The Best Online Master’s in Education Programs

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Earning an online master’s in education (MEd) degree can open the door to a higher salary, new teaching opportunities, and the chance to branch out beyond the traditional classroom. Designed for candidates who already hold teaching certification, the MEd focuses on education philosophy, advanced teaching methods, and educational technology training.

An M.Ed. prepares graduates to become leaders in or out of the classroom … Many pursue careers as school counselors, educational specialists, principals, or professors.

Education is one of the most rewarding careers out there, but if you want to expand your job opportunities and earn a higher salary, you need more than just your bachelor’s degree. An online Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree can help you achieve both of these goals, and let you earn your degree while maintaining your full-time job at the same time. If you have already graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education and hold a state-issued teaching license, you might be a perfect fit for an M.Ed. program.

The curriculum for a Master’s in Education program will teach you educational philosophy, advanced teaching methods, and familiarize you with new classroom technology. In addition to standard classroom learning, you’ll also complete practicum sessions in real-life classrooms (student teaching) and submit a master’s thesis during the latter stages of your program.

Learn more about what you can do with an M.Ed. and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.


M.Ed. programs are designed to create educational leaders in and out of the classroom. Many degree holders become school counselors, educational specialists, and senior faculty members. The M.Ed. will also prepare students who plan to earn a doctoral education degree and pursue senior roles, such as school superintendents or professors of higher education. M.Ed. students can enhance their career prospects by earning a specialized master’s degree in areas like educational leadership, curriculum and instruction, special education, or speech and language pathology. They may also choose to concentrate on a specific educational level — such as early childhood or adult — or an academic subject, like math or social studies.


Online degrees are designed for flexibility and convenience. Today’s technology allows you to access lectures, readings, and other course materials using your home computer or a smart mobile device. However, online courses are just as challenging and demanding as traditional classes; students must devote several hours per week for each course in order to receive favorable grades. Many schools allow students to choose between completing their degree entirely online or through a hybrid program with online and on-campus components. Most M.Ed. programs require a commitment of at least two years, although some accelerated options may be completed in 18 months or less.


Earning your M.Ed. is one of the best ways to advance your career in education. In many states, simply having your master’s degree in education will automatically increase your pay. In addition, a master’s degree is a requirement for more advanced teaching and education administration jobs.

With your Master’s in Education you can qualify for jobs as a lead teacher, curriculum developer, instructional designer, school counselor and education administrator. Some colleges and universities also hire teachers with their M.Ed. to teach classes at the college level.


Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online M.E. programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online master’s in education, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific M.Ed. requirements and offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Johns Hopkins University 80.13 4/5 92% Baltimore, MD

Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins’ goal is to solve the current challenges facing the urban education system. The school of education offers three entirely online master's level education programs: health professions (MEHP), educational studies, and a technology for educators program. The MEHP program includes evidence-based teaching, educational research, and leadership courses. Applicants must hold an advanced degree in the health professions or a related field. The educational studies program has two tracks available: Teach For America or TNTP. The Teach For America track focuses on leadership and is available to corps members and alumni in all 50 states. The TNTP is a 39-credit, two-year program. All applicants must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, complete an essay, submit two letters of recommendation, and take part in an interview. The university’s School of Education, located on the main campus in Baltimore, Maryland, was established in 2007.

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2 University of Georgia 75.80 3/5 81% Athens, GA

UGA, the first chartered state university in the United States, offers several master's in education online programs. Topics include learning, design, and technology, instructional design and development; adult education; educational psychology; gifted and creative education; and human resources and organizational development. Programs vary between 33–37 credits and consist of online coursework and portfolio work. Depending on the program, online students can transfer between six and nine credits. GRE and GPA requirements are program-specific. Most programs are taught entirely online; the M.Ed. in learning, design, and technology programs offer students the opportunity to attend an annual, in-person conference, which includes a new student orientation. Many of the programs follow a cohort model. UGA uses the learning management system eLearning Commons to deliver coursework. Financial aid options are available in various formats, including corporate and military assistance, grants, loans, and scholarships.

