Why Get a Master’s Degree in Education?
Educators who earn a master’s degree can advance their careers and increase their salary potential. Districts across the country offer higher salaries to teachers with a master’s degree, and administrative roles such as school principal, instructional coordinator, and superintendent require a master’s degree.
According to PayScale, a master’s degree in education leads to an average annual salary increase of $5,000 compared to a bachelor’s degree in the field. Similarly, administrative roles that require a master’s degree offer higher salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that K-12 principals earn a median annual wage of more than $96,000.
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An online master’s degree in education offers a flexible, accessible format designed for working teachers. By choosing an online program, teachers can arrange coursework around their schedule. Online programs also let teachers attend top programs from across the country without having to relocate or quit their job. As a result, many teachers choose an online program to advance their education.
After completing an online master’s in education, graduates can pursue roles with greater responsibilities, including as lead teachers, principals, and school administrators.
Top 10 Affordable Online Master’s in Education Degrees 2020
||University of the Cumberlands
||University of Colorado Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus
||New Castle, DE
||Concordia University - Chicago
||River Forest, IL
||University of South Florida
||Nova Southeastern University
||Fort Lauderdale, FL
||Carlos Albizu University
||University of Alabama at Birmingham
How long does it take to earn a master’s in education?
Earning a master’s in education generally takes two years for full-time students. Students can also enroll part time, and some programs offer accelerated options to earn a degree in less time.
Is a master’s in education equivalent to a bachelor’s in education?
No. A master’s in education provides graduate-level training in teaching, educational administration, and educational leadership. Like a bachelor’s degree, a master’s meets licensure requirements.
What comes after a master’s degree in education?
After earning a master’s in education, graduates can earn a teaching, principal, or administrator license. Educators can also pursue a doctorate in education.
Can I do a master’s in education after a bachelor’s in education?
Yes. Educators with a bachelor’s degree can increase their earning potential and career opportunities by enrolling in a master’s in education program.
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Education Degrees
Prospective graduate students in education should always check a program’s accreditation status before applying. Accredited institutions meet the highest standards for academic excellence. Schools earn accreditation by undergoing a voluntary review of their student learning outcomes, graduation requirements, and faculty qualifications. At the institutional level, regional accreditation remains the gold standard.
In addition to choosing an accredited institution, educators should also look for programmatic accreditation. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) grants programmatic accreditation to education degrees. CAEP reviews each program’s curriculum, standards, and methods to recognize education programs that adequately prepare graduates.
Accreditation benefits students. Teaching licensure requirements in many states include an accredited degree, and national board certification also requires an accredited degree. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education maintain databases of regionally accredited institutions. CAEP also provides lists of accredited educator preparation programs.
Most Affordable Online Master’s in Education Degrees 2020
When comparing online master’s in education programs, prospective students must look beyond tuition rates to consider factors like technology fees, financial aid, and other expenses. Our methodology incorporates these factors to rank the most affordable online master’s degrees in education. These rankings can help you find the best program for your professional goals and budget.
Top 25 Online Programs for a Master’s in Education
See our rankings methodology page.
University of the Cumberlands
The University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky, offers several convenient and flexible online teaching master's programs. The school offers programs for current teachers who want to advance their careers and for professionals in other fields seeking a career change.
The school offers an online master of arts in education with concentrations in literacy, school counseling, and teacher as a leader — as well as a master of teaching that leads to initial teacher licensure. Both programs require a student-teaching residency and 30-45 credits. Online classes span eight weeks and meet weekly at designated times, allowing students and faculty to take part in discussions.
Cumberland accepts up to nine transfer credits toward the degree. Students planning to teach in states other than Kentucky should check with their state's department of education for degree reciprocity.
University of Colorado Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus
The University of Colorado Denver allows licensed teachers to advance their careers and improve their skills with five fully online teaching master's programs. Each degree requires 30 credits and a capstone practicum or thesis.
Students can choose from master's degrees in learning design and technology, literacy education with reading and writing endorsements, research and evaluation methods, early childhood education, and STEM education. STEM education students can further personalize their studies through interdisciplinary concentrations in areas such as math or science.
These degrees do not meet the requirements for initial teacher licensure. Some programs require a valid teaching license to enroll. Students take asynchronous classes through Canvas. Students work closely with an enrollment navigator that connects them to support services, such as a 24/7 librarian, an online writing center, and a student tech guide.
