Considering an advanced degree in education? Use these pointers and suggestions to help decide if this is the right path for you.
Special education and ESOL: For those seeking a post-license master's degree, special education and English for speakers of other languages are two of the most marketable fields available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 17 percent increase in the number of special education teachers from 2008 to 2020.
Flexibility: Employment of kindergarten, elementary, middle and secondary school teachers is expected to increase to about 17 percent through 2020, but the job prospects are the best for teachers specializing in the fields of mathematics and science, English as a second language and special education, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Teachers who are willing to work in less desirable urban or rural school districts are in high demand. These areas typically have difficulty in attracting and retaining enough teachers, so being flexible can bolster a job search.
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Though a graduate degree is required for teachers in many states, you shouldn't view education school as a series of hoops you have to jump through, says Jeff Edmundson, now master's degree curriculum coordinator for the education school at the University of Oregon.
Know that there's still much you can discover to expand your ideas of teaching and learning; many take for granted the useful psychology and philosophy of educational methods, for example. "Too many people assume they know everything about teaching because they've been watching teachers for their whole lives," he says.
[Explore options for an online master's degree in education.]
Time with the kids: Get some experience working with kids, and make sure you actually like interacting with them. Hanging out with your younger cousin or baby-sitting for a family or two won't tell you how you'll do with a classroom full of youngsters.
Social studies: Though mastering a core subject such as English or math is essential, also try to take undergraduate classes in human affairs. Politics, sociology, anthropology and cultural studies all add to an applicant's value.
Test early: Make sure you know which certification tests, such as the Praxis, are required by your state and/or university and take them as soon as you can. ETS.org lists the testing requirements for each state.
[Learn more about preparing for grad school admissions tests.]
Keep the following statistics in mind when you are considering a graduate degree in education:
• There were approximately 1.8 million elementary school teachers and 1.3 million secondary school teachers in the United States during the 2012–2013 school year, according to estimates by the National Education Association.
• For the 2011–2012 school year, the average salary for public school classroom teachers in the United States was $55,418, according to the NEA.
• The average public school teacher salaries in New York ($73,398) and Massachusetts ($71,721) were the highest in the country in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the NEA, while South Dakota and Mississippi were the lowest, with starting salaries of $38,804 and $41,646, respectively.
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