Best Online Master’s in Education Programs of 2021

Many teachers choose to pursue a master's degree while working in the classroom. An online program can offer the flexibility needed to learn new skills while teaching.

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by Staff Writers
Published on August 18, 2021
Edited by Taylor Gadsden

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Teachers who regularly upgrade their skills and knowledge can better serve their students. Many teachers seek a master's in education online, which provides in-depth study of a specific facet of education, examines the latest research-based education practices, and prepares graduates for leadership and administrative roles.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 5% growth in education, training, and library occupations between 2019 and 2029. Job titles include classroom teacher, early childhood specialist, and instructional coordinator. The BLS reports that education professionals earn a median salary of $52,380.

Learn more about online master's in education programs and check out our StudyMatch™ sponsored schools to compare offerings.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Education Program?

Teachers need good communication skills to speak to groups of students. They also need strong interpersonal, active listening, and organizational skills. According to James Bacon, who holds an MSEd in Education Entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania and a BS in Business from Wake Forest, the ability to connect with students is a key soft skill in the educational field

"Specifically I think that building relationships and being able to influence others to take action is important, whether working with adults or students. I also think that thoughtful communication is really important given its interpersonal nature," Bacon says.

Teachers also will typically use various software and technological tools to track student progress, communicate with parents and administrators, and enhance instruction, so they should also be comfortable working with technology.

"I think we will continue to see a reliance on technology to better do the jobs we are tasked with and to provide additional opportunities to students."

A master's in education online program provides advanced study in instructional methods, educational leadership, and curriculum development. Programs build on skills gained through an undergraduate program and professional teaching experience. Some master's in education online programs also provide a path to teaching licensure for career changers.

Education programs may offer different types of degrees, such as a master of arts, master of science, master's in teaching online, or master of education.

"Specifically I think that building relationships and being able to influence others to take action is important, whether working with adults or students."

A master's in teaching online degree typically serves career changers needing to complete state teaching licensure requirements, while a master of arts or science may focus on a particular subject area. An online master's in education provides specialized study in a specific area of education; participants of these programs often include licensed teachers with a few years of experience.

The curriculum in a master's in education online program is flexible and allows students to tailor their education to match their career goals. Popular concentrations include specific content areas (like English and history), curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, and educational technology.

Most online master's in education programs require 30-36 credits and take 1-2 years to complete. Many programs allow teachers to continue working while enrolled, taking 1-2 classes each term during the school year and attending full time during summer breaks.

Most students also complete a capstone project, which involves writing a thesis, conducting research, or compiling a professional portfolio. Some programs may require a practicum or internship.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Education Program?

While courses vary from program to program, most master's in education curricula cover similar core topics. The following section delves into five common courses in these programs.

Instructional Strategies and Models

This course helps learners develop and define their instructional style, covering topics like classroom management and student assessment. Discussions of various pedagogical approaches help inform these decisions. Research-based strategies help teachers integrate technology and differentiate instruction to meet student needs. The course often includes collaborative projects with other educators.

Research in Education

Educators must understand research methods and analysis techniques to evaluate proposed strategies, instructional practices, and education policies. This course introduces students to tools for finding and analyzing data, different rationales for methodological choices, and techniques for interpreting conclusions. Assignments also discuss research ethics and respect for research subjects.

Differentiating Curriculum and Instruction

While teachers must help all learners achieve defined learning outcomes, not all students learn the same way. Differentiating instruction helps teachers develop modifications that best meet students' individual learning needs. These modifications can increase student engagement and provide multiple methods of instruction.

Planning for School Improvement

This course equips school leaders with the skills needed to evaluate school effectiveness and reflect on changes that support learning programs. Covered topics include data assessment; developing school goals and vision; and reflecting on how a school meets the educational, social, and cultural needs of all students.

Teacher Leadership

This course explores opportunities for teacher leadership in the classroom, school, and school district, helping educators develop and achieve leadership goals. Assignments explore how teachers can impact students and other teachers, emphasizing communication and teamwork. Degree-seekers develop an understanding of their leadership style and motivations.

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

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Education Program?

Earning admission into an online master's in education program typically requires an undergraduate degree in education and two or more years of teaching experience.

Additional requirements may include taking an entrance exam, such as the GRE or GMAT, and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or higher. You might also be asked to provide recommendation letters and a statement of purpose or teaching philosophy.

Visit our Graduate Admissions Guide for help putting together your application.

What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Education Degree?

Career Outlook

Education remains an in-demand field, as the BLS projects the addition of 441,000 new education jobs between 2019 and 2029. Earning an online master's in education can help you improve your instruction technique in the classroom and prepare you for promotions and career growth.

