MS vs MA in Education

MS vs MA in Education

Key Takeaways

  • A master’s of science in education is a degree focused on integrating educational theory with practical research.
  • An MA in education offers you a broad curriculum that revolves around the theory and humanities aspects of teaching.
  • An MS in education puts an emphasis on technical skills and a curriculum steeped in research methodology and quantitative analysis, while an MA in education places a greater focus on the humanities and social sciences.

Without understanding the distinct focuses of an MS and MA in education, you risk pursuing a degree that doesn’t align with your strengths or interests. In this article, our academic advisory board compares an MS vs MA in education, giving you an overview of the similarities and major differences between the two and the job opportunities they offer.

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Featured Programs

MS vs MA in Education General Overview

When you’re exploring graduate degree options in the field of education, you’ll come across two primary pathways: The master of science (MS) in education and the master of arts (MA) in education. These degrees cater to different professional aims and interests.

Overview of MS in Education

A master’s of science in education is a degree focused on integrating educational theory with practical research. We often see this pathway among educators who lean towards the scientific aspects of teaching and specialize in particular areas of education. The key features of an MS in education include:

  • Technical and analytical orientation: Your coursework will lean heavily on empirical research and data analysis to inform educational practices.
  • Specialization options: This could be anything from curriculum development to educational technology, allowing you to dive deep into a niche area.
  • Research opportunities: You’ll find ample opportunities to engage in research projects, potentially contributing to influential studies in the field.

Educators with an MS typically pursue careers that are research-intensive and methodologically rigorous. Here are some of the benefits that come with pursuing an MS in education:

  • Gain a more technical understanding of teaching methodologies.
  • Equip yourself with skills to analyze educational data.
  • Opportunity to focus on STEM education, if that’s where your passion lies.

Overview of MA in Education

An MA in education offers you a broad curriculum that revolves around the theory and humanities aspects of teaching. We guide professionals to find the best MA programs to enrich their pedagogical knowledge, understand educational psychology, and explore the social aspects of education. With this master’s degree, you’ll gain knowledge of:

  • Educational theories or insights into various teaching methods and learning styles.
  • Classroom management, including strategies to maintain an effective learning environment.
  • Social justice in education to equip yourself with knowledge to address diversity and inclusion.

An MA might be right up your alley when you feel a personal alignment with a transformative education that includes everyone. Here’s a brief snapshot of the advantages of taking up an MA in education:

  • Versatility: An MA in education is versatile, preparing you for roles beyond just classroom teaching, such as education policy or counseling.
  • Research-oriented: Unlike the MS, an MA focuses more on qualitative research and educational philosophy.
  • Humanities and social science focus: Courses often cover topics in psychology, sociology, and history as they pertain to education.
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Comparing MA vs MS in Education

Understanding the differences between the master of arts and master of science in education can help you decide which aligns best with your career goals.


While pursuing your graduate degree in education, you’ll find that both the MS and MA offer valuable opportunities. These similarities lay the foundation for your future career and personal growth in the education field.

  1. Baccalaureate requirements: Both degrees typically require a bachelor’s degree in education for admission. You can specialize in areas such as curriculum development or educational technology with either degree.
  2. Program formats and accessibility: Many institutions offer both MS and MA programs online, providing flexibility. Programs often have part-time options, making them accessible to working professionals.
  3. Timeframe: The typical completion time for master’s degrees ranges from 1.5 to two years, depending on the program’s structure and your pace. Accelerated programs that allow for earlier completion are also available for both degrees.
  4. Financial and work-life balance considerations: Graduate education can be a significant investment, although financial aid opportunities are available for both MS and MA students. Balancing a job while pursuing either degree is common, and programs are designed to accommodate this lifestyle.
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A master’s degree is the most common degree type that professionals have in the education sector. When choosing between an MS vs MA in education, you’ll find variations in credit requirements, course content, and the nature of capstone projects, among other areas.

These aspects directly influence the trajectory of your academic and professional journey in the field of education.

Curriculum, Core Focus, and Specializations

An MS in education specializes in educational technology, educational psychology, or STEM education. It’s heavily centered on scientific research, statistics, and data analysis.

On the other hand, an MA in education generally leans towards the arts and humanities, including philosophy of education and curriculum design. Specializations may include language arts, social studies education, or educational leadership.

Interdisciplinary Knowledge

A master’s degree in education focusing on science allows educators to collaborate with like-minded fellows in integrating human-computer interaction, neuroscience, or data mining in education.

A master’s degree in education with an emphasis on the arts lets you integrate aspects such as cultural studies, anthropology, and history.

Degree Prerequisites

Coursework in areas like educational foundations, educational psychology, and curriculum development are typically required in MA degrees. Meanwhile, a strong academic background in areas like statistics, research methods, or quantitative analysis is ideal for MS candidates.

However, it’s best to check the specific prerequisites and recommended coursework for the program and institution you are interested in applying to, as they may vary.

Research and Capstone Projects

MS degrees usually culminate in a research-based thesis or capstone project focused on empirical data. In contrast, MA students may complete their program with an action research project, a comprehensive exam, or a creative endeavor relevant to the field of education.

Professor teaching a class

Work Opportunities

At least 52% of teachers with master’s degrees work in the public sector, while 44% are in the private sector. Whether you aim to work in the public, private, or non-profit sector, certain job roles require specializations at the graduate level.

An MA in education usually engages in work emphasizing teaching, curriculum development, or policy analysis. These are some of the jobs that may require a master’s degree in education, specializing in data and science.

