Master’s Degrees in Education Proven to be Ineffective in Florida

Paul Peterson and his research team has found that master’s degrees don’t help teachers teach better.

paul_petersonPaul Peterson and his research team found that educators in Florida didn’t increase their effectiveness in the classroom by getting a master’s degree, he writes in EducationNext.

On average, Peterson found that teachers with a master’s weren’t more effective than teahers without one when studying teachers in grades 4-8 from 2002 to 2010. His team also found that the institution at which a teacher received their master’s degree had no bearing on their teaching.

Peterson writes that a teacher who has taught for 10 years earns about $2,500 more with a master’s degree and that half of teachers have earned one. The state of Florida could save up to 3% of its personnel costs by not rewarding the ineffectual degree, he says.

The reduced compensation would also reduce pension liabilities, since those tend to be based on a retiree’s salary.

Peterson points out that his test case in Florida applies to most every school district in the nation.

The pay bump for a master’s degree is an accident that came about as a result of collective bargaining. High school teachers were more likely in the past to hold an advanced degree and agreed to equal pay except for experience and credentials. Now, however, elementary school teachers hold advanced degrees at about the same rate as their high school colleagues.

[Photo: Paul Peterson, EducationNext]


  1. Dr. Parick Groff

    As a longtime teacher, and teacher educator, I find a weakness in Peterson’s study. A far more useful research goal would be to determine if obtaining a master’s degree has more effect on the performance of teachers who work with students from low-income homes, as versus on teachers who direct children raised by upper-income parents. If this study revealed that the first group of teachers above were positively affected it may be of some help to them in not getting fired. At present, these teachers often suffer that indignity, while those who manage above-income boys and girls very seldom are so treated.

    • Friedman's Ghost

      Dr. Groff – As a longertime teacher (10 years, inner city HS) and teacher educator (Econ Ed) I find some validity to my observations from this study. Some states, such as Indiana, are moving away from rewarding teachers for getting these ineffectual MS in Ed degrees. Teachers are likely best served by targeted training in specific areas.

      Of course, if you are at a University Education School this is not good news.

      In all, the entire thing is rent-seeking and needs to stop.

    • VVent

      I find a weakness in your critique: the study DID control for students’ household income.

  2. “Colleges Spend Far Less on Educating Students Than They Claim, Report Says” (Updated) at Patriots for Freedom

    [...] Master’s Degrees in Education Proven to be Ineffective in Florida: Paul Peterson and his research team found that educators in Florida didn’t increase their [...]

  3. Milwaukee

    I have long suspected as much, although there are Masters and then there are Masters. My first was in Mathematics Education from a Big 10 university. The second was in Mathematics from a Division 3 school. Both are better than the Masters in Professional Development many of my former colleagues have. My children have told me to never say “whatever” the way they do. Their explanation is that when adolescents say “whatever” it means they really don’t care. My problem, as explained by my children, is that I do care. I cared about my students. Content knowledge is important, but caring is more important.

  4. Terri B

    Having taken 3 Masters’ level courses in education, I totally agree with Mr. Peterson. I was required to take Educational Psych, Educational Ethics and Responsibilities, and Educational Philosophy. Funny, those are the SAME CLASSES I took as an undergrad. The syllabus was almost identical for each class at both the Bachelor’s and Master’s level. For the $850 a year incentive I would have received, I would have to teach over 15 years to break even. It wasn’t worth the time and effort (though the effort was truly minimal, since I had the classes already and didn’t even need to study!!) so I stopped working towards my Master’s. Save the money and ensure the teachers are trained in their particular discipline. Too many teachers get the all-encompassing “education degree,” yet they cannot understand the material they are teaching.

  5. teapartydoc

    This looks strangely similar to the burgeoning industry in continuing medical education and re-certification that medical specialists (well nowadays all of us, I guess) are being required to undertake. Many of us strongly suspect that these requirements are simply put in place to keep the higher education bubble from popping before the retirement dates of those now ensconced in positions of academic influence. This study is supportive evidence of these suspicions.

Leave a comment


April 6th, 2011

Staff Reporter

Career Index

Plan your career as an educator using our free online datacase of useful information.

View All

On Twitter

Judge orders Ohio teachers union to pay $265k over forced dues used for political work #edchat #education #edreform

3 hours ago

Portland, Maine introduces online option that should benefit homeschoolers #edtech #education #parenting

4 hours ago

RT @randahendricks: OK, brilliant fellow educators, please share with me all the great ways you're using #GoogleClassroom. 1,2,3,GO! #sscha

14 hours ago

On Facebook


Enter your email to subscribe to daily Education News!

Hot Topics