Also known as primary education, elementary education refers to the first phase of institutionalized learning within the U.S. educational system. Most elementary schools accommodate students ranging from kindergarten (ages five to six) to fifth or sixth grade (ages 10 to 12) — although some schools may reach up to the eighth grade (ages 13 to 14). Due to the relatively young student population, elementary education focuses on fundamental areas of English reading and writing, social studies, mathematics, science, art, music and other core school subjects. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 39,339 pre-K to 8th grade students attended a U.S. school in Fall 2016; roughly 89% attended public schools, while the rest were enrolled at private institutions.
The majority of elementary teachers begin their careers at the college level by earning a degree in elementary education. The bachelor's degree is considered the minimum requirement for elementary teachers in the U.S., but those who go on to pursue a master's will be able to advance in their careers even further. The master's curriculum explores more complex theories and approaches to the education of younger students. Master's students will also be required to complete student-teaching experiences, where they assist educators in working classrooms. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their master's degree in elementary education online, rather than in a classroom. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, often leading to the same number of post-degree job opportunities. The flexible, study-from-home schedule are ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other important commitments.
Learn more about what you can do with an online master's degree in elementary education and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
- WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION?
Graduates with a master's in elementary education are prepared to pursue careers as elementary teachers, principals, and curriculum developers. Read more here..
- HOW DO I GET A MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION?
Admission requirements for online master's in elementary education programs typically include a bachelor's degree and a minimum undergraduate GPA that varies from school to school. Some programs may also require standardized test scores or professional experience.Read more here..
- WHY GET A MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION?
An online master's degree in elementary education is ideal for K-6 educators who want to advance their careers and move into positions with more responsibility in their school.
- HOW DO YOU ABBREVIATE A MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION?
Online master's degrees in elementary education (MA in elementary education) are geared toward teaching professionals who wish to gain advanced insights into to their occupation. Read more here..
- IS A MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION WORTH IT?
A master's in elementary education is worth it for working teachers who want to advance their careers or move into managerial positions such as elementary school principal or curriculum developer.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
Online master's degrees in elementary education are geared toward teaching professionals who wish to gain advanced insights into to their occupation. Many master's pathways allow students to pursue degree specializations in fields like educational leadership, curriculum and instruction, special education and English as a Second Language (ESL). Specializations can lead to additional employment opportunities within these niche fields. Student-teaching sessions give elementary education master's degree-earners the chance to use their new skills and knowledge to address problems and concerns in real-world classrooms.
WILL AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online master's degree programs offer a flexible, easily accessible alternative to traditional college learning. Students are able to download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their own home. Current technology also enables them to study away from desktop computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable Wi-Fi devices. For added convenience, students can usually coordinate student-teaching opportunities at schools and other facilities that are reasonably close to their current residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER'S DEGREE IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION?
Job eligibility for those who earn a master's in elementary education online will depend somewhat on their degree specialization. Those who concentrate their studies in areas like special education, leadership, administration or curriculum and instruction will likely be considered for more positions related to these fields. Master's recipients who choose to continue teaching also enjoy more job opportunities, as schools are likelier to hire candidates with advanced degrees — and some states require a master's as part of the licensure process. The master's pathway may also serve as a stepping-stone for students who wish to advance into a doctoral education program.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online master's degree in elementary education programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online master's in elementary education, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.
Accredited Online Master's in Elementary Education Programs
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
|Raleigh, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 79%||
Established in 1887, NC State is a public research institution that enrolls approximately 36,000 students. The school forms one of the corners of the "research triangle," along with Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The graduate school offers 104 master's degrees, including an online master's in elementary education. In this hybrid program, learners attend classes on campus and receive instruction online. Faculty deliver online courses both synchronously and asynchronously, depending on the class. On-campus courses comprise about 25% of the total required classes for the master's degree.
Designed to prepare pupils for an initial teaching license, this master of arts in teaching program boasts an accelerated format that enables full-time students to complete the degree in as little as one and a half years. This process best serves learners interested in K-12 teaching careers, as opposed to college professorships or research-oriented jobs.
Upon graduation, NC State master's students understand effective educational practices that use modern technology, create new and innovative courses for elementary students, and display superior interpersonal and communication skills. Furthermore, NC State prides itself on producing graduates who understand the importance of supporting underserved and vulnerable demographics.
Prospective students must submit official transcripts reflecting an undergraduate history of at least 24 semester hours of elementary education training. Applicants who possess a 2.9 GPA or lower must also submit GRE scores showing a combined verbal and quantitative score of 300 or higher.
|Clinton, MS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
A private Baptist college, MC enrolls 5,200 students, making it the largest private university in Mississippi. The school offers a master of arts in teaching elementary education online that holds accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. The program prepares graduates to apply to the Mississippi Department of Education for a licensure upgrade, from class A to class AA.
Online learners in MC's elementary education program complete at least 30 credit hours. Full-time students often complete the degree in as little as 10 months. The school best fits learners interested in a curriculum that covers elementary teaching methodologies, modern research advancements in the field, and course development strategies. Upon graduation, program alumni pursue careers as education researchers, elementary instruction specialists, and resource teachers.
Required core courses at MC include research methods and procedures, curriculum development, and current methodology in elementary education. Online learners also take advanced content methods classes, such as social studies education, project-based science curricula, teaching elementary school languages, and reading comprehension and instruction. After graduation, MC elementary education alumni possess the skills to implement lesson plans using the latest research in the field, and accommodate students' varying learning needs.
