Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education Programs

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Now is a great time to pursue your online master’s in secondary education. High school teachers have a projected job growth rate of 6% over the next decade. With class sizes growing larger each year, secondary teachers are in demand. The field of education incorporates the latest technologies in curriculum development, and you have the opportunity of being at the forefront of the evolving academic landscape. The following information introduces the field of secondary education and provides information on what to expect from the best online master’s in secondary education programs.

Choosing a Program


An online master’s in secondary education will help advance your career in several ways. A graduate degree provides you with the knowledge and expertise to work with students in a variety of capacities, including career opportunities in teaching, curriculum development, and administration. Acquiring advanced skills in teaching subjects such as chemistry or English literature increase your marketability. Learning to teach ESL learners and special needs students allows you to fill critical roles in the educational system.


Some programs require applicants to hold a valid teaching license, particularly programs that offer endorsements or specialized training in curriculum planning or special education. An online degree in secondary education does not usually require prior work experience. Students who hold bachelor’s degrees in disciplines other than education often enter their master’s program without prior teaching experience.


An online degree in secondary education can provide working students the flexibility they need to maintain employment. It allows learners to complete assignments at their own convenience. Online learning is often self-paced. Other benefits include direct access to course assignments and materials, professional networking opportunities, and online peer support.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 The University of Alabama 70.19 24% Tuscaloosa, AL

Offering more than 70 degrees through distance learning programs, UA features online courses taught by the same faculty as its on-campus classes. The university delivers an online secondary education degree in the form of a 30-credit master's of arts in secondary education - English language arts. Applicants must have a minimum score of 300 on the revised GRE or 50th percentile on the MAT exam, at least 3.0 GPA for their undergraduate degree or graduate work, and hold a bachelor's-level teaching certificate in secondary education English language arts. UA accepts program applications throughout the year.

In UA's online secondary education program, students learn how to develop classroom environments in ways that engage students, how to design and implement curricula, and how to assess students effectively. Required courses include modern secondary school programs and computer-based instructional technologies. In addition to their coursework, students must also complete 15 credits teaching in the field, six credits of electives, and pass a comprehensive written exam to earn their degree.

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2 William Carey University 66.22 20% Hattiesburg, MS

Founded in 1892 and affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, WCU states that its vision is "to build a community of learners seeking to blend faith and learning with living.” The university delivers a master's in secondary education online in an asynchronous format through the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS). In this program, students are required to complete weekly assignments, research, reading, and participate in discussions with their classmates. WCU assigns each of its graduate students an academic advisor.

WCU's master's of secondary education is a 30-credit online degree that students typically complete in five trimesters, or 15 months. Benefiting from small class sizes, distance learners receive instruction on the latest technology, research, and best practices to maximize educational opportunities for middle and high school students. To earn their master's degree in secondary education, students must also create portfolios for use in their own classrooms.

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3 Old Dominion University 63.89 32% Norfolk, VA

Located in Norfolk, Virginia, ODU offers more than 100 degrees online and serves more than 10,000 students annually. Students typically complete the university's 30-credit online master's in secondary education in about 18 months. Applicants to ODU's cohort-based master's of science in education degree must hold a current teaching license. Only some offerings in the program are asynchronous; some courses follow an on-campus schedule, and students must complete others at an accelerated pace. Exams for certain courses may be at specific dates and times. Students can take most of their exams online, but some tests may require a proctor. Additionally, students must complete a thesis to graduate. Deployed military students can participate in the program using DVDs or CD-ROMs, and can take proctored exams with no synchronous online classes required.

ODU provides financial aid, including scholarships, to online graduate students, and assigns an advisor within the education department to each student. The 2016 ODU Student Satisfaction Survey showed 96% of students were satisfied or very satisfied with their overall education experience.

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4 Saint Joseph's University 62.65 5% Philadelphia, PA

For more than 160 years, SJU has provided Jesuit-based education at its main campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. SJU also delivers degrees online, including a master's of science in secondary education (grades 7-12). Coursework covers subjects like adolescent psychology, language and culture, and diagnostic assessment. Throughout the program, students learn how to design curriculum, teach students with different learning styles, evaluate achievement, and use specific skills to assist special needs and ESOL students.

SJU's online secondary education degree requires students to complete 36 credits, including five semesters of coursework and one semester of student teaching at a private, public, or international school of the student's choice. The university offers its online courses in an asynchronous format, and students communicate with each other and faculty through email and online discussion forums. SJU assigns each student a personal student services coordinator to assist with academic planning and to ensure they fulfill degree requirements. Program applications require a background check, and PA residents must complete the PA Criminal History Record and PA Child Abuse Clearance. Graduates are qualified to apply for secondary education certification in PA, which is valid in most U.S. states.

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5 Ball State University 62.22 32% Muncie, IN

Muncie, Indiana is home to Ball State University, which offers 145 fully online graduate programs, including more than 40 degrees in education. Ball State features an online master's of arts in secondary education, taught by on-campus faculty, where students receive the same advising, academic, technological, and career-planning support as on-campus students. This master's in secondary education online is designed for current middle and high school teachers, and is intended to improve the effectiveness of instruction through the creative application of theory. The 30-credit program's coursework covers six core areas: curriculum, pedagogy, educational foundations, educational technology, multicultural education, and educational research. Students must also complete four electives within the six core areas.

Out-of-state distance learners pay a higher tuition rate than in-state students. Ball State offers financial aid, including loans, to online graduate students. Applicants should check the state authorization list to ensure they are eligible for the program; most U.S. states are authorized or are in the authorization process. Students should also look at individual state licensing requirements.

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6 Mississippi State University 62.09 13% Mississippi State, MS

Established as a land-grant institution in 1878, MSU is known as "The People's University." The top research university in Mississippi, the school uses 4,200 acres of farms and woodlands for agricultural research. MSU delivers online degrees in secondary education, typically requiring students to complete 33 credits and pass a comprehensive written exam to graduate. Courses cover topics like improving instruction and issues of accountability. Students may choose a K-12 or 7-12 grade concentration in a variety of subject areas, such as biology, reading, and social studies. To apply for MSU's online master's of science in secondary education, students must either hold a teaching license or provide evidence of eligibility for licensure.

Students may choose to do some coursework on campus, but can complete the degree entirely online. The faculty for the online program is the same as on campus. Additionally, students have access to a faculty advisor and online tutoring. MSU utilizes the myCourses online LMS. Program graduates may be eligible for the Class AA Mississippi Educator License.

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7 Liberty University 58.75 85% Lynchburg, VA

Lynchburg, Virginia's LU was founded in 1971 by the Baptist evangelist, Dr. Jerry Falwell. The largest Christian university in the world, the school is home to approximately 15,000 residential students on its 7,000 acre campus. LU also provides instruction to more than 94,000 online students, boasting a 17 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio in its distance learning programs. The university delivers 166 online graduate programs, including a master's of arts in teaching with a specialization in secondary education. This 36-credit program is designed for students who lack teaching experience but are pursuing an initial license in secondary education. LU allows graduate students to transfer up to 12 credits towards their degree. Students may also earn credit for professional training and life experience.

Coursework for LU's online master's in secondary education includes core subjects in addition to curriculum development and behavior management classes. Students must also complete three on-campus intensives and three credits of student teaching. Graduates will earn verification of completion of Virginia's state-approved secondary education licensure program, but should review their own state's regulations to determine if additional requirements apply.

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8 University of West Alabama 53.38 11% Livingston, AL

UWA was founded in 1835 as a teacher's college. Today, the university serves nearly 3,000 online students and offers a master's in secondary education online. Applicants for this program must hold a bachelor's-level Professional Educator Certificate and pass a background check.

UWA's online master's of high school education (grades 6-12) consists of 34 credits: 19 credits of professional courses like foundations of education and educational planning, and 15 credits of teaching field courses in the student's area of study. Students may need to complete an online survey course in special education, depending on previously completed coursework. Those who are seeking certification in English language arts and history must fulfill additional requirements. Program courses are accelerated, and most students complete the program in 18 months. UWA does not offer any scholarships at the graduate level, but students may seek other forms of financial aid.

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9 University of the Cumberlands 52.85 27% Williamsburg, KY

Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, UC was founded in 1888 and is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Through its Department of Education, the university delivers a secondary education degree online. UC's 33-credit master's of arts in teaching in secondary education (grades 8-12) allows graduates to enter the teaching field with state licensure from the Education Professional Standards Board. All U.S. states have an interstate certification reciprocity agreement with Kentucky, except for Minnesota, Iowa, Mississippi, and Alaska; however, these states may transfer certification on a case-by-case basis.

