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Considering a Graduate Degree in Education

Posted on May 07, 2019


Graduate school programs that specialize in education train and prepare you for a profession that is both challenging and worthwhile. The areas of specialization and programs vary widely and encompass a range of topics and fields to choose from, whether it be an elementary school teacher or an educational policy maker. Therefore, it’s important to consider your professional trajectory when researching academic programs in education. Is the program focus theory and research? Or will there be a more practical component to your studies. Check out where alumni of your top programs land after graduation. This can give you an idea of network that will become available to you as well as the span of career opportunities that are out there.

A few examples of professions focused in education include teaching, organizational management, policy making, policy analysis, education administration and advising as well as international education and development opportunities.

For more information about programs and careers in education visit the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education website, HigherEdJobs, NASPA, NAFSA and the

In the International Context

Education is a field of study that is much like health and business; no matter where you go in the world there are a number of options available to you if you are seeking a career in education. Even if you are looking to bring an international twist to the US education system, there are countless possibilities, domestically, as well. You could certainly pursue teaching abroad whether it be the English language or another academic subject. Or you could work domestically with an organization that focuses on global citizenship, international development or global technology. Widely known organizations, such as United Nations for example has programs to build local teacher capacity and improve educational systems abroad.

Education Administration

A degree in Education Administration prepares students to understand educational systems, develop an ability to manage a large number of people and navigate intricate bureaucratic systems. Similar to other administration programs like business, public and health administration, education administration allows you to take classes that will enhance your basic competencies in management, basic budgeting, statistics, and evaluation. These programs really focus on how institutions of learning are managed to keep them operating efficiently and effectively to produce high achieving students. Often times, individuals who are interested in the field of education administration have a dedication to improving the way schools are run in addition to providing access to quality education for all students.

Job Opportunities in the Field

Often, holding an advanced degree in education administration can lead to a higher-level positions in the field, such as a principal, superintendent, director or dean. It can also take you to higher levels of administration in local or state-level, such as the Department of Education, or even international organizations.

For career ideas in education administration visit the Academic Keys website.

Education Policy

The scholarly study of education policy involves the theoretical assessment of the ways in which education policy is determined, and the practical investigation of how that policy can be implemented to improve human lives and prospects. Graduate programs in educational policy studies often encompass a wide range of humanities and social science disciplines in order to explore the moral and cultural purposes of policy as well as the educational procedures available to achieve those purposes. Furthermore, the social and political processes by which the educational purposes and procedures are authorized, and the organizational and cultural factors that affect the implementation of policies are also analyzed and studied. Some of the courses you can expect to explore in these kinds of programs include policy analysis (social and economic theory); context specific classes for policymaking like elementary and secondary education, higher education, international and comparative education; and possible courses in philosophy, history, economics or anthropology.

Much like other programs that focus on policy, education policy focus on developing ways the efficacy of education can be maximized through research into governmental educational policy and the analysis of historical trends in education.

For more information about what a career in education policy might look like, visit the Center for Education Policy website.

Job Opportunities in the Field

Policy experts are often needed in every specialization from environmental to education issues, and it is no surprise that in this field you could find yourself working at the local, state, or national level as a policy analyst or at a university researching the effects of certain policy decisions. Additionally an advanced degree in this field can lead you into a career as a policy analyst, educational researcher, or policy maker.

Higher Education/Student Development and Affairs

Graduate programs in higher education and student affairs provide you with the skills necessary to help students become engaged in their academic and extracurricular activities. You will develop the capacity for integrative learning and application that allows the development of creative solutions to persistent and unanticipated problems that affect student and institutional performance as well as student and organizational learning and development. You will likely explore topics in educational, teaching, and leadership practices; resource management associated with supervision and advising students; and institutional environments and cultures.

Job Opportunities in the Field

A degree in this field often produces qualified administrative leaders in postsecondary institutions, researchers, and faculty members that can include but are not limited to positions like deans, university administrators and policy analysts. For people who are particularly interested in student development and affairs, it is often the case they pursue careers in human resource administration, college administration, counseling, and/or advising.

For more information about a career in student affairs you can read the following article: Considering a Career in Student Affairs by Dr. PatrickLove.

Comparative and International Education

These programs offer a special niche in education that focuses on providing guidance and insight to students interested in internationalizing their educational experience. These programs equip students to internationalize educational systems. Often times this field is associated with study abroad, and other international opportunities, such as interning, working or volunteering overseas.

Theses programs are designed to create opportunities for a range of people - administrators and policy makers in social welfare, health education, and development; school leaders; and scholars of education. Often, this field of expertise is coupled with another area of focus like counseling, administration, or teaching.

For more information about international education visit the NAFSA Association of International Educators website.

Job Opportunities in the Field

The opportunities in this area of study have increased significantly in the past 10 years or so as people have sought to better understand our globalizing world. Obtaining an advanced degree in international education can take you to a career as an educator, study abroad advisor, or study abroad program director, but it can also lead you down the path of working in development, capacity building, and teacher training both at home and abroad.


When we think about education, the first image that comes to mind is the schoolteacher who made the most impact on our lives. Teachers are the front line of the education system and really carry out the every-day duties that train young people like you to become productive members of society. In order to teach in the K-12 system, aspiring teachers must receive their teaching certification prior to applying to a full-time position. This certification provides you with the knowledge and certification you need to teach in public schools. Following graduation from the certification program, there is the option to continue your education to seek a master’s degree or a PhD.

Job Opportunities in the Field

Though it may seem straightforward that when you study teaching you become a teacher, the job opportunities are little more diverse that you might think. You could work as a teacher, a director of an after school program, a director of an early education program (pre-school) or even as a teaching assistant. If you decide to pursue an advanced degree in teaching, you should research the ‘best practices’ in your specialization.

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