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3 University of Central Florida 71.95 3/5 65% Orlando, FL

Central Florida offers a master of arts in applied learning and instruction; the program applies psychological theories to education. Specializations include the psychology of teaching and learning, motivation, human development, measurement, and research methodology. Students can choose between a thesis and a non-thesis option; both require a comprehensive exam to graduate. Some elective courses and program prerequisites may not be offered online. Tuition is the same for online and on-campus courses. Online learners may apply for financial aid and scholarships. There are no spring or summer applicants at UCF. Education online master's degree students can switch to campus-based learning. The school is currently not permitted to provide online courses or instruction to students in Michigan, Minnesota, or Oregon. Certain restrictions also apply to international students. It’s a 33 credit-hour program. The campus, located in Orlando, Florida, was founded in 1963. The school enrolls over 64,000 students yearly.

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4 Michigan State University 68.71 3/5 79% East Lansing, MI

Michigan State University offers a 30-credit online masters education program designed for classroom teachers, school administrators, coaches, and adult educators. Online students at this school can customize their degrees by focusing on one or two concentrations. Areas of concentration include literacy, school leadership, math and science, special education, technology, and sport leadership and coaching. Online coursework is delivered through Desire2Learn, MSU's online learning management system. This online program is not designed to lead to teaching endorsements or initial teacher certification in any state. Students may transfer a total of nine, 3.0 or better graduate credits earned within the last five years. Tuition is the same for online students as it is for on-campus students, including international students. Online students who enroll in at least five credits can apply for financial aid. The program is accessible year-round and most students graduate in two and half years.

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5 University of South Carolina-Columbia 68.54 3/5 72% Columbia, SC

South Carolina offers two, 36-credit, two-year online education master's programs: teaching and educational administration. The M.Ed in teaching is designed for working teachers. The M.Ed in education administration is designed specifically for teachers certified in South Carolina who want a fast-track option to principalship or other administrative positions. Applicants in the education administration program must have at least three years of teaching experience by the end of the program and a 2.5 GPA or better in undergraduate work. Both programs require professional licensure or relevant experience. The educational administration program does not lead to certification. Financial aid is available for all online programs. Students can choose between January, March, May, August, or October start dates. This school has received authorization to offer distance program in most U.S. states, however, certain internship restrictions apply in Massachusetts and Florida. The school does not serve online students in Puerto Rico.

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6 University of Dayton 66.15 5/5 78% Dayton, OH

Dayton is a Catholic research university that has multiple online master's in education programs: early childhood, leadership, literacy, technology-enhanced learning, and interdisciplinary educational studies. These are non-licensure programs and require students to earn 30-credits. Most students at this school complete their degrees in a hybrid format. No campus visits are required for online coursework. Many M.Ed candidates at Dayton participate in The Lalanne Program, where they live with fellow teachers while teaching in an urban Catholic school. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree with a GPA of 2.75 or higher; some programs offer MAT or GRE score substitutions. International applicants must have at least 16 years of education completed, including the equivalent of a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Dayton does offer programs that lead to licensure or certification. A Doctor of education leadership is available.

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7 California State University-Fullerton 63.87 2/5 51% Fullerton, CA

Cal State Fullerton's college of education, the only university teacher preparation institution in Orange County, offers one hybrid, and six, fully online, 30-credit education online master's degree programs. Online learners at Cal State Fullerton can concentrate in educational technology, educational administration, elementary curriculum and instruction, or secondary education. Within the elementary curriculum and instruction program, students can specialize in diversity, early childhood education (hybrid program), math and science, technology, professional inquiry and practice, or staff development/mentor teacher. The educational technology program can be completed in 16 months. The instructional design program consists of 10 courses and can be completed in five semesters. Courses at Cal State Fullerton typically span 16-weeks. The educational administration program is taught in a hybrid format that is completed in four terms or 1.5 years. Some programs include practicum requirements through video recordings.

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8 Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College 63.80 3/5 65% Baton Rouge, LA

LSU offers two online master's in education programs: a 36-credit higher education administration (HEA) program and a 39-credit educational leadership program. Both degrees can be earned in under a year and a half. HEA courses last seven-weeks. Courses include foundations of higher education, community college, and student affairs. Both programs require a combined verbal and quantitative GRE score of 297. Students can get the GRE requirement waived if they have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and two years of work experience. The educational leadership program requires a valid Louisiana Type B or Level 2 teaching certificate, current employment at a school or district (with at least two years of successful teaching), a nomination letter from a current or past administrator, and at least one teaching accolade. Online students can apply for financial aid. Both programs require students to complete a part-time internship.

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9 Purdue University-Main Campus 63.68 3/5 70% West Lafayette, IN

Purdue offers two online master's in education programs: a 33-credit MSEd in learning design and technology (LDT) and a MSEd in special education. The LDT degree teaches the skills needed to design, develop, implement, and evaluate multimedia instructional material. Coursework is offered asynchronously and entirely online. There is no thesis requirement; online LDT students complete a portfolio project. LDT applicants must go through a telephone interview process before admittance. Aligned with edTPA, a performance-based, subject-specific assessment and support system, the special education program can be completed in 20 months. Various options are available to online learners, including a master's only, initial special education licensure, advanced special education licensure, and licensure with intense intervention only. This program is designed for students who want to earn their teaching certifications. Online students can complete their 8-week practicum and 16-week student-teaching requirements in their home states.

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10 Indiana University-Bloomington 62.32 3/5 75% Bloomington, IN

Indiana University offers five, 36-credit online master's in education online programs: special education; literacy, culture, and language; instructional systems technology, adult education, and educational leadership. In the special education program, students can choose between five tracks: autism, behavior specialists, early childhood, instructional strategies, or intense interventions. This program also includes field-based experiences and a capstone project. The literacy, cultural, and language program includes an optional thesis option. The three-year instructional systems technology program includes a portfolio workshop and hands-on experience with IUconnectED. The educational leadership program leads to an Indiana principal's license for individuals who have at least two-years of teaching or counseling experiences. Students without teaching experience can still complete the program, however, they are not eligible for principal licensure. Online coursework is delivered through Oncourse, IU's course management system. Most graduate programs at IU typically require a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75.

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11 University of Missouri-Columbia 62.21 3/5 71% Columbia, MO

Mizzou Online, the online education master's degree gateway to the school, offers 16 master's programs. Program disciplines include special education, early childhood education, gifted education, library sciences, English language learners, technology, and more. The school offers art education and educational leadership programs, both require on-campus visits. The master’s in autism will teach students to identify early characteristics of autism in children, how to provide support in multiple environments, and how to promote and enhance social competence. Possible careers include school counselor and special education teacher. Degrees range between 30–37 credits. Most of the programs are semester-based, with 4-week, 8-week, or 16-week sessions. Students typically finish in two or three years. Not all programs lead to licensure. The College of Education offers a variety of scholarships for students. Online graduate students pay in-state tuition regardless of residency. Mizzou's online courses are developed and taught by on-campus academic departments.

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12 Appalachian State University 61.18 3/5 66% Boone, NC

Located in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian State offers five online master's in education programs: educational media, curriculum specialist, higher education, elementary, middle grades, and reading education. The educational media program has three tracks: instructional technology specialist/K-12, online learning and professional development, and new media literacies and global perspectives. The curriculum specialist program follows a cohort-model with two classes per term, including summers; it can be completed in two-years. Applicants must hold a valid teaching license. The higher education program has two tracks available: adult and developmental education and community college and university leadership. The reading education has one, pre-arranged face-to-face meeting. Online instruction includes synchronous class meetings and asynchronous coursework. Distance students have access to the same financial aid as on-campus students. Veteran's Administration Education Benefits are available. Appalachian State enrolls about 18,000 students and offers over 150 undergraduate and graduate programs.

