What is a MAT in Elementary Education?

In general, a Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) is an educational degree for those with an undergraduate degree seeking to earn a teaching license. There are also MATs designed for teaching professionals who need continuing education credits or who wish to advance in their particular field. Additionally, there are MATs for specific areas: early childhood, elementary, secondary, middle-level, special education, and more.

The MAT degree is a one to two-year program, usually a minimum of 30 credit hours, and includes advanced coursework in education and a student teaching component.  The focus is on practical know-how and how to meet licensure requirements. Colleges often offer their MAT as a fifth year following an undergraduate degree in a content area such as science or mathematics, for example, though most MATs only require a bachelor’s degree for admission. The MAT is distinct from a Master of Science (MS) in Teaching. The MS degree contains a research-oriented focus within a particular content or field, for example, an MS in Education, Secondary English. The MS degree usually requires a master’s thesis and defense based on independent research, or a comprehensive exam, whereas the MAT does not. Online programs are available for those who wish to earn their degree while working.

The MAT in Elementary Education hones in on the kindergarten through sixth grade; it is for souls who love all children and want to help each reach their potential. The MAT student must complete courses related to educational practice, classroom management, lesson planning, cognitive and cultural diversity, learning theory, assessment, and methods of teaching content and reading. There is also content-related courses for the elementary teacher such as math, art, science, English, history, reading, and writing.

A sample of classes includes:

  • Foundations of Education and the Art of Teaching and Learning
  • Teaching for Scientific Inquiry
  • Language, Literature, and Culture
  • Literacy Assessment and Instruction for Emergent and Early Readers
  • Strategies for the Inclusive Classroom
  • Educational Psychology
  • Social Studies, Science & Arts/Elementary
  • Reading and Language Arts/ Elementary
  • Math for the Elementary Classroom
  • Sheltered English Instruction

In addition to coursework, there are practicums, seminars, observations, and always a student teaching or internship requirement. Student teaching can range from a semester to a full-year depending on the school and program. We always recommend finding the school that offers the most field experience because teaching is an art developed by experience.

Admission to MAT programs varies from school to school and state to state. Some schools require a GRE and others may not if your GPA meets the standard, which is often 3.0 or above. In addition to the GRE or in place of it, you may need to take the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators test(s).

Below is a sample of admission requirements:

  • a minimum undergraduate GPA from 2.5 and up,
  • personal statement
  • Official transcripts
  • letters of recommendation
  • Resume or curriculum vita
  • Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core) Reading, Writing, and Math tests or meet the SAT® Reasoning Test, ACT® test or GRE
  • personal interview

Lastly, MAT programs vary in quality and reputation. Our rankings for Best MAT’s in Elementary Education are only accredited degrees. We here at Top Masters Degrees recommend looking for top-quality and respected programs, which accreditation gives an indication (though no guarantee) of. Look for accreditation and guidance from the Council for Accreditation for Educator Preparation (CAEP), the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI).