Best Online Master’s in Educational Leadership 2021
| TBS Staff
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School principals, superintendents, and higher education administrators help K-12 schools and colleges run smoothly.
These career paths offer advancement opportunities for current educators, as well as for individuals considering a career change into education. Earning a master's degree in educational leadership prepares graduates for advanced roles in educational organizations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), educational leadership jobs offer high earning potential. The median school principal salary exceeds $95,000, while postsecondary education administrators tend to earn over $94,000 per year. These school administration jobs also offer relatively strong growth projections, with 6% projected growth for instructional coordinator jobs from 2018-2020.
An online master's in educational leadership program offers students more flexibility and accessibility than an on-campus program. For example, working professionals may be able to pursue career advancement without leaving their current jobs. Our list of the best online master's in educational leadership programs ranks the top programs, providing a valuable resource for prospective educational leadership students.
|#1||University of Florida Gainesville, FL|
|#2||University of Central Florida Orlando, FL|
|#3||Texas A & M University – College Station College Station, TX|
|#4||Penn State World Campus University Park, PA|
|#5||The University of West Florida Pensacola, FL|
|#6||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL|
|#7||Mississippi College Clinton, MS|
|#8||Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, GA|
|#9||Clemson University Clemson, SC|
|#10||Georgia College & State University Milledgeville, GA|
Choosing an Online Master's in Educational Leadership Program
The online learning format can help working educators pursue career advancement without leaving their job. Students should consider several factors when choosing a program, including total program costs, the program's areas of focus, and whether the program meets licensure requirements.
The cost of a master's in educational leadership varies widely. In general, public schools charge in-state learners the lowest tuition rates. However, many distance programs offer tuition discounts to out-of-state students who complete the program entirely online. In addition to tuition, prospective students should consider fees and book costs.
Choosing an accelerated program or a program that accepts transfer credits can also lower the cost of an educational leadership degree.
Many educational leadership programs offer focus areas in school principalship or higher education administration. Additionally, prospective school principals seeking public school jobs should check whether the program meets the principal licensure requirements in their state.
What Is a Master's in Educational Leadership?
A master's in educational leadership program provides advanced training in school administration and leadership. Graduate students complete coursework designed to train school principals, higher education administrators, and school superintendents. Programs emphasize core skills, including strategic planning in education, school leadership, and curriculum design.
Earning an educational leadership degree generally takes two years for full-time students, though some programs offer accelerated options. Some programs incorporate an internship or practicum, allowing students to gain hands-on experience working under a school administrator. Many online educational leadership programs cater to working educators by prioritizing flexibility.
An educational leadership degree can meet the requirements for positions as school principals, school administrators, and superintendents. After completing an online master's in educational leadership track, some educators choose to earn a doctorate. A doctoral degree can lead to advanced opportunities in education or research, as well as academic jobs. Interested students can learn more about the best online doctoral programs in educational leadership.
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What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Educational Leadership Program?
An educational leadership program trains graduate students about leadership principles for careers in education. While earning an online master's in educational leadership, graduate students take courses in school administration, strategic planning, and curriculum design. Many educational leadership programs meet the requirements for a school administrator license, including as a school principal or school superintendent.
The Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Educational Leadership
- Administration of School: This class provides an overview of school administration, including the role of a school administrator, foundational administrative knowledge, and the leadership skills required for educational leadership jobs. Graduate students analyze leadership attributes and how they influence educational administration. Coursework also introduces graduate students to the role of government agencies in schools and the broader educational environment. Learners also prepare for advanced courses in educational leadership.
- Strategic Planning: In strategic planning classes, educational leadership students learn how to develop and implement strategic plans. Coursework emphasizes leadership skills and the importance of effective strategic planning in education. It also covers the conceptual framework for strategic planning. This class prepares school administrators for leadership roles within educational organizations. In particular, many school superintendents benefit from strategic planning training.
- School Law: Federal, state, and local laws shape the modern education system. This class examines the legal principles that influence the public education system, including areas like administrative law and fundamental rights. With an emphasis on interpreting the process of creating school law, learners investigate the U.S. legislative and judicial process. Graduate students also learn about the legal context for collective bargaining and employment protections.
