Teachers often refer to their profession as the hardest job that everyone thinks they can do.
But anyone who has taken on the role of teacher for any extended period of time is aware of the broad base of knowledge, the carefully honed skills, and the personal commitment that it takes to do the job well.
Working with young children is not an easy task, and teachers need all the tools at their disposal to do it well. So if you’re beginning your search for a good online Master’s in Elementary Education program, College Choice has you covered with our ranking of the 25 best programs. Then again, an online degree may work better!
Top 10 Best Online Master’s in Elementary Education Degrees
||Auburn University, AL
||Western Illinois University
||University of Alabama
||Missouri State University
||University of North Carolina Wilmington
||Southeast Missouri State University
||Cape Girardeau, MO
||Eastern New Mexico University
||Valley City State University
||Valley City, ND
||Eastern Kentucky University
||University of North Dakota
||Grand Forks, ND
Accredited Online College Programs
There are several good reasons to get a Master’s in Elementary Education. The teaching profession has changed dramatically in recent decades due to demographic and sociological changes – and for those wanting to move ahead in their profession (not to mention the pay scale), a Bachelor’s degree is no longer sufficient.
But a Master’s in Education does more than expand the possibilities for employment in teaching and administration. The U.S. Department of Education reports that high-quality teacher preparation can make a dramatic impact on student outcomes – even outweighing negative factors like poverty.
And teachers are aware of the significance of their job. In a survey of over 20,000 public school teachers, 98% agreed that teaching is more than a profession – it is how they make a difference in the world.
If you’re ready to take the plunge into a Master’s program but can’t leave your home or work to do so, there are plenty of good online options available. Online programs are both convenient and often affordable while providing a path to employment that employers will recognize.
What are the best online master’s in elementary education?
This College Choice ranking takes into account several factors that reflect both program quality and return on investment. Our composite score weighs standard academic reputation rankings, program tuition rates, early career earnings of graduates, and school acceptance rates.
A couple important things to note:
- The tuition rates we list are based on out-of-state, per-credit tuition taken from program websites. In-state tuition is often less expensive, but all would-be applicants should take note of any additional fees that are not included in the per-credit rate.
- Accreditation is critical, and all the schools on our list are regionally accredited. Additionally, most programs are accredited by the main educational accrediting bodies: CAEP, TEAC, NCATE.
We hope our ranking helps you find the best Master’s in Elementary Education program for you!
See our rankings methodology page.
Auburn University, AL
Located in Auburn, AL, Auburn University is a nationally ranked public research university. Home to a highly regarded School of Education, Auburn has also garnered national acclaim for its online programs. Notably, their online graduate education program ranked tenth in the nation by US News and World Report.
Designed for those who already have initial level certification, the School of Education at Auburn University offers an online, NCATE-accredited Masters of Education or Master of Science in Elementary Education. Both Master’s program expand upon undergraduate work, deepening students’ understanding of elementary education.
The M.Ed. program is for those who already have initial-level teaching certification. It leads to recommendation for Class A Alabama professional educator certification.
- 30 credit hours total, including teaching field courses
- Content courses in Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science.
The M.S. program is intended for community-based or international educators who are not seeking teacher certification/licensure in the United States.
- 30 credit hours total distributed between Elementary Education courses, and advisor-approved electives.
- Includes a 2 credit capstone project.
Western Illinois University
Founded in 1899 in the town of Macomb, IL, Western Illinois University is a public institution that has ranked highly among regional schools in the Midwest. Their robust online presence has extended the reach of their programs, and the school recently ranked among the top 100 online Bachelor’s programs in the country (US News and World Report 2016).
The College of Education and Human Services at Western Illinois University offers an online, NCATE-accredited Masters of Science in Education degree (Elementary Education) for candidates with a US teacher’s licensure. There are two possible specializations within the elementary education graduate program: Elementary Education or Literacy Education.
- 100% online programming
- Online flexible delivery system in which students are not locked into a cohort.
- No campus attendance or residency is required.
This flexible degree program prepares graduates to create positive learning communities and empower all students to learn. Students learn to use research-based teaching strategies that accommodate the needs of diverse learners. Please note that this program does not lead to certification in elementary education or an endorsement in reading, language arts, or any other content area.