Located in New Castle, Delaware, Wilmington University allows students to earn a master of education online, on campus, or in a blended format. Learners can choose from specializations in school leadership, skilled and technical sciences, and elementary and secondary education.
The program requires 30-33 credits, with most students graduating in 2-3 years while they continue to work. The core curriculum covers topics like learning theory, educational psychology, and child development. Electives include personnel administration, technology and the school environment, and classroom and school culture. Courses span eight weeks.
Students can transfer up to 12 transfer credits toward the degree. All students take part in a noncredit electronic folio course that helps students save and track their progress toward degree competencies. Applicants must submit transcripts. Some programs may require work experience and a valid teaching license.
Concordia University - Chicago
River Forest, IL
Established in 1864, Concordia University Chicago is a private university that offers more than 22 education master's programs, including degrees for licensed teachers advancing their careers and students seeking initial teaching licensure.
The master's programs feature a cohort model, meaning students take courses with the same group of peers throughout the program. Most programs require 30 credits and take 1-2 years to complete. Though courses are asynchronous, students enjoy frequent interaction with faculty and classmates.
Students can pursue specializations in curriculum and instruction, differential instruction, educational technology, or educational administration. Most of these degrees require a valid teaching license and classroom experience. The school also offers programs that lead to initial teaching licensure. Each program requires a capstone experience, such as a thesis or a similar professional project. Applicants must hold a minimum 2.85 GPA and submit an essay.
University of South Florida
The University of South Florida offers a variety of online teaching master's programs that help teachers advance their careers. The 33-credit programs include concentrations in autism spectrum disorder, teaching English as a second language, exceptional student education, and gifted education.
Students can also choose from master's degrees in learning design and technology, physical education, and reading education. The programs feature synchronous courses delivered through Oasis. Class discussions, group projects, and multimedia presentations enhance the learning process. Distance students complete field assignments in their current schools. Each student must pass a comprehensive exam to graduate.
Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit GRE scores, a statement of purpose, a current resume, and letters of recommendation.
Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University, offered its first distance education program in 1971. Today, the school offers a variety of online undergraduate and graduate programs, including more than 10 online education master's programs.
The degrees comprise 30-36 credits and include concentrations in educational leadership, elementary education, exceptional student education, English as a second language, curriculum, instruction, and technology. Some programs require a 150-hour internship and completion of a leadership portfolio.
Online courses feature an asynchronous format and include collaborative projects and simulation learning. Students can transfer up to six graduate credits toward the degree.
Based in Miami, Florida, Carlos Albizu University hosts about 2,000 distance learners through its online learning platform launched in 2013. The school offers an online master's degree in teaching English for speakers of other languages with an optional concentration in exceptional student education.
Learners study topics like cultural diversity and exceptional student behavior. Faculty bring real-world experience in teaching language acquisition. Faculty also complete training in online teaching.
Distance students can purchase books and access library resources online. Admission requires a bachelor's degree. Online learners can take advantage of a variety of financial aid opportunities.
Based in Irvine, California, Brandman University offers an online master of education with concentrations in curriculum and instruction; educational leadership; educational administration; instructional technology; leadership in early childhood education; and education, teaching, and learning.
Online courses feature asynchronous formats. The eight-week terms offer six start dates each year. In addition to fully online programs, students can pursue a hybrid education master's program. Hybrid classes meet online and in the evening at more than 25 locations in California and Washington.
Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA. However, the school considers applicants with a lower GPA and evidence of academic ability measured by the GRE, Miller Analogies Test, or California Subject Exams for Teachers. Most programs require teaching certification.
University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers online teaching master's programs for current educators and aspiring teachers. The public university offers online master of arts in education degrees with concentrations in elementary education, reading, early childhood education, special education, instructional design and development, and kinesiology. Students can also pursue concentrations in school psychometry and community health.
The programs require 30-49 credits. Students seeking initial teaching licensure must complete a residency program as part of the curriculum. Classes span seven weeks, with two class sessions each semester. Learners must complete a digital portfolio and pass a comprehensive exam.
Rolling admissions allow applicants to start their educational journey when it's most convenient. Admission requirements vary by program. Some programs require a valid teaching license.
Based in Beaumont, Texas, Lamar University offers online teaching master's degrees in educational administration, teacher leadership, educational technology leadership, digital learning and leading, and special education.
The programs require 30-36 credits, with some offering specializations and credentials in areas like educational diagnostician, gifted and talented education, and English as a second language. Online learners must complete a practicum in their local community.
