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There are a variety of graduate degree programs offered to educators. Though they might seem interchangeable, there are more differences than you might think. Knowing the differences will help you find the right education you need to advance your career.

Read on for some general guidelines about the difference between a Master’s of Education and a Master of Arts/Master of Science in Teaching. Degrees can vary widely by institution and by state, so please verify that any program meets your professional goals before starting your master’s degree.

Master’s of Education

The Master’s of Education provides you the opportunity to expand your career options both inside and outside the classroom and explore a number of fields in education including leadership, curriculum & instruction and special education. This degree often focuses on practical, field-based experience that helps you understand and critically evaluate education practices and provides strategies that can be immediately applied to your service. Coursework often deals with the theory, research, history and psychology behind learning both generally and within a concentration.

Master of Arts or Master of Science

A Master of Arts or Master of Science (M.A. or M.S.) usually offers graduate courses both in education and in a content area (i.e., history, English, mathematics) and may require a thesis. It is often a program useful for both licensed and non-licensed educators. The curriculum often promotes mastery of a education discipline as the main focus of the degree, while also working towards understanding foundational theories of learning. Coursework can often include curriculum development and theory, test and measurements and educational research in their content area.

Master’s of Education (M.Ed., M.S.E., M.S.Ed., M.A.Ed.) Master of Arts or Master of Science (M.A. or M.S.)
Practitioner – focused, “professional degree” Scholarly-focused, “academic degree”
Ideal for current, licensed educators looking to move into leadership roles or improve their own instructional strategies Ideal for those looking to pursue a doctoral degree or careers in curriculum development or in other in specific education areas
Programs focus on in-depth, concentration-specific understanding of pedagogy and instructional strategies (including administration, curriculum & instruction, special education, ESOL and reading) Program provides the candidates an opportunity to gain advanced knowledge in education as well as a content specific area including contemporary theories, procedures, and research in their specialization
Can prepare graduates for advanced leadership positions that move beyond the traditional K-12 classroom and into the educational system itself Can prepare graduates for career paths as instructors in higher education institutions, curriculum designers or instructional coordinators or sometimes as PK-12 teachers (licensure requirement vary by state)