Study Education: Doctorate, Masters & Online Degree Info

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Master's and Ph.D. degrees in education can lead to careers in teaching, school counseling, or research. Get the truth about the requirements, courses, and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Education Master's and Ph.D.: Degrees at a Glance

Master's degrees in education are usually necessary for administrative and leadership roles in education. They are also required for positions as guidance/school counselors and school librarians.

Let's look at job growth statistics for some positions that you become eligible for by obtaining your master's degree in education according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Guidance counseling positions have a growth outlook of 19%, principals are at 10%, and school librarians are at 7% projected job growth between 2010 and 2020. Ph.D. degrees continue to expand your educational prowess and can give you further opportunities in some of the same fields and areas.

The BLS projects job growth of 17% for postsecondary teachers and 19% for postsecondary administrators between 2010 and 2020. The majority of doctoral programs in education are in the same fields as the master's degree programs, so they share many job opportunities.

Let's compare the two:

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in expanding their teaching practice or obtaining leadership or specialized roles in education People interested in teaching education at the college level, furthering their opportunity for leadership or specialized roles in education, or conducting research
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Pre-college teacher ($47,000-53,000)*
- Librarian ($55,000)*
- School/career counselor ($54,000)*
- Principal ($87,000)*
-Postsecondary teacher ($62,000)*
- Postsecondary school administrator ($84,000)*
Time to Completion Less than 1 year to 2 years, full-time 3-6 years after the master's, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Generally 32-45 credit hours
- Master's action project
- Practicum and internships for teaching degrees
- Generally 60-72 credit hours
- Doctoral dissertation
- Practicum or internship(s) or residency
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree (some programs require a degree in a specific field)
-Teaching programs can require teaching experience
- Master's degree
- Teaching programs often require teaching experience
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2010 figures).

Master's in Education

Master's degrees in education vary considerably; you have to look at the concentration to really define what the degree will enable you to do. Many teachers utilize the degree to expand their practice and increase their ability to teach at higher levels of education. Others are looking to move into leadership and policymaking positions. There are opportunities within school systems and with organizations outside of the school system, including government roles, foundations, and other education-oriented organizations.

There are even programs designed for you if you have a bachelor's degree in another field, but would like to move into teaching. Job growth for teachers is 7%-17% between 2010 and 2020, depending on grade level and specialization, reported the BLS. Just remember that a bachelor's degree alone (in teaching) qualifies you for most teaching positions. Also, if you pursue your degree in order to teach, you may be required to have a specific bachelor's degree as well as previous teaching experience. Prerequisites vary widely, so check into them ahead of time.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • There are various private and public sector positions accessible to master's degree holders
  • The majority of programs are open to you regardless of your bachelor's degree major
  • Some degree options can be completed in under one year

Cons

  • The cost of education may not be justified with earning potentials
  • Many positions that master's degree programs are built around also employ bachelor's degree holders
  • Often times, positions require additional certification, licensure, and experience

Courses and Requirements

The type of courses and number of required courses to earn your master's degree will vary widely, depending on your concentration and chosen program of study. Some of the specific courses may include the following:

  • Adolescent psychology
  • Language and linguistics
  • Legal perspectives
  • Educational leadership
  • Human learning and development
  • Educational assessment

The majority of the programs that involve teaching or administration also involve extensive practicum or clinical hours. Internships may also fulfill this requirement. These will vary with each program in required length and exact content. Also, there is generally a master's action project or other distinguishing project required that demonstrates the knowledge you gained throughout the program.

Online Degree Options

Online degree programs are available from accredited schools. Teaching and administration programs still have practicum and internship requirements that have to be completed in the field. If your current position is in the field, your job may count towards some of those requirements.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

There are many additional certificates available that you can obtain throughout and congruent with the attainment of your master's degree. Some examples are the Teaching English Language Learners (TELL) Certificate and various other special education and reading certificates that can be a part of your master's degree program. Schools are becoming increasingly integrated with technology, particularly computers and Web media, so earning a graduate certificate in an area like educational technology can help you stay abreast of new equipment and tech-based learning techniques for your classroom.