Admission requirements vary by program, but all applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA in their final 60 credits of coursework. Students who do not meet this requirement can submit GRE scores to bolster their application. Most of the programs also require a valid teaching license, and the educational administration program requires at least two years of teaching experience.
Founded in 1915, Webster University is a Catholic institution that offers multiple teaching master's degrees online.
Students can earn a master of education in education and innovation, multimodal literacy, STEM education, educational technology, special education, or English as a second language. Special education students can further specialize in dyslexia, positive behavior intervention and support, trauma-informed education, or applied behavior analysis. Most programs require around 33 credits.
The programs deliver online courses through Canvas. Students complete weekly assignments with asynchronous course scheduling. Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA and a valid teaching license.
University of Southern California
Based in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California is a private school that offers a variety of online teaching degrees. The school offers online master of education programs in school counseling, learning design and technology, enrollment management and policy, and TESOL.
Programs require around 30 credits. Students seeking initial teaching licensure must complete 600 hours of clinical practice at an approved site near their home. Synchronous classes meet in the late afternoon or early evening to accommodate working students' schedules.
USC evaluates applicants by academic preparation, work experience, and personal achievement. The school also considers all admitted students for limited scholarship opportunities.
Georgia State University helps teachers advance their careers and enhance their skills with online teaching master's degrees. Students can pursue master's degrees in educational research, health and physical education, math, reading, literacy, and science. The school also offers teaching endorsements.
Degrees require 36-45 credits, with synchronous classes delivered through the school's online learning management system. Many programs require students to culminate the degree with an internship or practicum.
Admission requires a bachelor's degree, with some programs reserved for practicing teachers. Applicants must submit transcripts, a resume, an essay, and letters of recommendation.
Arkansas State University
Arkansas State University in Jonesboro offers online teaching master's programs in areas like curriculum and instruction, early childhood education, educational leadership, educational theory and practice, special education, and school counseling.
Most programs comprise 30-46 credits and feature seven-week, asynchronous courses that allow students to balance their studies with professional and personal obligations. Summer internships and practice teaching sessions complement the curriculum.
Admission requirements vary by program, with some degrees reserved for licensed teachers. Master of arts applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA, while master of science applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some programs require students to find an educator mentor. All online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency.
The University of Kansas offers some of the top online teaching master's programs in the country. Based in Lawrence, Kansas, the public university focuses on the practical application of educational theory, with teaching master's degrees in curriculum and instruction, educational administration, secondary special education, and special education.
Most programs require around 30 credits and take two years of full-time study to complete. The program delivers coursework through Blackboard, and courses span eight weeks. Online learning tools include simulated school districts that illustrate the diverse learning needs of students. Students culminate the degree with a capstone experience.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some programs also require a valid teaching license. All online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency.
University of North Texas
Based in Denton, the University of North Texas offers more than 80 online degrees, including teaching master's degrees. Students can earn an online master of education in areas like higher education; autism intervention; educational diagnostician; curriculum and instruction; and secondary, elementary, and middle school education.
Most programs require around 30 credits. Students seeking a teaching license must complete a 36-credit degree, with certification options for elementary and secondary education. The teaching certification program includes student-teaching requirements and overlaps with the school's post-bachelor's teaching program.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.88 GPA and submit a resume, a letter of intent, and an essay. Some programs also require verification of a valid teaching license.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers online teaching master's degrees in curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, and diversity and equity in education. Depending on the program, students can specialize in areas like digital learning, perspectives and practices of teaching, global studies, higher education, and educational administration and leadership.
The 32- to 48-credit programs feature core courses, electives, and emphasis courses. Online courses feature an asynchronous format, giving students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Students culminate the degree with a capstone course during which they design, implement, and analyze a research project.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a personal statement, a resume, and letters of reference. Some programs require a valid teaching license and classroom teaching experience. Students can transfer up to 12 credits toward the degree. All online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency.
University of Missouri students looking to earn a master's in education online can choose from 20 fully online and four hybrid programs. Students can earn teaching degrees in areas like school counseling, early childhood education, educational leadership and administration, and special education. Mizzou also offers degrees in subject areas such as English, science, and math. Most programs require 30-32 credits and take 1-2 years to complete.
The hybrid educational leadership and administration program features a cohort format, meaning students take classes with the same group of peers throughout the program. The degree leads to state certification.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit letters of recommendation and evidence of a current teacher license. Some programs also require GRE scores. All online students pay in-state tuition rates regardless of residency.
