By obtaining a Master’s in Educational Leadership online, you can take a rewarding administrative path, overseeing a division, school, or even an entire school system; or you can enhance your classroom skills as a way to help students reach their full potential.
Individuals with an online Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership are qualified for such positions as superintendent, principal, department chair, curriculum developer, dean of instruction, program administrator, education specialist, and director of an academic division. With a Master’s in Educational Leadership, you become qualified to assume leadership positions across a broad range of educational institutions.
See also: What can I do with an Education degree?
Master in Educational Leadership Degree Programs Ranking Guidelines
We based this ranking of online Educational Leadership programs on the following criteria: Overall quality, reputation, affordable cost, program availability, faculty credentials, graduation rate, student-to-teacher ratio, student and faculty support, technical support, as well as available financial aid, grants, and scholarships.
While all of the schools listed here offer high-quality online Ed Leadership programs, they can differ in breadth of offered courses, areas of specialization, and range of faculty interests. So it is important for prospective students to make sure that a program matches their interests and needs.
The Best Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Degrees
1. Michigan State University
Established in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU), a public research university located in East Lansing, Michigan, offers over 200 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, as well as 100 online courses. MSU is the nation’s ninth-largest university, with nearly 50,000 students.
Due to the caliber of the education available to its student body, Michigan State is one of a handful of “Public Ivy” universities where students can receive an Ivy League–quality education while paying state school tuition rates.
Michigan State University offer an online Masters of Education degree with a concentration in preschool through post-secondary educational leadership. The program includes courses such as Leadership and Organizational Development, Engaging Diverse Students and Families, Issues in Urban Education: Racial Achievement Gap, Training & Professional development, Case Studies in Educational Leadership, Budgeting and Finance in Higher Education, and more.
The first-class tenured faculty members teaching the traditional courses also teach the online courses. The university’s dedication to education has not gone unnoticed.
Michigan State University received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. (The online education master’s program has received approval from the U.S. Department of Education for every state in the union except for Maryland, Arkansas, and Minnesota.)
Princeton Review named Michigan State University one of the top universities in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranked the school’s education graduate program #15 in the nation and its online education graduate programs #18 in the country. Forbes ranks Michigan State University #79 among research universities.
Indiana University is a public, research-based institution. The Bloomington campus, which opened in 1820, is the flagship school of the Indiana University System. Indiana University is considered a “Public Ivy,” offering 330 undergraduate programs and over 190 postgraduate degrees to its 43,000 students.
Their dedication to education, including online degree programs and courses, sets Indiana University ahead of the pack. The university offers a 36-credit online Master of Educational Leadership degree through the School of Education. The three-year, 12-class online program, which is designed for working educators, allows students to have maximum control over their schedule.
The entire Indiana University system received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
U.S. News & World Report lists Indiana University at Bloomington as the #19 best education graduate program and the #2 online education graduate program in the U.S. Forbes lists Indiana University as the #97 best college in the country and Princeton Review named it among the best universities in the United State.
Arizona State University (ASU), a public research university established in 1885 and located in Phoenix, has the largest student body of any American research university under one administrator, with over 73,000 students currently enrolled. The students have access to 250 different undergraduate majors and 100-plus graduate programs.
The online Master’s in Educational Leadership allows educators to study the multi-faceted requirements of principalship. The degree covers the four components of educational leadership: curriculum development, use of test results, community interaction, and leadership.
The online Educational Leadership degree meets the requirements established by the state of Arizona; thus, out-of-state students should check the requirements of their own state before applying for admission.
Arizona State University received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.
Princeton Review recognized Arizona State University as one of the top universities on its highly selective list of the nation’s best universities. U.S. News & World Report ranks ASU’s education graduate program as #24 in the country and its online education graduate program as #25 on the Best Online Graduate Education Programs list.
Pennsylvania State University, universally known as “Penn State,” is a public research university. Established in 1855, the university has a total of 24 campuses all over the state of Pennsylvania.
