Wilkes University Aims to Address Teacher Shortage with Master of Arts Degree in Teaching

by Kelly Clisham
campus photo featuring the student center and john wilkes statue

According to the state Department of Education, Pennsylvania will need thousands of new teachers by the start of the 2025-26 school year. Wilkes University aims to help address this critical shortage with its new accelerated master of arts degree in teaching.

“We believe every student deserves access to a high-quality education,” says Deborah Zbegner, dean of the College of Health and Education at Wilkes. “The shortage of teachers poses a formidable challenge and Wilkes is committed to delivering this creative and transformative master of arts in teaching program.”

Designed for people who already have a bachelor’s degree but are not currently licensed to teach, the master of arts degree in teaching (MAT) offers a path for college students and recent graduates who have developed an interest in teaching, as well as working professionals who want to pursue a new career path.

The program offers initial middle level certification to teach English, math, science or social studies for fourth through eighth grade. Once certified for middle level, participants can test for certification in other content areas or grade levels without pursuing an additional degree. “Once you have the initial certification, it opens the doors. You can take the state exam for almost any other subject.” says Tony Roma, associate director of graduate admissions. “In Pennsylvania, it’s all about the initial certification.” 

To prepare for the initial certification, the Wilkes MAT requires students to complete 30 credits of general education requirements and professional practice courses. While the majority of the coursework is online, students also gain hands-on experience through field hours and student teaching. Wilkes is also an approved provider for intern certification, which means a student may obtain certification and a teaching position before completing the program, using the time in the classroom as their student teaching requirement.

Students can complete the MAT program in under two years, and the online courses and reasonable cost for graduate credits make the program attractive to working professionals. Adria Wetherhold, who graduated in December, found the program accessible, even if the path to her degree meant doing research and writing papers on the sidelines of her children’s soccer practices or on the way to baseball tournaments.

“It is nice that the program is flexible and students can finish as quickly as they are able to in order to start working as a certified teacher,” says Wetherhold. The program advisor is wonderful, and I think anyone who is considering getting certified should at least take the time to review the requirements and ask questions.”

Due to the MAT’s flexible nature, it features a variety of different pathways for entry and program completion. Those interested in changing careers and changing lives in the classroom, please find more information at wilkes.edu/teachingcert.

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