Master's in Education (K-12) FAQ

How Much Could a Teacher Earn?

How much you could potentially earn as a teacher depends heavily on where you live and work and what subject and grade level you teach. Earnings may also depend on your experience, skill-set, and specialization. However, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics may give you a sense of a teacher’s salary based on data from its most recent census. As of May, 2012:

  • Kindergarten teachers earned a median annual salary of $50,120[i]
  • Elementary school teachers earned a median annual salary of $53,400[i]
  • Middle school teachers earned a median annual salary of $53,430[ii]
  • High school teachers earned a median annual salary of $55,050[iii]
  • Postsecondary teachers earned a median annual salary of $68,970[iv]
  • Instructional Coordinators earned a median annual salary of $60,050[v]
  • Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals earned a median annual salary of $87,760[vi]

What makes someone a good teacher?

It is next to impossible to describe what makes a good teacher within the confines of one small article. For simplicity’s sake, let’s consider that any teacher must be well-developed in three areas to be successful in the classroom: they must be adept at performing certain tasks; they must be knowledgeable of subject matter, teaching methodologies, and educational and classroom theories; and they must have sharp and well-honed skills in numerous areas. More specifically:

  • Good teachers should ideally be able to perform the tasks demanded of them by districts, administrators, coworkers, parents, and even students.
  • Good teachers should ideally know their subjects, know how to best teach them, and be able to adjust their thinking about their subjects based on the needs of different learners.
  • Good teachers should ideally be socially, politically, and professionally skilled. They must work well with students and parents; they must be present, focused, and attentive as needs arise in the classroom; they must be prepared for anything to happen and to maintain the quality of the class curriculum and classroom environment; they must be able to balance maintaining rules and guidelines while also meeting the needs of numerous types of people and learners.

These are just some of the many qualities good teachers must have.

What is the Master Teacher Program?

The Master Teacher Program is an initiative the Obama administration designed to promote high-quality education in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the STEM fields). To facilitate the program, local school officials select public school teachers to act as educators, mentors, and curriculum developers amongst their coworkers and communities. Teachers in the program could earn up to $20,000 per year in bonuses and will ultimately act as stewards of the STEM fields. Their ultimate charge is to promote quality education, innovation, and competition in STEM fields across the country and throughout the world.[vii]

Are there student loan forgiveness programs for teachers?

Whether or not a loan can be forgiven, cancelled, or discharged as a courtesy for qualifying teaching professionals depends on several factors:

  • The type of loan: Direct Loan, FFEL Program Loan, or Federal Perkins Loan, for example.
  • When you received the loan. Loans given before or after a certain date may or may not be eligible.
  • How long you’ve been making payments on the particular loan. Typically, you must have made a certain number of payments on a loan over time before it can be forgiven.
  • Whether or not the particular loan is in default. Loans in default often don’t qualify for forgiveness.

Beyond this criteria, your eligibility for loan forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge depends upon your profession, place of employment, and degree-granting school’s status. For more detailed information about which loans may qualify for forgiveness, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid page.[viii]

Are there scholarships for future teachers available for qualified students?

Scholarships may be available for qualified students.   Numerous programs exist that may provide grants and scholarships to qualified aspiring K-12 teachers. For detailed information about them, visit our article about teacher grants and scholarship information for teachers here.

What is the difference between a master’s in education and a doctorate of education?

Any graduate degree in education—a master’s, PhD, or EdD—may provide educators additional skills and knowledge for teachers, educational leaders, and researchers. However, there are important differences between master’s and doctorate programs in education. Master’s in education programs for K-12 teachers may require students to meet less credit and research requirements than doctorate programs. Master’s programs tend to be more career-oriented, focusing on the practical application of educational theory.  While doctor of education programs for K-12 teachers tend to be research-oriented, focusing of helping students learn how to critically assess information and add to the body of knowledge in the field. However, those interested in earning a doctorate in education might also have options for earning a more practical degree as well. Educators who want to pursue a career as a researcher or academic in a postsecondary environment typically earn a PhD. Educators who want to pursue careers as leaders in schools, government, or nonprofit organizations might choose to earn the EdD.

Are alternative teaching certification programs available?

While some aspiring teachers follow a “traditional path” to teaching careers (earing an undergraduate degree in education and obtaining licensure in the state in which they wish to teach) others—individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree or are currently pursuing a career in another field—might prefer to take an “alternative route”.[ix] Some examples of alternative routes include:

  • Programs states offer to entice teachers into low-income or under-served areas or populations. These programs often may offer fast-track credentialing and paid training and certification to eligible students. 
  • Programs that enable professionals to earn their credentials while working. These programs may provide professionals with on-the-job experience in the field of teaching and enable them to earn their credentials while they teach.
  • Online programs that enable students to earn their credentials without having to be near a campus or work around a traditional academic schedule. NOTE: Online teacher certification programs may require students to complete practicum hours.  In some cases the institution may make practicum arrangements for the student, in others the student may be responsible for making their own arrangements.

Do teacher education graduate programs typically require students to participate in a practicum or student teaching?

It depends on the program and the student’s teaching status. As part of their master's in education program curricula, some graduate programs offer a route to certification for uncertified teachers. Such programs might require students to complete student teaching or a teaching practicum along with their coursework. If the student already has teaching certification, they may or may not be required to student-teach. Also, graduate programs that help prepare students for specialized areas of education might require students to complete supervised work in the classroom to practice their new knowledge. In doctorate programs, students may be required to complete a qualifying exam rather than student-teaching or a practicum.

Are jobs for teachers expected to grow in the next few years?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth for teachers depends upon the level at which they teach. Following are the projected employment growths for K-12 teachers:

  • Employment for kindergarten and elementary school teachers is projected to grow by 12% (as fast as average) between 2012 and 2022[x]
  • Employment for middle school teachers is projected to grow by 12% (as fast as average) between 2012 and 2022[xi]
  • Employment for high school teachers is projected to grow by 6% (slower than average) between 2012 and 2022[xii]

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Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-5  | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm#tab-5 |[iii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm#tab-5 | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-5 | [v] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/instructional-coordinators.htm#tab-5 | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm#tab-5 | [vii] whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/17/president-obama-announces-plans-new-national-corps-recognize-and-reward- | [viii] studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/charts | [ix] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm#tab-4 | [x] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-6 | [xi] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm#tab-6 | [xii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm#tab-6

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