K-12 teachers are responsible for shaping the minds of young students and equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed as adults. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roughly 3.2 million K-12 teachers are currently employed in the United States. This number includes 1,565,300 kindergarten and elementary teachers, 630,300 middle school teachers, and 1,018,700 high school teachers. These professionals earn median annual salaries ranging from $55,490 to $58,030, depending on the grade level they teach, and growth job in this sector is projected to grow 7% to 8% between 2016 and 2026.

A bachelor's degree is required for most K-12 teaching positions, and those who teach K-12 classes at public schools must earn a teaching certification in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Some states require K-12 teachers to obtain a master's degree once they become certified. However, even when a master's isn't required, earning an advanced degree in K-12 education can help certified teachers boost their salaries and qualify for advancement opportunities. The curriculum of a master's in K-12 education often includes specialization options for students to concentrate their coursework in niche areas of their profession, such as special education, education administration, or curriculum development. On-site student-teaching practicum courses are routinely required, as well.

What are the best K-12 education programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 University of Georgia Athens, GA
2 Boston University Boston, MA
3 Texas A&M University College Station, TX
4 Harding University Searcy, AR
5 Auburn University Auburn, AL
6 Clemson University Clemson, SC
7 Holy Family University Philadelphia, PA
8 Missouri State University Springfield, MO
9 Texas A&M International University Laredo, TX
10 University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville, AL

Many students today choose to earn their master's in K-12 education online, rather than in a classroom. The best online master's in K-12 education programs prepare students for advanced teaching roles, and may lead to higher salaries and advancement opportunities. Learn more about what you can do with a master's in K-12 education online and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

Choosing a Program

WILL THIS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

The best online master's in K-12 education programs build on the fundamentals of undergraduate studies while introducing new, more advanced approaches to classroom instruction, lesson planning, and educational technology. Many delve into psychological, behavioral, and social factors that affect the way children learn, communicate, and interact in classroom settings. Many master's pathways also prepare students for teaching certification requirements, including the certification exam and post-degree supervised teaching requirements.

DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?

Program prerequisites vary by institution. Some pathways are designed for teachers that have already earned their state-level certification, while others prepare students to become certified once they have completed their master's degree requirements. In either case, a bachelor's degree in education or a related field from an accredited college or university will almost always be required ― and the bulk of today's bachelor's in education degree programs also include classroom-based practicum training courses.

HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT ONLINE PROGRAM FOR ME?

When choosing an online master's in K-12 education program, there are several factors to consider. These include the overall cost of the program (tuition and living expenses), student outcomes associated with the institution such as student retention and graduation rates, and the school's current accreditation status. Many students also choose certain K-12 education master's online tracks because they include specialization options that align with their career goals.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO EARNING MY MASTER'S IN K-12 EDUCATION ONLINE?

Online education offers a flexible alternative to traditional higher learning. Online degree programs often follow the same curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, and usually lead to the same job opportunities for successful graduates. The flexible format of web-based learning is also ideal for students with jobs, small children, and other commitments that make it difficult to commute to and from campus each day. It's important to note that most online K-12 education master's degree programs involve practicum coursework that must be completed onsite.

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in K-12 Education Programs

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Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

University of Georgia

Athens, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 86%

The University of Georgia hosts an online master of education in learning, design, and technology with a focus on instructional design and development. This program may appeal to aspiring educators interested in how pedagogy and technology converge.

The program trains future teachers as well as enterprise, healthcare, and military professionals. Course content focuses heavily on using various media formats to inform instructional design. The program comprises 36 credits, and incoming students with relevant graduate-level coursework may transfer in up to 25% of the degree requirements.

Applicants must submit GRE or MAT test scores, a resume or CV, a statement of educational objectives, and at least three letters of recommendation. Applicants must also have a bachelor's degree in a related field and a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0.

2

Boston University

Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 88%

Boston University's online master of education in curriculum and teaching program was designed for licensed teachers and provides career-boosting professional development for active educators seeking an advanced degree.

Degree-seekers can choose from seven concentrations, including elementary education, English, English as a second language, math, science, social studies, and special education. This online master's program includes curriculum development strategies focused on a learner's chosen practice area.

Structurally, the program uses 14-week terms, with students taking one course at a time. Following this plan leads to graduation in two years. BU offers this program through its College of Education and Human Development.

3

Texas A&M University

College Station, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

Texas A&M University offers a no-thesis master of education in curriculum and instruction. This online program emphasizes evidence-based educational techniques for preK-12 students. Coursework examines the practical classroom applications of advanced pedagogical theory while supporting degree personalization through many specialized electives.

Learners engage with four key instructional areas: academic learning, the social climate of the classroom and the well-being of its students, improving schools, and partnerships with families and community members.

In addition to the generalist program, teachers interested in focused and specific subject areas can earn an online master's in curriculum and instruction in STEM learning and urban education. This program does not lead to teacher certification, so it may not be a good fit for unlicensed students.

