The answer to that question depends on a number of other questions: What are your current responsibilities and obligations? Are you able to quit your job to attend school or do you need to keep it? Do you have children or other family members whom you must be near? Do you have your heart set on a certain school or program? Are you comfortable using technology?
These are all questions to ask yourself when determining whether you should pursue your Master of Arts in Teaching online or on-campus, because neither can be the perfect answer for everyone.
Who Should Get an Online MAT?
The benefits of an online degree program include flexibility, convenience, and accessibility. Therefore, an online MAT is the best fit for those students who are pressed for time, who want to access a program from a far-away campus or who can’t (or simply don’t want to) leave their professional or personal obligations to relocate for school. You can take online classes at home – or from your desk after work or your hotel on vacation – and the time commitment is limited to lives classes, homework, and studying. No commuting to class is required. That makes online MAT programs a great fit for:
- Full-time workers;
- Parents who work or stay at home;
- Those who can’t relocate or commute to school;
- Those who live far from a desired program with an online component.
An online MAT may also allow students to obtain their degrees faster than otherwise possible at a traditional on-campus program. The logistics of commuting could force an on-campus student to pursue his or her degree part-time, while the flexibility and convenience of an online program could allow that same student to take a full-time course load. The difference between pursuing an MAT full-time and a part-time could be the difference of earning your degree in one year or three!
But again, that’s not to say an online MAT program is right for everyone. For one thing, not every school offers an online version of their MAT program. So if you already have a specific school in mind and it’s on-campus only, an online program is, of course, out of the question. The same goes for people who highly value in-person interaction in their classes. Perhaps you spend all day in front of a computer and would rather prefer lectures in a room full of classmates. If that sounds like you, you might get more out of a traditional program.
A key difference between traditional and online MAT programs is the coursework experience. Depending on the program you enroll in, your experience will vary, but the best programs shouldn’t differ drastically in terms of their coursework. Much like the distinction between in-class assignments and homework in a traditional on-campus program, online programs have synchronous and asynchronous elements.
- Synchronous elements require real-time interaction through tools like text chat, voice chat and video conferencing.
- Asynchronous elements can be addressed at your leisure, like reading documents, viewing presentations, listening to audio files or watching videos.
E-mails, discussion boards, social networks, collaborative documents and e-portfolios are also asynchronous elements. Like homework in a regular classroom, these offline components support the online curriculum. You’ll be expected to have watched lectures and completed homework assignments prior to attending live class sessions so you’re ready to participate in discussions and other in-class activities.
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 inside and outside the classroom, provides you with greater career options and the opportunity to earn a higher salary.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2015, common job titles and employment figures for MAT-related occupations include:
- Kindergarten and elementary school teachers: 1.5 million jobs
- Middle school teachers: 627,500 jobs
- High school teachers: 961,600 jobs
- Special education teachers: 450,700 jobs
- Career and technical education teachers: 231,800 jobs
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2015, median annual salaries and employment growth through 2024 for MAT-related occupations are:
- Kindergarten and elementary school teachers: $54,550, 6%
- Middle school teachers: $55,860, 6%
- High school teachers: $57,000, 6%
- Special education teachers: $56,800, 6%
- Career and technical education teachers: $52,800, 4%
Choosing your specialization will narrow down the type of workplace you might land in, but if you need inspiration, check out our interview series with former teachers who moved into new careers with additional education:
- Teacher to Teacher Resources Entrepreneur: 8 Questions with Betsy Weigle
- From Teacher to Tech-Savvy Principal: 8 Questions with Jeff Herb