Pupils interested in applying to MC's master's program must submit their college transcripts and hold a bachelor's degree in elementary education from a regionally accredited college or university. They should also possess a standard, renewable teaching license. Throughout the program, all master's degree seekers must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA to remain in good standing.
Western Governors University
|Salt Lake, UT||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 38%||
WGU offers a master of arts in teaching in elementary education online. Established in 1997, the school serves approximately 110,600 students annually. Distance learners complete most of their degree requirements online. Special requirements, such as preclinical experience sessions and teaching demonstrations, take place on campus.
This private, nonprofit school uses an online, competency-based learning model. As opposed to traditional credit- and time-based coursework, students pass their classes as soon as they demonstrate mastery of the material. Most online pupils complete the program in one or two years.
In total, master's students take 24 classes. WGU's extensive curriculum ensures that aspiring elementary teachers gain training through eight categories: foundations of teaching, mathematics, instructional planning and presentation, elementary education, effective teaching practices, preclinical experiences, research skills, and teaching demonstrations. In addition to required classes in elementary mathematics methods, educational assessment, and elementary disciplinary literacy, degree seekers undergo seven supervised teaching demonstrations. They also compile a professional portfolio and complete a cohort seminar.
Online learners take advantage of WGU's faculty mentoring program, in which students receive academic guidance from their first day of enrollment through graduation. Online students can also consult subject-matter experts, or specialized tutors, for each course as needed. Additional resources for distance learners include an IT help desk, math and writing support centers, personal counseling, financial aid assistance, and more.
Incoming students must pass a state-specific basic skills test. Learners may complete the test after admission to the program, but must pass the test before they enroll in classes. Applicants need only to submit their official transcripts for consideration.
William Carey University
|Hattiesburg, MS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
WCU is a private, Christian liberal arts college located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Established in 1892, the school enrolls almost 5,000 students and is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Distance learners may take advantage of the school's fully online master of education in elementary education. The program prepares graduate students for professional careers educating children in grades K-5.
The master's degree requires 30 semester hours from three categories: professional education, the elementary education concentration, and elective classes. Incoming students without a bachelor's degree in education take supplemental courses, as determined by their academic adviser. Required classes include teaching and research methods, philosophical and historical foundations in education, and curricula planning. All degree seekers must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA during the program.
Prospective students must submit their official transcripts, a resume complete with educational history, contact information for two references, and an application fee. Applicants should possess a minimum 2.5 GPA in their last 64 hours of undergraduate work. Those with lower grades may supplement their application with a combined 290 (or 800 for exams taken prior to July 2012) GRE score in the verbal and quantitative sections.
The program requires all incoming education master's students to possess a class A teacher's license. Incoming pupils may transfer up to six credits toward their master's degree with permission from the dean and academic vice president. Program graduates may sit for the class AA licensure exam. Completion of the master's degree does not guarantee licensure.
California State University - Fullerton
|Fullerton, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 66%||
Established in 1957, Cal State Fullerton is a public university with approximately 40,000 students. Among its 52 graduate programs, the school offers a fully online master's degree in elementary education. The program focuses on elementary curriculum development and teaching skills, and requires no on-campus components.
Cal State Fullerton master's students in elementary education prepare for leadership and teaching roles in the classroom, engaging modern technologies to meet the needs of diverse learners. The program also focuses on early childhood education math and science teaching skills.
To graduate, learners must complete 30 credits. Required courses for all master's students include a survey of educational research, learning theory for classroom use, and curriculum theory and development. Additionally, Cal State Fullerton elementary education majors choose two classes each from the instruction-focused and curriculum-focused courses. Popular classes from each group include web design for instruction in schools, technology and problem-solving in schools, current issues and problems in bilingual-bicultural education, and models of teaching.
Degree seekers also complete coursework in language arts, social sciences, mathematics, and science, along with two elective classes. Cal State Fullerton master's students complete either a research seminar during their last semester, a final project, or a traditional master's thesis.
Prospective students need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Applicants should possess a basic teaching credential or the appropriate equivalent experience. Admitted distance learners enjoy access to the school's academic advisement center, career center, online library, and financial aid services.
The University of Alabama
|Tuscaloosa, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 68%||
A public research university established in 1820 in Tuscaloosa, UA is the largest, oldest public university in Alabama. Distance learners may pursue UA's master of arts in elementary education online. The program best serves working professionals interested in building their teaching skill set and earning a degree that leads to teaching certification. The program holds accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Most coursework for the online master's in elementary education takes place online. Degree seekers need 30-36 credit hours for graduation. In addition to required classes in introduction to educational research, evaluation of classroom learning, and elementary school curriculum, students complete 12 credits in two subject concentrations of their choice. UA offers concentrations in language arts, literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies. Students must also complete practicum experiences, which require in-classroom work and provide hands-on teaching experience.
Faculty deliver courses through the Blackboard system in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. Depending on the class, online master's students may interact with their classmates and professors in chats and on discussion boards. Students may access recorded lectures at any time, and in most cases, distance learners take proctored exams at convenient sites.
Applicants must possess a class B teaching certificate in elementary education or the equivalent, plus a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. They should submit official transcripts demonstrating an undergraduate or graduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. Prospective students also submit their GRE scores. Competitive applicants earn a minimum 300 on the GRE, or score in the 50th percentile on the MAT.
