A Guide to Master’s Degrees in Education and Teaching

Ready to step up your education career? Find out which online master's in education programs are the best fit to help you advance in your field.
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Updated on April 18, 2024
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There are several types of master's degrees in education, the predominant two being the master of education (M.Ed.) and the master of arts in teaching (MAT). But what's an M.Ed. vs. MAT? MAT programs prepare students for classroom teaching careers whereas M.Ed. programs can prepare students for a wider selection of educational roles, including teaching, administrative, and corporate positions.

The curriculum of a master's in education or teaching program varies broadly depending on degree type and concentration, but most programs include foundational courses in curriculum development and instructional strategies. Programs that lead to licensure or certification typically include student teaching or other field experiences.

Featured Online Master's in Education Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Popular Master’s in Education Online Programs

We chose to highlight the following schools based on several factors, including top position in organic or paid search results (as of August 2023), relevancy of program offerings, and categorization as a nonprofit. These programs are listed alphabetically by school and not weighed against each other in our methodology.

Popular Master's in Education Online Programs
School Degrees Offered Cost per Credit Required Credits Number of Programs GRE Required Licensure Track Months to Complete
Arizona State University MA, M.Ed. $692 30-47 18 No Yes 18-24
Eastern Washington University M.Ed., MM $300 48-50 14 No No 12-16
Tulane University M.Ed. $1,210 30-33 4 No No 24
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Ed.M. $510 32 8 No No 18-24
Western Governors University MA, MS $3,075 (per term) N/A 18 No Yes 12-36

Arizona State University (ASU)

  • Public institution in Arizona
  • 18 online program options
  • 30-47 credits | $692 per credit

Arizona State University's online master's in education programs provide analytical and research skills for current and future educators. ASU's degrees emphasize foundations in instructional strategies and learning methods.

Visit ASU's Programs . External link

Eastern Washington University (EWU)

  • Public institution in Washington
  • 15 online program options
  • 49-50 credits | $300 per credit

Eastern Washington University online master's in education does not require recommendation letters or writing samples for admissions, unlike most programs. EWU offers 15 graduate education programs, including early childhood education, library media, and literacy.

Visit EWU's Programs . External link

Tulane University

  • Private, nonprofit institution in Louisiana
  • 4 online program options
  • 30-33 credits | $1,210 per credit

Tulane University's online master's in education program has four specialization options. Students design their curriculum around these specializations, including learning experience design and special education, to prepare them for their chosen career path.

Visit Tulane's Programs . External link

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)

  • Public institution in Illinois
  • 8 online program options
  • 32 credits | $510 per credit

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's online master's in education programs prepare students to navigate challenging education issues. Other focuses include teaching strategies for diverse settings, leadership, and technological applications for education.

Visit UIUC's Programs . External link

Western Governors University (WGU)

  • Private, nonprofit institution in Utah
  • 18 online program options
  • Competency-based | $3,975 per term

Western Governors University has a competency-based model for its online master's in education programs. WGU students progress through courses once they're ready, speeding up if they're familiar or slowing down when they need extra time.

Visit WGU's Programs . External link

Overview of an Online Master's in Education

A master's in education can take the form of M.Ed., MAT, or even of master of arts or science in education. And while there is slight variation between each of these degrees, the time takes to complete each degree, as well as the cost, is typically the same (or very similar).

Average Length of M.Ed.

Number of Years
1-2 (Full Time)
3-4 (Part Time)

Credits Required

Average Annual Cost of M.Ed.

Online Program

On-Campus Program

Source: NCES DataLab

“[One] key consideration in choosing a master's in education is truly determining if it is aligned with a student's career aspirations. Is the degree required for career goals? Will the degree be worth the investment in time and money? Many adult learners must weigh the benefit of the investment personally and professionally.”

Dr. Stacey Ludwig Johnson, Senior VP and Executive Dean of the School of Education, Western Governors University

Online Master's in Education Admission Requirements

Most master's in education programs require you to have the following when you apply:

Additionally, some programs may require you to submit GRE test scores. Others, such as educational administration programs, may require that you have prior teaching experience or hold a valid teaching license.

