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Master of Arts in Teaching vs. MS in Education: What’s the Difference?

Making the right choice between an MS in Education and a Master of Arts in Teaching depends a lot on where you are in your teaching career and what you want to get out of it.

Teacher shortages are an increasing problem across the U.S.1 We simply don’t have enough qualified teachers to meet the demand. What’s the solution? Produce more teachers or help current teachers develop their skills to advance within the profession.

Teachers who seek additional education beyond their bachelor’s degree are able to take on leadership roles and move toward administrative roles in schools of education. In both cases, master’s-level education degrees can play a significant role. After all, graduate programs for teachers are the most direct way to train teachers and ensure the profession has the qualified professionals needed to staff U.S. schools.


If you’re a teacher looking to advance your career and increase your earnings, or if you’re considering changing careers to become a teacher, you’ve probably looked into earning an advanced teaching degree. But do you know which degree is best for you?

Two of the most common master’s degrees in education include the MS in Education (MSEd) and the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). Here’s how they differ.

Difference in Focus

Choosing the right master’s in education for you has everything to do with where you are in your teaching career. If you’re an experienced teacher looking to improve your teaching strategies and position yourself for career advancement, an MSEd degree is the perfect choice, as it’s geared toward licensed teachers with classroom experience. If you hold a bachelor’s degree but are currently working in a field other than education, a Master of Arts in Teaching is the better choice for you, as it can help you gain the fundamental educational skills and experience you’ll need to become licensed and succeed in the classroom.

Difference in Specializations

Many MSEd degree programs give you the option to focus on a specific area of education, allowing you to hone your skills. Common specializations include those focused on subject areas (such as Mathematics Grades 5-8 and Elementary Reading and Literacy) and those focused on school/educational issues (such as Educational Leadership and Administration and Integrating Technology in the Classroom).

Many MAT programs allow you to specialize as well. However, instead of helping you to hone specific skills, these programs are designed to help you acquire the necessary skills to begin a teaching career in an in-demand educational area such as a STEM field or special education. Deciding between a Master of Arts in Teaching vs. an MS in Education can depend on which program covers the skills you wish to acquire.

Difference in Courses

The difference in a Master of Arts in Teaching vs. an MS in Education can be seen at the course level. Again, while MSEd and MAT programs both feature core courses focused on education, MSEd courses are geared toward experienced teachers while MAT courses are geared toward those who have not yet begun a teaching career.

Examples of MSEd core courses include:

Teacher as Professional: Focuses on what it means to be a teacher leader in today’s diverse and changing education landscape, while helping experienced teachers gain expertise in current research-based educational advancements.

Enhancing Learning for Diverse Populations: Explores the value of linguistic and cultural diversity and the powerful learning opportunities it affords today’s classrooms.

Action Research for Educators: Focuses on designing and implementing action research in order to address relevant problems, become involved in collaborative inquiry, use data and research to inform educational practice, improve student academic success, and/or contribute to positive social change in a classroom and school environment.

Examples of MAT core courses include:

Teacher as Lifelong Learner and Professional Educator: Provides an orientation to the skills, understandings, strategies, and knowledge necessary to become a successful learner; and an overview of the foundations for becoming a professional educator, including knowledge of child development.

Effective Practices: Assessment, Teaching, and Learning: Examines the interrelationships between assessment, teaching, and learning, as well as effective practices for applying and integrating these critical components in the classroom.

Classroom Management: Focuses on developing the skills needed to foster a sense of community in the classroom and positive relationships with and among students.

Choosing a School of Education

Once you’ve settled on which master’s degree to earn—Master of Arts in Teaching vs. MS in Education—the next question is where to earn your degree. Whether you want to enroll in an MS in Education program or a Master of Arts in Teaching program, you can do so at an online university and take advantage of all the conveniences online education offers.

To begin with, when you earn a master’s in education online, you don’t have to live close to a campus. In fact, you don’t even have to drive to class. Instead, an online master’s in education program will allow you to complete courses from home or anywhere else you have internet access. On top of that, online learning gives you the flexibility to schedule your studies for whatever time of day works best for your life. That means it’s possible to continue working full time while earning your degree.

The U.S. needs more teachers, and online education can help you become one of those teachers or take your current teaching career further.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Education and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,