Author Topic: Somebody help me decide:  (Read 7930 times)

clarkai

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Somebody help me decide:
« on: November 01, 2012, 11:56:02 AM »
I want to be a teacher (I love science and I love teaching so I want to be a middle school science teacher). Teachers in my state make generally between $35-40k/year. Doesn't sound like much, but my mom and dad raised 4 children on $60k, so I grew up frugal and it sounds like a lot of money for just me and my husband.

Question is, should I get a masters in teaching, or should I go the alternative certificate route?

A masters in teaching costs approx. $23k (estimated by the school and includes ridiculous amounts like paying $400 dollars per quarter for transportation, if I use my estimate it costs around $20k) and takes two years. The one I'm looking at is very well regarded, and very popular both among those who have graduated and the schools where they go to work. Once I finish, the starting pay would be close to $40k.

The alternative certificate route costs $12k and takes one year. If I chose this option, I would have to teach in a "shortage area", namely either math or science, most likely in a poor/rural school. Starting pay would be close to $35k.

So, a MiT costs $11k extra in tuition, and $35k in lost wages. However, I'd be making $5k extra per year, so by year 10 I'd make up the difference- if the school's estimate is used. I might indeed be making more than that as I might have the opportunity to work in better-paid school districts, not to mention the fact that my husband will be more likely to find work in a urban rather than rural setting.

I expect to spend around $20K per year for the both of us, which means around $15k of savings/year with the certificate, or around $20k/year with the masters. I'm 24 right now, and would like to have kids before 35, and I'd like to work part time once I have them until we reach FI. I have a bachelor's in biology and am currently taking prerequisite classes for the MiT program, while working in before and after school care, which makes me about $1000/month. My husband is still in school.

Hopefully that's enough information for you to advise me. I am currantly leaning towards the masters degree because it seems like it would give me more options in where I work, as well as making me a more qualified applicant, and thus more likely to get a good job and stay on while I have it.

igthebold

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2012, 11:58:53 AM »
As a school board member (small private school) I will say that an expert with passion for the subject who knows how to teach is far more impressive to me than someone with any kind of teaching degree. I won't get into the philosophy, but you don't get passion and expertise from a teaching degree, and an expert with passion can learn how to teach.

Take this for what it's worth, though.. if you want a public school job you'll need someone else's opinion, since they are likely far more likely to prefer a full education degree.

bananabread

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2012, 12:38:14 PM »
more options

Whenever I'm in a situation like this, more options is usually what decides me. Ultimately you want flexibility, and if the Masters will get you that, then IMO go for it.

Is there any kind of financial aid you can qualify for?

Done by Forty

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2012, 12:45:34 PM »
From a purely financial perspective, it sounds like your "break even" point is just after year 9, assuming flat salaries in both scenarios.  That's a long time for a positive ROI, IMO. 

Something else to consider:  teachers have a high burn out rate.  Many go into the profession only to leave within a year or three.  My recommendation is to teach for a while with the certificate and then, if you are sure this is something you will be doing 10 years later, consider the benefits of the Masters.

clarkai

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2012, 03:20:12 PM »
From a purely financial perspective, it sounds like your "break even" point is just after year 9, assuming flat salaries in both scenarios.  That's a long time for a positive ROI, IMO. 

Something else to consider:  teachers have a high burn out rate.  Many go into the profession only to leave within a year or three.  My recommendation is to teach for a while with the certificate and then, if you are sure this is something you will be doing 10 years later, consider the benefits of the Masters.

There is this if I teach in a shortage area:

"34 CFR 674.53(c) enables Federal Perkins Loan borrowers who are full time teachers of mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual education or any other field of expertise where the State educational agency determined there is a shortage of qualified teachers to qualify for cancellation of up to 100 percent of their loan;"

Emphasis mine, obviously. So, yes, if I can get a Perkins Loan, definitely. Fine print:

"(2) The borrower must be teaching full-time in a public or other nonprofit elementary or secondary school tható
(i) Is in a school district that qualified for funds, in that year, under part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended; and
(ii) Has been selected by the Secretary based on a determination that more than 30 percent of the school's or educational service agency's total enrollment is made up of title I children.

