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Graduates from a master’s in elementary education degree program are prepared for a variety of careers in early education. That includes work as an educator or administrator.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), kindergarten and elementary school teachers make around $63,670 per year, Special education teachers make $71,770 per year on average, and guidance counselors make an average of $66,990 annually. School principals make around $103,460.

You can expect to spend around two years completing your master’s degree in elementary education. Part-time students can take double that or longer to complete their degrees. The average cost of tuition for a graduate program was $19,749 as of 2021.

How to Choose a Master’s in Elementary Education Degree Program

Choose your area of study

Typically, you only need a bachelor’s degree and the requisite state license to be eligible for elementary teaching positions. Master’s degrees tend to prepare professionals for specialty positions or growing their careers. You might want to specialize in elementary mathematics, curriculum design, early childhood literacy, ESL teaching, or special education.

Consider your career and educational goals as you choose an area of study. Master’s degree in elementary education programs often allow you to select from concentrations to better support a specific objective.

Research schools and programs

Research schools by visiting university and program websites, calling admissions and financial aid offices, and visiting campuses if possible. Gather information to answer questions such as:

  • Is the school accredited? Look for official accreditation, such as recognition from regional organizations like the Middle States Commission on Higher Education or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
  • Is attendance practical? Consider the timeline and location of the classes and whether they fit realistically within your schedule. While it’s common to make some sacrifices when working on a degree, if you have a full-time job and the classes are an hour’s commute away, you need to consider whether you can realistically attend while keeping up with other obligations.
  • Does the program have a generally good reputation? Consider reviews and the experience of former students as well as the knowledge and experience of the teaching staff.
  • Will your goals be served? If a program doesn’t offer the concentration you need to best support your career goals, it might not be the right option for you.

Prepare for tests and applications

Testing requirements may vary by school and by applicant. If you’re already a licensed teacher, for example, schools often don’t require testing for admission because you would have already proven your existing knowledge base during licensure. Some schools may require GRE or PRAXIS exam scores, however.

Application processes will also vary. Speak with admissions offices to find out if you need to submit an essay, letters of recommendation, resume, transcripts, or other documents with your application. Plan ahead so you have plenty of time to meet these requirements.

Select your program

Your original research into potential schools and programs should result in a shortlist of a few schools you apply to. At a minimum, you should apply to two programs. However, if you’re choosing competitive programs, you may want to apply to more to ensure you get into one.

If you receive more than one acceptance, weigh all factors when selecting a program to attend. Consider the cost, convenience of classes, reputation of staff, and quality of the education you might receive.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Create a plan to cover the cost of your degree. While financial aid packages might include loans, consider whether there are options such as work-study programs, scholarships, or employer assistance that will help you reduce how much money you owe after you graduate.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Elementary Education Degree Programs

Best Master's in Elementary Education Programs_2024

The University of Virginia

Stanford University

Vanderbilt University

William & Mary

University of Washington

Virginia Tech

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

North Carolina State University

Teachers College at Columbia University

Boston College

Indiana University Southeast

Loyola University Maryland

Westfield State University

Salem State University

Truman State University

Lehigh University

American International College

Western Illinois University

Virginia Commonwealth University

University of South Carolina

University of Mary Washington

William Paterson University of New Jersey

University of South Florida

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

University of Bridgeport

Northwestern University

Bridgewater State University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

We reviewed many master’s in elementary education degree programs, including Master of Education (MEd), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Arts (MA) programs. Our list covers online, on-campus, and hybrid programs to offer individuals multiple learning options.

All of the programs listed are regionally accredited, and many also have accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Accreditation helps ensure a program meets high quality standards.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Elementary Education Degree Program?

Master’s in elementary education degree programs provide students with advanced teaching, administrative, curriculum, and leadership skills. These programs usually build upon foundations that existing teachers or those who have recently graduated from bachelor’s degree programs already have. Coursework can cover topics such as early childhood education, curriculum development, instruction techniques, and leadership in the classroom.

In addition to coursework, you may be required to complete hands-on research and projects within a field environment. Existing educators can leverage their classrooms for this purpose. Master’s degree students who aren’t currently working in a school or classroom environment may need to participate in student-teacher practicum sessions.

On average, this type of degree program takes around two years to complete. Students in accelerated programs may complete their degree in as little as one year, while part-time students might take three or more years to earn their master’s in elementary education.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in elementary education  degree program

  • Curriculum Development. This class looks at best practices in developing learning resources for students of various ages and needs. You may conduct research to understand how students learn and create mock curricula to meet specific needs laid out by professors.
  • Early Childhood Education. Early childhood education is typically concerned with teaching and nurturing children up to the age of eight, including preschool years as well as grades from kindergarten to third. This course prepares teachers and others to best support young learners.
  • ESL Teaching. This class concentrates on the skills and knowledge needed to support literacy and other skills when working with students who speak English as a second language.
  • Instructional Strategies and Models. This course examines the practical methods and research behind classroom management, student engagement, and instructional design. Depending on your concentration, it might address specific learning environments, such as the varied approach needed in a special education classroom.
  • Language and Literacy. Students in this course delve into teaching specific subjects to young children, including core concepts such as math or language. Early childhood literacy is often of special interest.

Master’s in Elementary Education Degree Program Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in elementary education degree program?

You can usually start the application process online after you’ve completed your research and chosen a few schools. Don’t rush the process, and ensure you have plenty of time to gather the necessary documents and complete testing or other application requirements. You may need letters of recommendation, so start considering professional connections who can speak to your work ethic, teaching talents, and other related traits.

Because every school has different admission requirements, talking to an admission counselor can be a good idea. They can provide details about timelines, what components of applications are absolutely necessary, and how you can best position your application for success.

How much does a master's in elementary education degree cost?

The cost of your program depends on factors such as:

  • How much each credit hour costs
  • How many credits do you need to complete the program
  • The style of the program — whether it’s online or in-person
  • Whether you’re attending as an in-state resident

For example, Liberty University offers a 100% online Master of Arts in Teaching with an elementary education concentration. It requires 36 credit hours. Full-time students pay $415 per credit hour for a total cost of $14,940. However, part-time students pay $615 per credit hour for a total cost of $22,140.

Data published by the National Center for Education Statistics as of 2021 notes that the average cost for a graduate degree is $19,749. It’s $12,394 at public institutions on average and $26,621 at private institutions.

How long does it take to earn a master's in elementary education degree?

An accelerated cohort master’s degree in elementary education can take a single year to complete. These programs are typically designed for existing educators who are working on their degrees while teaching or managing school administrative functions full-time.

On average, traditional programs take around two years to complete. If you want to attend part-time by taking a single class each semester as you work and attend to social and family obligations, you might take four or more years to complete your degree.

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