Teaching is more than just a vocation in life – it’s also about the individual teacher undergoing a personal learning journey, improving practice, understanding aspects of education, or reflecting upon everyday classroom experiences. As most teachers are duly qualified, after completing a degree course, there are individuals who want to continue to pursue further educational qualifications, with the next academic step being to pursue a Masters course – usually in an educational area.
But apart from the title, what are the pros and cons in embarking on a Masters course, especially when juggling your life and job?
P1. Can be undertaken part-time
Although some Masters programmes can be taken full-time, most providers now offer part-time courses, which can be taken alongside your career. This flexibility allows you to timetable your own workload but can demand at least 3-4 hours per week. If you undertook a PGCE, you may be able to transfer ‘points’ into a Masters qualification.
P2. Can shine a light on your current practice and policies
Most Masters programmes are set in theory, policy alignment, and critical analysis. You can specialise in different aspects of education, such as leadership, curriculum development, special needs, or a collection of other specific areas. Choose areas, or courses, that are relevant to you, and will help inform future developments in your career.
P3. Become an expert in your area
Supported by your experiences and final qualification, you can become better honed in the area you chose to focus on in your studies, helping you speak with authority and respect. Aligned with being a practising educator, you can become well versed at strategies that work in teaching, or further enhance your reputation in your specialist area. Being reflective, and becoming a more critical thinker will help you develop further professionally.
P4. Allows access to journal and research materials
If taken with a reputable university, you will not only have access to the comprehensive course materials but also most institutions give you access to online journals, books and research data that is usually hidden behind expensive payment walls. Searching and accessing research materials is relatively simple, and it is always interesting to see recent research findings, and how they can impact on your practice.
P5. You don’t have to take a Masters in Education
Your degree qualification might be in a specialist area, and you may retain a passion in your subject, so explore other Master’s programmes which focus on this area. Explore other Master programmes in your specialist area, as this might broaden your career prospects outside the teaching profession – it’s good to keep your options open.
P6. A personal sense of achievement
To many, this is the main reason for taking a Masters qualification. Building up your academic qualifications shows your commitment to learning and self-improvement. Fundamentally, it’s all about that personal sense of achievement for many, as gaining a postgraduate qualification is no easy accomplishment. At the end of the day, you have to want to gain such as qualification yourself, as it will all boil down to the work you complete. The motivation needs to be internal.
Taking a Masters degree will cost. In England, there is now loan support for postgraduate study which is worth exploring. However, an outlet in payment might need to be made, so get ready for costs which will make you take a sharp intake of breath. Some employers may support you financially but could be tied up with a commitment to the establishment once completed. Weigh up the financial costs and support available, and have the conversation with your line managers – if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
C2. A lone commitment
This all depends on the University provider you choose. Many Masters courses are now delivered through distance learning and online, so undertaking the reading and completing the tasks can be a lonely process. Some course providers to offer weekend supplements to help form discussions, guidance and support in completing expected tasks, but this can also be an additional cost on top of the course fees.
C3. Demands self-discipline
When working on an element of your Master’s study, you’ll suddenly be aware of how untidy your surrounding are, experiencing the urge to vacuum the floor, wash the clothes, or go out and do some gardening. Welcome to the world of procrastination! Be aware of such temptations and distractions, and take steps to ensure you are in the right place to get reading and writing done, both psychologically and physically.
C4. Taking a Masters is not a guarantee to help climb the professional ladder
Upon completion, don’t expect any pay rise, or climb up to the next level in your work-place (unless this was guaranteed to you, in writing). Some professions require Masters qualifications, such as University Lecturer, so consideration is needed as to what doors the achievement may (or may not) offer.
We’re not going to suggest or recommend any particular Masters programmes here, as that would be disingenuous to you and your specialism. Researching courses is only a simple online search away, and you’ll know how you learn best, so be sure to check out how the programmes are delivered, and that you are happy with the approaches on offer. Completing a Masters is very rewarding, but it does take time, commitment and a passion to learn, so it’s down to you in what you are wanting to achieve professionally and personally.
Research what is on offer, and choose wisely.