(d) Cancellation rates. (1) To qualify for cancellation under paragraph (a), (b), or (c) of this section, a borrower must teach full-time for a complete academic year or its equivalent.
(2) Cancellation rates areó
(i) 15 percent of the original principal loan amount plus the interest on the unpaid balance accruing during the year of qualifying service, for each of the first and second years of full-time teaching;
(ii) 20 percent of the original principal loan amount, plus the interest on the unpaid balance accruing during the year of qualifying service, for each of the third and fourth years of full-time teaching; and
(iii) 30 percent of the original principal loan amount, plus the interest on the unpaid balance accruing during the year of qualifying service, for the fifth year of full-time teaching. "

Done by Forty

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2012, 03:36:33 PM »
I actually was one of the teachers who burned out quite quickly, but I remember there being loan forgiveness programs available.   Getting a loan forgiven would change the analysis somewhat, but the lion's share of the costs for the MiT are actually lost wages.  There's no getting around that if the Masters takes more time and necessitates time away from a steady paycheck.

Additionally, my assumption is that the loan forgiveness could apply to either the MiT or the certificate, correct?
« Last Edit: November 01, 2012, 03:38:22 PM by Done by Forty »

clarkai

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2012, 07:27:56 PM »
Yes, that would be the case.

okits

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2012, 09:22:35 PM »
I think a big factor are your husband's job prospects.  Just how much bigger are your chances to work in a better-paid, urban school district with the MiT, and how much better are your husband's job prospects/income opportunities going to be in this case?  The figures for the foregone year of income with the MiT, loan forgiveness, and cost of schooling are dwarfed by the opportunity cost if he can't find similar-paying work (or any work) in a rural area. 

Also, consider if being underemployed or unemployed will be stressful for him, and the effects of your family life.  Depending on how everything weighs out, I'd lean towards the MiT for the additional employment options you will both have.

Jack

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2012, 06:29:51 AM »
Option 3: Get the alternative certificate, then go to school for a masters in a science/engineering/mathematics field part time while working as a teacher. It should still get you increased teaching pay, but would also act as a hedge against the risk of teaching burn-out because you could get an industry job with it.

Option 4: Go for a science/enginering/mathematics Ph.D (instead of a masters) and teach college instead of K-12 (as a teaching assistant and then as a professor).

ashem

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2012, 07:22:19 AM »
I have my MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) and really enjoyed the program. You probably already know enough about science, but without classroom management skills, it's nearly impossible to be a successful teacher. Even in a high-performing school with lots of parental involvement, it takes a few years of trial and error to really master the art of teaching. The alternate route may be shorter and cheaper on the front end, but it may be very difficult and painful in the long run.

Our MAT program took about 2.5 years part-time (just 2-3 classes each semester), so I was able to work and pay for the classes without taking out loans.


tooqk4u22

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2012, 07:56:28 AM »
I have heard that disctricts don't like to hire masters candidates right away due to pay scales and maybe other issues, if it is true it may actually take longer to get a job.

It is also highly competitve to get in a better performing district and while there are open postings for jobs it is all about who you know.  If you don't know anybody you should start sub-ing right away to get to know the other teachers and administrators.

twinge

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2012, 09:01:48 AM »
With the political nature of education, so many things can change.  For instance, there's currently pressure to not have pay increases tied to education level and instead focusing on some interesting ideas (though often with sadly dubious conceptions) about "value-added."  If this shift happens in the next couple of years it tilts your investment.  9 years is a long time for ROI when you add risk that the MiT may mean less pay-wise in the future.

But I wouldn't also just focus on the math.

1. Which program gives you better pedagogical support?  Some alternative cert. programs are pretty minimal and then you're thrown in a difficult teaching situation leading to quicker burnout.  All the expertise for your subject may not make a difference if you have a hard time connecting that with learners who might differ from your own learning background in a lot of ways and you don't have good support on how to help.  Many alt cert programs have  abysmal rates at creating teachers who stay in the profession beyond a year or two, but some are great.  So do due diligence on things like employment rates, burnout rates etc. from different programs.  They may not have these numbers at the universities, but they might.  If there aren't numbers, talk to different people about the informal knowledge about it.

2. Know yourself--do you have a passion for helping out in districts of greater need? Do you have experience of such places that you would be likely to work?  Do you think a challenging teaching assignment would inspire you or wear you down?  Does teaching things to people who have different backgrounds/motivations/interests/values come easy to you? In your informal teaching situations (e.g., tutoring, camps etc) what kinds of experiences have made you passionate?



DoubleDown

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2012, 09:09:47 AM »
With some clearly notable exceptions below, I have found the differences in compensation for individuals with an advanced degree from those with just a bachelor's degree to be non-existent. Obviously some professions have very distinct degree requirements (JD, MD, PhD for University professor, etc.). For all the others, the ROI just isn't there. And in those professions requiring an advanced degree, you will likely not find any notable difference for those who pursue an even higher advanced degree than is minimally required (for example, an attorney who also holds a PhD).