Nova Southeastern University
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Located in Davie, Florida, NSU is a private university that offers an elementary education master's program online. The degree leads to initial certification for educators in Florida. Incoming students without a background in teaching can find the necessary support and training at NSU to pursue teaching careers in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Prospective students should submit official undergraduate transcripts, an application fee, and standardized test scores. Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Successful applicants who submit their GRE scores typically earn a combined verbal and quantitative score of 1000 or higher. NSU also accepts scores from the CLAST, PRAXIS I, or General Knowledge Test.
Master's students must complete 40 credits. Aside from the applied professional experience, students can choose between fully online and on-site evening and weekend classes. Required coursework at NSU includes instructional and assessment strategies, reading in the elementary classroom, and educational research for practitioners. All graduate students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA to remain in good standing with the department.
Learners must complete an applied professional experience to fulfill the program's capstone requirement. This experience provides students with the opportunity to engage with students in a classroom setting. Master's students must meet state content and professional standards during the capstone experience by maintaining a portfolio, a reflective journal, and files complete with samples of their students' work.
|Kansas City, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
Located in Kansas City, Missouri, Calvary is a private, nonprofit school established in 1932. The school offers several undergraduate and graduate degrees online, including an online master's degree in elementary education. Faculty deliver courses in a blended format. Calvary's online campus features around-the-clock access to recorded lectures and course materials through the Canvas system.
Calvary graduate students can complete their master of science in education with a concentration in elementary education in as little as two years. Online students learn to integrate the best educational practices and research methods with emerging classroom technologies while cultivating leadership and communication skills. Through the program, master's students must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA to remain in good standing.
Graduate students choose from three tracks in the elementary education concentration: master's project track, thesis track, or coursework track. Each track requires 36 credit hours. Both the master's project and coursework track best serve Calvary students interested in pursuing careers in elementary teaching upon graduation.
Distance learners who plan on pursuing their doctorate typically elect to complete a traditional master's thesis based on original research. Regardless of their chosen track, all pupils complete several of the same required courses, including historical and philosophical foundations, psychological and theoretical foundations, educational assessment, and a graduate writing workshop.
Prospective students must submit a professional resume, official transcripts, and two letters of reference. Students' references must include one personal reference and one pastoral reference. Accepted distance learners can participate in online engagement with on-campus student clubs and organizations. They can also take advantage of online counseling and academic advising services.
University of Northern Iowa
|Cedar Falls, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 68%||
UNI offers a cohort-style online master's in elementary education for distance learners. Established in 1876, this public university features a program that prepares graduate students for K-6 elementary school teaching and follows guidelines established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
The cohort program begins every other fall semester. All students who enter the program together work at the same pace for five consecutive semesters, including summers. To stay in sync with their classmates, all graduate students must enroll in six credits each semester. Faculty deliver these synchronous courses through the Blackboard learning management system.
Learners complete a diverse curriculum that covers essential teaching topics, including curriculum development, mathematics, science, social studies, literacy, and action research. Required courses for graduate students include foundations of instructional psychology, studies in multicultural arts integration and creativity, and methods and materials in literacy education.
For full consideration, applicants must possess a 3.0 GPA or higher. Applicants with lower GPAs may receive provisional admission. Incoming students may transfer credits toward the master's degree. The registrar evaluates transfer credits on a case-by-case basis. Prospective transfer classes must be graduate-level courses in which the applicant earned a B- grade or higher.
UNI prides itself on offering full academic and technical support for its distance learners. Online students can take advantage of the university's distance learning tutorials, tutoring services through Skype, career coaching and advising, and one-on-one academic advising. Online learners can receive technical support during regular business hours.
Appalachian State University
|Boone, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
Established in 1899, Appalachian is a public university in Boone, North Carolina. The school offers over 40 graduate programs, including a fully online master's in elementary education, which requires students to complete at least 39 credits. The program's extensive curriculum which helps graduate students understand the needs of elementary school-age learners with diverse backgrounds and learning styles. The program leads to M-level teaching licensure for grades K-6. Appalachian elementary education alumni often pursue careers as elementary school teachers, academic tutors, and lead teachers.
Faculty deliver courses in synchronous and asynchronous formats. Required courses include advanced topics in diversity, teacher leadership and improvement, advanced curriculum design, and instructional technology. With the help of an adviser, master's students choose field courses focused on teaching strategies from all main subject areas, including math, science, social studies, and English.
Interested students must submit their GRE or MAT scores, resume, and official transcripts. The school expects incoming students to hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applicants also need a valid North Carolina A-level teaching license or the equivalent from another state. Prospective students do not need teaching experience or a teaching license in elementary education for consideration. Accepted students without teaching experience must complete an internship or practicum for credit.
Distance learners at Appalachian can enhance their learning experience through participation in any of the school's 400 clubs and organizations. Online students can also take advantage of professional and peer tutoring services, technical support services, full-text online library access, and academic support through the University Writing Center.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
Established in 1971, Liberty is a private evangelical Christian institution in Lynchburg, Virginia that serves over 100,000 students. Distance learners may earn an online master's in elementary education from Liberty without making any visits to campus. Students interested in elementary education master's programs can choose between a master of arts in teaching or a M.Ed. degree. The school's education programs hold accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
The MA program particularly suits current teachers who wish to enhance their skills, develop a specialty area, or progress into administrative roles. Learners focus on modern teaching methodologies and learning theories, and develop leadership skills that professionals actively use in K-5 teaching careers. Upon completion of the master's program, alumni may sit for licensure exams.
The M.Ed. program is better suited for educators who want to teach in elementary settings, but not necessarily pursue licensure. The program addresses leadership skills, assessment strategies, and curriculum development with an emphasis on science and social studies.
