Playing the Odds: Do Online Master’s in Teaching Degrees Pay Off?
Online master’s in teaching degrees can benefit teachers as much as they benefit their students. Graduates may earn heftier paychecks, gain edge in the job market, or even open doors to entirely new careers. These benefits may be just the motivation students need to advance their education – motivation that will probably be tested the moment they set eyes on school fee schedules. Education can be expensive, but there are ways to manage costs. Flexible online programs can make it easier to maintain a full- or part-time jobs that offset many expenses. Financial aid, employer tuition assistance and other helpful programs can help, too, but not everyone has access to them. Can you afford school? Is your degree worth it? These questions are perfectly normal, if stressful. Let’s review the numbers.
Calculate the Costs
Most graduate school hopefuls know earning online master’s in teaching degrees could be pricey, but they should not let fear keep them from doing the math. If a program charges $300 in tuition and fees per credit-hour, and then requires 48 credit-hours’ worth of work, courses alone will cost about $14,400 in total, or about $7,200 a year. Books, tuition and other costs only exacerbate sticker shock. Plugging these estimates into a more complete budget – one that factors in earnings and living costs – can be a sobering experience.
Don't panic. Take a moment to see whether online students enrolled in a prospective program are entitled to in-state tuition regardless of residency, a cost-saving perk many schools offer. Students can call their schools' financial aid offices to speak with an adviser about any low-interest loans, grants or scholarships that could help. Some employers and districts also offer tuition reimbursement to teachers completing courses relevant to their careers. Teachers unions and professional organizations may provide additional grants, scholarships and other financial aid programs. Leave no financial stone unturned when searching for ways in which to fund your education.
Consider the Benefits
Helping more students succeed may be reward enough for earning an online master’s in teaching degree, but a heartier salary certainly does not hurt. No degree comes with a higher earnings guarantee, but plenty of research gives reason to hope. According to a 2011 study conducted by Georgetown University, education professionals with master’s degrees earn about 33 percent more than colleagues with bachelor’s degrees alone. This group includes all types of education professionals, but what about teachers specifically? This table breaks down median earnings for all teachers by specialty in 2013, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, along with the typical earnings boost teachers with master’s degrees (in relevant concentrations) earn, as detailed in the 2011 Georgetown University study. Keep in mind that these figures are drawn from different years and datasets; this chart only offers a sense for what teachers typically earn and how advanced education might affect that.
||Top 10 %
||Typical Earnings Increase with a Master’s
|Middle School Teacher
|Secondary School Teacher
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013; Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2011
Georgetown is not the only group tracking this education-related earnings boost: a 2014 review of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Teacher Contract Database found first year teachers with master’s degrees earned $3,200 more on average than their colleagues with bachelor’s degrees alone, and this disparity only grew with experience. Both the Georgetown and NCTQ studies are right on par with another, earlier National Center on Education Statistics review of nearly two decade’s worth of public K-12. Earnings are variable and complicated, but hard data suggests these gains are more trend than fad.
Another way an online master’s in teaching can pay off is through career advancement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers are not necessarily required to earn master’s degrees, but principals and other administrators are. Some teachers would rather stay in the classroom that climb that ladder, but for others, these leadership positions offer a chance to help far more students, and in other ways. These jobs also pay more – a fact that those who would like to use their master’s degrees to segue into new roles might appreciate.
All things considered, the costs of earning a master’s in teaching degree may mostly, if not completely, pay off in lifelong earnings. Graduates who target high-demand fields can benefit from these trends even more.