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Choosing the Best Online Education Master’s Programs

Online Education Master’s programs

Teachers have one of the most important jobs in our society today: preparing young minds to lead our world into a bright future. So, it’s no wonder that many states and school districts now require teachers to have a master’s degree to teach, even at the elementary and middle school levels. In addition to fulfilling teaching requirements, earning a master’s in education provides additional training and experience that better prepares teachers to instruct their students, and prepares them for alternative roles within a school system, such as administration.

Given the popularity of this particular degree, many schools have shifted their traditional programs to be Online Education Master’s programs. This offers master’s students maximum flexibility to learn and continuing teaching full-time (or meet other personal or professional obligations) while they earn an advanced degree.


FAQ: What Grads Students Should Know about an Online Master’s Degree in Education

Some of the most common questions about achieving a master’s degree in education online are detailed below to help master’s in education students quickly assess if this degree option is a good fit for their aspirations and goals:

What are the key reasons someone should earn this degree?

Though a bachelor’s degree is the primary education requirement to become a teacher, more states and school districts are requiring new teaching recruits to have a master’s degree before they can become fully licensed or certified teachers. Even when a master’s degree isn’t required, many teachers will want to earn one due to the professional prospects it provides, including higher pay, teaching in higher grades or moving into administration and education policy.

How does one get into a program?

Admissions requirements vary widely among teaching programs, but the primary requirement is that the applicant possesses a bachelor’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution with a minimum GPA. From there, programs may recommend applicants already have a teaching license or achieve certain test scores on the GRE, SAT or PRAXIS I.

How long does it take?

For the typical full-time student, most online graduate programs in education will take two years to complete. However, some master’s in education students can graduate in as little as a year, given the right circumstances. Prior certifications can also cut down on the time it takes to get the degree. For instance, some schools will award transfer credit for some courses if the student is already a National Board-Certified Teacher.

What are the career benefits?

Many online programs that lead to a Master of Arts, Master of Science or Master of Education degree don’t directly lead to a specific certification or license. While a number of programs prepare students to gain their initial teacher certification while they earn their master’s degree, many programs will help students meet the educational eligibility requirements for their state’s specific certification or licensing process of non-teaching positions, such as administration.

What does it cost?

The total cost of a master’s in education or teaching program will depend on several factors such as the type of school (public versus private), school location, the student’s state of residency and whether they can obtain transfer credits prior to enrollment. It’s important to remember that for those looking for the online master’s degree in education, cheapest might not always translate to “best.” It’s important to take a hard look at what the school offers, the reputation they impart and much more. In most cases, the cheapest options will cost around $10,000. Most programs are around $20,000 to $25,000, although some schools have a cost of attendance that can exceed $65,000.


Find the Top Online Graduate Programs in Education

Choosing the best online education master’s program is highly dependent upon the grad student’s needs and goals. One particular program or school characteristic might be important for one student, but not another. However, there are a number of program traits that the vast majority of master’s in education students will value when choosing the best program for them.


Accreditation is a process that schools and programs go through to ensure their curriculum meets certain minimum standards of quality. For online master’s education programs, the primary accrediting body is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). When confirming a program’s accreditation, remember that many programs may have received their accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which is what the CAEP used to be known as.

Affordable Tuition

Before applying and enrolling in a program with the lowest tuition price, remember there are additional costs, such as materials and fees, that determines the total amount of attendance. To help off-set financial burden, master’s students may be able to apply for financial aid, scholarships, grants, and loan forgiveness programs. Grad students may also have employer sponsored tuition reimbursement programs available to through their current employer. Master’s students should also check if special tuition rates apply to online students, regardless of state residency.

Strong Student Resources

Online learning can present additional challenges that on-campus master’s students may take for granted. For example, access to technical support, career services and special advising for certification or licensing are useful resources most students will want to take advantage of, whether they are on-campus or online.

A Good Reputation

A school’s reputation can play an important part in deciding which program to attend. Name recognition can help with employment prospects, especially when networking. Some schools will have a strong reputation nationally and others will be well-known regionally, so it’ll be up to the student to identify which type of recognition matters to them.