Penn State World Campus, the online component of Penn State officially launched in 1998, was one of the very first universities to offer degrees available completely online from anywhere in the world.
The online Master’s of Educational Leadership degree, a 30-unit program, aims to allow teachers to continue working full-time while working towards their degree and future leadership positions. (Potential students from Kentucky and Alabama should check their state regulations carefully before applying for the online Educational Leadership Master’s.)
Pennsylvania State University received accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Princeton Review included Penn State on its list of the best universes in the United States and Forbes listed the university as a very respectable #93 on its list. U.S. News & World Report ranked Pennsylvania State University-University Park as #37 in the 2014 edition of its Best Colleges in National Universities list, as #28 among the best school in the United States for students seeking master’s degrees in an educational field, and as #25 among the best online educational programs in the country.
The University of Florida, a public research university founded in 1853 and located in Gainesville, provides a world-class education. The university offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorates.
The Master’s in Educational Leadership online degree program provides students with the same world-class education students receive in the traditional program. The 36-unit, two-year unique program includes mentorship from experienced, practicing school leaders as part of the core curriculum.
The program prepares student for the Florida Education Leadership Exam and subsequent level-one principal certificate in the state of Florida. (Out-of-state students should check their own state’s requirements before applying for the Master’s in Educational Leadership online.)
The University of Florida, which considered one of the “Public Ivies,” received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. U.S. World News & World Report ranked the University of Florida as #14 on its list of the top public universities in the country, while Princeton Review included the university on its 2014 Best 378 Colleges list and Forbes ranked it as #74 on its list of best universities.
Florida State University (FSU), a public research university, is located in the state capital of Tallahassee. Established in 1851, FSU is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Florida. The university offers a wide range of academics, including over 275 undergraduate, graduate, professional, and specialist degree programs.
The Master’s in Educational Leadership Administration online degree program includes a Practicum Experiences in Educational Leadership course which includes one mandatory face-to-face orientation prior to the beginning of the program. The 36-unit program is a mix of core curriculum and electives which allow students to seek out individual preferences.
The online Educational Leadership Master’s includes courses such as Teacher Leadership and Development, Planning Effective Instruction, Instructional Leadership, Resource Management for Educational Leaders, Leadership for Diversity, and more.
Florida State University received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The university is among Princeton Review’s most highly regarded universities in the country, while Forbes ranks FSU as #98 among research universities. The school also graces U.S. News & World Report’s list of best education graduate programs and best online education programs.
7. DePaul University
DePaul University is a private, Roman Catholic university founded in 1898 and located in Chicago, Illinois. With an enrollment of 24,000 students, DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the United States. The university, which was named after St. Vincent De Paul, offers degrees in over 300 fields of study.
The school offers an online Master’s degree in Educational Leadership available for full-time or part-time completion. The online program has two sections: 12 quarters of core curriculum and 40 hours of course work based on each student’s concentration, for a total of 52 quarter hours. Students in the program need to complete either a thesis and oral defense of their work or a capstone project.
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools provides accreditation. Due to its rigorous curriculum, the online Educational Leadership degree is among U.S. News & World Report’s best education graduate programs. Princeton Review also included DePaul University on their list of best colleges in the United States.
8. Montclair State University
Montclair State University, a public university founded in 1908 and located in Montclair, New Jersey, offers degrees in over 250 areas of study. It is the second-largest university in the state of New Jersey.
Montclair’s motto is Carpe Diem (“Seize the Day”) and their online distance learning programs allow educators from all over the state and potentially the world to do just that—from the comfort of their homes and offices.
The Montclair School of Education and Human Services offers an online Master’s of Arts in Educational Leadership degree. The program consists of 36 units and takes place in three separate sessions: fall, spring, and summer. Students take classes one at a time for seven and a half weeks and complete a class before they move on to the next course, allowing them to focus their undivided attention on the task at hand. Students taken two courses over the course of each session.
The online Ed Leadership program offers professional mentoring.