Based in San Diego, California, National University offers several online teaching master's degrees, some of which offer licensure and endorsement opportunities. Students can choose from programs like an online master of arts in special education or an online master of science in higher education administration — as well as programs in educational and instructional technology or educational administration.
Learners can also pursue online master of education programs in areas like special education with a California preliminary education specialist credential and secondary education with Nevada teaching licensure. Degrees require 45-54 credits.
The online programs feature four-week accelerated classes. Students complete one course at a time. Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Some programs also require valid teaching credentials.
Campbellsville University works closely with partners in Kentucky's school systems to develop its educational content and curriculum. CU offers online master of education programs in school counseling, teacher leadership, educational administration, special education, teaching, music education, and school improvement.
Licensed teachers can also pursue additional endorsements and certifications online. Most programs require 36-48 credits, and students can transfer up to 12 credits toward the degree. The programs' eight-week courses feature asynchronous formats, giving students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Learners culminate the degree with an internship or practicum.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree, and some programs require a teaching license. They must also submit professional recommendations, an essay, and GRE scores.
Western Governors University
Salt Lake City, UT
Western Governors University uses a competency-based format for its online master of education degrees. Under this plan, students pay for a six-month term and complete as many courses as they can during that time. Once they meet established learning goals, they can move on to the next class.
Students work closely with a mentor who helps map their degree plan. Completion time varies, but students often graduate in two years. WGU offers education master's degrees in curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, instructional design, special education, and science and math. Students seeking initial teaching licensure can pursue a master of arts in teaching with endorsements in elementary education, English, math, and science. These programs require a student-teaching internship.
The fully online programs feature asynchronous courses. The school is authorized to serve students in all 50 states, though some programs may not meet licensing requirements in all states.
The University of Memphis offers flexible, online teaching master's programs in areas such as educational research, curriculum and instruction, and educational psychology.
The programs comprise 30 credits. Degrees leading to licensure require student-teaching experiences. All students complete a thesis as part of their capstone project. Courses feature an asynchronous format for maximum flexibility.
Admission requires a bachelor's degree and acceptable scores on the Miller Analogies Test. All online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. Online students gain access to library resources, advising services, and tech support. Teaching certification is not required for admission into any of the programs.
Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, offers four online education master's programs: a master of teaching, master of education in curriculum and instruction, master of education in higher education, and master of education with a licensure option.
Each program offers a variety of specializations that allow students to tailor the degree to their interests and goals. For example, the master of teaching degree includes specializations in elementary school, middle school, secondary, and special education, while the curriculum and instruction degree includes concentrations in leadership, student services, and English. Most programs require 30-36 credits.
Courses span eight weeks and feature an asynchronous format. Students can transfer up to half of the credits required for graduation, provided courses meet curriculum requirements. Multiple start dates throughout the year allow students to begin their degree when most convenient.
Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel University offers 16 online education master's degrees in areas like educational administration, behavior analysis, and international education. Most programs feature a variety of specializations that allow students to tailor the degree to their interests and goals, with some offering licensure and endorsement options.
Most programs comprise 45-46 quarter credits and include a capstone research experience that synthesizes degree knowledge and skills. The school features an ongoing series on urban education with partners from the Philadelphia school system, and the dean's lecture series brings a variety of education experts to campus to share their knowledge.
Admission requires a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Programs leading to education endorsements, such as principal's certification, require a valid teaching license. Online students gain access to 24/7 tech support, the library, and career services.
Teachers can enhance their careers with an online teaching degree from the University of New Mexico. The school offers teaching master's degrees in educational leadership, secondary education, music education, and elementary education.
The degrees require 32-36 credits and include core courses on topics like educational leadership, principles of curriculum development, and data-informed instructional leadership. UNM offers some of its music education courses in an accelerated, eight-week format, with special tuition discounts available.
Admission requires a bachelor's degree in education or a related field with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some degrees require a valid teaching license. The school offers rolling admissions and follows a semester format. UNM online students pay a standard tuition rate, regardless of residency.
Teaching Certifications and Licenses
Educators typically need a teaching license to work in public schools. Some private and charter schools also require licensure. The requirements for a teaching license vary depending on the state.
