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Which degree is right for me?

At the NYU Teacher Residency, we offer a master of arts in teaching in Inclusive Childhood Education and a master of arts in teaching in Secondary Education. While both require a steadfast commitment to students, families, and communities, as well as to your own lifelong learning, there are fundamental differences between teaching at the elementary and secondary levels.

As an elementary teacher, you will typically instruct the same group or cohort of children for the duration of one academic year. As a secondary educator, you will teach rotating groups of middle and high school students throughout the school day.

In addition, an elementary educator teaches all subjects in their school’s curriculum to students while a secondary educator teaches a single subject. The various subjects that educators teach are typically called content areas.

We compiled points of reflection to help you decide where you’re best suited to make a positive impact. This list is not exhaustive. We encourage you to use this guide as a way to think deeply about your own goals for becoming an educator and to imagine how those goals could be met in an elementary setting versus a middle or high school setting.

Which age of learners do you best relate to and want to inspire most?

  • Think about your own experience in school. Which grade levels were most formative for you? Which teacher made the most lasting impression on you?
  • Elementary, middle, and high school students all have varying levels of executive functioning skills. These skills include reflection, self-control, and the ability to pay attention and focus on tasks.
  • Consider which challenge excites you more: helping to build a child’s social emotional and academic foundation or contributing to a tween/teen’s identity and growth – academically and socially – as they become a young adult?

What do you want to teach?

  • Consider the major subject areas in school: language arts, math, science, and social studies. In secondary education (Grades 7-12), you specialize in one content area. In elementary education (Grades 1-6), you learn how to teach all subject areas.
  • In elementary education, it is essential that young learners are exposed to the arts, and as a lead teacher, you play a significant role in integrating the arts across the curriculum. In secondary education, your students will typically have access to arts electives outside of your classroom. On a scale of one (not at all) to five (I’m all about art!), how open are you to teaching through the arts – music, creative design, dance, and theatre – even if you’re not particularly artistic yourself?

What’s your communication style and personality?

  • Being a teacher requires excellent communication skills. For elementary education, you will need to model behaviors and help children communicate with, and learn how to treat one another. For secondary education, while you may leverage similar skills, your students will often possess a stronger sense of identity and more developed behaviors and habits.
  • You’ll need boundless energy no matter which grades you teach. Younger children benefit from having an educator who understands their playful energy.
  • Critical thinking and problem solving are important skills for students of all ages, but as a secondary education teacher, you will challenge your students to develop higher order thinking that queries the status quo and meaning in your specific content area.

Check the eligibility requirements and reference your undergraduate and/or graduate transcripts to ensure initial eligibility. If you are unsure of your eligibility, please contact an enrollment specialist.