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If you’re a teacher or are currently studying to become one, you may be wondering about the next step in your educational journey. Is your bachelor’s degree enough to equip you for all your career goals, or do you need something more?

Many teachers move straight into the classroom to begin their careers after completing their bachelor’s degree. Others may choose to pursue master’s programs for teachers straight out of undergraduate study.

If you’re considering taking the next step to earn either a Master of Education (M.Ed.) or a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), this is the guide for you. We know you want to earn the best master’s for teachers, so we’ll outline the difference between M.Ed. and MAT programs to help you discover:

  • Why there are two different degree types
  • The basics of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
  • The basics of the Master of Education (M. Ed.)
  • The biggest differences between the two programs

Why Are There Different Master’s Programs for Teachers?

If you’re not coming from a background in academia (and even if you are), it’s pretty natural to assume that master’s programs for teachers are all going to be pretty similar. Why, then, are there two different masters-level credentials available?

Actually, these two different degree types (M.Ed. vs MAT) are quite different. Why are there two different master’s programs for teachers? Because there are two different, broadly defined career paths that teachers might want to pursue.

Here’s the high-level breakdown: The Master of Arts in Teaching is a master’s-level degree that focuses on the art and science of teaching. It’s a degree for teachers who want to improve in the craft of teaching itself but who generally want to remain in the classroom. The MAT may also focus on a specific subject or discipline, turning generalist teachers into math or special education specialists, for example.

The Master of Education, on the other hand, focuses on the process and practice of education. It focuses less on the practical and more on the theoretical and philosophical. Many teachers who pursue the M.Ed. are looking to transition out of the classroom and into a position of leadership within the educational system. The degree also makes sense for certain highly specialized roles. Those seeking to become principals, administrators, instructional coordinators, or district-level leaders would typically pursue the M.Ed. rather than the MAT.

In summary, the reason there are two different master’s programs for teachers is that there are two different career tracks. Those wanting to hone their craft in the classroom will usually earn the MAT, while those wanting to transition into educational leadership will typically earn the M.Ed.

What Is a MAT degree?

An MAT degree, or Master of Arts in Teaching, equips the prospective or experienced classroom teacher with a deeper toolset for practicing the craft of teaching. It’s a degree for those who want to teach, or who are already teaching, and those who love the classroom and want to continue working in it.

In an MAT degree program, you’ll typically explore a particular subject area much more deeply and in the pedagogy of that subject area. In other words, you’ll specialize in a particular discipline. In addition to subject area specialization, MAT programs also include additional training in implementing pedagogy and in the theories underlying today’s pedagogical trends.

While schools vary in their requirements—and you should always check a specific school’s expectations before applying—most MAT programs accept students with or without classroom experience. For this reason, MAT coursework often includes hands-on classroom training similar to student-teacher or practicum environments on the undergraduate level.

In addition to specific subject area concentrations, some MAT degree programs offer concentrations by age or learning type. These can include:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Special Education
  • Primary Education
  • Secondary Education

If your career aspirations include remaining in the classroom but with a higher level of achievement and teaching ability, the MAT is an ideal degree program for you.

What Is an MEd degree?

An M.Ed. degree, or Master of Education, takes a different approach. While there are certainly classroom teachers who have earned this degree, the primary focus is not on improving teaching practice. The M. Ed., instead, prepares teachers to transition into other (often leadership) roles in the educational system.

Most universities require M.Ed. candidates to have at least some classroom experience, as the coursework tends to assume an underlying framework of experience and understanding. Programs are designed so that graduates will understand not just how to teach, but the intricacies of the education system as a whole and the ways to work toward improvement within those systems.

If you want to affect the direction of your school or school system in the realm of policy, procedure or philosophy, the M. Ed. may be an ideal degree choice. The same is true if you have aspirations of leading as a principal or administrator or in district leadership. Curriculum designers, academic specialists, and counselors may also benefit more from the M. Ed. than from the MAT.

M.Ed. vs MAT: Degrees Compared and Contrasted

We’ve already described at a high level the difference between M.Ed. and MAT degree programs, but below we’ll delve into some deeper specifics.


Coursework for the M.Ed. typically includes core courses on education, cognitive science of teaching and learning, metrics, and more. A capstone project is generally required, as is a concentration (such as Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Technology, or a host of others).

Coursework for the MAT, on the other hand, usually includes instruction in methods, instructional strategies, learning differences, and the like. A practicum or student teaching or both will usually be included. Some programs also include a concentration component.

Time Commitment

Both degrees can typically be completed within two years when enrolled full-time. The MAT tends to have a higher credit load, with an average of 42 compared to the M.Ed.’s average of 36 credit hours. Note that for both of these metrics, you’ll find a great deal of variety. Some programs are built in the full-time residential model while others are designed for online instruction or with working teachers in mind.

Here at Post University, our M.Ed. requires just 30 credits. The program can be completed online, and normal completion time ranges from 12 to 22 months.

Typical Career Opportunities

As mentioned in earlier, the typical career path for those who earn the MAT is to continue teaching in the classroom. The advanced degree will improve your teaching ability and your understanding of the nature of your specialty. It may also increase your salary or open doors to more senior positions.

Typical career opportunities for those holding an M.Ed. are much more varied. Some will return to the classroom and do so happily, but most have another role in view. Some of the possible roles for M.Ed. holders include:

  • School principal
  • Administration
  • Counselor
  • Instructional Designer
  • Digital Learning Specialist
  • Curriculum Designer
  • Post-Secondary Instructor

The concentration of your M. Ed. will often suggest a direction for your career path, so it’s best to have an idea of where you want to go in your career as well as course requirements before applying.

Considering an M. Ed.? Consider Post University

If you’re exploring a transition from the classroom into other education-related fields like administration or curriculum design, the Master of Education, or M.Ed., is the ideal degree path for you. Here at Post University, we offer an online Master of Education degree that is highly customizable to meet your desired career objectives. It’s also flexible, designed for working teachers who want to continue working while pursuing further education.

Our online M. Ed. contains core coursework built around research-based education practices. You’ll learn to analyze the issues facing today’s educational landscape, and you’ll equip yourself with metrics to measure achievement at all levels within the educational system.

You also have the ability to customize your degree to your career goals with one of these five concentration options:

  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Educational Technology
  • Learning Design and Technology
  • Online Teaching
  • Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

If you’re ready to take the next step, consider Post University’s online M. Ed. program.

Request more info or apply today.


Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly! 

Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post University program. To learn more about Post University’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.