One-Stop Guide to Online Master’s in Education Degrees

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Writer William Arthur Ward famously observed that mediocre teachers tell, good teachers explain, superior teachers demonstrate and great teachers inspire. This is the stuff that motivational posters and coffee cup affirmations are made of, but it also speaks to the heart of something most educators have long known: Teaching is an art. It demands a whole lot of passion, skill and hard work – and it also takes training.

Writer William Arthur Ward famously observed that mediocre teachers tell, good teachers explain, superior teachers demonstrate and great teachers inspire. This is the stuff that motivational posters and coffee cup affirmations are made of, but it also speaks to the heart of something most educators have long known: Teaching is an art. It demands a whole lot of passion, skill and hard work – and it also takes training.

Online education master’s degrees help teachers and administrators develop the tools they need to create and effectively teach curricula, establish safe and constructive learning environments, and lead others in the field. Graduate degrees can push skills to the next level, and the online format means participants can invest in their careers without sidelining them. But what do these programs entail? How do they impact earnings and advancement? Which is the right school? This guide explores online education programs from the inside out, answering these questions and more.

Top Online Master's in Education

Earning a master’s degree in often an ideal way to expand career opportunities and specializations; this especially true in the field of education. Earning a master’s in education can allow professionals to hone skills, delve deeper into specialties and open the door to new career paths.

Discovering the right online program – with the specific courses and format required– can be a tough task for returning students, as the prevalence of these distance programs has grown exponentially over the last few years. Below, we’ve ranked the colleges that are the cream of the crop for their online master’s in education programs using our special methodology. This list can give potential master’s students a great place to start in the search for the program that’s perfect for them.

SCORE:  97.7 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Texas

Sul Ross State University’s Master of Education Reading Specialist program is a fully online program. It consists of 21 credits of reading component classes and nine credits of professional component classes. Some required courses include Emergent Literacy and Language Development, Diagnosis and Correction of Reading Disabilities, and Advanced Human Growth and Development. All credits need to be earned within six years. Graduates from this program may go on to become reading program supervisors, office administrators, or curriculum designers.

Online classes are administered and managed through Blackboard, which allows students to access class material at any time. Online training also helps new virtual students get acquainted with the distance learning environment.

  • Master of Education-Counselor Education
  • Master of Education-Educational Diagnostician
  • Master of Education-Reading Specialist
SCORE:  97.69 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Texas

Students in the University of Texas of the Permian Basin master’s of education program have numerous areas from which to choose their focus. Options all lead to a Master of Arts in Education degree and consist of 36 credit hours. With full-time study and dedication, coursework can be completed in approximately 24 months. Degrees can help existing teachers/educators enhance their skills in areas such as Bilingual/ESL education or special education. There is also an educational leadership degree, which is ideal for those who wish to move in to advanced positions such as principal or district superintendent.

  • Master of Arts in Education-Educational Leadership Principal Certification
  • Master of Arts in Education-Special Education
  • Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Early Childhood
SCORE:  97.14 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater master’s in education program is designed for current teachers who want to boost their teaching skills, better understand and apply research and develop their “professional voice.” The coursework explores current and timelessly relevant educational issues. It also looks at curriculum development, differentiation, classroom management, educational research and its value in professional practice, literacy and culture, effective technology usage and action research. The program focuses on online discussion and individual projects, which develops advanced perspectives applicable to the classroom. Courses are taught by professionals with experience in K-12 classrooms.

  • Administrative Leadership MS - Adult and Continuing Education Leadership Concentration
  • Administrative Leadership MS - Educational Leadership Concentration
  • Administrative Leadership MS - Higher Education Administration Concentration
SCORE:  96.72 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Arkansas

Arkansas State University offers numerous online master’s degrees in education for those interested in teaching or administrative and leadership roles within academia. Programs vary in length and competition time. For example, students earning a Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership complete 36 credit hours, usually within 20 months. Students focusing on Special Education for Gifted, Talented and Creative, on the other hand, can complete 30 credit hours in about 18 months. Most of these degrees include a capstone project where students demonstrate what they have learned throughout the program.

  • MSE in Curriculum & Instruction
  • MSE in Educational Leadership
  • MSE in Gifted Talented and Creative
SCORE:  96.39 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Virginia

Education students have a few options when it comes to earning a master’s degree online at George Mason University. Offered through the College of Education and Human Services, most online MEds focus on curriculum and instruction, with some designed for those who are already teaching and others targeted to a broader audience. For example, students in the Transformative Teaching concentration gain skills that will help them address policy issues and social justice. The Assistive Technology concentration, however, is not just for teachers–it can be a useful degree for occupational therapists, caregivers, and medical personnel. Specific courses for this program include Introduction to Assistive Technology and Designing Adapted Environments. The university also offers online master’s degrees for those interested in subfields such as special education and leadership.

  • Curriculum and Instruction MEd (Advanced International Baccalaureate (IB) Studies Concentration)
  • Curriculum and Instruction MEd (Assistive Technology Concentration)
  • Curriculum and Instruction MEd (Integration of Online Learning in Schools Concentration)
SCORE:  96.18 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Alabama

Through UAB Online, this university’s School of Education offers a range of distance master’s degrees in education to help existing and current teachers becoming highly effective educators. The programs, which result in a Master of Arts in Education degree, embody a three-fold purpose: train educators to meet the evolving needs of learners, deliver cutting-edge instruction through a standards-based, inquiry-focused approach, and ensure that a quality program is available to all types of professionals. Students can expect an education that will prepare them for assuming leadership roles in curriculum development and instructional delivery.

  • MAEd Health Education
  • Community Health
  • MAEd Special Education
SCORE:  95.74 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Indiana

Indiana University students have their choice of four online master’s degrees in education. Each program requires 36 credit hours, though each has different classes and requirements, depending on the specific program chosen. For example, the Special Education MSEd requires classes such as Classroom Management and Collaboration and Service Delivery. There is also a hands-on component that consists of field-based experiences with a mentor teacher. Students find their own mentor and communicate with them throughout the course of the program. On the other hand, the Literacy, Culture and Language degree does not have any fieldwork requirements. Instead, students take a mix of required classes and electives such as Strategies for Educational Inquiry and Learning and Cognition in Education.