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13 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville 61.08 3/5 66% Knoxville, TN

The College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences at Tennessee offers five online master's in education programs. Programs include a 36-credit educational administration degree with the option of obtaining a K–12 licensure certificate. This program includes an internship. Applicants must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.7 and 3.2 for prior graduate work, hold teacher or school-related licensure by program completion, have three years of experience working in schools, and complete the interview process. Students complete a professional portfolio as a capstone project. The program requires one face-to-face on-campus session per summer. The MSEd in psychology degree has two concentrations for online learners: adult education or applied educational psychology. This program includes a comprehensive exam. The school also offers an online teacher education program for those interested in science, technology, engineering, or math. This program does not require a valid teaching license.

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14 The University of West Florida 60.34 3/5 45% Pensacola, FL

West Florida offer four online master's in education programs: curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, reading, and instructional design and technology. Within the curriculum and instruction program, students can concentrate in elementary, middle level, or secondary education. This program consists of leadership and investigative classes. Students in the instructional design and technology program can focus on human performance technology or distance learning. Applicants must have earned a GPA of at least 3.0 on bachelor's degree. Online restrictions apply in Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, Ohio, North Carolina, and New Hampshire; be sure to check state authorizations. Students in Minnesota can’t enroll in online programs at University of West Florida. Out-of-state students can apply for a tuition waiver for the out-of-state portion of tuition.

UWF was founded in 1963. The school has student population of 13,000 and an average class size of 40 students.

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15 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus 59.92 4/5 79% Pittsburgh, PA

The school of education at Pittsburgh offers four online master's education programs: elementary education, english and communications, mathematics, and secondary social studies. There is a hybrid special education program with a concentration in vision studies program that combine online and face-to-face classes. The 36-credit elementary and english courses do not have any specific prerequisite requirements. Math and social studies applicants should have a related undergraduate degree. Social studies requires an instructional certificate. All applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA in their teacher certification programs. Online learners go through a virtual orientation familiarizing themselves with Courseweb, the online learning management system at Pitt Online. Online courses are between 12–15 weeks long in the fall and spring, and 6-week courses in the summer. Online programs are delivered asynchronously and all students are eligible for financial aid. The school has over 9,000 graduate and doctorate students.

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16 Lindenwood University 58.39 4/5 41% Saint Charles, MO

Located in St. Charles, Missouri, Lindenwood offers an online master's degree education. Students can choose to specialize in educational technology, teaching english for speakers of other languages (ESOL), higher education, or a non-certification program in character education. All four online programs require 33 credits to complete and are research and project based. The ESOL program requires a valid Missouri teaching certificate. Online coursework is delivered through the learning management system, Canvas, which offers 24/7 technical support. Transfer students must have a minimum 2.0 GPA with 24 transferable credit hours. Applicants who do not meet those requirements will require further evaluation. Online learners at Lindenwood receive the same financial aid options as on-campus students. Distance learners have access to the Tutors and Writing Center. The center helps students revise rough-drafts, gather information for papers, organize an outline, and develop a thesis statement.

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17 University of Hawaii at Manoa 57.89 3/5 56% Honolulu, HI

Hawaii's school of education offers inquiry and field-based programs to preservice and in-service teachers. The 30-credit master’s of education online master's degree at UH Hilo at Manoa is designed for licensed teachers throughout Hawaii and in select areas of the countries of the Pacific Rim. The program follows a cohort model and can be completed in two-years with four semesters and two summers of classes. Designed as a generalist and interdisciplinary degree, this program is for working teachers who don’t want to enroll in a specialization. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and be eligible for an initial Hawaiʻi basic license. International applicants must provide verification of financial status. As a research-heavy program, this degree culminates with a master's research project. Courses are offered through a primarily distance-based learning format. The school was established in 1947 as public liberal arts and science university.