Students must select an emphasis area in the desired teaching subject, such as biology, earth science, or mathematics. The program's 27-credit educational foundations core includes courses like classroom management and discipline and the modern secondary school. Students must also fulfill supervised student teaching requirements. UC's online program features accelerated, six- to eight-week terms. The school offers financial aid to veterans through the Troop to Teacher Program.

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10 Georgia Southern University 52.72 22% Statesboro, GA

Known as "Georgia's large-scale, small-feel research university," GSU is a Carnegie doctoral and research institution. Located in Statesboro on a 900-acre campus, the school features a planetarium, Center for Wildlife Education, and Garden of the Coastal Plain. GSU programs include an master's in secondary education online, designed for those holding a Professional Level Four Certificate (or equivalent) in: biology, broad fields science, business, chemistry, economics, English, geography, history, mathematics, physics, or political science. The program is not suited for students who are pursuing initial certification or who hold a nonrenewable certification.

GSU's online secondary education degree integrates research throughout the coursework. Students must complete six credits of a professional education core, 12 credits in their area of concentration, 12 credits of specific requirements, and six credits of electives. The program has three admissions deadlines per year. Prospective students should confirm that the program is accredited in their state prior to applying.

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11 Kennesaw State University 52.66 27% Kennesaw, GA

Founded in 1963, Georgia's KSU serves nearly 3,000 graduate students. The university delivers secondary education programs online, including a master's in secondary education. This program is suited for teachers already certified in middle (6-8) or secondary grades (6-12) in English, history, mathematics, or science, and is designed to prepare students to become "teacher-leaders." Students must select a concentration in English, history, mathematics, or science for certification. If distance learners enroll in endorsement courses, all coursework is available entirely online with the exceptions of the history and science concentrations, which are only available in a hybrid format. KSU uses the Desire2Learn Brightspace LMS.

The online master's in secondary education's 36-credit curriculum includes a core, endorsement certification courses or electives, and 12-18 credits of teaching field courses. New cohorts begin in the summer semester. Students may complete the program within four semesters, but KSU recommends five or six to balance full-time teacher schedules.

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12 Columbus State University 50.32 33% Columbus, GA

Located 100 miles from Atlanta in Columbus, Georgia, CSU is home to the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center and the Coca-Cola Space Science Center. CSU's degree programs include a master's in secondary education online, which consists of 39 credits. Designed for those changing careers with backgrounds in mathematics, science, technology, and related fields, CSU's master's of arts in teaching secondary math and science requires a minimum 3.0 GPA in all graduate coursework. This program allows students to transfer up to nine credits toward their degree. Admission is only in the fall semester, and applicants must pass an FBI background check.

Program graduates can pursue certification in math, biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/space science for grades 6-12. Graduates will be recommended for certification by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission if they pass the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators exams and the edTPA assessment. The latter is completed during the nine-credit student-teaching/internship portion of the program.

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13 University of Louisiana at Monroe 50.19 30% Monroe, LA

ULM has delivered online degrees since 2003, and currently features 32 fully online programs. ULM's master's of arts in teaching secondary education, a 36-credit program, is designed for those with a bachelor's degree in a field other than education. Applicants must have a combined score of 1875 when multiplying their undergraduate GPA by their GRE score. Those with a score of 1650 to 1875 may be accepted on conditional status.

Students can complete ULM's online master's in secondary education in 14 to 20 months, but have up to three years to finish. The university matches online students residing in Louisiana with internships in secondary education jobs where they are paid as regular teachers with a temporary teaching certificate. All program graduates can pursue Louisiana Teacher Certificate Reciprocity, which is accepted in more than 40 U.S. states. Initial licensing can still be granted without reciprocity, however, as this online secondary education degree is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

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14 University of Maine 48.79 29% Orono, ME

In 1862, UMaine was established as the Maine College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts under the Morrill Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln. Today, the university's College of Education and Human Development is Maine's largest provider of professional education and policy research for both undergraduate and graduate students. UMaine's master's of secondary education is available fully online and consists of 33 credits. Out-of-state distance learners pay a slightly higher rate per credit than in-state students. UMaine offers financial aid and rolling admissions. This online master's in secondary education is designed for current teachers seeking leadership opportunities in curriculum design, assessment, and instruction.

