Best Online Master’s in K-12 Education Programs
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A master's in K-12 education is a two-year graduate degree that helps K-12 teachers expand their teaching skills and gain leadership opportunities. Graduates of a master's in K-12 education program know how to teach effectively and build positive relationships with colleagues, students, and families.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of graduate tuition and fees for the 2019-20 school year was $19,792. The average for public institutions was $12,410, while the average for private institutions was $26,597. Some online schools charge cheaper, in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students.
If you go to graduate school to earn your master's in K-12 education, you may earn a slightly higher salary. Public school teachers are usually on a salary step schedule. Teachers with a master's degree can go higher up that scale.
In addition to teaching, graduates with a master's in K-12 education can also work as school administrators. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school teachers earned a median income of $62,870 in May 2020, while school principals earned a median of $98,490. Jobs for both teachers and administrators are projected to grow 7-8% between 2020 and 2030, which is about the same as the average job growth rate for all occupations.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in K-12 Education Program?
Many of the qualities that make good teachers also make good students. For example, a teacher benefits from good speaking, writing, and listening skills, and these same skills help a master's student excel as well. Good teachers also need to be patient, empathetic, engaging, and adaptable. These skills also prepare students for graduate school.
The typical master's in K-12 education program requires 30-36 credits and takes about 2-3 years to complete. Some schools offer concentrations, such as classroom management, educational leadership, international baccalaureate, special education, and work-based learning. You may need to complete a master's project or thesis at the end of your program.
Master's in K-12 education programs are designed for students who already work as K-12 teachers and want to hone their skills or gain new skills to adapt to a changing educational environment.
Depending on the school, the master's in K-12 education program may be a master of arts (MA), master of science (MS), or master of education (M.Ed.). Typically, an MA focuses more on humanities, an MS focuses on science, and an M.Ed. focuses on applied education skills.
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Popular Online Master's in K-12 Education Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in K-12 Education Program?
Foundations of Classroom Management
During this course, students learn the strategies and techniques to effectively manage their classrooms. They also learn how to form stronger relationships with their students.
Teacher as Leader
This course focuses on analyzing the impact that teachers make on students. Students explore different ways they can be leaders in the classroom. They learn how to set goals for leadership and professional growth.
Students examine approaches, theories, and strategies for teaching in the 21st century. They study schools that are known for their innovative practices and learn new pedagogical techniques.
Applied Classroom Assessment Techniques
In this course, teachers learn how to improve their students' learning by using the systemic application of assessments. They learn how to evaluate and interpret data from formative and summative assessment procedures.
Culturally Responsive Instruction
This course examines multicultural research, practice, and theory to help teachers understand different cultures and backgrounds. They learn to develop teaching strategies for working with culturally diverse students. Learners in the course also learn how to differentiate instruction for students in special education.
What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in K-12 Education Program?
While graduate admissions requirements vary from one school to another, the requirements for each school are typically the same whether you attend online or in person. Most schools require an application, application fee, and college transcripts. Some may require test scores, letters of recommendations, or interviews.
Regardless of which graduate school you attend, you'll need to prove that you have your bachelor's degree. This degree may or may not have to be in education. If your degree is not in education, you may be required to take some prerequisites before starting your master's in K-12 education.
Although some college application systems, such as the Common App, allow undergraduate students to apply for multiple schools at once, this is not typically the case with graduate schools. You will likely need to submit a separate application and pay a separate application fee to each graduate school on your list.
Some graduate schools require GRE scores. If you need to take this test, you should prepare as much as possible ahead of time in order to get the highest possible scores. You'll want to aim for a minimum combined math and verbal score of 300 to give yourself a good chance at admission.
Letters of Recommendation
If your school requires letters of recommendation, it is usually best to ask a work supervisor or someone else who is familiar with your work, such as a human resources manager. If you do not have any work experience, you should ask professors or academic advisors from your bachelor's degree program.
Resume and Work Experience
Some master's programs require work experience, while others don't. If your school requires a resume for the application, make sure you list not only your work experience, but also your educational experience. If you have done research, be sure to include that on your resume as well.
Whether the school asks for a statement of purpose, personal statement, or letter of intent, all grad school essays have one thing in common: They give you a chance to show the admissions team that you belong in the program you're applying for. This is your opportunity to talk about your career goals and how completing the program will help you achieve them.
You'll need official transcripts from every college you've attended, and possibly from high school as well. If you've taken any graduate-level courses, your graduate school will evaluate them to see if they can transfer to your new program. If you have transfer credits, you may be able to finish your online master's in K-12 education faster.
What Can I Do With an Online Master's in K-12 Education Degree?
The BLS projects that teaching and school administrator jobs will increase by 7-8% from 2020-30, which is about as fast as average. However, this may not take into account the spike in retirements and resignations due to COVID-19 in some states. The BBC reported that Covid has worsened the teacher shortage, affecting almost every state. This has increased the demand for teachers in the U.S.
At the high end of the pay scale, graduates with a master's in K-12 education earn an average of $2,760 more in their first year of teaching and an average of $7,358 more per year. For those who go into school administration, the pay jumps significantly. School principals earned a median salary of $98,490 in 2020, according to the BLS.
See where a master's in K-12 education can take you. Learn more about teaching careers.
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers teach grades K-5 in public or private schools. They create lesson plans in various subjects, instruct small groups or entire classes, and work one-on-one with students who need extra help. They develop lessons, assess students, review the curriculum, and teach students how to interact with each other.
