Professional Learning

Master’s Degree Mailbag (Ep. 193)

With AOEU enrolling its 300th student, this week’s episode will answer some of the most common questions coming in about the Master’s Degree. Tim welcomes the Dean of The Art of Education University, Heather Crockett, and they open up the proverbial mailbag to answer questions from current and prospective students. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

As I mentioned at the close of last week’s episode, we were going to talk today about the master’s degree that AOEU is offering. There has been just a flood of interest lately, and with the program enrolling its 300th student this week, it is the perfect time to talk about graduate studies and the opportunities that are available. As I said, we’ve gotten a plethora of questions through social media, through email, through our admissions counselors, all about our degree.

I decided the best way to process all of these questions is to do a mailbag episode, and I figured we probably needed an expert, somebody who knows a little more than I do to answer all of these questions and to get you the very best information. So I extended an invitation to Heather Crockett, the dean of The Art of Education University. Now, Heather has seen us through the entire process of becoming accredited as a university, developing a master’s degree and growing the institution to the point where we are today. She has been here since the beginning and she has her finger on the pulse of everything that is happening at AOEU. She has a ton of knowledge to offer and I think she is ready to talk to us now.

All right, Heather Crockett is now joining me. Heather, how are you today?

Heather: I am doing good, thank you.

Tim: Good. All right. Now, as I explained to everybody at the top of the show, we have a mailbag full of questions that need to be answered and I just want to dive right in. So this first question comes from Sarah, who was one of our first students to enroll in the program, and she is asking, “Number one, how are things going with the program right now? And number two, how many students followed me into the master’s degree program?”

Heather: Yeah, so the degree is really taking off. Just this week, we hit 300 students accepted into our master’s degree program.

Tim: That is incredible.

Heather: It is an incredible milestone because our program’s only been in existence for 10 months. So I have to tell you, Tim, we’re so incredibly excited to hit that milestone, but also really, really humbled because 300 students in an art ed master’s degree program, it’s unheard of. Some programs top out in the single digits. I mean, that’s where mine was.

Tim: No, that’s always how it is, because I remember my undergrad, I think there were 11 of us, and I was at a pretty good art ed program, and then my master’s, I was literally the only art teacher. It was very depressing. We can talk more about that later. But yeah, having 300, like you said, it’s an incredible number. It’s an incredible accomplishment to put together that kind of a program. So next question, though. This is from Mike. He’s in upstate New York, he said. He asks, “What courses are available and what is the difference between core courses and the electives that you offer?”

Heather: Sure. So the AOEU master’s degree is a 36 credit hour program total. And of those 36 credit hours, 21 come from our core courses. The core courses are designed for fundamental concepts that will benefit all art teachers. What I mean is that somebody teaching in elementary art in rural America will benefit, somebody who is teaching AP drawing in an urban setting. Regardless, everyone will benefit from these classes. The core courses include assessment, managing the art room, instructional strategies, curriculum design, and then our two 600 level courses, which are the two last courses of the program, mission of teaching and capstone research.

Tim: Okay. So let me interrupt you real quick. Let me just ask, when you’re talking fundamental concepts, like you said, those are kind of the skills that every art teacher needs, right, like assessment, you said managing, like classroom management, instructional strategies, curriculum. Those are the ones that everybody needs to know how to do those things to be successful, right? Is that the thinking behind that?

Heather: Yes. That’s the thinking. Plus, the courses are designed so that you’re working on stuff that’s actually going to implement in your classroom. So if you’re an elementary art teacher in curriculum design, you’re going to design your third-grade curriculum. If you’re a high school teacher, you’re going to design maybe drawing one. You’re going to work on whatever you need for your classroom, so it’s going to push you individually.

Tim: Okay, cool. That’s a really good explanation. I’m sorry I kind of sidetracked you there, but Mike wants to know about electives. So can you, I guess, just talk a little bit more about what’s available elective-wise? Once you get past those fundamentals, what are the options for people?