In Illinois, for example, teaching license candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, complete a state-approved teacher preparation program, and meet student teaching requirements. Illinois also requires licensure tests depending on the teacher’s endorsement areas. Candidates with a master’s degree in education meet the educational requirements for a teaching license.
Some states require teachers to complete a master’s degree within a certain amount of time after beginning their teaching career. In New York, for example, teachers must earn a master’s degree within five years. Many states also require continuing education to renew the teaching license. A master’s degree fulfills that requirement.
At the administrative level, principals and other school administrators typically need a master’s degree to earn a principal or administrator license. Most states offer some form of reciprocity for licensed educators who hold an out-of-state license.
Career and Salary Outlook for Master’s in Education Graduates
An online master’s degree in education prepares educators for career advancement and higher earning potential. After completing a master’s degree, teachers qualify for advanced positions like lead teacher. Educators with a master’s degree also earn higher salaries than those with a bachelor’s degree.
Administrative roles like school principal, instructional coordinator, and school superintendent typically require a master’s degree. In addition, a master’s in education can lead to opportunities in fields like training and development management.
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
Elementary, middle, and high school principals oversee operations at a school. They manage the staff, promote a productive learning environment, and implement curriculum standards. Principals must also manage budgets, meet with parents and district administrators, and oversee daily operations. Principals typically hold a master’s degree in education.
High School Teachers
High school teachers prepare students for the workforce or higher education. They specialize in fields like language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. High school teachers plan lessons, instruct students in their subject, and assess each student’s knowledge. They grade assignments and tests, manage the classroom, and coordinate with other teachers and administrative staff.
Instructional coordinators oversee a school or district’s curriculum and teaching standards. They develop educational materials designed to meet the state’s standards and implement a curriculum. Instructional coordinators also train teachers on new content, analyze test data from students, and evaluate a curriculum’s effectiveness.
Training and Development Managers
Training and development managers assess a company’s training needs, develop training programs to meet those needs, and oversee the training budget. Training and development managers also select training materials, update training programs, and teach training methods to instructors. After implementing a training program, they evaluate its effectiveness.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Master’s in Education Students
Students enrolled in online master’s in education programs qualify for many scholarships and financial aid opportunities. For example, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, a federal program, supports master’s students planning to teach in high-need areas and subjects or in low-income schools. Many professional organizations also offer scholarships for graduate students in education.
By completing the FAFSA, prospective students can receive federal grants, scholarships, and loans to cover the cost of a master’s degree. The FAFSA determines a student’s expected contribution toward their program and the cost of the program to award federal financial aid.
In addition to scholarships and federal financial aid, master’s students can also receive graduate assistantships, fellowships, and employer tuition assistance to cover the cost of a degree. Graduate assistantships provide funding and tuition reimbursement for graduate students who work for the university. The following list offers scholarship opportunities for master’s students in education.
Who Can Apply: Graduate students who meet the program’s academic achievement requirements qualify for the TEACH Grant. Recipients must meet service requirements after completing their master’s in education.
Amount: $4,000 per year
STEM Teacher Graduate Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Graduate students earning a degree related to teaching STEM qualify for this AFCEA Educational Foundation scholarship. Applicants must attend an accredited program and take at least two courses per semester.
Inspire Our Future Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Offered by Teacher.org, this scholarship supports future teachers, including graduate students in education. Applicants must submit an essay and have a minimum 3.5 GPA to qualify for the scholarship.
Bright Futures Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship grants 30 awards each year to full-time and part-time learners studying early childhood education, including graduate students.
Applicants should have a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Bishop Charles P. Greco Graduate Fellowship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports full-time graduate students planning on working with students with intellectual disabilities. Applicants provide a transcript and an autobiographical statement. Applicants must be members of the Knights of Columbus or related to a member.
Amount: $500 per semester
Studying Education Online
An online master’s degree in education offers several benefits over an on-campus program. Online learning provides flexibility for working teachers seeking a graduate degree. By letting students complete coursework on their schedule and eliminating on-campus visits, these programs appeal to currently employed teachers. Online programs also let graduate students attend highly ranked schools without relocating.
Studying online also offers financial benefits. Students save money on commuting and transportation costs, and some out-of-state schools offer a tuition discount for online learners.
During an online master’s in education program, students access their course materials through a learning management system like Blackboard or Moodle. Depending on the program, professors may provide recorded lectures or live online class sessions. Many online master’s in education programs use asynchronous schedules, in which there are no set class times. As a result, a growing number of educators choose online programs for their master’s degree.
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