  • Educational testing coordinator
  • Curriculum developer
  • Data analyst and statistician
  • Assessment and evaluation specialist

In comparison, MS programs often relate to jobs with a strong research component, placing you in settings where data-driven decision-making is key. A master’s degree in education focusing on liberal arts and social sciences can lead to careers like:

  • Higher education administrator
  • Instructional coach
  • Principal or department head
  • Educational consultant

Major Distinguishing Factors

With a master of science in education, you’ll find a strong emphasis on technical skills and a curriculum steeped in research methodology and quantitative analysis. Conversely, pursuing a master of arts in education places a greater focus on the humanities and social sciences.

An MS could demand a quantitative research project, while an MA might require a comparative analysis or a literature review. An MA can offer you rich experiences in diverse educational settings, whereas an MS may lead you to more experimental or data-driven environments.

Courses in an MA program often explore the philosophical, social, and cultural aspects of education. In contrast, an MS is ideal if you’re leaning towards specializations in STEM education, educational assessment, or policy. This table summarizes the major distinguishing factors between an MS vs MA in education.

AspectMS in EducationMA in Education
Degree requirementsOften requires a thesis or research-based capstone project, comprehensive exams, and coursework in research methods and statisticsOften requires a thesis or capstone project focused on theoretical analysis, literature review, or policy analysis, along with coursework in educational theory and philosophy
Curriculum and core focusEducational research methods, statistics, data analysis, and scientific inquiryEducational theory, philosophy, history, and cultural aspects of education
Interdisciplinary knowledgeIncorporates knowledge from fields like psychology, sociology, and research methodsIncorporates knowledge from fields like philosophy, history, and cultural studies
Research and capstone projectsEmphasizes quantitative research methods, data collection, and empirical analysisEmphasizes qualitative research methods, literature review, and theoretical analysis
Internship and fieldwork opportunitiesEducational research, assessment, or data analysis rolesTeaching, curriculum development, or educational administration roles

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When to Take an MS in Education

When considering advancing your education in the teaching field, pursuing a master of science in education could be valuable if you’re inclined toward a particular path. We generally recommend an MS in education for educators with scientific or technical inclinations. This higher degree tends to place a stronger emphasis on research and quantitative analysis.

Suppose you’re passionate about diving into educational research or interested in designing curricula that leverage evidence-based methodologies. In that case, an MS in education is worth considering. Here are other factors that could make an MS a better fit for you:

  1. You want to specialize in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and feel excited about bringing a robust analytical approach to your teaching practice.
  2. Your career goals include academic research or pursuing a doctoral degree in education, which will benefit from the strong research foundation an MS provides.
  3. You’re keen on taking on leadership roles such as becoming an instructional coordinator or a school administrator where data-driven decision-making is key.
  4. You have a desire to improve educational policy or work in government agencies through a technical understanding of education systems.

MS in education opens doors to more specialized roles that rely on a strong foundation in research and technical skills. If these aspects excite you, an MS in education could be your next step towards shaping the future of education.

Woman holding a textbook while standing in a room with shelves and tables filled with books
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When to Take an MA in Education

An MA in education is an excellent choice for individuals who are passionate about the theoretical and philosophical foundations of education. We encourage pursuing an MA in education for individuals who have a strong background in the liberal arts, humanities, or social sciences.

Deciding to pursue a master of arts in education is an important step in advancing your educational career. Here’s when this path might be the right choice for you:

  • Your interests lie predominantly within the arts, humanities, or social sciences and you aim to apply these subjects to educational settings.
  • You want to incorporate progressive theories or focus on educational reform.
  • You aim to specialize in curriculum development, particularly within humanities subjects.
  • Your goal is to take on a leadership or administrative role.

Do you thrive in an environment that encourages critical thinking, interpretation, and analysis of complex issues? An MA in education can give you the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in various educational roles. After gaining some experience in the teaching field, an MA can help you deepen your understanding of educational theories and practices.

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Which Master’s Degree in Education Is Better?

While an MS in education would be better if you are interested in a more technical or scientific approach to teaching, an MA in education is a good option when you want your work to emphasize the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Consider taking up a master of science in education when you need technical and scientific grounding to help you specialize in a STEM subject or educational research. This can be a better route when you want to focus on data analysis, research methodologies, or the application of technology in education.

On the other hand, a master of arts in education may be better if you want to prioritize theoretical and conceptual aspects of education. It’s a good pathway towards a career in educational policy, administration, or counseling roles. Regardless, your personal interests and professional trajectory should guide your decision to pursue graduate studies.

Related Questions

How Can I Choose Whether to Take an MA or an MS in Education?

Deciding between an MS and an MA in education hinges on your professional interests and educational philosophy. An MA might be more suited if you lean towards an interdisciplinary approach that includes liberal arts and humanities. Meanwhile, an MS is ideal when you’re inclined towards the scientific aspects of education or specialize in STEM areas.

What Are My Career Options After Taking an MS or MA in Education?

With an MA in education, your career possibilities often include teaching, educational policymaking, or administration within the liberal arts spectrum. An MS in education can lead to technical or research roles and positions requiring a deeper understanding of education science, such as curriculum development for scientific subjects.

Which Master’s Degree Specialization Is Best for Education?

The best specialization for your master’s degree in education is one that aligns with your passion and career goals. An MS would be best if you find joy in shaping young minds in specific subjects like mathematics or science. On the other hand, an MA might serve you better when you prefer broader educational strategies.

Final Verdict

An MS is tailored more towards the scientific aspects of education, whereas an MA focuses on the arts and humanities. You can choose between an MS and an MA in education depending on the skills and knowledge you need for your desired role.

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