Post-graduate teaching degrees create greater career opportunities

Michael Williams
Michael Williams

Think your studies are done? Think again. Post-graduate qualifications can be a positive pathway to career expertise.

If you’re a recent university graduate thinking about hitting the workforce in 2024, taking on more study is also an option to expand your career horizons – and as the teacher shortage continues to have a serious impact in metropolitan, regional, rural, and remote classrooms across the country, taking on post-graduate studies could help you boost your potential and create meaningful (and sustainable) teaching career.

There are two post-graduate degrees for would-be teachers: a Master of Teaching and a Master of Education.

A Master of Teaching is for those who have graduated with a degree outside of the Faculty of Education degree, such as a Bachelor of Science or Master of English Literature, who have then decided to become a classroom teacher in a primary or secondary school setting.

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In Australia, all teachers are required to complete an accredited degree in education.

A Master of Teaching gives graduates the pedagogical understanding they may not have otherwise and enables students to learn how to develop plans, manage a classroom, and understand teaching methodologies.

Become a master in your field

For already qualified teachers who wish to enhance their skills or specialise in a specific area of education, including topics such as educational leadership, inclusive education, or curriculum development, a Master of Education is ideal.

By completing a Master of Education, teachers can deepen their knowledge and understanding of teaching practices and theories, ultimately leading to improved student outcomes.

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Dr Beth Chapman is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Canberra and says both degrees have unique advantages for their students.

“For those looking to become qualified teachers, a Master of Teaching provides the necessary qualifications and skills to confidently enter the classroom,” she told EducationDaily.

“For those already teaching, a Master of Education offers the opportunity for professional growth and development, allowing teachers to advance their careers and make a greater impact on their students’ education. It can also provide passionate educators with a pathway to a career in research; however, this is not expected or required for most teaching positions.”

Ultimately, Dr Chapman says whether you choose a Master of Teaching or a Master of Education, both qualifications provide valuable knowledge and skills in the field of education.

“It is up to the individual to decide which path best aligns with their interests,” she told EducationDaily, adding that there is a great difference in the expectations between the two degrees.

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“For students undertaking a Master of Teaching in order to become a qualified teacher, there is less of a learning curve as the course work has very similar expectations to, and is aligned with, the requirements of an undergraduate education degree,” she says.

“However, Master of Teaching students often find that they enjoy their study more and experience greater success, compared to undergraduate students because they can benefit from their prior experience as students.”

Exploring leadership opportunities for a sustainable career

She says a Master of Education degree greatly differs from an undergraduate education degree (and a Master of Teaching) in several ways.

When it comes to depth of study, while an undergraduate degree provides a broad overview of a field of study, a Master’s degree offers more in-depth exploration of a specific area.

This allows students to specialise and gain detailed knowledge and expertise, Dr Chapman says, with a Master’s degree typically more research-intensive than an undergraduate degree.

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Dr Chapman says students at the University of Canberra undertake an ‘action research’ project based on their school or classroom as part of their final semester in the course.

“[It provides] them with skills to critically analyse and improve their own teaching practices,” she told EducationDaily.

“While an undergraduate degree may provide entry-level positions in education, a Master’s degree can open up more advanced roles and leadership opportunities. It also provides a pathway for further study, such as a Doctorate in Education.”

Unlike an undergraduate degree that typically follows a set curriculum, a Master’s programs often offer greater flexibility in course selection and scheduling, Dr Chapman says.

“This allows students to tailor their studies to their specific interests and career goals.”

Is there a ‘right’ time to undertake additional study?

So, should you take on a Master’s Degree in Teaching or Education straight after your undergraduate or part-way into your career?

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Dr Chapman says the answer to that question can be as diverse as those who choose to take up a teaching career.

“When it comes to a Master of Teaching, we have students who have just completed their undergraduate degree, as well as mature-age students with decades of life and professional experience under their belts,” she told EducationDaily.

“Each student brings their own perspective, passion, and personality to their profession as a teacher. However, one thing they all have in common is their commitment to working with young people, and their desire to make a difference in young people’s lives.”

Dr Chapman says teachers who choose to enrol in a Master of Education similarly hail from a range of backgrounds and experiences.

“At UC [University of Canberra], we require our Master of Education students to have at least three years professional experience in a school or classroom so that they can maximise their learning based on authentic, in-classroom experience,” she told EducationDaily.

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“Other than that, we have early-career educators studying alongside school leaders with decades of experience working in schools and with teachers. They all have something to contribute and something to learn from each other.”

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Michael R Williams has been writing for regional newspapers for the past 3 years, including delivering the Longreach Leader to its 100th year. He is passionate about the opportunity journalism offers him to interview and tell the stories of Australians with a broad and diverse range of backgrounds. He is an obsessive reader and podcast listener.