Often, when presenting seminars on the teacher job search, I am asked if a newly credentialed teacher should immediately pursue a master’s degree. Because the pay scale is higher for teachers who hold a graduate degree, teacher candidates assume that having the graduate degree puts them at a disadvantage. My ambiguous reply to the question is “It depends.”
Most of the school site and HR officials I have asked tell me that a highly qualified, desirable candidate would not be rejected on the basis of starting salary. However, a master’s holder with very limited classroom experience would not rank highly in comparison to a teacher with proven classroom skills without that level of education. What schools need are teachers with effective classroom management skills, who can collaborate with colleagues and families to facilitate the best possible learning experience for students. For newly certified teachers this typically translates into gaining teaching experience rather than acquiring specialized pedagogy. Classroom experience is needed for skills to improve.
That is not to say that the graduate degree is without value. But it is beneficial in the learning process to be able to relate the material to actual experience. Remember to keep a balance between professional development and on-the-job experience. I have counseled more than one teacher who was having extreme difficulty in the teacher job search because he was more focused on getting his own education while working in retail sales, rather than demonstrating his commitment to the profession and passion for teaching through substitute teaching or even volunteering at a school. It’s important to make those important connections in the field and show the administrators and other teachers what you can do.
--Diana Sanchez, Career Counselor, California State University San Marcos and
AAEE, Director of Professional Development
The opinions expressed in Career Corner are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.