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Best Online Master’s Degrees in Education: 2023

Best Online Master’s Degrees in Education: 2023

Earning a master’s degree in education online is a convenient way to take your career as an educator to the next level. Explore this year’s top programs and find other key info you’ll want to know before enrolling.

Do you want to build upon your knowledge and skills as a teacher in your current area of expertise? Perhaps you wish to switch to teaching a different subject entirely. Maybe you’re ready to move out of the classroom and into curriculum design or an administrative role. Or you have your bachelor’s in a different field and want to become a teacher for the very first time. However, the idea of going back to school feels impossible given your already hectic schedule.

If this sounds anything like you, earning a master’s degree in education online could be the perfect solution. But which programs are best? While that answer if different for everyone, you’ll want to choose one lets you customize your degree plan to fit your scheduling needs and career goals.

To help you find the best program for you, we’ve ranked the top accredited online master’s degrees in education below based on their ability to give you a personalized learning experience that lets you earn the degree how you want. We’ve also taken into consideration important factors like accreditation, affordability, and strength of student services. See which online master’s degrees in education stand out for 2023. 

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    Base Methodology for OnlineColleges.me’s 2023 Online College Rankings

    1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

    To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

    • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

    2. Assign Weightings

    After creating the list of eligible schools, OnlineColleges.me data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

    Online Program Availability

    • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. Because exact numbers change often and can be difficult to verify, we use a range-based scoring system: 0-5 online programs = 1 star; 6-10 = 2 stars; 11-15 = 3 stars; 16-20 = 4 stars; 21+ = 5 stars. In our design, laptop icons = stars.

    Affordability

    • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
    • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

    Support Services

    • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
    • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

    About Our Data

    OnlineColleges.me’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2022

  • Radnor, PA
    Private not-for-profit $

    Seasoned educators looking to advance their career while working full-time should check out Cabrini University’s online offerings. Their education department offers two fully-online degrees: a master in curriculum, instruction, and assessment and a certification as a PreK-12 administrator and principal. The first program is a great option for anyone wanting to advance their career as a teacher while the second is for those wanting to switch from being an educator to a leadership position in a school system, such as being a principal or superintendent. Both programs also have an internship component, though this can sometimes be waived if you’re working full-time in the field already. Additionally, neither offers teaching licensure so they are better for those who are already teachers. While the program is hosted in Pennsylvania, the degrees are transferable across state lines.

    Program Highlights:

    Master of Education in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

    • Credits: 24
    • Length: 2 years
    • Cost: $705 per credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

    PreK-12 Adminstrative/Prinicipal Certification

    • Credits: 30
    • Length: 2 years
    • Cost: $705 per credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Baltimore, MD
    Private not-for-profit $$$

    Norte Dame of Maryland offers a two-year master’s degree in higher education leadership for changing populations which is great for anyone looking to advance their career in higher education while working full-time. Because the program is fully online and offered in the evenings and on the weekends, it’s ideal for working professionals. Additionally, it has a much more specific focus than most masters in higher education degrees, meaning students will develop expertise in how to best accommodate changing populations on college and university campuses by the time they graduate. Their curriculum also includes courses with global perspectives and rigorous research requirements. By the time students graduate, they’ll be prepared to take on a variety of roles in higher education, including working as an admissions director, financial aid director, or marketing director.

    Program Highlights:

    Master of Arts in in Higher Education Leadership for Changing Populations

    • Credits: 54
    • Length: 2 years
    • Cost: $600 per credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Storm Lake, IA
    Private not-for-profit $$

    Buena Vista University offers a couple online and hybrid programs which are great for those looking to advance their career in education. Whether you want to continue your teaching education or learn the necessary skills to become a school counselor, Buena Vista has you covered. Students can choose between three fully online masters (special education, teaching leadership and curriculum instruction, or clinical and mental health counseling) and one hybrid program (professional school counseling). No matter which program students choose, they might have to complete an in-person internship or student teaching experience. A unique feature of Buena Vista’s program is that it’s designed with the working educator in mind – the classes fit around your full-time job so you can balance both.

