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Pursuing a master’s in education is a significant step towards advancing your career in education and making a lasting impact on students’ lives. However, with so many promising graduate degree programs available online, knowing which one is right for you can be difficult. That’s why has devoted countless hours analyzing graduate degree programs to highlight the highest quality master’s in education programs currently available.

In this article, we’ll provide an in-depth overview of what to expect from an online master’s in education degree, explore the career outlook and potential paths it opens up, offer guidance on choosing the right program tailored to your goals, and answer frequently asked questions to help you make an informed decision on your educational journey.

Whether you’re a seasoned educator looking to enhance your skills or simply passionate about entering the field of education, this guide is designed to provide valuable insights and assistance as you navigate your options for pursuing a master’s in education online.

What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Education Degree Program?

By earning your online master’s in education degree, you’ll further advance your knowledge and skills and ultimately be prepared for higher-level roles — such as school administrator, curriculum developer, and department head, among others.

These programs share commonalities with other similar degree programs — including Master of Arts in Education (MAE) and Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) — but are unique for their broad range of educational topics and are designed to help educators interested in various career paths succeed.

Obtaining an MAE may be a better fit for students interested in educational research, policy analysis, or advanced roles in academia. On the other hand, MAT programs are specifically designed for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than education and who wish to become certified teachers.

Overview of an online master’s in education degree program

While curriculums can vary depending on the institution, most reputable master’s in education programs share a common goal — to prepare graduates to be more effective and knowledgeable practitioners, leaders, and advocates in educational settings. Therefore, many of these programs will meet the following expectations:

  • Advanced Educational Theory: You will examine theories and research related to education, learning, and pedagogy to deepen your understanding of the field.
  • Specialization Options: Many online master’s in education programs offer various specializations, allowing you to tailor your studies to specific career goals. Some common disciplines include Educational Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction, Special Education, and Educational Technology.
  • Curriculum Development: You’ll learn how to design effective curriculum and educational materials, aligning them with academic standards and best practices.
  • Instructional Strategies: These programs often provide insight into innovative teaching methods and strategies to enhance classroom instruction.
  • In-Person Components: Some online programs may include in-person components like student teaching or residencies. These experiences provide hands-on training and the opportunity to apply what you have learned in real-world settings.

Obtaining a state-level teaching certification

Each state in the United States has its requirements for teacher certification, including specific coursework, exams, and student teaching hours. Where you earn your degree can affect where you can get certified to teach.

If you plan to teach in a specific state, it’s crucial to research that state’s certification requirements and ensure that the program you choose aligns with those requirements. Some programs may partner with multiple states to facilitate certification transfer, while others may focus on a specific state’s certification standards.

The Top 49 Online Master’s in Education Programs

Best Master's in Educational Leadership Programs Badge

Clemson University

UF College of Education

University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

University at Albany - SUNY

University of North Texas

Arizona State University

University of Wisconsin - Stout

San Diego State University

University of Georgia

Auburn University

Michigan State University

Texas A&M University

Montclair State University

University of Houston

UMass Lowell

Kansas State University

Penn State World Campus

University of Missouri

University of South Carolina

University of Alabama

University of Delaware

University of Virginia

Purdue University

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Ball State University

Creighton University

Florida State University

University of Kentucky

Virginia Commonwealth University

Indiana University

North Carolina State University

Quinnipiac University

Sam Houston State University

Towson University

University of Cincinnati

University of Kansas

Southern Wesleyan University

University of Alabama at Birmingham

University of Arizona

University of Iowa

University of Mississippi

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Drake University

Drexel University

Liberty University

Florida International University

North Carolina A&T State University

Southern Utah University

University of West Alabama

The University of Texas at Arlington

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How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online master’s degree programs in education in the U.S. All are offered at nonprofit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each degree program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and student resources. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can I Do With an Online Master’s in Education?

Career outlook

The field of education offers both stability and growth, with numerous options for specialization. Among the highest-paying roles for these professionals are Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals. Individuals in these roles are expected to see a 7 percent job growth rate by 2031 and enjoy a median salary of $98,420. Similarly, Postsecondary Education Administrators are expected to see a 7 percent job growth rate over the next decade, with median salaries at $96,910.

For those seeking a path beyond traditional educational settings, consider becoming a Corporate Training. Careers in this sector can yield six-figure salaries as high as $120,130, offering educators the chance to apply their expertise in corporate settings.

