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The term “secondary education” applies to grades seven through twelve. Individuals enrolled in a master’s program in secondary education are current or aspiring teachers for these grade levels; graduates obtain advanced teaching and curricular planning skills to excel in middle and high school classroom settings. In most cases, the curriculum qualifies as a teacher preparation program that can assist graduates on their path to teacher certification or meet continuing education requirements.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates opportunities for high school teachers will grow at an average rate (5%) over the next decade. Individuals in these professions earn a median salary of $61,820. This figure can vary based on a school’s location and whether the institution is public or private.

Aspiring secondary education teachers do not need a master’s degree to earn their teaching credentials. Still, the program of study covers additional aspects of the profession, including education technology and school leadership. As such, graduates are well-equipped for advanced positions within the school system. Online master’s in secondary education programs require two years to complete and cost, on average, $15,000.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Secondary Education Program

Choose your area of study

Secondary education applies to the grade level but not the specific subject instructors will teach. As such, participants in these graduate programs should choose a specific area of study besides the core coursework. Possible subject areas include biology, chemistry, English, mathematics, social studies, and special education. Most secondary education programs offer similar specialties, but candidates should ensure their chosen institution provides a path for their selected concentration.

Research schools and programs

When researching the different schools and the programs they offer, the first aspect to look for is accreditation. Only attend officially accredited institutions of higher education. Otherwise, you might have issues with transfer credit or financial aid eligibility. Beyond the school, many secondary education programs receive specialty accreditation from the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP). Graduating from an AAQEP- or similarly-accredited program is advantageous for future teacher licensure.

Besides accreditation, there are several other factors to compare between online master’s programs.

  • How will I attend class online? Some schools design online programs for maximum flexibility; you complete coursework independently when it’s most convenient for your schedule. For others, you could have specific login times and more direct interaction with your instructors and peers.
  • Do online students have additional benefits? Each school’s website should list any supplemental benefits and support services available to online students. Consider prioritizing programs that include tutoring, mental health services, academic advising, and other student success resources.
  • How is hands-on practice integrated into the program? Field experience is a critical piece of the teaching profession. Online graduate degrees in secondary education that lead to teaching certification will incorporate several practical teaching experiences, including observing, assisting, and student-teaching. Research each program’s expectations and how it facilitates these experiences.

There are many avenues to find information about each program. Most commonly, websites, FAQ pages, and virtual open houses will provide most of what you need to know. For specific questions, contact an admissions counselor.

Prepare for tests and applications

Online secondary education master’s programs set different admissions standards, and you must confirm your eligibility before moving further into the application process. In most cases, you should have a related bachelor’s degree with at least a 2.75 GPA (though many institutions prefer a 3.0).

For programs that lead to teacher certification, your undergraduate coursework needs to meet state-specific content requirements for your chosen certification area. Otherwise, you may need to enroll in specific prerequisite courses or submit PRAXIS scores.

Plan for application dates. Acquiring transcripts and letters of recommendation can take several weeks.

Select your program

It’s time to select your program. Speak with an admissions counselor or academic advisor for each program before choosing. Determine which school best matches your priorities, whether you value affordability, flexibility, curricular rigor, or path to licensure.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Online master’s in secondary education, while more affordable than many other graduate programs, are still a financial commitment. Submit your FAFSA to determine whether you qualify for federal grants or affordable loan opportunities.

Students with a military background should speak to the school’s veterans affairs office, as they may be able to receive tuition benefits for their, or their family member’s, service. Or, if you already work within the teaching profession, consider whether your employer provides tuition benefits or professional development funding. From there, speak with your school’s financial aid office to discuss any other funding sources you might qualify for or payment plans that work around your financial situation.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Secondary Education Programs

Best Online Master's in Secondary Education Degree Programs

North Carolina State University

California State University at Fullerton

NYU Steinhardt

Ball State University

The University of Alabama

University of North Texas College of Education

Clemson University

USC Rossier School of Education

SDSU College of Education

Georgia Southern University

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Georgia College & State University

Mississippi College

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

University of Louisiana at Monroe

Kennesaw State University

University of Central Missouri

Liberty University

Mississippi State University

University of New Mexico

Columbus State University

University of Maine

University of West Alabama

University of Nebraska at Lincoln

University of the Cumberlands

Western Kentucky University

William Carey University

Harding University

Arizona State University

Southeast Missouri State University

Saint Joseph's University

Drexel University

Old Dominion University

Northern Arizona University

University of Maryland Global Campus

Southern Arkansas University

Mercy College

Texas State University

University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Education

Pace University

The University of Alabama in Huntsville

UMass Global

Wisconsin Lutheran College

Regis University

George Washington University

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Wilkes University

Texas A&M University at Commerce

University of Northern Iowa

University of Saint Francis

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How We Rank Schools

For this list, we concentrated our research on graduate programs in secondary education. The two most common graduate degrees students can earn in this area are a Master of Education (M.Ed) or a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT).

Our main criterion was that programs be available entirely or primarily online to ensure flexibility and accessibility for students regardless of their availability and location.

To guarantee that programs meet the highest quality standards, we only included schools with regional accreditation. Additionally, 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. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Secondary Education Program?

Online secondary education programs are designed for current teachers preparing for leadership positions in the education field or for individuals hoping to enter the teaching profession. Some degree programs lead to teacher certification in the state where graduates aspire to practice.

