Best Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Programs

Educational leaders are found at public and private learning institutions across the country. Principals, vice principals, and deans of students oversee elementary and secondary schools, while superintendents and their supportive personnel manage entire school districts. Leadership titles at the collegiate level include deans, department chairs, and administrators. Other roles in educational leadership are found behind the scenes. Curriculum directors and instructional coordinators, for example, design and implement lesson plans for learners at different grade levels.

A master’s degree is considered the minimum academic requirement for most educational leadership positions. Online master’s in educational leadership programs allow students to advance their career standing and earn a fully accredited graduate degree from the comfort of their home computer. The online master’s curriculum is largely dedicated to topics like educational law, learning technology, school administration, and leadership methods. Many educational leadership master’s programs require students to complete a set number of internship or practicum hours. Other programs culminate in a master’s thesis or capstone project, which allow students to showcase the knowledge and skills they have gained.

Learn more about what you can do with an online master’s in educational leadership and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

Students who graduate with a master’s in educational leadership are prepared to be effective school administrators. The comprehensive coursework of master’s programs will cover the various tasks associated with educational leadership roles, such as developing a curriculum, managing budgets, and measuring student performance. Internships or practicum courses will also give students the opportunity to gain supervised, hands-on training from established professionals. Many programs also allow students to concentrate their studies on specific age groups (such as elementary, secondary, or postsecondary) in order to further boost their standing in the job market. Master’s programs are also a crucial stepping-stone for college deans, school superintendents, and other educational leadership careers that are usually reserved for candidates with a doctoral degree or PhD.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Online master’s degree programs offer a flexible format that is ideal for students who must balance their schoolwork with other obligations, such as employment or childcare. Most programs utilize user-friendly software that allows students to access course materials, submit written assignments, take exams, and contact their professors at any time of day. Current technology also allows them to study away from home using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other portable device with Wi-Fi capabilities. If students reside far from their campus, they can often arrange internships and/or practicum courses that are close to their home for added convenience.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER’S IN EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP?

A master’s degree is considered the prerequisite for most educational leadership positions. Depending on their specialization, students who leave school with a master’s degree in educational leadership will be qualified for a wide range of positions. Certain positions — such as principals and instructional coordinators working at public schools in some states — will be required to earn an official license. The best programs will prepare students to sit for licensure exams and earn the certification required for their field.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER’S IN EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP PROGRAMS?

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 master’s in educational leadership programs in the United States. 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 master’s in educational leadership degree requirements and offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 University of Florida 81.08 3/5 85% Gainesville, FL

UF in Gainesville is ranked as the 14th best public university in the country by U.S. News and World Report and named UF's online master's in educational leadership as the number one program in the country for 2016. The majority of students need two years to complete this 36 credit hour program, with each semester (including summer) comprising of two classes. No past teaching experience or certification is required and no teaching experience is earned through the program. Instead, it leads to a Florida educational leadership certification through the Florida Principal Leadership Standards. In addition to courses, learners must complete 150 hours of practicum experience within a Florida school or in a school where they reside. Students are required to take the GRE before being considered for admission; the GMAT is not accepted. UF is also ranked first within the Association of American Universities for the number of master's degrees granted to Hispanic students each year.

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2 University of Central Florida 72.30 3/5 65% Orlando, FL

Orlando's UCF has been around since 1963 and has more than 64,000 students from all 50 states and 148 countries. The school enjoys a range of academic partnerships in many different fields, including education. UCF's online master's in educational leadership requires learners to complete 30 credits and a range of assignments and projects to qualify for graduation. Classes can be taken in any order, but the required research project is always taken last. Two areas of concentration are available for learners to further their knowledge, including: higher education/student personnel and community college education. Each of these have different enrollment and graduation requirements. Some electives or prerequisites may not be offered online. This program is not state approved for certification in Florida. It prepares students for education-related field that don't require a certification. Careers that don't need a certification include: private school headmaster, community college or university staff administrator, and museum administrator.