Graduate students work directly with professors who teach synchronous classes. In total, master's students in both programs complete 36 credits, all of which require a C- grade or higher to count toward the degree. Full-time students typically complete either degree in 1.5 years. Liberty allows learners up to five years to finish the requirements.
Incoming students can transfer up to 50% of required credits for the master's degree. Applicants need only to submit their application form and official transcripts for consideration. Online students may apply for grants, scholarships, and work-study positions through the university. Additionally, distance learners who are current service members of any branch of the Armed Forces may qualify for military tuition assistance.
East Carolina University
|Greenville, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Located in Greenville, North Carolina, ECU is a public research university that serves approximately 30,000 students. The school offers over 100 online degrees and certificates, including a master of education in elementary education. ECU elementary education alumni typically pursue careers in elementary education and teaching or school administration.
This graduate program helps current teachers hone their skills and create more effective instructional methods. ECU's online learners use modern educational theories to better assess students' learning abilities and meet the diverse needs of an elementary school classroom. In addition to pedagogical improvements, master's degree seekers also develop grant-writing and leadership skills.
In total, master's degree seekers must complete 36 semester hours. Required courses for all elementary education majors include action research planning, leading curriculum revision and implementation, management and problem-solving, and advanced assessment and teaching. Learners also take nine semester hours from one concentration area. Available concentrations include academically gifted, early childhood, teacher leadership, and teaching English as a second language.
Master's students may choose to write a traditional master's thesis, based on original research and related to their concentration area, or take six semester hours in another concentration. All learners complete a final project during their last semester, which includes a verbal presentation and written document.
Prospective students should demonstrate a minimum 2.7 GPA. Applicants with fewer than nine semester hours of graduate-level credit must also submit their GRE scores. Incoming students should also possess an A level teaching license.
The University of West Florida
|Pensacola, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 44%||
UWF is a public university established in 1963 that enrolls approximately 13,000 students. The school offers more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programs and over 200 online degrees, including an online master's in elementary education. Distance students complete all required coursework entirely online.
UWF offers an online master of education in curriculum and instruction with a comprehensive specialization in elementary education. The specialization consists of seven core courses, including action research, investigative strategies and empirical foundations, educational assessment, and issues in classroom management. Approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, this comprehensive specialization acts as a noninitial teacher certification program.
Elementary education students also take 15 credits of classes in their cognate area. Required elementary education classes include effective teaching and instruction, instructional technology leadership, foundations of literacy development, and English as a second language principles and practices. In total, master's degree seekers must complete 36 credits to graduate.
Applicants must submit their official transcripts, an application fee, GRE or MAT scores, a letter of intent, and contact information for two professional references. Prospective learners who possess an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA or higher do not need to submit their test scores.
UWF features a tuition waiver program for online learners. The waiver covers up to 90% of nonresident tuition fees for graduate students until graduation, or 45 credits — whichever comes first. Alabama residents qualify for a reduced tuition program and do not apply for the standard tuition waiver. Selected active military personnel qualify for a 100% tuition waiver.
Ball State University
|Muncie, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Based in Muncie, Indiana since 1918, Ball State University tailors its practical degrees offered completely online to regional, out-of-state, and international learners. Online graduate and postgraduate degrees available through Ball State’s Teachers College include a Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation–accreditedonline master’s degree in elementary education designed with working professionals in mind.
The 30 credit online master’s in elementary education comes as a concentration in the M.Ed. program and typically takes 16 months to complete. Course topics include child development, effective use of technology in elementary schools, and research in elementary education. Students access asynchronous and synchronous online courses through the Canvas learning management system. Online courses typically accommodate around 20 students for a more personalized learning experience.
For graduates of the master’s program looking to specialize or directly transition to a teaching position, Ball State’s school of education offers licensing opportunities and several online graduate certificates in topics such as literary instruction and response to intervention. Teachers in Indiana can also earn the degree as a step towards their 10 year license renewal. Ball State’s online school boasts membership in the Quality Matters Program, which sets standards for online and hybrid programs nationally.
Candidates must demonstrate a 2.75 minimum GPA for consideration. The school may admit candidates with a 2.5 minimum GPA and satisfactory scores on the GRE or other admission test on probationary status; probationary status students must attain a 3.0 minimum GPA within their first nine credits. Ball State holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
University of North Dakota
|Grand Forks, ND||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
Established in 1883, making it the oldest four-year university in the state, the University of North Dakota serves over 15,000 students annually. The school has expanded its reach as the state’s largest school into online education, offering many undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in a fully online format. Students interested in taking elementary education master’s programs online should consider UND’s pragmatic online master’s in elementary education.
The 32-credit accelerated program usually takes two years to complete. The program prepares licensed educators as well as unlicensed individuals to teach grades K-8. Coursework includes foundations of reading instruction, social studies in elementary schools, and a three-credit practicum to build classroom experience. Students can choose a thesis or non-thesis track. Program graduates go on to pursue careers as curriculum specialists, elementary classroom teachers, and instructional coaches.
Candidates must demonstrate a 3.0 minimum GPA and either an associate degree or 60 credits in previous education for consideration. Students take online courses through the Blackboard learning management system, usually in an asynchronous format. Online learners can access a variety of student support services, including advising, technical support, and tutoring.
