An online master of education is an advanced degree that prepares educators for roles in K-12 school administration, student counseling, curriculum design, and instruction.
According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, individuals with master’s degrees in education earn $15,000 more in median annual salary than those with bachelor’s degrees alone.
With national student debt on the rise, many prospective students seek affordable graduate school options. Public universities tend to offer the cheapest master’s degrees. Some even charge flat tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state enrollees.
Our rankings and guide offer an ideal starting place for those searching for affordable graduate programs in education.
Why Get an Affordable Education Degree?
Learners must compare more than tuition rates when determining the affordability of different graduate programs. Prospective students should also consider their expected financial aid award and salary-to-debt ratio after graduation.
Online master of education programs typically attract K-12 teachers with several years of experience. Prospective students often demonstrate a shared interest in improving K-12 education outcomes and equitability through new policies, instructional methods, and technologies.
Other common motivations for attending graduate school include increasing earning potential, advancing to leadership roles, or obtaining a specialization.
Most online master of education degrees offer concentrations. These specialized tracks provide career-focused skills that can improve employment prospects and salary potential. The most common concentrations include:
- Education administration
- Curriculum and instruction
- Educational counseling
- Educational technology
- Special education
- Adult and higher education
Most online master of education degrees require 30-36 credits of coursework. While admission requirements vary by program, applicants typically need a current state teaching license and relevant work experience. Visit our main rankings page to learn more about this degree.
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Why You Should Earn a Master of Education Degree Online
Online education has grown increasingly popular over the last few years, especially at the graduate level. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that nearly 40% of graduate students took at least one distance education course in fall 2018. Around 30% of graduate degree-seekers studied exclusively online.
Prospective learners may find an online master of education more affordable than an in-person program. Online students can save money on commuting and on-campus fees. Some schools also offer in-state tuition rates to out-of-state distance learners. Additionally, asynchronous courses allow degree-seekers to remain employed, providing a steady source of income while studying.
Best Online Education Master's Degrees
How Can I Pay for an Online Master of Education Degree?
According to U.S. News & World Report, tuition for an online master’s in education costs approximately $300-$700 per credit. The total program cost can range from $9,000-$25,000, depending on the school.
State residency status can also affect tuition prices. While some public institutions charge in-state rates for all online learners, others include a nonresident fee to out-of-state students.
To reduce your out-of-pocket college costs, consider the following financing options:
Grants, Loans, and Scholarships: What's the Difference?
- Students can secure loans from the federal government and private lenders to help pay for tuition and related costs. This type of financial aid accrues interest and requires repayment after graduation.
- Fellowships provide funding to subsidize graduate education costs. Schools, private donors, corporations, and nonprofits award merit-based fellowships. This form of funding does not require repayment, and competition can be high among students.
- The federal government, state governments, schools, and organizations offer grants. It is typically awarded based on financial need rather than academic merit and does not require repayment.
- Like grants, scholarships do not require repayment after graduation. Schools and organizations typically award scholarships based on academic merit or financial need. Scholarships maintain strict eligibility requirements and may require extensive applications.
Scholarships for Education Students
Graduate school scholarships often base eligibility requirements on career goals, professional membership, academic performance, or minority status. Three scholarships for education students are detailed below. Note that this is not an exhaustive list.
Discover the Best Scholarships
AASA Educational Administration Scholarship
Offered by the American Association of School Administrators, this scholarship awards seven top graduate students in school administration each year. Candidates must intend to pursue careers as school superintendents, complete an application packet, and receive a recommendation from the chair of their institution’s school of education.
Dr. Marc Hull Special Education Leadership Scholarship
Sponsored by the Vermont Council of Special Education Administration, this scholarship supports college students interested in creating inclusive learning environments for students with disabilities. Eligible applicants include Vermont residents with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must be seeking a license in special education and have community service experience.
Award: Up to $1,500
PDK Educational Foundation Scholarship Program
Open to Pi Lambda Theta and Phi Delta Kappa members, this program includes approximately 100 annual scholarships. Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students in education can apply. The application requires a personal statement, a description of honor society involvement, and one letter of recommendation.
Making Cheap Education Degrees Even Cheaper
Graduate school is expensive, but with some careful planning and a few tips, you do not need to break the bank to earn a master’s degree.
Consider taking advantage of the following cost-saving measures to minimize college debt and reduce out-of-pocket spending on tuition, textbooks, supplies, and living expenses.
- Accelerated Schedule
- The typical master’s program takes two years to complete. Earning your degree faster may help reduce overall costs by shortening your time in school. However, learning at an accelerated pace can present some challenges as you juggle a more demanding schedule with other responsibilities.
- Students can often save money by renting instead of buying textbooks. However, textbooks can serve as valuable references in school and even in your career — meaning you may want to buy instead of rent. Use comparison shopping sites like BookFinder.com to find the best available prices.
- Living Expenses
- To help reduce your overall living expenses, consider budget-friendly meal planning, cutting back on outings, and buying second-hand items. Temporarily living with your parents or splitting rent with a roommate can also significantly reduce spending.
- Working While Studying
- Master’s degrees in education often require learners to obtain several years of teaching experience before applying. Maintaining employment while pursuing a degree provides a steady source of income that can offset living expenses. Those not working as educators can consider graduate research or teaching assistantship opportunities at their universities.