Career paths

A master’s in education degree opens up more doors than you might think possible. Many diverse and fulfilling career paths exist for individuals passionate about education and committed to positively impacting the field. Here are just a few of the many career options available to graduates:

  • Classroom Teaching: Continue to inspire and educate the next generation as a K-12 teacher specializing in subjects or grade levels of your choice.
  • Educational Leadership: Take on leadership roles as a school principal, assistant principal, or department head, shaping the policies and direction of educational institutions.
  • Curriculum Development: Design engaging and effective curriculum materials, ensuring students receive high-quality educational content.
  • School Counseling: Provide valuable guidance and support to students facing academic, social, or personal challenges.
  • Corporate Training: Transition to the corporate sector, developing and delivering training programs to employees of businesses and organizations.

Elementary, middle, or high school principal

At the helm of every school is one essential figure — the principal. Individuals in these roles oversee the daily operations, manage staff, and create a positive learning environment for students. Principals also handle disciplinary matters, curriculum implementation, and communication with parents and the broader community, working to ensure the school’s success and the well-being of its students.

Corporate trainer

For those who want to try their hand in the business world, pursuing a career as a corporate trainer will make you essential to enhancing employee performance, productivity, and overall company success. Corporate trainers assess the training needs of employees, develop curriculum and materials, and conduct training sessions to improve skills and knowledge in areas like technology, company policies, sales techniques, or leadership development.

School counselor

Graduates who thrive in one-on-one interactions and naturally have a nurturing presence will excel as school counselors. People in this career assist students in setting educational and career goals, providing counseling for personal and emotional issues, and offering guidance on college and career planning.

Best States for Teaching Careers

Education career opportunities span all 50 states, although employment and annual salary vary widely.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s highest-paid teachers are in Washington, DC, with an annual median salary of $76,000. Meanwhile, the lowest median yearly salary is in Mississippi, where teachers earn $46,240 annually.

The U.S. is currently experiencing a shortage of trained, qualified teachers, with some experts estimating as many as 55,000 open teaching positions in the country. The need is most acute in the South Atlantic and East South Central regions of the U.S.

State Annual median wage Employment per 1,000 jobs
Alabama $50,630 50.3
Alaska $61,660 63.1
Arizona $48,410 47.6
Arkansas $47,840 57.8
California $63,100 56.8
Colorado $50,180 52.9
Connecticut $63,680 73.5
Delaware $59,060 60.0
District of Columbia $76,000 43.3
Florida $49,790 42.9
Georgia $57,780 57.6
Hawaii $56,570 64.7
Idaho $47,200 55.8
Illinois $53,480 60.7
Indiana $47,880 50.0
Iowa $47,170 67.4
Kansas $47,650 64.2
Kentucky $50,240 50.0
Louisiana $49,090 57.8
Maine $49,120 64.2
Maryland $60,890 62.7
Massachusetts $64,390 64.3
Michigan $51,480 46.2
Minnesota $49,710 56.2
Mississippi $46,240 60.8
Missouri $47,940 55.0
Montana $47,630 58.4
Nebraska $50,290 58.3
Nevada $56,530 36.2
New Hampshire $51,390 63.4
New Jersey $62,640 68.4
New Mexico $55,210 60.1
New York $63,670 74.3
North Carolina $47,920 57.9
North Dakota $49,030 58.2
Ohio $60,470 58.0
Oklahoma $47,210 57.4
Oregon $60,720 53.0
Pennsylvania $60,930 56.6
Rhode Island $64,320 65.9
South Carolina $48,400 50.6
South Dakota $46,840 57.9
Tennessee $48,920 48.2
Texas $59,140 60.9
Utah $48,670 57.3
Vermont $49,720 87.8
Virgin Islands $47,790 66.3
Virginia $57,240 61.3
Washington $62,660 53.9
West Virginia $47,470 60.0
Wisconsin $49,580 55.1
Wyoming $49,930 72.6

**Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics

How to Choose the Online Master’s in Education Degree Program That’s Right for You

Step 1: Choose your area of study

Clarifying your career goals is critical when choosing the right area of study for your master’s in education degree. Consider your interests and the impact you’d like to make — whether in classroom teaching, leadership, counseling, or curriculum development. Next, explore the various specializations available, considering how they align with your professional goals and future opportunities.

Additionally, think about how you learn best, as this will ultimately determine which classroom environment and program structure you’ll thrive in. Determine whether you prefer synchronous or asynchronous learning and if you can commit to full- or part-time study. Remember that full-time study is more immersive and can help you complete the program quickly. Still, part-time study is an excellent option for working professionals or individuals with other significant responsibilities.

Step 2: Research schools and programs

When researching schools and programs, verifying institutional and programmatic accreditation is vital. Accreditation ensures that the program you ultimately attend offers the highest quality of education and is eligible for federal aid. Narrow down your top picks by creating a short list of accredited programs that provide the specializations you’re interested in or relevant coursework that can support your interests.