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3 Lehigh University 71.37 4/5 88% Bethlehem, PA

Sitting on 7,000 acres outside Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh has been challenging the status quo of education since its founding during the Civil War. 96% of graduates found employment or moved on to advanced education within six months of graduation. The 30 credit hour online masters in Educational Leadership provides students with access to cutting edge teaching and learning opportunities taught by qualified and experienced faculty. Learners take all classes online during the fall and spring semesters, followed by campus visits for the summer semester. Courses include: Data Based Decision Making, Research, Diversity and Multicultural Perspectives, and Organizational Leadership and Change Management. Upon fulfilling coursework and practicum requirements, students are approved to apply for certification as a K-12 principal, superintendent of schools, international school leader, and curriculum and instruction professional. Lehigh offers an accelerated master's in educational leadership for educators who work in urban public schools. It can be completed in 15 months and is a hybrid program.

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4 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 71.28 3/5 84% Champaign, IL

Since being founded as one of the initial 37 public land-grant institutions under President Lincoln, UIUC has been building both their library collection and the number of high-achieving academic programs they offer. The online master's in educational leadership program is designed to prepare graduates for principalship. The degree, comprised of 36 semester hours, includes a clinical experience in student administration to help learners develop their leadership skills. UIUC's Department of Education requires all applicants to have at least two years of experience as an educator before being enrolled. Online students receive support finding a clinical location, library services, career resources, veteran support, disability services, and an online writing and research center. Three letters of reference and a GPA of 3.0 in undergraduate studies is required to be considered for admittance. Distance learners must login at least four days a week and can expect to spend 20 hours a week on classwork.

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5 George Washington University 71.17 4/5 80% Washington, DC

Located in the District of Columbia, George Washington University welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 130 countries. George Washington's online institution provides education to thousands of students through 10 different schools. The master's in educational leadership online was designed for students who work in school-based and central leadership offices for K-12 education. The program requires students to earn 30 credit-hours, including six credit-hours devoted to internships in varied administrative settings. Students are welcome to come to Washington D.C. and complete these hours onsite, but GWU does offer help organizing internship sites in the student's region. In addition to holding school-wide regional accreditation, the program is nationally accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. A post-master's Certificate in Educational Leadership and Administration is available to students looking to further prepare themselves and can ready qualified candidates for administrator/ principal licensure.

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6 University of Southern California 70.30 4/5 90% Los Angeles, CA

Nestled in the hills of Los Angeles, the University of Southern California is a large public research university with nearly 45,000 students enrolled each year. USC Online offers an online master's in educational leadership to prepare students for managerial positions. The M.Ed. in School Leadership is suited for learners who want to be a principal, head of school, lead teacher, curriculum coordinator, or school system manager. The program takes 15 months to complete if a student is able to attend full-time and take four consecutive semesters of classes (including summer). The school requires all students to have accrued at least five years of experience by the time they graduate from the program (this includes previous experience). Applicants must be working as an education professional and have at two-years of experience shown on their resume. USC's career services include: resume and cover letter support, placement assistance, job listings, and career advice.

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7 George Mason University 67.23 3/5 66% Fairfax, VA

Initially operating as a branch campus of the University of Virginia, George Mason in Fairfax became an independent institution in 1972. The online master's in educational leadership is meant to be interactive; students will spend time discussing coursework with their peers, professors, and other educational administrators. Careers available for graduates of the program include: athletic director, principal, special education leadership, and dean. The 30 credit program prepares students for a school or district level instructional leader position. It features courses in finance, education law, and curriculum development. Each course is three-credits and the program requires students to complete a case study. Further education is available through George Mason's PhD in education leadership. GM's program is designed to fulfill licensure in administration and supervision PK-12 in Virginia. Virginia-based students receive a 15% PreK-12 educators discount on the instate tuition price and out of state students qualify for an automatic 45% discount on nonresident costs.

