MAT vs MEd Degree Differences + Which is Best?

Earning your graduate degree is a very good way for a teacher to accelerate their career. A master’s degree can help you to obtain a position of higher authority and responsibility, as well as provide a nice bump in salary.

There are two major master’s degrees that teachers typically consider. The first is a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), and the other is the Master of Education (M.Ed).

What Is a Master of Arts in Teaching?

The MAT is a master’s that is focused on improving and developing your classroom teaching skills. An MAT is the common choice for experienced teachers who want to become better at their craft. The MAT will provide you with skills with the latest teaching theories and methods.

Some teachers also will use the MAT degree experience to change their teaching track. For example, an elementary school teacher with 10 years of work experience may earn her MAT and focus on teaching high school or even community college.

Coursework in the MAT program focuses on advanced teaching principles for experienced teachers, and how to work more effective one and one and in groups of students. Other focuses may be on curriculum development, technology and instruction, and modern methods of teaching.

Teachers who want to earn an MAT and work in elementary education can choose that specialty in their program. Or, you may want to focus on secondary education. Whatever you choose, courses will be required in your subject area, whether it is English, mathematics, history or science.

The MAT program also will feature both field time and classroom teaching time.

Typical learning outcomes of an MAT program are:

  • Gain deep knowledge in sociological and psychological theories and how they apply to the K-12 classroom
  • Learn modern frameworks for providing effective instruction for all learners
  • Understand advanced instructional strategies that are designed to teach a diverse student body
  • Learn literacy and language theories that inform global and national education reform
  • Learn theories to design effective curriculum
  • Master applications of instructional techniques and theories

Many MAT programs will prepare you for licensure in your or many states. It is important to verify with the program you are considering that it will prepare you for state licensure for your specific state.

What Is a Master of Education?

A master of education is a different type of education-related advanced degree. This master’s program is focused on education professionals who want to get out of the classroom and focus on the education system.

Many teachers still teach while they earn their M.Ed degree. However, earning that degree frequently will create many more job opportunities that involve education administration or management. Some M.Ed program also have tracks for teaching, but the general emphasis is on leadership and management.

Many who earn an M.Ed work as an education administrator or principal. Others may decide to become a high school or college counselor with this master’s. There also are work opportunities for these degree holders in creating curriculum for organizations that want to get materials and textbooks chosen for schools, colleges and universities.

One of the interesting aspects of a master’s degree in education is that you have the chance to choose a variety of specialities. It is very common for students to choose educational administration, but there are other options as well:

  • Educational leadership
  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Teaching English language learners
  • School counseling
  • Educational technology

Typical coursework required in an M.Ed program that is focused on administration and leadership include:

  • Principalship
  • Understanding Research in Education
  • Data-Driven Leadership
  • Education in American Society
  • Education Law
  • Human Resource Management
  • School Resource Management
  • Students in Society
  • Special Education Leadership
  • Staff Evaluation & Development
  • Instructional Strategies & Model

3+ Online Master’s in Education Options

Students considering either an MAT or an M.Ed degree may want to consider these solid options:

Liberty University – MAT

Liberty University offers an online Master of Arts in Teaching that is made to provide you with the advanced training that is needed to earn teaching licensure in elementary, secondary or special education. This also is an appropriate degree for experienced teachers who want to improve their teaching skills so they can move into a higher paying teaching position.

This two year, online degree builds upon your knowledge of education, human development and instructional technologies. The program has been accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or NCATE. It also is a state-approved program for initial teaching licensure. Students should verify that this program is suitable for licensure in their state.

The program consists of 36 total hours, and 50% of program hours can be transferred, if allowed by the university. Also required is a three credit hour internship and student teaching portion.

Students may select a speciality in these areas:

  • Elementary Education
  • Middle Grades
  • Secondary Education
  • Special Education

Some of the required courses are:

  • Learning Theory
  • Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education
  • Foundations of Exceptionality
  • Tests and Measurements
  • Student Teaching
  • Curriculum Fundamentals
  • Principles of Behavior Management

Liberty University – M.Ed

Liberty University also offers an M.Ed degree that is accredited by the NCATE. This two year, online degree program will provide you with the skills to be an educational leader in Christian, public or private schools. Coursework is available that will provide you with the focused training you need to seek a leadership role in K-12 education.

This is also a 36 credit hour program, and all who are seeking teaching licensure must complete a three hour internship and student teaching program.

This program offers three tracks: administration and supervision; math specialist and reading specialist. The most common track chosen is administration and supervision.

This track is made to provide the experienced educator with a full understanding of functional administration by offering you the skills and tools that are needed to lead as an educational supervisor. Students master high level skills in school law, financial management, and administration. Students take courses in:

  • Supervision of instruction
  • Principles of behavior management
  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Educational leadership

Arizona State University – M.Ed

Arizona State University offers a highly regarded, online Master of Education in Educational Leadership. Students learn to successfully manage curriculum development, interpret test results, interact effectively with parents, teachers and educational stakeholders, and to help teachers to achieve the goals of the educational facility.

This is an ideal program for the experienced educator who wants to become a principal, but wants to complete most of the coursework online.

All options in the program have been designed to meet Arizona state requirements for principal or supervision certification. Students who want certification in another state should verify with their state department of education regarding licensure requirements there.

Some of the highlights of this college of education and teacher’s college:

  • Top tier college of education, according to US News and World Report; it was ranked the #14 graduate education program in 2017
  • Undergraduate students have a 92% employability rate after graduation
  • Ranked #11 by US News for best graduate colleges of education both private and public. It was ranked the #4 public college education department

Required courses include:

  • Competency and Performance in Educational Administration
  • American Education System
  • Leadership in Curriculum and Assessment
  • Instructional Supervision
  • Family and Community Connections
  • School Finance and HR
  • Critical Issues in Educational Leadership

All students also participate in a one year, school based educational leadership internship.


Earning an MAT or M.Ed degree is a good choice for increasing your career opportunities in education. It is important to decide if you see yourself primarily as a teacher, or an educational professional who wants to move into a variety of leadership positions in the future. Once you decide that, you should have a good idea about the best degree for you.

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