Online Master's in Education Concentrations

Early Childhood Education

Master's in early childhood education programs focus on how to educate young children from infancy to age eight. Attendees will learn how to teach multiple subjects to children through courses including research literature, the critical role of early educators, and best teaching practices. Graduates can pursue many roles, including as preschool directors, early education curriculum developers, and classroom teachers.

Elementary Education

A master's in education with a concentration in elementary education prepares enrollees to work with students at the K-8 level. Learners study classroom management, learning design, and inclusive teaching methods to create optimized learning environments. Degree holders can pursue roles as educators, teaching assistants, and tutors.

Secondary Education

Master's in secondary education programs focus on the skills and knowledge necessary to promote education from grades 6-12. Programs may allow attendees to choose a preferred content subject including math, science, or social studies. Graduates typically pursue teaching roles, including middle school teacher, high school teacher, and teaching assistant.

Higher Education

Higher education graduate programs teach foundational knowledge regarding the current higher education landscape, costs, and structure. Students may study various topics, including higher education finance, college student health, and public policy in higher education. Enrollees can specialize in a subject by choosing a concentration such as diversity, public policy, or research. Prospective careers for graduates include community college president, resident director, or policy analyst.

Adult Education

Adult education master's programs help students understand how adults learn and how to design adult curriculums. Program curriculums may include teaching in an online environment, instructional strategies, and research courses. Adult education graduates can pursue roles as adult educators, administrators, or human resources managers.

Special Education

Special education graduate programs cover the laws and policies governing special education services. Coursework includes instruction on behavior management, goal and objective writing, and data collection and interpretation. Graduates can work as special education teachers, resource room teachers, adjunct faculty, and individualized education program case managers.

Gifted and Talented Education

Master's programs in gifted and talented education teach students how to educate, motivate, and empower academically talented learners. Graduates can support gifted students' development as gifted educators, elementary educators, or tutors.

English Language Learning (ELL)

Master's in ELL or TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) students learn teaching techniques and strategies to help English language learners succeed. Graduates often become ELL teachers in K-12 or adult education settings.

Educational Administration

Educational administration graduate programs provide an understanding of methods and ideas that keep schools running efficiently. Attendees study standards-based systems theory, data analysis for decision-making, and how to manage resources. Educational administration degree holders can utilize their skills in school principal, dean, or athletic director roles.

Educational Leadership

Enrollees in master's in educational leadership programs prepare to be effective educational leaders by studying education theories, leadership, and finance. Attendees learn how to ensure student safety, manage budgets, and lead other educators. Educational leaders can pursue roles as principals, curriculum developers, and educational consultants.

Curriculum and Instruction

Master's students studying curriculum and instruction often specialize in a specific area like secondary language arts or elementary education. They learn how to evaluate different learning materials, create meaningful assessments, and interpret data.

Reading and Literacy

Reading and literacy master's programs help prospective educators gain a deeper understanding of reading and writing curriculums and theories. The program's curriculum generally focuses on K-12 students. Graduates can pursue roles as primary, secondary, or special education teachers.

Social Studies

Master's students in social studies programs learn about history and how to pass on their knowledge to secondary school students. Enrollees can learn about multiple history topics, including U..S history, traditional Chinese history, and modern European history. Graduates can earn a teaching degree to teach social studies in secondary schools.

Music Education

Music education master's programs provide instruction on both musical theory and music teaching strategies. Attendees learn about musical analytic techniques, how to develop musical educational materials, and how to utilize music technology in classrooms. Specialists in music education can become educators, program directors, or musicians.

Math Education

Math education graduate programs provide high-level mathematics knowledge and teaching methods to help elementary or secondary students excel in the subject. Degree holders may pursue teaching careers in subjects like algebra, calculus, and Java.