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8 University of St Francis 66.63 3/5 56% Joliet, IL

Based in Joliet, Illinois, the University is a small, private liberal arts college with Catholic underpinnings and a passion for academic excellence. The student body of 3,900 students enjoys average class sizes of 17 students, including classes taught in an online format. As one of the few Master of Science in Education degrees, the Educational Leadership program taught at USF is a standout program for students seeking a master's in educational leadership online. Distance learners can choose from two different concentrations within the degree: Principal Preparation or Teacher Leader. The former requires 33 credits and can be completed in six semesters, with a P-12 Principal Endorsement at the end. The latter includes 30 credits of coursework and takes fives semesters before leading to a Teacher Leader endorsement. While all of the classes for either can be completed entirely online, students will need to complete an internship or a practicum off-site, depending on their chosen concentration.

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9 University of Dayton 66.40 5/5 78% Dayton, OH

Dayton, a Catholic, Marianist Institution, works diligently to provide educations that not only helps graduates be competitive in an evolving economy, but also to be thoughtful, kind individuals who add value to the communities in which they live. As part of that mission, the online educational leadership master's, an M.S.E. program, caters to students looking to work in both Catholic and other non-public schools ranging from pre-kindergarten through high school. It's a 30 credit hour program that includes classes in School Law and Instructional Leadership. A Catholic School Leadership concentration is available to students electing to take this path, as is a summer intensive at the school's Dayton campus. All of the required classes are taught in an asynchronous fashion, allowing students to complete assignments at times that best fit their schedules. Once enrolled, students use Isidore to access their classes and interact with classmates and professors through assignments, forum discussions, group projects, and exams.

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10 Nova Southeastern University 66.01 4/5 42% Fort Lauderdale, FL

Nova is recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as having high research activity and enrolling more than 24,000 students each academic year. Their online master's programs in educational leadership remain among the most popular. The M.S. in Educational Leadership and School Administration is designed to prepare graduates planning to work in pre-kindergarten through high school by completing a rigorous course of study. Students must complete an administrative or educational leadership internship, depending on their intended future pursuits. The internship is a culminating experience designed to have students apply what they've learned in a real world setting for a minimum of 300 contact hours. The program is 36 credit hours and classes are taken through Blackboard. The degree can typically be completed within two years. A minimum 2.5 GPA is required for admittance and a 3.0 GPA to graduate.

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11 Florida State University 65.69 3/5 75% Tallahassee, FL

Tallahassee's Florida State University has been in existence since 1851 and currently serves nearly 42,000 students from 140 countries. The school's sophisticated distance learning program makes it easy for students to complete an online master's in educational leadership and administration. By taking two classes each semester, including nine hours of electives, all 36 credit hours can be completed in two to three semesters of study. Rather than requiring an internship, students must register for and pass the Master's Comprehensive Examination during their last semester. The exam has students complete a leadership development plan, a reflection paper, and a paper on conceptual connections across completed coursework. A minimum GPA of 3.0 in upper-division classes and a GRE are required to be considered for admission. Prospective students should be aware that FSU requires admitted students to have at least two years of full-time teaching experience in a K-12 school.

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12 The University of West Florida 64.09 3/5 45% Pensacola, FL

Billing themselves as a forward-thinking, innovative institution, the West Florida in Pensacola has multiple locations throughout the state alongside a bustling distance education department. Although the school has rapidly grown since its 1963 founding, campus and computer-based courses maintain an average size of 40 students or less. The educational leadership master's online is approved by the State of Florida and leads to Educational Leadership Certification after students successfully pass the Florida Educational Leadership Examination. Students outside the state should discuss certification options with departmental administrators before enrolling. Required courses are divided into achievable thematic outcomes, including critical thinking, communication, project management, integrity, and diversity skills. Learners are allowed to follow curriculums preparing them for elementary or secondary education settings. Online students benefit from resources including: an online writing and research center, teacher mentoring, career support, online library assistance, student clubs and organizations, and technical support.