One of the first public universities established in the southwestern frontier, the University of Alabama has consistently ranked as one of the top 50 public universities in the nation (U.S. News & World Report). Located in Tuscaloosa, AL, the school’s online Bachelor’s programs and Engineering programs have also earned national acclaim.
For those wishing to build on their knowledge base, the University of Alabama’s College of Education offers an online, NCATE-accredited Master of Arts in Elementary Education that leads to master’s level teaching certification. A bachelor’s level teaching certificate is necessary for entrance to the program. Features of the degree include:
- Flexible online format, designed for educators working full-time.
- Total credits required: 30
This program is for both new teachers and experienced teachers seeking to update their skills with the latest teaching methods. The curriculum provides grounding in educational research as it impacts schools, curriculum, and practice. In addition to coursework in curriculum and instruction, foundations, and research – students specialize in the teaching fields of their choice (Language Arts, Literacy, Mathematics, Science or Social Studies).
Missouri State University
Founded in 1906 in Springfield, MO, Missouri State University is the second largest degree-granting institution in the state and a member of the Missouri State University System. The school ranks among the top public schools nationally (US News and World Report 2017) and has an extensive and highly regarded online education program.
The Department of Childhood Education and Family Studies at Missouri State University offers a very affordable online Master of Science in Education, Elementary Education degree. This is a very flexible degree program designed for working teachers who desire to develop advanced knowledge and skills.
- Flexible online delivery
- Program takes two years to complete (or up to eight years if needed)
- Total credits required: 27
Students in the online Elementary Education program take the curriculum and instruction option, with one-third of the coursework chosen to fit individual needs. This program has a theoretical/research focus which emphasizes diverse approaches to instructional practices The program also includes an option for post-baccalaureate students to apply graduate courses to Missouri certification.
University of North Carolina Wilmington
Located in the port city of Wilmington, NC, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington is a member institution of the 17-campus University of North Carolina System. The school is home to the highly acclaimed Watson College of Education, and their online graduate education programs have ranked among the best in the country (US News and World Report).
For students who already hold a bachelor’s degree but have little or no background in education, the Watson College of Education offers an online, NCATE-accredited Master of Arts in Teaching in Elementary Education. Unlike many Master’s in Education programs, this online program is specifically for those transitioning into a career in Education:
- Graduates of the M.A.T. program are eligible for the NC Elementary
- Education certification (K-6) and prepared to teach as elementary classroom teachers.
- Students must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university completed before graduate study begins.
Would-be candidates to this program should note that field placements are a part of each semester of the program and during the final semester, students will complete a full-time Internship in an elementary school setting.
Southeast Missouri State University
Cape Girardeau, MO
Situated in Cape Girardeau, MO, Southeast Missouri State University is a nationally ranked comprehensive public university. In addition to their campus-based programs, many of the school’s online programs have received national acclaim – notably, their online graduate education program ranked among the best in the nation in 2017 (US News and World Report).
The Department of Elementary, Early, and Special Education in the School of Graduate Studies offers an affordable, online Master of Arts in Elementary Education designed to help classroom teachers deepen their teaching skills and knowledge in their field of expertise, or expand their background into a new teaching area or certification. The program is for teachers who already hold their initial teaching licensure.
- All classes are available 100% online.
- Total credits required: 33
- Intended to be workable for busy classroom teachers.
Students enrolled in this online program will have three options of specialization: Reading, Math/Science, and Early Childhood Education. While this program does not lead to an initial teaching licensure, it does offer the possibility of an advanced teaching certificate as a Reading Specialist.
Eastern New Mexico University
Founded in 1934 in Portales, NM, Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) is the largest public university in the state. The school has demonstrated its commitment to both academic excellence and affordable tuition and has a reputation as one of the most affordable four-year universities in the nation (USA Today 2014).
The Department of Educational Studies at ENMU offers an affordable, online, CAEP-accredited Master of Education with Emphasis in Elementary Education. This program does not lead to initial teacher licensing but is designed to strengthen teachers’ selected content knowledge and add depth of understanding in the areas of curriculum and instruction. This online program has a focus on differentiated instruction and working with students of diversity.
