Best Online Master’s in Education 2021
| TBS Staff
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Educators with a master's degree work as school principals, instructional coordinators, and lead teachers.
They can also pursue opportunities as superintendents and higher education administrators. In these roles, educators take on leadership roles in schools and improve student learning outcomes.
Earning a master's degree in education increases a teacher's earning potential and offers career advancement opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, school principals earn a median salary of over $95,000 per year and college administrators make over $94,000 per year. Many practicing teachers choose an online master's in education program to continue working while earning a graduate degree.
|#1||University of Central Florida Orlando, FL|
|#2||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC|
|#3||California State University – Bakersfield Bakersfield, CA|
|#4||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL|
|#5||San Diego State University San Diego, CA|
|#6||Minot State University Minot, ND|
|#7||Bryan College – Dayton Dayton, TN|
|#8||Purdue University West Lafayette, IN|
|#9||Webster University Saint Louis, MO|
|#10||Franciscan University of Steubenville Steubenville, OH|
This page also covers how to choose the right master's program, career paths for graduates with a master's in education, and common salaries for educators with a master's degree.
The Best Online Master's in Education Programs
Founded in 1963, UCF offers over 200 degree programs and confers more than 17,000 degrees annually.
UCF's online master of arts in educational leadership includes two tracks: Higher Education/College Teaching and Leadership and Higher Education/Student Personnel. This degree prepares students for administration and leadership roles in educational areas that don't require Florida teaching certification.
Admissions requirements differ between the two track options, but both require an official transcript and a minimum GPA of 3.0.
For 130 years, UNC's school of education has produced effective teachers in high-need schools.
UNC's master of education for experienced teachers offers a hybrid, part-time degree option for working professionals. In two years, students earn 33-36 credit hours during two or three courses per semester.
Students may specialize in early childhood intervention and family support (ECIFS), which includes an additional specialization in autism.
Applicants must submit transcripts, a resume, applicable test scores, a professional statement of purpose, and three recommendation letters. While many students already have a teaching license, there is a non-licensed option for applicants who meet additional requirements.
Founded in 1965, CSUB currently serves over 11,000 students between two campuses.
CSUB offers an online master of arts in education in curriculum and instruction. This one-year, 30-credit program prepares K-12 teachers for developing their leadership skills.
Students build a solid foundation of collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. While completing their master's degree, students can also earn their CTC-approved Reading and Literacy Added Authorization.
Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and a valid teaching credential.
U of I taught its first fully online course in 1995, and today offers more than 100 online programs.
U of I offers an online master of education degree in either curriculum and instruction or educational policy, organization, and leadership. Students can choose one of 12 concentrations, including topics such as foundations of eLearning, global studies, and bilingual/bicultural instruction.
Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA for their last two years of undergraduate coursework.
As the oldest higher education facility in San Diego, SDSU was founded in 1897 and currently serves more than 35,000 students annually.
SDSU's College of Education offers both a master of arts and master of science in education, with degree options spanning seven departments. Students may pursue degrees in educational leadership, special education, counseling, and more.
Students must apply to SDSU by submitting transcripts and test scores (when required). Then, students must fulfill their program-specific application requirements to be admitted to their desired program.
Since its founding in 1913, MSU's mission has been to provide over 3,000 students annually.
MSU's graduate school offers a master of education degree with four concentrations that can be completed fully online. Students may opt to specialize in curriculum and instruction, English, secondary mathematics, or special education.
Most students complete the 30-credit degree in two years. To graduate, students must also complete a capstone project or thesis paper.
Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, transcripts, and letters of recommendation.
Located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Bryan enrolls just 1,500 students annually.
Bryan offers an online master of education program with three specialization areas: classroom instruction, child and family studies, and Christian school administration. Students may continue to teach full-time while completing their degree.
Students do not qualify for teaching licensure after completing a master of education degree at Bryan. Applicants should be currently employed as teachers or have completed an undergraduate teaching program.
An innovative research university, Purdue offers more than 200 online and hybrid programs.
Purdue offers two online education master's degree programs — a master of arts in teaching and a master of science in education. Students may also obtain a master of science in education psychology, higher education, or instructional design and technology. Courses take place in six-week terms and require a weekly commitment of at least 20 hours.
To graduate, students must complete 45-54 credits, depending on their exact program. While students in some states may pursue teaching certification through this program, not all students will qualify.
Established in 1915, Webster has spent over 100 years building a diverse campus network that currently serves more than 12,000 students.
Webster's online master of arts in education and innovation aims to promote innovative thinking, practice instructional methods, develop competencies, and engage in lifelong learning.
To graduate, students must complete 33 credits in core courses and electives, as well as complete a capstone course.
Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.5 from undergraduate coursework and submit transcripts.
Founded in 1946, FUS started with 258 students and has grown to serve over 3,000 students annually.