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13 Brandman University 62.39 3/5 40% Irvine, CA

Brandman is consistently ranked as one of the most promising schools in California and has also received praise from U.S. News & World Report for excellence in their master's level education programs. Online learners benefit from a teaching model designed at the school known as iDEAL (Instructional Design for Engaged Adult Learning). Once enrolled in the online educational leadership master's, learners take 18 core courses in areas of research, evaluation, learning theory, and curriculum studies before moving into 12 credits designated to provide content specialization. These help students hone their knowledge and focus on a particular teaching level, curricular expertise, or administrative/leadership skills. This NCATE-accredited program is available in most states; prospective students should speak to a university enrollment coach before committing to the program.

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14 Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College 62.37 3/5 65% Baton Rouge, LA

In 2016, the President's Higher Education Honor Roll recognized Louisiana State in the area of education, specifically as it relates to community-engaged work. The online educational leadership master's requires students to earn 39 credit hours. Learners gain hands on experience from classes in research and education, ethics and education, best practices of principal leadership, and supervision of instruction. The seven-week course structure allows full-time learners to complete their studies in 15 months. Aside from the 13 courses, students also complete a part-time internship in their region to provide them opportunities to put theory into practice. As of 2016, graduates of this program have a 100% pass rate on the School Leaders Licensure Assessment and the entire program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Louisiana State is one 30 universities in the U.S. designated as a land, sea, and space-grant institution.

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15 University of Arkansas 61.62 3/5 60% Fayetteville, AR

Rooted in the Ozark Mountains, University of Arkansas was founded as a land-grant college in the late 1800's and has since expanded to provide multiple campus locations and an extensive online learning department for students throughout the world. As of 2015, the student-to-faculty ratio was 19:1. Arkansas' master of educational leadership online is a 33 credit hour program and fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Full-time students can complete the program in two-years. It maintains a 100% student pass rate on the School Leaders Licensure Assessment. Distance learners who hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher from undergraduate studies are exempted from submitting a GRE score, but every student is required to complete an offline internship during their time in the program. The school has a range of scholarships available for both resident and non-resident students alike.

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16 Liberty University 60.98 4/5 46% Lynchburg, VA

Founded in 1971, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia has the unique distinction of being the largest private, nonprofit institution in the country and the largest Christian university in the world. Liberty University's online master's in educational leadership with an emphasis in Leadership was designed to prepare graduates for a variety of school settings upon graduation. These may include Christian, public, or private schools at the K-12 levels. The school is accredited regionally and the program is approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. The degree requires 36 credit hours, including an optional three credit practicum. Potential career fields include: principal and assistant principal, university department chair, and primary teacher. Up to six credits can be transferred in at the time of matriculation. Before enrolling potential students should be aware that licensure is not available through this program.

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17 Emporia State University 60.65 3/5 42% Emporia, KS

Kansas' Emporia State University was founded in 1863. The school is home to the Fallen Educators Memorial and the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Online masters in educational leadership offerings include a Master of Science in Educational Administration that caters specifically to certified teachers looking to move into leadership roles at middle and secondary schools. Students concentrate on three areas of learning: curriculum leadership, how to be an effective practitioner, and preparation for National Board Certification. 25 credits are required courses and nine credits are done in the chosen concentration; the program is 34 credits. Students also complete two semester-long practicums to hone their administrative skills. Upon graduation, learners are able to apply for Building-Level Leadership or District-Level Leadership licensure. Students looking to learn more can attend a monthly distance education event hosted by the school. The program must be completed within seven-years.

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18 University of Northern Iowa 60.49 3/5 66% Cedar Falls, IA

UNI is headquartered in Cedar Falls and was founded in 1876 as a normal school for training future teachers. The Master of Arts in Education in Educational Leadership -- Principalship is a two-year degree that equips graduates with needed skills for PK-12 principalship or PK-12 Supervisors of Special Education. The online master's in educational leadership program is 37 credit hours and requires students to complete an extensive internship. It includes 13 courses and can be completed in two-years by full-time students. Classes are delivered synchronously; students need to tune in one night per week during the fall and spring semesters for interactive lessons. During their first year of study, learners must visit the Iowa campus for an intensive. All other coursework is delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. The program is delivered through a cohort model. Students will build a network and will continue to work with the same group throughout the program.