Learn more about education careers, and see where an online master's in education degree can take you.

Career Paths

Elementary Teacher

Teachers develop lesson plans, provide instruction, and assess student progress. Many work during the traditional 10-month school year with a two-month summer break. They may spend time outside of work developing lessons or grading. Most states set licensure requirements for public school teachers that include a minimum of an undergraduate degree, passing an exam, and passing a background check.

Librarian or Media Specialist

School librarians help students find reading materials and research new materials to purchase. These specialists also present lessons on using technology and conducting research. They often assist teachers with special research projects and classes related to media literacy. Most states require that school librarians earn a master's degree, such as a master's in education.

Childcare Center Director

These directors oversee all aspects of a childcare center. They manage the budget, hire teachers and staff, and plan maintenance and facility upkeep. The director often sets and communicates policies to staff and parents and determines standards for instructional programs. Some directors own and operate their facility, while others work as part of a school system or nonprofit organization.

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators can work in an individual school, school district, or state or federal education agency. These specialists develop curricula and recommend resources for teachers. They may provide training on new standards and evaluate teacher performance. These coordinators also review and analyze student performance data to identify a school system's needs. This position requires a master's in education (or a related field), and it may also require a state teaching license.

School Principal

Principals serve as the chief administrative officer for their school. They manage the school budget and plan for standard and preventative maintenance. Principals hire teachers, set class schedules, and evaluate staff performance. They also counsel and discipline students and communicate with parents about behavioral or academic concerns. Principals need a master's degree and classroom teaching experience.

Education Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Education Programs

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill true View School Profile Chapel Hill, NC

Founded in 1795, UNC-Chapel Hill first established its School of Pedagogy in 1885. The university's early childhood intervention and family support (ECIFS) program uses a hybrid, part-time delivery format designed to accommodate working professionals.

Focusing on family-centered models, the ECIFS program prepares educators to work in areas with high-needs populations by emphasizing evidenced-based and research-based practices. The program offers different tracks depending on whether or not applicants already hold a teaching license. Although licensure is not required, students without licensure must complete additional requirements.

During the fall and spring semesters, students meet in person once a week. These classes meet more often during summer sessions.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support
School Status: Public
Tuition: $540/credit in state; $1,400/credit out of state
Credit Requirements: 33-36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

California State University, Bakersfield true View School Profile Bakersfield, CA

Once a beet farm, CSUB now serves over 10,000 students. The university offers an online master's in education in curriculum and instruction. Requiring 30 credits, the program takes full-time students one year to complete.

The program's curriculum focuses on integrating technology into instruction and creating equity in the classroom. Students take 12 credits of core classes, 15 credits of electives, and a three-credit master's exam in curriculum and instruction.

Interested students can add additional teaching credentials to their program. A popular option is the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing-approved reading and literacy authorization. Applicants must already hold a valid teaching license.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Education - Curriculum and Instruction
School Status: Public
Tuition: $430/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 1 year
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum (over final 60 undergraduate credits)

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Central Florida true View School Profile Orlando, FL

Located just east of Orlando, UCF maintains the largest student enrollment of any Florida school, serving approximately 70,000 learners.

Students pursuing UCF's online master's in educational leadership are connected with a success coach who helps them throughout the duration of the program. This nonthesis program features 21 credits of administration courses, as well as nine credits of research and measurement courses. Specific classes include personnel and education related law, digital leadership and systems management, and human resource processes in education.

Graduates can pursue a variety of administrative and leadership roles, including assistant principal, college provost, and instructional coordinator positions.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Educational Leadership
School Status: Public
Tuition: $327/credit in-state; $1,152/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of San Diego true View School Profile San Diego, CA

USD is a Catholic university that serves over 8,000 students who hail from all 50 states and more than 80 different countries.

USD's School of Leadership and Education Sciences offers an online master of education. The 30-credit curriculum includes core courses like social justice and educational equity, qualitative methods in educational research, and cognition and learning. Additional courses cover STEAM, inclusive learning and universal design, and school leadership. Students also complete a capstone seminar before graduating.

All applicants must have two years of teaching experience. Students enroll in two classes per semester and take one seven-week course at a time. USD is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, and its master of education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Education Online
School Status: Private
Tuition: $710/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 20 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE is optional

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign true View School Profile Champaign, IL

Founded in 1867, Illinois now serves over 47,000 students. Located in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign, the campus is less than 200 miles from Chicago, Indianapolis, and St. Louis.

Students in the university's online master of education program can graduate with either a master of education in curriculum and instruction or a master of education in education policy, organization, and leadership. Each of these programs offers four concentration options, including diversity and equity in education, learning design and leadership, and global studies in education.

