The 30 Best Online Master’s in Elementary Education Degree Programs
| TBS Staff
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Online Master’s in Elementary Education Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
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1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]
- Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
- Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
- Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
- Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
- Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
- Considers range of electives within that discipline
- Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline
2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]
- Considers education background of the faculty
- Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
- Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
- Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
- Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources
3. Reputation [weight = 20%]
- Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
- “Freshness” of academic knowledge
- Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
- Suitability of graduates for the workplace
4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]
- Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
- Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants
5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]
- Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
- Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business
6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]
Considers the following of the online classes:
- Types of online technology used to deliver content
- Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
- Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
- Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
Considers the following of instructors:
- Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
- Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
- Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
- Ratio to number of students in a class
- Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees
Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.
To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:
- Public or private status
- Acceptance rate
- Retention rate
- Graduation rate
- ACT/SAT requirements
- Cost in-state / out of state
- Undergrad, grad, or both offered
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Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!
The Best Online Master's in Elementary Education Degree Programs
North Carolina State offers almost 100 programs through its distance campus. Known nationwide for innovation, the Raleigh research institution administers exceptional science, technology, engineering, math, and education programs. More than 19,000 of NC State’s 34,000 students enroll in at least one online class.
NC State hosts a master’s in elementary education online in a hybrid format. Aimed at students seeking their first license to work in K–12 classrooms, the program consists mostly of web–based courses but also requires distance learners to travel to Raleigh for face–to–face classes. The university created the program for initial licensure and not for practicing teachers seeking advanced credentials or pre–doctoral studies.
The program’s competencies include the integration of technology into the classroom, the ability to work with families and communities, and sensitivity to cultural diversity. The school constructed the curriculum around 15 credits of core courses. Degree seekers must complete an additional 18 credits in electives and in a specialty area. Specialties include language arts, elementary reading, elementary science, and instructional practice.
The program follows an accelerated schedule, and full–time students earn their degrees in a year and a half. NC State offers four admission periods for this course of study, and North Carolina residents enjoy considerable discounts.
East Carolina University built a unique virtual campus that offers 40 programs that students can’t find anywhere else. Founded as a teachers college, the school thrives as a public research institution. Located in Greenville, North Carolina, the school leads in internet education, hosting more than 90 degree–granting programs through its cyber campus.
ECU established its online master’s degree in elementary education for working teachers. Not a licensure program, it serves as an advanced degree for educators who already hold a K–6 elementary teacher’s license. The 36–credit curriculum includes focused study in one of three concentration areas: content pedagogy, gifted education, and English as a second language. Graduates leave eligible for M–level licensure in North Carolina. Teachers should check with their own states to find out the requirements for advanced licensing.
Program participants can enroll on a part– or full–time basis and complete all credits through the web. Most coursework runs asynchronously, though some professors hold real–time sessions. The curriculum splits into three parts: students must complete 12 credits in the professional core, 15 credits in the elementary core, and nine in their focus area.
Admission requires submission of college transcripts, GRE or MAT scores, three professional letters of recommendation, a copy of active teaching licensures, and a statement of purpose. ECU conveniently offers four start dates: spring, fall, and two in the summer.
Based in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama designed its elementary education master’s online program for working teachers. The course of study combines the latest educational research with the latest pedagogical methods, and it requires participants to complete classroom practicums. Accredited by the prestigious National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the program runs entirely online, and the university allows six years for completion.
Candidates must earn 30–36 credits, depending on their undergraduate transcript. The program centers around coursework in curriculum and instruction, educational foundations, and research. Participants may specialize in one or two of five elementary areas: language arts, literacy, math, science, and social studies. Students must take one of two classes: either the evaluation of classroom learning or an introduction to exceptional children and youth. Students must also complete an advisor–approved elective.
Admission requires a current bachelor’s–level teaching certificate, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from an accredited institution, an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better on their last 60 credits, and GRE scores. Teachers may apply year–round. All distance learners pay the same flat rate for tuition.
The university’s online arm, BamaByDistance, hosts a wide array of graduate programs for educators, including master’s programs in educational leadership, educational psychology, instructional technology, secondary education, and special education.
Oregon State’s master’s in elementary education online degree serves as a full–time licensure program offered in a hybrid format. Much of the work in the 52–credit, two–year program takes place in the university’s home of Beaverton thanks to a partnership between OSU’s College of Education and the Beaverton school district.
Students in OSU’s master of arts in teaching with an option in clinically based elementary education program enroll in a cohort and complete most of their academic work online. In the first year, they teach as substitutes in Beaverton schools while taking classes. During the second year, participants teach full time in the classroom, earning a stipend. Graduates leave with an accumulated 650 hours of internship and practicum experience.
