MEd vs MAT: Which Education Degree Should You Get?

Teachers looking to advance their careers with a graduate degree have two options: a master degree in education (MEd) or a master of arts degree in teaching (MAT). Which degree is best for your career depends entirely on your goals. If your goal is to remain a teacher in the K-12 setting, the MAT would be the best choice. However, an MEd would be the best pathway for an educator who would like to move into administration or higher education. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that administrators who hold a master’s degree had a 44% wage premium increase over administrators who had a bachelor’s degree. Secondary school teachers with a master’s degree had a 23% wage premium increase over their peers who had a bachelor’s degree. 

The MEd and the MAT are both good ways to extend your career and knowledge, but each program differs in curriculum, requirements, and career pathways. 

MEd and MAT at a Glance

Picking Between an MEd or MAT Program

Whether you are a teacher looking to expand your hands-on teaching skills or an educator aspiring to move into administration, your career goals guide what master’s program is right for you. 

What is an MEd?

An MEd degree provides teachers or those working in the education setting with the skills required to move beyond the classroom and into roles that influence policy, procedures, curriculum, and programs that make a positive impact on students. 

MEd programs typically take 2 years to complete, but some have a longer part-time option that’s ideal for working professionals. 

Specific MEd coursework usually depends on the concentration and targeted areas of interest. Common courses in MEd programs typically focus around educational administration and leadership and may include:

  • Qualitative Methods in Educational Research
  • Data Driven Decision Making 
  • Social Justice and Educational Equity
  • Ethical Leadership in School Reform
  • Educational Research Methodology
  • Cognition and Learning
  • Instructional Leadership

In addition to the common core classes, students in an MEd program also have to complete a capstone project that usually entails a real-word leadership plan addressing a specific problem in the education setting. 

MEd Concentrations and Specializations

Many MEd programs offer a concentrated curriculum that focuses on a particular area of interest. Common concentrations and specialization pathways include:

  • Curriculum and Instruction– With an emphasis in educational theory, this route is ideal for teachers who would like to be part of curriculum design, teacher leadership, and human development
  • Counselor Education- Ideal for those who want to be a guidance or academic counselor
  • Educational Administration and Leadership– Ideal for teachers who want to become principles or higher education administrators

Depending on your interests and career goals, honing in on a particular area of education that you are passionate about makes obtaining a master’s degree both exciting and rewarding.

How Long Does an MEd Take?

On average, obtaining a MEd usually takes about 2 years to complete. This timeline is dependent on if you study online, study full-time or part-time, have previous education, and take time completing the capstone project.

MEd programs typically require 36 units/credits, depending on area of concentration and program modality.

MEd Career Outcomes And Salaries

Teachers that pursue a master’s of education degree enjoy promising career outcomes. There is always a need for dedicated teachers, educators, and administrators to create positive environments, curriculum, and policies that impact change in the education setting. 

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)About the Position
Middle and High School Principals$96,4004%School principals oversee all aspects of the school setting including managing staff, curriculum, and the health and safety of the students. 
Postsecondary Education Administrator$95,4104%A postsecondary education administrator works in the college setting, usually in student services, student affairs, admission, registrar’s office, or oversees faculty, research, and academics.
Instructional Coordinators$66,2906%Instructional coordinators are in charge of curriculum development and design, teacher training and workshops, and analyzing student test score data
Source: BLS

What is a Master of Arts in Teaching?

An MAT degree prepares teachers to become leaders in the classroom by giving them the foundation and tools to incorporate educational theory into real-world classroom settings.

MAT programs can typically be completed in 2 years, and some programs have an online option that provides flexible schedules to accommodate working professionals and those juggling busy calendars. 

Coursework is usually dependent on program concentration and targeted areas of interest. Common courses in MAT programs typically focus around practical skills and subject-specific teaching information in the K-12 school enviornment that includes:

  • Learning theories
  • Classroom technology
  • Teaching methods
  • Language 
  • Literacy

In addition to the common core classes, students in a MAT program may also have to complete a capstone project or student teaching, and field work to gain practical experience. 