Courses in the program include dynamics of change in schools, methods of teaching with computer technology, and introduction to students at risk. Students must have their choice of three electives approved by their advisor, but UMaine recommends students choose electives in technology, special education, and the student's specific content area. Applicants must have completed a preparatory program for teacher certification. Students with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher do not have to take an admissions test.

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15 Mercy College 48.65 47% Dobbs Ferry, NY

Located on the Hudson River in Dobbs Ferry, New York, Mercy delivers 40 online degree programs through the Blackboard LMS. The school offers its online master's of science in secondary education (grades 7-12) in two tracks. "Track A," suited for "pre-practice candidates" without teaching experience, leads graduates to initial certification by the NY State Education Department and requires 30 credits. "Track B," made up of 36 credits and designed for current teachers with at least one year of experience, leads to professional certification with the NY State Education Department if the graduate has a minimum of three years teaching experience.

Students on either track are required to complete an education capstone course. In addition to the master's degree, students have the option to pursue a certificate in teaching students with disabilities. Mercy's online master's in secondary education features focused courses in the area of certification being pursued: English, mathematics, science (biology, physics, or chemistry), or social studies.

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16 Northwestern State University of Louisiana 47.59 63% Natchitoches, LA

Founded in 1884 as a teaching school, NSU continues to offer a variety of education programs, including a master's in secondary education online within its College of Education and Human Development. The university's master's of arts in teaching secondary school education (grades 6-12) professional studies program requires students to complete 33 credits and includes a one-year internship. This program, available fully online, is designed for individuals without an undergraduate education degree who are seeking initial certification in the following areas: biology, business, chemistry, English, family and consumer sciences, mathematics, physics, social studies, and speech. Before students begin an internship, they must pass the PRAXIS II pedagogy test.

NSU is a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement member, and Massachusetts is the only state that doesn't offer NSU's online programs to its residents. NSU's online students are charged a flat rate, so out-of-state distance learners pay the same as in-state students. Students may begin the program in the summer, fall, or spring.

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17 Stevenson University 47.39 42% Stevenson, MD

Established in 1947, Stevenson is located in Maryland and serves almost 800 graduate students annually. The university delivers a master's of arts in teaching that is specifically tailored to students who hold bachelor degrees in mathematics or science with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Students may transfer up to six credits toward this 33-credit degree. Stevenson's online degree in secondary education meets all of Maryland's initial certification requirements for grades 7-12 in the following subjects: biology, chemistry, earth/space science, physical science, physics, and mathematics.

Stevenson's online programs are cohort-based, where groups of students start together within their specific area of concentration, build relationships throughout the program, and graduate together. Students may begin in the fall or spring semester. Courses include issues in STEM education and principles of special education, and the last semester of the program consists of a full-time teaching internship. Additionally, students must also complete a research project in instructional practice and a portfolio demonstrating mastery of teaching standards to graduate.

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18 Aurora University 47.29 4% Aurora, IL

Originally founded as a seminary in 1893 and located 40 miles from Chicago, Aurora is home to the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, which serves regional elementary and middle school students. The university delivers a 37-credit master's in secondary education online. Full-time students can complete Aurora's master's of arts in mathematics education in just one year. The program is designed for secondary teachers and aims to deepen their knowledge of STEM and Common Core standards for math. Courses, which last eight weeks, include numbers and mathematical thinking, understanding and teaching geometry, and calculus concepts and applications.

Applicants must have an minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75. AU recommends that applicants have undergraduate work in calculus. Aurora provides financial aid and payment plans to graduate students who qualify. All of the university's faculty members are experienced teachers, and 85% hold the highest degree available in their field.

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19 University of Maryland-University College 47.09 100% Adelphi, MD

UMUC's online secondary education degree is a 30-credit program that prepares students for teacher certification. Specifically, graduates can be certified in: earth/space science, physics, English, mathematics, history, social studies, chemistry, biology, computer science, Spanish, French, German, or Mandarin Chinese. Students should research the specific certification requirements in their home states, as only some states will accept Maryland's certification. UMUC's master's of arts in teaching is not available to residents of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Washington.

Coursework covers the latest educational theories and practices, technology in the classroom, and teaching students with various learning styles. Every course includes field experience components that students can complete within the school district of their choice. A full-time, 80-day internship is the final part of the program, and students must pass a content assessment before they can begin their internship. Graduation requirements include the PRAXIS II pedagogy exam, a teaching portfolio, and a student learning project. The program offers fall, spring, and summer semester start times.