Training for Education in your state

Like many other professions that are regulated at the state level, the specific requirement for becoming a teacher or achieving a specific certification will depend on the state education graduates expect to teach in. Most online programs for teaching focus on preparing students to become teachers in a particular state or region of the country. But because distance learning allows students from almost anywhere to attend a particular program, online master’s in education students should ensure the school they enroll in will adequately prepare them for licensure or certification in the state where they will work.


Why Earning a Degree Online is a Master’s Student Best Option

Online learning makes sense for education master’s programs because of the flexibility it provides. The ability to self- pace is essential if the grad student is working full-time or has familial obligations, and is most beneficial when they can choose the number of courses they take at a time. Learning can also be accelerated through the program as time allows, as well as slowed if the master’s student schedule is busier than anticipated. In addition, education grad students can often “attend” class anytime they want, even if it’s in the middle of the night.

But, “What about the in-person curriculum requirement?” Master’s in education students can achieve this through alternative means such as fieldwork or supervised instruction within a classroom. Fortunately, there are also options where this requirement can be through day-to-day teaching without disrupting a master’s student schedule.


Spotlight Schools: Exceptional Online Education Master’s Programs

Although there are numerous schools that offer a quality education for teachers, there are only a few that stand out. Below are three of the top online master’s in education programs offering a variety of ideal options for grad students.

Capella University

Clemson University

Louisiana State University


1-Year Online Master’s in Education Programs

Most programs consist of 30 to 54 credit hours and take around 15 months to two years to complete. However, 1-year online master’s in education programs do exist. It’s important to note that master’s students will only meet this timeline if they can fully devote themselves to accelerated coursework and come into the program with at least some transfer credits. This might mean that during that year, they are not actively teaching – rather, they are taking time away from teaching others in order to fully focus on educating themselves.


Sample Courses: What to Expect from an M.Ed Online Program

The curriculum for an online education master’s program will vary depending on the type of program and concentration. The following is a sample of the types of courses master’s students can expect during their graduate program:

Curriculum Design Classroom Based ResearchSupervised and Instructional LeadershipSubject Methods and AssessmentTeaching Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Children
Utilizing the framework of federal and state mandates, students learn how to prepare effective teaching plans within the K-12 education setting.Students will learn how to systemically evaluate teaching decisions and curriculums within the classroom setting. There is also a special emphasis on how to interpret results to modify a teaching approach to make it more effective.The influence of leadership on education outcomes will be taught in this course. Instruction will include example leadership models and analysis of current research on academic leadership concepts.Students will focus on improving teaching skills based on assessment techniques and how they interact.This class recognizes there are a greater number of students in the classroom where English is not their first language, and it prepares students to modify their curriculum to accommodate these students.

Certifications for Master’s in Secondary Education Online Graduates

After completing an online master’s degree in education, there are several potential certifications or licenses available. First, there is the initial teacher certification, which allows the graduate to begin teaching in the classroom. Many graduates will already have this, but there are several programs devoted to online master’s in education for non-teachers who wish to begin a career in teaching.

Second, there is the National Board Certification. This is a prestigious and nationally recognized certification that is not easy to achieve, but can significantly advance a teacher’s career. It also makes it easier to work in other states, as it can stand in place of state-specific licensing requirements. A master’s degree doesn’t directly lead to this certification, but a state teaching licensed is required for National Board Certification and an increasing number of schools are starting to require master’s degrees.

Third, a master’s degree is often required to earn a school administrator license, which is usually necessary to become a principal or other similar academic administrator. The requirements for these licenses are state-specific and completely separate from a teaching license, which a candidate for a school administrator position will almost always already have.


Finding the Cheapest Online Master’s in Education Program

It can take a bit of research to find the most affordable online master’s programs in education, but additional financial resources can help offset some of the costs. The following list details financial aid options that can help master’s students reduce the cost of their degree:

online masters degree in education cheapest

Scholarships and Grants

These forms of gift-based aid are the most popular among students because they do not need to be paid back. While the terms “scholarships” and “grants” are often used interchangeably, they are technically different. Scholarships are usually given based on a student’s merit or unique characteristics, while a grant is often given based on the student’s financial need.

cheapest online masters in education

Loan forgiveness programs

These programs help with the bottom line in that a teacher’s student loans will be forgiven in full or in part if they agree to work in an underserved area or at a particular type of employer. One of the most notable of these programs is the federal government’s Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. Through this program, master’s students can have up to $17,500 of their federal student loans forgiven if they provide at least five years of teaching at a low-income school or education service agency.

most affordable online masters degrees in education


Unfortunately, there aren’t enough grants and scholarships to go around; that’s where student loans come into play. These forms financial aid is still better than a traditional loan because they usually have generous terms like low interest and additional time for repayment before interest begins to accrue.

best online masters in education

Employer pay

As a means of helping existing teachers improve their knowledge and teaching skills, some school districts will provide full or partial tuition reimbursement to teachers who go back to school and earn a more advanced degree. Each reimbursement plan is unique, so interested individuals will need to consult directly with their employer to determine the details.