The program requires three prerequisite courses: civil rights and multicultural issues; purpose, structure, and function of education in a democracy; and learning across the lifespan. Students must complete fingerprinting and background checks before working in classrooms.
Admission requires a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. OSU admits one cohort per year and offers a flat tuition rate for all distance learners. The program boasts its own scholarship opportunity, known as Teach for Beaverton.
Set in the small city of Troy, Alabama, Troy university serves as a comprehensive public institution that boasts four campuses, 60 teaching sites, and a busy online arm. Troy committed to internet–based education more than 20 years ago and now leads in the online space.
The university offers a master’s in elementary education online that gives students the option of taking some classes on campus. Optimized for working teachers, the program allows educators to continue in the classroom while furthering their career goals. Distance learners can earn all 36 credits through the web on a full– or part–time basis, or take classes on campus. Most classes run asynchronously in accelerated, nine–week terms.
Troy recommends the elementary education master’s to teachers who want advanced credentials or want to continue to a doctorate. Many graduates take leadership roles after completion of the program. The curriculum emphasizes lesson planning, student assessment, and development of research proposals. The program divides the curriculum between required core classes and teaching field courses.
The university charges a flat rate for all graduate–level distance learners and offers discounts to active members of the military and their families.
UNC Charlotte created its master of education in elementary education for veteran North Carolina teachers who want to add an advanced license to their list of credentials. Available entirely online, the program promotes a global, culturally sensitive educational philosophy. Distance learners enroll part time and complete the program in three years or less. Educators select from among a variety of focus areas, including anti–racism, academically and intellectually gifted, English as a second language, and instructional systems technology.
UNC Charlotte breaks the curriculum of its online master’s degree in elementary education into four parts. Phase I develops perspectives in cultural diversity. Phase II revolves around collaborative inquiry and research. Phase III includes investigative leadership. The final phase consists of electives and the concentration area. Most classes run asynchronously, but some may require real–time components.
Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from a regionally accredited program earned with a 3.0 GPA or better and a current teaching license in elementary education. Applicants submit GRE or MAT scores, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of personal goals. Tuition heavily favors North Carolina residents.
Started as a teacher’s college in 1918, Ball State serves as a public research institution in Muncie, Indiana offering more than 70 internet programs. The school designed its programs for maximum flexibility: no classes require trips to campus and most run asynchronously.
Ball State created its online master’s in elementary education to accommodate the schedules of working educators, and approximately 500 students enroll in the program each year. The university’s Teachers College enjoys a national reputation for quality and boasts accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
The master’s in education online program caters to a teacher’s own interests and personal goals. The course of study emphasizes leadership and allows educators to add concentrations in several areas, including autism, reading, human development, response to intervention, and English as a second language.
Completion of any of these fields leads to specialized certification. No matter which track a student pursues, they must earn at least 30 credits to graduate and complete a focused study in research. Every graduate of the program also receives a certificate of early childhood program administration.
Applicants must submit collegiate transcripts showing a cumulative bachelor’s GPA of at least 2.75 or a 3.0 during the last 60 credits. The program does not require the GRE. Indiana residents pay about a third less for tuition than non–residents.
The University of North Dakota is the state’s oldest and largest university. Known for innovation and research, UND hosts more than 40 online programs. The university offers many classes on an “enroll anytime" basis, allowing students to take courses on their own time.
UND’s online master’s in elementary education emphasizes inquiry, collaboration, and reflection, and teachers learn how to help students become active instruments in their own education. The university formatted the course of study to last six semesters, including two summer sessions. Most educators earn their diplomas in a little over two years while continuing to teach. The program requires no travel to Grand Forks.
The program takes two tracks. Track one, available in thesis and non–thesis options and open to licensed and non–licensed teachers, prioritizes research. Track two comes only as a non–thesis program for non–licensed teachers.
The 32–credit curriculum runs largely asynchronously, though some classes do require students to attend “live“ web sessions. Candidates must complete 90 hours of student teaching, but they may do so in or near their own community. The university allows students to transfer a maximum one–fourth of the credits needed. Students can enroll every fall, spring, and summer. Non–resident distance learners pay in–state tuition.
Set in sunny Mānoa, Hawaii, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is the largest of the state’s 10 public universities. The research institution hosts many distance education programs, including an online master’s degree in elementary education suited to Hawaiian learners.
The university’s College of Education set up its master of education in teaching distance program as a hybrid. Candidates do most of their learning on the web, but they must travel to Oahu to participate in required field teaching sessions. The school established the two–year program to ready students with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than education for licensure as teachers. Because of this, the 45–credit curriculum slants heavily to student teaching. Students work full–time as part of a 25–member cohort, and they earn a stipend for teaching in their last semester.