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18 University of North Dakota 57.88 3/5 52% Grand Forks, ND

The University of North Dakota offers several online master education programs. The 34-credit educational leadership degree is a hybrid program that combines online coursework and face-to-face classes, which are held in Bismarck. This program takes 1–2 years to complete and includes a one-semester practicum. The 35-cred English language learner program requires 90 hours of practicum experience and takes over two years to complete. The reading education, students can choose between an M.Ed or MS. This 32-credit program is entirely online and takes over two years to complete. The Instructional Design degree combines education, psychology, and communication, and requires 34–36 credits to graduate. This program is fully online and offered in a synchronous format. The school also offers 32-credit MS degrees in elementary education and early childhood education. Online students at University of North Dakota pay in-state tuition regardless of residency. Most programs start in August, January, or June, except for the reading education program, which only begins in August.

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19 University of Houston-Clear Lake 57.50 3/5 40% Houston, TX

Houston-Clear Lake takes pride in its student-centered programming. Online students in the Master of Science in educational management program can earn certifications or co-certifications in principal, reading, special education, or master technology. This program is taught in eight-week terms and can be completed in 15 months. Online learners take a mix of professional and administration core classes, including school law, applied statistics, and technology courses. Graduation requires a capstone culminating experience project. This online, 30-credit degree can be completed entirely online or in a hybrid format with some face-to-face class time. Online coursework is delivered through Blackboard. Financial aid and scholarships are available for online master’s education learners. UHCL offers online students access to advising procedures and technical support. The school’s New Teachers Online provides recent graduates with help and assistance from faculty.

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20 Saint Mary's University of Minnesota 56.97 3/5 62% Winona, MN

Saint Mary's offers three online master's in education programs. The learning design and technology program focuses on instructional theory, strategic planning, and learning design. This program can be completed in 20 months but doesn’t admit transfer or elective credits. The educational leadership degree is designed for education professionals looking to enhance their research, management, and training skills. It’s a 33-credit program that can be completed in two years. The special education master's degree is 36 credits and provides guidance on how to teach with an inclusive approach. Online learners who live and work in Minnesota can earn a Minnesota special education license in a specific learning disability, emotional or behavioral disorders, and/or autism spectrum disorder. Students pursuing a certification will have face-to-face requirements. All online learners at Saint Mary’s receive an iPad with productivity apps and the learning platform. Online classes begin in the spring, summer, or fall. Students can transfer a maximum of six credits into special education and educational leadership programs.

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21 California State University-Fresno 56.94 2/5 48% Fresno, CA

Cal State-Fresno's school of education and human development offers a 30-credit online master's degree education designed to help teachers make curricular decisions about reading education and instruction that meets the needs of learners with varying backgrounds. Students in this program can take an advanced reading and literacy leadership specialist credential or a reading and literacy certificate. The program follows a cohort model, it culminates with a project, thesis, or comprehensive exam, and can be completed in five semesters. Online students can transfer up to nine credits from previously attended university programs. Applicants must have a minimum 2.75 GPA in their undergraduate work and have fulfilled the equivalent of a writing competency. Most students at Fresno State are eligible for financial aid. All coursework must be completed with five-years. Courses include literacy process and practices, teaching the language arts, language issues in reading, and educational statistics.

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22 Webster University 56.93 4/5 64% Saint Louis, MO

Webster offers five online masters education programs: communication arts, education and innovation, special education, teaching English as a second language, and educational technology. The 33-credit communication arts program is a hybrid program that focuses on language, literature, and media. Students can choose between eleven emphasis areas--only the emphasis portion of the classes are online--the rest of the program must be completed at the St. Louis campus. The education and innovation program is offered entirely online. Students in this program may select an emphasis area or graduate certificate. Emphasis areas include global sustainability and positive behavioral interventions and supports. The 36-credit special education degree has emphasis options, including applied behavior analysis, emotional and behavior disorders, and severe developmental disabilities. This program does not lead to initial certification. The 33-credit ESL program has two tracks: adult education or K–12 ESL, which offers an optional certification. The 33-credit educational technology program explore multimedia such as print, graphics, sound, video, and the web.