U.S. News & World Report has recognized Montclair’s graduate education program and the school ranks among the top 150 in the country for the year 2014. The Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools provides accreditation.
9. University of Northern Colorado
Founded in 1889 and based in Greeley, north of Denver not far from Fort Collins, the University of Northern Colorado is a public university with a liberal arts emphasis. The liberal arts orientation shows up in all of their programs, including their online education program, and comprises varied means of learning and close personal connections between students and faculty members.
The Online Degree and Principal Licensure Program for Rural Educators includes three Principal Licensure and Educational Leadership degree options: Principal Licensure only; Educational Leadership Master of Arts with Principal Licensure; and Educational Leadership-Educational Specialist with Principal Licensure.
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools provides accreditation. According to U.S. News & World Report, the University of Northern Colorado has the #8 online education degree program in the county; the school also graces the magazine’s list of best education graduate programs in the United States.
The University of West Florida (UWF), a public university established in 1963 and based in Pensacola, is part of the State University System of Florida.
UWF’s online Educational Leadership Certification Master’s program attracts teachers who plan to become principals, assistant principals, district supervisors, deans, and curriculum developers.
All students are assigned a mentor upon admission to help them actualize their individual goals. The program, which is especially formulated for teachers in the state of Florida, prepares students to pass the Florida Educational Leadership Exam. (Out-of-state students should make sure the online Educational Leadership degree meets all of the requirements for the state in which they plan to teach.)
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges provides accreditation.
The University of Cincinnati, a public research university founded in 1819, is the oldest higher-education institution in the city of cincinnati and the second-largest in the state of Ohio, with a current student enrollment of over 40,000 students.
The University of Cincinnati currently offers over 600 fields of study, one of which is the online Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. The University of Cincinnati offers a multi-facetted program to prepare educators to participate in the leadership roles required in modern school systems.
The completely online Master’s degree in Educational Leadership program meets the educational leadership requirements for the state of Ohio. (Students outside of the state should check their own state’s requirements and talk to an adviser before enrolling in this online Educational Leadership program.)
The University of Cincinnati received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Princeton Review listed the school among the best colleges in the United States, while U.S. News & World Report recognized their dedication to online education by ranking them as #18 among online education graduate programs.
12. Azusa Pacific University
Azusa Pacific University is a private, interdenominational Christian university established in 1899 and located in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. Azusa Pacific recently created University College as a sister campus with the mission of providing on-campus and online programs to non-traditional learners.
Azusa Pacific offers an online Master of Educational Leadership program consisting of 36 units, which takes about 15 months to complete. This online degree program prepares educators for roles as principals, assistant principals, teacher leaders, curriculum developers, and department chairs.
Faculty with years of educational leadership experience teach the classes. The online Master of Educational Leadership program incorporates the university’s religious ideals into its curriculum.
The Master’s in Educational Leadership online meets the requirements for the California Professional Standards for Educational Leaders. (Out-of state-applicants should check requirements for their own state.)
Azusa Pacific received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. U.S. News & World Report ranked Azusa Pacific University #173 in the 2014 edition of Best Colleges in its National Universities list.
13. California Baptist University
California Baptist University is a private, Christian, liberal arts school established in 1950 and located in Riverside, California. The university, which is associated with the Southern Baptists denomination, has an enrollment of approximately 7,000 students. California Baptist offers over 150 undergraduate programs and 35 graduate degrees.
California Baptist University’s online Master’s degree in Educational Leadership has a balance of theory, research, and practical examples. The curriculum provides a wide breadth of knowledge in school site leadership, policy and governance, personnel training, school law and finance, community relations, human growth and development, theories of learning, curriculum design, and research methods.
California Baptist University received accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
According to U.S. News & World Report, California Baptist University is among the top 200 universities in the country. The same magazine ranked California Baptist University’s online graduate level education programs among the top 150 programs in the United States.
Liberty University, a private, Christian university established by the Rev. Jerry Falwell in Lynchburg, Virginia, is associated with the Southern Baptist Conference of Virginia. Liberty University has been training Champions for Christ since 1971 and pioneering distance education since 1985.
