Master's degrees help educators navigate changing roles - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Master's degrees help educators navigate changing roles

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(ARA) - Education is the second largest industry in the United States, and nearly everyone is impacted by its professionals in some way.

Unfortunately, budget cuts have forced many states to cut faculty size and increase classroom size in K-12 schools. These changes have put educators under increased pressure to meet new demands while also staying abreast of evolving industry trends and regulations.

The industry is also transitioning to a performance-based work culture, and expectations have increased for most educators, prompting many to explore the process of earning a master's degree in education.

"As in many fields, advanced degrees can increase the marketability of professionals in education," says Brian D. Bethune, dean of the College of Media Arts & Technology, DeVry University. "Many educators find that a master's degree gives them increased job security or greater opportunity for mobility."

In addition to preparing current K-12 educators with training and credentials that may open doors to leadership roles within a school system, master's degrees are also an attractive option for students with a range of undergraduate degrees and career backgrounds who are interested in transitioning to roles that support K-12 learning.

Other master's candidates in education are simply working toward the possibility of increased compensation. According to the 2010-11 edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, getting a master's degree often results in a pay raise.

Some adult learners - such as current teachers who have full-time jobs - prefer the flexibility of online learning options, choosing master's degree programs that blend seamlessly with their busy lifestyles.

DeVry University, for example, offers a Master of Science in Education degree program through its College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. With specializations in Curriculum Leadership, Educational Leadership, and Educational Technology Leadership, the program helps prepare graduates for career success in an evolving industry.

"Educators with the knowledge to incorporate new and emerging media into K-12 classrooms are in particularly high demand," Bethune said. "In fact, at least $900 million in funding is designated for numerous technology initiatives through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as outlined by the Department of Education."

Students enrolled in the DeVry University Master of Science in Education degree program can gain a broad understanding of management, instructional leadership, policy, research and media in the context of K-12 educational environments.

Like many higher education providers, DeVry University also offers graduate certificate options with the same admissions requirements. Such programs are ideal for students who wish to enhance their skill set and gain additional knowledge in the education field, but who do not want to complete the master's degree program.

Graduates of a master's degree program in education may go on to become educational consultants, specialists or educational leaders such as principals or superintendents. Others become instructional coordinators, developing curricula, training teachers and assessing educational programs for quality and adherence to regulations.

Employment for these professionals is expected to grow 23 percent from 2008-2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A nationwide cultural shift has highlighted the need for educators with specializations, as well as management and business training. While master's degree programs in education can help professionals in the field to navigate the shrinking job market, they may also benefit educators' ability to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of their expanding role.