What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Program?

Online programs for a master’s in educational leadership offer the same academic quality that you would find in an on-campus program. Also, by eliminating the need to commute to campus, online programs provide you with more time for work, family, and other commitments. You can save a significant sum on expenses such as gas and parking. When browsing through master’s programs in educational leadership, you should carefully review each option to find the one that’s best for your needs and career goals.

Available concentrations

If you already know what role you would like to have in the educational leadership field, look for a program that allows you to focus your studies on this specialty. Some of the most common concentration options for a master’s in educational leadership include:

  • Principal Leadership: Prepares students to become leaders of public and private schools, usually in the role of a principal or vice principal. Extensive internships are typically involved with this concentration.
  • Teacher Leadership: This is the ideal concentration for someone who wants to become a department head in a specific area, such as chemistry, math, or English. Students will learn to lead through curriculum innovation and mentorship.
  • Administration Leadership: Focuses on the operations and processes behind the scenes in a school and is a good option for teachers at private or nontraditional schools (such as Montessori) who want to grow into a leadership role.

Common degree curriculum

While the exact curriculum will depend on which school you attend and your chosen concentration area, many online master’s in educational leadership programs include similar courses in certain foundational areas, such as:

  • Curriculum Development: While teachers focus on creating individual lesson plans, educational leaders look at the big picture and develop curriculum for broader groups.
  • School Finance: Learn about school budgets, the most common issues in school finance, and the best strategies for addressing such issues.
  • Internships: Even when you can complete most of your other requirements online, master’s in educational leadership programs typically involve on-the-job learning through internships.

Certification and license preparation

Each state has its own licensure and certification requirements for education professionals, so you should confirm what you will need in the state where you plan to work before enrolling in a program. Certification requirements are usually built directly into the program, allowing you to simultaneously graduate with your degree and license.

Program accreditation

Only apply to schools approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. If your school doesn’t have regional accreditation, you may have trouble accessing financial aid or transferring credits to another institution if needed.

Ideally, your program will also be approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. This organization has exceptionally high standards for master’s in educational leadership programs and only approves the best options available.

Program completion timeframe

Most online master’s in educational leadership programs require about 36 credits and can be completed in one to three years, depending on your pace. Many programs feature a flexible, self-paced learning format ideal for working students. This way, students can take classes and complete coursework whenever they can find time for it, such as in the evenings, on weekends, or during the summer if they’re currently employed as teachers.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Educational Leadership Graduates

Entry-level jobs in educational leadership typically require a master’s degree. The only exception is preschool/childcare center director, and this occupation has a relatively low average salary and negative job growth projected for the next decade. You must attend graduate school to access the best employment opportunities in this field.

Indeed, many high-paying positions are available in educational leadership for those with a master’s degree. The top 10% of K-12 principals make over $158,770, and the top 10% of postsecondary administrators make over $196,420.

Your income will depend on where you work, though. For example, instructional coordinators make an average salary of $92,940 in California but just $56,020 in Montana.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)
K-12 Principal Principals work in public or private schools and oversee daily operations. They coordinate curricula, manage school staff, meet regularly with parents, and do their best to provide a safe, productive learning environment for their students. $101,320 1%
Postsecondary Administrator Postsecondary administrators oversee student services and faculty research processes at colleges and universities. Specific job duties vary depending on their department, such as admissions, the registrar’s office, or student life. $99,940 4%
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors Directors of preschool and childcare centers lead and supervise their staff, create and monitor program plans, and prepare budgets. They’re responsible for all aspects of their organization’s educational program, including meeting state requirements for licensure. $49,690 -3%
Instructional Coordinators Instructional coordinators manage the development of school curricula and teaching standards. They help create new instructional material, coordinate the implementation of that material with teachers and administrators, and assess its effectiveness on students in the classroom. $66,490 2%

Professional organizations

Joining professional organizations is critical to your success in educational leadership. These organizations often provide opportunities for continuing education, have active job boards, host networking events, and offer online training courses. The professional organizations listed below can be invaluable resources as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to apply for jobs in the field.

  • National Association of Secondary School Principals: NASSP is represented by principals, vice principals, and other administrative personnel in middle schools and high schools across 35 countries. It hosts networking functions, offers continuing education courses, and provides opportunities for its members to become advocates for critical areas in school administration.
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals: Founded in 1921, NAESP serves principals, assistant principals, and administrative personnel at the elementary level in the United States, Canada, and overseas. This organization’s website features a learning center with webinars, tutorials, and links for classroom-based learning programs.
  • Association of Deans & Directors of University Colleges & Undergraduate Studies: AD&D represents deans and administrative personnel at postsecondary institutions across the United States. It has an annual conference at a different location each year.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Degree

While online degrees are often less expensive than on-campus degrees, many students still need financial assistance. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an excellent place to start. Filling this out will help you find information about loans, grants, and scholarships provided by the federal government. Also, many nonprofit organizations and private companies offer scholarships for online master’s students in educational leadership.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

With all of the different financing options available, it can be challenging to determine what you should do next after submitting your FAFSA. The resources listed below will help you make sense of your financial aid situation and save as much money as possible.

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Interested in a degree?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.