Changing Careers with a Masters in Teaching

The Master of Arts in Teaching degree (MAT) was created to serve two purposes.  The first is to allow working teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree to acquire advanced teaching skills.  The other is to allow people who hold a bachelor’s degree in some field other than education and that have no experience in the field, to make a career change and become teachers.  For the uninitiated – that is, those who wish to break into the teaching profession – the MAT is generally a two year program.

There are several areas of specialization open to students who enroll in an MAT program, and we have listed several of them below.  Some of them have more stringent undergraduate requirements than others as you will see when you scan this list.  But in general the MAT is a remarkably effective option for those who wish to break into teaching after having completed college preparing for some other area of endeavor.  Some universities want to see their MAT applicants present evidence of experience working with children and/or adolescents.

1.      Elementary School Teacher: Students with a liberal arts degree or virtually any of the sciences will qualify for this MAT specialization.  The only undergraduate degree that may not meet academic prerequisites for this field is the MFA.

2.      Middle School Teacher Mathematics: The undergraduate prerequisites for teaching in this field aren’t as strong as those for teaching math in high school.  Anyone with an undergraduate degree in engineering or a field such as sociology where statistics play an integral role should meet the prerequisites or come close

3.      Middle School Teacher Language Arts: Applicants who wish to specialize in this area will need a BA in English, Writing, Journalism or Literature.  There are a few undergraduate prerequisite courses, usually including composition and an introductory course in the English language.

4.      Middle School Teacher Science: This specialization requires nine to fifteen undergraduate credit hours in biology, chemistry, one of the earth sciences (geology, oceanography, etc.) and physics.  Applicants who are strong in one or two of these areas can make up the rest prior to enrollment and may be in the process of applying to an MAT program while doing so.

5.      High School Teacher Mathematics: The level of mathematical skills required for teaching in this field at this level generally requires substantial exposure to algebra, calculus and statistics.  Undergraduate majors in math, statistics, economics and some engineering fields are best suited for this MAT option.

6.      High School Teacher Sciences: It’s difficult to meet the prerequisites for a MAT program in biology without an undergraduate degree in biology or perhaps a biotech major of some sort.  The same is true of high school physics and high school chemistry.  MAT applicants for these specializations usually have career backgrounds in research in an industrial or institutional environment.

7.      High School Teacher Arts: Most teachers in the arts have completed an undergraduate degree in Art History or a MFA in one of the studio arts.  A good MFA program provides exposure to all of the studio arts prior to the student focusing on a major pursuit, so it’s a good degree for background applicable to a MAT in Arts Education.

8.      Social Studies Teacher: This specialization may apply to both middle school and secondary school licensing requirements.  Applicants must have an undergraduate degree in one of the social sciences: Anthropology, economics, history, geography, international relations, political science, psychology or sociology.

9.      Special Education Teacher: There are several sub-specializations in this field, broken out by age group and by the particular challenges students may be facing such as physical disabilities, cognitive problems, behavioral issues and neurological damage.  Specializations such as these are generally taught in Master of Education (M.Ed.) programs.  MAT special education programs focus on general curriculum and adapted curriculum.

10.  Early Childhood Education Teacher: This is another field that does not have terribly stringent undergraduate study requirements for MAT applicants.  Evidence of working with children is definitely a plus and in some cases a requirement.  An undergraduate degree in psychology would be an excellent fit.

There are several excellent online masters in teaching programs available today, as options for working teachers and for those who wish to make teaching a career change. The range of specialization options extends well beyond what we’ve listed here; visit our site for comprehensive information.