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What Can You Do with a Master's in Education?

Master's in education degrees offer career options

Broaden your education career horizons with a graduate degree.

If you have a master's in education or are pursuing one, you may be surprised to learn that the degree can open doors to careers besides classroom teaching. Some of those careers are related to education, but there are also jobs in business for which a master's in education is definitely an asset.

Further Reading: National Board Certification Is the Right Move for Teachers

Going Beyond the Classroom

A teacher's ability to work effectively with groups of people is a skill recognized outside of education. For example, one year I was tapped for jury duty, and the judge called me into his chambers to tell me he had selected me to be the jury foreperson. "Why me?" I asked in surprise. "Because educators know how to work with people and get everyone on the same page," he said. "Jury duty can be like herding cats, and we need someone who can be in charge."

He wasn't the only person to believe that teachers can apply their education and skills to situations beyond the classroom. A special education teacher I know left the field after more than 20 years to oversee customer service training for bank employees. Another teacher in my school regularly spent her summers working at a camp for troubled kids in Colorado. Once she finished her advanced degree, the camp wanted to hire her as a year-round activities director and she accepted.

Not all jobs outside of teaching require an advanced degree. Two other teachers I know left the classroom and built a very successful tutoring/SAT prep business. "The advanced degree wasn't strictly necessary to open the business," said one, "but it helped us design the program and establish our credibility." Either way, it's a good idea to pursue the degree, especially if the job you want has supervisory responsibilities.

Two Unconventional Paths

Some people pursue a master's in education for reasons other than working more effectively with kids.

Elizabeth Martin, who recently received her advanced degree from WGU, says she had hoped to finish a master's right after graduating with a bachelor's 10 years ago, but with four kids, a career, and the expense of graduate school, she kept waiting for the right time.

"The breaking point," she says, "was when I was passed over for a promotion that I deserved because I didn't have a master's degree. At that point, earning my master's became a priority." At the time, Elizabeth was working as an adult basic education teacher (GED and ESL), and when she received her degree, she was promoted to program manager—with a 30 percent pay increase, she notes.

Sokie Gierisch, another WGU grad, was working for a nonprofit organization that had created an online reading program for preschoolers. Her job was to train call center reps about the program, but the lack of communication between the program managers and reps led to many misunderstandings and frustrations.

After completing her master's in instructional design, Sokie was able to create an efficient training series so reps could understand the program and educate parents. Now working in marketing, Sokie says, "The use of instructional design is not limited to teachers. I feel it is a great place to start. Within any organization, communication is a key factor. An instructional designer encompasses that communication factor."

Both Elizabeth and Sokie believe that the master's degree made a real difference in their lives. "I started my master's unconventionally, but it led me to a job that I love," says Sokie. "We are all teachers. I may not be your typical teacher, but I teach all the time—mostly to the sales department. It's OK to think outside the box and venture out to do something extraordinary. Our mind is our playing field."

Choosing the Right Course of Study

If you do decide to pursue a master's, Elizabeth advises that you go with something you're passionate about.

"I chose the learning and technology program because I am passionate about integrating technology into instruction," she said. "Since I loved the material, it was much easier for me to complete the degree than if I chose something that was useful, but not necessarily interesting to me."

Elizabeth completed her master's program in five months with WGU's competency-based model. She was able to demonstrate the knowledge she already had and then focus on what she didn't know.

Further Reading: Advice for New Teacher Graduates: Making Your Resume Stand Out

If you're thinking about a master's in education but aren't sure you want to stay with classroom teaching, rest assured that there are lots of other options for people with the advanced degree. In fact, Elizabeth says she hopes to get a second master's in math so she can teach at her local college!