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20 University of Central Missouri 46.49 38% Warrensburg, MO

Located in Warrensburg, Missouri, UCM serves more than 3,500 graduate students in 37 programs. The university's master's of arts in teaching, with a concentration in either secondary or middle school education, is an asynchronous, fully online program delivered by the school's Department of Educational Foundation and Literacy. Each concentration requires distance learners to complete 30 credits, and UCM allows students to transfer up to nine credits.

To earn their online master's in secondary education at UCM, distance learners must complete 24 credits of coursework and a subsequent internship student teaching or working as a contracted teacher. Students may enroll in a maximum of 16 credits of coursework during the fall and spring semesters, and 12 credits during the summer. UCM boasts 468 full-time faculty, 70% of whom hold a Ph.D. or the highest degree available in their field.

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21 Western Kentucky University 44.49 32% Bowling Green, KY

WKU is located in Bowling Green and delivers 90 online programs, including an master's of arts in secondary education. This program is designed to assist those schools with the greatest needs by training teachers for leadership positions, thereby improving student achievement.

WKU's secondary education degree online is comprised of two segments. The Professional Education core, delivered fully online, covers pedagogy, leadership, and content. The Specialization segment, which students can complete entirely online if they choose, allows distance learners to tailor their program to their individual interests and goals. This latter segment includes an advisor-approved course of study in endorsement areas like biology, history, and literacy. However, the ESL and Environmental Education endorsements are not available entirely online. WKU's secondary education program is 30 to 37 credits (depending on specialization), and is delivered asynchronously. Distance learners enjoy access to tutoring, career services, and success coaching support. Applicants must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 and must hold or show eligibility for a secondary teaching certificate. If an applicant's teaching certificate is expired, they can enroll for six credits before submitting a renewed certificate.

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22 California University of Pennsylvania 43.82 49% California, PA

Established in 1852, Cal U is located in California, Pennsylvania and offers more than 75 degrees, including online programs in secondary education. The university delivers a master's in advanced studies in secondary education and teacher leadership asynchronously through a cohort model. This program is intended for full-time middle or high school teachers, and includes courses in classroom management, incorporating national and state standards, and instructional technology. Students can use program coursework to fulfill Pennsylvania continuing education requirements, and can complete Cal U's master's degree in secondary education in five semesters. Out-of-state distance learners pay a slightly higher tuition rate than in-state students. Cal U is a SARA (National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements) participant, and applicants in SARA-approved states are eligible for full certification.

Cal U's master's in secondary education degree online prepares students for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards Certification application. Some graduates opt to change positions and become curriculum or reading specialists, administrators, or guidance counselors.

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23 Southeast Missouri State University 43.16 41% Cape Girardeau, MO

Located in Cape Girardeau, SMSU delivers a master's of arts in secondary education online. Students in the program can select from two tracks: educational technology or educational studies. The educational technology option is designed for individuals seeking to add new technological skills into classroom practices and projects. Courses in this track, available fully online, include internet in education and planning for tech in the school district. The educational studies option integrates online coursework with 15 credits from other sources like workshops and specialty courses, leading to an individualized program for each student. Examples of student-designed programming are advanced placement and autism certification concentrations.

SMSU's delivers its online master's in secondary education asynchronously through the Moodle platform. Each degree option requires a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75, but the university does not require GRE scores or a valid teaching certificate for admission. The program offers fall, spring, and summer start dates.

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24 Northern Arizona University 42.49 34% Flagstaff, AZ

NAU is headquartered in Flagstaff, Arizona, and boasts 35 campuses in other states and online. Nearly 40% of the university's students are distance learners. NAU offers 80 online degrees, including a master's in secondary education online. This master's in secondary education requires students to complete 30 units, and prepares them for state teacher certification. To graduate from the program, students may be required by their area of emphasis to complete a thesis, oral defense, and/or research project. Typically, thesis candidates must live on campus for one semester (fall, spring, or summer). Those not writing a thesis may opt for an online capstone seminar. Students must undergo assessments during the program to demonstrate their knowledge of content, pedagogical theory, and practice.

Applicants must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and must have an IVP Fingerprint clearance card. Most are likely eligible for reduced out-of-state tuition for online students through the NAU WorldWide University program.