  • Adult Education M.S.
  • Educational Leadership M.S.Ed.
  • Instructional Systems TechnologyM.S.Ed.
SCORE:  95.73 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: New Hampshire

SNHU is home to several online master’s degrees in education. Depending on the specific area, these programs can lead to a Master of Education or Master of Science. One degree offered is an MS in Higher Education Administration, which focuses on the communication, technical, and leadership skills needed to be successful and effective higher education leaders. In this program, students learn to apply research methodologies, evaluate local and national policy, manage school finances, and more. Core courses include Data-Driven Decision-Making in Higher Education, Higher Education Law, and Regulation and Leading Change in Higher Education.

Online classes for graduate students have five start dates a year. Students have access to the university’s library online, and they can receive technical support for classes if necessary.

  • MEd in Early Childhood Education
  • MEd in Educational Leadership
  • MEd in Elementary Education
SCORE:  95.36 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Pennsylvania

At this university, the Master of Education degree has several concentrations from which students can choose. As an example, a few options include Early Childhood, Mathematics, and Technology. Classes are administered through Desire2Learn, a learning management system where students can view course assignments and exams, as well as conduct discussions with peers and instructors.

Education online students at Clarion University have access to many of the same support resources as campus-based learners. Students can access the university library, take advantage of tutoring services, and receive career assistance. Additionally, there is a virtual student orientation to help distance learners become familiar with the online format.

  • M.Ed. in Education: Curriculum and Instruction Concentration
  • M.Ed. in Education: Early Childhood Concentration
  • M.Ed. in Education: Mathematics Concentration
SCORE:  95.16 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: West Virginia

Marshall University offers a few different options for those interested in completing an online master’s degree in education. At the graduate level, the university has a Master of Science in Adult and Technical Education, which aims to provide students with the necessary knowledge to successfully land positions in instructional training, leadership, or in a human services role. Another option is the Master of Arts in Elementary or Secondary Education. This degree program also has numerous areas of emphasis to allow students to focus their skills and knowledge on a particular area of interest, such as English as a Second Language or middle childhood education. All courses are asynchronous and have no face-to-face or on-campus requirements. Admission requirements vary slightly, depending on the specific degree.

  • Master of Arts in Education with an Emphasis in English as a Second Language
  • Master of Arts in Education
  • Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education
SCORE:  94.75 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Massachusetts

Lesley University has six online master’s programs in education for students interested in pursuing a career in academia. All available degrees can be taken as non-licensure programs, with a select few that can be taken for Professional Licensure specifically for Massachusetts. Some choices include Educational Technology, Language and Literacy, and Science in Education.

At this university, online classes are synchronous, which means students have to log on at a specific time to complete their work or have class discussions. Each class lasts for eight weeks and is divided into individual modules that students can work through on a weekly basis. There is also a demonstration course to give students a sneak peek of what they can expect from online learning.

  • Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Educational Technology
  • Master of Education (M.Ed.) Individually Designed Program for Educators
  • Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Language and Literacy
SCORE:  94.63 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: New Mexico

The Western New Mexico University master’s in education program is unique in that it divides the program up into two tracks: one for students without academic preparation in the field of education and another for licensed, experienced teachers who want to increase their skills. The first allows for students to change careers, obtain a teaching license and entering the classroom. The second program focuses on gaining knowledge of the latest theories and practices and applying them immediately to the classroom.

  • Master of Arts in Teaching
  • Master of Arts in Educational Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies
SCORE:  94.32 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: West Virginia

A master’s degree in education from West Virginia University means choosing from five specialties: higher education administration, physical education, health education, literacy and special education. Classes are offered online, along with live lectures available via archive. Students in the special education track can choose from six specialties: autism spectrum disorders, early childhood education, gifted education, low vision/blindness, multi-categorical special education and severe/multiple disabilities. The literacy program leads to a pre-K-adult reading specialist certification in West Virginia.

  • Educational Leadership: Higher Education Administration M.A.
  • Literacy Education (Reading) M.A.
  • Online Physical Education Teacher Education M.S.
SCORE:  94.12 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Texas

Students in the University of Houston master’s in education program focus on five different tracks. Students can choose between administration and supervision, early childhood, health science, mathematics and special education. The administration track prepares students to focus on attaining positions of leadership in the education system. Early education, health science and mathematics seek to boost the skills of teachers in these fields. Students in a special education track can choose to study a special education emphasis or an educational diagnostician emphasis.

  • Administration and Supervision - Higher Education (M.Ed.)
  • Curriculum and Instruction - Early Childhood Education (M.Ed.)
  • Curriculum and Instruction - Health Science Education (M.Ed.)
SCORE:  93.88 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Texas

The University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Education strives to provide students the ability to think critically and creatively and to foster a commitment to learning and service within student communities. The program is particularly geared towards students looking to advance their careers into administration levels. The program is broken up into several emphases: educational leadership and policy studies, a master’s with a principal certificate, master’s with a principle certificate with a dual-language emphasis and a higher education emphasis.

  • Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis in Literacy Studies
  • Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction - Mathematics Education
  • Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction - Science Education
SCORE:  93.79 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Wyoming

The University of Wyoming master’s in education degree was designed in collaboration with Wyoming teachers. The program was designed for teachers who wish to stay in the classroom. It covers current trends, issues and practices in contemporary school settings. This program allows for professionals to grow in knowledge and possess competence in state-of-the-art instructional practices. Graduates can expect to effectively meet the varied needs of their students.

The course is 33 credit hours is delivered via several different means, including video conferencing and online. All master’s in education classes at UW are offered entirely online as well.

  • Master of Arts in Education - Educational Administration in Educational Leadership K-12
  • Master of Arts in Education: Instructional Technology
  • Master of Arts in Education: Educational Administration with cognate in Educational Leadership (K-12)
SCORE:  93.77 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Kansas

The Washburn University master’s in education programs offers courses, clinical experiences and internships where necessary. Teachers can enroll in graduate courses to work toward additional teaching endorsements, licensure renewal or professional development. Students looking to attain a master’s degree can choose the following specialties: leadership, special education, reading specialist, literacy and educational technology. The program also allows students to specialize based on their chosen content areas: art, educational foundations, mathematics or social science.

  • Building Leadership P-12 (M Ed)
  • Adaptive Special Education K-6 and 6-12 (M Ed)
  • Reading Specialist (M Ed)
SCORE:  93.62 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Minnesota

Martin Luther College gives students many choices when it comes to earning a master’s degree in education online. The college’s Master of Science in Education is ideal for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in the field. In this program, students enhance their skills as teachers and focus on becoming reflective and competent educators. Distance learners can choose from four areas of emphasis, a double emphasis, or a master’s degree and post-baccalaureate licensure. Each concentration mandates a comprehensive exam, capstone project, or thesis, in addition to required and elective courses (36 total credits). Students with a double emphasis must complete two separate capstone projects, resulting in a total of 39 credit hours.