Science Education

Attendees in science education master's programs can choose to learn specialized knowledge in a science discipline, including biology, physics, or environmental studies. Science educators can pursue teaching roles in a public school setting or private setting, including at zoos and museums.

Educational Technology (EdTech)

A master's in EdTech covers the latest technological developments in the classroom. Graduates can become technology coordinators at schools, lead STEM teams, and help determine assistive technology for students.

Educational Assessment

Educational assessment graduate programs teach enrollees how to gather, analyze, and interpret data. Assessment and measurement professionals can be used at schools to determine students' performance or at private institutions to make data-driven decisions.

School Counseling

A school counseling master's program can prepare students to become K-12 counselors. Graduates may consider pursuing further education in school psychology or counselor education. Coursework for this specialization may cover group counseling, crisis counseling, and ethical practices.


Master's in coaching programs educate attendees on the importance of proper coaching practices, sports tactics, and team development. Aspiring coaches can pursue roles at educational institutions, at community centers, and with professional sports teams.

Child Development

Child development master's programs cover the major theories regarding the cognitive, social, and physical development of children. Individuals that understand the development process of children from infancy to adolescence can pursue roles as childcare administrators, children's advocates, and community outreach specialists.

Why Should You Get Your Master's in Education Online?

One of the big advantages of getting a master's in education online is that you don't have to leave the workforce. Many M.Ed. programs allow students to earn their degree part time, so they can balance their studies, work, and personal obligations.

That's one positive. Other benefits of online education include:

  • Freedom to learn from anywhere
  • More flexible class schedules
  • Ability to change careers at your convenience
  • Self-paced and self-directed learning
  • More neurodivergent-friendly learning methods
“Online is the best option if you do not have the time to spend in a classroom because of personal obligations. To be successful, you must have excellent time management skills, be an effective communicator, and know how to collaborate with classmates virtually.”

Charesha Barrett, M.Ed., Cleveland State University

What Can You Do With a Master's in Education?

A master's in education or teaching can lead to many in-demand education careers, including K-12 teacher, school principal, administrator, curriculum consultant, and other leadership positions.

And here's more good news: Your degree opens the door to jobs outside the education setting, too.

“Of course a master's degree in education can lead to opportunities in an educational setting. However, students tend to underestimate how the degree can support a career in other industries and career paths, like EdTech, learning and development, human resources, [and] project management.”

Dr. Emmanuela Stanislaus, Instructor, Florida International University's MS in Higher Education Administration Program

Here are popular teaching and non-teaching jobs for master's in education graduates, including how much they pay and how much they're expected to grow over the next decade:

Teaching Jobs for Master's in Education Graduates
Job Title Median Annual Salary (2023) Job Outlook (2022-2032)
Middle School Teacher $64,290 +1%
High School Teacher $65,220 +1%
Special Education Teacher $67,190 +0%
Career or Technical Education Teacher $65,130 +0%
Adult Education or ESL Teacher $60,560 -13%
Source: BLS
Non-Teaching Jobs for Master's in Education Graduates
Job Title Median Annual Salary (2023) Job Outlook (2022-2032)
School Principal (K-12) $103,460 +1%
Postsecondary Education Administrator $102,610 +4%
Instructional Coordinator $74,620 +2%
School or Career Counselor $61,710 +5%
Technical Writer $80,050 +7%
Source: BLS

Do Online Master's in Education Programs Lead to Licensure?

A teaching license or certification provides people the authority to teach legally. Teachers and principals need licenses to work in P-12 public schools. State governments issue licenses if you meet predetermined criteria, such as having a degree, completing field experiences, and passing a state exam. Specific requirements vary by state and by the type of license, certification, or endorsement.

An online master's in education can be a pathway to licensure if the program is approved by the state. Online programs that lead to an initial teaching license typically include an in-person student-teaching component. If you already have a teaching license, you can apply to master's programs that lead to add-on endorsements or other certifications, such as an administrator license.

Non-licensure M.Ed. programs are typically designed for students who already hold a teaching credential or who plan to work in settings that do not require a license, such as private schools. These online programs often don't have any field requirements.