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23 Azusa Pacific University 56.01 4/5 63% Azusa, CA

Azusa Pacific offers four online education master's degree. The MA.Ed school librarianship program is offered in conjunction with the online Teacher Librarian Services credential. The 36-credit program can be completed in a year and a half. The 30-unit art education master's degree is a low-residency program that requires two, one-week summer intensive practicums at APU’s main campus in Azusa. The special education program includes emphasis in autism spectrum disorders. It requires 42-45 units, which can take between 18-24 months to to complete; this program does not lead to a teaching credential. Applicants must have proof of Certificate of Clearance. The 36-credit online MA TESOL is for students interested in language acquisition theory, grammar, pronunciation, intercultural communication and sociolinguistics, language assessment, and language-development research. Most programs at Azusa require a minimum 3.0 GPA for undergraduate work for applicants.

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24 Arizona State University-Tempe 55.80 3/5 58% Tempe, AZ

There are five master's in education online programs at Arizona State. The education technology program prepares students to design, develop, and evaluate learning technology in formal and informal educational settings. The educational leadership/principalship degree is designed for aspiring principals and leaders. It prepares teachers for principal or supervision certification. The curriculum and instruction program offers two specializations: gifted education or autism spectrum disorders. The gifted education program provides the coursework required for a K-12 endorsement. Online students enrolled in the early childhood education can take the certification or endorsement options. This program includes a practicum, which must be completed in person. Applicants must have maintained a 3.00 GPA in the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework. This school offers flexibility with its start dates, including options in March. Faculty include five Nobel Laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, and three MacArthur Fellows.

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25 SUNY at Albany 55.56 3/5 64% Albany, NY

The education online master's programs at SUNY Albany include childhood, early childhood education, reading, and curriculum development and instructional technology. The part-time childhood and early childhood education programs are designed for certified teachers and include practicum requirements. The reading program includes a practicum in the fall semester; it does not lead to teacher certification. It can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis. The 30-credit curriculum development and instructional technology is for students interested in instructional design and technology. This program culminates with a master's thesis project and includes an option to complete a 15-credit program leading to a certificate in online learning and teaching. Graduate applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate work. The school is located in Albany, New York, and enrolls over 17,300 students yearly.

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With an online master’s in education, students receive the same quality education as on-campus students with added flexibility. It’s important to note the similarities and differences between programs before applying.


Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Curriculum and Instruction An online master’s program in education focuses on the theory and practice of lesson design, delivery, and assessment in the context of today’s rapidly-changing educational climate. Coursework emphasizes development of instructional practices, curriculum design in reference to common core standards, and self-examination of teaching methods. Instructional coordinator, principal, teacher trainer, and additional opportunities with government agencies and non-profits.
Bilingual Education An online master’s degree in education with a concentration in English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) provides skills for working with ESL/bilingual students in K-12 schools. A typical program focuses on language pedagogy and acquisition theory, as well as strategies for managing the unique issues bilingual students face. Teaching ESOL in K-12 schools or other informal environments.
Adult Education A master’s in education online program with a concentration in adult education focuses on research on lifelong learning. The program focuses on teaching techniques to train adult learners for success in the workplace. It’s an option for students who love teaching but want to move out of the classroom and into the corporate world. Corporate trainer, career educator, and post-secondary instructor.


When selecting an online master’s degree in education, it’s important to remember that curricula offerings will differ from school to school. Students should always keep their personal career goals in mind when researching a program. There are a number of general courses that online master’s in education programs tend to offer which are listed below.

  • Cognition & Learning: An investigation into the conditions that influence learning and how the learning process occurs. Students become better educators, equipped with the knowledge of how to enrich their classroom’s learning environment.
  • Media Literacy: Students focus on ways of applying technology and teaching new media literacy skills in the classroom. Through exploring the education advantages and problems that digital content can present, students prepare to incorporate technology into their job as a K-12 educator.
  • Strategies of Classroom Supervision: Students learn techniques for managing behavior and promoting self-direction and autonomy in the classroom. Strategies for supervising or coaching other teachers are also covered. This course is suited for students with teacher leadership aspirations.