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25 Chaminade University of Honolulu 42.32 47% Honolulu, HI

Named after Father William Joseph Chaminade, the founder of the Society of Mary, Chaminade was established by Marianist Catholic priests in 1955. Today, more than 20 Marianist priests and brothers live on the school's campus and serve as professors, administrators, and campus ministers.

Chaminade delivers a 49-credit online secondary education degree through its master's of arts in secondary education, designed or teachers seeking licensure in grades 7-12. Students in the program can select an emphasis in mathematics, English, social studies, or science. Courses include managing school environments, teaching strategies, and multicultural education. Students must pass the PRAXIS II exam in their licensure area prior to applying for student teaching opportunities, and typically complete the program within two years. Chaminade's academic year is structured in four terms that last 10 weeks each. Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA throughout the program and complete a portfolio demonstrating competencies in order to graduate.

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The following concentrations are commonly offered by secondary education programs. While the details may vary from program to program, this table outlines the typical learning outcomes of these areas. Choosing a concentration in secondary education allows you to develop specialized skills and work with different types of students with varying needs.


Concentration Description Careers this concentration prepares for
Educational Leadership Educational leadership students learn how to manage learning environments, implement evidence-based instructional strategies, and communicate with stakeholders. Focal areas include ethical leadership development and decision making skills in a diverse, community-oriented context. Students are prepared for roles as assistant school principals, school principals, college instructors, and instructional supervisors.
English as a Second Language (ESL) Students learn teaching strategies for ESL learners. This concentration focuses on the psychology of learning English, and students become familiar with cognitive processes that influence language development and literacy instruction for ESL learners. This concentration prepares student for careers as ESL teachers at middle and high schools. Other career possibilities include assessment and consultation.
Special Education This concentration prepares you to work with children who have disabilities and other at-risk youth. The curriculum emphasizes teaching strategies to accommodate a variety of special learning needs and examines policies that impact special education. Students learn how to promote positive behaviors, develop IEPs, and advocate for children’s educational rights. This concentration prepares students for careers teaching children and adolescents with special learning needs.


While the curriculum may vary depending on the program, most online master’s in secondary education programs include the following courses. These courses emphasize teaching strategies geared toward middle and high school students and focus on contemporary trends in teaching.

  • Curriculum Development: This course provides training in curriculum design and instruction. Students learn how to create engaging learning environments that reach students across cognitive levels. Best-practice instructional strategies guide curriculum decisions, and students gain skills in age-appropriate methods of teaching secondary education. Students learn how to plan lessons that require active participation.
  • Adolescent Psychology: This course prepares students to teach secondary education by familiarizing them with theories of adolescent development that emphasize learning, cognition, and social development. It explores motivational learning strategies and approaches to classroom management, introduces students to assessment techniques, and focuses on creating learning opportunities that meet individual needs and motivation levels.
  • Foundations in Secondary Education: This course provides students with an overview of the historical and contemporary issues in education. It focuses on current trends and policies that affect educational systems. Students explore how to establish inclusive learning environments in a multicultural society. Students interested in teaching, consulting, and pursuing leadership roles in education benefit from this course.


Most online master’s in secondary education students earn their degree in two years. The average program consists of 36 credits. Full-time students have the ability to earn their degree in a year, while part-time students often take up to three years. Factors that influence the length of the program include concentration and student teaching requirements, the student’s prior teaching experience, and initial licensure requirements.

Students complete their online degree in secondary education at their own pace or with a cohort. Self-paced learning is a common feature of distance education, and it allows students to work independently to complete assignments. Most self-paced learning courses are delivered asynchronously, and students progress through the program at their convenience. Individually-paced programs usually admit students throughout the year. Cohort learning programs admit a select number of students, typically in the fall, spring, or summer. Learners form a community and pursue their degrees together. This format is similar to traditional program and emphasizes teamwork and peer support.


  • Teacher Licensure: Some programs include initial licensure in the curriculum, and students complete the exam as part of their program. Teacher licensure varies by state, and students often have to take the Praxis exam as part of the certification process. Once licensed, teachers can pursue careers in public and private schools. Licensure must be renewed every few years.
  • Instructional Leadership Licensure: Many states require an instructional leadership license for professionals who seek administrative careers in education. The process of earning this certification is similar to teacher licensure, and applicants must take the Praxis or a related exam to demonstrate knowledge in instructional leadership. Many states require school principals to hold this or a similar license.