UND holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the master's program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
University of Nebraska at Kearney
|Kearney, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
Founded in 1905, University of Nebraska at Kearney serves as the main arm of the UN system for western Nebraska, but it also provides for the needs of other in-state and regional learners through its many fully online undergraduate and graduate programs. The school’s online catalog includes a online master’s degree in elementary education that caters to in-state students pursuing elementary endorsement.
The 24 credit master’s in elementary education exists as a concentration within UNK’s 36-credit curriculum and instruction master of arts in education program. Concentration course topics include principles of contemporary theory and practice in teaching, enhancing classroom instruction, and reading in the content areas. Diverse elective offerings allow learners to bolster the early childhood concentration with courses in early childhood education, reading/special education, and Montessori elementary education concentrations.
UNK’s elementary education curriculum culminates with a practicum in an approved pre-K-12 learning environment involving both supervised teaching and the collection and analysis of student learning data. The program also gives students the option to complete a thesis with the supervision of an adviser. In the elementary education concentration, degree candidates must also complete a hands-on course on improving classroom instruction or assessment and academic intervention in teaching elementary-level mathematics.
Though the elementary education concentration does not satisfy Nebraska requirements for teaching licensure, UNK offers a transitional concentration moving toward teacher certification for in-state students. Online courses at UNK use the Canvas learning management system and mostly use a asynchronous format. UNK holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the master's program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
|Cambridge, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
Established in 1909 and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lesley University began as a two-year women’s university but gradually developed into a four-year private institution with a strong academic reputation for its education and fine arts programs. In recent years, Lesley expanded its distance education resources to include several fully online degrees, including an online master’s in elementary education.
The 33-credit accelerated program generally takes two years of part-time study to complete. Required coursework topics include dimensions of equity, dimensions of teaching and learning, and essential linguistics. Students then select nine elective credits in content areas such as general science, special education, or creative arts. The school allows students to mix multiple content areas in their chosen electives.
Lesley’s online master’s in elementary education culminates with an action research and seminar course, wherein learners design a research project oriented around community outreach with their classmates. The program enables degree candidates who hold initial licensure in Massachusetts to earn professional licensure for teaching grades 1–6; without initial licensure the degree does not lead to certification.
Students must demonstrate a 2.5 minimum GPA for consideration. Eight-week online courses use the Blackboard learning management system, in a mostly asynchronous format. Lesley holds accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
|Denver, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
Denver’s Regis University is Colorado’s only Jesuit university. The school’s reputation for quality instruction includes 80 online degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Regis’s many online graduate degrees include an online master’s in elementary education ideal for both recent graduates and working professionals.
The 44-47 credit online master’s in elementary education leads to initial licensure in Colorado or Wyoming and usually takes two years to complete. Students who already hold licensure in elementary education can take the program for a reading or special education endorsement. The regular program begins with students completing foundational coursework in teaching theory. Foundational course topics include educational psychology, effective learning environments, and assessment of learning.
Learners seeking initial licensure then select an endorsement area within elementary education, such as social studies, business, or English. Selecting an endorsement in either English, mathematics, science, or one of Regis’s foreign language endorsement options requires that the degree candidate already hold a bachelor’s in a related major. As a culminating project, students complete a 5–8 credit student teaching semester during which they apply theory in a field placement appropriate to their endorsement area.
Candidates must present a 2.75 minimum GPA, current resume, and background check for consideration. Learners access online courses through the WorldClass online portal. Regis holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Oregon State University
|Corvallis, OR||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
Since 1868, Oregon State University forged a solid reputation as one of the best public universities on the West Coast. As of 2008, over 6,000 of the 30,000 students enrolled at the Corvallis-based school take courses online. In-state learners should strongly consider OSU’s master’s in elementary education, which blends fully online and hybrid courses in a fast-paced learning experience.
The 52-credit, two-year master’s in elementary education leads to licensure and follows a cohort model. Students take courses full-time in a curriculum that strongly emphasizes a clinical component with co-teaching under senior teachers in the Portland area. Foundational coursework gives students a thorough understanding of in-demand competency areas for the region, particularly English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and STEM. Topics covered include social justice in education, foundations of ESOL education, and the teacher as a reflective practitioner.
The clinical component of the program takes place in either the Beaverton or downtown Portland school district. OSU requires both completion of online coursework and face-to-face meetings at OSU’s campus in downtown Portland. Co-teaching in the classroom occurs bi-weekly in the first year and every day in the second. The 18-credit sequence of field experiences culminates with a six credit internship as student teacher.
Candidates must present a 3.0 minimum GPA, bachelor’s degree, and background check for consideration. OSU uses the Canvas learning management system with a combination of asynchronous and synchronous course formats. OSU holds accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and the master's program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
University of New Mexico
|Albuquerque, NM||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Established in Albuquerque in 1889 as the flagship four-year institution of New Mexico, University of New Mexico continues to expand its online programs with working and returning students in mind. Among its many pragmatically minded online programs, the school’s catalog now features a fully online master’s in elementary education. The program’s design benefits experienced professionals looking to strengthen their role in their community and field.
The 32-credit master’s in elementary education with an emphasis in teacher leadership takes two years to complete and follows a cohort model. The curriculum prepares working professionals who already hold elementary certification for leadership roles. Learners develop leadership, community involvement, and administrative skills, usually within their own place of employment. Course topics include research applications to education, data informed instructional leadership, and educational leadership in a democratic society.
UNM’s program culminates with a seminar examination and a choice between a thesis or dissertation defense. The culminating project gives students the opportunity to pursue an administrative internship in their district during their second year.