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19 Concordia University-Chicago 60.29 3/5 49% River Forest, IL

Concordia provides a Lutheran, Christ-centered education that promotes integrity and service while maintaining rigorous academic standards. The online master's in educational leadership is a 30 credit program that can be completed in 12 months by full-time students. Topics covered include: research in education, school law, ethics, school organization, supervision, and curriculum assessment. Students will develop skills in management, operation, and creating an effective learning environment. School law is an important aspect of the program and how it affects teachers, students, programs, and tort liability. CU's program has special provision for international students looking to move into educational administration. All candidates are required to complete a capstone project to demonstrate learning outcomes. The project helps instructors evaluate students and see how they interpret applied theory into practice. A GRE is not required to enter the program.

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20 Texas A & M University-Commerce 60.25 3/5 36% Commerce, TX

Operating as part of the Texas A&M University system, the Commerce campus offers both campus-based and online programs. Many first-generation students take advantage of specialized services. The myLEo online portal provides all online educational leadership master's students with assignments, discussion boards, and lectures. The Master of Education in Educational Administration is comprised of 30 credit hours and requires students to be admitted to both the Graduate School and the Educational Administration Master's Degree program in order to matriculate. Courses include: Designing Curriculum, Multicultural Education, and Using Research for Best Practice. Students have the option of completing a 21-hour Principal Certification Plan if they are seeking full qualifications. During the student's final term, they will complete the Leading the Learning Community Practicum in a local school district; the course lasts the whole semester. The practicum is only available during fall and spring semesters.

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21 Seton Hall University 60.17 4/5 67% South Orange, NJ

Named after the first American-born saint, Seton Hall in New Jersey has been providing a strong Catholic education since 1856. Nearly half of all students are enrolled at the graduate level, providing a strong network and qualified faculty. Seton Hall's master of educational leadership online is delivered as a Master of Arts/Education Specialist in Education Leadership, with special emphasis in management and policy. Fully accredited by CAEP (formerly NCATE), this two-year, 39 semester hour program requires 13 courses and starts in the summer to make it easier for students working as teachers. Students are required to visit the South Orange campus twice for weekend residency intensives where they'll meet faculty and other classmates. Learners focus on four central themes: academic rigor, ethical standards, practical application, and technology. During the fifth and sixth semesters, students complete administrative internships at an approved school or district system in their area.

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22 Rowan University 60.13 4/5 72% Glassboro, NJ

Founded in 1923 as a teacher preparation college, Rowan is now a regionally accredited public institution catering to thousands of students. Located in Glassboro, New Jersey, the school is still recognized for its education programs at all levels, including its online master's in educational leadership. The program is structured as an M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership and is offered through the school's CAEP accredited college of education. Designed with working teachers in mind, the asynchronous delivery of the program allows flexibility for graduates spending their days in the classroom. The program includes 19 semester hours of core courses; students choose a content specialty and take an additional 15-21 credits. These areas include: autism spectrum disorders, technology, ESL, global history, history, mathematics, reading, school public relations, or special education. Rather than a dissertation, students are required to create a synthesis portfolio and teacher leadership presentation in order to graduate.

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23 Dallas Baptist University 59.98 4/5 54% Dallas, TX

Operating as an affiliate of the Baptist General Convention, Dallas Baptist University is focused on providing a Christ-centered education to its student body of over 5,000 learners. Online classes are kept small, with the average course having 13 students and one faculty member. The online educational leadership master's is offered as a 30 credit hour program with no thesis component. The department provides a charter school administrator concentration for graduates that want to work directly at schools or the district level. After completing the first required 12 credits, continuation in the program is contingent upon students receiving a passing score on the GMAT or GRE, unless the student earns an A- or higher in all four classes. During DBU's specialized preparation and certification course, students complete one educational administration internship at an approved site. Students must participate in a defense of degree, a capstone collection demonstrating how a student has grown and developed throughout the program.