Distance learners begin their field teaching in their first semester, and sit for their license by their third semester. The university places students into local schools, though online learners must make their own travel arrangements to Hawaii. Candidates must complete a culminating paper or project to earn their degree. Some students need to fulfill additional coursework requirements, depending upon their undergraduate degree.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in a field outside of education earned with a GPA of 3.0 or better. They must also fill out content knowledge worksheets and sit for an interview.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham hosts several internet–based graduate degrees in teaching through its renowned Department of Education. These include an online master’s degree in elementary education that features field teaching requirements. Students spend one third of the program in classrooms observing mentor teachers and working with young learners.
UAB crafted its online master’s in elementary and early childhood education using the latest constructivist theories. The 31– to 34–credit curriculum takes participants through subjects like teaching pedagogy, child development, developmental reading, methods of primary math, and classroom management. The program emphasizes standards–based practice, inquiry–focused methods, and cultural sensitivity. Electives allows students to tailor their degree to their career goals and personal interests.
The university does not license teachers but recommends graduates to Alabama’s Department of Education for certification. Students from other states should research whether the program’s standards meet their state’s requirements. UAB expects students to complete the program within five years.
Admission requires submission of bachelor’s transcripts, scores from the MAT or GRE, a personal essay, a resume, three references, and health records. Other prerequisites include a special education course.
The University of Pittsburgh is one of the nation’s oldest institutions of higher learning. The school serves as home to PittOnline, a nationally–ranked virtual campus that offers a master’s in elementary education online.
The 36–credit curriculum focuses on diversity in learning and the role of education in society. Distance learners must complete six credits of core courses, three in research methodology, three in special education, six in electives, and nine in content–specific pedagogy. Students select between a thesis or a research project. During the last term of the program, they must pass a comprehensive exam that synthesizes everything they learn. Teachers already in possession of graduate–level certification automatically qualify for 12 advanced credits.
PittOnline conducts most of its classes asynchronously. Online courses follow the traditional 12– to 15–week semester, and online learners complete everything required through the internet. Pitt’s School of Education graduates perform exceptionally well on teacher licensure exams. Ninety–eight percent of graduates who sat for the test passed.
Admission to the program requires submission of undergraduate transcripts showing a 3.0 or better GPA, a teaching certificate, two letters of recommendation, and a career goals statement. The university accepts application on a rolling basis, accepting 86% of graduate applicants in 2016.
Western Carolina University resides in Cullowhee, a small community in western North Carolina. The school offers award–winning programs for teachers and boasts some of the best teacher–placement rates in the state. WCU administers several web–based degrees for educators, including an online master’s degree in elementary education.
WCU designed the 30–credit curriculum of its master of arts in education for working teachers, who typically complete the program in two years. Students must earn 12 credits in the professional core and 18 in elementary education. They must also produce a professional portfolio to qualify for graduation. Successful graduates qualify for a master’s in education and earn recommendation for advanced competencies licensure from the state of North Carolina. WCU accepts up to six transfer credits toward the program.
Coursework emphasizes research, educational psychology, and the development of content–area knowledge. Elementary teachers select from concentrations in literacy, STEM disciplines, and academically and intellectually gifted education.
Admission to WCU’s graduate school requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program. Students must hold a current class A teaching license, secure three recommendations from former instructors, and write a letter of intent. Distance learners pay the same tuition rate as on–campus students.
Liberty is the largest Christian university in the world, founded in 1971 by televangelist Jerry Falwell. Known for its conservative ideals, the nonprofit university offers an elementary education master’s online that readies aspiring teachers for licensure.
Accredited by the NCATE, the 36–credit master of arts in teaching combines educational theory with in–class experience. Coursework delves into math, the natural sciences, literacy, and language acquisition. Students gain insights into curriculum development and classroom management techniques. They must maintain a 3.0 GPA. Liberty allows as many as 50% of credits to transfer into the program. The university grants students up to five years for completion.
All Liberty’s online programs follow an accelerated, eight–week schedule, and professors set no login times, allowing students to work at their own convenience. While most work runs asynchronously online, the university requires distance learners to visit Lynchburg for three on–campus intensives. These residencies contribute to the completion of student–teaching requirements. Successful completion of Liberty’s master of arts in teaching program lays the foundation for teacher certification in Virginia. The university recommends that applicants consult their state’s department of education for details on certification in their area. On–campus and online students pay the same tuition rate.