Next, reach out to admissions counselors at each institution to clarify these critical questions:

  • What is the faculty-to-student ratio for the online master’s in education degree program?
  • Does the program offer technology support? If so, is it available 24/7 or during specific hours?
  • How do I access the program’s virtual classroom?

Asking these questions helps ensure individualized attention from instructors, that you are adequately supported throughout the program, and that the program is easily accessible.

Step 3: Prepare for applications and tests

You can prepare effectively for applications and standardized tests by thoroughly researching program requirements, application deadlines, and prerequisites, including:

  • Reviewing transcripts
  • Obtaining letters of recommendation
  • Writing an engaging personal statement

When writing your personal statement, focus on outlining your educational goals and commitment to the field of education. You might consider detailing how earning your master’s in education will help you meet these goals, how this program’s values align with your own, and what you will contribute as a potential student.

For those requiring standardized test scores like the GRE, consider enrolling in a test prep course to maximize your potential. These test prep courses focus on improving verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills alongside teaching test-taking strategies that can help boost your scores when test day arrives.

Step 4: Select your program

If you apply to multiple programs, you may receive numerous acceptance letters. Take time to weigh your options by considering factors like program reputation, the curriculum’s alignment with your career goals, financial aid offers, and additional perks. Reach out to current students and alums for additional insights and firsthand perspectives. After all, no one knows these programs better than the students already enrolled or have been previously.

Make a decision that aligns with your long-term aspirations and personal preferences. Above all, remember that it’s not just about getting in; it’s about choosing the program that best fits your academic and career needs.

Step 5: Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Obtaining higher education can be expensive, but it’s important to remember that many funding options are available to help you reduce your overall debt burden. Scholarships and grants, often based on academic merit or meeting specific criteria, can significantly offset tuition costs. While an option, student loans should be used cautiously due to their potential for increasing your debt burden over time.

If you need to take out student loans, submit the FAFSA, as it determines your eligibility for federal student loans, which generally have a lower interest rate and more flexible repayment terms than private loans. Consider programs such as Teacher Loan Forgiveness, which offers loan forgiveness for educators serving high-need schools. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is available for public service workers, including many education positions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Master’s in Education Degree Programs

Should I get a master's in education degree in person or online?

While both formats are excellent options, the answer to this question ultimately depends on your circumstances and learning preferences. Consider factors like your work schedule, location, and ability to commute. Online programs offer flexibility when scheduling courses and learning at your own pace, but they require significant self-discipline to complete. On the other hand, in-person programs provide networking opportunities and face-to-face interaction but may be more rigid — requiring specific class meeting times and completion deadlines.

You can select the best format for your goals and lifestyle by assessing your needs and weighing the pros and cons.

What are the admissions requirements for an online master's in education degree?

Admissions requirements for online master’s in education programs usually include the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Minimum GPA (usually around 3.0, but some programs may have slightly higher or lower requirements)
  • Transcripts from all previously attended institutions
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose or personal statement
  • Resume or CV
  • GRE scores (varies depending on the program)

Some programs may require a teaching certification and prefer applicants with relevant professional experience.

What is the average cost of an online master's in education degree?

The average cost of an online master’s in education degree can vary significantly. Tuition at public institutions is more affordable, with students seeing an average tuition cost of $12,934 for the 2020-2021 academic year. Private education is usually more expensive, as illustrated by the $26,621 average tuition cost of the same year.

To save money, consider:

  • Seeking scholarships and grants.
  • Enrolling at a public university with in-state tuition.
  • Exploring employer tuition assistance.
  • Researching part-time or accelerated programs to manage expenses and workload.

How long does it take to complete an online master's in education degree?

The duration for an online master’s in education degree varies depending on the program’s format and structure — but your enrollment status also plays a critical role. Your timeline might look like this, depending on your unique situation:

  • Full-time programs: 1 to 2 years
  • Part-time programs: 2 to 3 years or longer
  • Accelerated programs: 12 to 18 months, with an intensive curriculum

It’s also important to consider that some programs offer self-paced options, which can extend or reduce your completion time depending on your circumstances.

How hard is an online master's in education degree?

While challenging, these programs are designed to be manageable with dedication and time management. Engaging in coursework, meeting deadlines, and participating in discussions is often the key to success — enrolling in a program that aligns with your lifestyle is all the more important.

Is an online master's in education degree worth it?

In many situations, a master’s in education degree is worth it to achieve specific goals, such as pursuing careers in educational leadership or counseling. These roles require an advanced degree, making pursuing higher education worthwhile. A graduate degree can also raise your earning potential, rendering the ROI on a master’s in education positive.

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