Candidates must present a 3.0 minimum GPA, bachelor’s degree, and elementary teaching license for consideration. Online courses use the Blackboard Learn learning management system and follow a mostly asynchronous format. Many students take advantage of UNM’s online tutoring center, where they can chat with tutors through text or video.
UNM holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the master's program holds accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
West Virginia University
|Morgantown, WV||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Founded in 1857, West Virginia University now offers many fully online degrees, among them a fully online master’s in elementary education designed with out-of-state and busy working learners juggling professional and family obligations in mind.
The 30-credit online master’s degree in elementary education typically takes two years to complete. Catering to established teachers in an elementary school setting looking to bolster their skills and knowledge, WVU’s program can lead to promotion to an educational administration position. Course topics include 21st century teaching and learning, school curriculum for classroom teachers, and history of American education.
The learning experience culminates with a three-credit capstone, for which students design an educational technology-oriented research project intended to benefit their community. Possible topics for the project could include integrating interactive technology in learning environments, digital storytelling as an educational tool, or tools for creating online educational materials. WVU encourages students to use their current place of work as the staging point for the capstone.
Candidates must present a 2.75 minimum GPA, current teaching license, and a personal statement of goals for consideration. Online courses use the Blackboard learning management system and often use an asynchronous format. Online learners pay the same in-state tuition rate as residents of West Virginia and must purchase a subscription to the LiveText student assessment application. WVU holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the master's program holds accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
University of Pittsburgh
|Pittsburgh, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 82%||
One of the oldest four-year schools in the U.S., the University of Pittsburgh continues its reputation of innovation with highly respected distance education programs. Pitt’s growing online catalog now includes a fully online master’s in elementary education open to in-state, out-of-state, and international online learners returning to school.
The 36-credit program typically takes three years to complete. All learners take a few required core courses, and then select three credits in research methodology, nine in special education, nine in content-specific courses, and six credits of electives. Content-specific course options heavily emphasize linguistics and literature, though options also include topics in science and mathematics. Flexible options ensure that students can customize their degree to their interests.
Students conclude the program with a research seminar, in which they draft a proposal, carry out research, and then present their findings to the department in a paper. Upon completing the research seminar, they must also take a comprehensive written exit exam to successfully graduate. Asynchronous online courses use the Canvas learning management system.
The program grants advanced standing to students who previously earned a graduate teaching certificate through Pitt, allowing these students to complete the program in as few as 18 credits. Students who completed a graduate program at another school can complete the program in as little as 24 credits. Candidates must demonstrate a 3.0 minimum GPA for consideration. The University of Pittsburgh holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
|Charlotte, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
A part of the University of North Carolina system since 1946, UNC Charlotte originally served the needs of returning WWII veterans but now provides affordable, quality education to both regional and out-of-state students through on-campus and online programs. The school’s online offerings include a rigorous online master’s in elementary education. This program warrants consideration from teachers looking to specialize or expand into educational research.
The 30-credit program typically takes two years to complete at a part-time pace and leads to advanced licensure in North Carolina. Core curriculum topics include current issues in global and urban elementary schools, classroom management and leadership for diverse learners, and theories of human development and learning in cultural contexts. Educational research-oriented curriculum progresses through three phases: developing perspectives, collaborative inquiry, and investigative leadership.
Students also take 11-15 credits in a concentration. The master’s in elementary education stands out for the variety of concentration choices it offers, including innovative content areas such as anti-racism, STEM, and teaching academically and intellectually gifted students. The program culminates with a capstone project driven by data analysis and instructional research. In the capstone project, students synthesize advanced content knowledge, instructional planning, and student assessment data into a community-oriented research project.
Degree candidates must present a 2.75 minimum GPA, current teaching license in elementary education, and three letters of recommendation for consideration. UNC Charlotte uses the Canvas learning management system to deliver coursework in both asynchronous and synchronous formats. UNC Charlotte holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
City University of Seattle
|Seattle, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Founded in 1973 as City College, City University of Seattle has since developed a strong reputation as a provider of quality distance education programs. CityU’s online master’s in elementary education proves a good fit for teachers looking to possibly earn multiple endorsements and earn their endorsement through a blend of field experience and online coursework.
The 49–73 credit program usually takes three years to complete in a cohort model and prepares students for advanced licensure in Washington. All students take courses in concepts of sustainability and the social sciences, special education, and classroom management, assessment, and evaluation. CityU allows students to take the program for a singular endorsement in elementary education or dual endorsement in elementary education and an area such as reading or special education.
Four internships in an approved setting aligned with a student’s area(s) of endorsement conclude the program; each endorsement pathway incorporates more vigorous field experience requirements than state standards to give students adequate opportunity to build experience while fulfilling program requirements. CityU also allows professionally experienced students to take a performance-based pathway, demonstrating competencies through examination and portfolio presentation.
Online courses use the Blackboard learning management system and most coursework is asynchronous. Degree candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree in education and pass both the Washington Educator Skills Test-Basic and Subtests I and II of the National Evaluation Series. City University holds accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
|Birmingham, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 76%||
Samford University is a private Christian university founded in 1841 as Howard College. The school enrolls over 5,000 students annually. Samford offers more than 15 online graduate programs, including a master of science in elementary education.
Samford's online master's in elementary education teaches students to lead K-6 classrooms. The online program is offered in a cohort format, which students can complete in 16 months. Most students do not take more than two courses per semester. The curriculum includes elementary education core courses and electives, including classes about teaching in the diverse classroom, curriculum integration of technology, teaching thinking skills in the elementary classroom, and assessment and instruction for elementary reading/literacy. The program requires students to earn at least 30 credits and maintain a minimum 3.25 GPA.