- Curriculum Design: Curriculum design courses examine best practices for developing school curricula at the K-12 level. Graduate students study current research on determining curriculum priorities, implementing curricula, and assessing the effectiveness of curricula. The course also explores the role of state and local governments in curriculum development. Students look at standards and benchmarks, the process of monitoring curricula, and the role of assessment in curriculum design.
- Ethics in Educational Leadership: Courses on ethics in educational leadership address ethical issues and dilemmas faced by school administrators. Graduate students examine the ethical principles that guide educational policymaking. They also study the ways ethical issues shape the academic success of students, including vulnerable student populations like students with learning disabilities and students who speak English as a second language. The class strengthens ethical decision-making for future school principals and other leaders in the educational system.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Educational Leadership Prepares For
- School Leaders Licensure Many educational leadership jobs require a school administration license, including jobs as school principals and school administrators. Each state sets its own licensure requirements, but candidates must generally have an accredited master's degree in educational leadership or education administration. Many states also require passing scores on an ETS school leadership examination. This test covers educational leadership topics, such as instructional leadership, organizational leadership, and strategic leadership. In some states, candidates for a principal license must already hold a valid teaching license. Prospective school administration professionals should research the licensure requirements in their state.
- School Superintendent Assessment Certification In many states, school superintendent jobs require a license or certificate. Candidates for a school superintendent license often need a master's degree in educational leadership or education administration from an accredited program. Some states set additional coursework requirements, which may require a school superintendent concentration. Candidates for this license may need to complete a standardized test covering school superintendent skills. The ETS exam includes multiple-choice questions on administrative leadership, educational leadership, and instructional leadership. Because the requirements for licensure vary by state, prospective school superintendents should review the process in their state.
Accreditation for Online Master's in Educational Leadership Degrees
Attending an accredited master's in educational leadership program prepares graduates to pursue educational leadership jobs. Regionally accredited programs meet the highest standards for granting degrees. To earn accreditation, universities undergo a rigorous review process that examines their graduation rate, faculty qualifications, and student learning outcomes. The Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation grant accreditation to the independent accrediting agencies that review colleges and universities.
In addition to regional accreditation, a university's school of education can hold programmatic accreditation. In education, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) evaluates teacher training and educational leadership programs. Programs with CAEP accreditation meet licensure and certification requirements for school principal and school administrator jobs. Professionals with an unaccredited degree may struggle to qualify for educational leadership jobs.
Prospective educational leadership students should look for regionally accredited schools and CAEP-accredited programs when choosing where to earn their online master's in educational leadership.
Educational Leadership Jobs
Earning a master's in educational leadership prepares graduates for leadership roles in K-12 and higher education. At the K-12 level, graduates can work as school principals, instructional coordinators, and superintendents. This degree may also lead to opportunities as a higher education administrator. Learn more about career paths with an education degree by visiting this site.
|Median Salary: $64,450||Projected Job Growth: 6%|
Instructional coordinators manage school curricula and teaching standards. Also known as curriculum specialists, instructional coordinators review state and federal standards to create curricula. Working closely with principals and teachers, instructional coordinators implement curricula, develop educational materials, conduct teacher training workshops, and analyze data related to the effectiveness of curricula. Instructional coordinators may also create teaching training procedures.
Some instructional coordinators specialize in a certain grade level or subject. For example, instructional coordinators can specialize in special education or English as a second language.
|Median Salary: $95,310||Projected Job Growth: 4%|
School principals oversee school operations at the K-12 level. They manage teachers and staff, establish class schedules, and coordinate curricula. As the highest administrator at a school, principals set academic goals for the institution and make sure teachers receive the resources they need to meet goals. Principals analyze student achievement data to prepare reports and modify curricula.
Many principals work with vice principals, instructional coordinators, and superintendents to manage their school. They oversee the budget and allocate resources for the school. Principals also play an important role in hiring and evaluating teachers.
|Median Salary: $94,340||Projected Job Growth: 7%|
School administrators manage student services, academics, and other administrative departments. Many administrators work in higher education, where they oversee admissions, the registrar's office, and student affairs. In these roles, school administrators analyze the school's needs to determine how to best meet them, promote the school's programs to prospective and current students, and provide information on financial aid support.
In student affairs, school administrators advise students, create programs for students, and schedule student services. As administrators, they may supervise staff. Many school administrator jobs require a master's degree and experience teaching or working in an educational environment.