  • Master of Science in Education - Educational Technology Emphasis
  • Master of Science in Education - Instruction Emphasis
  • Master of Science in Education - Leadership Emphasis
SCORE:  93.13 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Arizona

ASU Online offers five different Master of Education degree options, all through the school’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Some focus on specific segments of the population, such as gifted kids or children with autism, while others offer advanced education in leadership for administrative or supervisory roles.

The same university faculty who teach classes on campus lead distance classes at ASU Online. Students have access to Google apps and calendars to help with planning and organization. The university is committed to supporting distance learners with enrollment counselors, academic advisors, and success coaches to help students achieve their academic goals and adjust to learning in an online format.

  • Curriculum and Instruction: Applied Behavior Analysis (MED)
  • Curriculum and Instruction: Autism Spectrum Disorders (MED)
  • Curriculum and Instruction: Gifted (MED)
SCORE:  92.92 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Alabama

At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, prospective students can select from four Master of Education degrees. Coursework for these programs are delivered online or through hybrid methods. This means that a majority of classes are entirely online, but some may include face-to-face meetings or intensive field placement work for successful completion. Courses are offered year-round, so students can complete the program in as short as 18 months. All programs are designed for existing teachers who hold a teaching certificate in elementary education (K-6). The exception is the MEd in Autism Spectrum Disorders degree; for this program, applicants are required to have a teaching certificate in any educational content area.

  • Elementary Education - M.Ed.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders - M.Ed.
  • Reading Education - M.Ed.
SCORE:  92.92 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Arkansas

Students interested in earning a Master of Education degree online have many options at Southern Arkansas State University. Applicants, however, should note that some programs are designed for those who are already teachers. For example, the Master of Education: Curriculum and Instruction program is for current teachers seeking to boost their skills in teaching and leadership. Students need at least one year of teaching experience or proof that they have classroom access for research. There are 21 credits of core courses and 12 hours of professional courses required for this program, including History and Philosophy of Education, Balanced Literacy, and Corrective Reading in the Classroom.

  • Master of Education: Curriculum & Instruction (Elementary & Secondary)
  • Master of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision
  • Master of Arts in Teaching- Online
SCORE:  92.91 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: California

Hope International University offers two degree options for students who want to pursue a master’s program in education through distance learning. The first option is a Master of Arts in Education Administration and the other is a Master of Education, with various areas of concentration available. For instance, along with elementary and secondary education concentrations, there is a Personalized Learning concentration, which is aimed at existing teachers with credentials. This program focuses on using student-centered learning principles to promote better academic outcomes. Students take courses and electives such as Managing a Personalized Learning Classroom and Mind, Brain, and Education Science.

For those hesitant about the distance format, the university allows curious individuals to sample an online course or attend an online information session for more detailed information.

  • Master of Education (Concentration in Elementary Education)
  • Master of Education (Concentration in Gifted and Talented Education)
  • Master of Education (Concentration in Music Education)
SCORE:  92.55 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Pennsylvania

Eastern University’s Loeb School of Education offers five online Master of Education degrees. Online students can choose to focus on education-related areas such as Reading, School Health Services, and Special Education.

Online classes at the university are similar to on-campus classes, especially when it comes to quality and difficulty. Online courses have the same amount of required reading and the same assignments as their traditional counterparts. Students and instructors communicate virtually through email, Skype, discussion boards, and chat rooms. It should be noted that although distance classes do not meet at a set time, homework and exams still have specific due dates.

  • MEd in Multicultural Education
  • MEd in Reading
  • MEd in School Health Services
SCORE:  92.42 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Texas

The online master’s of education program at the University of St. Thomas develops school leaders and master classroom teachers in a variety of chosen specialties. Students can specialize in educational leadership, special education, dual language instruction, curriculum and instruction and generalist tracks. Students can choose to complete an online MEd or a hybrid master’s degree, which combines online classes with traditional classes.

Courses are taught by those currently working in their specified fields, and the school also offers a specialized principal certificate for those interested in higher leadership.

  • M.Ed. In Educational Leadership
  • M.Ed. In Special Education
  • M.Ed. In Dual Language Instruction
SCORE:  92.37 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Pennsylvania

There are multiple online master’s in education degrees at Penn State University. One example is the Master of Education in Educational Leadership, which requires 30 credits for graduation. Students can choose from one of two areas of emphasis–either Teacher Leader, for those who want to work in a classroom, or School Leader, for those interested in becoming a school administrator or principal.

Penn State Online classes are asynchronous, which means students can log on and access course materials anytime. Class interaction between peers and instructors happens in a number of ways, including video chat, phone calls, email, and social media. Most classes require the completion of weekly homework assignments, readings, and discussions. Group projects are also sometimes assigned.

  • Master of Education in Adult Education
  • Master of Professional Studies in Art Education
  • Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction - Emphasis in Children's Literature
SCORE:  92.22 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Maine

Students in the University of Maine’s master’s in education program can focus on elementary and secondary education, special education, literacy or instructional technology. They can expect to apply research-based knowledge, as well as have access to field-tested experience and the latest technology. They may go on to work with children and families, and learn to address the needs of these demographics in settings like schools and colleges.

The program enriches and extends theory, practice and leadership. The school prides itself in its mentoring focus, where faculty advisors work to ensure that the program meets each student’s unique needs.

  • Master of Education in Curriculum Assessment and Instruction
  • Master of Education in Instructional Technology
  • Master of Education in Literacy (Teaching of Writing)
SCORE:  92.02 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Florida

Students in the Master of Education program at the University of Florida can focus on four areas. Students focusing on Educational Leadership receive coursework based on the Florida Principal Leadership Standards (FPLS). The Teacher Leadership for School Improvement (TLSI) program is designed to empower teachers by enhancing their knowledge, skills and dispositions in the areas of teaching, research, leadership and advocacy. The Teach Well Online Academy is designed to prepare teachers to work with students who have disabilities, covers issues within the field of special education and helps students to design effective instruction for students with various needs. Students in education technology train to be an instructional designer or educational technologist.

  • Master of Education in Educational Leadership
  • Master of Education Curriculum and Instruction (Specialization in Teacher Leadership for School Improvement)
  • Master of Education Curriculum and Instruction (Specialization in Education Technology)
SCORE:  91.83 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Mississippi

Through Delta State University’s College of Education and Human Services, students can choose between two online Master of Education degrees. Those interested in special education will be required to earn 30-33 credits and must complete an internship, while students studying elementary education complete 30-36 credits and have the option of writing a thesis.