FUS's graduate education program features two online degrees — a master of science in education and master of science in educational administration. Students can choose a concentration in online learning or reading endorsement. Educational administration students may seek state licensure upon completion of additional coursework.
To apply, students must submit an online application, official transcripts, and three letters of recommendation.
Initially founded in 1932, SNHU grew to offer its first online program in 1995. Today, it serves over 135,000 students through 250 online programs.
SNHU's online master of education in curriculum and instruction can be completed in as little as 15 months. The program's 36 credits are split between core courses and one of six concentrations, including online teaching, special education, and dyslexia studies.
Admission requirements include submitting an online application, transcript release forms, and graduate attestation form.
As part of UNC's 17-campus system, UNCW offers baccalaureate, graduate, and accelerated online programs to more than 18,000 students.
UCNW offers seven different master of education degrees, with concentrations available in elementary education, curriculum studies, and teaching the academically and intellectually gifted, among others. Students may also pursue add-on licensures in certain specializations.
The program does not require test scores, but students must submit transcripts, three recommendations, and an education statement of interest essay.
Biola's School of Education launched during the early 1950s to support the area's need for teachers during the post World War II baby boom.
Today, Biola's master of arts in education program offers eight concentrations, including curriculum and instruction, early childhood, and special education. Students may also create a personalized plan of study to support their specific goals. Some concentrations are limited to the state of California.
Admission requirements vary depending on the student's degree concentration. All applicants must submit transcripts and GRE scores.
Since its first class of just 63 students in 1857, MSU has grown to serve nearly 50,000 students annually on its 5,300-acre campus.
MSU's master of arts in education consists of 30 credits and can be completed in just two years. Students may choose one of six concentration areas, including literacy education, P-12 school and postsecondary leadership, and technology and learning.
To graduate, students must also complete a capstone seminar.
Students must possess a bachelor's degree and submit official transcripts, a resume, and three letters of recommendation.
USD serves nearly 6,000 annually, with over 3,000 enrolled in graduate programs.
USD's online master of education program includes five core courses and five specialization courses, culminating in a capstone action research project. Students typically complete the 30 credit program in 20 months.
Students may specialize in STEAM, inclusive learning, and school leadership, among other concentrations.
Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA for undergraduate coursework and demonstrate two years of teaching experience.
Initially founded in 1909, SAU now serves over 4,000 students each year through more than 80 degree programs.
SAU offers seven master of education degree programs with specializations in educational leadership, school counseling, and special education. Ideal students include those occupying or seeking advancements or administrative or management positions.
The program requires 30 credits, which students can complete in two years. All coursework takes place fully online.
Applicants must submit an online application and official transcripts. SAU's College of Education does not require test scores for admission.
Since 1860, LSU has grown to serve over 45,000 students annually across all of its campuses.
The educational leadership program requires 39 credits for graduation; the others require just 36. Students from around the country pay the same per-credit tuition rate.
Applicants must possess a Louisiana teaching certificate and demonstrate two years of teaching experience. One of the three required letters of recommendation must be from a principal or administrator.
Founded in 1888, NMSU now offers over 70 online programs with 100% flexibility for busy students.
NMSU students can choose one of four online master of arts in education degrees, with concentrations in language, literacy, and culture (reading); early childhood education; education learning technologies; and higher education administration.
Each online program takes two years to complete and requires 30-33 credits for graduation. Some specializations also provide a pathway for licensure in New Mexico. Applicants should have an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or higher.
Initially founded in 1794, UT Knoxville prides itself on its place as the first public university west of the Appalachian Divide.
UT Knoxville's College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences offers an online master of science in instructional technology. The program prepares students to develop and implement online learning environments in educational or other settings.
After submitting an online application to the graduate admissions office, applicants must also submit a resume, letter of introduction, transcripts, and three rating forms.
Founded as the Pittsburgh Academy in 1787, Pitt now serves more than 30,000 students each year.
UP offers three online master of education programs, with focus areas in curriculum instruction, elementary education, and English education online. All programs emphasize STEAM education, ensuring students are prepared for 21st-century teaching.
Graduation requires 30-36 credits, typically completed in two years. Admission requirements include submitting a 750-word goal statement, official transcripts, resume or curriculum vitae, contact information for three professional or academic references.
UMass Amherst offered its first classes in 1867 to just 56 students. As of 2020, the university enrolled over 28,000 students, with 613 of those in the college of education.
UMass Amherst's College of Education offers online master of education degrees in higher education, international education, and science education. Graduation requirements vary between specializations. Higher education students must complete a practicum.
Admission requirements include at least two letters of recommendation, official transcripts, personal statement, and resume.
Founded in 1882, EWU has more than 12,000 students in over 150 areas of study.
EWU's Department of Education Graduate Programs offers an online master of education degree in six concentrations. Students may specialize in adult education, early childhood education, literacy, and more.
