Going back to school for a master’s degree is a big investment. You are paying money to go back to school not just because you need it to start your career as you do for your bachelor’s degree. In most cases, you go back to further your education. There are some careers where you need a master’s degree to start your career, but this article focuses on those careers where it is not necessary, but good to have. I am currently a second-grade special education teacher, so I went to school for teaching elementary school, but I had to choose a background study for my degree because the right of passage for teaching is a certificate, not a degree. I chose to go to get my bachelor’s degree in English. I took the semester off after graduating, and I heard about a master’s degree program in English for teachers.
As an elementary school teacher, I do not teach English exclusively. I teach all four subjects. I just have a background in English, meaning I have more knowledge in English than any other subject and can incorporate it in other subject areas. Thus, I decided to take part in this program to find ways to incorporate my background study in other subject areas as well as finding ways to incorporate different literature into the classroom to engage my students. Also, if I were to teach elementary school in a departmentalized setting in upper elementary school, I could teach English. All of these things came to my mind when I decided to go back for my master’s degree. When I went back to school for my master’s, I wanted to make the most out of my education. Here are four ways I made the most out of my education and my advice to help you make the most out of yours if you decide to go back to school for your master’s.
Apply Your Studies to Your Current Job (And Vice Versa)
One difference between going for your master’s degree as opposed to going for your bachelor’s degree is that when you were going to school for your bachelor’s degree, you probably worked in a part-time setting that probably had no connection with the field in which you were trying to get your degree (in most cases). Sometimes, when you go back for your master’s degree, you are working full-time in that specific field for which you got your bachelor’s. While this does make it harder to have a balance between work and school, it makes it easier to make the most out of your master’s program. This is because you can apply what you are learning in school to your field. Likewise, you can apply what is happening in your field to your studies. When you go to school for your master’s degree, you can actually use what you already know about your current job to further your education. For example, I wanted to study how students in the primary grades (K-3) use reading to take ownership of their learning, so I took courses that I thought would help me best understand that. I also did my capstone project on that topic. If you are working in your field, you can connect what you are experiencing in your field to your education to make meaning out of it.
Learn What YOU Want to Learn
I had a professor that once said to us, “This is a master’s course. You are here because you want to be here.” Truer words have never been spoken! I went back to school because I wanted to come back. I knew I had so much more to learn. A bachelor’s degree is an obligation; a master’s degree is enrichment. Thus, you do not have to take courses that are not interesting to you or will serve you no purpose in your field now or in ten years. You can take what you want as long as the courses fit with your major. When you look through that course catalogue, there is probably at least one course that you really want to take. The good thing about a master’s program is that no one is telling you that you cannot take that course you really want to take because it does not meet a specific requirement. You can take that course you really want to take.
During my last semester, I decided to take a course in post-humanism. The idea of the post-human always fascinated me, so I enrolled in the course. On the surface, the post-human had nothing to do with teaching. It was just something that interested me. In this course, I was actually able to complete a final project that incorporated teaching into the post-human. I took something I was interested in and applied it to my career as a teacher.
That being said, there are required courses for your major, but there are not very many. I had to take a course about theory and criticism in literature, and I did not really mind taking it because I thought it would be fun to apply these criticisms to literature. Being told you have to take a certain course does not mean that you will hate the course. In fact, you might appreciate that course.
Do an Independent Study
This goes along with learning what you want to learn. An independent study is when you meet with a faculty advisor and conduct your own research study with the supervision of that faculty member. You are in control of what you study! You are learning what you want to learn. I went to a university where an independent study was required for our capstone project, so I did not really have a choice in the matter. However, it was great for me to take control of my education and learn about topics that were actually going to matter in my field. From that independent study, I learned so much information about what we are doing in the public education system that we can improve upon. I felt like I was contributing to teaching as a profession by doing this research. It can be uplifting to know what you are doing is making a difference.
There are some universities that do not offer independent studies, which is really a shame because it is really a good way to get the most out of your education. If you feel like you are not getting the most out of your master’s program, talk to a faculty member about starting an independent study program, or at least starting a research seminar where you can conduct your own research.
Talk to Your Peers
This advice is obvious, but that does not make it any less true. Your classmates or people in your cohort probably do similar work to what you do. You could learn so much about your field from them because they experience the same issues you do. If you encounter a problem, you could talk to these people to see if they have had similar problems and how they may have solved them. Maybe neither of you has solved the problem, but you can brainstorm ideas after talking to each other. This does not just apply to work, but to school as well. Maybe you are confused about an assignment or having trouble generating ideas; your peers can help you! Your peers can be a great source of feedback!
A master’s program is an opportunity to expand on your education in a way you could not when you got your bachelor’s degree. It is also an opportunity to expand your education about the work you are currently doing. It is important for you to personalize your master’s program so that you get the most out of it. The goal of any education is to learn something you will continue to utilize for the rest of your career. You should take courses that will allow you to learn those lessons. You are in school because you want to be there. You can learn so much from your peers and professors if you talk to them about what you are experiencing. You should be satisfied with your master’s program, and you will only be satisfied if you learn something. If you follow this advice, your master’s degree can feel like one of the best investments you ever made.
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