Distance students can access their classes online through the Canvas learning management system. The university provides Canvas guides to help students through online classes, as well as 24/7 support for technical issues. Another system, DSU Online, is used for class registration and to check grades, pay for tuition, and more.

  • Master of Arts in Teaching
  • Master of Education in Elementary Education
  • Master of Education in Special Education
SCORE:  91.8 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Idaho

ISU offers numerous online or blended master’s programs in education. These classes are taught through Moodle ISU, which offers students access to class materials at all times.

As one example, the Master of Education in Instructional Technology program requires one on-campus meeting per semester, though most classes can be taken online. It consists of 36 credit hours and most learners take six credits each semester. Curricula incorporate topics such as Issues and Trends in Instructional Technology, Delivering Instruction in Electronic Formats, and Instructional Technology and Staff Development. Although it is not required, it is recommended that applicants have professional experience before entering this program.

  • Master of Education in Instructional Technology
SCORE:  91.74 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Texas

The Master of Education Administration and Master of Science in Educational Administration degrees can be completed entirely online. The latter degree option requires a thesis, as well as courses such as Fundamentals of Administration, School Personnel, and Principles of Supervision. Students can earn a degree in one year plus one semester, if they take nine credit hours per semester.

Applicants for graduate school at Prairie View A&M University need a minimum 2.75 GPA and Graduate Record Examination test scores. Additionally, those interested in Educational Administration need at least two years of teaching experience.

  • Master's in Educational Administration and Counseling
SCORE:  91.62 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Louisiana

LSUS eCampus offers students six start dates per year. Classes last seven weeks and students are assigned a coordinator who can help with enrollment and other issues.

There are numerous 100 percent online options for those interested in earning a Master of Education. All focus on curriculum and instruction, but also offer specific concentrations, such as gifted children or educational technology. Regardless of concentration, all curricula mirror the school’s on-campus program equivalents. Students who want to pursue the Academically Gifted degree concentration will take classes like Methods of Teaching the Gifted and Developing Creative Thought in Gifted Learners, while those focusing on Educational Technology take required courses such as Technology Leadership in Schools and Advanced Telecommunications and Distance Education.

  • Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction
SCORE:  91.6 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Texas

At Concordia University Texas, students interested in earning a Master of Education degree online have four distinct choices. The Master of Education in Sports Administration degree is designed for students who want a career in the sports industry. Some classes for this degree program include Law in Sports Administration, Facilities and Event Planning, and Media and Marketing.

There are also more traditional education degrees offered, such as Advanced Literacy Instruction. Students with a teaching certificate focus on techniques to increase reading knowledge. This option consists of 30 credit hours, and students take courses such as Literacy Improvement and Remediation and Evaluation and Diagnosis of Literacy Needs.

  • Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Advanced Literacy Instruction
  • Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Differentiated Instruction
  • Master of Education (M. Ed.) in Education Administration
SCORE:  91.57 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Mississippi

Students interested in earning their Master of Education degree online have several options at Belhaven University. Each program focuses on different areas of interests, such as Reading Literacy or Educational Technology. All programs start with an online orientation and require 33 credits for graduation. For the Teacher as Leader degree option, examples of courses include Curriculum Planning and Organization, Issues and Innovations in Education, and Instructional Leadership Skills in the Classroom. Students interested in the Reading Literacy program take classes such as Teaching Reading Skills and Comprehension and Middle Grade Literacy. Each program also has a capstone course.

  • Master of Education - Teacher as Leader/Elementary or Secondary
  • Master of Education - Educational Technology Emphasis
  • Master of Education - National Board Emphasis
SCORE:  90.85 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Texas

Students at the University of Texas at Tyler can choose from several different online Master of Education programs, some of which also offer certification for Texas educators. Available degree options prepare students for career enhancement or leadership roles such as principal or administrative positions in public, private, and charter schools. Some options, such as the curriculum and instruction degree, are delivered through online and face-to-face methods, while others, such as the Master of Education in Reading, are 100 percent online. Specific admission requirements vary slightly, but all programs mandate a satisfactory GRE score or minimum grade point average.

  • Curriculum and Instruction MEd Degree
  • Educational Administration MEd Degree with Principal Certification
  • Reading MEd Degree
SCORE:  90.83 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Pennsylvania

Lock Haven University has three online education programs from which graduate students can choose. Offered through the Department of PreK – Grade 8 & Professional Studies, all programs are completely online and each requires a writing sample, minimum GPA of 3.0, completed application, letters of recommendation, and submission of academic transcripts for admission. Students interested in the educational leadership degree option must also submit a statement that discusses why they want to earn a principal certification. The program is also the only one of the three to require a Pennsylvania teaching certificate and at least three years of experience teaching in a classroom. For the other programs, no teaching experience is necessary and a Pennsylvania teaching certificate is optional.

  • Master of Education: Alternative Education
  • Master of Education: Educational Leadership
  • Master of Education: Teaching and Learning
SCORE:  90.82 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Illinois

At this university, there are many online master’s in education degree options. Prospective students have the most options with the Specialized Endorsements MEd, which allows students to earn endorsements in two of six educational areas, such as ESL, Early Childhood Special Education, and Middle Level Mathematics. With this degree, students explore how to improve learning outcomes. The Technology in Education degree, on the other hand, focuses on how educators can incorporate technology into classroom learning–for example, how to best utilize mobile devices, how to move learning out of the classroom, and how to determine if the technology being used is effective.

  • Master's in Early Childhood Administration
  • Master's in Teaching Learning and Assessment (TLA)
  • Master's in Technology in Education Degree Online
SCORE:  90.81 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Nevada

Sierra Nevada College offers both 100 percent online programs and combined master’s degrees that utilize both online and on-campus instruction for current and aspiring educators. The Masters in Education degree has two specialization options–Administrative Leadership and Teaching English as a Second Language. The degree can be completed in as little as 18 months.

Students studying how to teach ESL learn a variety of methods and best practices. In addition, concepts such as cultural influences and their effects on the classroom will be covered. Thirty-eight credits are required, covering topics such as Language Development, Structure and Acquisition, and Developing Curriculum for Non-Native English Speaking Students. Meanwhile, the Administrative Leadership degree focuses on management issues and leadership principals. Classes include Understanding School Law and Strategies for Personal Success: Developing Personnel.

  • Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
  • Master of Arts in Administration (MAA) Degree
  • MEd in Administrative Leadership (ALDR)
SCORE:  90.77 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: South Dakota

At SDSU, the same faculty who teach on-campus classes teach online courses. While the course material is similar, online classes have been adapted to better suit the online learning environment.

The university offers a few different online master’s in education degrees, leading to a Master of Education or a Master of Science. The Educational Administration master’s degree can be earned after the completion of 33-41 credits. There are two specializations available. Students can choose from the Elementary Education specialization or Secondary Education. They have some of the same core class requirements, such as Introduction to School Administration and Effective Teaching: Theory Into Practice. With either specialization, students can choose a research option and take fewer classes to complete a project.

  • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction
  • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
SCORE:  90.73 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Kansas

At the graduate degree level, Baker University offers an online Master of Arts in Education program for those interested in becoming a teacher or for existing educators who want to boost their salary potential and enhance their skills. Students earning this degree can choose one of four concentrations: Technology, Generalist, Multicultural Classrooms and Student Diversity, or Curriculum and Instruction. No matter which concentration a student choose, he or she earns 36 credits over the course of the program. Classes are available year-round and last seven weeks. Students can take up to six credit hours per term.

  • Master of Arts in Education
  • Master of Science in School Leadership
SCORE:  90.16 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Montana

Students seeking an online master’s in education degree at the University of Montana can choose from three areas of focus. The music education program option is only offered partially online, but the school does offer two MEd programs completely online. The curriculum studies program is ideal for current teachers or other advanced education professionals. Educational leadership prepares students for a Montana Class 3 Administrative License and a K-12 Principal Endorsement. Music education offers training in up-to-date instructional methods and trends. The overall goal of each program is to prepare teachers to work in K-12 classrooms, teacher education programs, and as district curriculum leaders.

  • M. ED.
  • Curriculum Studies
  • M. ED.
SCORE:  89.78 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Mississippi

Students in the University of Mississippi’s online master’s in education program can choose between elementary education, literacy education and higher education/student personnel tracks. Elementary education prepares students to become specialized teachers in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms.

Graduates should learn how to effectively employ appropriate teaching practices based on research and emerging technology. Literacy education prepares teachers for roles as leaders in their schools and districts. The higher education/student personnel program is designed for professionals at the college or university level who wish to advance their career.

  • Master of Education in Elementary Education
  • Master of Education in Literacy Education
  • Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Personnel

Online Master’s in Education Programs: Up Close and Personal

Online master’s in education programs transcend the barriers of space and time, allowing students to maintain many other commitments, wherever they live. But while flexibility and convenience seem to inherently define online learning, no two programs are truly alike. Format and technologies change. Some schools offer asynchronous scheduling, which means students can review lectures and materials when convenient; other programs require students to stream live lectures and interact with instructors and fellow students at set times. Most schools use forums, video-conferencing, live chats and email to enhance learning and collaboration, but not all use the same tools or online course management platforms. In other words, not all master’s students learn the same things, or in the same way.

All students should consider these technical differences when evaluating online programs, particularly for graduate degrees that are more advanced and specialized than undergraduate degrees. Online education master’s programs present other, more discipline-specific variables that can significantly impact careers and learning experiences. Comparing programs requires research and introspection, especially where long-term goals and professional interests are concerned. Let’s review four critical components that shape online master’s in education programs:

Specialty tracks

Most online degree programs offer specialties that correspond with students’ professional interests, as shown in the next section of this guide. Students enrolled in such programs usually complete a series of core courses general to the field of education, but remaining coursework targets their chosen concentrations. Some programs are designed with a specialty-specific designation in mind, like the certified reading specialist credential. Specializations and requirements vary by state, so online students must be aware of these differences.

Teacher certification

Online education master’s programs cater to several different types of professionals, including K-12 teachers. Schools may consider certification or credentialing requirements when designing programs, incorporating student teaching and coursework required by the state in which the program is based. Students seeking licensure in another state should confirm that a program’s licensing component meets the requirements of their state’s department of education or professional licensing board. Some states have reciprocal agreements, meaning they accept degrees and internship documentation from partner states. Students can inquire whether a program’s certification component is voluntary and how internship opportunities are located.

Career and coordination services

Most schools make every effort to offer online students the same services and support they give campus-based students. Career services like counseling, job placement and internship coordination can be a big help, but individuals considering online programs specifically for educators should verify whether advising is available for students living in other states. This is particularly important for online programs with state-specific teacher certification components.

Capstone projects and exams

Some online education master’s programs require a final project like a thesis, a comprehensive exam, or both, especially in programs designed for administrators or policy makers, or with research-oriented specialties. While students may work with advisers and present theses using video conferencing tools or take proctored exams at approved local testing centers, some programs have on-campus requirements. Online students should clarify expectations early on and confirm that any required campus-based work is manageable – especially for full-time employees of schools with non-traditional calendars.

These four factors can shape the overall learning experience, but savvy students-to-be are not afraid to dive into the finer details, like day-to-day coursework and specializations, before choosing an online master’s in education program. Let’s explore the options.

Concentrations & Coursework

Administrators. Special education teachers. Education policymakers. Career-focused concentration areas like these allow online master’s in education programs to cater to students pursuing myriad roles and specialties. Students enrolled in such programs usually complete a series of more general classes called core courses regardless of their tracks, while the remaining coursework and electives are more specialized. That means the chosen track determines the types of skills carried beyond graduation – and how relevant they are to career aspirations. This is why it is so important to take stock of goals and consider all options before short-listing degree programs. Not sure where to start? Let’s explore some of the most common online master’s in education concentrations and what they entail.

Early Childhood and Elementary Teaching

Online programs with early childhood and elementary education concentrations help students develop the skills they need to work with the youngest learners. Coursework covers topics like childhood development, early literacy, identifying struggling and exceptional learners, and teaching specific subjects in an elementary setting. Some programs with other concentrations, like curriculum development or educational leadership, offer age- or grade-specific subtracks aiming at young learners.

Early Childhood Education Teachers

Prepares very young children – ages three to five – for kindergarten by nurturing basic life, social and emerging literacy skills. ECE teachers with master’s degrees may establish and manage their own specialty schools, or assume leadership roles in government-sponsored programs designed to help young children succeed.

Elementary School Teacher

Provides children in grades K-5 with basic instruction in several subjects, including reading, math, social studies and history. Also assesses students’ success, identifies learning challenges and manages classroom behavior. Some K-12 teachers specialize in certain subjects, like art or physical education.