Heather: Sure. Of the 36 hours, 15 hours are dedicated to electives. We have 18 different elective courses right now, and that number is always growing. You can pick and choose. You can focus on topics that you’re most passionate about. So it’s a very flexible design, and that’s one way that our program stands apart. We do not have tracks that people have to follow. You basically get to design your degree. Some students focus totally on hands-on studio courses like ceramics and printmaking, and then others maybe focus on differentiation, special ed, art history, and then you could do a blend, too, so you could take flipped instruction and ceramics. I mean, the possibilities are endless and you get what you want out of the program that way.

Tim: Yeah, that’s really cool. I love the individualized aspect and how you’re not following specific tracks. I think that’s really cool. All right, next question. This is from Janae. Comes in via email. And she’s looking for advising. She says, “I’m a K5 art teacher and I was thinking about doing my master’s degree in elementary education just because my university is close and that’s what they offer, but I like the idea of getting a master’s in art education from AOEU. Do you think it would be better for me as an art teacher to get my master’s in art education?”

Heather: Okay. This question really pulls at my heartstrings because I was in a very similar situation and at the time AOEU wasn’t around, so my options were even more limited. And I did choose the local general degree option where I was one of two art teachers in my master’s degree program. Actually, what you’re describing too is the very reason that AOEU was created, right? The high-quality professional development specific to the field of art education just wasn’t available to everyone, and we think it should be. When we’re forced to not have those options, we have to oftentimes make it work. If you take the general path like I did, you have to try to make it work, and I’m not above making it work. In some ways, that’s kind of creative, part of our creative field maybe to pull out key pieces and general PD and adapt it to what we’re doing and make it our own. But I guess my question would be, don’t you deserve more than that?

Tim: Yeah, that’s a really good question. And I think that’s something that everybody needs to think about. If I can just kind of echo what you’re saying there, that was my deal, too. I mean, I’m old, so it was a long time ago that I got my master’s degree, but nothing like AOEU existed back then. I got my master’s in secondary education, and that’s fine. It worked fine for me. But I’ve talked about this before on the podcast. I really felt like I was settling,. you feel like, like you said, you’re taking whatever is there for the general education strategies and making them work for your art room, and like I said, it’s not what you want. And Janae, I would suggest that you don’t settle for that, that you look for something that is specific, that is made for art teachers. And so Heather, I guess can you talk a little bit more about AOEU, how we are putting things together specific for our teachers?

Heather: Yeah. There’s a couple things that came to my mind while I was listening to you there that I don’t know if everybody knows about our program design. The first is that our degree is entirely designed and run by art teachers. Let me just say that again. The program is written by art teachers for art teachers, and not just the course content, but the entire program experience. Our admissions counselors and academic advisors, the people who are going to answer the phone if you call in to learn more about the degree, they’re experienced art teachers and they’ve also been AOEU faculty, so they know the program inside and out because they’ve spent years living it and teaching it and they helped design it.

Same goes with our faculty. Our faculty is majority practicing art teachers from all over the country, so a lot of them are still in their classroom and they’re able to bring samples directly from their physical classroom right into our virtual classroom. And beyond that, they also understand what it’s like to be a working art teacher, plus mom or dad, daughter, friend, artist, all those other things that make your life full. So they’re able to connect with our students.

And then the second part of the story is our curriculum philosophy. We promise a relevant, rigorous, and engaging curriculum, right? But it’s not just a promise for us. It’s our mission. We really want the work you put into your class to be directly usable in your classroom. We want you to earn credit, grad credit. We even want you to earn a whole degree doing work that you are going to do anyway, right? In our curriculum class, like I mentioned before, you might develop curriculum, but it will be specific to your program. In the managing class, you’re creating a management plan that works for your art room, works for your students culture.

I guess getting back to Janae, I would say my advice would be to take that art ed specific degree if you can, because you deserve a program where you’re going to be challenged and engaged and inspired.

Tim: Yes, absolutely. I don’t know. I remember my experience and yeah, like you said, it’s incredible to have something specific to art that like you said, challenges you and engages you because there’s so many times you’re doing these assignments and just not seeing how they’re relevant or having to work really, really hard to make them relevant. And so I think there’s a significant difference between just doing a general education master’s and doing one that’s specific to art ed. So yeah, thank you for explaining all of that.

