Earning a master's in education can help current educators advance their career and increase their earning potential. Master's students gain specialized training in educational assessment, curriculum and instruction, and educational leadership. The degree prepares graduates for positions as teachers, instructional coordinators, and school administrators.
The best online education master's degree programs provide a flexible, accessible route to career advancement and are often designed for working educators. This page provides an overview of online master's programs in education, details career options for master's degree holders, and includes tips for finding a top master's in education program.
Overview of an Online Master's Program in Education
An online master's education degree program includes training in classroom instruction, curriculum development, and educational leadership. The following section explores common coursework, skills, and degree lengths. However, specific requirements vary by program.
Common Classes and Coursework
Advanced Educational Assessment
This class examines the assessment process in K-12 classrooms. Course topics may include cognition, assessment designs, optimal learning conditions, and instructional design for assessment results. Students also learn about alternative assessment strategies, data analysis for improving assessment techniques, and current research on educational assessment.
This course provides advanced training on promoting positive social and academic behaviors in the classroom. Coursework may focus on elementary or secondary classroom management. Learners study models for behavioral intervention, responses to interruptive behaviors, and classroom management for special education classrooms.
This class introduces students to educational technologies such as tablets, instructional games, and e-learning. Students examine research on enhancing learning effectiveness through educational technology, as well as using technology to support learners. Educators learn how to evaluate new educational technologies and incorporate them into the classroom.
This course helps elementary and secondary teachers promote reading and literacy skills. Coursework covers diagnostic tools for reading difficulties, reading programs to promote literacy, and instructional techniques for developing functional reading skills. Students examine teaching methods that promote literacy.
Advanced Curriculum and Instruction
Students explore curriculum development, related educational theory, and instructional techniques. The course also examines different types of curricula, along with curriculum and instruction research. This knowledge is useful for educators, instructional coordinators, and administrators.
Skills You Will Gain
While earning a master's in education online, students gain skills and competencies necessary to effectively educate learners. Master's students strengthen their abilities in classroom management, assessment, and instruction. Many education master's programs offer specialized courses for certain career goals. Additionally, educators can add certifications or endorsements to their teaching license; potential endorsement areas include elementary education, secondary education, and special education.
In addition to gaining teaching skills, students pursuing a master's in education improve their leadership and administrative skills
In addition to gaining teaching skills, students pursuing a master's in education improve their leadership and administrative skills. Graduate students take educational administration courses to gain skills in school management, curriculum oversight, and organizational management. Leadership courses emphasize skills required for classroom leadership and leadership within a school or district. These skills prepare graduates for careers as principals and superintendents.
Students earning a master's in education can take classes in higher education evaluation and postsecondary organizational analysis to prepare for careers in higher education administration. Graduates can also apply these skills to doctoral programs in education.
Average Degree Length
The length of an education master's degree varies depending on the program and the student's enrollment status. Full-time students typically earn their master's in education in two years. However, some programs offer accelerated master's degrees, which students can complete in as little as one year. Alternatively, working educators may enroll part time and take 3-4 years to earn the degree. Most master's programs in education require 30-39 credits.
Full-time students typically earn their master's in education in two years
Online students typically enjoy more scheduling flexibility than on-campus learners. Distance programs allow working teachers to schedule coursework around classroom responsibilities and to take a larger course load in the summer. Many online programs design their curriculum and enrollment options for working educators. Prospective master's students should research the curriculum and average degree length of each program they consider.
How to Find a Top Program
When comparing online master's education programs, prospective students should consider each school's graduation rate, faculty qualifications, and career resources. These factors can help learners identify high-quality education programs and select the option that best supports their career aspirations.
A program's graduation rate can help prospective learners understand student outcomes. Programs with high graduation rates typically provide more support resources to help students complete their degree.
Many education master's programs offer multiple specialization options. Prospective students should research their options to identify programs that offer coursework that aligns with their career goals.
Programs typically list faculty qualifications, such as degrees and publications, online. This information can help prospective students identify programs with faculty members who are knowledgeable about their specialization area.
A strong alumni network can help educators find job opportunities and advance their career. Prospective students should research each program's alumni network, particularly alumni who work in the student's specialization area.
Career Development Support
Prospective students can research each program's career support options, such as career counselors and resources, to identify the top programs to help them advance their career.
Education Careers After Earning Your Master's
A master's in education qualifies graduates for many careers in education, including roles as K-12 teachers, instructional coordinators, and school administrators. Classroom teachers use knowledge from their master's program to improve student learning outcomes.
In many districts, a master's degree qualifies teachers for higher salaries and increased responsibilities. For example, teachers with a master's degree often advance to leadership roles in their school. Many online master's in education programs offer specialized training to prepare graduates for careers in school administration or special education.
Elementary School Teacher
Elementary school teachers educate young learners in several subjects, including reading, writing, mathematics, and science. An elementary school endorsement typically qualifies educators to teach at any elementary grade level.
Average Annual Salary: $57,980
Middle School Teacher
Middle school teachers often specialize in an area such as language arts, science, or social studies. These educators create lesson plans, assess student progress, and help students improve their academic skills.
Average Annual Salary: $58,600
High School Teacher
Educators at the high school level teach multiple classes each day in disciplines such as mathematics, science, English, and history. High school teachers complete specialized training in their teaching area and in teaching principles.
Average Annual Salary: $60,320
Principals at elementary, middle, and high schools oversee daily operations and long-term planning. They hire teachers, set goals, and work with the superintendent. A master's in education, combined with experience, generally qualifies graduates to become principals.
Average Annual Salary: $95,310
Instructional coordinators oversee a school's curriculum. Tasks include developing educational materials, working with teachers to implement the curriculum, and assessing the curriculum. They also monitor teaching standards.
Average Annual Salary: $64,450
Additional Certifications for Education
Earning a master's in education qualifies graduates to pursue various licenses and certifications. Teachers at K-12 public schools in any state must hold a teaching license to practice. Educators can add endorsements or certifications to their license by completing a master's program in education. Some programs also meet the requirements for a principal or administrator license.
An accredited education master's program meets the education requirements for every state's teaching license. Candidates for a teaching license must typically submit an application, pass one or more standardized tests, and meet educational and experience requirements. Prospective educators can research the licensure process and requirements in their state.
Elementary Education Certification
Current educators can add an elementary education endorsement to their teaching license by completing a master's in education online, as long as the program meets their state's certification requirements. Typically, educators must pass an exam on elementary education to add the certification to their license.
Secondary Education Certification
After completing an online master's education degree that includes specialized graduate coursework in their teaching area, teachers can add secondary education endorsements to their license. Requirements for the certification vary by state.
Professional Organizations and Resources for Education Students
Educators often benefit from joining professional organizations, which generally offer teaching resources, career development tools, and networking opportunities such as conferences and events. The following organizations and resources can help educators advance their careers.
- National Education Association Founded in 1847, NEA represents more than three million educators. The association provides professional development opportunities, resources for educators, and local networking opportunities.
- Association of American Educators AAE offers teaching resources and materials for educators. The association provides scholarships and grants, publishes resource guides, and maintains state chapters.
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ASCD hosts events for educators and curriculum specialists in order to promote connections between education professionals. The association also publishes the Educational Leadership magazine and presents webinars.
- Association of Leadership Educators ALE offers grants for educators, maintains a job board with available leadership positions in education, and provides networking and professional development opportunities through its annual conference.
- American Association of School Administrators AASA supports principals and other school administrators through professional development resources, scholarship opportunities, and publications. The association also offers awards and hosts events.
- Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation CAEP accredits educator preparation programs; many states only grant teaching licensure to graduates of CAEP-accredited programs. Prospective students can use the CAEP website to check a program's accreditation status.
- Common Core States set learning guidelines based on the federal Common Core standards. The Common Core website provides resources and teaching material suggestions for K-12 educators. The site also offers instructional resources and suggested lesson plans.
- International Literacy Association ILA promotes reading and literacy. The association publishes resources for educators, such as Literacy Today Magazine, reading lists, and professional development tools. ILA also hosts conferences and events.
- National Archives Educator Resources The National Archives provides tools for educators, including lesson plans and guides on using primary sources in the classroom. The National Archives also delivers online primary sources.
- Scholastic Scholastic maintains a teacher page with resources for educators, student activities, and lesson plans. The website also offers a teacher store through which educators can buy books at a discount.