Middle School Education

For most students, the middle school years mark a period of tremendous growth and development, and these shifts affect learning, classroom management and more. Many teachers focus on one or two subjects and students of varying age groups rather than all subjects for a single group of children. For master’s degrees with middle school education tracks, these trends are reflected in coursework. Classes target learning and development for children grades six to eight, plus instruction in specific subjects, like math or science.

Middle School Teacher

Instructs middle school students – typically grades 6-8 – in one or more academic subjects, like math, history or art. Reinforces students’ elementary knowledge and prepares them for the challenges of high school.

Secondary School Education

Students enter high school as adolescents, but leave as young adults. They tend to be more individualistic with distinct learning preferences and career goals. Online master’s programs with secondary education tracks can prepare professionals to support students during this evolution, academically and emotionally. Courses may touch on areas like career guidance and curricula for college-bound learners. Programs with a focus on initial or secondary licensure often require advanced subject-specific coursework in pedagogical methods, plus a practicum in a high school math, science or reading classroom.

High School Teacher

Teaches students in grades 9-12, typically in one specific discipline, like science or math. Helps to prepare students for life beyond graduation, which can include nurturing workplace skills or study habits for the academic rigors of college.

Special Education

Many online master’s degrees offer not just one, but several special education tracks. These concentrations cater to teachers and other education leaders working with students with specific learning or behavioral challenges. Programs may target skills required for those working in certain age groups, like grades 1-5 or 6-12, or in inclusive or non-inclusive programs. Others might focus on specific subjects, like reading, or various degrees of disability, like mild-to-moderate or severe learning challenges. Some schools also have concentrations dealing specifically with gifted or talented learners. Coursework varies by emphasis, but often includes instruction in areas like identifying challenges, employing and assessing accommodations and other interventions, setting and assessing individual student learning goals, and behavior modification response and management techniques in the classroom.

Special education teacher

Works with students of varying ages and grades with a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, behavioral or physical disabilities, from moderate to severe. Teaches basic life and communication skills, adapts lessons in areas like math and reading to meet learners’ needs, helps implement and evaluate individual education and 504 plans, and assesses student success.

Instructional coordinator

Oversees school curricula and teaching standards. May develop and assess instructional materials, coordinate curricular and instructional implementations with teachers and administrators, and assess programs’ effectiveness. Such experts working for schools with special or gifted education programs must also be aware of applicable laws and standards specific to these areas.

Educational Leadership

Online degrees with this concentration are intended primarily for established administrators, like principals or superintendents, who want to expand their knowledge, and experienced teachers who wish to advance to these types of leadership positions. Programs vary, but generally prepare graduates to lead and develop other educators, improve academic programs and curricula, and make decisions in areas like budgeting and technology integration. Because these programs are designed for more advanced education specialists, it is not uncommon for admissions requirements to include prior licensure and minimum career qualifications.

Principal

Manages operations, faculty and staff in elementary, middle and high schools. Oversees daily school activities, ensures safe and effective learning environments for students, coordinates curricula and teaching standards, and provides direction for teachers and other school staff.

School superintendent

Chief executive officer for a school district or postsecondary institution. Oversees and evaluates student achievement, general operations, budgets and resources, as well as relations with local, state and federal government agencies.

Curriculum and Instruction

Programs with this emphasis are suited for now-and-future instructional coordinators and education administrators who design, implement and assess course content and instructional guidelines. Coursework develops fundamental, theoretical and practical knowledge in the areas of curriculum and instructional design, but additional electives may cater to other areas of interest, such as instructional technology or secondary education. In this advanced specialty, some programs admit only applicants that meet certain experience or licensing criteria.

Instructional coordinator

Oversees school curricula and teaching standards. May develop and assess instructional materials, coordinate curricular and instructional implementations with teachers and administrators, and assess programs’ effectiveness. Such experts working for schools with special or gifted education programs must also be aware of applicable laws and standards specific to these areas.

Curriculum director

Helps design, update and implement curriculum with state and district standards in mind. These professionals can work for public and private schools, school districts, and government agencies that deal with curricular design, like state and federal education departments.

Early Childhood Education Teachers

Prepares very young children – ages three to five – for kindergarten by nurturing basic life, social and emerging literacy skills. ECE teachers with master’s degrees may establish and manage their own specialty schools, or assume leadership roles in government-sponsored programs designed to help young children succeed.

Elementary School Teacher

Provides children in grades K-5 with basic instruction in several subjects, including reading, math, social studies and history. Also assesses students’ success, identifies learning challenges and manages classroom behavior. Some K-12 teachers specialize in certain subjects, like art or physical education.

Middle School Teacher

Instructs middle school students – typically grades 6-8 – in one or more academic subjects, like math, history or art. Reinforces students’ elementary knowledge and prepares them for the challenges of high school.

High School Teacher

Teaches students in grades 9-12, typically in one specific discipline, like science or math. Helps to prepare students for life beyond graduation, which can include nurturing workplace skills or study habits for the academic rigors of college.

Special education teacher

Works with students of varying ages and grades with a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, behavioral or physical disabilities, from moderate to severe. Teaches basic life and communication skills, adapts lessons in areas like math and reading to meet learners’ needs, helps implement and evaluate individual education and 504 plans, and assesses student success.

Instructional coordinator

Oversees school curricula and teaching standards. May develop and assess instructional materials, coordinate curricular and instructional implementations with teachers and administrators, and assess programs’ effectiveness. Such experts working for schools with special or gifted education programs must also be aware of applicable laws and standards specific to these areas.

Curriculum director

Helps design, update and implement curriculum with state and district standards in mind. These professionals can work for public and private schools, school districts, and government agencies that deal with curricular design, like state and federal education departments.

Principal

Manages operations, faculty and staff in elementary, middle and high schools. Oversees daily school activities, ensures safe and effective learning environments for students, coordinates curricula and teaching standards, and provides direction for teachers and other school staff.

School superintendent

Chief executive officer for a school district or postsecondary institution. Oversees and evaluates student achievement, general operations, budgets and resources, as well as relations with local, state and federal government agencies.

Researching online education master’s tracks and concentrations offers a high-level understanding of how these programs work and relate to specific careers – factors that could help students make better decisions about their education. To really understand or compare programs, however, it’s necessary to dig deeper, reviewing several programs’ requirements and course lists to get a sense for what one can expect to learn. These classes may vary by institution or concentration, but specific skills and competencies are often more universal. Here is a list of real graduate-level education courses from a number of colleges nationwide:

Learning Theory

This course explores how various curricular, instructional and environmental theories impact learning and behavior. Topics include theories like behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism, and methods for implementing and assessing these approaches. Students are encouraged to evaluate their own beliefs regarding learning and consider how they might impact instructional design and delivery in the field.