To graduate, students must complete an internship, create a portfolio, and pass a comprehensive exam demonstrating their expertise in the field.
Some specializations, including curriculum and instruction, may require a teaching certificate as a prerequisite for admission. Other specializations only require an undergraduate degree.
Initially founded in 1860 as a university affiliated with the Lutheran Church, AU serves nearly 2,000 students from 41 states and 24 countries.
AU's master of education program is available to students entirely online. Students select a "learner-designed concentration" with the help of one of AU's continuing education partners and typically complete the non-thesis program in 13-16 months.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and either possess or be eligible for teaching licensure. Admissions also requires submitting official transcripts, two recommendation forms, and a two to three-page typed essay.
Founded in 1884, MLC is operated by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. With an 11:1 student ratio, students receive personal attention and develop life-long friendships.
MLC's master of science in education includes concentrations in educational technology, instruction, leadership, and special education. The special education concentration includes an option for a Minnesota Learning Disabilities licensure.
Motivated students may also elect to complete a double emphasis in two concentrations.
Applicants must demonstrate an undergraduate GA of at least 3.0 and submit a written statement describing their view of education.
UNT offers nearly 1,200 online courses and 80 online program options. As of 2019, over 78,000 students enrolled in their courses and programs.
UNT's master of science in early childhood education is a 30 credit-hour program consisting of just 10 classes. Courses include infant and child development, curriculum theory, and leadership and supervision of programs.
Students must be admitted to both the graduate school and the College of Education. Other admissions requirements include letters of reference and an essay on professional goals.
Online Master's in Education Programs Ranking Guidelines
We selected the following programs based on academic quality, course offerings, faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation. We also considered the overall quality of the school's online programs.
Featured Online Schools
What Is a Master's Degree in Education?
A master's degree in education prepares graduate students for leadership roles in the classroom and in educational settings. Master's programs for teachers emphasize classroom management techniques, educational research, and educational technology. Master's programs for administrators train future principals and school administrators in the management and leadership skills required for their roles.
Prospective master's students can choose to earn an MA in education or an M.Ed. While both degrees prepare students for advanced roles in education, an MA track typically emphasizes research, while M.Ed. pathways focus more on practice. It generally takes full-time students two years to earn a master's in education.
Online Master's in Education Programs
An online master's in education program may appeal to working educators seeking career advancement. The flexible, accessible learning environment means teachers can attend a top program without quitting their job or relocating.
In an online program, graduate students complete coursework requirements at their convenience. Some online programs offer courses with an asynchronous format, meaning there are no set course times. Other programs use a synchronous format, where students meet for class at scheduled times. Many synchronous programs set meeting times in the evenings or weekends to fit a teacher's schedule.
By choosing to earn an online master's degree in education, teachers can advance their careers while working full time. Nevertheless, an online learning environment requires a self-motivated approach. Many programs offer online advising and career support to help online learners.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Education?
Earning a master's degree in education helps teachers advance their careers and increase their earning potential. Many roles in education require a master's degree, including administrative positions like school principal and higher education administrator. Teachers with a master's degree often earn higher salaries and take on leadership roles in their schools.
While a bachelor's degree meets the requirements for a teaching license, roles like instructional coordinator, lead teacher, principal, and superintendent often require a master's degree. Teachers can also strengthen their classroom skills by pursuing a master's degree.
An accredited online master's degree in education meets the requirements for a school administrator license in every state. Prospective master's students can explore different career paths with an education degree for more information on the roles that require a master's degree in education. After completing a master's in education, some individuals choose to further advance their careers by earning an online doctorate in education.
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Choosing an Online Education Graduate Program
Prospective education graduate students should consider several factors when choosing an online program. In addition to weighing the total cost of a master's in education, students should also consider the program's curriculum, the length of the degree plan, and any on-campus requirements.
By researching the following factors, educators can find the best online master's degree in education for their career goals and needs.
- Program Cost - The associated with earning a master's in education varies. In general, public, in-state schools charge the lowest tuition rates, but some programs offer a flat rate for all online learners, regardless of residency.
- Transfer Policies - Educators with prior graduate-level credits should review a program's transfer policies to see if they can lower the cost of their degree and shorten the length of time required to complete the program by transferring in credit.
- School Size and Type - In addition to considering the benefits of public versus private schools, some students prefer a program that offers smaller class sizes, while others prefer a larger cohort of education graduate students.
- Program Length - The length of a master's in education degree track can vary depending on the total credits required, internship requirements, and the program's enrollment options.
- On-campus Requirements - Online master's in education programs may incorporate on-campus requirements, while others offer a fully online curriculum where students meet field experience requirements locally.
- Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements - Programs with a stronger research focus may incorporate a thesis requirement, while master's programs for teachers may require a certain amount of teaching experience for admission.