Educational Leadership Professional Organizations
Professional organizations help connect educational leadership graduate students with resources in their field and networking opportunities. Many professional organizations list educational leadership jobs and offer professional development tools for graduate students.
Founded in 1921, NAESP represents elementary and middle school principals. The association offers research-based resources, including information on staff development, school improvement strategies, and student learning programs. NAESP also hosts an annual conference with sessions on current issues in educational leadership and networking opportunities. The professional development resources at NAESP include webinars, publications, and a blog. The association offers a career center with principal job postings for job-seekers. NAESP also connects members with best practice resources related to topics like early learning, equity in education, and federal mandates like Common Core.
NASSP represents high school principals and school leaders. The association provides research-based and peer-tested resources, including practical tools, leadership materials, and professional standards for the field. Members benefit from online webinars, on-site workshops, and customized support on school leadership issues. NASSP also hosts an annual conference, which brings together school administrators, student program advisors, and students. The Center for Principal Leadership and the Assistant Principal Leadership Center enhance skills and explore current research. In addition to its professional development resources, NASSP administers the National Honor Society and the National Student Council — organizations committed to student leadership development.
A professional organization dedicated to student affairs, NASPA represents professionals in the field. The association provides professional development opportunities, research, and networking opportunities. NASPA hosts conferences to connect members and helps keep them up-to-date with current trends in the field. The organization provides resources on topics like student mental health, inclusive practices, and policy changes that affect student affairs. NASPA promotes scholar-practitioners by supporting original research and publishing peer-reviewed articles in its journals. The organization's publications share experiences and research with students and professionals in student affairs.
The Best Online Master's Programs in Educational Leadership
The University of Florida was established in 1858 as the Gainesville Academy. In 1985, UF joined the Association of American Universities (AAU) and has grown to support 15 colleges.
UF's College of Education provides a master of education in educational leadership program designed for completion in roughly two years. Admission requirements include an accredited bachelor's, master's, or terminal degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA upper-division undergraduate work, and an acceptable cumulative GPA in undergraduate studies. Class sizes are typically in the 10-15 student range with a cost per credit under $740.
UCF was founded in 1963 with the mission to provide talent to Central Florida. The university currently offers a multitude of online bachelor's, master's,and Ph.D. programs.
UCF's College of Community Innovation and Education provides an online master of arts in educational leadership program designed for completion in two years.
Admission requirements for the 30-credit program include providing official transcripts and GRE scores. In-state tuition is under $330 per credit while out-of-state tuition is about $1,150 per credit.
Founded in 1876, Texas A&M was the first public institution of higher learning in the State of Texas. More than 69,000 students attend the main campus, located in College Station, annually.
The master of education in educational administration degree with emphasis in Pre-K-12 educational leadership is a two-year program aligned to the Texas State Board of Educator Principal Domains, Competencies, and Standards.
Admission requirements for the 36-credit program include a bachelor's degree, teaching certificate, two years of full-time teaching experience, involvement in leadership activities, and an interview.
Penn State's World Campus was launched in 1998 after a 143-year, robust history. The online provider allows students to earn one of over 150 degrees completely online.
Through a partnership with the College of Education, Penn State World Campus offers three areas of emphasis under the online master of education in educational leadership program: teacher leader, school leader, and school leader without principal certification.
The 30-credit program costs about $920 per credit, and students can finish in two years. Admission requirements include an accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and three references.
Founded in 1963, UWF became the sixth of an eventual 12 institutions of higher learning in the State of Florida. Today, about 13,000 students attend annually, seeking degrees in one of 70 offered undergraduate and graduate programs.
Students can complete the master of education in educational leadership degree through UWF completely online. The program typically lasts 18 months at a standard tuition of about $420 per credit.
Admission requirements for the 30-credit program include official transcripts, teaching certification, two years teaching experience, and GRE scores.
Originally dubbed the Illinois Industrial University in 1867, the higher education institution was renamed the University of Illinois in 1885. Residing in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign in east-central Illinois, the university now boasts 15 colleges and instructional units.
Illinois' online master of education in education policy, organization, and leadership offers multiple disciplines in both U.S. and international specializations. Programs require a minimum of 32 credits for completion at a cost of $490 per credit.