Does Accreditation Matter for Master's in Education Programs?

Before enrolling in an online master's in education program, check the school's accreditation status. Institutional accreditation recognizes overall academic quality and legitimizes your degree. You must attend an accredited school to receive federal financial aid.

Programmatic accreditation recognizes programs or departments that adequately prepare students for their careers. Not all education programs have programmatic accreditation. Those that do have an additional marker of a high-quality education.

There are two main programmatic accreditors for educator preparation programs:

  • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP)

For more specific subfields of education, you may also come across these accrediting bodies:

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for early childhood education and child development programs
  • National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) for music education programs
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) for school counseling, career counseling, and counselor education programs

Is an Education Master's Degree Worth It? Grads and Instructors Weigh In

The graduates and instructors we spoke to agreed that a master's in education leads to better opportunities, better pay, and greater impact — though you need to be mindful of the reasons why you want it.

They also say the degree helped them reach specific career goals, which varied depending on their values.

What Grads Are Saying

“A master's in education gives a teacher a far wider perspective on how the system works and how students learn. A graduate with a master's in education becomes a problem-solver who can zoom in and out of a problem, seeing it at both micro and macro levels.”

Mindy Kay Smith, M.Ed., Ohio University

“[A master's in education] has served me well. … I'm a more creative problem-solver, a more empathetic product builder, and a stronger collaborator because I have spent time deeply understanding the problems and people in my industry.”

Lisa Jiang, MA in Education, Stanford University

“My master's degrees helped me get more leadership positions in education and helped me attain committee roles with the Ohio Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, I am able to provide professional development at the collegiate level because of my two graduate degrees.”

Charesha Barrett, M.Ed., Cleveland State University

What Instructors and Administrators Are Saying

“I think that it is worth it to pursue a master's in education. Having said that, I think that it is important for students to be strategic if and when they decide to pursue it. Go through the exercise of asking yourself why you want to pursue the degree. What opportunities will a master's degree open up for you, and will it be enough to support your lifestyle?”

Dr. Emmanuela Stanislaus, Instructor, Florida International University's MS in Higher Education Administration Program

“I consider a bachelor's degree to be like an appetizer when it comes to education. You just get a little taste and you don't have the full understanding of what it means to be an educator. After being in the classroom, having exposure to systems and structures, individuals pursuing a master's degree begin to ask better questions, challenge inequitable practices, and gain confidence in using their voice to advocate for research-based approaches to supporting students and programs.”

Dr. Kasey Johnson, Lead Faculty, Ottawa University School of Education

“Earning a master's degree in education will help graduates be a part of a group of professionals who have the credentials, licensures, and industry-relevant skills and knowledge that current employers seek.”

Dr. Stacey Ludwig Johnson, Senior VP and Executive Dean of the School of Education, Western Governors University

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's Degrees in Education

Do most teachers have a master's degree?

Yes. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 51% of public school teachers held master's degrees in 2021. And 53% of secondary teachers had a master's degree. Teaching requirements vary by state, with some states requiring a master's degree to become a certified teacher. Private schools can enact their own rules and may not require teachers to hold master's degrees.

Which master's degree in education pays the most?

Individuals with a master's degree in education earn a wide range of salaries based on their career paths, not their degree choice. According to the BLS, school principals earn some of the highest salaries among educators, with a median annual wage of $100,000 in 2023.

Is there a difference between a master's in teaching and a master's in education?

Yes. Master's in teaching degree programs focus on preparing enrollees for teaching roles while education degree curriculums can prepare students for a wider variety of positions. Online master's in education graduates can utilize their skills as teachers, administrators, social workers, human resource representatives, and more.

Can you be a professor with a master's in education?

Some higher education institutions, particularly community colleges, may allow professors to teach with a master's in education, but other schools may require a doctorate in education. Individuals with a master's in higher education may have additional opportunities to pursue careers at the postsecondary level.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed February 2, 2024.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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