The University of New Mexico offers an online master’s in elementary education oriented toward administration. The Albuquerque institution created the 32–credit program to prepare the next generation of educational leaders, both in classrooms and in school districts. The degree does not meet the requirements of administrative licensure, but it does start teachers on the path toward administration.
Cohorts for the program begin in the fall each year. The university constructed the program such that students can finish their studies in a little over two years of taking two courses at a time. During the summer semester they add a third course. Coursework takes teachers through social justice, research methods, personnel management, data–driven learning, and curriculum development.
UNM’s online courses run both asynchronously and in real time. They follow the traditional 16–week semester schedule, except in summer when they shorten to eight weeks.
Applicants need a bachelor’s degree earned with a 3.0 in the last 60 hours of coursework, a valid teacher’s license, three recommendations, a letter of intent, and a professional resume. Students should hold at least 12 credits in elementary education at the upper undergraduate level. Online learners pay in–state tuition rates at UNM.
The University of Southern Mississippi hosts an online master’s in elementary education focused on curriculum and instruction. The university developed the 30–credit curriculum for working teachers who can complete the program entirely online. The program requires no visits to Mississippi.
Roughly half of the master of education in educational curriculum and instruction (elementary education) curriculum consists of core requirements. These courses explore reading, mathematics, social studies, early childhood education, and language arts. Classes largely run asynchronously, though some professors may schedule real–time video lectures. Students need another 12 credits in electives to fulfill the requirements for the program.
All graduate students at USM must complete instruction in the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) during their first semester. USM uses CITI to ensure the integrity of its programming, and all program participant must complete one of the “Common Courses.” These modules typically take 2–5 hours. Every master’s candidate at USM must also pass a comprehensive exam.
USM bases admission on several factors, including the following: a bachelor’s record showing a 3.0 GPA or better for the last 60 credits; GRE, MAT, or Praxis II scores; three letters of recommendation; a personal statement; and a professional resume. Teachers need a valid, up–to–date license. Applicants can apply for sessions beginning in the fall, spring, and summer. All distance learners pay in–state tuition at USM.
Known for technology and innovation, Nova Southeastern hosts dozens of programs on its virtual campus, including an online master’s in elementary education. The 40–credit program emphasizes language, literacy, science, math, and the arts. The program also carries accreditation from the prestigious National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. (NCATE).
Nova Southeastern’s master of science in elementary education curriculum focuses heavily on practical pedagogy, with teachers learning the latest instructional methods. Most professors deliver coursework in an asynchronous format, and the university does not require students to complete residencies or intensives. All program participants must, however, maintain a cumulative GPA of a 3.0 or better.
The degree plan culminates with an applied professional experience capstone. Students teach in an approved location and keep journals of their experience. At the end of the program, faculty assesses candidates on the strength of their portfolio. All students must demonstrate proficiency in the Educator Accomplished Practices.
Applicants must submit all previous collegiate transcripts showing a minimum 2.5 GPA. All distance learners pay a flat tuition rate regardless of residence.
One of 17 schools in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian State offers exceptional programs for educators. The school’s internet–based educational offerings carry accreditation from the Council for Accreditation for Educator Preparation (CAEP).
App State hosts an online master’s in elementary education to meet the needs of working teachers hoping to earn advanced certification. The 39–credit program meets the advanced competencies of the North Carolina Excellent Schools Act, and successful completion leads to M–level licensing for the elementary grades. Teachers without elementary experience may need to complete an additional internship/practicum.
Teachers in App State’s elementary education program join a cohort and follow a part–time extended format. They then progress through 27 credits of required courses, including classwork in research, diversity, instructional technology, and leadership. Teaching field courses in content areas — including math, science, social studies, and language arts — comprise the remaining 12 credits. The degree does not require a thesis or comprehensive exam. Instead, degree seekers prepare a portfolio or other product of learning.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and a valid teaching license. The university also requires scores from the GRE or MAT. Out of state learners pay substantially more than North Carolinians.
The University of Mississippi is the flagship campus of the Magnolia State public university system. It is the largest school in the state and one of the fastest–growing in the nation. Ole Miss offers an online masters in elementary education aimed at currently practicing teachers.
The School of Education constructed the 30–credit program to enable students to complete the degree in one to two years by taking two courses at a time. The university recommends the degree for prospective school administrators, consultants, curriculum developers, and professional development coordinators. Teachers who already hold their Mississippi teaching license can earn a pre–K endorsement through the program.
The degree takes a curriculum and instruction approach, exploring subjects like educational research, differential education, advanced curriculum theory, measuring and evaluating students, and internet use in the classroom. Most professors use an asynchronous format, allowing students to work when it fits their schedules.
