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

Online master’s programs offer the same academic quality as traditional on-campus programs in a more convenient format. By taking classes from the comfort of your own home rather than commuting to campus, you’ll have more time for work, family, and other commitments. When reviewing online master’s programs in secondary education, you’ll need to thoroughly research your options to find the best one for your long-term career goals.

Available concentrations

If you have a specific role in mind for your secondary education career, look for a program that allows you to focus your studies on this area of concentration. Some of the most common concentration options for a master’s in secondary education include:

  • Educational Leadership: Students learn skills such as managing learning environments, implementing instructional strategies, and effectively communicating with other members of the administration and the families of students.
  • English as a Second Language: This concentration focuses on teaching strategies for ESL students, covering the psychology of learning English, the cognitive processes that influence language development, and literacy instruction.
  • Special Education: With this concentration, students learn to work with children with a wide range of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical disabilities.

Common degree curriculum

The curriculum for a master’s in secondary education degree varies by program and school. However, there are some core classes included in just about every program, such as:

  • Curriculum Development: Provides instruction and curriculum design training, and you’ll learn how to create engaging environments to reach students across all cognitive levels.
  • Adolescent Psychology: Explores motivational learning strategies, different approaches to classroom management, and assessment techniques. 
  • Foundations in Secondary Education: Reviews historical and contemporary issues in education. You’ll also learn about current trends and policies that affect how educational systems operate at the secondary level.

Certification and license preparation

Requirements for teacher licensure vary widely by state, so be sure to check with the board of education where you plan to teach to find out their requirements. Many education degree programs have licensure requirements built into the curriculum, allowing you to start your career as soon as you graduate. Once licensed, teachers can pursue jobs in public and private schools.

For those seeking administrative positions in education, many states require you to obtain an instructional leadership license to serve as a principal or vice principal. It is similar to teacher licensure, where you must sit for an exam to demonstrate your subject knowledge. Again, make sure you understand your state’s requirements before applying to any programs.

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. These schools participate in a peer review process that verifies they meet high standards of academic quality. Ideally, your program will also be approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation — this organization assesses specifically the quality of education programs and only approves the best options available.

Without accreditation, you may have trouble accessing student aid or transferring credits to another institution if needed. It’s also important for employment, as many schools will only hire teachers who completed their degree program at an appropriately accredited institution.

Program completion timeframe

Most online master’s in secondary education programs require 36 credit hours of coursework, which takes full-time students one to two years to complete, and part-time students usually finish within three to four years.

In addition to your courseload, other factors that can influence the length of this program include your chosen area of concentration, student teaching requirements, any prior teaching experience, and the requirements for initial licensure.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Secondary Education Graduates

While most high school teacher jobs only require a bachelor’s degree, this occupation is expected to grow relatively slowly over the next decade. That means there could be a lot of competition for each open position — earning a master’s will help you stand out and get hired.

Also, a master’s degree is typically required for the highest-paying occupations in this field, such as instructional coordinator and principal. The top 10% of instructional coordinators make over $105,210, and the top 10% of principals make over $158,770.

Of course, your income will also depend on where you work. Areas with a higher cost of living tend to offer higher pay. For example, high school teachers make an average salary of $92,960 in California but just $49,770 in Mississippi.

Professional organizationsFor current and recent graduate students, professional organizations provide a wealth of resources for continuing education, job opportunities, and classroom support. Many of these organizations offer tools for developing comprehensive lesson plans, communicating effectively with families, and motivating students. Members of these organizations also learn how to advocate for their profession and the students they serve.

  • American Federation of Teachers: This union provides its members with legal and financial services, scholarships, and numerous professional development opportunities.
  • Association of American Educators: Members of the AAE have access to the organization’s numerous industry publications. They also offer liability insurance, classroom grants, and a library of valuable resources.
  • National Education Association: Members of the NEA have access to scholarships, helpful articles, and new teacher resources. This professional organization regularly conducts workshops and conferences across the country as well.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Secondary Education DegreeWhile earning an online degree is often less expensive than earning a degree on campus, many students still need assistance. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will provide you with information about grants, scholarships, and loans available through the federal government.Also, investigate what scholarships and grants may be available through the schools you consider applying to and their programs. Other grants and scholarships may be obtained from nonprofit organizations and private companies.Student Finance Resources and GuidesAs mentioned above, there are many different options for financing your education, each with its own eligibility requirements and application deadlines. The resources listed below will help you sort through all this information and save as much money as possible.

Online Master’s Degree Scholarship Database

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"A Helping Hand" Scholarship

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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.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)

High School Teacher

Sometimes also called secondary school teachers, high school teachers provide students in grades 9-12 with academic instruction. They may teach a single subject, such as science or math, or multiple subjects. They’re responsible for planning lessons, communicating with students’ families,  and incorporating state-standardized testing into their curriculum.

$62,360

1%

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers work with adolescents who have learning and developmental disabilities. They also often help students with special needs transition to a job or career after graduation.

$62,950

0%

Instructional Coordinator

Overseeing school curricula and teaching standards, instructional coordinators work closely with teachers, principals, and department heads to develop educational material and manage its implementation. They also usually participate in the process of assessing its effectiveness.

$66,490

2%

Principal

Secondary school principals work in middle and high schools, overseeing daily operations and managing staff. They also help coordinate curricula and work to provide a safe learning environment for all students.

$101,320

1%