You have received your teaching certification, and now you are ready to move on to either a Master of Arts in Teaching or a Master’s in Education. At this time, it is not required to have a master’s degree to begin teaching. However, states such as Ohio, New York, and Massachusetts demand the completion of a master’s degree within five years of signing on. Depending on whether you are going full or part-time, many MA programs are completable in two years or less. Consider the impact higher education will have on your financial situation. Take into account the money coming in, as well as the money going out.
Greater Earning Potential
It is no secret that furthering your education pays you back by providing you with greater earning potential. Matthew M. Chingos is the Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Research Director of its Brown Center on Education Policy. In the June 2014 paper, “Who Profits from the Master’s Degree Pay Bump for Teachers?”, he writes, “Ninety-six percent of the 112 major U.S. school districts included in the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) Teacher Contract Database pay teachers with MA degrees more than those with BA degrees, with an average difference of $3,205 in the first year of teaching, $4,176 in the fifth year, and $8,411 at the top of the salary schedule.”The promise of higher pay is a great incentive for many teachers to get their advanced degree.
The Cost of the Program
Yes, you will earn more money, but you may have to take out further student loans in order to cover the cost of obtaining your master’s degree. Moreover, at this point, you may already be making payments on the loans you took out when you were working towards your BA. Doubling up on loan payments is no easy feat, and will certainly eat into that salary increase. In fact, in the same paper, Mr. Chingos writes, “the teacher has to hand over his MA pay increase every year for five years in order to cover the cost of the program.” Ouch. The good news is that you will eventually come out ahead, and the degree will increase your pay for the remainder of your career.
While it can be difficult to swing two loan payments, it is possible to manage the repayment process. The following suggestions will help you stay out of default and build good credit in the process:
- Make each payment on time. It is important to make every payment on time in order to avoid late fees, added interest, and negative marks against your credit history.
- Make extra loan payments whenever possible. If you have received a tax return or a work bonus, make an additional payment to reduce your debt and get your loan paid off faster.
- Call your lender if you think you are going to default. If you have an issue and feel like you might run into trouble with your payments, call your lender immediately to go over deferment options.
- Turn to a credit counselor. If you are having trouble balancing your debt, turn to a credit counselor for advice.
It is worth the time and money to get your MA if your state requires it or you are planning on being an educator for more than five years. You may have to balance your budget carefully for a while, but it is possible, and in the long run you’ll come out on top.