- Content areas covered include Science, Math, and Reading.
- Coursework is available 100% online.
- Total credits required: 36 (12 credits of electives).
In addition to the M.Ed. program, ENMU also offers an online Alternative Licensure in Elementary Education program. This is a 24 credit hour program which can lead to a K-8 licensure in New Mexico. All credits from the program can be applied to a 36 credit hour master’s degree in pedagogy and learning at ENMU.
Valley City State University
Situated in the small town of Valley City, North Dakota, Valley City State University is a member of the North Dakota University System. In 2017 the school ranked as the top public regional college in the Midwest (US News and World Report), and their online graduate education program ranks among the best nationally.
The School of Education and Graduate Studies at Valley City State University offers an online, NCATE-accredited Master of Education in Elementary Education. This degree program is intended to help P-16 educators effectively integrate technology into the classroom. Requirements of the program include:
- 35 hours of coursework, including field experiences
- an action research report
- an oral defense of a comprehensive portfolio
This online program meets the standards of both the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and the North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board (ESPB). A note about tuition: the tuition listed above is the out-of-state, per/credit rate – but for residents of states other than North Dakota, Valley City State University has multiple reciprocity tuition agreements that significantly lower tuition for residents of many other states and even Canadian provinces.
Eastern Kentucky University
Situated in Richmond, KY, Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) is a public university with six branch campuses across the state, as well as a robust online program. The school has ranked highly among regional schools in the South, and in 2017, their online graduate education program ranked among the best nationally (US News and World Report).
The College of Education at Eastern Kentucky University offers an online, CAEP-accredited Master of Arts in Education – Elementary Education. This online program is intended for teachers who already have initial licensure and are working with grades P-5. The focus of the program is on deepening teachers’ understanding of the intellectual, philosophical, and cultural foundations of effective education.
- Coursework is offered 100% online.
- Total credits required: 30
- Possible to complete degree in one year.
For students who already hold certification in their area of advanced study, there is an option to pursue the Elementary Education (P-5) with Teacher Leader Endorsement. With a focus on educational leadership, Eastern Kentucky’s MA in Education is ideal for those looking for a career as a teacher leader educator, or as specialist or coach (P-12).
University of North Dakota
Founded in Grand Forks, ND, in 1883, the University of North Dakota is a public research university and the oldest institution of higher learning in the state. The school ranks among the top national universities in the country and has a strong liberal arts emphasis. Many of their online programs have also ranked among the best in the country (US News and World Report).
The Department of Education and Human Development at the University of North Dakota offers an online, CAEP-accredited Master of Science in Elementary Education. The program prepares licensed K-6 classroom teachers to address the educational needs of elementary school children. The program is also open to non-licensed individuals who wish to follow a research-oriented program of study. Features of the degree include:
- Total credits required: 32
- Program may be completed in two years.
- Online courses with a 3-Credit teaching practicum
The online MS in Elementary Education has flexible start dates, beginning every August, January and June. And for this online degree, the University of North Dakota offers in-state tuition regardless of where students live. The MS degree does not lead to the Elementary Education Certification.
Situated along the banks of the Monongahela River in Morgantown VA, West Virginia University is a nationally ranked, research-intensive, public university. The school is home to a highly regarded College of Education and Human Services, and their online graduate education program ranks among the best in the U.S. (US News and World Report).
The College of Education and Human Services offers an online, NCATE-accredited Advanced Master of Arts in Elementary Education. This degree program is for those who already hold a valid teaching license and want to advance their knowledge of content, curriculum, and classroom management.
- 30 credits of coursework total
- Students may complete this degree in 2 years.
- 100% online delivery
Coursework in this degree program covers a broad spectrum of education topics relevant to elementary teachers – from Science Research and Teaching Ethics, to Reading and Writing Instruction, and Problem Solving in Mathematics. The program also includes a capstone experience which focuses on technology integration. Non-residents of Virginia pay the same program tuition as Virginia residents.
The first public university established west of the Mississippi, and the largest in the state, the University of Missouri (colloquially known as Mizzou) is a public research university situated in Columbia, MO. The university’s College of Education ranks among the best in the country, with their online graduate education programs garnering particular national acclaim (US News and World Report).
The College of Education offers an online, TEAC-accredited Master of Education in Elementary Education (with emphasis in Early Childhood Education) which focuses on cultural intelligence, reflective practice-in-action, and child advocacy. Students in the program take five core courses plus six courses in Early Childhood Education – there are also opportunities to explore areas of interest within program guidelines.
- Course content is available 100% online.
- Total credits required: 33
- Flexible scheduling for full or part time study
- Accredited by Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
There are five main focus areas of this degree program, including meeting the needs of diverse learners and social justice and community contexts. Program faculty are committed to fostering teachers who care deeply about students and seek to nurture the greatest human potential in each learner.
Located in Phoenix, AZ, Grand Canyon University is a private, for-profit, Christian university that is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Arizona Southern Baptists founded the school in 1949 with the goal of integrating Christian faith and practice into all aspects of campus life. No statement of faith or religious affiliation is necessary for prospective students.
The College of Education at Grand Canyon University offers an online Master Of Education In Elementary Education which leads to initial teacher licensure in the state of Arizona. This program is for those with a bachelor’s degree but no background in education – candidates will gain the skills and knowledge to to teach first through eighth grade. All courses are directly aligned with the specialized professional teaching standards and associated national content standards.
- Total credits required: 47
- Program is approved by the Arizona State Board of Education
- Coursework available online.
This is a rigorous education program which focuses on understanding and creating solutions to current issues in education, such as student literacy and teaching English language learners. Please note that observational practicums and student teaching are an important part of this licensure program. All courses are in alignment with the specialized professional teaching standards and associated national content standards.
Western Governors University
Salt Lake City, UT
Western Governors University is a private, non-profit, regionally accredited (NWCCU), online university which is located in Salt Lake City, UT. The school aims to make education as accessible as possible, and the National Council on Teacher Quality recently ranked the school’s Teacher’s College as one of the best values in teacher education in the nation.
The College of Education at Western Governors University offers an NCATE-accredited online Master Of Education In Elementary Education which leads to initial teacher licensure. Unlike many master’s programs, this one is for individuals with a bachelor’s degree outside of education. The program is approved by the Arizona state board to prepare individuals to teach content relevant to learners in grades 1-8.
- Total credits required: 47
- Courses are six weeks in length.
- Students may transfer up to 12 credits into the program.
Please note that observational practicums and student teaching are a mandatory part of the program. And a word on tuition: At WGU, tuition is charged at a flat rate each term and covers all coursework completed in that time – the more courses you complete each term, the more affordable your degree becomes. The above tuition rate is based on 8 graduate credits / term.
Founded on the edge of the American frontier in the late eighteenth century, the University of Pittsburgh is a historic public research university, and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. US News and World Report ranks their School of Education in the top 30 nationally, and their online graduate education programs have also ranked among the best in the U.S.
The School of Education offers an online Master of Education in Elementary Education degree which is intended for those who have already completed a teacher certificate program. The degree advances knowledge in content areas, educational research and theories, and strategies for meeting the needs of diverse learners.
- Program total of 36 credits (students who received their teaching certificate from the University of Pittsburgh will only need to complete 18 credits).
- Students may transfer up to 12 credits from other graduate programs.
Online students will experience peer discussion sessions, engaging instructional technologies, instructor feedback and interaction, and assignments and projects that promote critical thinking.
University of North Alabama
And in addition to department aid, the School of Education has numerous scholarships and fellowships available by way of gifts or grants
Located in the city of Florence, Alabama, The University of North Alabama is the oldest four-year public university in the state and ranks among the top public schools in the South (US News and World Report). The university’s College of Education and Human Sciences offers a wide range of courses and programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and education specialist levels.
The College of Education and Human Sciences offers an online, NCATE-accredited Master of Arts in Education in Elementary Education (K-6) which leads to an Alabama Professional Educator Class A Certification in elementary education. This program is open to those who already hold a valid bachelors-level professional educator certificate.
- Total credits required: 33-36 hours.
- Coursework is available 100% online.
- At least 12 credits of the program are teaching field courses.
In addition to the traditional M.Ed. program, the University of North Alabama also offers an Education Specialist degree program that leads to certification in elementary education. This program is only open to those who already hold a master’s level degree or higher.
Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, non-profit university which has been a leader in adult education nationally. The school, which was founded in 1932, provides students with three different ways to access their programs: at their traditional campus in Hookset, NH, at one of their five regional centers, or through one of their accredited online programs.
Southern New Hampshire University’s Department of Education offers an online Master of Education in Elementary Education degree which leads to New Hampshire state licensure in elementary education, teaching grades K-6. The program combines theory with hands-on, practical experience in a real classroom and is intended for those either seeking initial teaching licensure or additional endorsement for careers in elementary education.
- It is possible to complete the degree in 15 months (two courses per 10-week term).
- No GMAT or GRE is necessary for admission.
- Program is approved by the New Hampshire State Department of
- Education for Teacher Certification as leading to an endorsement in New Hampshire.
Interested candidates can apply to this program at any time – the university makes acceptance decisions throughout the year for the five graduate terms.
Situated in Terre Haute, IN, Indiana State University is a public research institution with a commitment to making higher education accessible to all learners. The school has consistently been named among the top universities in the Midwest and is home to the highly regarded Bayh School of Education and an online graduate education program that ranks among the best nationally.
The Bayh College of Education offers an online, NCATE-accredited Master of Education in Elementary Education degree which prepares students for licensure or certification in the State of Indiana. This program offers possible concentrations in early childhood, literacy, and primary/intermediate. The literacy concentration may lead to Reading Teacher Certification, depending on individual state requirements.
- Total credits required: 36 credit hours.
- Coursework is available 100% online.
- Possible to complete the entire program in 18 months of full-time study.
For those wishing to take the degree on a part-time basis, the University allows students to take up to seven years to earn the degree (although students generally finish in far less time).
Founded in 1887 as a teacher’s college, Troy University is a public university located in Troy, Alabama. The Troy State University System has been offering online programs since 1998 and prides itself on their flexible, quality education for online learners. In 2017, the university’s online graduate education programs ranked among the best in the country.
The College of Education at Troy University offers a CAEP-accredited, online Master of Science in Education in Elementary Education. This online degree program is approved by the Alabama State Department of Education to lead to teaching licensure in grades K-6. Candidates who complete the program are eligible to apply for the Alabama Class A Professional certificate.
- College of Education coursework available online through Troy Online.
- Program is approved by the Alabama State Department of Education
- Students may transfer up to 12 credits from other accredited graduate programs.
Degree programs at the Troy’s College of Education provide a rich environment of professional and clinical expertise to their diverse student body. The purpose of all College of Education graduate programs is to develop innovative, informed, reflective decision makers.
University of North Carolina Charlotte
Situated in Charlotte, NC, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is a public, research university and part of the 16- institution University of North Carolina system. The school ranks among the top public schools in the U.S. and is home to the nationally ranked Cato College of Education and a robust online program.
The Cato College of Education at UNC Charlotte offers an online, NCATE-accredited Master of Education in Elementary Education. The purpose of all College of Education graduate programs is to develop innovative, informed, reflective decision makers. The educational philosophy of this program focuses on the value of globalization, cultural knowledge, and multiple worldviews.
- Program delivery is 100% online.
- Total credits required: 33 credit hours.
- Program is designed for students to complete at a part-time pace.
Students taking online courses at UNC Charlotte will make use of online teaching and learning tools such as Moodle (an online course management platform) and Saba Meeting (the University’s synchronous classroom meeting software).The purpose of all College of Education graduate programs is to develop innovative, informed, reflective decision makers. Please note that for residents of North Carolina, tuition is considerably lower: $237.90 per credit hour.
Founded in 1924 in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, Delta State University is an affordable regional university located in Cleveland, Mississippi. In line with its history as a teacher’s college, the university prides itself on providing excellent teacher education programs that fully prepare graduates for their chosen professions.
The College of Education and Human Sciences at Delta state offers an online, NCATE- accredited Master of Education degree in Elementary Education. This program is open to individuals who possess a bachelor’s degree as well as a Class A teaching licensure or its equivalent. The program balances course content and practical learning experiences to provide a graduate level perspective of elementary education.
- Total credits required: 30 credit hours.
- Program delivery is 100% online.
- Completion leads to Class AA license in elementary classroom teaching.
The online program is intended to offer students the flexibility needed for advancing their career without interrupting their current work duties. Students enrolled in the program will engage in an online learning community that is rich in diverse teaching experiences.
University of Mississippi
Located in Oxford, Mississippi, the University of Mississippi is the state’s flagship institution and the largest in the state. A national public, research institution, many of its programs rank among the best in the country, including the School of Education which sits among the top 100 nationally, and is home to a top-ranked online graduate education program (US News and World Report).
The School of Education at the University of Mississippi offers an online, NCATE-accredited Master of Education in Elementary Education which builds on basic level teacher preparation to provide an advanced understanding of educational research and theory as well as content areas.
- Total credits required: 30 credit hours.
- Program is intended to be completed in 5 semesters.
- Graduates of the program will earn a master’s degree in Elementary K-6.
The deadline for submitting an application for the M.Ed. Elementary Online program is March 1st each year. Classes begin the first summer term and end the following year after the first summer term. Applicants to this program must hold or be eligible to hold an A educator licensure in elementary education.
American Public University
Charles Town, WV
The American Public University System, comprised of American Public University and American Military University, is a regionally accredited (HLC), for-profit system catering particularly to (but not affiliated with ) the American Military. Headquartered in Charles Town, WV, the university is home to a robust online program that has earned national acclaim (US News and World Report).
The School of Education at American Public University offers an online Master of Education in Elementary Education. This degree program does not lead to teaching licensure but is for those who wish to study the theory and practical applications of teaching K-6 students, while earning a master’s degree.
- Students complete 125 hours of on-site observations in a local elementary school.
- All courses other than student teaching are available online.
- Courses in Elementary Science, Social Studies, Reading and Writing,
- Literature, Art, Math, and Physical Education.
Though the program does not lead to licensure, it is a West Virginia state-approved master’s program and aligns with West Virginia Professional Teaching Standards (WVPTS), national content standards for elementary education, and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
Western Carolina University
Located in the heart of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, Western Carolina University (WCU) is a small public university that has earned national acclaim in several categories. They rank in the top 50 regional schools in the South, their The College of Education and Allied Professions sits among the best programs in the nation, and their online programs have also earned national attention (US News and World Report).
The School of Teaching and Learning at Western Carolina University offers an online, NCATE-accredited Master of Education in Comprehensive Elementary Education. This versatile program allows candidates to choose between concentrations in Academically and Intellectually Gifted Instruction (AIG), and Literacy. Core coursework focuses on Assessment, Diversity, Leadership, and Research.
- 100% online programming
- Total Credits Required: 30
- Program can be completed in as little as two years.
This program is aligned to the National Board Teaching Standards and the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards. Applicants must hold a North Carolina Class A teaching license, or a comparable license from another state.
Located in Norfolk, Virginia, Norfolk State University public four-year, liberal arts university that ranks among the top Historically Black Universities nationally. The school has a mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education for its ethnically and culturally diverse student population, and is home to eight academic colleges, and 49 degree programs.
The School of Education at Norfolk State University offers a Master of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education (Pre K-6) certification endorsement degree which results in a Virginia teaching license. This program is open to students who have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and provides instruction, field experiences, and clinical practices that develop excellence in teaching skills. The program is nationally accredited.
- Total Credits Required: 39
- Student teaching internship included in program
- Norfolk State teacher education programs are approved by the Virginia Department of Education (DOE)
In addition to the MA in Teaching, Norfolk State University also offers an online Master of Arts (MA) degree in Pre-Elementary which has a birth through age nine concentration. Also, please note that residents of Virginia pay the much lower tuition rate of $622 / credit hour (half as much as out-of-state residents).