- Tuition Assistance Programs
- Take advantage of tuition assistance or reimbursement offered by your employer. If they do not currently offer these programs, consider asking for them for support. Approach it like a formal negotiation, with a prepared pitch and clear information.
Will Attending an Online College for Teachers Pay Off?
College requires a significant financial commitment. Understandably, some prospective students may wonder whether an online master’s in education degree is worth taking on the debt.
Return on investment (ROI) offers one way to consider the value of a master’s degree. ROI simply refers to the monetary gains you receive relative to the original investment. For example, if graduate school costs $15,000 and you secure a high school principal job that pays $95,000 per year, this demonstrates a favorable ROI.
You can estimate a program’s ROI by comparing the total tuition cost with your potential salary after graduation. For greater accuracy, research local salaries in your area rather than relying on national data. Look into your prospective institution’s student outcome reports and salary-to-debt ratio information, if available.
Jobs for Education Graduates
Earning an online master of education leads to various career opportunities, often with higher salaries than jobs that require only a bachelor’s. Popular master of education jobs for graduates include school principal, instructional coordinator, and school counselor.
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
Principals oversee all school operations and daily school activities. Primary duties include coordinating curriculums, managing staff, and ensuring safe and productive learning environments. This career manages school budgets, evaluates teacher performance, disciplines students, and meets with parents and teachers to discuss student academics and behavior.
Required Education: Master’s degree in education leadership or education administration
Job Outlook: +4%
Median Annual Salary: $98,490
Instructional coordinators, also called curriculum specialists, evaluate existing school curriculum effectiveness. They also aid in developing and implementing new curriculums. This career requires analyzing student test data, discussing curriculum standards with educators, and making recommendations for new teaching techniques, textbooks, and technologies.
Required Education: Master’s degree in education or curriculum and instruction
Job Outlook: +6%
Median Annual Salary: $66,970
School and Career Counselors
School and career counselors work with students to explore careers, evaluate educational paths, and develop the academic and social skills needed for success. Counselors also teach students and staff about topics like bullying and drug abuse. This job requires collaboration with teachers, administrators, and parents.
Required Education: Master of education in school counseling or a related field; state-issued credential required
Job Outlook: +8%
Median Annual Salary: $58,120
Professional Organizations for Education Students
Professional organizations offer benefits for both graduate students and professionals, including networking opportunities, continuing education, and access to the latest industry publications and research. Some prominent education organizations include:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Comprising nearly 114,000 superintendents, principals, teachers, and advocates, ASCD empowers educators to achieve excellence in learning, teaching, and leading. Basic annual membership starts at $49, with benefits including access to members-only webinars, discounts, and online resources. Members also receive nine annual issues of Educational Leadership magazine.
Association of American Educators
As the largest national professional association for educators, AAE promotes the teaching profession and engages in advocacy on education issues. Monthly membership costs $16.50 and includes benefits like liability insurance, scholarship and classroom grant opportunities, and access to an exclusive job bank and professional development resources.
American School Counselor Association
ASCA supports school counselors' efforts to aid students in their academic, social, and emotional development. Membership benefits include liability insurance, discounted access to publications, and professional development opportunities like webinars, local workshops, and an annual conference. Graduate students can join at a reduced annual rate of $69.
Choosing the Right Online Master’s in Education Program
Students may need to evaluate whether they should prioritize cost above other factors when searching for an education program. Consider how the following factors may influence your program selection:
- Accreditation: Accredited universities meet certain academic quality standards set by third-party agencies. Attending an accredited school is vital to ensure the value of your degree. Accreditation can also impact your eligibility for financial aid.
- Location: Even if you plan to earn your master’s online, consider choosing a school in your area. Attending a local institution allows you to take advantage of on-campus resources and engage in on-campus activities throughout the program.
- Faculty Credentials: Due to the specialized nature of graduate study, master’s candidates work more closely with their instructors than undergraduates. Look for programs taught by experienced faculty members.
- Program Schedule: Determine if your school offers a variety of program options. Consider whether you want to attend classes on a part-time, full-time, or accelerated schedule, along with whether you prefer a thesis or non-thesis track.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does an online master of education cost?
According to U.S. News & World Report, an online master of education costs approximately $300-$700 per credit, for a total tuition cost of $9,000-$25,000. However, exact tuition costs vary among schools.
Are there scholarships available for online master's in education degree students?
Yes. Students pursuing master’s degrees in education can find dozens of scholarships offered by professional organizations, private donors, and nonprofit foundations. View our list of 50 top college scholarships
Is getting a master's degree in education worth it?
Earning a master’s degree in education can be worthwhile for individuals looking to advance their careers. According to Georgetown University research, education professionals with master’s-level education earn a median salary $15,000 higher than bachelor’s-level professionals.
What kinds of master of education jobs can I get?
An online master of education enhances your abilities as a teacher and opens the door to other career opportunities, like school principal, school counselor, instructional coordinator, or media and technology specialist.
Do online master's degrees have value?
Yes. Online graduate degrees are common and widely accepted by employers. According to NCES, more than 30% of postbaccalaureate college students pursued online degrees in fall 2018.
2021’s Most Affordable Online Master’s in Education Programs
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.