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What’s the Real Difference Between an M.A., M.A.T. and M.Ed.?

By Lana Whitehead on December 12, 2019

Graduate School Resources Education


If asked to name a career in the education field, people often instinctively think of a traditional classroom teacher. 

Without a doubt, classroom teachers are the lifeblood of education – they are on the frontlines of educating future generations. Educational career options, however, are not limited to the classroom. The field of education requires specialists and behind-the-scenes experts to keep all facets of the educational system working efficiently. For example, every school has a principal and others serving in professional or specialty positions, such as special education teachers and school counselors. There are also those who work to influence the curriculum and culture of the educational system through research and leadership positions. Undoubtedly, the underlying goal of all these careers is a desire to encourage and educate our future leaders.

Want to go into even more depth? Click here to download Your Essential Guide to  Choosing a Graduate Degree in Education and learn more about grad school!

Not surprisingly, there are a few different graduate education degree options that can help you on your desired career path in education. While you can typically get away with a broad degree choice for undergraduate work, graduate degrees require more narrowed focus. The three primary graduate degrees for education are a Master of Arts (M.A.), a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) and a Master of Education (M.Ed.). This article will help you decipher the differences between these degrees and determine which one will be best suited for your desired career path.

What is an M.A.?

While a Master of Arts degree can provide continual training for teachers, it is also the best choice for those who want a career in leadership, research or continued study in a doctoral program. This degree is typically the best option for students who envision themselves outside of the classroom and want to make an impact on the policies and procedures surrounding education.

The M.A. degree offers breadth and depth in the application of the principles to learning and instruction and is tailored to your desired career path. The curriculum for an M.A. degree includes classes on education and advanced coursework in your specific area of study.

Pursuing an M.A. degree at KSU can set you up for the following career paths:

  • Educational researcher
  • Educational psychologist
  • College counselor
  • School psychologist
  • College professor

What is an M.A.T.?

For people interested in educating students in the traditional classroom setting, the Master of Arts in Teaching degree is the appropriate choice. The M.A.T. is also be the best choice for those who have bachelor’s degrees in a non-education major or for people wanting to make a career change and become certified to teach a certain age group or in a specific state. The curriculum focuses on how to teach and includes both classroom and field placement training.

An M.A.T. degree creates the foundation for future teachers in the realm of pedagogy and theory while providing hands-on experience on effectively transmitting information to students.

Pursuing an M.A.T. at KSU will prepare you for the following careers:

  • Kindergarten teacher
  • Elementary teacher
  • High School teacher
  • Community college professor
  • Adult education teacher

What is an M.Ed.?

Finally, the Master of Education degree is most suited for those who desire to work in mid- to upper-level areas of school professional practice. If you want to work in school psychology, educational psychology, school counseling or special education, the M.Ed. is the degree you need. A student’s chosen career path will determine his or her coursework, as well as any licenses and endorsements needed to accompany the degree.

Pursuing a M.Ed. at KSU will prepare you for the following careers:

  • School counselor
  • Special education teacher
  • Educational researcher/analyst
  • Senior curriculum specialist
  • College counselor
  • Instructional coordinator

Choosing the master’s degree in education that’s right for you

While trying to determine which degree to pursue can seem overwhelming, the educational tracks at KSU can help take the guesswork out of selecting the right one. Additionally, whichever path you choose will be tailored to your specific interests and desired career path. For example, the M.A. degree only has one track in educational psychology, but you select your curriculum based on whether you want to continue in a doctoral program or pursue a career in research. 

The M.A.T. option offers two tracks – the M.A.T. in early education for those wanting certification to teach grades K-5 or an M.A.T. in secondary education for those wanting to teach language arts, math, science or social studies for grades 7-12. Those who want to be multi-age teachers in art, dance, foreign language, music and health should also consider an M.A.T. 

The M.Ed. at KSU has four concentrations available – school psychologyschool counselingspecial education and educational psychology. Based on your specific situation and if you are going to school full- or part-time, all of the master’s options typically take less than two years to complete. Furthermore, some of the options will require certifications or field experience. Sitting down with your academic advisor at KSU can help you sort through your options to determine the best path for you based on your specific career goals.

Earning a graduate degree in education will not only increase your earning potential, but it will also make you a more well-rounded, experienced professional who can help shape the future of education. Kent State University offers the M.A., M.A.T. and M.Ed. degree options with specific programs to help you reach your specialized career goals – whether you want to be a classroom teacher, an administrator or a researcher in the field of education. 

Transform your future with a graduate degree in education at KSU

Whether you are already working in the field of education or are hoping to transition into a career as a teacher or in an education-related discipline, know that a graduate degree is a smart, strategic step that offers you a noticeable return on your investment. 

If you have any questions about the degrees mentioned above or about how these education degrees will prepare you for a rewarding career, please feel free to reach out to the admissions team or request more information today. If you are ready and eager to get started on your graduate school journey, you can begin your online application here. We look forward to working with you as you achieve your educational goals!


Download Your Essential Guide to Choosing a Graduate Degree in Education to make a final decision on whether or not an M.A., M.A.T. or M.Ed. is right for you.

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Lana Whitehead
Written by Lana Whitehead

Lana Whitehead is the Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies and the Director of Graduate Admission at Kent State University. Lana attended Northwestern University and enjoyed a consulting career in Chicago before becoming a stay-at-home mom of six children. After earning her master’s degree from Youngstown State University, Lana embarked on a career in higher education. Lana has held positions in academic support, advising, student services and enrollment management. In her free time, Lana enjoys landscaping, gardening and spending time with family.

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Lana Whitehead on December 12, 2019

If asked to name a career in the education field, people often instinctively think of a traditional classroom teacher. 

Without a doubt, classroom teachers are the lifeblood of education – they...

Reply to Lana Whitehead