Admission requires a bachelor’s degree earned with a 3.0 GPA, a state–issued teaching license, passing Praxis II content area scores, and two graduate recommendations. Ole Miss does not require the GRE for program entrance.
Located in Los Angeles, California State University–Fullerton is the second largest university in the California State University system. The school’s 5,800 graduate students also make it one of the largest graduate schools in California. Known for online programs in business, nursing, and education, the university offers an elementary education master’s online with a curriculum and instruction emphasis.
Cal State Fullerton’s elementary education department carries accreditation from the prestigious teacher preparation agency NCATE. The department follows three guiding principles: equity, community, and knowledge and wisdom. Its master’s in elementary education online prepares teachers for leadership roles in elementary classroom teaching, technology in education, meeting the needs of diverse learners, and staff development.
Cal State’s 30–credit curriculum breaks down into several sections. Distance learners must earn nine credits in core coursework, 12 credits in an area of concentration, and six in electives. Students select a thesis, a research seminar, or a project as their culminating experience. Instructors deliver most of the coursework asynchronously.
Applicants must submit previous collegiate transcripts showing a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on the last 60 credits. They should have successfully completed a teacher credential program.
Auburn University created its online master’s in elementary education programs to appeal to two distinctly different teachers. It prepared the master of education version of the degree for teachers already in possession of licensure hoping to earn their Class A license in Alabama. Alternatively, the university aims its master of science at educators who want a graduate–level education but do not need certification.
Students can complete both tracks through the web, working largely asynchronously. No matter which they choose, distance learners must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA on all graduate classwork and a 3.25 on requirements for the major itself.
Though both master’s tracks require students to complete 30 credits, they vary in their curricula. With its licensure focus, the master of education program delves into pedagogy, requiring 24 credits in the teaching field and six advisor–approved credits. Students must take the advanced survey of exceptionality if they failed to complete a special education course at the undergraduate level.
The master of science takes an interdisciplinary approach. Candidates must complete a one–credit orientation to teaching and learning, take 15 hours of elementary education courses, fulfill 12 advisor–approved electives, and pass a final capstone course in teaching and learning.
One of four schools in the University of Nebraska system, the University of Nebraska at Kearney opened as a teachers college in 1905. The mid–size institution continues to offer award–winning programming for educators, including a catalog of NCATE–accredited degrees available through its e–campus. These include the school’s elementary education master’s online, a curriculum–and–instruction–based program for working teachers.
UNK’s online master’s in elementary education requires four core classes: research, democracy, diversity, and technology. Degree candidates must complete 36 credits in total. Educators interested in pursuing a content–area endorsement may need to add additional credits. Most classes run asynchronously, but several courses, including a required practicum, include student–teaching hours in classrooms. UNK recommends that distance learners dedicate 9–12 hours of study per week per three–credit course.
All students pursuing a master’s in education must complete a special project/comprehensive examination to receive their diploma. The requirement consists of three parts: the project, the departmental exam, and the College of Education Survey of Desired Outcomes.
Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree, a current teaching license, and either the GRE or sufficient professional work experience. Non–resident distance learners pay considerably more than Nebraskans.
The University of West Florida made such a commitment to internet–based education that 30% of its students now attend online. UWF hosts more than 600 courses and dozens of programs through the internet, including degrees of interest to teachers. The school offers its elementary education master’s degree online as part of its master of education in curriculum and instruction program.
UWF built the program for educators who want to add an advanced degree to their resume, and the school stresses that the degree does not lead to licensure. The 36–credit curriculum prepares teachers to step into roles in instruction and leadership. Students enrolling in the elementary education specialization select another cognate in a subject like reading, professional training, or career and technical education.
Distance learners must complete seven classes in the core, including a nine–credit educational investigative sequence. Only, grades of “C“ or higher may apply toward the degree. Most professors conduct courses asynchronously, though some may feature live sessions.
Applicants must hold an initial teacher license or be working towards it. They must submit bachelor’s transcripts showing a GPA of 3.0 or better, GRE or MAT scores, a letter of intent, and two professional references. Some students with a GPA lower than 3.0 may win admission on a conditional basis with strong GRE scores. UWF offers three start dates for the program.
Part of the Pennsylvania state system of higher education, Slippery Rock University offers several online master’s in elementary education. These include programs in math, reading, and a reading specialist and instructional coaching degree. Each of the graduate–level programs lists its own goals and requirements. The university designed the elementary education degree to help working teachers add advanced degrees, endorsements, or certifications to their teaching license. Most require 30–33 hours to complete, and educators can earn all credits on the web.
