What is the difference between the MAT, MS in Education, and MEd?

When entering into the world of education-speak it can feel like another universe.  NEA, OEA, IEP, SPED, MAT, ABA, IDEA, LD, NCLB, and the list goes on.  Let’s start with a MAT.  

A Master of Arts in Teaching is a teaching degree that leads to licensure designed for students without an undergraduate teaching degree but who want to teach in public schools.

The MAT is also called the MT sometimes, and may not always lead to licensure, though our recent ranking of the 30 Best MATs in Elementary Education only ranks those that do.

The degree is usually one to two years in duration, around 30 credits, and involves an intensive, fast-paced education in fundamental issues, methodology, knowledge, and skills for teachers.

The culminating experience is full-time student teaching with a mentor teacher under the supervision of a faculty member of the university.

A sampling of classes include:

  • Advanced Educational Psychology, Development & Learning
  • Critical Perspectives in School Contexts
  • Technological Learning Environments
  • Instruction, Assessment & Classroom Management
  • Introduction to Curriculum and Pedagogy in Urban Schools
  • Integrated Language Development Across the Curriculum
  • Identifying and Teaching to Student Differences
  • Specialization courses such as SPED, ESOL, or other specializations
  • Fieldwork/Practicum
  • Teaching Seminar
  • Full-Time Student Teaching

In general, the MS has a research component, hence the “science” part, and the MA focuses on practical experience and skills, hence the “art” part.  The Master of Science in Education is different than the MAT because it’s designed for teachers with a license seeking continuing education and advancement.

For example, a licensed teacher who holds a BS in Education, Secondary Social Studies may be required in different states to earn a master’s degree to renew their licensure or just simply desire to grow professionally.  In either case, the teacher enrolls in an MS in Education, Secondary Social Studies.

The Degree does not lead to licensure, but rather to advanced knowledge and skills with a research component, often culminating in a master’s thesis or comprehensive exam. Sometimes there is an internship or practicum experience required. The MS is usually two to three years and around 45 credits.

A sample of courses includes:

  • Instruction in the Context of Curriculum
  • Advanced Study in the Teaching of Secondary School Social Studies
  • The Nature of Social Studies
  • History of American Education
  • Psychology in Teaching
  • Philosophy of Education
  • Applied Cognition and Learning Strategies
  • Content specific courses, for example in Secondary Social Studies, emphasis in history:
    • Philosophy of History
    • World Problems
    • History of the Crusades
    • Early Modern European History
    • History of Tudor England
    • Issues in the American Civil War
    • American Foreign Policy
  • Master’s Thesis in Education
  • Comprehensive Exam

A Master's in Education (MEd) is an advanced degree geared more towards moving beyond the classroom and into the education system itself.

Certified teachers and aspiring teachers can pursue a MEd and still remain in the classroom, but the Master's in Education allows for a broader range within the educational sphere: curriculum and instruction, counselor education, educational administration. The Master of Education (MEd) degree is similar to the MS in Education in requiring robust research.

The MEd also called the EdM, may also not require a master’s thesis but instead a portfolio or comprehensive exam.  Here at Top Masters in Education we also provide a ranking for those interested in online MAT degrees that lead to licensure.