Admission requirements include a personal statement on professional experiences, letters of reference, official transcripts, and a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.
Mississippi College was founded in 1826 as Hampstead Academy, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in Mississippi. The school was quickly renamed Mississippi Academy in 1827 before receiving its final name of Mississippi College in 1830.
Online master of education in education leadership degree teaches students how to apply research and problem-solving to develop their skills as educators and administrators. The 100% online, flexible curriculum includes 36 credits of course work at a cost of under $280 per credit.
MC admission requirements include a bachelor's degree with 2.5 minimum GPA, three years of teaching experience, and proof of comprehensive exam completion.
KSU is the second-largest university in the State of Georgia and a member of the University System of Georgia. The institution currently offers 150 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees to more than 41,000 students annually.
The master of education in educational leadership program consists of 36 credits at a cost of about $380 per credit. Two of its concentrations are available fully online. Students typically complete the program over six semesters spanning two years.
Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree with 2.75 minimum GPA, two years of teaching experience, GRE or MAT scores, and GACE Leadership Ethics Exit Examination scores.
Founded in 1889, Clemson became a coeducational, civilian institution in 1955 under the name Clemson Agricultural College. The name was changed to Clemson University in 1964.
The master of education in educational leadership program at Clemson consists of 36 credits of core courses at a cost of about $630 per credit.
Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA from an accredited institution, a resume, a personal statement, and three letters of reference.
Georgia College was founded in 1889 as the Georgia Normal & Industrial College, specializing in teacher training and business skills. Today, more than 6,600 students attend one of its four associated colleges annually.
The master of education in educational leadership program covers the Georgia Educational Leadership Standards through personalized learning experiences in the school setting. Students typically complete the 36-credit program in one calendar year at a cost of under $290 per credit.
Admission requirements include two professional recommendations, official transcripts with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75, and documentation for the completed coursework related to children with special needs.
FAU currently serves more than 30,000 students across six campuses. More than 70% of enrolled students take classes online or in-person through the Boca Raton location, which also houses the majority of the university's 175 degree programs.
FAU's master of education in adult and community education leadership degree is an online program focused on sustainability. Between 36 and 39 credits are required to graduate. In-state tuition runs $370 per credit and out-of-state tuition costs $1,020 per credit.
Admissions requirements include an accredited undergraduate degree, a GPA of at least 2.5, and two letters of recommendation.
The nondenominational Christian University was founded in 1946 as LeTourneau Technical Institute, changing its name to LeTourneau University in 1989. Today, more than 1,150 students attend LETU annually either online or in person.
LETU's online master of education in teacher leadership is a 32-credit program designed to accommodate busy students. The program typically takes two years at a cost of about $10,000 per year.
Admissions requirements include a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA or minimum GRE scores, two years of teaching experience, and letters of recommendation.
GW was chartered by an act of Congress in 1821 and currently serves more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students annually.
The master of arts in educational leadership and administration degree from GW is a program of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. The accelerated format allows students to complete the 30-credit program in as little as two years at a cost of about $1,760 per credit.
Admissions requirements include a statement of purpose, resume, two letters of recommendation, and all applicable transcripts.
This nondenominational Christian University was founded in 1901 in Nashville, Tennessee. The institution currently boasts a 20-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio and serves almost 4,000 students annually.
The master of education in educational leadership degree requires 30 credits for completion. Students can typically complete the degree and licensure in 16 months at $530 per credit.
Admissions requirements include three years of teaching experience, a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, and an active teaching license.
Legislators created TTU in 1923 under the name Texas Technological College. The college formally became Texas Tech University in 1969.
The master of education in educational leadership degree with an emphasis in educational policy is part of Texas Tech University's College of Education. Students can complete the 36-hour online program in two years at a cost of about $310 per credit.
Admissions requirements include a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and transcripts from postsecondary schools.
The state legislature approved Arkansas' first land-grant university in 1871. Though it was originally known as Arkansas Industrial University, the board of trustees later ratified the name's change to the University of Arkansas.
U of A's online master of education in educational leadership is a 33-credit program with typical completion in under two years. Tuition costs $430 per credit. Admissions requirements include three letters of recommendation, an active teacher's license, and official undergraduate transcripts.