Accredited universities and colleges offer the best online master’s in secondary education programs. These schools participate in peer review processes and are held accountable by their regional or national accrediting bodies. Regionally accredited universities are members of one of six accrediting bodies across the U.S. and adhere to the standards set forth by their region’s accreditor. Nationally accredited schools usually offer vocational or distance learning programs and generally have lower tuition rates than regionally accredited institutions. Students pursuing advanced degrees may find that undergraduate credits earned from nationally accredited universities are not accepted by regionally accredited graduate programs. Many online programs are accredited by the DEAC, which requires accredited distance learning programs to adhere to the commission’s standards and policies. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits teacher training programs. CAEP ensures that education programs provide students with knowledge and skills comparable to national standards.

The Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) play important roles in the standardization process of accrediting bodies. The DOE is a federal organization that recognizes accrediting bodies and sets the standards to which they and their programs adhere to. CHEA promotes academic quality through its accreditor recognition process. Accrediting bodies recognized by these organizations demonstrate accountability and participate in self studies and peer reviews to maintain academic quality. Students can access databases of all accredited schools in the U.S. whose accrediting bodies are recognized by CHEA and DOE.


An online master’s in secondary education prepares students for careers as teachers, educational administrators, support staff, and more. An advanced degree allows secondary teachers to focus on the instruction of a specific subject or to pursue leadership roles within the school system. Educators who hold a master’s degree can teach undergraduate courses at community colleges and universities. Teaching careers require patience, resourcefulness, and communication skills. They work with parents and the community to promote students success. Successful principals are effective leaders who possess strong interpersonal skills. Listed below are examples of possible careers for graduates.

  1. High School Teacher: High school teachers provide 9th-12th grade students with academic instruction. An advanced degree allows them to teach a single subject, such as science or math, or multiple subjects. High school teachers plan lessons, communicate with parents, and incorporate standardized testing preparation into their class curriculum. They are qualified for careers in public and private education.
  2. Special Education Teacher, Secondary School: Secondary school special education teachers work with adolescents who have learning and developmental disabilities. They create IEPs and adapt lesson plans to meet the diverse needs of their students. Special education teachers help traditional classroom teachers accommodate students with disabilities and assist special-needs students in the transition to life after graduation.
  3. School Principal: Secondary school principals work in middle schools and high schools. They design and implement the school’s curriculum and monitor teacher and staff performance. They establish the school culture and manage student behavior.
  4. Instructional Coordinator: Instructional coordinators develop curriculums, analyze test data, and work with teachers to implement new learning techniques and strategies. They hold teacher training workshops and coach teachers to help improve their skills. Instructional coordinators recommend educational material, including textbooks and new technologies. A master’s degree is required for a career as an instructional coordinator.

Median Annual Salary and Growth Rate by Career

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Job Growth (2014-24)
High School Teacher $58,030 6%
Special Education Teacher $57,910 6%
School Principal $92,510 6%
Instructional Coordinator $62,460 7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Factors that influence annual earnings in secondary education include degree level, employer type, and work experience. Data retrieved from PayScale indicates that years on the job positively impact annual earnings. The following table demonstrates the relationship between professional experience and salary.

Secondary Education Careers by Experience

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
High School Teacher $48,072 $41,000 $47,000 $60,000
Middle School Teacher $45,879 $40,000 $45,000 $60,000
Curriculum Specialist $54,025 $50,000 $54,000 $61,000
Special Education Teacher, Secondary School $49,087 $42,000 $48,000 $63,000
Assistant Principal $69,995 $65,000 $68,000 $76,000


Professional organizations provide students and recent graduates with valuable resources, including networking opportunities, access to job postings, and the latest in educational research. Many professional organizations offer teaching strategies and tools for developing lesson plans, communicating with parents, and motivating students. They often provide insurance and debt services to their members. Students who become members of professional organizations learn how to advocate for the profession and those they serve.

The field of education is ripe with scholarship and funding opportunities, including grants for teachers earning their master’s. The federal government offers a variety of financial aid options, and students must complete the FAFSA to determine what types of assistance they are eligible to receive. The Institute of International Education offers the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program that covers the cost of studying and teaching abroad. Other financial assistance programs include graduate assistantships and work-study programs.


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.


Students who pursue online degrees will be eligible for scholarships, grants and other financial aid that is unavailable to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Learn more about these financial opportunities for web-based learners.