Master’s in Educational Leadership Program Guide
Educational administrators face many challenges, from fluctuating budgets to curriculum design to the changing role of technology in the classroom. If you're interested in pursuing upper-level administrative roles in the education field, a master's in educational leadership explores the organizational tools and concepts necessary to manage teachers, schools, and even entire districts. Most programs take about two years to complete, though many schools offer accelerated or part-time enrollment options to fit your scheduling needs.
This page offers an overview of educational leadership graduate programs, touching on topics like application requirements, career options, and professional resources for those in the field.
What are the best elementary education programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|#1||Mississippi College Clinton, MS|
|#2||University of West Florida Pensacola, FL|
|#3||Saint Thomas University Miami Gardens, FL|
|#4||The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL|
|#5||University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND|
|#6||Lesley University Cambridge, MA|
|#7||Appalachian State University Boone, NC|
|#8||Liberty University Lynchburg, VA|
|#9||Ball State University Muncie, IN|
|#10||Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT|
What Is Educational Leadership?
Education leaders work within public and private institutions of all levels, overseeing organizational and administrative practices for K-12 schools, colleges, and school districts. The field of educational administration represents an intersection of educational theory, business, management, and public policy. In general, educational leaders ensure that institutions operate productively and serve their students, staff, and teachers effectively.
Educational leaders may serve in many roles, including principal, superintendent, curriculum developer, and educational consultant. Accordingly, their duties may vary widely. Some educational leaders may focus on curriculum planning, student assessment, and teacher training, while others may take a more administrative approach, overseeing budgets, hiring, and adherence to education law and policy.
Educational leaders need to understand both the managerial and academic dimensions of education. In general, they are organized, creative, and possess strong planning and communication skills.
Check out some of the top online master's in educational leadership programs to explore the assortment of options available at this level in this challenging, rewarding field.
What You Can Do With a Master's in Educational Leadership
Educational leadership programs qualify graduates to pursue several administrative career paths. Most administrative roles in education require the ability to manage large groups of people, develop and implement large-scale curriculum changes, and connect with members of a school's student body. Leaders in education generally work full time in one school, but their managerial responsibilities often require them to adapt to a dynamic schedule. Aspiring educational administrators should be interested in networking with diverse groups of stakeholders, improving education policies at state and national levels, and financial management.
Principals oversee the daily functioning of elementary, middle, and high schools. Their administrative responsibilities include coordinating curricula, managing teachers and support staff, and ensuring the safety and security of all students. Many principals start their careers as teachers before going on to earn licensure and pursue an advanced degree.
Median Annual Salary: $95,310*
Deans manage a specific portion of a university, such as a college within a university, undergraduate or graduate students, or faculty. In general, deans maintain the relationship between university leadership and faculty members, process student complaints, help develop new curriculum, and plan fundraising efforts. This position requires a master's degree and multiple years of relevant work experience.
Median Annual Salary: $94,340*
Instructional coordinators create curriculum/instructional tools and help teachers and administrators implement, define, and maintain academic standards. Coordinators can work in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, government agencies, and external academic services. Professionals typically need at least five years of work experience as a teacher or school administrator to qualify for this position.
Median Annual Salary: $64,450*
Preschool and childcare center directors manage a staff of educators, oversee school events and activities, and develop budgets. However, these directors focus exclusively on early childhood education. While most states only require preschool directors to hold a bachelor's degree, candidates with a master's degree in educational leadership set themselves apart from their peers.
Median Annual Salary: $47,940*
Provosts work directly under university presidents and traditionally function as the university's chief academic officer. These professionals ensure the efficient functioning of university processes and may balance budgets, support institutional marketing programs, and allocate space for campus activities. Provosts must possess a master's degree in education administration, although many also hold a doctorate.
Median Annual Salary: $94,340*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Explore more careers for educational leadership majors and discover information about education, professional specializations, and certifications.
What to Expect in a Master's in Educational Leadership Program
Most educational leadership programs explore topics in management, educational policy, budgeting, curriculum development, and educational assessment strategies. Given the advanced nature of the degree, many schools offer concentration paths that enable you to specialize your skills. Below, you'll find some typical courses and concentration options available in educational leadership programs.