Okay, next question. This is from Huron Art on Instagram, a two part question. “Will my school district except AOEU’s accreditation, and what is the best approach for figuring out accreditation?”

Heather: Yep. Well, first off, I’m so glad someone asked about accreditation, so thank you, Huron Art, because in today’s world, accreditation is super important to consider. No matter what program you’re investigating, it’s worth understanding. So the AOEU master’s degree is accredited by the DEAC, which means that our program is nationally accredited. So to answer your question, “Will my school district accept AOEU’s accreditation?” The honest answer is, there is no black and white answer, but our admissions team will help you find out.

It depends a lot on your goals, so understanding your specific goals, and the more you can understand that the better. And what I mean by that is some teachers want to advance on the salary scale. Others need to renew or upgrade their license. Some people pursue a master’s degree just as a personal goal and some people do more than one, so they want to move over on the pay scale and renew their license, right? So the way that accreditation impacts these is different by state and sometimes even district by district.

The best thing to do is to do a little bit of research, and we have tools to support you with that. On our website, if you click on the master’s degree and then scroll down about halfway, we have a big interactive map with all the different states listed, and you can click on your state and then click on this learn more button. And this is the first place I recommend looking, because you will find information specific to your state. And oftentimes, there’s individual forms or links or contacts. It’s a really great resource.

The next thing to do is to get in touch with our admissions team. Our admissions counselors will help you figure out exactly what you need to know. We have handouts with program information that we will give those to you and you can attach them to an email and send them to human resources, whatever you need, and we also help you figure out what questions to ask, because sometimes you just need to sort of get to the heart of the issue with the person who’s making the decision, right? We want you in our program, but we also want you to get what you want out of the program, so our admissions team will help you figure that out.

Tim: Yes, absolutely. And if I can just chime in with something too, obviously we can’t do the work for you. If you’re looking at whether it’s going to work for you in your district or in your building, we can’t have those conversations for you, but we have put so many hours into doing all of the legwork, all of the research to see where this works in different States. And like Heather said, there’s so many different resources out there. We can share those with you and hopefully help you as you’re having those conversations. I think that’s a really cool thing. And yeah, like you said, Heather, the admissions team is awesome. Next question. This is from Mrs. H Art Room on Instagram. This is one that we get a lot. “How can I pay for the degree after I am accepted?”

Heather: Yeah, this is a good question. We have several different options to pick from. Most students pay as they go, which means they buy a course one at a time when they’re ready. Our courses start every month, so you can really work at your own pace. The cool thing about this option is that you chip away at the tuition class by class and probably the most exciting thing about this option is that you would graduate debt-free, right, if you could pay as you go.

Thinking about our tuition coverage, it really depends on how long you want to take, but if you were taking two years for the program, which is kind of our recommendation, in order to pay as you go, you’d need to set aside around 500 bucks a month, and then if you decided to take longer, four years, you’d be looking at setting aside around 250. When you break down the full tuition into a monthly cost like that, I think it’s helpful.

Some students leverage their salary advancement in order to pay for the tuition, so this is where you pull out your district salary schedule and you look at how your salary will increase after earning your degree. This is another great place for our admissions counselors to help you. You can even share your pay scale with them and they can help you figure that out so that you can see, “Okay, if I make the investment now, how can I pay that off quickly once I get my raise,” right?

Another option is seeing if your district can help. Some districts actually pay for professional development and full master’s degrees. They pay with a PO sometimes, so we accept purchase orders. Sometimes they’ll pay upfront for tuition and then other times teachers pay and then they submit a transcript and they’re reimbursed. You’d actually be surprised by the number of districts that have funds allocated to PD. It’s definitely, in my opinion, worth a conversation with your principal. Never hurts to ask.

Tim: Yeah, very true.

Heather: And then lastly, we have students who secure private loans, and that can be for any amount as well, up to the full tuition, which would be 13,000, so that’s another option that has worked for some of our students. And again, payment options. Our admissions counselors are really knowledgeable about that, so chatting with them is what I would totally recommend.

Tim: Okay, awesome. And where can people get in touch with admissions, if they just want to email them directly?