An online master’s degree in education is meant to be completed in two to three years (30 to 45 credit hours). Many universities are flexible in terms of how many credits need to be taken per semester in order to accommodate working professionals. A large number of programs also offer options for additional certifications or licenses that could add extra time.

Another factor that influences the duration of a program is whether or not it is taught in a cohort or individual format. Cohort programs have students complete coursework together with a small group of their peers, and they may only begin the program at certain times of the year. Individually paced program allow students more freedom. They are able to take as many credits per term as they desire, sometimes finishing the program faster than average. Students should keep their own learning style in mind when selecting a cohort or individually paced program.


  • School Counselor License: Students who want to work one-on-one as a mentor to students in the K-12 school system have the possibility to get licensed as a school counselor. The licensing process differs from state to state but generally includes the completion of an internship with an experienced counselor and an examination.
  • Principal/Administrative Certification: Educational leadership graduates may be interested in completing the certification process to become a school principal. Candidates are, on average, required to complete a practical internship demonstrating their abilities as an administrator in a school. Performance is assessed along the way and a final examination may also be required.

When selecting a school for an online master’s in education, pay attention to the school’s accrediting body. Accreditation is a guarantee that a school adheres to academic standards and that a degree earned there will be recognized by employers. School accreditation comes in either regional or national accreditation form. Regional accreditation is more popular as it is generally considered to be more prestigious. The credits earned at regionally accredited schools are commonly accepted when transferring from colleges. Nationally accredited schools have merits of their own, such as relaxed admittance policies and lower costs, but students should check that an M. Ed. from a nationally accredited school will make them eligible to receive an educator’s license in their state.

When looking for an accredited online master’s in education, students should focus their search on schools accredited by bodies such as the Distance Education and Training Council or an education specific accreditation agency, such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

The two organizations that also play a major part in accreditation are the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Both organizations ensure that schools adhere to the highest standards of academic excellence by certifying the quality of accrediting agencies. If a school has an accreditation that is DOE or CHEA certified, it’s a good sign that a degree earned there will be recognized. Check the DOE’s and CHEA’s websites for a list of all accredited schools.

Job Placement: M.Ed. vs Bachelor of Education

Although a bachelor’s degree can help you obtain entry-level teaching positions, the employment rates are much more favorable for teachers who receive a master’s. A recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) found that professional educators with a graduate degree faced a 1.9% unemployment rate. By comparison, the unemployment rate for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and some professional experience is 3.9%, and 5.4% for recent graduates without experience.

Education Specialty Unemployment Rate for Recent College Graduates (%) Unemployment Rate for Experienced College Graduates (%) Unemployment Rate for Graduate Degree Holders (%)
General Education 6.0% 4.1% 2.4%
Elementary Education 4.8% 3.4% 1.7%
Physical & Health Education 3.7% 2.2%
Special Needs Education 4.5% 2.0%
Language & Drama Education 4.2% 2.2%
Art & Music Education 3.7% 2.2%

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW)

Earning a Living

In addition to higher job placement rates, teachers who earn a master’s degree usually qualify for a higher salary bracket than those who complete their education with a bachelor’s degree. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), 96% of the 112 major school districts in the U.S. pay teachers a higher salary if they hold a master’s degree, and the National Center on Education Statistics found that teachers with a master’s earned a median salary of $57,831 during the 2011-12 academic year; teachers with bachelor’s degrees earned a median salary of $46,343 during the same timeframe. Below, you’ll find a graph illustrating the salary differences between teachers with bachelor’s and master’s degrees over the course of their respective careers.

Source: The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

As the graph shows, first-year teachers with a master’s degree earned approximately $6,750 more per year than their colleagues. The pay gap between these two groups increases incrementally over time. After 15 years, teachers with a master’s earn roughly $10,000 more annually, and those with 20 years in the field will make 20% more than bachelor’s holders with identical experience. On top of increased earnings, teachers with a specialized master’s degree in education can transition easily into senior or administrative positions. Using data from PayScale, the table below features the median annual salaries for master’s-holding teachers in seven different educational professions.