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24 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus 59.25 4/5 50% University Park, PA

The World Campus branch of Pennsylvania State handles all online learning programs, including the online master's in educational leadership. The Master of Education in Educational Leadership offers three different emphasis areas: teacher leader, school leader, or school leader without principal certification. The school leader without principal certification is suited for students in international or private schools. All three programs require an internship component, but core coursework differs. The program requires 30 credit hours, regardless of emphasis. Students from Alabama or Kentucky should check with their state licensure board to ensure Penn State's program is accepted. PSU is an act 48 approved provider; courses from this program may count toward professional development hours. Penn State has been a leader in distance education programs for more than a century, with its 1982 founding as one of the nation's first correspondence course programs. In 1998, the school became one of the first to offer online learning options.

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25 Old Dominion University 59.19 3/5 49% Norfolk, VA

Billed as Virginia's forward-focused metropolitan research institution, Old Dominion has campuses in Norfolk, Virginia, and online. Graduate enrollment constitutes approximately 20% of the student body, and 25% of all learners are affiliated with the military. The master of educational leadership online is focused on teaching the skills graduates need to work in administrative and supervisory roles for K-12 schools and school systems. The program leads to full licensure within Virginia. It's recommended students speak to program administrators to find out how that applies to them if they live outside the state. Required credit hours are broken down into two sections: 24 credits relate to content coursework and six count toward clinical experience. Students will complete 120 internship hours throughout the program. According to a 2015-2016 student satisfaction survey, 96% of students were satisfied with their overall online learning experience.

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Timeline
1 to 3 years
Program costs (when available)
$15,000 to $30,000 for full tuition
Concentrations
Elementary Leadership, Secondary/High School Leadership, Postsecondary Administration, Curriculum/Instructional Design, Special Education, Educational Law, Business/Finance
Accreditation
Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
Additional Considerations
A bachelor’s degree in education (or a related field) and at least two to three years of relevant work experience will be required for admission into most master’s in educational leadership online degree programs.

Job Placement: Master’s vs Bachelor’s in Educational Leadership

Students who earn a graduate degree in educational leadership face more favorable employment rates than their counterparts with a bachelor’s or less. A recent survey by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce revealed a 2.2% unemployment rate for experienced education professionals with a graduate degree and a 2.4% unemployment rate for recent graduate degree earners. By comparison, the unemployment rate for professionals with a bachelor’s degree is 3.7% to 5.1%, depending on experience level.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), education administrators with a master’s degree outnumber their peers with a bachelor’s by a ratio of two to one. BLS data reveals that 338,917 administrators — or 46% of the field — held a master’s degree in 2013. Bachelor’s degree-holding administrators represented 170,873 positions, or 23% of the industry. The best master’s in educational leadership programs enable graduates to compete with fellow graduate degree-holders in the job market. Furthermore, educational leadership professions are expected to grow in the years to come. The following table features BLS projections for some of the most common educational leadership career pathways.

Occupation Number of Employees (2014) Projected Growth Rate (2014-24) Difference in Number of Employees
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals 240,000 6% 14,000
Postsecondary Education Administrators 175,100 9% 15,200
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors 64,000 7% 4,200
Instructional Coordinators 151,000 7% 10,500

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earning a Living

In addition to lower unemployment rates, job candidates with a master’s in educational leadership also stand to increase their earning potential. BLS found that the median annual salary for education administrators with a master’s degree was $75,000 — roughly $23,000, or 44%, higher than administrators with a bachelor’s.

It’s also important to note that salaries for educational leadership professionals will incrementally increase over the course of their careers. Using data from the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, the following table compares entry-level and mid-career earnings for employees with a master’s degree in different educational fields, including educational leadership.