Educational Psychology

What are the latest theories and studies in this domain? This course highlights how various settings and applied teaching practices impact and relate to cognitive, social and cultural development among children of various ages. Students critique theories, learn how integrate them into curriculum and instructional practices, and discover how to assess their practical applications in an empirical way.

Differentiated Instruction

Not all students learn the same way. This course investigates how curriculum, instructional strategies and lesson plans can be designed and adapted to better meet the needs of students of all learning styles, including auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic learners. Students also learn how to integrate, modify and evaluate the success of these strategies in the field.

Teaching and Learning in Diverse Classrooms

This course offers teacher leaders an advanced understanding of the problems, issues and experiences that impact students in underrepresented racial, ethnic, economic, sexual-identity and language groups. Some states require such training in the course of teacher licensure, especially among middle and secondary school teachers.

Advanced Assistive Technology and Design

Many degree programs with special education tracks offer this type of class. The subject matter covers various types of assistive technologies designed to help students with learning and behavior challenges, including practical uses, implementation barriers, limitations and emerging research regarding long-term effectiveness and benefits. Relevant legal requirements and funding considerations are also reviewed.

Education Leadership Theory

Current and future administrators must understand the various leadership theories and practices impacting the field. Students in this course learn how these practices impact organizational behaviors in school settings, and explore the challenges that can emerge in the course of leadership careers.

School and Community Partnerships

This course offers educational leaders an advanced understanding of relationships between administrators, faculty and local groups and citizens, including how such collaboration can improve a school’s educational environment. Students learn how to identify and mobilize community resources in a way that speaks to the school’s unique cultural, social and intellectual needs.

Coaching and Mentoring for Teacher Leaders

Courses like this are common among programs with educational leadership and teaching leadership concentrations. Students explore recent research surrounding effective practices as they relate both to teaching students and mentoring faculty. The course shows how to design, implement and sustain protocols that improve teaching and mentoring experiences.

Collaboration on Behalf of Gifted or Special Needs Children

Colleges and universities often incorporate this type of course in programs with special education or gifted education specialties. Students learn how to communicate and work with students, parents, consultants and other faculty members in a way that conveys students’ ongoing needs, and that respects relevant family and cultural issues.

Practicum

Online education master’s programs with certification components often require students to complete internships in the field. These experiences allow students to practice their newfound skills and demonstrate competence, usually under the direction of other licensed professionals. Program and state requirements vary, and students should contact their states’ licensing boards for clarification.

Online Education Master’s Programs: What to Expect (and When)

This guide has detailed multiple factors that shape and distinguish online master’s programs, technically, practically and even philosophically. Understanding these factors can help prospective students identify which programs suit them best, but what then? How does one begin the journey, what will it look like, and how long will it take? Every student’s experience is naturally different, but there are some general guidelines. This timeline breaks the process down into its essential parts, from admissions to graduation – and beyond.

Year 0

The first step toward earning an online master’s in education is getting into a program. This can be a daunting process. Master’s degree programs are more specialized and advanced than undergraduate programs, and requirements follow suit. Be prepared to write essays, solicit letters of recommendation and sit for online or in-person interviews. Gather transcripts and confirm that your grade point average and required standardized test scores are in range. Some master’s programs also have career-specific admissions criteria, like active teaching licenses or a certain number of years of experience in the field. How can one survive this process, sanity intact? Here are a few tips.

Find motivation. Make a list of all of the reasons why you want to pursue a master’s in education. This can not only help you choose a program, but also give you some much-needed perspective when racing to beat tight deadlines.

Learn how distance education works to confirm that it is the right choice: while this type of learning is convenient, it is a myth that it is easy. Online studies can be as rigorous as classroom-based programs, and although they make keeping a full-time job feasible, this does not change the fact that balancing work, school and the rest of life can be stressful. These programs also require students to be more organized and self-motivated since teachers cannot keep a literal eye on them.

Research several online master’s in education programs and make a short list of those that appeal to you most. Check out the search tool at the end of this guide to make the process easier. Rank schools in order of preference.

Take this list and crunch the numbers. Master’s degrees can be expensive, but financial aid can help. Talk to a financial aid adviser. Some online schools charge in-state tuition regardless of residency. Also, employers may offer tuition assistance or reimbursement for students who invest in training relevant to their careers and meet minimum grade requirements.

Make an admissions calendar and checklist showing each school’s application requirements and pertinent deadlines. Remember that schools have their own processes and timelines, and if it’s impossible to meet all requirements for every school, start with higher priority schools first.

Get in touch with employers, former professors and fellow education professionals who might be willing to write letters of recommendation.

Contact former schools’ registrars to request several copies of official transcripts. Some online schools only accept transcripts sent directly from schools, so clarify requirements beforehand.

Contact standardized testing agencies to request official scores for any relevant exams.

Review your network and identify colleagues who might have experience with any school or program on the short list, especially if they studied online. These experienced friends can help navigate the admissions process and calibrate expectations for specific programs. They could offer tips on succeeding academically or even contribute a formal recommendation.

Confirm all essay requirements, including topics and deadlines. Complete essays early to allow time to review them and, when possible, have other knowledgeable colleagues or consultants do the same.

Make sure all applications, materials, records and relevant fees are submitted on time, period.

Year 1

Students pursuing online master’s in education degrees usually spend their first years of study completing their core courses. These basic courses tend to be the same for all students, regardless of specialty, and touch on such topics as: education psychology, instructional technology, pedagogical methods, curriculum development and teaching in diverse classrooms. Because these courses are more general, programs may not require students to choose a specialization until they complete them. And some schools allow students to change their concentrations later. Those who are undecided can touch base with second year students and alums. They can lend valuable experiences and insights not gleaned through program outlines and course catalogs.

Year 2

The second year of master’s programs is typically reserved for advanced, specialized coursework. Students in programs with specialty tracks usually complete coursework relevant to their concentrations; those in programs without these concentrations often enroll in electives that target areas of professional interest. In either case, students may need to complete research projects or theses, pass comprehensive exams, or fulfill a combination of these requirements. Online programs that target professional certifications or teaching licenses typically incorporate an internship or practicum. The nature and duration of field experiences vary by school and program. Students are encouraged to clarify requirements – and confirm that they can complete internships locally – early on. It also helps to investigate and plan for any other tasks that might require on-campus attendance, like presenting theses and sitting for exams.