Heather: Oh, sure. The best email is

Tim: Okay, and then they can also go on the website and just request information too if they want to, correct?

Heather: Yep. Yep. We have a contact us form and you can put it in there, and anyway.

Tim: Perfect. Perfect. All right. And then I think the last mailbag question, this has come in from so many places. How long does it take to get through the program? You talked a little bit about that, but if people start soon, when will they graduate?

Heather: Sure. Our recommended timeline is two years, but you would have a maximum of five years to complete your program, so you can move through it as quickly as you like. Again, we have courses that start every single month. You do not have to wait for fall semester or spring semester. You can move through the program as quickly as you like. We have students who will take summers only and that’s an option. And we actually have students who started this year who are going to graduate in early 2020 already, so that’s super exciting.

Tim: That’s awesome.

Heather: Yeah. One thing we haven’t talked about yet that could impact your timeline and also your tuition is transferring in courses. AOEU allows you to transfer in up to nine credits from an outside university. If you’ve taken classes with AOEU previously, because we’ve offered courses for I think like eight years now, you can transfer in up to 18 credit hours of AOEU credit. So courses have to be taken within the last five years when you apply, and they are all subject to approval, so there’s a quick form that you fill out, but if you’ve taken professional development graduate credit hours in the last five years, I would really suggest taking the time to fill out the quick form to see if any would transfer in because that would reduce your tuition and your time to complete the program. There’s a transfer credit policy on our website that goes into further detail, but also our admissions team is really knowledgeable about that, as well.

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and just another case where it never hurts to ask, right? If you’ve taken those courses, you might as well check and see if they’re going to work, so cool. All right, well, Heather, that closes up the mailbag for us. Just first of all, thank you for coming on. Secondly, is there anything else you want to share, any final thoughts that you have or anything else that we didn’t cover?

Heather: Well, I guess I just wanted to say a big thank you to our students. Our students are amazing and because of them and because of the popularity of this program, I just want you to know, I guess, we’re absolutely determined to make this the best art ed master’s degree experience that there is. I’m not sure if I can put this out here, but I’m just going to go for it. We are growing as a university, and we’re hiring. We’re looking for the best talent for our faculty, staff and content producers to help develop curriculum. So if you’re listening and you’re interested in joining our team, please head over to that work with us page on our website and check our openings.

Tim: All right. That sounds good. Yeah, I think you’ll have some interest there for sure, so cool. All right, well, like I said, Heather, thank you so much. I appreciate you taking some time from developing this amazing program and chatting with us about everything. It’s really informative and I think it’s been really helpful for people, so thank you.

Heather: Great. Thank you so much for having me, Tim.

Tim: Well, I hope that answers some or hopefully all of your questions about the master’s degree and about The Art of Education University. I will add some links in the show notes that’ll be helpful to you if you want to explore and if you want to continue your research. And the one that I will add that’s probably most fascinating to me is an article about how much more money you can make over the course of your career if you earn your master’s sooner rather than later. I know Heather mentioned that in the course of our conversation, but I will make sure you can find the article to look a little bit more closely.

Now, if you’re on the fence about where to go for your master’s degree, as one of the questions alluded to then, I honestly can’t recommend AOEU highly enough. I actually was talking to one of my former students last week. He’s studying to become an art teacher, about a year and a half away from graduating, and he’s looking at getting a master’s degree after he graduates. Now, obviously I’m biased, but I was sharing with him everything that he wanted to know about the AOEU master’s degree. Our discussion hit on a lot of the same things that people were asking about here in this episode today, a lot of the things that Heather was talking about. But my student was just amazed at how relevant everything is, how inexpensive it was and how much the degree just has to offer in comparison to a lot of the other programs that he’s looking at right now.

I would just say, I guess to wrap things up, if you are on the fence about getting your master’s, make sure you do your research. Make sure you know exactly what you want to get out of your studies, out of your degree and why you want to do it. But in the end, if you decide to go for it, it will be an incredible investment in yourself, your teaching, your career, and your future.

Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you so much to Heather for coming on. Huge congratulations to her and to the entire master’s degree program for getting their 300th student. That’s awesome, and I’m really, really glad we could celebrate that today. All right, we will talk to you next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.