Ph.D. in Education

Similarly to the master's degree, the concentration of your Doctorate in Education can vary widely and determines what you can do with your degree. A lot of the positions that doctorate programs are built around state they require at least a master's degree, meaning a Ph.D. is often preferred, but not necessarily required. However, postsecondary teachers and administrators usually have to meet a Ph.D. education requirement as a minimum.

There are prestigious schools that offer several degree program options, tuition funding with stipends and paid residencies. Thus, the concern of cost of education translating into pay potential can be less of a factor in the Ph.D. realm if you qualify for one of these programs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Some Ph.D. programs are offered in a manner that allows students to continue to work full-time
  • Doctoral degrees enable you to teach at the college level
  • Job security comes with tenure

Cons

  • Admissions to doctoral programs can be very competitive with limited opportunities
  • There may not be a differentiation between jobs you apply for with a Ph.D. vs. a master's degree
  • Earning your doctorate could take an additional 3-6 years after master's attainment

Courses and Requirements

The coursework required to earn your Doctorate of Education will depend upon the concentration that you choose. Some courses you might take at the doctoral level are as follows:

  • Gender and schooling
  • Organizational and human interaction
  • Orthography
  • Language, linguistics, and literacy
  • Cultural and societal patterns
  • Curriculum theory

Also, cohort membership and participation in addition to your own dissertation and coursework is generally required. You'll work closely with an adviser, and there will be regular and rigorous evaluation of your progress. Also, most programs involve a combination of clinical hours or internships as well as practicum and residencies.

Online Degree Options

Accredited examples of degrees in education aren't abundant, but they are locatable. There is generally some on-campus time still necessary, but this can be as little as seven days per year (consecutive) and can vary from program to program. Depending on your program, there may still be field practicum and clinical requirements that have to be completed in person.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Fellowships and assistantships can be a great way to stand out and to gain extra experience and one-on-one time with faculty. They vary in scope, diversity, and duration, but help you not only financially in the pursuit of your degree but also by giving you direct practice with conducting research, grading, teaching, helping students, planning lessons and using classroom technology.

Choosing a program that integrates certifications and other requirements for possible positions you might pursue with the degree is integral. For example, there is a superintendent certification that can be obtained in conjunction with your doctorate. There are others, depending on the specific field you're pursuing, so be sure to research these ahead of time.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Computer Science
      • Master: Computer Science - Database Systems
      • Master of Business Admin
      • Master of Business Admin - Entrepreneurship
      • MS - Computer Science - Computer Systems Security
      • M.S. - Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master of Business Administration - Accounting
      • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
      • Master of Business Admin: Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Higher Education Administration
      • MS in Criminal Justice
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Dyslexia Studies & LBLD
      • MS in Psychology
      • MA in Communication
      • MBA
  • Online Programs Available
    4. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
      • Master of Arts in Economics
      • Master of Public Administration and Policy
      • Master of Science in Agile Project Management
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • MEd - General Education
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology
      • Master : Business Admin
      • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
      • MSPY - Industrial/Organizational Psychology Specialization
      • Master of Public Health
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Teaching and Learning
      • Master of Project Management
      • Master of Finance
      • Master of Professional Accounting
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
      • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology: General Psychology
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
      • Master of Liberal Arts
      • Master of Arts in Science Writing
      • Master of Science in Applied Economics
      • Master of Science in Geographic Information Systems
      • Master of Science in Bioinformatics
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA: Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Project Management

Featured Schools

Colorado Technical University

  • Master of Science in Computer Science
  • Master: Computer Science - Database Systems
  • Master of Business Admin

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction

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Southern New Hampshire University

  • MS in Higher Education Administration
  • MS in Criminal Justice
  • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Dyslexia Studies & LBLD

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American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
  • Master of Arts in Economics

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Northcentral University

  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • Master of Business Admin - General Business

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Kaplan University

  • Master: Legal Studies
  • MS in Psychology
  • Master : Business Admin

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Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • Master of Project Management
  • Master of Finance

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Grand Canyon University

  • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
  • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
  • MA in Curriculum and Instruction

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