UNCW was founded in 1949 as Wilmington College. The institution joined the UNC System in 1969 and became what is now the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
UNCW's master of education degree includes a specialization in educational leadership, policy, and advocacy with emphasis on early childhood. The 36-credit program typically takes two years and costs $230 per credit.
Admissions requirements include a bachelor's degree with a 2.7 minimum GPA, passing scores on the Praxis examination, and specific Watson College of Education course requirements.
ULM offers 96 majors and minors and boasts a 19-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. The university currently serves over 9,000 students annually both online and in the classroom.
ULM's master of education in educational leadership online degree consists of 36 credits and runs as little as 15 months. The degree costs $10,800 total — $300 per credit.
Requirements for admission include a bachelor's degree, a teaching certificate with at least three years of experience, and official transcripts from previously attended institutions.
Webster University is a private, nonprofit institution founded in 1915 as an all-girls school. Today, over 12,000 students attend Webster annually from all over the globe.
The master of arts in educational leadership and administration program meets the standards of the National Educational Leadership Preparation (NELP) program. Graduation requires successful completion of the 32-credit program with a 3.25 GPA or higher. Webster's online tuition costs $780 per credit.
Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 2.5, a personal essay, and a letter of recommendation.
One of the nation's largest universities, UNT offers 239 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. The university is located in Denton, Texas, about 35 miles north of Dallas-Forth Worth.
UNT's College of Education offers an accelerated master of education in educational leadership program consisting of 30 credits over 10 classes. With five available start dates annually, students can earn a master's degree in under 12 months at a cost of $280 per credit.
Admissions requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, GRE examination scores, and undergraduate transcripts.
Established in 1908, Montclair has grown to serve more than 20,000 students annually across 10 schools. The institution currently offers almost 300 majors, minors, concentrations, and certificate programs.
The master of arts in educational leadership degree utilizes a strong theoretical foundation and practical structure. The program consists of 36 credits over two years at a cost of about $620 per credit.
Admissions requirements include an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher or GRE scores, a teaching certificate, two letters of recommendation, and a statement of objectives.
NMSU was founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College and currently serves more than 14,000 students annually. The institution boasts the first Honors College offered in New Mexico.
The master of arts in education degree is designed to prepare students for a career or advancement in community college or university administration. The program consists of 33 credits at a cost of about $411 per credit.
Admissions requirements include a letter of interest, three letters of recommendation, a bachelor's degree, and a writing sample.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University first opened its doors in 1909 as Southeastern State Normal School. The school became a community college in 1968 before becoming the university it is today in 1974.
SOSU's master of education in educational learning professional track program offers 100% online courses and flexible scheduling. The 30-credit program has a 12-month expected completion time and a total cost of around $8,000.
Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with 2.75 minimum GPA, although the school accepts lower GPAs with additional qualifications.
With 17 unique colleges and schools, ASU is one of the nation's largest institutions. ASU boasts 77 elite programs ranked in the top 25 in the U.S. and graduates over 20,000 students annually.
ASU's master of education in educational leadership program consists of 36 credits and 11 total classes at a cost of $540 per credit. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA in the final 60 hours of coursework (or a 3.0 in an applicable master's program), a personal statement, GRE scores, and letters of recommendation.
UND was founded in 1883, six years before North Dakota achieved statehood. Today, the institution serves more than 13,000 students annually both on campus and online.
The completely online master of education in educational leadership degree offered through UND consists of 30 credits, and students can typically achieve full program completion within one to two years. Residents of North Dakota pay $460 per credit while nonresidents pay about $690 per credit.
Admissions requirements include a statement of goals, 800-word essay, bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA, and a resume showing relevant experience.
Online Master's in Educational Leadership Programs Ranking Guidelines
We selected these degree programs based on the program quality and variety of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Earning a master's in educational leadership prepares graduates for careers as school principals, school administrators, and superintendents. The degree emphasizes skills like strategic planning, instructional leadership, and school leadership.
Earning a master's in educational leadership generally takes two years. However, some accelerated programs offer a one-year track.
Educators with a master's degree in educational leadership can work as principals, higher education administrators, and school superintendents. The degree fulfills licensure requirements for school administration.
Many education administrators earn over $90,000 per year, according to the BLS. School principals typically earn over $95,000 per year, while postsecondary education administrators earn a median salary of more than $94,000.
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