Concentrations Offered for a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership
Courses in a Master’s in Educational Leadership Program
Although the specific curriculum in each program varies, many programs rely on courses that cover similar topics. Most schools, for instance, feature classes that go over new technology in curriculum design, leadership for principals, and racial diversity. The following list discusses some of the most common courses found in educational leadership curricula.
Law courses cover the most common legal issues in educational settings. These classes generally focus on laws concerning K-12 schools or colleges and universities. Education law also covers topics like bullying, free speech, harassment, and equal access for diverse communities and students with disabilities. Familiarity with education law helps prepare students for most leadership positions in academia.
Most programs cover issues of gender and racial diversity. Typically, these classes teach individuals how to foster inclusive environments, covering the history of racism in U.S. education, cultural competency, and the formation of social identity in the classroom. Aspiring K-12 principals and individuals seeking to work in education policy development may find courses related to gender and multiculturalism especially useful.
These courses teach participants how to evaluate student learning and achievement using in-depth quantitative research. Individuals learn how to assess standardized test scores and classroom work and identify methods to improve the curriculum. Data courses may also focus on budgeting and financial management. These classes may prove especially useful to future instructional coordinators and superintendents.
Curriculum design courses teach individuals to evaluate school curriculum and improve existing coursework standards at the K-12 and collegiate levels. Participants may also learn how to use advanced technology to increase access to education and classroom engagement. This course is essential for future curriculum developers and instructional coordinators.
Virtually all education leadership students complete an internship or clinical experience. Educational leadership internships allow graduate students to utilize classroom knowledge in a supervised administrative role. Schools typically allow participants to complete internships in their workplace if they already hold an academic job. Internships provide crucial experience for all future leaders in education.
Check out some of the top careers for educational leadership majors to learn about the many rewarding and challenging positions in this field.
How to Choose a Master's in Educational Leadership Program
A variety of factors come into play when choosing a graduate program, including practical, professional, and academic considerations. The list below outlines several elements to consider when researching educational leadership programs.
Master's in Educational Leadership Program Admissions
While admission requirements vary between schools, most programs feature similar general standards for graduate applicants. The section below outlines what to expect when applying to a master's in educational leadership program.
How to Apply
Application deadlines and start dates for graduate programs vary widely by school, but most programs start in the fall with application deadlines occurring from the preceding winter on through the summer. Many programs also begin in the summer to line up with school closures. Generally, graduate programs offer more variable application deadlines than undergraduate programs, and some professionally focused programs give students the flexibility to apply as little as 1-2 months before courses begin.
Regardless of your program's application deadline, it's always a good idea to submit application materials as early as possible. This also applies to completing standardized exams like the GRE. Typically, GRE scores will be sent to your selected institutions within 10-15 days of your test date. However, most students complete the exam early, both to ensure that scores arrive on time and to leave open the opportunity to retake the exam for a higher score.
Resources for Master's in Educational Leadership Students
NAFSA: Association of International Educators
NAFSA takes a global approach to education, emphasizing diversity and international exchange among education professionals. The organization offers discounts to student members, who can benefit from career resources, networking opportunities, professional conferences, and training sessions. NAFSA also advises on education policy and advocates for educators.
Consortium for School Networking
Emphasizing the use of technology in education, COSN hosts institutional and corporate members as well as state chapters nationwide. The organization supports the needs of technology leaders in education by providing resources, training, networking opportunities, and professional publications for education leaders who oversee technology development and implementation in schools.
Childhood Education International
Serving teachers and other education professionals at the elementary level, CEI offers a variety of resources for members, including professional development and training courses, academic journals and other publications, and opportunities for cross-cultural exchange with educators from around the world. Students receive a special reduced membership rate.
American College Personnel Association
Serving professionals employed in higher education administration, ACPA offers a wide assortment of resources for members, including career counseling and job listings, professional development programs, and listings for educational administration graduate programs. ACPA also hosts an emerging scholars program that offers research grants to students pursuing education administration.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Primarily serving principals, teachers, superintendents, and other education advocates, ASCD counts more than 100,000 members around the country. The organization focuses on education advocacy and professional development, emphasizing assessment tools, school culture, and differentiated instruction. ASCD also publishes Educational Leadership, a professional journal focused on education issues.