The program features synchronous classes that typically meet once a week. The semester is split into eight-week sessions during the fall and spring and six-week sessions during the summer.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction; Master of Education in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership
School Status: Public
Tuition: $490/credit
Credit Requirements: 32-36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum (during the final two years of undergrad)
Standardized Tests: GRE may be required for some concentrations

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Boston University View School Profile Boston, MA

BU — a private university originally founded in 1839 in Newbury, Vermont — relocated to its current location in Boston in 1867. The university provides diverse programs while maintaining a student-to-faculty ratio of 8-to-1.

Students who enroll in BU's educational leadership and policy studies master's program can pursue a concentration in higher education administration online. Students complete a total of nine courses, covering topics like the history and foundations of higher education, strategic planning and implementation, and innovations in higher education.

Faculty deliver classes through seven-week modules. New students can enroll in the program at the beginning of the fall, spring, or summer term. Graduates can pursue careers in many areas of higher education, including admissions, financial aid, and alumni relations.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Ed.M. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies: Higher Education Administration
School Status: Private
Tuition: $888/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 1-2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Augustana University View School Profile Sioux Falls, SD

A private university affiliated with the Lutheran Church, Augustana was founded in 1860. Located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the university serves almost 2,000 students in over 100 majors.

Augustana's online master's in education is designed for students who already have a bachelor's degree and teaching license (or are eligible for teaching licensure). The program accepts applications on a rolling basis, placing students in small cohorts every spring, summer, and fall.

Students enrolled in the online master of arts in education program at Augustana are part of a "learner-designed" program, where they can either choose an area of concentration from a pre-approved list or create their own. Pre-approved concentrations include instructional strategies, reading, special populations, and technology.

No matter their concentration, learners must complete 30 credits before graduating. The program delivers coursework asynchronously and it does not include a thesis.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $465/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 13-16 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Michigan State University View School Profile East Lansing, MI

Located in East Lansing, MSU serves almost 50,000 students and offers over 200 programs. MSU's online master's in education program was established in 2001 and has graduated more than 1,000 learners to date. This program targets educators in various positions who are looking to advance into administrative roles. The program does not lead to an initial teaching license.

Enrolled students can pursue one of six concentration options, including literacy education, science and mathematics education, and technology and learning. Students complete a total of 30 credits before graduating, including 21 credits in their concentration, a concepts of educational inquiry course, and a three-credit capstone seminar. Students complete online coursework asynchronously.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Education
School Status: Public
Tuition: $898/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Martin Luther College View School Profile New Ulm, MN

Owned and operated by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, MLC was formed in 1995. Based in New Ulm, Minnesota, the college emphasizes the importance of public ministry and offers degrees for those looking to become teachers, pastors, or other ministry staff.

MLC offers an online master's in education. The 36-credit program offers four specializations: educational technology, instruction, leadership, and special education. Core coursework covers topics like enhancing the curriculum with technology, emerging technologies in education, and teaching online. Students also complete a capstone activity, choosing from a field project, curriculum development project, thesis, internship, or comprehensive exam

Students can also pursue a dual emphasis if they take diverse electives and complete an additional capstone project. The program delivers coursework asynchronously.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $315/credit
Credit Requirements: 36-39 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Webster University View School Profile Saint Louis, MO

Webster was founded by the Sisters of Loretto in 1915 as a women's college. Today, the university serves more than 12,000 students of all genders with over 50 campuses and sites across the United States. The university's main campus is located in St. Louis, Missouri.

The university first offered online programs in 1999. Students can now pursue an online master's in education and innovation. The 33-credit curriculum includes 15 credits of core classes, 15 credits of electives, and a three-credit capstone course. Elective options include classes that discuss mindfulness, leadership and innovation, and foundations of global sustainability.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Education and Innovation
School Status: Private
Tuition: $780/credit
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Johns Hopkins University View School Profile Baltimore, MD

Founded in 1876, Johns Hopkins is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. The university houses nine schools, including the School of Education. All of Johns Hopkins' programs highlight the university's mission to remain research-based and culturally and socially conscious.

The university's master's in education program offers two online specializations: educational studies (designed to support Teach for America and The New Teacher Project participants) and digital age learning and educational technology. Students complete 30-39 credits, depending on their program and experience. Students following the educational studies pathway develop a portfolio as a capstone project.

Johns Hopkins is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $882/credit
Credit Requirements: 30-39 credits
Program Length: 1-2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Contact the School

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Purdue University View School Profile West Lafayette, IN

Founded in 1869, Purdue is based in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue Global, the university's online system, serves over 31,000 students.

