Will a M.A. in education be of any possible use if I ever pursue a PhD?
May 27, 2015 9:59 PM   Subscribe

The M.A. isn't optional obviously if I want to continue to teach and the program is good, so that's fine. If in the future I decide to pursue graduate level studies in something related to immunology or developmental biology, will having a Master's in a mostly unrelated field give me any leg up being admitted to a decent PhD program? I'm guessing the answer is a straight "nope". The only thing I can think of is that a lab may look positively on a candidate with several years of formal teaching experience.

A couple years ago I completed a B.S. in Biochemistry with multiple honors and a good amount of research experience.

I enjoy teaching and landed a job as chemistry/physics/bio teacher (starting soon). As part of my certification process I'll be completing an M.A. in secondary science education within the next 2 years.

I'm not ready to commit myself to a PhD program (for several reasons besides wanting to teach...not the least of which is that I'm not close to sure what I'd want to specialize in). It's still a definite possibility though, especially if I choose not to begin a family before I hit middle-age.

Kind of a shot in the dark.
posted by WhitenoisE to Education (6 answers total)
Best answer: From a discipline-specific, academic perspective, no.

But from an admissions-committee perspective, it may very well help. The committee may see your previous success at graduate work as a marker of intellectual maturity. They will also likely view your having taught as a sign that you're capable of doing the full-time job that doing a PhD in a lab will become; your application will reflect responsibility and reliability.

All of that said, what will matter most are the things that connect most directly to the science you'll be doing, but the extras may help distinguish you from other applicants.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:13 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you should end up doing something education-related (like writing textbooks, doing educational policy, teaching teacher-candidates as a professor), having that degree (or at least your teaching license and experience) definitely will garner respect from an audience with teachers as well as maybe help you stand out more. Perhaps you could look into an M.S.in teaching if that would feel a bit more to your liking?

Will your district pay for (most) of your MA? If the coursework is required and you don't have to pay much out of pocket, I'd say it's a win-win situation. You don't have to complete the MA if you decide not to continue teaching but will have the credits and knowledge under your belt. As someone who's taught and worked on graduate work at the same time, I recommend you start with just one class (online, evenings, etc.) during your first semester of teaching. It's a demanding time and less is usually better at first.

FWIW, I had thought I would teach high school for awhile and then go on to pursue a PhD; however, I've stuck with secondary school because I love it so much. Best of luck with your decision and your first-year teaching!
posted by smorgasbord at 4:35 AM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wouldn't count on it, but it's entirely possible that it might help you a little with admissions. The thing is, admissions committees for phd programs are just small groups of overworked professors frantically trying to put together an incoming cohort while also doing a million other things. Often, a part of someone's profile that impresses just on committee member is enough to admit a prospective student, and there's no telling what that will be.
posted by Ragged Richard at 5:03 AM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

What do you want to do once you have the Ph.D.? If you're interested in a job at a teaching-focused university, the teaching credential will help then.
posted by yarntheory at 7:26 AM on May 28, 2015

Best answer: I'm kind of skeptical about it helping gain admission to a biology lab, just because those admissions really are mostly about potential to be successful in the lab. However, after you finish your PhD, in could indeed be helpful in applying to teach at a teaching-oriented college, especially one that offers a BS in Biology w/teacher certification or something like that. Your experience teaching secondary school really will be invaluable in college teaching, especially freshman (who were of course high school seniors not that long ago). Also, on our program, we have a course in Biology Content Methods that is required for the teacher certification but taught by a biologist, and the folks who teach it all have MAT or MEd degrees in addition to their PhDs.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:47 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I wouldn't want to ever be in a position where I have to split my time between teaching and proper research. I've significant experience doing each individually and have enjoyed both types of work, but I'm more consistently inspired by teaching. This is the opposite of what I always assumed of myself before teaching.

I don't really plan to obtain a PhD, but then again I never planned on teaching during college either. If I were to ever decide to go in that direction I would shoot for a position at the NIH or CDC, but obviously that's a shit shoot even for people much brighter than I.

Thanks for the replies!
posted by WhitenoisE at 8:49 PM on June 6, 2015

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