Earning a Master's in Education Administration Online

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for elementary, middle, and high school principals to grow 8% through 2026 slightly faster than the rest of the economy. In addition to above-average job prospects, school administrators often enjoy lucrative salaries. According to the BLS, the median school principal earned $94,390 in 2017, more than double the national median salary for all occupations.

Candidates need an advanced degree to qualify for these positions. This guide provides an overview of online master's degree in education administration, including information on admission requirements, curricula, and common career paths for graduates. The guide also includes resources to help students identify scholarships and other financial aid opportunities.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Education Administration?

In addition to a master's degree, positions as public school principals typically require teaching experience. As a result, most students begin a master's program in education administration after several years of service in the classroom. Students who plan to apply for mid-level administrative roles, such as vice principal or director of school operations, may pursue a graduate degree directly after earning a bachelor's.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Education Administration?

Pursuing Specializations

Online master's degrees in education administration can help learners qualify for specialized positions. In addition to becoming a school principal, educational administrators can serve as a director of curriculum or dean of students. Graduates can also apply their administrative expertise to positions at colleges or universities. Other graduates become educational consultants, working with schools and districts on issues such as teacher evaluation and student discipline.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Earning a master's in education administration online can help professionals advance their careers. Professionals with a graduate degree focused on school finance, leadership, or law are ideal candidates for positions such as principal and superintendent. Most public school districts offer higher salaries to teachers who continue their education, so professionals with an online master's in educational administration can earn more without leaving the classroom.

Online Learning Technology

The tools and technologies students encounter during master's studies can improve the way they help children learn. For example, as a school leader, graduates can create short webinars to educate faculty members about new curricular approaches or policies. Graduates can also use web-based collaborative tools, such as discussion boards and social networks, to engage with parents and community members. Educators may even offer some online courses directly to students.

Prerequisites for Online Education Administration Programs

Admission requirements for online education administration programs vary, so students should contact each prospective school's admissions office directly. Below are common prerequisites for education administration programs.

  • Work Experience: Online master's degree programs in education administration rarely require applicants to have work experience. To become a vice principal or principal of a public school, however, candidates typically need at least three years of classroom teaching experience. Prior work as an educator may also improve an applicant's odds of admission.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Many programs require applicants to take the GRE, which assesses test-takers' quantitative, verbal, and writing skills. Students who score lower than 150 on the quantitative or verbal sections or lower than 3 on the writing section may want to consider retaking the exam. GRE results are valid for five years.
  • Coursework: Undergraduate students who plan to pursue a master's in education administration should take coursework in areas such as psychology for educators, classroom management, curricular design, and student assessment. Courses in these subjects provide a foundation for graduate-level classes in the field. Most schools require applicants to have a minimum undergraduate GPA, often at least a 2.5.
  • Recommendations: Applicants must typically submit three letters of recommendation from former professors, employers, community leaders, or colleagues who can speak to their passion for education and their potential as educational administrators. Learners should avoid asking family, friends, or former students and should give recommenders at least two months to write and submit letters.
  • Essays: Some programs require applicants to write a brief essay detailing their qualifications, professional goals, and reasons for applying. Applicants may use the essay to discuss programs they hope to implement as a school leader or a challenging moment they overcame in the classroom. Application essays are typically about 1,000 words.
  • Interviews: Online programs often do not require applicants to participate in an interview, instead basing decisions on transcripts and other application materials. However, if requested, an interview gives students the opportunity to reiterate their desire to attend the program, highlight their unique strengths, and provide context for any weaknesses in their application, such as low GRE scores.
  • International Students: International students must meet all of the requirements that U.S. students must meet. International applicants may also need to demonstrate English proficiency by submitting Test of English as a Foreign Language results. Students who earned their bachelor's abroad should make sure their graduate program recognizes their undergraduate institution's accreditation.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Education Administration?

According to the BLS, school principals earned a median salary of $94,390 in 2017. The lowest 10% of earners brought in $60,760 that year, while the highest 10% earned more than $140,780. Careers in higher education offer similar salaries. According to the BLS, postsecondary education administrators earned a median salary of $92,360 in 2017, though the top 10% of earners made more than $182,150. Education professionals with more experience and education generally earn higher salaries.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Education Administration Graduates

Career Stats Description

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Median Pay: $92,360

Job Growth: 10%

Postsecondary education administrators oversee many operations at colleges and universities, including admissions, the distribution of financial aid, campus operations, and the support of teaching faculty. These professionals typically need at least a master's degree.