Master’s Degree Field Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)
Educational Leadership $55,400 $71,500
Educational Administration $53,800 $73,800
Educational Technology $50,500 $69,200
Higher Education Administration $42,200 $64,000

Source: 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

Salary expectations at different career stages will also depend on an employee’s specific job title. The next table features the median annual salary for different educational leadership positions at four career benchmarks.

Profession Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Elementary School Principal $72,316 $77,515 $79,523 $88,647
Principal/ Headmaster, Middle School $80,000 $86,000 $91,000 $96,000
High School Principal $76,000 $82,000 $89,000 $95,000
Education Administrator, Postsecondary $48,000 $50,000 $63,000 $65,000
Academic Dean $78,264 $84,707 $93,399 $120,613
Curriculum Developer $58,680 $61,830 $70,507 $74,037

Source: PayScale

Of the positions listed in the table above, academic deans enjoy the highest earnings at three of the four benchmarks (middle school principals had slightly higher salaries at the mid-career mark). Additionally, academic deans enjoy the highest career salary growth — a 54% increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Career salary growth for the other occupations fell between 20% and 35%.

Career Opportunities

Students who graduate with a master’s degree in educational leadership will qualify for dozens of positions, although individual eligibility will depend on their area(s) of specialization. Some of the most common career pathways for master’s in educational leadership recipients are detailed below.

K-12 Principal: Principals monitor daily operations at elementary, middle, and high schools. They oversee the school’s curriculum, faculty, finances, administrative functions, and educational resources. Most principals began their careers as teachers, and later earn a master’s in educational leadership or administration. Principals at public schools are required to earn licensure in all 50 states.

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 PhD.

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors: These professionals oversee day-to-day operations at preschools, day care facilities, and other pre-elementary learning centers. Many states require childcare centers — including home-based establishments — to earn a license, and all employees must pass a criminal background check.

Instructional Coordinators: Instructional coordinators are responsible for the curriculum and teaching standards at elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions. Those who work at public schools are required to earn a license in some states.

Position Median Annual Salary
K-12 Principal $90,410
Postsecondary Administrator $88,580
Preschool and Childcare Center Director $45,670
Instructional Coordinators $62,270

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 education administration professionals. 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.

  • National Association of Secondary School Principals: Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2016, the NASSP is today represented by principals, assistant principals, and other middle/high school administrative personnel in 35 different countries. The organization hosts networking functions, offers continuing education programs, and gives members the opportunity to become advocates in different key areas of secondary school administration.
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals: Founded in 1921, the NAESP today serves elementary school principals and administrative personnel in the U.S., Canada, and overseas. The organization’s online learning center features webinars, tutorials, and links for classroom-based training programs; an online resource library is also available.
  • Association of Deans & Directors of University Colleges & Undergraduate Studies: This nonprofit organization that represents deans and administrative personnel at postsecondary institutions across the country. The AD&D hosts an annual conference at a different U.S. location each year, and offers both individual and institutional memberships.

Despite the relative affordability of online 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 your financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

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.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

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 COLLEGE STUDENTS

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.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

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.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

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.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

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 in Educational Leadership Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
2 Concordia University - Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
3 Mercy College Dobbs Ferry, NY
4 The George Washington University Washington, DC
5 Concordia University - Portland Portland, OR
6 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
7 University of Dayton Dayton, OH
8 University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
9 Wilkes University Wilkes-Barre, PA
10 Concordia University - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI
11 Stephen F. Austin State University Nacogdoches, TX
12 Arizona State University - Skysong Scottsdale, AR
13 St. John's University Queens, NY
14 University of Texas at Arlington Arlington, TX
15 George Mason University Fairfax, VA
16 Canisius College Buffalo, NY
17 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA
18 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
19 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
20 University of North Texas Denton, TX
21 Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT
22 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
23 Rowan University Glassboro, NJ
24 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR
25 University of Northern Colorado Greeley, CO