Median Annual Salary: $60,660
Middle School Teachers
Middle school teachers usually instruct students in grades 6-8. They may work in public or private schools. They plan lessons, grade assignments, and administer tests. They teach the lessons they have prepared to their entire class or to small groups of students. They develop lesson plans, assess students, and manage the classroom.
Median Annual Salary: $60,810
High School Teachers
High school teachers typically teach grades 9-12. They create lesson plans for their classes and deliver the planned lessons to their students. Many high school teachers specialize in a certain subject area. For example, one may teach science while another teaches English. High school teachers also attend professional development opportunities and build relationships with their students.
Median Annual Salary: $62,870
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
School principals manage the teaching staff and support personnel at their schools. They oversee class scheduling, implement curriculum standards, and observe teachers in order to provide feedback on their performance. Principals also work with families and students to acknowledge great work or address areas of academic or behavioral concerns.
Median Annual Salary: $98,490
The school board typically hires a school superintendent to oversee the entire school district. Superintendents hire school principals, are involved in hiring teachers, and have the final say on disciplinary actions for employees. A superintendent works with the school board to create the school district's budget.
Average Annual Salary: $121,930
K-12 Education Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Those who desire a position in school administration, such as school principal or superintendent, may decide to pursue a doctorate in education. Other education degrees at the doctoral level include a doctorate in special education, doctorate in educational administration, and doctorate in higher education.
How Do I Choose an Online Master's in K-12 Education Program?
It is important to consider the true program cost when deciding on a graduate school. That means considering the cost of housing, transportation, and meals in addition to tuition and fees. Although most schools charge the same for online and on-campus programs, there are many cost differences between schools to consider. For example, according to the NCES, the average cost of one year of tuition and fees was $12,410 in 2019-20 for public schools and $26,597 for private schools. In-state tuition is also usually much cheaper than out-of-state tuition.
Synchronous programs require you to attend classes at a specific time, even if they are online. Asynchronous programs allow more flexibility, as students can watch lectures on their own time as long as they submit all their assignments by the deadline. Some schools allow students to attend either part-time or full-time. A part-time program may allow you to continue working while attending school, while a full-time program will allow you to finish school faster.
When deciding whether to attend school online or on-campus, you should check to see if the school has any in-person requirements for its online program. Some schools require you to attend orientation, labs, or other events in person. If there are no in-person requirements, the location of your school likely doesn't matter.
It's important that the school you are applying to is regionally accredited. This means that a regional accreditation agency has reviewed its curricula and teaching methods. If you attend a school that is not regionally accredited, your credits will most likely not transfer if you change schools. You also may not be eligible for scholarship and financial aid opportunities.
Most colleges offer student services to help their students succeed. If you really think you would benefit from having a mentor, you should check to see if the school offers mentorship services. Other student services that can help you get through graduate school include career services, alumni networking, academic advising, tutoring, disability services, and internship matching services.
Best Accredited Online Master's in K-12 Education Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in K-12 Education Programs
Is a master's in K-12 education worth it?
If you plan to continue teaching kindergarten through high school students, the bump in pay from getting a master's degree ranges from $2,670 to $7,358 more per year. To find out how much more you are likely to make, you should contact your school district to get a copy of the pay scale. This will give you a good idea of how much more you would earn each year with a master's in K-12 education.
In order to determine whether earning your master's degree is worth it, you'll need to consider the cost of the master's program, as well as the number of years you have left until retirement times the amount per year your salary will likely increase. Check with your school or district's HR department to see if you can get help paying for your master's degree.
What can I do with a master's in K-12 education?
After earning a master's in K-12 education, you can continue working as a teacher or pursue an administrative position, such as school principal or school superintendent. You'll likely earn a slightly higher salary for having your master's degree if you decide to keep teaching.
If you go into administration, your salary will increase significantly. The BLS reported a median salary of $60,660 for elementary school teachers. High school teachers earned a median salary of $62,870. In contrast, the median salary for school principals was $98,490 per year. According to PayScale, superintendents earn even more: In 2021, these professionals earned an average of $121,930.
Are K-12 education graduates in demand?
Although the BLS projects an average demand for teachers, a teacher shortage has been in effect for the past few years and has been worsened by the pandemic. Many teachers retired early as a result of the pandemic, which means that there are more jobs for new teachers to take their place. Special education, foreign language, science, and math teachers are experiencing especially increased demand.
How much money can I make with a master's in K-12 education?
Payscale reports that the average base salary for graduates with a master of education (M.Ed.) degree is $60,000 per year. According to the BLS, the median salaries for teachers in 2020 were $60,660 for kindergarten and elementary teachers, $60,810 for middle school teachers, and $62,870 for high school teachers.
Graduates with a master's in K-12 education who want to earn higher salaries should consider administrative positions. According to the BLS, school principals earned a median salary of $98,490 in 2020. According to Payscale, school superintendents earned an average salary of $121,930 as of November 2021.
What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in K-12 education?
The highest-paying jobs for graduates with a master's in K-12 education are school principal and school superintendent roles. According to the BLS, elementary, middle, and high school principals earned a median salary of $98,490 in 2020. School principals typically work year-round.
According to Payscale, the average base salary for a school superintendent was $121,930 as of November 2021. School superintendents oversee entire school districts. They hire the district's school principals and help the board create a budget for the school year.
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