After the Online Master’s Degree in Education: What’s Next for Grads?

After graduating with a Master of Science in Teaching or Master of Education degree, almost any career in education will be possible to graduates. Many will choose to stay in teaching at their existing school and enjoy higher standing among their peers, which often comes with a bigger paycheck. Other teachers may choose to teach at a higher level, such as a college or technical school.

Some master’s in education degree holders will intend to move into a leadership or administrative position. In this case, a master’s degree will often not be enough on its own. Depending on the state, a school administrator license might be necessary. To earn this license, applicants must usually have a master’s degree, several years of relevant teaching or leadership experience and pass a specialized licensing exam.

A few of the more common positions in education that can benefit from a master’s degree, as well as their job prospects are detailed here:

Job Title 10th Percentile wage Median Wage 90th Percentile Wage2016-2026 Projected Growth Rate
Secondary School Teacher$39,080$59,170$95,3808%
Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary $60,760 $94,390 $140,7808%
Middle School Teacher$38,540 $57,720$91,6708%
Elementary School Teacher$37,340$57,160 $92,7707%
Postsecondary Teacher$21,020$64,480$131,3909%

Source: BLS


Online Master’s in Education for Non-Teachers

There are two reasons why someone who is not currently a teacher might want to earn a master’s degree in education or teaching. The most likely reason is that they want to go into teaching and the master’s program will help provide their initial teaching certification at the same time. The next likely reason is that the individual wants to work in the education field, but doesn’t want to teach. What careers does that open up? Some administration openings at a school may not require prior teaching licensing or experience, but prefer applicants to have an education background. Examples include: admissions officers, instructional technologists, instructional designer and career services administrator.


Accredited Online Master’s in Education Programs and Colleges

College Name & Address Tuition Graduation Rate
American College of Education
101 W Ohio St, Indianapolis, IN 46204
$5,640 82%
American Public University System
111 W Congress St, Charles Town, WV 25414
$6,300 41%
Argosy University-Phoenix Online Division
2233 West Dunlap Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85021
$13,639 36%
Northcentral University
2488 Historic Decatur Rd, Suite 100, San Diego, CA 92106
$16,864 39.3%
Walden University
100 Washington Avenue South, Suite 900, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401  
$11,739 33.3%
Purdue University Global
1515 W Cypress Creek Rd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
$15,192 24.5%
North West Missouri State University
800 University Dr, Maryville, MO 64468    
$11,175 49.9%
Saint Joseph’s University
925 N Spurgeon St, Santa Ana, CA 92701

Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Education

College Name Tuition Graduation Rate
American College of Education
101 W Ohio St, Indianapolis, IN 46204
$5,640 82%
American Public University System
111 W Congress St, Charles Town, WV 25414
$6,300 41%
College of St. Scholastica
1200 Kenwood Avenue Duluth, MN 55811
$10,980 75.6%
Regis University
3333 Regis Blvd, Denver, CO 80221
Fort Hays State University
600 Park St, Hays, KS 67601    
$6,564 81%
Lamar University
4400 S M L King Jr Pkwy, Beaumont, TX 77705
$10,922 41.4%
Western Governors University
4001 700 E #700, Salt Lake City, UT 84107
$6,790 44.1%

Best Online Master’s in Education Programs

College Name & Address Tuition Graduation Rate
Clemson University.
2601 W Ave N, San Angelo, TX 76909
$19,776 49%
Purdue University
610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907
$26,033 73%
University of Central Florida
4000 Central Florida Blvd, Orlando, FL 32816
$22,467 44.6%
Michigan State University
220 Trowbridge Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824    
$35,628 78.9%
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY    
$38,708 69%

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