Why This Matters

  • COLLEGE ADMIN POSITIONS TO INCREASE BY 7%

    College enrollment is expected to increase 13% by 2026. Schools will need additional administrators including deans, provosts and registrars, positions that typically require a master’s degree.

  • 11K NEW INSTRUCTIONAL COORDINATORS NEEDED

    Instructional coordinators oversee development and implementation of curricula, primarily in elementary and secondary schools. Demand for this position is expected to increase 6% by 2028.

  • EARN $34,990 MORE ANNUALLY AS A PRINCIPAL

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salary for school principals is $95,310. By comparison, teachers earn an average annual median salary of $58,966, depending on grade level.

Our Research

Students can earn a variety of graduate degrees in educational leadership, including a Master of Education (M.Ed), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Science (MS). Our list includes all three types of degrees.

The programs on this list are primarily delivered online. Some have in-person requirements for classes or experiential learning components. Many programs give students the option to complete coursework through a combination of online and in-person classes.

To ensure quality in the recommended programs, we only included regionally accredited schools. Many programs also have accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accreditation, which means they meet the highest quality standards for educator training.

We evaluated the programs based on their cost, flexibility, outcomes, reputation, and faculty. Using this information, we calculated the Intelligent Score of each program on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best online master’s in educational leadership programs are respected, affordable, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 62 hours to write this article
  • 174 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 402 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Master’s in Educational Leadership

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What You Should Know About This Degree

As anyone who currently works in education knows, being a principal or administrator can be an extremely demanding job. School leaders must be capable of making decisions, resolving conflicts, and dealing with students, teachers, and parents, often with limited resources.

Because of the complex nature of this job, the process of becoming a school principal is carefully regulated by states, which each develop their own standards for granting certification or licensure as a school administrator. These standards include educational requirements. When researching programs, it’s important to check with your state’s education board to confirm that the program you attend is compliant with their regulations for certification or licensure.

As part of these standards, most states require a practical learning component in your degree program, even if all coursework is offered online. Depending on the program, you may be able to complete this requirement where you currently teach, or you may need to work in a different institution. Either way, you should confirm the exact requirements with your program of interest, and make sure they will fit into your schedule.

Although all schools need principals and vice-principals, the projected job growth rate for these positions is 8 percent, about as fast as the average for all jobs in the U.S., meaning there will be stiff competition for these positions.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Master’s in Educational Leadership programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Many master’s in education leadership programs seek students who are already licensed and have teaching experience. Check with your program of interest to find out what their requirements are, and if you fulfill them.
  • Is this school authorized to provide online education in my state? Regulations for providing online education vary state by state, and not all schools are authorized to provide online education to students in all states. Check with your program of interest to verify they can grant you a degree based on the state you live in, and that your state will recognize your degree.

While you are researching programs’ plans of study, you should also look at their application deadlines and admissions requirements. This information is usually available online, or by contacting the school’s admissions department.

Now is also an ideal time to explore options for financing your graduate degree. These funding resources can include scholarships, assistantships, loans, grants, and tuition assistance benefits from your current employer.