MAT Concentrations and Specializations

Many MAT programs offer a concentrated curriculum that focuses on a particular area of interest. Common concentrations and specialization pathways include:

How Long Does an MAT Take?

On average, obtaining an MAT usually takes about 2 years to complete. As with MEd programs, this timeline depends on whether you study online, full-time or part-time, have previous education, take time completing the capstone, and have the required teaching credentials. 

MAT programs typically require 42 units/credits depending on area of concentration and program modality .

MAT Career Outcomes and Salaries

Career outcomes are promising for teachers that pursue an MAT degree, and the field is expected to grow about 4% over the next 10 years.  

There is always a need for dedicated teachers to provide a positive foundation for school children in the K-12 setting. Your influence and impact can help spring a generation forward. 

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)About the Position
High School Teachers$61,6604%High school teachers work with students in grades 9-12 and typically specialize in one subject area.
Special Education Teacher$61,0303%Special education teachers work with students with special needs and disabilities by providing them with general classroom instruction and life skills.
Middle School Teacher$59,6604%Middle school teachers work with students usually in grades 6-8 by either teaching one or more subjects.  The main goal is to get the students ready for high school.
Source: BLS

What To Look For In Graduate Education Degree Programs

When comparing different MAT and MEd programs, you should also consider factors outside of career outcomes and goals such as online flexibility and accreditation. 

Online vs. On-Campus Learning

Online MAT and MEd programs are becoming more abundant, and many schools allow students to complete the degree on a part-time or full-time basis. The biggest benefits of online learning include:

  • Flexibility and self-paced learning
  • Better time management
  • Improved virtual and communication and collaboration
  • No commute
  • Faster graduation times
  • Ability to work from anywhere

Accreditation

Accreditation is critical for any educational institute. It certifies that the school and its curriculum meet the appropriate standards and qualifications outlined by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education accreditation. 

Choosing a school that is accredited is extremely important and it gives degrees credibility and validity and will be valued by employers. 

Many programs and departments within a school may have a separate accreditation called programmatic accreditation. This accreditation elevates the credibility of the program and shows that the department has designed a program that meets industry standards. 

Programmatic accreditation also ensures that students receive the appropriate training and knowledge to be successful in their given fields. 

Applying To Master’s in Education Programs

Admissions requirements for MAT and MEd programs depend on the type of school, degree, and program modality desired. A bachelor’s degree, letters of reccomendation, GRE score, work experience, and prior grades are a few examples of typical application requirements.

Admission Requirements For MEd and MAT Programs

Admission requirements for either a MEd program typically include:

  • Transcripts (usually a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies)
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Professional experience 
  • 2-3 Letters of recommendation
  • GRE or MAT score
  • Application fee

Admission requirements for either a MAT programs typically include:

  • Transcripts (usually a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies)
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Professional experience 
  • Essay
  • Resume
  • 2-3 Letters of recommendation
  • GRE score
  • Application fee

FAQ

Is an MAT degree worth it?

Teaching jobs are expected to grow 4% in the next 10 years which makes obtaining a MAT degree well worth it, especially if you want to advance your career and salary over time. 

Which is better, MAT or MEd?

One degree is not better than the other. You should choose the program that fits your long term career goals and what aspects of the education setting you want to work in.

What is the benefit of a master’s in education?

There are several benefits to obtaining a master’s in education including career advancement, leadership opportunities, and a salary increase. 

Is a master’s in educational leadership worth it?

If you would like to advance your career outside of the classroom and into administration and leadership, then a master’s degree will help you achieve this goal. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm#Education
  2. https://rossier.usc.edu/mat-degree-vs-med-degree-whats-the-best-choice-for-you/
  3. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm
  4. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/postsecondary-education-administrators.htm
  5. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/instructional-coordinators.htm
  6. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
  7. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm
  8. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
  9. https://www.ed.gov/
  10. https://www.chea.org/
  11. https://www.pacificu.edu/academics/colleges/college-education/school-learning-teaching/preliminary-licensure-programs/master-arts-teaching/mat-general-education/admission