Accreditation for Online Education Degrees
Educators considering a master's degree should always choose an accredited school. Colleges and universities that hold regional accreditation meet the highest standards for educating students. Accrediting agencies review schools to determine whether they meet accreditation standards. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation reviews accrediting agencies and maintains a database of accredited schools.
In addition to regional accreditation, programs can hold specialized, programmatic accreditation. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits master's programs. CAEP evaluates education programs in terms of student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and graduation requirements. Programs must regularly undergo review to maintain their CAEP accreditation.
The best online education master's programs hold CAEP accreditation. Programmatic accreditation benefits students in several ways. In many states, only accredited education degrees meet the requirements for an educator license. Employers may also prefer to hire educators with an accredited degree.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree in Education?
Earning a master's degree in education generally takes two years, although some programs offer an accelerated, one-year master's degree. Several factors can influence the length of a master's in education degree track, including a student's enrollment status and graduation requirements. For example, many programs incorporate field experiences, but the length of an internship can vary depending on the program.
Master's programs for teachers generally require a more extensive practicum, while programs with a school administration or higher education focus often require less field experience. Many master's in education online programs design the degree plan for working educators, prioritizing flexibility around a teacher's schedule.
Courses in an Online Master's in Education Program
While earning an online master's degree in education, graduate students take courses designed to strengthen their teaching and/or administrative abilities, depending on the program.
Classroom management courses explore best practices in classroom and behavior management. Participants learn strategies for managing student behaviors, organizing classroom space, and time management. Graduate students also examine regulations and laws governing teachers in the classroom.
This course explores the relationship between pedagogy and technology, methods to promote information literacy, and theoretical frameworks for understanding how students learn with computer-based technology.
Many programs include a course on current trends and issues in the field, including the role of technology in education, data-driven decision-making, school inclusiveness, and demographic shifts that impact education.
In this course, students explore methods and procedures for conducting research in education, including how to evaluate research reports. With a focus on qualitative and quantitative research, the course prepares graduates to apply current research in education.
Graduate students in this course learn research-based strategies for K-5 mathematics instruction, including best practices in assessment and learning. The course introduces several different content standards, and students may complete field experiences to enhance their training.
Master's in Education Jobs
Earning an online master's in education prepares graduates for a variety of roles in education. Teachers with a master's degree move into leadership roles and often earn higher salaries. A master's in education also leads to opportunities as an instructional coordinator, a school principal, or a school administrator.
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Instructional coordinators — also known as curriculum specialists — oversee the curriculum and teaching standards for schools or districts. They create educational material designed to meet curriculum standards, work with teachers and principals to implement the curriculum, and analyze data on its effectiveness. Instructional coordinators train teachers about new content and technologies and recommend different teaching techniques.
Some instructional coordinators specialize in certain grade levels or subjects, including special education or English as a second language. Instructional coordinators working in public schools may need a license.
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School principals oversee daily operations and long-term planning for their school. They manage teachers and staff, coordinate the school's curriculum, and promote a productive learning environment. K-12 principals work with instructional coordinators and teachers to develop and implement curriculum standards. They observe teachers to evaluate performance. Principals also manage the school's budget, analyze data on student achievement, and set academic goals for the school.
In most states, principals at public schools must hold a license, which generally requires a master's degree in education. Additionally, principals often need prior experience as a teacher before advancing to the administrative level.
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School administrators oversee student services at K-12 schools and at colleges and universities. They may manage the admission process by determining how many students to admit and recruiting prospective students. School administrators also work in student affairs, where they manage a school's advising services and promote student activities. At the college level, school administrators oversee residential life, manage athletic programs, and lead multicultural centers.
Most school administrators hold a master's degree, such as a master's in education. Some employers prefer candidates with prior experience in education or administration — particularly for managerial positions.
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College professors teach undergraduate and graduate classes in their subject area, including in education. They create a syllabus to organize the course, design lectures and assignments, and assess student learning through papers and exams. In many institutions, college professors also conduct research in their specialty and publish their results in academic journals. They often sit on academic committees and advise students.
While professors do not need a teaching license, many tenure-track positions require a doctorate. However, a master's in education may meet the requirements for positions at some community colleges.
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High school teachers educate students in a variety of disciplines, including language arts, social studies, mathematics, and the sciences. They design and adapt lesson plans to meet student needs and assess student abilities through assignments and exams. High school teachers draw on classroom management and leadership techniques to oversee their classes and act as a leader within their school.
In public schools, high school teachers must hold a teaching license or certificate for their grade level. A master's degree in education meets the qualifications for a teaching license. In many districts, educators with a master's degree earn a higher salary.
Education Membership Associations
Professional organizations help graduate students and educators build their professional skills and advance their careers. The following organizations connect educators with professional development resources, research opportunities, and networking activities.
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