Master of Arts in Teaching

Teacher-with-studentsWhat is a Master of Arts in Teaching?

The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) is a degree designed for both current and prospective K–12 teachers who are looking to either obtain their initial teaching license or who are looking for additional certification as a means of career advancement inside the classroom.

For those seeking education-related degrees outside the traditional classroom, click to learn more about earning your Master of Education (ME) degree.

Master of Arts in Teaching: Programs

Earning your MAT provides you with the opportunity to change students’ lives inside the classroom. Program options/concentration areas may include the following:

  • Early childhood education

  • Elementary education

  • Secondary education

It is important to remember that the above-mentioned programs are not available at all schools of education and that not all programs are alike. Programs’ courses of study and curriculum focus areas are dependent on the individual school’s mission statement, faculty and background.

Contact your desired college or university for more information about their MAT program options.

The Benefits of a Master of Arts in Teaching

While most states do not require educational professionals to hold an advanced degree, there are a number of benefits to earning your MAT. Having an advanced degree, both in and outside the classroom, provides you with greater career options and the opportunity for a higher salary.

Master of Arts in Teaching Program Requirements

Applicant Credentials

Admission to a teacher preparation program requires applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited institution. MAT programs are designed for those students who do not have previous teaching experience or credentials; therefore, these programs do not require prerequisite courses in education. Those who already hold their teaching certificate(s) may apply for a Master of Education (ME) degree program.

Master of Arts in Teaching Curriculum

Understanding your program’s standard curriculum is the first step in deciding which Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program is right for you. MAT degree coursework focuses on grade level and subject area, including multiple subject certification for elementary education degrees and/or subject-specific certification (i.e., English, math, social studies, science) for secondary education degrees. Many MAT programs also offer certification and extensions in specialized areas of instruction, including special education, gifted education and TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages.)

Master of Arts in Teaching: Concentration Areas

Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education MAT programs are designed for students looking to become early childhood or preschool teachers, typically working with children from birth to age 4 (although some programs extend certification into first grade). Students earning their MAT in early childhood education are provided with a foundational coursework in infant/toddler development, early childhood curriculum, integrating music and arts, and developing social behaviors. Early childhood education MAT programs also include one or two semesters of student teaching, which provides students with hands-on experience within environments such as preschools, elementary schools and child development centers.

Elementary Education

MAT programs in elementary education (also referred to as childhood education) prepare students to succeed as elementary school teachers in a K–6 classroom, providing foundational coursework in teaching methods, student learning styles and education issues such as linguistic and cultural diversity. Coursework includes classes focusing on teaching multiple subject areas (elementary math, social studies, science, and English language arts), literacy and multicultural perspectives. Elementary education MAT programs also include one or two semesters of student teaching, which provides students with hands-on experience within a K–6 classroom.

Secondary Education

Earning your MAT in secondary education (also referred to as adolescent education) prepares students to become middle or high school teachers in a grade 7–12 classroom, providing foundational coursework in teaching methods, student learning styles and education issues such as linguistic and cultural diversity. Secondary education MAT programs lead to professional certification in the areas of English, social studies, science or mathematics. Schools may also offer concentrations in areas such as economics, psychology, business and marketing. Secondary education MAT programs also include one or two semesters of student teaching, which provides students with hands-on experience within a grade 7–12 classroom.

  • English concentration: Curriculum focuses on both English language and literature, in addition to educational theory and practice. Coursework includes classes on writing, studies in criticism and theory, American and British literature, literacy development and English Language Learners (ELL).

  • Social studies concentration: Curriculum focuses on both U.S. and world history, as well as educational theory and practice. Coursework includes classes on economics, western civilization, American government, sociology, foundations of education and teaching social studies. Schools may offer additional areas of specialization such as economics, marketing or business education.

  • Science concentration: Curriculum may focus on general science studies or may be broken into specific content areas such as biology, earth science or physics. Coursework includes classes on literacy across content areas, adolescent development and courses focusing on specific content areas.

  • Mathematics concentration: Curriculum focuses on mathematical theory, practice and applications alongside educational pedagogy and teaching methods. Coursework includes classes on the history of mathematics, calculus, probability, differential equations, foundations of education and educational technology.

Special Education

Obtaining a MAT degree in special education prepares prospective teachers to provide instruction specifically designed for students with disabilities and to work within a number of educational settings. While the majority of schools offer MAT degree programs specifically geared toward a Master in Special Education, there are also programs, such as USC Rossier Online, that offer special education credentials — degree extensions and/or certificates that new and experienced teachers can add onto their existing teaching licensure. The curriculum focus for special education MAT programs is dependent on your area of study. Available special education programs include learning disabilities, behavior disorders and teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing. Contact your desired college or university to find out more about their available special education programs and concentration areas.

Gifted Education

Earning an advanced degree in gifted education prepares teachers to provide instruction specifically designed for talented and gifted (TAG) students. While there is no standard definition of what constitutes a TAG student, the academic label of “gifted” identifies students with an above average intellectual ability, aptitude or competence. Similar to special education programs, most schools offer an option of obtaining your gifted education credentials, which allows new and experienced teachers to add a certificate in TAG onto their existing teaching licensure. Gifted education coursework focuses on political and academic issues of TAG students and differentiated instruction.

Practical Experience

Students pursuing their Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree are required to gain practical experience through student teaching in a school environment related to their area of study. ME students complete this through internships and externships, while MAT students gain this practical experience through fieldwork and student teaching in a K–12 classroom.

Student teaching is a requirement for all students who are obtaining their initial teaching license or for those who are gaining additional certification in a new grade and/or subject level. Student teaching normally spans between one and two semesters and allows students to gain classroom teaching experience in grades and subject areas relevant to their degree. Student teachers’ progress is measured by their cooperating teacher, who acts as a guide and mentor throughout the semester. Your location and school placement are typically determined by your school’s education department.