Why This Matters

  • THE U.S. NEEDS 53,100 MORE OF YOU BY 2028

    Increasing enrollment in kindergarten and elementary schools, as well as the expected retirement of a significant number of teachers, are the driving factors in the need for more elementary teachers in the coming decade.

  • 3 STATES REQUIRE MASTER’S FOR ADVANCEMENT

    Teachers in Connecticut, Maryland, and New York must obtain a master’s degree in order to maintain their teaching credentials and advance in the field. Many other states encourage teachers to pursue advanced study.

  • INCREASE EARNING POTENTIAL WITH A MASTER’S

    According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, 88% of the largest U.S. school districts offer additional pay to teachers who hold an advanced degree. This is either in the form of a stipend or annual pay increases.

Our Research

Our research focused on graduate programs in elementary education. Students can earn several types of degrees in this field, including a Master of Education (M.Ed), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Science (MS).

We concentrated on finding programs that are delivered completely or primarily online, ensuring flexibility and availability for the largest group of students, regardless of their availability or location.

All of the schools on this list are regionally accredited. This is a confirmation of quality in postsecondary education. Many programs are also accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educational Programs (CAEP), a specialized agency that oversees postsecondary education programs.

We reviewed each program based on its outcomes, cost, reputation, faculty, and flexibility. Using this information, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best online master’s in elementary education are highly respected, affordable, and customizable. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 54 hours to write this article
  • 188 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 270 education programs we compared

The Top 40 Online Master’s in Elementary Education

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Elementary education is a bachelor’s-level entry field, meaning an undergraduate degree is the minimum requirement for obtaining a state-issued teaching license or certificate and qualifying for teaching jobs. Teachers must complete continuing education credits to maintain their credentials.

There are two types of master’s programs in elementary education – those that are designed for students who do not have a background in education and need to obtain their teaching credentials, and those that cater to students who already are licensed or certified teachers. Your educational and professional background will determine which kind of program you seek. Each state sets its own regulations for licensure or certification, so you want to make sure you select a program that meets your state’s requirements.

Keep in mind that in the U.S., public school teachers must have a teaching license or certificate, per their state’s regulations. Pursuing a program that does not lead to teaching credentials can limit your job opportunities to private, charter, and alternative schools.

Education programs typically require student teaching as part of their curriculum. Individuals who are employed as teachers may be able to complete these requirements at their current job. If you are not presently working in a school, be prepared to spend at least one term in a school setting.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Online Master’s in Elementary Education programs:

  • Is this program CAEP-accredited? Programs that are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Education Preparation are widely recognized as meeting the highest standards for teacher education. Some states may require students earn their degree from a CAEP-accredited program as a prerequisite for obtaining their teaching license or certificate. If this applies to you, be sure to choose a CAEP-accredited program.
  • Does this program have in-person requirements? Experiential learning in a classroom setting is a common component of elementary education programs. Most programs require at least one term of student teaching, which happens during regular school hours. Find out when in the program you will complete this requirement, so you can make arrangements in your schedule.

Other steps you can take at this time include gathering your application materials, confirming application submission deadlines, and exploring your options for financing your graduate degree. If you are currently employed, find out if your employer offers any kind of tuition assistance benefits. Other options include applying for student loans, scholarships, and assistantships.