While a graduate degree in education is not absolutely necessary to become a teacher, acquiring such a degree will often place the teacher in a higher pay bracket, as well as qualify him or her for opportunities that may not be available otherwise. Further, many schools in the United States will require that any current teacher with a bachelor's degree acquire a graduate degree in education or a teaching credential within a certain time frame of being hired. In order to obtain a graduate degree in education, the teacher or teacher candidate must first prepare by choosing the path he or she wants to follow to obtain the degree.
If a teacher or teacher candidate already possesses a bachelor's degree in any field, acquiring a graduate degree in education will start with choosing a master's program and applying for it. An undergraduate degree in education is not necessary, though it is sometimes preferred. The bachelor's degree that the candidate holds may dictate which program he or she enters. For example, if a candidate holds an English degree, the candidate will apply for a graduate degree in education that focuses on English education. The coursework for the graduate degree will guide the candidate toward becoming an English teacher, and the coursework more often than not includes steps necessary to become a certified teacher.
If the teacher candidate does not yet possess a bachelor's degree, he or she must first complete coursework to obtain one. Several options exist for such a path: the candidate may want to obtain a bachelor's degree in education, or he or she might want to obtain a bachelor's degree in another field, such as math or science. There are advantages and disadvantages to both paths, but one major advantage to obtaining a bachelor's degree in education is the ability to combine bachelor's programs with master's level programs. Many institutions offer coursework intended to provide the candidate a graduate degree in education while also working on earning a bachelor's degree. Sometimes these programs even cut down on the amount of time the candidate must spend in school.
Earning a bachelor's degree in another field, however, adds a strong bullet point to a teaching resume. Having expertise in a certain field, combined with training in education, will portray the candidate as a strong, well-rounded choice for a teaching position. As the teaching field becomes more competitive, it is important for the candidate to distinguish himself or herself from other candidates. Obtaining an undergraduate English degree, for example, will give the candidate a thorough knowledge of the subject he or she will be teaching; combined with the graduate degree in education, the candidate will stand out above other candidates with less expertise. Furthermore, a graduate degree will qualify the teacher to teach education courses at the college level.