Though all its elementary education master’s degree online programs share certain similarities, Slippery Rock gives them different formats. The two reading degrees prepare educators for Pennsylvania’s reading specialist certification. The university built both tracks around the same 21–credit core curriculum. Teachers must also finish modules on research and statistics and educational foundations. The main difference between the two lies with an extra practicum in the literary coaching degree.
The math track follows a 30–credit curriculum that does not include courses in math and science content. Instead, educators learn how to use technology, meet state standards, and develop curricula. This program utilizes a cohort format.
Admission to all three programs requires teachers to submit transcripts, a copy of their teaching license, and a resume. The university prefers applicants with a 3.0 GPA at the undergraduate level.
State officials founded the University of Central Missouri more than a century ago to train teachers, and it continues to provide educators with more than two dozen types of teacher certification to this day. Based in Warrensburg, the school offers a range of teaching degrees, including an elementary education master’s degree online.
UCM based the curriculum of the program on the standards set by the National Board Standards for early and middle childhood education. The program centers around a core of seven classes in subjects like instructional practices, curriculum development, research and development, and foundations of childhood education. The program also emphasizes leadership.
Students must earn 30 total credits to receive their degrees. The university formats classes asynchronously, and they follow traditional eight– or 16–week semesters. UCM accepts up to 12 transfer credits. Admission requires a bachelor’s degree earned with a GPA of 2.5 or better, proof of teacher certification, and a recommendation attesting to the applicant’s suitability for a graduate–level program. Distance learners pay in–state tuition, and UCM consistently ranks as one of the nation’s most affordable schools.
A small, private Christian university in suburban Birmingham, Samford is among the oldest institutions of higher learning in the U.S. The school boasts a long history of teacher education, and it offers a variety of graduate degrees in education. The school also boasts a 12:1 student to faculty ratio, and professors teach all classes at the Alabama institution, not teaching assistants.
Samford offers a master’s in elementary education online that provides a supportive, cohort–based community of educators. Taking no more than two classes at a time, working teachers can earn their degrees in 16 months. The program emphasizes leadership and research, preparing teachers to assume more responsibility in their schools and districts. They learn administrative skills and advanced pedagogical techniques and conduct practitioner research that can change not only their classrooms but schools everywhere. Most classes run asynchronously.
Samford promotes standards–based teaching and inquiry–based classroom instruction. The school aligns the 30–credit curriculum of its master’s in elementary education with national certification standards by exploring assessment strategies, diversity issues, technological integration, and action research. Students must earn a 3.25 or better cumulative GPA to graduate.
Samford bases admissions decisions on academic performance, professional licensure, GRE scores, a writing sample, and a dispositions form filled out by the applicant’s current supervisor. Distance learners pay a flat tuition rate no matter where they reside.
Virginia’s Old Dominion University offers a master’s in education aimed at initial licensure. While most schools design their graduate–level programs for working teachers, Old Dominion created its master of science in elementary education for aspiring educators. The college offers the program to candidates who completed undergraduate studies in a field other than education hoping to move into pre–K or elementary teaching.
Students in Old Dominion’s online master’s in elementary education choose from three concentration areas: interdisciplinary studies, non–interdisciplinary studies, and military career transition. The 31–credit curriculum readies prospective teachers for Virginia teaching licensure. Students should check with their own state to ensure that they meet local standards. Some candidates must fill in additional gaps with undergraduate courses. Professors format classes both asynchronously and in real time.
To graduate, distance learners must pass a written comprehensive exam, complete the graduate assessment, and fulfill the teaching internship requirement. This in–school experience puts candidates in elementary classrooms five days a week for 14 weeks. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA while enrolled in the program. Prior to any field teaching experiences, all learners must pass a background check.
Old Dominion offers a streamlined admission process. Applicants only submit previous collegiate transcripts and scores from the SAT, ACT, or Praxis exams. The school requires no GRE scores, essays, or recommendations. Students can begin at three start dates.
West Virginia University hosts several programs designed for teachers. The school’s virtual campus caters directly to educators by offering multiple graduate degrees and dozens of professional–development courses, including an online advanced elementary education master’s. The school created the program for licensed teachers hoping to enhance their curricular, leadership, and classroom–management skills. The school laid out the 30–credit course of study for completion in two years.
The university’s curriculum consists of 10 classes that explore subjects like mathematics, science, social studies, reading, and writing. Program participants also explore curriculum and instruction, theories of teaching and learning, and research and ethics. A capstone in technological integration typically concludes the program. Students should check their state’s standards for advanced certification to determine whether the program meets their needs.
Quality Matters, an online quality assurance agency, certifies the school’s web–delivered programming. Most professors employ asynchronous formatting, though some classes meet at scheduled times for live sessions.