Professional Title Median Annual Salary
Elementary School Teacher $49,506
High School Teacher $51,785
Special Education Teacher (Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary) $46,876
Middle School Teacher $52,075
Head Teacher $48,607
Instructional Designer $61,019
School Counselor $50,128

Source: PayScale

Regardless of specialization, the best online Master of Education degree programs prepare prospective teachers for classroom success and career advancement. Jobs for educators at the kindergarten/elementary, middle school, high school and postsecondary levels are expected to rise from 6% to 13% between 2014 and 2024 — and teachers with advanced degrees will be strategically positioned to fill this growing demand.

While there are many specializations available, the goal of any campus or online master’s in education program is to graduate competent, experienced educators. Experts expect that jobs for educators from the Pre-K to the community college level will climb steadily over the next decade, increasing 12% by 2022. Teachers with advanced degrees will be strategically positioned to take advantage of this growing demand.

Career Opportunities

Based on their specialization, teachers with a master’s degree may pursue roles in a number of different areas. They can remain in K-12 classrooms, work with special education students, or pursue principalship positions. Below are a few of the employment opportunities available for teachers with an M.Ed.

K-12 Principal: Principals at elementary, middle, or high schools monitor all daily operations within a school. They must oversee the school’s curriculum, faculty, finances, administrative functions and educational resources. Most principals began their careers as teachers, later earning a master’s in educational leadership or administration; principals in public schools are required to earn state licensure.

High School Teacher: High school teaching positions are available to candidates with a bachelor’s degree. However, many schools will give preference to candidates with a master’s degree in their subject field. In addition to educational prerequisites, public high school teachers must earn a license in the state where they plan to teach.

Postsecondary Teacher: Although a Ph.D. will be required for most postsecondary teaching positions, candidates with a master’s degree in education may qualify for roles at community colleges and other two-year institutions.

Postsecondary Administrator: Administrative roles at the college or university level include deans, registrars, student administrators, and faculty researchers. Most of these positions can be attained with a master’s degree, though advancement in some areas may require a Ph.D.

Training & Development Manager: Professional training and development managers create programs for corporate employees across different industries, and may supervise a staff of training specialists. These corporate education positions usually require a master’s degree.

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
K-12 Principal $90,410 6%
High School Teacher $57,200 6%
Postsecondary Teacher $72,740 13%
Postsecondary Administrator $88,580 9%
Training & Development Manager $102,640 7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different educational approaches is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for professional educators. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • The National Council on Teacher Quality: This organization works to create policies that improve the quality of classroom education and the work environments for professional educators.
  • The National Educational Association: Working to improve public education from preschool to graduate-level studies, the NEA provides resources on current regulations, strategies for securing financial support and tools for creating high-quality lesson plans.
  • The Association of American Educators: Serving members in all 50 states, this non-union organization seeks to create tools and resources that increase student achievement and positive classroom outcomes.

Despite the relative affordability of online master’s in human resources programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Best Online Master's of Education Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
2 Michigan State University East Landsing, MI
3 Purdue University West Lafayette, IN
4 University of Georgia Athens, GA
5 James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA
6 University of South Carolina - Columbia Columbia, SC
7 University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA
8 The University of Tennessee - Knoxville Knoxville, TN
9 University of Massachusetts - Amherst Amherst, MA
10 California State University - Fullerton Fullerton, CA
11 Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, LA
12 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
13 Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington, IN
14 California State University - Fresno Fresno, CA
15 Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Winona, MN
16 Webster University Saint Louis, MO
17 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
18 Grand Valley State University Allendale, MI
19 Lindenwood University Saint Charles, MO
20 University of Wyoming Laramie, WY
21 The University of Arizona Tuscon, AZ
22 California State University - San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
23 Quinnipiac University Hamden, CT
24 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI
25 Western Carolina University Cullowhee, NC