Ideal for: Education professionals who want to work with young adults and lifelong learners.

Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal

Median Pay: $94,390

Job Growth: 8%

Principals are responsible for the overall operation of their school. They hire teachers, approve curricula and instructional practices, create and monitor budgets, and discipline students. They also engage with parents and community members.

Ideal for: Educators with extensive classroom experience and strong communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills.

College or University Professor

Median Pay: $76,000

Job Growth: 15%

College and university professors instruct students, conduct research, and share their findings through scholarly articles, books, and dialogue with the public. They often advise students on courses of study and research projects. They may also perform certain administrative duties, such as reviewing candidates for open faculty positions.

Ideal for: Individuals who want to continue their education at the doctoral level.

Academic Dean

Median Pay: $90,571

Job Growth: N/A

Academic deans at colleges and universities supervise faculty, approve syllabi, and oversee academic support services. They often collaborate closely with the dean, executive dean, or president in establishing and implementing their school's overall strategy. Academic deans must typically hold a doctorate in their field.

Ideal for: Leaders who want to focus on instruction and faculty development rather than purely administrative issues.

Nontraditional Careers for Master's in Education Administration Graduates

Career Stats Description

Education Consultant

Median Pay: $62,487

Job Growth: N/A

Whether independently or as a member of a firm, educational consultants provide a variety of services to schools and districts. For example, they may partner with a superintendent to design a comprehensive transportation plan for students in a large district, or they may work with a principal to create a plan for recruiting more teachers of color.

Ideal for: Those who enjoy diverse challenges.

Curriculum Director

Median Pay: $73,344

Job Growth: 11%

Curriculum directors manage an education organization's instructional practices. They may design curricula, help teachers better support unique learners, and develop personalized assessment tools. Most public schools require curriculum directors to hold a master's degree.

Ideal for: Educators who want to influence learning throughout their school.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, 2017-2018

Paying for an Online Master's in Education Administration

The cost of earning a master's degree in education administration online varies by program. For example, graduate programs at public universities often cost less than similar programs at private schools. In addition, students with transferable, graduate-level credit or those who pursue an accelerated course of study may pay less than other students.

A student's eligibility for financial aid and scholarships depends on several factors, including academic achievement, community service experience, and financial need.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants, and Scholarships

Along with state and federal financial aid, students pursuing their master's degree can apply for private scholarships and grants. The scholarships below are available to education administration students.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Education Administration Program

A student's experience in an online education administration program depends on their school and professional goals. For example, learners may pursue an accelerated course of study to graduate as quickly as possible. They may also select a formal concentration area, such as special education. Some programs allow online students to take some classes on campus.

Major Milestones

  1. Enrollment

    After enrolling in a program, students should contact their school's financial aid office to learn about scholarship, grant, and student loan opportunities. Learners should also contact their academic adviser to discuss which courses to take during their first semester.

  2. Foundational Coursework

    During the first year of their program, students generally take classes in areas such as education law, education finance, and leading learning. These courses provide a foundation for advanced studies.

  3. Internship or Clinical Experience

    Most programs require or strongly encourage students to complete an internship at a local school or district. These field experiences help learners develop practical skills and gain professional experience to bolster their resume.

  4. Elective Coursework

    Second-year students can customize their learning through elective classes. For example, students who want to found and lead a charter school may take electives in organizational leadership and community engagement.

  5. Capstone Project

    Capstone projects allow students to apply classroom knowledge to a practical issue in education administration. For example, students may partner with a community organization to design a new enrollment system for student participants.

  6. All Remaining Graduation Requirements

    Before graduating, students should make sure they settle any outstanding bills, return equipment and materials, and meet all academic requirements. The school's registrar can confirm students are ready to graduate.


The exact classes students take while earning an online master's in education administration depend on each learner's personal interests and professional goals. Below are five foundational courses common to master's programs in the field.

Educational Law and Ethics

This course examines the role of the law and other ethical frameworks in guiding the actions of educational leaders. Students examine topics such as equality versus equity, privacy versus safety, and responsibility versus accountability.