Purdue offers both a master of arts in teaching and a master of science in education. The MA in teaching program does not lead to teaching licensure, instead catering to practicing educators. The MS in education program offers concentrations in teaching literacy and language, teaching students with special needs, or educational leadership.

Purdue operates on a quarter system and offers classes throughout the year. Students take one class at a time for six weeks. After completing two classes in 12 weeks, they receive a week off. Learners must attend live online classes once a week.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Online Master of Arts Degree in Teaching; Online Master of Science Degree in Education
School Status: Public
Tuition: $420/quarter credit
Credit Requirements: 45-54 quarter credits
Program Length: 15-20 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Contact the School

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University of Alaska Southeast View School Profile Juneau, AK

Based in Juneau, UAS was established in 1987 after Alaska restructured its university and community college system. Operating additional campuses in Ketchikan and Sitka, UAS serves over 5,000 students and offers approximately 75 degrees and certifications.

UAS students interested in education can enroll in one of three online master of education programs: educational leadership, reading specialist, and special education. The education program includes concentrations in educational leadership, reading specialist, and special education. Educational leadership students complete an internship and a research project or portfolio, reading specialist students complete a research project or portfolio, and special education students complete a practicum and a thesis.

The university maintains a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, and students receive individualized attention from professors. Faculty deliver coursework asynchronously. UAS is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Educational Leadership, M.Ed.; Reading Specialist, M.Ed.; Special Education, M.Ed.
School Status: Public
Tuition: $513/credit
Credit Requirements: 33-36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

George Fox University View School Profile Newberg, OR

In 1885, George Fox was founded in Newberg, Oregon, as a school for Quakers. The university hosts several education programs online, including an online master's in education that offers four focus areas: educational leadership, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), reading, and special education. Providing flexible learning plans, the program allows students to graduate in 4-8 semesters and take courses largely at their own pace.

The program is designed for practicing teachers seeking to advance their knowledge or fulfill professional development obligations. The educational leadership, ESOL, and reading pathways require 30 credits, while the special education specialization requires 45 credits. This online program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Education Online
School Status: Private
Tuition: $700/credit
Credit Requirements: 30-45 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum (over final 60 undergraduate credits)

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Minnesota Duluth View School Profile Duluth, MN

UMD offers a mid-sized campus experience to students looking for the resources and opportunities of a larger university. The university offers 20 graduate degrees.

Students can obtain an online master's in education through the College of Education and Human Services. Primarily serving teachers and professionals already working in education or social service professions, the program offers part-time study and delivers coursework asynchronously.

The program is available primarily online, but also includes a face-to-face weekend session each semester. Required courses cover topics like foundations in special education and assessment of learning, while elective courses include options like indigenous peoples and the environment. The program culminates in a capstone project.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Education M.Ed.
School Status: Public
Tuition: $693/credit in state; $1,099/year out of state
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.8 minimum

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Education Programs

Is an online master's in education worth it? true

Students who earn a master's in education online can enter a growing field with above-average earning potential. Many teachers find education to be a fulfilling career, and many teaching jobs come with good health insurance and retirement benefits.

What can I do with a master's in education? true

A master's in education can provide career advancement opportunities. Graduates can become a principal or instructional coordinator or enter a new education field. Schools offer various concentrations, including tracks in adult education, early childhood education, and postsecondary education.

What is the difference between a master's in education and a master's in teaching? true

A master's in education primarily serves individuals who already have an undergraduate degree in education and some teaching experience. The degree focuses on the practical application of new skills and techniques within a specific concentration. Many schools offer a master's in teaching to students who do not have a teaching license.

How much money can I make with a master's in education?

According to the BLS education, training, and library professionals earn a median annual salary of $52,380. Salary potential varies by career, education, experience, and location. Elementary school teachers earn a median annual salary of $60,660, while principals earn a median annual salary of $98,490. Public schools often maintain salary schedules that reward teachers for years of teaching experience and advanced degrees.

What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a master's in education?

Principals earn the highest pay in the field, making a median annual salary of $98,490, according to the BLS.

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Advice from:

James Bacon began his career as a middle school math teacher in Arkansas. Since then, he’s coached teachers across almost all grades and subjects in K-12, overseen hiring for Boston Public Schools, and founded Teach For America region in northeast Louisiana. He currently oversees outreach and operations for Edficiency, where he helps middle and high schools across the country simplify logistics for flexible intervention periods by automating the daily rosters. He holds a BS in Business from Wake Forest and MSEd in Education Entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania.

We've ranked the top online master's in educational technology programs. Compare program offerings, courses, and cost. With an online master's in educational leadership degree, you can lead teachers and students to success. Take the first step with one of these programs. We've ranked the top online master's in higher education programs. Compare schools and figure out where you can earn your master's in higher education online.

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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