What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in K-12 Education Program?

K-12 teachers are responsible for shaping the minds of young students and preparing them with the skills they need to succeed as adults.

The Department of Education estimates that 3.2 million full-time teachers are employed in the United States, as of the fall of 2018.

Students enrolling in an online master’s in K-12 education can expect to receive the same level of quality instruction as they would receive while taking on-campus classes. Taking classes online towards a degree is incredibly convenient, as individuals who are already working full-time in schools or in other capacities can review course materials on their own time. When choosing an online master’s in K-12 education program, it’s important to select one that aligns with your personal and career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in K-12 Education

Leadership and Administration Prepares students to become leaders in public or private school settings, where they can manage faculty and oversee school operations. Pricipal, vice principal, superintendent
Curriculum and Instruction Students learn research-based skills and knowledge to design, apply, evaluate, and assess different educational and learning theories into a practical, effective learning environment. Teacher, curriculum and instruction coordinator, school/career counselor
Special Education Equips teachers to work with students who have a wide range of cognitive, behavioral, emotional or physical disabilities. Within this concentration, master’s students typically choose which grade level they prefer, whether elementary, middle school or high school. Special education teacher at chosen grade level in a public or private school
Single or Multiple Subject Teaching Students delve into a single subject (reading, social studies, math, science, etc) or multiple disciplines (STEM) while learning the development strategies, needs and challenges of all childen to enhance and improve classroom learning. Teacher in a public or private primary or secondary school
English Language Learning Students gain pedagogical knowledge, current theory, and research-based practice allowing instructors to comptently teach English as a Second Language to culturally diverse learners. ELL or ESL teacher in K-12 setting
Educational / Instructional Technology Instructors explore different integrative technologies and tools to enhance learning behaviors and outcomes in the classroom. Teacher, digital learning technologist/specialist, curriculum developer, instructional designer

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in K-12 Education

Each program you investigate for an online master’s in K-12 education is going to offer something unique for you, and you should keep this in mind while searching. Teachers should always consider what their personal career goals are and whether the program goals align with them.

When evaluating the curriculum for an online master’s degree in K-12 education, consider how the curriculum is delivered. Some programs have classes delivered entirely online for the convenience of teachers who may be working full-time, while other programs may implement a hybrid model that requires occasional attendance on-campus. Also, most online master’s programs in K-12 education require the completion of supervised practicum hours, which can usually be completed at a school that’s geographically close to you.

While individual coursework is going to vary greatly by program and your chosen concentration, you can expect to take a set of core courses and a set of classes that align more closely with your specific career goals and interests. Here are some of the more general classes you can expect to take.

Classroom Management Master strategies and techniques for managing your classroom and how it operates.
Psychology or Development Examine the challenges that learners may face in the classroom, personality patterns, social queues and interations, and the perception of children.
Behavior Management Equips teachers on how to identify behavioral issues and manage them through positive reinforcement.
Foundations of Reading or Writing Learn strategies for teaching kids how to read and write.
Content Area Reading and Writing Teachers grasp how to provide instruction, context, and strategy in reading comprehension, which allows students to write and communicate about different subject areas.
Teaching Individuals with Disabilities Provides an overview of special education law, requirements and strategies for teaching students with disabilities in your classroom.
STEM/Reading/Social Studies/English Expands teachers knowledge in content areas while learning effective methodologies to engage students promoting productive learning experiences.
Classroom Assessment Teachers learn various techniques and methods to improve their quality of teaching and student learning.

Any other remaining courses you take will depend on your chosen area of concentration. In general, expect to take approximately 5-6 classes around pedagogical coursework and 2-4 classes in your area of specialty, plus a cumulative practicum, which usually involves a certain number of hours of supervised instruction.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in K-12 Education?

The timeline for your online master’s degree in K-12 education will depend on several factors, including the school and chosen area of concentration. In general, if the program is completed entirely online, most schools allow for completing courses at your own pace while meeting certain deadlines along the way.

If taking courses full-time, expect to complete your online master’s degree in K-12 education in about two years. Part-time students can expect to graduate in about three to four years. Total credit hours usually average to about 36, depending on the program.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in K-12 Education Prepares For

After obtaining your online master’s degree in K-12 education, the type of certification and license you apply for will depend on the state you live in and its requirements for teaching licenses. In general, you should expect to prove that you’ve completed the required coursework, supplied appropriate transcripts, taken any required exams and completed an application for a teaching license.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in K-12 Education

When selecting a school for completing your online master’s in K-12 education, a major consideration should always be if the program is accredited. Accreditation for online master’s degree programs is important because it determines whether a program meets minimum standards of quality and whether the program delivers appropriate coursework leading to educational licensure. Accreditation is also important for employment purposes — many schools, whether public or private, require that teachers’ certifications and degrees come from an accredited program.