Despite hosting only around 15,000 students on campus, thanks to Liberty University Online’s more than 90,000 online students, Liberty University overall is the largest evangelical Christian university in the world, the largest university in Virginia, and the largest private, non-profit university in the U.S.
Liberty University Online offers over 160 fully accredited areas of study, one of which is the online Master’s in Educational Leadership emphasizing administration and supervision. The online Educational Leadership Master’s, which consists of 36 credits, prepares educators for roles as principals, assistant principals, and curriculum developers. Outside of those 36 credits, the program also requires all students to attend three one-week-long, on-campus “Intensives” to fully experience the school’s liberal arts emphasis.
Liberty University received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Thanks, in part, to its online educational leadership program, U.S. News & World Report lists Liberty University Online’s education program among the top 100 programs in the country, taking the #97 spot on the list.
Saint Joseph’s University—affectionately shortened to “Saint Joe’s” by students and locals alike—is a private, co-educational, Jesuit university which was established in 1857 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Saint Joe’s is one of the oldest Roman Catholic universities in the nation. The university hosts about 8,500 on- campus students, offering them access to the school’s 60 undergraduate programs and 53 graduate programs.
The online Master of Educational Leadership program has two tracks. The university created one track for teachers seeking to take on leadership roles in Catholic schools. The other track is designed to meet the needs of teachers who plan to take on a leadership position at a public school.
The online Educational Leadership program requires educators to complete both course work and field work during their time as a student, to give them hands-on-experience not required or afforded by other similar programs.
Saint Joseph’s University received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. U.S. News & World Report ranked St. Joseph’s University as #11 in the 2014 edition of its Best Colleges in Regional Universities (North) list.
Concordia University Portland—not to be confused with several similarly named colleges elsewhere—is a private Christian liberal arts university that was founded in 1905 in Portland, Oregon, by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. Although the school is a member of the Lutheran Concordia University System and maintains an affiliation with the Lutheran Church, it welcomes students of all faiths.
Concordia University Portland currently hosts 3,100 students. The school’s four colleges offer 25 different majors.
The online Master’s degree in Educational Leadership, a year-long, 30-unit program, consists of 10 classes, including a culminating thesis or active research course. Each class is five weeks long.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities provides accreditation. U.S. News & World Report included Concordia University Portland on its list of the best online education programs.
17. Queens University of Charlotte
Queens University of Charlotte, a private, university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, was founded in 1857 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The university, which was originally called the Charlotte Female Institute, remained an all-women’s school until 1987 when the school became coeducational and started admitting men.
Queens University of Charlotte has a student body of approximately 2,400 students and offers 39 undergraduate and 19 graduate degree programs.
The university provides many of its degrees online, including the online Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. The 22-month program is set up to prepare educators to help students change their lives. Each student needs to complete an internship of a minimum of 100 hours. This online Ed Leadership program specifically prepares educators for the North Carolina Principal Licensure. (Out-of-state students should contact the school for more information before applying.)
Queens University of Charlotte received accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The University of New England (UNE), an independent, non-profit university established in 1831 with two different campuses in Maine, has approximately 10,000 students. The university has a variety of undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and professional programs available both on-campus and online.
UNE has an online Master’s degree in Educational Leadership comprising 30 credit hours. Students can complete the online program in just over a year. The program does not require students to visit the campus or to take the GRE or any other form of standardized testing for consideration for admission.
The University of New England received accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. U.S. News & World Report ranks the university among the top 100 universities in the region.
Established in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a private, non-profit university offering an array of online degree programs.
The online Master’s in Education Leadership program allows students to graduate in 18 months if they maintain an average of two classes per 11-week session. Students are assigned an adviser at the time of admission to help keep them on track for a timely graduation.
SNHU’s Master’s in Educational Leadership online does not require students to take the GRE or the GMAT for consideration of admission, but does require a minimum of three years of teaching experience.
