Earning a master's in education is the pathway to many rewarding teaching careers, but it's important to understand the factors that can affect your timeline. Some students may be okay with a longer program that offers more flexibility to continue working during their education, whereas others may want an accelerated program that gets them into the field as quickly as possible.

Here's an overview of how long it takes to get a master's degree in education, as well as the factors that impact this timeline.

How long does it take to earn a master’s degree in education?

A master's degree in education typically requires students to complete a certain number of credit hours to graduate. Most programs require between 30 and 36 credits to earn the degree, which can take anywhere from one to three years to complete, depending on various factors.

Some of these factors include:

  • Part- or full-time study: If you're enrolled full-time, you can complete your degree in as little as one year, while part-time students often take two to three years to complete the program in lieu of other obligations.
  • Online, in-person, or hybrid learning: Choosing an online or hybrid program can accelerate your timeline since the flexibility of online courses allows you to easily fit your education into your existing schedule.
  • Curriculum: Program length can also be impacted by curriculum and course requirements. Additional mandatory courses or specific electives could increase the time required to complete the program.
  • Prior knowledge: Prior knowledge and experience in education-related fields can allow some students to test out of certain courses and reduce the total number of required credit hours.

The amount of time it takes you to complete your master's degree can also vary based on your specific needs. For this reason, here’s an overview of the steps you can take in determining the right timeline for you.

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How to Determine Your Master’s Degree in Education Timeline

1. Find the Right School

The first step is to find the school that best fits your professional needs. For example, if you hope to immediately become a teacher post-graduation, it's essential to select a state-approved program, such as Regis College. These programs ensure you are qualified to obtain teaching licensure in the state in which you hope to work.

In addition, it's important to find a program that meets your individual needs. “I recommend all students try to find a program that works for them both personally and professionally,” says Priscilla Boerger, program director of Regis College's master's in teaching special education.

In-person instruction can often be a barrier for some students who want to attend school full-time but currently struggle with work-life balance. For these students, a hybrid option like the one offered at Regis College is often the solution. This learning model combines the benefits of in-person instruction with the flexibility of online learning.

Regardless of the choice you make, it's important to do your research ahead of time. “I think you should always talk to someone at the school before you apply,” says Boerger. “If you want to learn more about the program, don't just go on the website or the course catalog. Talk to somebody and tell them what you're looking for and if it's something they can offer you.”

2. Choose Between Part- and Full-Time Instruction

The choice of whether to enroll as a full- or part-time student can significantly impact both the time it takes to complete a master's degree in education and the intensity of the coursework.

Here’s an overview of some differences you can expect in the instruction:

  • Full-time students are able to complete the program quicker than part-time students because they are able to enroll in more courses each semester that have a more in-depth and intensive workload. As a result, it allows students to fully immerse themselves in their studies and engage more deeply with the course material.
  • Part-time students are able to balance their education with other life and work responsibilities because they have a much lighter and less demanding workload. This can be beneficial for those who need to focus on work or family while enrolled and need a less stressful educational option.

Accelerated programs, such as the one offered by Regis College, are designed for students who want to complete their degree as quickly as possible without sacrificing coursework quality. These programs are rigorous and intense, which typically results in a heavy workload.

The benefit of accelerated programs, however, is that they can help students save both time and money by entering the workforce sooner than their peers. At Regis, the master’s in education timeline options offered are either a one-year, full-time accelerated program or a year-and-a-half, part-time course.

Whether you choose part- or full-time instruction, it's important to note that even part-time students will need to commit to full-time student teaching toward the end of the program.

3. Establish Your Program Start Date

Once you've picked the right school and decided between part- and full-time study, the next step is to determine your program start date. It's common to start programs in the fall, but that isn't necessarily the best option in all cases. For example, at Regis College, it's better to wait for the summer to enroll in their master's in teaching special education.

“The best time to start this program is summer," says Boerger. "While we do accept students in the fall, they won't be able to do student teaching in the spring—which is when that usually takes place."

With this in mind, it's important to research the best option for your school so you're able to determine the best start date for your desired timeline. To do this, it's always best to reach out to an admission counselor or faculty member to inform that decision.

4. Make a Decision About Licensure Testing

Make sure you research the state requirements for teaching in the state in which you hope to teach. The tests you need to take are largely determined by the specific teaching field you want to enter.

According to Boerger, the tests are difficult but worthwhile. "We encourage our students to take them either before they start the program or as they're going through the master’s program,” she explains.

In Massachusetts, prospective teachers need to take the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL). Even if your desired field doesn't require them, Boerger recommends students pursue licensure anyway. "Get the license and pass those MTELs," she advises. "It makes you much more marketable."

Start Your Career in Special Education

Once you've taken the necessary steps to determine your timeline, it's important to select a program that accommodates your needs. For example, if you're interested in becoming a special education teacher, Regis College's master's in teaching special education might be the perfect option for you.

“I think special education is such an important topic," explains Boerger. "Because of that, prospective teachers really need a program that they're really going to get the most out of."

With an accelerated timeline to ensure both first-time and current teachers can start as soon as possible, Regis College's state-approved program will help you accelerate your teaching career.

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