As two degrees with very similar names, the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and the Master of Education (MEd) may sound like variations on the same thing. While both degrees enable teachers to improve their skills and meet state licensing requirements, they focus on two very different sides of the teaching profession. Prospective teachers should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of both degrees before deciding on a program.
Key traits of the Master of Arts in Teaching
The Master of Arts in Teaching (sometimes called a Master’s in Teaching) is a degree program centered on practical skills and subject-specific information. A traditional MAT program takes two years to complete and may position students to earn initial state teaching certification.
The first three semesters will likely be devoted to passive classroom observation and the study of the specific subject area (math or biology for example) that the student wishes to teach, with the last semester spent as a full-time student teacher. Some MAT programs are specially designed to enroll working teachers looking to improve their pedagogy.
Key traits of the Master of Education
The Master of Education, in contrast, focuses less on subject-specific practical skills and more on preparing students to understand and critically evaluate the practice of education. Although MEd students learn useful approaches to classroom instruction, they also investigate the theory and practice of teaching more broadly.
In addition, specialized Master in Education programs offer concentrated study of specific specialties, including Educational Leadership, Special Education, Technology Education, Mathematics, Reading and Science. Like the MAT, a traditional MEd program lasts two years and prepares prospective teachers to meet initial certification requirements.
Concordia University-Portland’s rigorous online program can be completed in one year. Material is taught to allow students to implement what they learn the next day in the classroom or workplace setting.
Similarities and differences in benefits of each degree
Both MAT and MEd programs offer advantages and disadvantages. Master of Arts in Teaching degree programs are rich in practical, discipline-specific information. This honed-in focus presents an advantage for students who wish to strengthen their subject matter knowledge, but may be a disadvantage for those who have educational ambitions beyond classroom teaching. MATs can be excellent options for individuals with bachelor’s degrees in another field looking to switch careers.
In comparison, MEd degrees require more theoretical coursework and offer a fuller understanding of the teaching profession as a whole, including an in-depth understanding of the pedagogy or instructional strategies related to the area of concentration. The Master of Education is the best degree for students whose ambitions include service as an instructional or school leader. In addition, an MEd may be the first stage in educational doctoral programs, enabling interested students to pursue further advanced study at a later date.