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Why an Online Masters in Education Could Leave You Unemployed «

Why an Online Masters in Education Could Leave You Unemployed

The earning potential of an online masters in education might lure you into thinking it’s smart to return to school, especially when teaching jobs are scarce.

But you could wind up pricing yourself out of the teaching market.

Getting an advanced degree can sometimes hurt your career prospects, says expert and author Don Asher, who warns that education is unlike other career fields.

Union contracts in many states require schools to pay teacher salaries based on degree attainment. Earning potential for a masters in education are locked-in or set at 15 to 25 percent higher than those for teachers who hold only bachelors degrees.

Cash-strapped school districts are increasingly reluctant to pay extra for a teacher with a graduate education degree.

New grads with bachelors degrees in education who can’t find teaching jobs may think it is smart move forward, and that it’s worth the cost of an online masters.

But without classroom experience, it is even less likely they will then be able to get hired as a teacher in many school districts.

“If you have a masters degree and no experience, you may have accidentally made yourself unemployable,” cautions Asher.


Great Teachers Can Be Priced Out of Jobs Reducing Earning Potential

Veteran teachers even find that the earning potential of a masters in education is cut short. Without tenure they can be priced out of a job.

For example, Illinois special education teacher Deborah Ehrhart, 59, a later-in-life teacher with about 10 years of teaching experience, holds an online masters in education degree from Olivet Nazarene University.

Yet, she hasn’t found it opening doors for her.

“Schools are hiring young teachers, paying them less money, and don’t care that much about experience,” she says.

While she has found jobs, they have been short-lived, and she has found herself laid off once the school year ends.

Ehrhart advises those considering obtaining a masters in education for the earning potential to wait until they have tenure “so that you don’t fall into the position of schools wanting to hire cheaper and younger personnel.”

Earning Potential: Masters in Education vs. Bachelors in Education

According to, elementary teachers can expect to make $39,932 to $55,568 with a Master of Arts in education degree while those who hold a bachelors degree make $31,249 to $43,499 — a difference of about 25 percent.

At middle school and high-school level, the bump for teachers with masters in education is less pronounced. On average, says Payscale, they make from $41,121 to $69,468.

Those with bachelors degrees: $39,099 to $59,445 (English teachers and teachers with Bachelor of Science degrees make about 10 percent less).

Cost of an Online Masters in Education

Get Educated research shows the average price for an online masters in education degree is $15,700.

Our rankings of best online colleges, finds the top affordable online Master in Arts in education at East Carolina University. This degree costs $5,800 for North Carolina residents ($24,000 for everyone else). University of Wyoming offers a distance masters program in adult and post-secondary education for about $7,300, regardless of residency.

The highest-priced online masters in education degree program (in teaching, learning, and curriculum) is offered by Drexel University online for nearly $39,000.

If you were to shell out, say, $15,000 for your degree, you could earn this back within two or three years, provided that you are an elementary school teacher with a secure job and that you receive the average 25-percent bump that Payscale illustrates.

Obviously, if you can’t find a teaching job — and the masters may partly be to blame — then your investment was not a wise one.

Savvy Student: The Best Earning Potential for a Masters in Education

When does the cost of an online masters in education prove itself with job opportunities? Take a wild guess.

“There are a tremendous number of jobs in instructional design and computer-based module design,” says Asher.

These jobs often require a masters in instructional design or educational technology.

However, once teachers choose this career path, they will have turned away from classroom teaching. If someone wants to become a classroom teacher or continue in teaching, this isn’t the right graduate degree for them, says Asher.

Another option is to pursue higher education administration.

Earning potential for masters in education grads is excellent at the college level, in areas such as student services, financial aid, and career advising, says Asher.

Once again, these jobs do not involve teaching.

If recent education graduates can’t find teaching jobs, Asher suggests gaining classroom experience through tutoring, coaching or advising, as a way to build up teaching experience until the job market improves.

After teachers are in secure positions, the earning potential of masters in education become realistic and attainable.

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