While master’s degrees for teachers can lead to improved salaries and opportunities, they are not required for primary and secondary teaching, although a master’s is required for teaching at community colleges and a PhD is needed for teaching at four-year universities. For most forms of primary and secondary teaching, one must have a bachelor’s degree and a license to teach in a specific state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Degrees and Licenses

Most positions in primary and secondary education require a bachelor’s degrees, with the exception of preschool teaching, where an associate’s degree is acceptable. Positions as a teacher’s aide or teaching assistant may also require only a high school diploma or associate’s degree in certain circumstances. Most schools also require that you hold a state teaching license and pass a background check. Master’s degrees for teachers are essential at the post-secondary level, and doctorates or other terminal degrees normally are required.

Public and Charter Schools

Most public and charter schools require that teachers have a bachelor’s degree and state-specific certification. Although a master’s degree is not required, almost half of all teachers do possess master’s degrees according to the National Center for Education Statistics. There are several reasons why teachers pursue advanced degrees. First, advanced training can make you a better teacher. Next, teachers with advanced degrees normally receive higher salaries. Finally, having a master’s degree can open up additional opportunities for teachers including administrative positions. Also, many schools prefer to assign AP, honors, and similar classes to teachers with more advanced credentials in the subject matter.

Private and Religious Schools

Private schools operate under a somewhat different mandate than public ones. Since parents pay for children to attend these schools, private schools must be competitive in terms of quality of education. Many private schools, especially at the secondary level, prefer teachers who have significant expertise in the subject matter they are teaching. While in many cases a bachelor’s degree is acceptable, elite schools often prefer to hire teachers with master’s degrees or even PhDs to ensure that students are taught at a level that will gain them admission to highly ranked universities. Religious schools may also have faith-specific training requirements.

Post-secondary Teaching

The post-secondary sector includes community colleges offering two-year degrees, four- year colleges, and universities. In general, the more advanced the degrees an institution offers, the more advanced the credentials required of teachers. Normally all teachers in this sector must have a master’s degree but increasingly, even for community college teaching, a PhD is needed as well.

Degree Timing

If you are thinking about a teaching career, your first step is obtaining a bachelor’s degree and certification. Rather than going straight to a full time master’s degree, many people start teaching with a bachelor’s degree and then take courses towards a master’s degree online or in evening or summer programs. In fact, many master’s programs in education require that you having teaching experience in order to be admitted.


Whether you decide to obtain a master’s degree to advance your career as a teacher is a personal choice. Although master’s degrees for teachers are not required, they can be beneficial.