Considering an advanced degree in education? Use these pointers and suggestions to help decide if this is the right path for you.

Smart Choices

Special education and ESOL: For those seeking a post-license master’s degree, special education and English for speakers of other languages are two of the most marketable fields available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 17 percent increase in the number of special education teachers from 2008 to 2018. In areas with a growing immigrant population, such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York, demand for ESOL teachers is expected to increase as the economy improves, the bureau reports.

Flexibility: Employment of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers is expected to increase 13 percent through 2018, but the job prospects are the best for teachers specializing in the fields of mathematics and science, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Teachers that are willing to work in less desirable urban or rural school districts are in high demand. These areas typically have difficulty in attracting and retaining enough teachers, so being flexible can bolster a job search.

[Check out the Best Education Schools rankings.]

Insider Tip

Though a graduate degree is required for teachers in many states, you shouldn’t view education school as a series of hoops you have to jump through, says Jeff Edmundson, director of master’s degree programs for education studies at the University of Oregon. Know that there’s still much you can discover to expand your ideas of teaching and learning; many take for granted the useful psychology and philosophy of educational methods, for example. “Too many people assume they know everything about teaching because they’ve been watching teachers for their whole lives,” he says.

[Explore options for an online master’s degree in education.]

Getting In

Time with the kids: Get some experience working with kids, and make sure you actually like interacting with them. Hanging out with your younger cousin or babysitting for a family or two won’t tell you how you’ll do with a classroom full of youngsters.

Social studies: Though mastering a core subject such as English or math is essential, also try to take undergraduate classes in human affairs. Politics, sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies all add to an applicant’s value.

Test early: Make sure you know which certification tests, such as the Praxis, are required by your state and/or university and take them as soon as you can. lists the testing requirements for each state.

[Learn more about preparing for graduate school admissions tests.]

Reality Check

Keep the following statistics in mind when you are considering a graduate degree in education:

• There were approximately 1.9 million elementary school teachers and 1.3 million secondary school teachers in the United States during the 2011–2012 school year, according to estimates by the National Education Association.

• The total number of classroom teachers has risen nearly 9 percent in the past 10 years.

• For the 2010–2011 school year, the average salary for public school classroom teachers in the United States was $55,623, according to the NEA.

• The average public school teacher salaries in New York ($72,708) and Massachusetts ($70,752) were the highest in the country in the 2010-2011 school year, according to the NEA, while South Dakota and Mississippi were the lowest, with starting salaries of $39,850 and $41,975, respectively.