The program, which is intended for educators from New Hampshire, has requirements set by the New Hampshire State Department of Education for Teacher Certification.
Southern New Hampshire University received accreditation from the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Northcentral University (NCU), a private, for-profit university based in the Prescott, Arizona, area, operates as an online higher education institution. The school emphasizes innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability.
NCU offers online bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees in the areas of business and technology management, education, and behavioral and health sciences.
The School of Education offers an online Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. The program gives educators the knowledge and skills required to address issues that change and evolve quickly. The university allows educators five years to complete their 30-credit program.
NCU’s online Ed Leadership program, which is not affiliated with any state, provides a general curriculum which educators can study and then apply to their own local licensure requirements in order to qualify for leadership professions in their state of residency.
Northcentral University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). U.S. News & World Report included the school’s online education program among the top 200 online education programs in the country.
21. University of Louisiana at Monroe
The University of Louisiana at Monroe, a public university located in Monroe, Louisiana, offers master’s degree and doctoral degrees to its approximately 8,000 students.
The online Master in Educational Leadership program features many highlights not found in other similar programs, including an extended internship requirement, teacher leader endorsements after the completion of a certain percentage of the degree, one-on-one mentoring, and a hands-on approach to learning.
University of Louisiana at Monroe offers multiple certifications in tandem with this degree which may require extra exams as proof of completion.
The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools provides accreditation. U.S. News & World Report ranked the online education graduate program #103 in the country.
Nineteen U.S. governors established Western Governor’s University (WGU), a private, non-profit online university based in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1997. The university has over 43,000 students from all over the country.
WGU is composed of four colleges: Business, Information Technology, Teacher education, and Health Professions. Each of the colleges is accredited to offer both bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees.
The School of Education offers an online Master of Educational Leadership degree program, consisting of 40 credits, which is not centered on the requirements of any one state or region. Students advance through the online Educational Leadership degree on the basis of proof of competency. (The degree is unavailable to students in the following states: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Tennessee.)
Due to the online nature of the university, WGU has received accreditation from four regional accreditors.
23. Southern Wesleyan University
Southern Wesleyan University, a private, Christian university, was founded in 1906 as Wesleyan Methodist Bible Institute. Located near Greenville, South Carolina, the university remains affiliated with the Methodist Church and retains a strong Christian orientation.
The university’s 2,000 students have access the school’s 35 areas of study, many of which are available both on campus and online.
The School of Education offers an online Master’s degree in Classroom Leadership. The program focuses on the knowledge required for students to advance in their career. Through concentrating on relevant theory, classroom practices, critical thinking, and issue assessment, the program prepares educators for a wealth of potential situations and challenges.
Southern Wesleyan University received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Walden University is a private, for-profit university established in 1970 as an alternative to standard higher education for working adults. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the university has nearly 50,000 students and operates primarily online.
Students in the online Master’s degree in Educational Leadership program can complete the program in as little as 20 months, if studying full time. The program requires students to participate in two three-day residences over the course of their time in the program.
The online Educational Leadership Master’s prepares students to establish a democratic value system, lead with moral fiber, use data to project outcomes and needed action, and create strategic plans.
The Higher Learning Commission, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools division, provides accreditation.
25. Thomas Edison State College
Thomas Edison State College, a public college established in 1972 and located in Trenton, New Jersey, is one of 12 state-run public universities and colleges in the state. The school fosters offers programs in about 100 areas of study.
Thomas Edison State College has a healthy offering of online degrees. One such degree is an online Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. The degree has two paths.
The first is a 36-credit building-leadership program, which prepares students for positions as supervisors and principals. The other path is a 42-credit district-leadership program, which prepares students for roles as supervisors, principals, and school administrators.
Both online Educational Leadership programs focus on the standards for successful school leadership, including vision, school culture, management, community collaboration, integrity, fairness and ethical action, and political, social, economic, legal, and cultural influences.
Thomas Edison State College received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.