The program starts in the fall, and applicants must have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution, as well as hold a Class B teaching certificate in early childhood or elementary education. Applicants must send in official transcripts, official GRE or MAT scores, a writing sample, and a disposition form filled out by a current supervisor.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Elementary Education Program?
An online master's degree in elementary education prepares candidates for licensure as an elementary school teacher, implementing a curriculum with the professional licensure available through a master's program. The quality of instruction for the best online master's in elementary education are usually backed by specialized accreditations, which work to ensure a standard of training and instruction. Teaching in actual classrooms gives a significant focus to a student's capstone thesis, and participation in academic networks helps to connect future teachers with existing elementary education communities.
CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION
|Concentration||Description||Careers This Concentration Prepares For|
|Montessori Education Method||Montessori education emphasizes a child-centered approach to education. It incorporates research on self-directed activity, collaborative play, and hands-on learning. Teachers learn to offer support for the development of a spirit of inquiry in elementary students and cultivate an engagement with local communities. Montessori educational standards work to provide the best physical, emotional, and social environment for learning.||Montessori instructor, early elementary education teacher|
|Early Education||A concentration in early education offers a liberal studies course load often designed in collaboration with successful elementary programs, and targets core subject areas. Early education courses conducted at a university often incorporate a specific area of focus: child psychology, growth and development, technology for children, and strategies for behavioral management for disabled and special needs cases.||Early elementary education teacher, pre-school management and counseling|
|Literacy||A literacy concentration provides an in-depth look at literacy issues, giving candidates for an online master's in elementary education program the ability to synthesize all the best practices and available research in reading instruction. Coursework entails a focus on the written and read components of literacy instruction and provides strategies for helping elementary students gain comfort with literacy and spoken communication.||Special education instructor, elementary school teacher, reading programs specialist.|
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION
Master's in elementary education online programs may differ, according to the established standards of a college or school. To gain an idea of what a curriculum for an online organizational leadership master's degree program look like, consult the list below.
- Foundations of Teaching: Students gain an overview of the historical, philosophical, and sociological texts that have influenced current educational theory and practice. Common issues in education, investigation of trends, and engagement with new methods prepares educators for future coursework in their concentration. Candidates will also develop and strengthen the necessary skills to succeed as graduate students.
- Elementary Education Methods: A fundamental part of any online master's degree in elementary education, this course covers activities, teaching strategies, and effective classroom management techniques. The course is designed to help elementary teachers in training to develop systematic methods to lead students to cooperate with each other and with supervisors. Tasks and learning strategies are put in context, often through observation.
- Instructional Planning and Presentation: Designed to lead teachers in training to design courses through the understanding of clear objectives and goals. Planning activities and assignments are discussed along with the various research around strategies to support student learning. Different approaches are considered, including field work, discussions, writing, and service-based collaboration.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION?
The length of time that a student needs to complete a program may vary according to the circumstances of their application and desired licensing. Some students possess coursework from another previously attended college. In the case of a candidate having credits from another college or university, which will transfer towards the program they are applying to, their degree track would be amended to reflect the credits already completed.
A student may encounter course lengths anywhere from eight to 12-weeks long. Some elementary education master's online programs require that students complete the program in a cohort. A cohort format has students move through the program as a synchronized group, taking classes at the same time to create an on-campus feel. Independent learning is usually quicker since it allows students to take a heavier courseload. Typically, elementary education master's degree online students may plan to complete a 30-33 credit program in two years.
CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION PREPARES FOR
- Teaching Licensure: A professional license is needed in order to practice teaching. As a teacher, you're responsible for the development, general aspirations, and standards of a student body. Licensure ensures that every person who assumes the responsibility of a teacher has the necessary knowledge and skill. Licenses are also issued at a state level, so different states have different policies.
- STEM and Technology Integration: The STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and Technology certificate ensures that a candidate has the knowledge to interpret and utilize technology, specifically in order to enhance learning potential in the classroom. Certificate holders possesses the conceptual tools to approach technological change with confidence, as well as the ability to integrate new presentation methods and assisted learning protocols into their role as an elementary educator.
Accreditation for Online Master's in Elementary Education Degrees
Accreditation is important in order to maintain a high standard of education in institutions of higher learning. Regional accreditation is a process undertaken by a college or school in order to demonstrate that a program meets a minimum standard of excellence; it is generally considered to be more prestigious than national accreditation. There is no specific accreditation required regarding the best online master's degree in elementary education. However, teacher-focused groups like NCATE (the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) and ACEI (the Association for Childhood Education International) exist to maintain training standards for teachers.
The Department of Education is a federal agency established in 1979 which was formed to regulate policies concerning all schools and colleges within the United States, and to coordinate federal assistance for education, gather data about schools, and enforce federal laws regarding education. It works to promote the success of education within the United States and has no direct hand in the accreditation process. The CHEA and works to maintain educational standards and keep universities competitive with colleges and schools within the US, and with institutions of higher learning around the world. A list of universities with national accreditation is available directly from the U.S. Department of Education.
WHAT TO EXPECT AS A STUDENT IN AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION PROGRAM
Like many graduate degree programs, the master's in elementary education pathway builds on the foundational areas of undergraduate study while introducing more advanced ideas, theories and approaches to the profession. Students should expect coursework in subjects like standards-based education, educational technology and digital learning, curriculum and instructional development, advanced methods of student assessment and behavioral psychology. The curriculum will also include modules exploring research methods directly related to elementary learning. In most cases, students in master's programs have already earned their teaching license, so certification prep is normally not part of the standard curriculum.