School accreditation comes in national or regional forms. Regional accreditation for an online master’s in K-12 education program is typically considered to be more prestigious, mainly because requirements and standards for educational licensure and coursework vary so widely by state.

When searching for an accredited program for an online master’s in K-12 education, students should focus their search on programs accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission or an education-specific agency, such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

As for national agencies, look for programs certified by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Employment Outlook for Master’s in K-12 Education Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

While a bachelor’s degree can certainly help you with obtaining entry-level positions in K-12 education or a teaching assistant position, the employment rate is much more favorable for teachers who have master’s degrees. According to a 2015 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, professional educators with a graduate degree faced a 2.2 percent unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and some experience is slightly higher at 3.7 percent, and for recent bachelor’s graduates without experience, the unemployment rate is 5.1 percent.

Expected Salary

In addition to more job opportunities, having a master’s degree in K-12 education can help boost your salary as well. According to the Georgetown report, students who obtain an online master’s in K-12 education earn median annual salaries of $49,000 upon graduation and $62,000 after having worked in the field for a few years. Salary expectations will vary by job title. Below are some of the median annual salaries for popular jobs obtained with a master’s in K-12 education.

Teachers who earn a master’s degree can generally expect to earn a higher salary compared to individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree. How much the salary varies will depend on area of specialty, place of employment and experience level. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), 96 percent of the 112 major school districts in the U.S. pay teachers a higher salary if they have a master’s degree.

According to statistics from the National Center on Education, teachers with a master’s degree earned a median annual salary of $57,831 during the 2011-2012 school year, while teachers with a bachelor’s degree earned much less — only $46,343 during the same time period.

Career Opportunities

The career you pursue with your master’s in K-12 education degree is going to depend on your area of specialty and concentration. This broad degree provides you an opportunity to work with students in elementary, middle or high school and qualifies you for more jobs and a higher salary.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher Kindergarten and elementary school teachers work with children as young as 5 and as old as 10 or 12, depending on how a school district splits up grades. Some districts include fifth grade as part of middle school, for instance, while other districts consider fifth grade to still be elementary school. Kindergarten and elementary teachers lead lessons in reading, writing, math, science and social studies. They frequently incorporate art, music and drama into individual lessons. $56,900 per year 7%
Middle School Teacher Middle school teachers typically educate students between sixth and eighth grades. In general, they help students build knowledge of the fundamentals learned in elementary school to prepare them for a future high school education. $57,720 per year 8%
High School Teacher High school teachers prepare students for life after graduation and help them learn advanced skills in writing, reading, math, science and history. High school teachers generally specialize in a particular subject. $59,170 per year 8%
Special Education Teacher Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of physical, behavioral, emotional and cognitive disabilities. They often collaborate with general education teachers to adapt lessons and teach modified lessons in smaller groups. Special education teachers can work with children of all ages from K-12. $58,590 per year 8%

Professional Organizations

Maintaining professional connections in education is critical to your success as a teacher. Organizations like these offer a wealth of resources, professional development opportunities, access to educational materials and online journals; provide invitations to conferences and other networking events; and offer career counseling services for recent graduates who are job seekers. Here are three of the top professional organizations for education.

National Educational Association: One of the largest professional educators’ organizations in the U.S., the NEA has over 3 million members in over 14,000 communities. It produces seven print and online publications, and membership discounts are offered to members, who may be uncertified employees (teacher’s aides, for instance), retired professionals, students or teachers.

Association of American Educators: The AAE is a nonprofit organization and represents members in all 50 states. It offers a wide range of benefits for educators, including liability insurance, scholarships, grants and tuition discounts. Many AAE partner schools offer these tuition discounts for students pursuing a master’s degree in education.

National Council on Teacher Quality: This professional organization creates policy that improves the quality of classroom education and the work environments of professional educators.

Financing Your Online Master’s in K-12 Education

While the cost for obtaining many online degrees is less expensive than attending courses in person on campus, many students still need financial aid to help defray the cost of their education. The first step towards securing financing is to apply for federal aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). When you complete and submit this form, you can learn about many grants, scholarships and financial aid options available to you through the federal government. Private grants and scholarships are other financial aid options available to teachers. Check out some of the resources below to get started.



Scholarships Details
TEACH Grant Award: $4,000

Deadline: October

Eligibility: TEACH grant recipients are eligible for up to $4000 annually to help pay for their master’s education in exchange for a four-year commitment to teaching at a qualifying school that serves low-income students.

STEM Teacher Graduate Scholarship Award: $2,500

Deadline: April

Eligibility: Students actively pursuing a graduate degree for the purpose of teaching in a STEM field after graduation in a U.S. school in grades K-12.