The Inside Scoop: An MEd Grad Talks Shop

Gabriella Soto worked with children as part of her bachelor’s degree in psychology and knew as soon as she graduated that she wanted to pursue a master’s in special education –which she ended up earning through an online program. She is now a teacher in an integrated elementary school classroom, instructing a group with special needs and typically working with first graders alongside a co-teacher. She has these three pieces of advice for students earning their master’s in education:

Get hands-on experience

Whether through student teaching, volunteer work or a part-time job, spend time with different student populations and in different educational settings. Real-world experience is crucial when learning how to teach.

Make and keep contacts

This is especially true if your school is in the same city or area where you’d like to work after graduation. Contacts from student teaching are a great way to learn about job opportunities and can serve as references who know first-hand your abilities and dedication to the profession.

Save your classwork

Assignments completed while earning your master’s can often be used in job interviews, and again when you enter the professional world. This can include lesson plans, themed units, classroom layout plans and other educational materials.

Money Matters: Do Online Education Master’s Degrees Pay Off?

You’ve decided to go back to school, sifted through your options and compiled a list of preferred master’s in education programs. Now, for the nitty-gritty details like program costs, there’s a whole new set of questions: Can I really afford grad school? How will I pay for it? Is it even worth it? These are fair questions, but researching the long-term economics of master’s degrees can put things in perspective. Let’s play the numbers game.

By the Numbers

The first thing prospective students usually check when running the economics of graduate school is tuition and fees. These figures make up the bulk of a degree’s cost, and can add up quickly. Say a school charges about $300 per credit-hour, and your chosen program requires 48 hours of study. Basic math says that a degree would cost $14,400, but that does not tell the whole story. Books, materials and living costs matter, too, and should be factored into the budget. On the other hand, students attending online programs can avoid parking fees and transportation costs, and, thanks to flexible scheduling, can often work to offset costs. Another perk: online programs may charge in-state tuition, and may offer financial aid counseling. Some school districts and private employers have tuition assistance or reimbursement programs that help employees pay for coursework related to their jobs. Consider all these variables when weighing costs.

Return on Investment

A graduate degree cost-benefit analysis requires considering the long-term payoff. Nothing is guaranteed, but research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that earnings and employment rates generally improve with education, regardless of the field. Additional research from the National Council on Teacher Quality and the National Center for Education Statistics confirms that the trend tends to hold true for education professionals specifically. Why? Master’s degrees build knowledge and keep skills current, and they also show employers evidence of professional dedication. Potential salary gains may be particularly apparent among those who intend to use online master’s in education degrees as stepping stones to advanced or administrative careers, which often require this type of training at minimum.

This breakdown of 2013 salaries for various occupations highlights how earnings change as education professionals climb through the ranks:

Job Title Top 10 % Median (50%) Bottom 10%
Elementary Teacher $83,600 $53,590 $35,760
Middle School Teacher $82,770 $53,940 $37,050
Secondary School Teacher $86,720 $55,360 $37,230
Postsecondary Education Teacher $108,640 $60,170 $30,490
Instructional Coordinator $93,840 $60,610 $35,000
Education Administrator, K-12 $128,110 $88,380 $59,010
Education Administrator, Postsecondary $171,040 $87,410 $49,660

As suggested by the numbers, educators who make the leap from K-12 to postsecondary classrooms, and from teaching to administration, tend to see a major increase in earnings. Because college instructors and administrators of all levels are usually required to hold at least a master’s degree to enter the field, these trends illustrate the potential benefits of additional training. Also, the NCTQ and the NCES confirm that teachers who stay in the classroom usually earn more with master’s degrees, even among new teachers with no experience.

In-Demand Professions in Education

Students pursuing online master’s degrees often want to know that there is a job waiting for them at the end of the tunnel. Bureau of Labor Statistics data may suggest that employment rates tend to improve with education, but how in-demand are education professionals overall? Demand for all education, training and library occupations is projected to grow by 11 percent between 2012 and 2022. This spells good news, generally speaking, but demand varies by job, and some professions will be in higher demand than others. Here is a breakdown of projected employment growth for specific education occupations between 2012 and 2022, as reported by the BLS:

Occupation
Projected Hiring Growth
High School Teachers
6%
Special Education Teachers
6%
Middle School Teachers
12%
Elementary School Teachers
12%
Instructional Coordinators
13%
Postsecondary Education Administrators
15%
Postsecondary Teachers
19%

Note that the education professions expected to be in the highest demand also tend to require master’s degrees or higher.

Outside-the-Box Jobs for Education Grads

This guide has explored how online master’s in education degrees work, what they teach, and how they could impact earnings and employment potential across a wide spectrum of traditional careers. But what about those who don’t want to work in a typical classroom or school – or those who don’t want a traditional education job at all? New technologies and industry-wide shifts, like the rise of home-based education, have generated a number of employment opportunities that could be characterized as anything but traditional. Here are a few of them.

  • Private teaching and tutoring

    Educators who want to shake the classroom – and large class sizes – can take jobs in private tutoring centers, or even start their own. The concept of tutoring a struggling child or a GED-bound adult is not precisely new, but as more families choose to homeschool, demand for these skills might grow. Another entirely new trend revolutionizing the field: Online tutoring. These programs allow licensed educators to tutor students of any age, in any subject, from a distance.

  • Corporate training

    Many companies are willing to put money into training programs that could make their employees – and all their processes – more efficient. The nature of the programs can change, so when it comes to hiring trainers, employers may put a greater emphasis on teaching experience and skill over industry-specific knowledge.

  • School founders and directors

    Teachers and administrators who want to use their master’s degrees to launch their own programs can consider charter schools or schools that apply less traditional theories and methods. Love them or hate them, charter schools have been trending for years, opening doors – and minds – to alternative education programs. In addition, schools using philosophies like Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia can attract parents wary of high-stakes academic environments. Educators can also establish special schools and programs for children with learning or behavioral challenges whose needs may not be fully met by public special education programs.

  • Education consulting

    Not all consultants travel from school district to district or frequent teaching conferences. Thanks to the rise of online, alternative and home-based learning, private companies tap teachers and administrators to help design curricula for classroom- and home-based learners of all needs and learning styles. Some companies hire professionals to produce or review content for online educational tools and programs – think: BrainPop, Scholastic and Learn with Homer.

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