Candidates for the program must submit bachelor’s transcripts showing a GPA of 2.75 or better, a copy of their teaching license, and a personal statement of goals. Non–resident distance learners pay in–state tuition. Online students can access many of the same student services as on–campus students, including the library, digital textbooks, tech support, and financial aid.
The University of Maine offers an elementary education master’s with a curriculum, assessment, and instruction focus. The university established the program for licensed teachers who want to climb the career ladder while continuing in the classroom. It makes all classes available entirely online, generally in an asynchronous format.
UMaine’s College of Education serves as Maine’s largest provider of graduate and professional teacher education and educational policy research. The college’s master of elementary education follows a 33–credit curriculum that highlights the leadership role of the teacher. It also factors in methods of improving student performance in light of state and national standards. Several of the eight required classes focus on action research, including the practicum and the teaching seminar. The College of Education uses these two courses as a culminating project rather than a thesis.
Educators can use the three available electives to concentrate in an area of interest. The university recommends selecting classes in technology, special education, and content areas. UMaine will accept up to six transfer credits toward the degree from an approved graduate–level program. Students have six years to complete the program from the time of matriculation.
Tuition rates favor in–state residents but still compare favorably with other universities. The university assumes applicants hold working teacher licenses prior to applying. Those with a 3.0 or better GPA may waive the GRE or MAT.
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State is dedicated to producing the next generation of educators and human–service professionals. The Greensboro–based college offers an elementary education master’s degree online created to provide an alternative pathway to teacher licensure in North Carolina. The school aims the program at graduates of bachelor’s programs outside of education who want to pursue a teaching license. Recent college graduates, lateral entry teachers, educational technicians or teaching assistants, and anyone hoping to make a career change may apply.
The school divides the master of teaching in elementary education into two phases. The 21–credit first section leads to the Praxis II exam and includes foundational coursework and a full–time, semester–long teaching experience at an elementary classroom. The second, nine–credit Advanced Master Phase qualifies teachers for M–level licensure. It includes a reading program capstone and additional student–teaching hours. Most classes run asynchronously, though some may feature collaborative elements that require real–time scheduling.
Admission requires a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university, a minimum 2.80 GPA, GRE scores, a background check, and letters of reference. Out–of–state learners pay more than North Carolinians for tuition. NCAT requires two classes for program entrance: computers in the classroom and teaching students with exceptionalities.
The oldest chartered college in the city of Chicago, Saint Xavier started as a Catholic women’s school. Today, the private coeducational Catholic school administers outstanding nursing and education programs. The school boasts an extensive catalog of teacher education programs, including an online master’s in elementary education. The school recommends the program for career changers and paraprofessionals whose work schedules make it difficult to return to school. The program prepares students for an Illinois Professional Educators License with an endorsement to teach grades one through six.
Students join a cohort and meet online for evening classes. Prospective teachers must make room in their schedules for required field experiences. Students do their teaching practicum at sites approved by the university. The school may allow paraeducators to fulfill some of their student teaching requirements at the school at which they work. Distance learners must maintain a 3.0 for the duration of the program, and no grades lower than a “C–“ will count toward their degree.
Saint Xavier requires that candidates finish all classwork within five years of beginning the program. The program accepts up to six transfer credits from an accredited university completed within the past five years.
Applicants must submit all undergraduate transcripts and Illinois Basic Skills Requirement and content–area test scores. They should also send a resume and a personal statement. All distance learners in the master’s in teaching program pay the same flat tuition rate.
Choosing a Program
Throughout your online master’s degree in elementary education, you will take a variety of courses that prepare you to serve in leadership roles within public and private schools. These programs cover important subjects such as curriculum development, classroom technology, child development and growth, and special education. You may also study concepts in literacy and classroom management. Each course gives you an in–depth of understanding of a key aspect of K–6 teaching and learning.
Students pursuing an elementary education master’s degree online may also choose a concentration. For example, you might focus your studies on literacy, curriculum development, social justice, special education, early childhood education, or English as a second language. Increasing numbers of programs provide concentrations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Having these options can be helpful if you have a specific career path or interest you would like to pursue.
Most online master’s in elementary education programs require an internship or practicum component. Students learn from established teachers, principals, administrators, or school counselors as they go about their day–to–day work. Some programs also require a final thesis or capstone project.Return to the top
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What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master’s in Elementary Education Program?
No two online master’s degree in elementary education programs are alike, and the experiences you have and the courses you take vary depending on the school you choose. However, there are some common subjects you’ll likely encounter, including literacy, classroom management, leadership, and child development. Below are three examples of courses you might find in an elementary education master’s online program.
