Why Go To Grad School? Part 2

In Part 1, Tedkarma set the stage and outlined the reasons for getting an advanced degree in the field of English language learning. Read on to get a more in-depth view of how a Master’s degree will relate to professionalism, opportunity and personal philosophy.

Professionalism: We all know that most jobs in EFL offer the teacher a high degree of autonomy and minimal direction. As you move to more professional positions this responsibility – and it is a responsibility – increases. The need to develop special materials for students increases and it is not just the special materials that requires greater understanding, it is understanding how learning occurs and how to develop materials that will facilitate long-term learning – not just short-term flash. In my own experience it helped me develop and write eight different EFL text-books designed to meet exactly the needs of my students at the time. We all have complaints about how materials are typically not well-focused on our students’ needs. It’s important to know not just what is needed, but the why and the how of putting it all together in a way that works best for exactly those specific students. And, to be able to do a thorough and accurate needs assessment for those students. This, a good graduate education will help you do.

Opportunity: If you intend a long-term career in EFL – a graduate degree, whether you see the skill benefit or not, is required for almost all of the better positions around the world – and almost always required in your home country should you wish to return there and teach some day (and not have to re-enter the job market at WalMart or McDonald’s). In the countries where I have worked (all in Asia), the degree was the difference between jobs that offered one or two weeks paid vacation per year and jobs that offered ten to twenty weeks paid vacation. It was also the difference between teaching nine or twelve hours a week and teaching thirty. I usually taught more than the contact minimum, but that was “overtime” and added to my bottom line significantly. Nice differences, eh? Big differences if you don’t want to burn out quickly. Base wages are usually better than non-grad degree jobs – but not significantly. But, when you add a overtime wages and the other benefits – the differences are huge.

Personal Philosophy: Students know the difference between a professional TEFL instructor and a TEFL teacher overseas for a lark. They also can tell the difference between a teacher who really believes in education and one who does not. Which one will better motivate their university-level students? How can I encourage and motivate advanced students who come to my office disenchanted and discouraged after a setback at school if they know I’ve never experienced it myself, that I never had to struggle with what they are going through? There are those who say such experience isn’t needed, but to me it is a bit like a divorce counselor who has never been divorced. They can only guess what it is all about.

There are a few exceptions here and there to the general issues discussed here, but they are the exceptions that tend to prove the rule. You will hear about people with only a BS or BA teaching at universities or in good corporate jobs, but the reason you hear about them is precisely because it is unusual.

Tedkarma shares the additional insight he’s gleaned from his experience and graduate study in the field via his free online TEFL training: TEFL Boot Camp. Thanks once more to Tedkarma for sharing his know-how with the TEFL Logue.