Why This Matters


    Having a Master’s degree pays off: in Washington, teachers with Master’s degrees can earn up to $60,532 per year as opposed to around $40,000 with a Bachelor’s degree.


    Across the country, teachers with a Master’s degree will earn $335,400 more over a 35-year career than teachers with a Bachelor’s degree.


    The United States is in the middle of a teacher shortage crisis that started in 2009, when “more than half of public school teachers [were] age 50 or older” in eighteen states.

Our Research

When pursuing a Master’s degree for teaching, there are three general types of degrees available. The Master’s of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and the Master’s of Science in Teaching (MST) both feature courses in education as well as a specific subject area. A Master’s in Education (MEd), on the other hand, focuses primarily on the theory of teaching and education practices.

Each degree has its merits. MEd students more typically are educators looking to move into leadership roles, while MAT and MST students might look to develop their skills as teachers and into more specific areas of education.

To connect you with the program that will best help you achieve your career goals, we looked at all three types, honing in on online programs. Our top programs are not only rigorous and highly-regarded, they’re accessible to students everywhere. Additionally, we only looked at programs from accredited universities and colleges. This third-party certification helps demonstrate that a program is considered rigorous and ensures that your degree will be respected by future employers.

Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each university. This helps us compare each university based on the strength of its programs, its student engagement, and how easy it would be to earn back the cost of a degree. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 40+ hours to write this article
  • 84 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 350 education programs we compared

The Top 60 Online Master’s in Education Programs

Best Online Master's in Education Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

There’s something to be said for pursuing knowledge for its own sake. Earning a Master’s in Education can open doors into a new specialization, help you focus on a particular field, and expand your knowledge of techniques and teaching methods.

That said, if you’re primarily interested in making a larger paycheck, there’s a couple things you should know.

Pay increases vary by state and by district. If you’re a teacher in Washington state, getting a Master’s in Education makes sense — you can increase your maximum earning potential by $20,000 per year. However, if you’re in Ohio, that pay bump only looks like $1,000 per year.

Not all states pay more for higher education degrees. Texas and North Carolina have both eliminated pay bumps for advanced degrees. This means that teachers in these states will be paid based on experience and personal merit, without consideration for their level of education.

This means two things. First, if you’re looking for a pay increase and are flexible about where you live, you might be able to make more money by moving to a district which pays more. Second, if you know where you want to live, you can look up the typical salary expectations of that district to see whether earning a Master’s degree makes financial sense.

What’s Next?

You should research financial aid opportunities like fellowships and scholarships, and apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Student Aid (FAFSA) no later than June 30th. Also watch out for the individual deadlines for program applications — some schools might not admit on a rolling basis.

If you’d like to see how quickly you can earn your degree back based on the state you want to teach in, the National Center for Education Statistics has your back. They collect data on salaries for teachers based on highest degree attained, level of experience, and school type and location.

Next, if you’re planning on earning a licensure through your online degree (not available from every program), you’ll want to look into your local state’s licensing requirements. While the U.S. Department of Education maintains national standards for online education, some states have stricter regulations and may not recognize a degree completed out of state as authorization for licensure. If in doubt, contact your local department of education for more information.

Finally, you’ll want to do a quick check into whether your local school district will recognize your online program’s accreditation. Not all of the universities on our list have been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Sometimes called NCATE, CAEP accreditation is the gold standard for educators and means that your degree will be accepted by employers nationally. If a university doesn’t have CAEP accreditation, it’s not a deal-breaker — they’re still rigorous programs that have accreditation from other agencies. You’ll just need to ask your local department of education to make sure your degree will be recognized by local employers.