The Masters in Education (MEd) typically appeals to teachers with several years' experience who decide to return to study in order to extend their professional knowledge. Sometimes they are considering some form of career change. For them, the MEd is both a form of professional development, and an aid towards career promotion. The qualification is the perfect medium for education graduates to further their study and research and develop a specialisation.
Similar to many other MEds, the one run by St Patrick’s College in Drumcondra offers the student the opportunity to develop a specific area of expertise. According to the course information, this specialisation enables graduates to ‘provide leadership in schools, and support services within the education system more generally’. This MA would be ideal for those wishing to work in the education system outside of teaching itself.
The MEd in St Patrick’s runs over two years and is part-time. Applicants are required to have an honours primary degree and a minimum of three years teaching experience to enter the course. Once accepted to the course, students study six modules during the first 18 months, while the final semester is taken up with writing a 20,000-word thesis on a specialised research topic.
Three compulsory or core modules are Current Issues in Education, Quantitative Research Methods and Qualitative Research Methods. Students can select from one of three other modules to allow the opportunity for specialisation: Digital Learning, Educational Disadvantage and Educational Leadership.
Digital Learning is an area set to become more and more relevant to those working in education as technology plays a greater role in day-to-day teaching methods. The possibilities of using digital video and sound technologies are examined as well as the learning opportunities provided by the Internet. Students opt for a specific area of research and are then awarded with the relevant qualification – the MEd with a special option in Digital Learning, for example.
MEd graduates can reap huge career benefits. According to Dr. Deirdre Rafferty, Deputy Head of the UCD School of Education & Lifelong Learning and Director of Research and Innovation, the MEd often enables them to progress in their current fields. ‘Our graduates often move upwards in their profession. Many become principals and deputy principals in schools, and others take posts of responsibility in schools,’ she says.
The specialist nature of many MEd programmes provides graduates with very desirable skills. UCD have an MA in Special Needs Education and an MA in Educational Psychology. According to the course information, the Special Needs MA (MEdSEN) ‘is designed for teachers and other professionals involved in the education, care and management of persons with special educational needs and disabilities’.
Aimed at teaching graduates, the programme teaches candidates to deal with a variety of students with different special needs. Experts working in the field are invited in to talk to students throughout the two-year course to give an insight in to the daily practicalities of working with special needs students.
This kind of specialisation can be extremely useful for those wishing to progress in a particular area of their careers. Dr Rafferty confirms that studying the Leadership and Management MEd provides students with the skills necessary to work in managerial roles in schools. ‘Many of these students are hoping to apply for a principalship or deputy principalship,’ she says. ‘Doing a MEd with a specialism in this area will increase their knowledge and may also increase their confidence. In addition, it is very common nowadays for teachers who are seeking promotion to have either a masters or doctorate degree, so returning to take a postgraduate degree is almost viewed as a necessity in order to compete favourably in the jobs market.’
While some graduates of the MEd go on to roles of great responsibility in schools, others choose the academic route and progress to further study. Dr Rafferty explains, ‘we have had a number of doctoral students who have continued their research after completing their masters in education. They may stay in research, or move into third-level work such as lecturing. Some of our recent graduates have also become very competent writers, publishing books and research papers in their area of interest.’
UCD's School of Education and Lifelong Learning offers a purely research based masters, the Mlitt. Working with the guidance of a research supervisor who specialises in their area of interest, students complete a major thesis. According to Dr. Rafferty, the MLitt can be a first step towards a PhD in education, as ‘students can transfer to doctoral studies after their first year, if their work is of a sufficiently high standard.’
The part-time MA in Education in UCD is also a very popular course, combining evening classes with a thesis. Dr Rafferty says that this course is particularly popular with foreign students, attracting students from all over Africa, Asia and Europe.
With such a wide variety of specialisations available, there is something tailored to suit a range of education graduates and their career plans. The MEd is an excellent qualification that often leads to significant career progression and greater job satisfaction in the field of education.