    Program Highlights:

    Master of Education – Special Education

    • Credits: 56
    • Length: 2 years
    • Cost: $272 per credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

    Master of Education – Teacher Leadership and Curriculum Instruction

    • Credits: 56
    • Length: 2 years
    • Cost: $272 per credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

    Master of Education – Clinial and Mental Health Counseling

    • Credits: 56
    • Length: 2 years
    • Cost: $272 per credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Seward, NE
    Private not-for-profit $$

    Concordia University in Nebraska offers a master in education which is perfect for anyone looking for a faith-based education. Because the school is affiliated with the Lutheran Church, there are some religious requirements to the curriculum and the idea is to help teachers lead with faith. In general, the curriculum is robust and comprehensive, offering everything a teacher needs to excel in the classroom. Because this program does not offer teaching licensure, it is designed for those who already have an education degree and are looking to advance their career, not those wanting to enter the field for the first time. Additionally, since most students are working full-time in education, all courses are online and designed to fit around a working educator’s schedule.

    Program Highlights:

    Master of Education

    • Credits: 30
    • Length: 2 years
    • Cost: $340 per credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Lynchburg, VA
    Private not-for-profit $$

    Liberty University offers a wide variety of masters degrees in education. Students can choose between sixteen different fields. These include educational leadership, instruction and design technology, student affairs, education technology and online instruction, early childhood education, English, foreign language education, general education, health and wellness, history, leadership, middle grade, special education, student services, and urban education. Students can also select if they want to pursue a licensure, advanced licensure, or no licensure track. It’s important to note that students who choose licensure or advanced licensure will only be qualified in the state of Virginia. Additionally, all courses are fully online and run in eight week semesters, meaning students can adjust their course load more often to accommodate professional and personal obligations.

    Program Highlights:

    Master in Educational leadership

    • Credits: 36
    • Length: 1.5 years
    • Cost: $415 per credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

    Master in Education – Instruction and Design Technology

    • Credits: 36
    • Length: 1.5 years
    • Cost: $415 per credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

    Master in Education – Student Affairs

    • Credits: 36
    • Length: 1.5 years
    • Cost: $415 per credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Milwaukee, WI
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Mequon, WI
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Fresno, CA
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Jackson, MS
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Columbus, OH
    Public $$$
  • Denver, CO
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Lynchburg, VA
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Wichita, KS
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Jackson, TN
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Springfield, MO
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Boiling Springs, NC
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Hickory, NC
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Bolivar, MO
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Scranton, PA
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Olathe, KS
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Baldwin City, KS
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Raleigh, NC
    Public $$
  • Berea, OH
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Milwaukee, WI
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Spokane, WA
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Saint Paul, MN
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Cincinnati, OH
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Odessa, TX
    Public $
  • Las Cruces, NM
    Public $
  • Mishawaka, IN
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Philadelphia, PA
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Saint Paul, MN
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Buffalo, NY
    Public $$$
  • Marshall, TX
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Jonesboro, AR
    Public $
  • Fond Du Lac, WI
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Philadelphia, PA
    Private not-for-profit $$$$
  • Salem, MA
    Public $
  • Roanoke, VA
    Private not-for-profit $$$$
  • Gainesville, FL
    Public $$$
  • Bloomington, IN
    Public $$
  • Tampa, FL
    Public $$
  • Framingham, MA
    Public $
  • Salem, OR
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Private not-for-profit $$$$$
  • Niagara University, NY
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Henniker, NH
    Private not-for-profit $$$$
  • Newton, MA
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Des Moines, IA
    Private not-for-profit $$
  • Greenville, NC
    Public $

What You’ll Get Out of an Online Master’s Degree in Education

Online master’s degree programs in education vary somewhat in terms of their goals and outcomes. Some show you how to apply knowledge of psychological and educational theory, research, or philosophy to your area of specialization, and some focus on demonstrating knowledge of diversity and inclusion. There are also many similarities, such as those discussed below, among programs since each online education master’s degree program must deliver specific content to meet accreditation standards. 

Pedagogical Knowledge Application

Pedagogy refers to the practice of teaching (i.e., the principles, theories, and concepts that are all part of classroom instruction). Education master’s programs teach effective strategies for instruction, curriculum development and application, and assessment design and delivery. Teachers must expand their pedagogical knowledge base to support students in comprehending, analyzing, and applying subject matter. You’ll identify and develop knowledge in a specialized area and learn to integrate this knowledge across all course content. 

Critical Inquiry

Master’s degree in education programs teach leadership frameworks that give you an awareness of leadership styles and personal values and ethics. Critical inquiry refers to the process of researching to gather and synthesize information and ideas from multiple sources to create new ideas, applications, and research questions. You’ll apply the critical inquiry process to find the main themes, demonstrate literacy, and use information effectively and ethically while considering and communicating different perspectives.

