.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of 2016, 85 percent of elementary school teachers and 80 percent of kindergarten teachers were employed by local public schools, while 12 percent of elementary school teachers and 14 percent of kindergarten teachers worked for private schools. The salary survey site PayScale lists the average annual salary of all MAT holders as $53,000, although the average annual salary for elementary school teachers with an MAT degree is $48,000, according to PayScale’s figures.

PayScale lists the annual average salary for education policy master’s degree holders as $70,000. The BLS reports the median annual salaries as of May 2018 for three positions commonly held by MEd recipients as follows: postsecondary education administrators ($94,340); elementary, middle, and high school principals ($95,310); and training and development managers ($111,340).

Finding the Best Master’s Program

Teachers with a BA degree who wish to gain greater responsibilities inside and outside the classroom or who hope to explore new roles in education may find their goals easier to reach after they complete American University’s Online Master of Arts in Teaching. Alternatively, the school’s Online Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership can be beneficial to educators looking to work with policymakers within and outside of the education community to realize equity in education for all students.

In both programs, students benefit from the school’s world-class research and innovative coursework taught by award-winning faculty. Upon graduation, they are prepared to have a sustained, positive impact on their communities. Discover other benefits of the programs by requesting information about American University’s MAT degree and MEd in Education Policy and Leadership degree.

Recommended Readings

Six Highly Effective Education Leadership Styles

Resources for Improving LGBTQ+ Inclusivity in the Classroom

How to Become a Superintendent

Sources

American Journal of Educational Research, “Leadership Styles and Value Systems of School Principals”

Cleverism, “Transformational Leadership Guide: Definition, Qualities, Pros & Cons, Examples”

EzineArticles.com, “Leadership Styles in the Classroom”

National Education Association Teacher Leadership Institute, Policy Leadership Competencies

PayScale, Master of Arts, Education Policy Degree

PayScale, Master of Arts in Teaching Degree

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Career Outlook, “Teaching for a Living”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, Education Administrators, All Others

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, Education Administrators, Postsecondary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Education Administrators

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Training and Development Managers

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