4

Harding University

Searcy, AR Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 67%

Harding University's online master of education in elementary education features 35 credits of coursework. Degree-seekers can focus their learning on general education, education for gifted learners, special education, English as a second language, or reading for dyslexic students.

Classes delve into pedagogical techniques specific to the student's chosen area of emphasis. Required courses common to all specializations examine topics like human growth and development through adolescence, foundational aspects of education, education research methods, instructional technologies, and the cultural and legal aspects of school environments.

Additional graduation requirements include rigorous comprehensive examinations, which students complete during their final semester. Applicants need to hold a valid teaching license.

5

Auburn University

Auburn, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 78%

Auburn University offers an online master of education that focuses on the administration of elementary and secondary education. This degree provides the basis for certification as an Alabama Class A professional educator (or the equivalent) and is well suited for aspiring school administrators.

Using a cohort structure, the program concentrates on instructional leadership as it related to curriculum development and improvement, financial and resource management, teacher supervision, legal issues, and ethics. It also includes an in-person internship requirement, which is the only degree component that cannot be completed online.

In addition to academic transcriptions, applicants must submit a statement of intent, a resume, and three recommendation forms. Valid teacher certification, a background check, and multiple evidence-based leadership requirements also apply.

6

Clemson University

Clemson, SC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 83%

Open to students based anywhere in the world, Clemson University's entirely online master's in teaching and learning can be completed in 18 months. This program offers four specialization options: instructional coaching, effective and reflective teaching, STEAM learning, and early childhood experiential learning.

The curriculum splits its 30 required credits into an 18-credit standardized core and a 12-credit specialization path. Career-boosting benefits of this program include a wider set of professional options and certifications that qualify most graduates for increased wages.

Students do not require formal licensure to be admitted into this program, although degree-seekers should have firsthand teaching experience in a formal or informal educational setting.

7

Holy Family University

Philadelphia, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 60%

Philadelphia's Holy Family University provides an online master of education program designed for teachers with Level I Pennsylvania certification (or the equivalent). It delivers the academic requirements needed for Level II licensure, and graduates can also qualify for a formal endorsement in special education, reading, educational administration, English as a second language, or autism education.

Candidates interested in a generalist focus can configure the program to include classes from multiple specializations. Students can derive further value from HFU's relationships with Philadelphia-area school boards, which go on to hire many graduates.

All specialization options support online delivery format, although learners local to the university's campus may also opt for a blended model that combines distance and classroom learning. Admission requirements include two letters of recommendation, a personal statement of 250-500 words, and evidence of strong academic achievement.

8

Missouri State University

Springfield, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

Missouri State University's online master's in education literacy emphasizes the importance of reading, making it a good option for aspiring English and ESL teachers. Cousework can be completed entirely online and the school offers competitive tuition rates.

The curriculum of this program emphasizes one-on-one teaching techniques that boost literacy and accelerate student reading comprehension. Participants also complete a six-credit graduate clinical.

Learners emerge ready for careers as specialized educators in roles like reading program supervisors, literacy coaches, Title I teachers, and reading interventionists. In addition to a master's degree, graduates also receive special reading teacher certification. Students should already have a teaching license before applying.

9

Texas A&M International University

Laredo, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

Texas A&M International University offers an online master's in educational administration and leads to a master of science designation. The 30-credit program enables motivated learners to meet graduation requirements in 10 months.

The program develops professional educators for leadership roles in schools and administrative bodies, and it is endorsed by the Texas State Board for Educator Certification. The program's practicum requirements offer candidates the opportunity to apply their skills under the tutelage of a field-based mentor.

Applicants must hold a current Texas teaching certification (or the equivalent) and have at least two years of classroom-based teaching experience. Learners proceed through coursework at an accelerated pace by taking classes during seven-week terms. Students pay by the course and in-state students save on tuition.

10

University of Alabama in Huntsville

Huntsville, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 52%

The University of Alabama in Huntsville's online master of education program follows a cohort structure and offers start dates in the summer and fall. Students who earn this 33-credit degree learn about applied research and innovative approaches to classroom management.

Delivered mostly online with brief campus residencies, the program combines universally applicable strategies with specialization options. After completing a generalist set of core courses, learners can choose one of six concentration study paths.

Concentration options include differentiated elementary instruction, reading education, English as a second language education, and education for students with visual impairments. Secondary teachers can also specialize in specific subject areas, including English, history, math, biology, chemistry, and physics. The final specialist option covers collaborative education for students on the autism spectrum.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in K-12 Education Program?

Online health informatics programs can vary in terms of their focus and requirements. Programs with different concentrations prepare students to pursue different roles and therefore, coursework requirements will vary. Some programs emphasize hands-on learning and include internships and fieldwork, while others focus on healthcare theory and include comprehensive exams or thesis projects. These programs can also vary in terms of length, with many taking two to three years to complete.

Time to Complete

2 years or les.

Credit Hours

30 to 4.