Students will better understand student development and learning theory, research methods, and educational technology. They will also engage in coursework specific to teaching their chosen subject area. Nearly all secondary education programs include a teaching practicum where students apply their theoretical knowledge to a classroom setting. Full-time attendees can graduate in as little as 12 months, though most programs require a two-year commitment.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in secondary education program

  • Child/Adolescent Development and Foundations of Special Education. Participants develop a general framework for adolescent development’s cognitive, social-emotional, and physical aspects. Students discuss how to apply those theories to the classroom setting.
  • English Language Arts Methods and Assessments. This course is for students concentrating in English and Language Arts instruction. Participants learn how to design and implement curricula for middle and high school classes.
  • Introduction to Inclusion and Exceptional Education. Students receive an overview of the issues and practices of teaching special needs learners. Coursework includes strategies for meeting the classroom needs of neurodivergent students.
  • Classroom Environment and Management. Participants learn strategies for creating inclusive classroom spaces. Students discuss age-appropriate interventions and practice responding to individuals with behavioral issues.

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

Career outlook

A master’s degree in secondary education equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to shape the next generation. Through coursework and training, an online master’s in secondary education prepares educators for impactful careers in middle and high school settings. From classroom teaching and curriculum design to leadership roles and educational advocacy, there are many opportunities available to those who earn an online master’s in secondary education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for secondary teachers is expected to grow by five percent over the coming decade. The median salary for those in this role is $61,820 annually.

Career paths

Advancements in educational technology and evolving teaching methods require educators who are adaptable, knowledgeable, and equipped to meet the diverse needs of students. Online learning platforms, blended classrooms, and personalized instruction have transformed secondary education, creating opportunities for educators to make a lasting impact on their students’ academic and personal development.

Although most of those graduating with a master’s in secondary education are likely to take positions as classroom teachers, there are a number of other occupations open to them with this credential. Consider the following options:

  • Instructional coach — provide personalized support and mentorship to teachers, offering insights, resources, and strategies to enhance instructional effectiveness
  • Online educator — teach secondary school courses through virtual learning platforms, engaging with students in digital classrooms
  • Educational consultant — offer guidance on curriculum development, teacher training, or other topics to schools, districts, or educational organizations
  • Special education teacher — work with students who have special needs, creating individualized education plans (IEPs) and providing tailored instruction
  • GED/adult education teacher — teach adults who are seeking to earn their high school equivalency diploma or improve their skills

Secondary School Teacher

Earning Potential: $44,120-$101,660 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in secondary education or a related field

A secondary school teacher instructs and guides students in middle or high school settings, fostering academic growth and personal development. They create engaging lesson plans, deliver content, and facilitate classroom discussions. Secondary school teachers assess student progress, provide constructive feedback, and offer individualized support to meet diverse learning needs. They cultivate a positive and inclusive learning environment, mentor students, and play a crucial role in preparing them for higher education or the workforce. Through effective teaching methods and mentorship, secondary school teachers empower students to achieve their potential.

Curriculum Specialist

Earning Potential: $47,660-$109,290 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in secondary education or a related field

A curriculum specialist designs and evaluates educational curricula. They align curriculum with academic standards, create engaging lesson plans, and integrate innovative teaching methods. Curriculum specialists collaborate with teachers to provide resources, training, and support, ensuring effective implementation of educational materials. They analyze data to assess curriculum effectiveness, make necessary adjustments, and stay current with educational trends. By designing cohesive and dynamic curriculum frameworks, curriculum specialists play a pivotal role in shaping students’ educational journeys, promoting academic achievement and fostering a culture of improvement.

Educational Administrator/Principal

Earning Potential: $63,770-$144,950 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in secondary education or a related field

A principal oversees the overall operations of a school. They manage staff, develop school policies, and ensure a safe and effective learning environment. Principals collaborate with teachers, parents, and other stakeholders to promote student success and well-being. They handle budgeting, curriculum implementation, and student discipline. Principals also engage in strategic planning, address educational challenges, and cultivate a positive school culture. With a focus on academic excellence, student development, and community engagement, principals play a crucial role in shaping the educational experience, fostering a conducive learning environment and driving the overall success of the school.

Online Master’s in Secondary Education Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master's in secondary education degree program?

To apply to an online master’s in secondary education program, compile the following materials:

  • A completed master’s program application
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate institutions
  • PRAXIS test scores — if required
  • A personal statement
  • Recommendation letters
  • A current resume
  • Proof of English proficiency
  • A processing fee

Before officially submitting your application, contact the school’s admissions counselor. They may be able to waive the application fee or help you confirm that all of your materials are in order.

How much does an online master's in secondary education degree cost?

Online programs can be more affordable than in-person graduate programs; however, some schools charge a flat tuition rate, no matter the delivery format. A student’s residency has a more significant impact on affordability. According to U.S. News & World Report, an online master’s in secondary education can cost between $9,000 and $22,000 to attend.

Your online tuition includes several additional fees beyond the per-credit cost for each class. Some schools charge extra technology fees for online attendees, and all students, regardless of their program, tend to pay library and student services fees. You will also need to cover the cost of books and personal devices (such as your computer, webcam, microphone, and associated software needs).

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

Online graduate programs in secondary education require between 30 and 36 credit hours. Some accelerated programs take 12 to 18 months, though most full-time students graduate within two years. Part-time students will need between two and four years to finish.

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

Pursuing an online master’s degree in secondary education offers the potential for a rewarding and impactful career. This advanced degree equips educators with the specialized knowledge, teaching strategies, and leadership skills needed to excel in secondary school settings.

One of the key benefits of earning a master’s in secondary education is the potential for increased earning potential. According to the BLS, the top ten percent of secondary teachers make more than $100,310 annually.

Online master’s programs in secondary education provide a flexible option for students, enabling them to earn their degree while balancing work and personal commitments. Virtual learning platforms offer access to innovative teaching techniques, instructional technology, and collaborative opportunities.

The networking opportunities provided by an online master’s program are invaluable. Educators can connect with peers, mentors, and education experts, sharing ideas, best practices, and insights that enhance their teaching effectiveness and professional growth.

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