A wide range of degree specializations are available for master's in elementary education degree students. Those who would like to work with students with disabilities may pursue a special education concentration, while those with an interest in the subjects students learn may be drawn to a specialization in curriculum and instruction. A focus on educational leadership is ideal for aspiring principals, senior administrators and other top-level school officials. Other common specializations include reading and literacy or early childhood education (typically pre-K to third grade). In some general education master's programs, 'elementary education' is considered the degree specialization.
It's important to research the accreditation status of a master's in elementary education degree program before fully committing to it. In the U.S., online elementary education master's programs receive accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). In addition to programmatic accreditation, make sure that the college or university has received regional or national accreditation.
JOB PLACEMENT: MASTER'S DEGREE IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION
The demand for qualified, licensed teachers and administrators is quite high, which means that the job outlook for master's degree-holding elementary educators is quite favorable. U.S. News & World Report estimates that the unemployment rate for elementary school teachers is currently set at 3.0%. The table below compares this figure to the unemployment rates of teachers at other types of public and private schools.
|Occupation||Unemployment Rate (2017)|
|High School Teacher||2.0%|
|Elementary School Teacher||3.0%|
|Middle School Teacher||3.0%|
Source: U.S. News & World Report
As the table shows, elementary school teachers face comparable unemployment odds as middle school teachers — and higher unemployment rates than high school teachers. However, it's worth noting that the rate for elementary school teachers is still much lower than the national unemployment average for all industries, which is currently set at 4.7%.
EARNING A LIVING
The salary potential of teachers and education professionals is often tied to their master's degree area of study. How do elementary education degree-holders measure up against other education master's degree recipients? Using data from the 2016-17 PayScale College Salary Report, the following table looks at earning expectations for different education majors at two early career benchmarks.
|Master's Degree Field||Median Entry-Level Salary (Less than 5 Years)||Median Mid-Career Salary (10+ Years)|
|Early Childhood Education||$38,100||$48,400|
Of the seven fields listed, the average wage premium (or salary growth) between the entry-level and mid-career stages is 37.8%. In addition to bachelor's degree major, the salary potential of an elementary teacher will also depend on their specific job title. Other important factors include licensure status, experience level and city/state of employment. The next table looks at career salary growth expectations for four common career paths for math education master's recipients.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
|Special Education Teacher (Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary)||$40,899||$44,791||$50,079||$57,133|
|Elementary School Principal||$74,315||$79,097||$82,753||$84,277|
All four occupations experience a salary growth rate of at least 13% after 20 years on the job. Curriculum developers reported the highest growth rate: a 49.9% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career stages. Elementary teachers ranked second (despite having the lowest salaries at all four benchmarks) with 47.4% salary growth, followed by special education teachers with 39.7% growth.
Students who leave school with a master's in elementary education will be qualified for a wide range of positions, although their eligibility will largely depend on their area of specialization. Four common career paths for master's in elementary education recipients are outlined below.
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: In most elementary school classrooms, the teacher is responsible for delivering lessons on a variety of subjects, including reading and writing, math, science, art and music. These teachers are also trained to recognize the early signs of learning disabilities, behavioral disorders and other impediments to productive learning in young students.
Elementary, Middle and High School Principals: Principals oversee the various operations and activities at public and private schools. Their day-to-day duties include monitoring and evaluating teachers and other school personnel, approving curriculum standards, meeting with other administrators and, in some cases, discussing disciplinary actions with students and their parents.
Instructional Coordinators: Instructional coordinators develop curriculum standards for different lessons taught in public and private schools. They also train teachers and other school staff how to deliver and assess student progress in different areas, and also evaluate current curriculum standards to see if there are areas for future improvement.
Special Education Teachers: Special education teachers specialize in the instruction and supervision of students with disabilities ranging from minor to severe. At most public and private elementary schools, students receive special education services in dedicated classrooms outside their primary classroom.
|Profession||Median Annual Salary||Projected Job Growth (2014-24)|
|Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers||$54,550||6% (+87,800 jobs)|
|Elementary, Middle and High School Principals||$90,410||6% (+14,000 jobs)|
|Instructional Coordinators||$62,270||7% (+10,500 jobs)|
|Special Education Teachers||$56,800||6% (+28,100 jobs)|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to elementary education is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for elementary teachers and education professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.
- The National Council on Teacher Quality: This organization works to create policies that improve the quality of classroom education and the work environments for professional educators. The council's website features an extensive policy library, as well as information about various NCTQ projects in all 50 states.
- The National Educational Association: Working to improve public education from preschool to graduate-level studies, the NEA provides resources on current regulations, strategies for securing financial support and tools for creating high-quality lesson plans. Membership opportunities are available for working employees, retired professionals and students.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children: In addition to accreditation of college programs, the NAEYC offers a wide range of supportive services for professionals who teach and assist children from birth to age eight. Member benefits include discounted books and other resources, complimentary magazine and newsletter subscriptions and access to 'Members Only' areas of the organization's website.
Financing Your Online Master's Degree in Elementary Education
Despite the relative affordability of online master's degree programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
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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.
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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.
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Our page dedicated to resources for business students includes links to professional organizations, open courseware, industry publications, books and business-minded users to follow on Twitter.
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