Concentrations
  • Elementary Education
  • Middle School Education
  • High School Education
  • Special Education
  • Education Administration
  • Educational Leadership
  • Curriculum and Instruction
Accreditation

Several accreditation-granting organizations oversee accreditation for teaching master's programs. These include the following:

Additional Considerations

All K-12 teachers who lead public school classrooms must be certified in the state where they work. Certification requirements include a set number of post-degree training hours, a background check, and successful completion of a certifying exam. Certification requirements vary state. Specific criteria for kindergarten and elementary teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers is available online through the BLS.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Health Informatics Graduates

JOB PLACEMENT

Although a bachelor's degree can help you obtain entry-level teaching positions at the K-12 level, the employment rates are much more favorable for teachers who receive a master's. A recent report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) found that professional educators with a graduate degree faced a 2.2% unemployment rate. By comparison, the unemployment rate for teachers with a bachelor's degree and some professional experience is 3.7%, and 5.1% for recent graduates without experience.

Education Specialty Unemployment Rate for Experienced College Graduates Unemployment Rate for Graduate Degree Holders
General Education 3.9% 3.0%
Elementary Education 3.4% 1.4%
Physical & Health Education 3.5% 2.6%
Special Needs Education 4.9% 1.8%
Language & Drama Education 4.2% 2.3%

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW)

MASTER'S IN K-12 EDUCATION SALARIES

According to the Georgetown report cited above, students who obtain a master's in education earn median annual salaries of $49,000 immediately following graduation and $62,000 after they have been in the field for a few years. However, salary expectations for K-12 master's degree-holder will vary by specific job title. Using data from PayScale, the table below features salary estimates for five of the most popular career pathways among K-12 master's recipients.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Elementary Teacher $44,073 $39,301 $44,309 $56,372
Middle School Teacher $46,162 $40,553 $45,070 $59,689
High School Teacher $48,430 $41,405 $47,901 $60,433
High School Principal $91,679 $81,287 $91,458 $93,168
Instructional Coordinator $59,629 $42,000 $54,000 $66,000

Source: PayScale

MASTER'S IN K-12 EDUCATION CAREERS

Most students who earn an online master's in K-12 education degree go on to pursue careers in public or private educational settings. In addition to classroom teaching roles, these degree-holders may pursue careers as principals and assistant principals, education administrators, special education teachers, or instructional coordinators. Five popular career paths for those with a master's in K-12 education are outlined below.

Kindergarten and elementary school teacher

Kindergarten and elementary teachers lead students between the ages of 5 and 10 to 12, depending on how their district divides grade levels. They specialize in leading lessons focused on rudimentary reading, writing, math, and science skills. They also incorporate art, music, drama, and other creative elements into their instruction. According to the BLS, 85% of kindergarten and elementary teachers work for public schools.

Median Annual Salary: $55,490
Projected Growth Rate: 7% (+116,300 jobs)

Middle school teacher

Middle school teachers typically lead students between sixth and ninth grade. Unlike kindergarten and elementary teachers, who must be proficient in a wide range of subjects, most middle school teachers specialize in one area of study, such as English, history, math, science, technology, physical education, music, or art. When not teaching students, middle school educators are expected to plan their lessons.

Median Annual Salary: $56,720
Projected Growth Rate: 8% (+47,300 jobs)

High school teacher

High school teachers are similar to middle school teachers, in that they usually specialize in an individual subject. They lead classes for students between the ages of ninth and twelfth grade. In addition to classroom instruction, they must provide guidance for students as they prepare to attend college or obtain jobs after graduation.

Median Annual Salary: $58,030
Projected Growth Rate: 8% (+76,800 jobs)

Elementary, middle and high school principal

Principals at elementary, middle, or high schools monitor all daily operations within a school. They must oversee the school's curriculum, faculty, finances, administrative functions and educational resources. Most principals began their careers as teachers, later earning a master's in educational leadership or administration; principals in public schools are required to earn state licensure.

Median Annual Salary: $92,510
Projected Growth Rate: 8% (+19,700 jobs)

Instructional coordinator

Instructional coordinators develop, implement, and evaluate the curriculum taught to students at public and private schools. They design classes and lesson plans using student data, and may lead training workshops for current teachers. A master's degree is considered the minimum educational attainment level for this occupation.

Median Annual Salary: $62,460
Projected Growth Rate: 10% (+16,500 jobs)

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Gaining membership with a professional organization can be quite beneficial for students earning an online master's degree in K-12 education, as well as recent graduates. These organizations typically offer a host of resources, including certification and professional development opportunities, access to online journals and educational materials, invitations to conferences and networking events, and career counseling services for job-seekers. Three of the most prominent professional organizations for K-12 educators are outlined below.

Financing Your Online Master's in K-12 Education Program

Due to the relatively high cost of college tuition, a master's degree in K-12 education online represents a significant financial investment for most students. Many mitigate the cost of their education by applying for financial aid. The federal government offers a wide range of fixed-interest loans and grants for graduate students, which may be merit- and/or need-based. In order to qualify for federal aid, candidates must complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Additionally, students can receive financial aid through the school they attend, private companies, nonprofit organizations, and religious groups.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

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 COLLEGE STUDENTS

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.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.