When Should I Go Back to School to Get My Master’s Degree?

“For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. “

-Proverbs 2:6 NIV

The Importance of Continuing Your Education

As educators, we are looking forward to the start of summer and rightly so! You have earned it! For some of us the start of summer might mean relaxing by the pool, going on vacations, or starting up a summer job. Others of us are looking to use this time to start working on furthering our education toward a master’s degree. There are many benefits to furthering our education including increased salary, license renewal, and become a specialist in a certain area of education. Even though there are many benefits, it might be beneficial to wait on starting up school again.

Increasing your Salary

Not everything is about money, but when you are just starting out, every little bit helps. As you continue to add credits after a bachelor’s degree, you will get a bump in pay along with the step(s)/years you have been teaching. The chart below is a sample of what your district might have in regards to pay scale increases using steps/years of service and across the top is the level of education.

Let’s look at step 1 for example. If you are just coming out of college and you land your first job, you might make around $39,289 in this particular district. If you had a master’s degree at this same step, you would start out making $42,724. This is a difference of $3,435. This may not seem like a lot, but the longer you work, the wider the gap becomes.

Let’s say you have worked for the same district for 5 years now and you are on step D. If you have a bachelor’s degree you would now be making $42,854. If you had your master’s degree after 5 years of service then you would be making $46, 616. This would be a difference of $3,762 per year.

As you continue to look down the pay scale, you will find that the gap widens each year. Financially it makes sense to increase you salary as quickly as you can to take advantage of the step increases and your degree should pay for itself in a few years.

Continuing Education Credits

Almost all states require new teachers to submit a certain amount of professional development hours in order to receive their professional license and/or renewal of their professional license. College courses typically transfer over and will give you a lot of license renewal credit hours. For example, if you need 150 professional development hours over 5 years to renew your professional license, you might only need to take 6 college courses to reach that amount of hours if 1 college course equals 25 professional development credits. Check with your district, but if you have to get the hours anyway, you might as well get some of your classes done as well!

Becoming an Expert in a Specialized Field

Completing a master’s program can open many doors and allow you to develop your passions in education. There are many different programs to consider. Before you choose a program, think about your long-term goals. Where do you see yourself in 10-15 years? If you see leadership in your future and want to become a principal, then a master’s program in educational leadership may be for you. Perhaps you want to be able to service students with special needs in your classroom better. You might consider a special education master’s degree with an emphasis on Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Emotional Impairments.

Before you decide on a major, consult with other educators in your building as well as faculty members at the college or university you are thinking about attending. Get a feel for the options this degree will give you once you are finished with the program. No matter what you decide on, you will be even more of an asset to your district, colleagues, and most importantly, your students.

Why You Should Wait to Get A Master’s Degree

Getting a master’s is a great idea…when the time is right. There is a time for everything and sometimes we might need to pause and get other aspects of our life in order so the master’s degree will be a blessing for us rather than a burden for you and your family. Here are a few reasons to hold off temporarily on getting that degree:

  • Getting Ready For the Next Year– It takes a while to get settled in with teaching in a new district. You may want to take the summer to build up some of your curriculum resources and collaborate with your colleagues to start the year off well.
  • Major Life Events– Planning a wedding or perhaps having a baby will be huge events in your life. It is worth pausing for a while to get used to being married or trying to get some sleep with a new born around. You won’t be able to get that time back! I know I would rather be spending time with my new bride or child than working on college classes!
  • Still Paying off Other Debts– I am all for getting a master’s degree…if you can afford it. There are very expensive schools that you can attend and less expensive. Pick one that you can afford! Check out this list of 30 Top Affordable Master’s Degrees for some guidance.I also feel strongly that you should cash flow your education. From my personal experience, tacking on another student loan to other school debt just digs a deeper hole. This hole gets deeper because the interest payments you accrue as you go through school. Get debt free other than your house first, then cash flow your schooling. You may have to pick up a side job for a while, but the degree will be much more rewarding when it is completed.

Overall there are many benefits to continuing our education to help others as well as ourselves. We can become experts in a specialized field, increase our salary, and also get continuing education credits. I am a believer that with everything there is a season, so make sure this is the right season to start that degree by making sure you can afford it as well as being able to strike a balance between school, work, and family. Good luck in furthering your education!

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