Building Community Through Education

To succeed, schools must engage parents and community members. This course helps students gain tools to effectively involve communities in their work. Learners develop skills in communication, stakeholder identification, and advocacy.

Leading Educational Organizations

Students receive an introduction to the multiple skill sets required of educational leaders. The course covers topics including leadership theory, personnel management, finance and budgeting, resource management, and strategic planning.

Evidence-Based Research for Education

Students in this course learn how to collect, analyze, and interpret quantitative and qualitative data. These research skills benefit graduates who design and assess programs as administrators and those who continue their education at the doctoral level.

Leadership in Teaching and Learning

A school leader must promote effective instruction and enable student learning. This course introduces students to theories of curriculum design, instructional management techniques, and teacher assessment tools and best practices.

Licenses and Certifications

Principals in public schools must hold a teaching license and a school administrator license. Some states also require superintendents to earn a district-level administrator license. While not required for education administrators at private schools, a license may improve their job prospects.

Some school and district leaders pursue voluntary professional certification to demonstrate skills and knowledge beyond that required for licensure. An industry-recognized credential can give job seekers a competitive edge or help professionals negotiate a salary increase.

  • Teacher Licensure: Because all public school principals must have teaching experience, they must first earn a teaching license. Exact requirements for licensure vary by state but typically include a bachelor's degree, a criminal background check, and a period of supervised teaching experience.
  • School Administrator Licensure: Aspiring school leaders must also earn an administrator license. Most states require candidates to earn a master's degree and pass an exam and a criminal background check. Some states offer alternative certification for professionals who hold a master's degree in another field.
  • District-Level Administrator Licensure: Some states require licensure for superintendents and other district-level leaders. Requirements may include shadowing a superintendent and passing an exam covering topics such as labor relations, school finance, and student rights. Some states or districts require superintendent candidates to hold a doctoral degree.
  • AASA National Superintendent Certification Program: The American Association of School Administrators offers this formal certification program to help superintendents sharpen their skills and demonstrate their expertise in leading school districts. The program features online courses, individual coaching, and a capstone project. The certification program costs $6,000.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations offer a variety of resources to help professionals advance their careers. Many of these groups organize regional and national networking events, giving members opportunities to meet colleagues and learn about professional opportunities.

Organizations may also provide online or in-person continuing education programs to help members stay updated on new practices and policies. In addition, many professional associations maintain career centers where members can browse job listings and receive advice from established education administrators.

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association: For more than 150 years, AASA has supported the interests and professional development of school administrators. Members can participate in leadership development programs, read research journals and blogs, and access toolkits on topics such as how to effectively serve rural students.
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals: NAESP advocates for elementary and middle school principals. The association maintains an online learning center and provides a set of briefs on topics such as the Common Core and supporting English language learners.
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals: NASSP provides resources and promotes high professional standards among high school principals. The organization advocates at the state and federal levels, provides online and on-site professional development opportunities, and offers awards to recognize exemplary service to the field.
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: With more than 114,000 members, ASCD promotes excellence in learning and teaching by providing continuing education resources. The association's PD Online portal helps teachers and administrators learn about topics such as whole child education and blended learning.
  • American Association of School Personnel Administrators: AASPA serves educational administrators specializing in human resources. The organization hosts an annual conference and leadership summit, administers a formal certification program, and advertises job openings through its career center.
  • Federal Student Aid: Before applying for any other form of financial aid, students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine whether they qualify for federal grants, work-study jobs, and low-interest student loans.
  • Usable Knowledge: The Harvard Graduate School of Education makes the research of its faculty and doctoral students available through the Usable Knowledge portal. Available materials cover topics including closing the achievement gap and reducing sexual harassment in school settings.
  • National Principals Resource Center: The National Association of Elementary School Principals maintains the National Principals Resource Center, which provides information on principal and superintendent licensure, toolkits for partnering with afterschool programs, and a feedback program for first- and second-year principals.
  • The Wallace Foundation: The Wallace Foundation maintains a knowledge center for education administrators. School leaders can review research and best practices on subjects including teacher evaluation, federal education policies, and methods for district-level leaders to bolster their principal pipelines.
  • Purdue Online Writing Lab: To succeed, education students and professionals must have strong writing skills. The Purdue OWL offers guidance on a variety of writing topics, including properly citing sources, structuring an argument, and teaching writing to students.