The ONLY way I would consider pursuing a degree that is more advanced than absolutely required is if your employer is paying for it.

FAR MORE IMPORTANT TO GAINFUL COMPENSATION, AND THAT WILL ELIMINATE ANY PERCEIVED INCOME "GAP" FOR THOSE WITH AN ADVANCED DEGREE:

- Good work skills, being good at your job
- Professional demeanor with a positive and friendly, helpful attitude
- Good personality -- show a genuine interest in people -- sense of humor helps immensely
- Dress for success (does NOT have to be expensive). Dress for the level above you (for example, if you are a teacher aspiring to be a principal, dress like a principal)

That's it! If you do well at your job and people like you, you will easily out-earn what your colleagues with a more advanced degree will. You will also advance faster than many/most of them.

So in the case of a teacher, I would NOT pursue the master's degree unless your employer is footing the bill. Just be a great teacher, be well-liked by your employer, and you will advance quickly.

Nancy

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2012, 10:22:53 AM »
I would go with the certificate, which takes less time and costs less. Also, would you be eligible for a TEACH Grant? That would further reduce the cost.

If you work in the low income school district, you'll likely have a better chance landing a job in another district based on your experience, as opposed to being a freshly minted grad with no experience.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2012, 11:38:12 AM »
2. Know yourself--do you have a passion for helping out in districts of greater need? Do you have experience of such places that you would be likely to work?  Do you think a challenging teaching assignment would inspire you or wear you down?  Does teaching things to people who have different backgrounds/motivations/interests/values come easy to you? In your informal teaching situations (e.g., tutoring, camps etc) what kinds of experiences have made you passionate?

+1 for this.  My sister works in a low income/low performing district and it is emotionally draining.  You will spend as much of your time teach as you will handling social issues.  Kids in these areas live with a whole host of issues on a daily basis that is incomprehensible to most people  - you have to be passionate about both being a teacher and a social worker/guardian of sorts while at the same time not getting too involved.  These kids don't have food or sufficient clothing, mom/dad is never home or there are abuse issues (substance/physical) and on and on and on - it is tough for school to be their first area of focus on a regular basis.  One day one of sisters students came in and was more distracted than usual and when asked what is the matter  the response was "My mom and dad had a fight and I worry that my dad is going to kill her"

Its tragic but it can be as emotionally rewarding as it is draining but it has to fit you or you will burnout in a year.

clarkai

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2012, 11:54:14 AM »
Both programs have you in the class room. The certificate program has a ten week intensive, followed by a year working with a teacher in the class room. The masters program has 60% on campus learning about teaching, and then 40% spent student teaching in a class room.

Another thing that caught my eye was employment opportunities for my husband. If I get the certificate, I'll have to work in shortage areas, which in Washington means rural, which means it will be harder for my husband to get a job.

PJ

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #16 on: November 03, 2012, 12:08:38 AM »
2. Know yourself--do you have a passion for helping out in districts of greater need? Do you have experience of such places that you would be likely to work?  Do you think a challenging teaching assignment would inspire you or wear you down?  Does teaching things to people who have different backgrounds/motivations/interests/values come easy to you? In your informal teaching situations (e.g., tutoring, camps etc) what kinds of experiences have made you passionate?

+1 for this.  My sister works in a low income/low performing district and it is emotionally draining.  You will spend as much of your time teach as you will handling social issues.  Kids in these areas live with a whole host of issues on a daily basis that is incomprehensible to most people  - you have to be passionate about both being a teacher and a social worker/guardian of sorts while at the same time not getting too involved.  These kids don't have food or sufficient clothing, mom/dad is never home or there are abuse issues (substance/physical) and on and on and on - it is tough for school to be their first area of focus on a regular basis.  One day one of sisters students came in and was more distracted than usual and when asked what is the matter  the response was "My mom and dad had a fight and I worry that my dad is going to kill her"

Its tragic but it can be as emotionally rewarding as it is draining but it has to fit you or you will burnout in a year.
 
 
For a different perspective on this, let me cite my friend's case.  She spent several years teaching in a lower income part of Toronto.  Food, clothing, environmental issues, no money for extras (school trips, sports, etc) - absolutely.  She loved it.  Cared about her kids.  Understood something about the families they came from.  Then she was made surplus and got a job at a school in one of the more expensive and desirable neighbourhoods in Toronto, and has spent the last couple of years fairly miserable about it.  The kids seem spoiled and entitled, the parents are aggressive and competitive.  Parents freak out if their kid gets anything less than great grades, but instead of asking how to help the child improve, they badger her about changing the mark.  Badger is too mild a word for some of the interactions she's had with a couple of parents, and at least one parent is no longer allowed to speak directly to my friend but has to go through the principal.  And abuse (substance and physical) happens in all socio-economic classes. 
 
Something else to think about is that some impoverished areas actually have a lot more supports available.  I was visiting a really rough area of town recently, and noticed that there is a grand huge library there, community centre/sports facilities that are well maintained, nice looking city run childcare centres, etc.  The municipality is heavily invested in trying to turn things around in that area, so all the supports are in place. 

You'll have to know yourself and know the specific challenges of your area too to make this decision, but this is just an example of how things might be more fulfilling in what what seems like the more difficult context. 

twinge

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #17 on: November 03, 2012, 05:11:42 AM »
Quote
Something else to think about is that some impoverished areas actually have a lot more supports available.  I was visiting a really rough area of town recently, and noticed that there is a grand huge library there, community centre/sports facilities that are well maintained, nice looking city run childcare centres, etc.  The municipality is heavily invested in trying to turn things around in that area, so all the supports are in place. 

I agree with this can be the case in some urban situations (though definitely not in many troubled US urban systems) but this is less likely to be the case for the OP where her appointment is likely to be in rural areas.  But her issues are likely to be different as well.  My sister, for instance, taught HS science in a rural area and experienced a lot of resistance from a religious perspective from other teachers, parents and students about basic scientific concepts and felt somewhat ostracized living in her community.  This may be less likely to be true in Washington state than in some Southern/Midwestern rural areas.  The larger point that I think everyone agrees with is that whenever you get a degree that REQUIRES you to commit to a certain population/area in order to experience the benefits you really need to investigate whether it will be a good fit.  In the US, no one is ever "forced" by the financial arrangements in a degree program to work with middle class/upper middle class kids so if you don't like working/living with that population (and I agree with you PJ many may find it less inspiring or even irritating) you can always leave and find your niche. 

NestEggChick (formerly PFgal)

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #18 on: November 03, 2012, 08:45:03 AM »
Is there a chance you may want to move to another state at some point?  If so, find out what their requirements are.  In some states, you must have a master's degree to teach in public schools.

Also, find out if any school districts pay for the programs.  Two of my family members have gotten degrees that were paid for in large part by their school districts (with the promise, of course, that they continued to work in those districts for a certain number of years after completing the degrees.)  This may help with the expenses, and you would also be earning a salary because you would be working full time while in school part time.

fidgiegirl

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #19 on: November 03, 2012, 08:49:43 AM »
If you were in MN, my advice to you would be to do the alternative certification, start teaching, and then get the Masters.  However, with a science field, most people don't need to worry so much about strategizing around this, because schools are desperate for science people (but mostly chem/physics is my understanding).

Here, still, you can look at the salary schedule and know how much you will make with a Masters, which IS more than with a bachelors.

Perkins loans are hard to get, if I remember right.  Your income has to be pretty dang low.

PJ

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Re: Somebody help me decide:
« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2012, 10:33:04 AM »
Quote
Something else to think about is that some impoverished areas actually have a lot more supports available.  I was visiting a really rough area of town recently, and noticed that there is a grand huge library there, community centre/sports facilities that are well maintained, nice looking city run childcare centres, etc.  The municipality is heavily invested in trying to turn things around in that area, so all the supports are in place. 

I agree with this can be the case in some urban situations (though definitely not in many troubled US urban systems) but this is less likely to be the case for the OP where her appointment is likely to be in rural areas.  But her issues are likely to be different as well.  My sister, for instance, taught HS science in a rural area and experienced a lot of resistance from a religious perspective from other teachers, parents and students about basic scientific concepts and felt somewhat ostracized living in her community.  This may be less likely to be true in Washington state than in some Southern/Midwestern rural areas.  The larger point that I think everyone agrees with is that whenever you get a degree that REQUIRES you to commit to a certain population/area in order to experience the benefits you really need to investigate whether it will be a good fit.  In the US, no one is ever "forced" by the financial arrangements in a degree program to work with middle class/upper middle class kids so if you don't like working/living with that population (and I agree with you PJ many may find it less inspiring or even irritating) you can always leave and find your niche.

Whoops!  Yup, I caught the fact that the OP would have to teach in a poor area, but missed the rural part - you're right, totally different dynamics than in urban settings.