Collaboration, Communication, and Networking

Collaboration and communication are vital skills for any education professional, especially in a post-pandemic society that values the safety and convenience of online communication. Master’s programs in education teach you how to communicate effectively through oral and written communication and about the value of creating effective partnerships with your peers, fellow teachers, and administrators. You’ll also learn to present information in succinct and effective ways to improve learning environments. 

Promotion of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

A commitment to social justice is a vital part of every educator’s responsibility, so master’s degrees in education teach you how to advocate for underserved communities. Program requirements deepen your cultural competency, so you’ll learn the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and how to implement these principles to create environments where all learners feel a sense of belonging. After completing your master’s in education program, you’ll know how to evaluate diverse perspectives within different frameworks that include linguistic, temporal, sociopolitical, technological, or cultural contexts. 

Ethical Reasoning

Ethical reasoning integrates with communication and collaboration and diversity and inclusion. This style of critical thinking uses ethical frameworks to identify and appropriately approach ethical problems when making decisions. While conducting research relevant to your area of specialization in your master’s degree in education program, you’ll learn to reason ethically when evaluating various perspectives. You’ll also develop expertise in evaluating different practices and policies related to your teaching specialty.  

Courses You’ll Take in an Online Master’s in Education

While the inner workings of online master’s degree in education programs vary among schools, they share plenty of crossover in terms of general coursework since online education master’s programs must meet general accreditation criteria even though each program styles its curricula to meet the interests of its faculty and needs of its students. Below are general course descriptions you can expect in most master’s in education online programs. 

Instructional Leadership

Many teachers are lead teachers who head a grade level or a department in a school. Instructional leadership teaches them to address the diverse needs, abilities, experiences, and backgrounds of their students. You’ll study curriculum design models and learn various pedagogical styles and theories as well as the various topics related to theory and assessment to prepare you to create effective create lesson plans, manage classrooms, and provide after-school tutoring and other educational services to students. 

Universal Design of Instruction (UDI)

The course covers current disability issues, learning standards, behavioral strategies, and various methods to individualize, create, and provide universal design instruction for all students regardless of ability, age, reading level, native language, ethnicity, and learning style. Instructors who apply UDI frameworks make instruction accessible far beyond legal requirements for all students with disabilities. 

As a graduate UDI learner, you’ll conduct research, observe in schools, and plan and implement instructional activities with disabled students to ensure that all students are included in every aspect of classroom instruction.

Using Technology within Inclusion Education

Adaptive technology enables students with disabilities. In this course, you’ll learn accessibility best practices, including how to evaluate and determine the best and most appropriate use of technology for students with disabilities. You’ll also learn to use technology in universal design education environments. Your instructor will expect you to have access to certain teaching and learning technologies. 

Connecting Reading with Writing for Success

In many ways, reading and writing are the same activity applied in different ways. In this course, you’ll explore the connection between reading and writing by examining how successful instructional strategies and activities are applied in the classroom. No matter what educational level you teach and no matter the content you use, you’ll find valuable tools to help young learners maintain literacy development through reading and writing. 

Study Skills & Content Literacy 

Content literacy is a person’s ability to use educational content (i.e., reading and writing) to create new content in a specific discipline. For your education master’s program, this means learning to teach general literacy skills as well as content-specific literacy skills that relate to your area of specialization. It also involves applying your previous knowledge of educational content. You’ll learn to design reading assignments into accessible educational content and teach literacy and study skills to students. 

Human Resources Administration in Education

Human resources administration is central to ensuring an educational institution reaches its goals since human resources influence how a school recruits, compensates, and generally retains its instructors and administrators. This class focuses on the functions and operations of human resources administration. You’ll learn the various tasks that relate to the employment of teachers, administrative assistants, and even maintenance workers and support staff in an educational institution.

FAQs About Online Education Master’s Degree Programs

Undertaking a graduate degree is challenging and comes with many rewards. There are also risks in part because education master’s degree programs don’t all operate the same. Each one offers different curricula, resources, services, and specializations. Below are some frequently asked questions prospective graduate students like you have as they prepare to enter an online master’s degree program in education.

  • Can I earn my master’s degree in education completely online?

    Many colleges and universities offer fully online or hybrid options. Hybrid programs, which are more common than fully online programs, require you to attend some classes and other meetings or check-ins in person while completing the rest of your work online. Some online master’s in education programs allow you to do coursework online but require you to complete on-campus internships or teaching practicums in person. Check with each program to ensure it meets your needs. 

