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 Advanced Degrees Can Advance Course Offerings, Salary

Agriculture educators are experiencing the added pressures of increased requirements for professional development across the country. Many states are even doubling the number of total hours when compared to what teachers were required to obtain just 10 years ago. These requirements typically generate no added income, just a stamp of approval that the teacher is fulfilling the state’s mandate.

As the old saying goes, “It takes money to make money.” So why not get your professional development in the form of an advanced degree? The investment can pay off by moving you along your school district’s salary schedule, increase your aptitude as an educator and improve the success of the students in your classroom.

We know – you’ve probably been kicking around the idea of getting your advanced degree for a couple of years. So what is keeping you from taking the next step? Time? Money?

Advancing your education at a college or university will no doubt cost both, but it’s a worthy investment for the successful agriculture teacher. It can provide a measure of job security and, more importantly, a chance to continue to further develop your expertise and classroom offerings.

The National Program Quality Standards mandate that all agricultural education teachers have a professional growth plan; continue that growth through college credit courses, participation in professional development or other sources of training; and add to the technical and pedagogical knowledge base of the profession. Pursuing an advanced degree can help educators meet all three of those requirements.

Donna Moore, an associate professor and teacher education coordinator for the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education at Virginia Tech, says, “Don’t wait.”

“An advanced degree is going to give you a much deeper understanding of what’s going on in your classroom or, better yet, what could be going on in your classroom,” she said. “You’re going to work on all those higher-order thinking skills: how to best design and plan your day-to-day lessons; how to plan for your students’ needs; and how to plan for the industry’s needs. Both you and your students are going to have a richer experience if you develop those skills.”

There are many opportunities available for busy teachers to pursue advanced degrees that don’t require taking time off the job. Major universities are offering summer short courses, night classes and distance delivered courses. No one should assume that they’ll never be able to pursue that advanced degree just because they can’t quit their teaching job and reenroll in university life. Contact your local agricultural education department to inquire about advanced degree opportunities that are available within your state or even search universities around the country. You’ll be amazed at the variety of courses and programs that exist—from completely online master’s programs to synchronous courses that meet weekly via Webcam.

Whatever the format, find something, do something, said Moore. You owe it to yourself—and your students.