The Curriculum for an Online Master’s Degree in Elementary Education
- Creating Learning Environments
- Students learn how to design and implement collaborative and individualized classroom environments for engagement, social interaction, and self-directed learning. The course also covers how teachers can build strong relationships with students, families, colleagues, and principals. Candidates learn how to encourage children’s emotional, social, intellectual, and physical growth.
- Fundamentals of Teaching Literacy
- In this class, elementary education master’s online students learn how to help children become skilled readers. The course covers topics like word recognition, phonics, print concepts, and independent reading. Candidates also assess the common hurdles children face in developing literacy abilities and how teachers can help them overcome those challenges.
- Child Development and Psychology
- Students learn about the various ways in which children develop socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically. The course also covers the principles, theories, and best practices for creating and implementing research-based classroom learning experiences appropriate for children ages five to 12.
Certifications and Licenses a Master’s in Elementary Education Prepares For
- Teaching License
- Many elementary education master’s online degrees prepare students to receive a license to teach kindergarten through the sixth grade. You can typically transfer your license to a new state if you meet the new state’s requirements. Almost all public and most private school teaching jobs require a license.
- Principal License/Certification
- To serve as a principal, you will need an educational administration license. A master’s in elementary education online program can help candidates meet the requirements for this certification. You will also likely need to have significant teaching experience, pass an examination, and go through a background check. Look for online master’s in elementary education programs that allow you to meet these requirements and specialize in principalship.
Online Master’s in Elementary Education Careers
Professionals with an online master’s degree in elementary education have a variety of career options. While some stay in the classroom as teachers, many others go on to become principals, counselors, and curriculum specialists. Regardless of their career path, these professionals must have strong leadership, organizational, and communication skills.
- Elementary Principal
- Responsible for managing schools, staff, and students, principals develop and enforce curriculum standards, provide counsel and discipline to students, and evaluate teachers' performance. They may meet regularly with parents and develop plans to improve academic achievement. Increasingly, principals are responsible for ensuring school safety and security, along with budgeting, overseeing maintenance, and approving class schedules.
- Median Annual Salary: $94,390
- Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- Instructional Coordinator
- These professionals continually improve the curriculum and instruction delivered to students. They plan and conduct teacher training, examine student test data, provide guidance on teaching methods, and adjust curriculum standards as needed. Instructional coordinators must also stay up to date on changes in technology and research-based best practices.
- Median Annual Salary: $63,750
- Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- School Counselor
- School counselors address the social and emotional needs of young students. They assess the root causes of issues like poor school attendance, tardiness, and misbehavior. Counselors may also help students develop key skills like time management, positive study habits, and organization. At times, they work with parents and refer children to various support services.
- Median Annual Salary: $55,410
- Projected Growth Rate: 13%
Source: Bureau of Labor StatisticsReturn to the top
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Elementary Education Degrees
When searching for elementary education master’s online programs, one factor to strongly consider is each school’s accreditation status. Regional accreditation is by far the most common form of accreditation, and is generally considered more prestigious. However, many nationally accredited schools offer robust programs and tend to be more affordable than their regionally accredited counterparts. On the other hand, students at nationally accredited schools may have more difficulty finding employment or receiving federal financial aid. Eliminate from consideration any colleges or universities that do not hold any kind of accreditation.
There are five regional accrediting agencies to look for when browsing master’s in elementary education online degrees. These include the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. National accreditors include the Distance Education Accrediting Council and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Additionally, most online master’s in elementary education programs receive special certification from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.Return to the top
Professional Organizations for Elementary Education
As you pursue your elementary education master’s degree online, consider joining one or more professional organizations related to your field. These groups offer valuable opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills, meet your fellow educators and leaders, and leverage legal and insurance services. These resources can be especially important in a constantly evolving environment in which teachers and principals must be ready to embrace change quickly and effectively. Below are some of the most popular professional associations for educators with an online master’s in elementary education degree.
- Association of American Educators
- The AAE helps teachers, principals, and administrators advance their careers through professional development opportunities. The association also offers scholarships, legal assistance, supplementary insurance, and advocacy at the federal level.
- National Association of Elementary School Principals
- This organization helps principals manage and embrace the rapidly changing field of K–6 education. NAESP provides professional development, training programs, and advocacy. The National Distinguished Principals award recognizes innovative school leaders nationwide.
- National Education Association
- The NEA is the largest professional organization for teachers, with more than 3.2 million members. The association advocates for educators at the state and federal levels while providing support in the form of supplemental insurance, legal help, conferences, information sharing, and professional development.
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