  • What careers can I pursue with an online master’s degree in education?

    An online master’s degree program prepares you for a variety of specialized roles. Your career outlook depends on what concentration or specialization you choose. You might choose one of the popular specializations like early childhood education, elementary, or middle-grade education. Or, maybe your interests lie in special education or English as a second language. There are also many opportunities to work in leadership and administration supporting curriculum development and operations. Some of the careers you can pursue with an online master’s degree in education are:

    • Academic advisor
    • Adult literacy coach
    • Art teacher
    • Athletic leadership
    • Career counselor
    • Curriculum designer
    • District administrator
    • Education consultant
    • Education program director
    • Educational psychology
    • Educational technology
    • Elementary school teacher
    • Experiential learning specialist for early childhood
    • Guidance counselor
    • Gym teacher
    • High school principal
    • High school teacher
    • Kindergarten teacher
    • Literacy specialist
    • Math coach
    • Museum educator
    • Music teacher
    • Private tutor
    • School superintendent 
    • Standardized test developer
    • Special education teacher
    • Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL)
    • Text prep specialist
    • Textbook author
    • Training and development specialist
  • What type of accreditation should an online master’s education degree program have?

    The value of your online master’s degree in education largely stems from whether the program is accredited. A survey conducted by Excelsior College and Zogby International reports that 83% of hiring executives say they value online degrees as long as these degrees are granted by an accredited institution. 

    All schools should be institutionally accredited. Regional accreditation requires more rigor in their standards of quality, so these schools tend to have more value than nationally accredited programs. If you earn a degree from a school that is not accredited, you might struggle to find a job after you graduate. The primary accrediting body for online master’s education degree programs is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP accreditation assures a program is of the highest quality.

  • What are the admission requirements for an online master’s in education?

    Admission requirements vary by school, but most online master’s degree programs share commonalities, like a bachelor’s degree with an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, based on accreditation standards. You may also need to take entrance exams like the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Records Exam (GRE). Some online master’s in education programs also require certain undergraduate education courses before you can apply.  Additional requirements often include writing samples like a statement of purpose or personal statement, letters of recommendation, and a portfolio or resume.   

  • How much does an online master’s degree in education cost?

    Factors affecting the cost of your online master’s degree in education include the length of time you spend in your master’s in education program as well as whether you attend a public or private university. Expect to pay more for a private master’s in education online program and less for public education. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for example, reported the average cost of tuition and fees at public schools was $12,410 for public schools and $26,597 for private schools in 2019-2020. 

  • How long does it take to complete a master’s degree in education online?

    Expect to take at least two years to complete your master’s degree in education online. Part-time students could take twice as long. The length of time you stay in graduate school also depends on your educational background, specific program requirements, and whether you pursue a specialization.

  • How can I specialize my master’s degree in education?

    Specialization for your master’s degree in education comes through elective courses as well as through the designed concentration tracts that most programs offer. The choices in education are plentiful, too, as the extensive list of specializations below shows.

    • Academic Coordinator
    • Adult Education
    • Career Counselor
    • Child Development
    • Childcare Director
    • Coaching
    • Corporate Trainer
    • Curriculum and Instruction Design
    • District Administrator
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Educational Administration
    • Educational Leadership
    • Educational Policy Analyst or Developer
    • Education Specialist
    • Educational Technology
    • Elementary Education
    • English as a Second Language (ESL)
    • Gifted and Talented Education
    • Higher Education
    • Instructional Coordinator
    • K-12 Education
    • Library Science
    • Math Education
    • Music Education
    • Principal
    • Reading and Literacy
    • Science Education
    • Secondary Education
    • Social Studies
    • Special Education
    • Teaching (MAT)
    • Tutor

The Value of Earning Your Master’s Degree in Education

Advanced degrees increase earning protentional. According to research from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), teachers with master’s degrees in education earn an average of $2,760 in their first year as a teacher compared to those who hold only bachelor’s degrees. You’ll also earn more if you pursue administrative roles after earning your master’s degree in education since education. The table below gives you an idea of what you can expect to make in a variety of positions. 

CareerMedian Annual Earnings
(2021)
Job Growth
(2021-2031)
Postsecondary Education
Administrators
$96,9107%
Training and Development
Specialists
$61,5708%
Instructional Coordinator$63,7407%
Elementary, Middle School, and
High School Principals
$98,4205%
Preschool and Childcare Center
Directors
$47,3108%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics