Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Should Teachers With Master's Degrees Automatically Earn More?

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Evansville chemistry teacher Brian Bennett assists a student in class.

Here’s an interesting look at the common practice of awarding an automatic pay increase to teachers who earn advanced degrees. From The Center for American Progress:

Although teachers with master’s degrees generally earn additional salary or stipends — the so-called “master’s bump” — they are no more effective, on average, than their counterparts without master’s degrees. The more nuanced evidence suggests that master’s degrees in math and science do confer an instructional advantage on teachers of those subjects, yet approximately 90 percent of the master’s degrees held by teachers come from education programs that tend to be unrelated to or unconcerned with instructional efficacy.

Nationally, school districts paid out about $8.6 billion in so-called “master’s bump” compensation during the 2003-04 school year. By 2007-08, the last year data was available, that amount had increased 72 percent, to $14.8 billion.

In Indiana, where about 63 percent of teachers have master’s degrees, spending that year on compensation tied to advanced degrees amounted to $164 million. The salary boost for getting a master’s degree varies, but the statewide average was $3,830. (State-level data came from a staff survey published by the National Center for Education Statistics.)

The authors of the brief, Raegen Miller and Marguerite Roza, say that as school districts across the country tighten their belts, the merits of linking compensation to educational degree attainment should be discussed but almost never are.

“In an era of especially scarce resources, it is certainly a discussion worth having,” they write.

But teachers have been resistent to the idea in the past, writes Stephen Sawchuck for Education Week, which is ” … an understandable phenomenon given that, while some districts offer tuition reimbursements, many other educators have had to foot the cost of earning the degree on their own.”

Sawchuck points out the time period in question predates the recession, when more schools were still hiring. Costs may have fallen in the intervening years due to layoffs and salary freezes, he adds.



  • Karyn

    Now that we’ve ended the practice of requiring “continuing ed” credits in the form of graduate courses for teacher license renewal, I’m fine with ending compensation for master’s degrees. Back when that was still a requirement — basically equating “more coursework” with “better teaching” — it only made sense to tie attainment of an advanced degree with a pay bump. Get rid of one…get rid of the other…fine with me.

  • jewelli

    The time, money, and commitment needed for a Master’s Degree should be rewarded. In today’s schools, teachers do not necessarily need a Master’s Degree, so if they decide to obtain one anyway, they should be rewarded monetarily. Working for a Master’s Degree show commitment on the teacher’s part and the desire for life-long learning. These are the types of people we need in our schools.

  • Al Andy

    The referenced article was very interesting.
    I wonder why it was taken down.

    It implied that there was little correlation between a masters degree and effectivity of the teacher.

    It also said that only 23% of the teachers are from the top 30 percent of their class. Interesting, is there a reason the smartest are not becoming teachers? Could that be due to the demonetization of that profession?

    So on the continuum of education post high school to Ph.D. the argument would be that there is an increase of effectivity up to the date of completion of a four year program then the effectivity is flat up to the Ph.D. The claim would be the additional 50% of credit hours does not even have a 6% impact.

    The salary bump for teachers in the state in which I live is about 6%. I find it hard to believe that in the 50% additional credit hours of schooling, there is not a 6% improvement in performance.

    I agree with Jewelli, that like a Bachelors degree a Master’s Degree should be rewarded. It is both a discriminator for those with ambition, dedication, a learner, as well as the increased tool set likely increases their effectivity. (Maybe only 30%, so a 6% increase is a bargain.)

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