Online Master's Programs in Elementary Education

The best online master's in elementary education programs prepare learners to work as teachers, administrators, and curriculum designers. Each accredited program includes unique elements, often relating to specific professions, and many programs offer concentrations and add-on endorsements.

Not all master's programs lead to certification, which can limit career options for graduates who do not hold a teaching credential. Students should ensure each prospective program offers the coursework and experiences necessary for their professional goals.

This page examines elementary education master's programs and provides information on program length, coursework, and skills development. The guide also covers career options for graduates, professional resources, and certifications and licenses graduates commonly pursue.

Overview of an Online Master's Program in Elementary Education

The structure and requirements of online elementary education master's degree programs vary considerably. However, many programs require similar elements. Elementary education students typically take courses in educational foundations, human development, and elementary curricula. Learners also develop management and communication skills.

Common Classes and Coursework


Literacy Teaching

This course examines language development and strategies for teaching children at various stages of literacy. The course may include cognitive and social considerations and address teaching English as a second language. Learners may also explore research, as well as study phonics and vocabulary.

Foundations of Education

Students explore historical and modern concepts of education and examine cultural, psychological, ethical, and legal classroom concerns. This class typically addresses basic instructional elements, such as lesson plans and technological tools used in public schools. Learners may also study child development.

Educational Psychology

This course covers human development and learning principles and may examine social and cognitive growth in elementary children. Learners explore educational theories and strategies that reflect children's psychological needs at different developmental stages. Coursework may include strategies for teaching culturally diverse or special needs students.

Classroom Management

Students learn techniques for building effective learning atmospheres for children with various needs and heritages. Topics may include classroom rules, discipline, and self-esteem, and students prepare to create safe, structured classes. Learners may complete field experiences and study child behavior at different developmental stages.

Curriculum Fundamentals

This course explores assessment methods for determining effective curricula, with consideration to physical and mental factors. Departments may offer this course in relation to specific groups, such as English as a second language learners. Learners may prepare to shape curricula for multiple subjects, or they may focus on a certain discipline.

Skills You Will Gain

Elementary education master's programs address human development concepts. An understanding of child development helps teachers identify appropriate motivational strategies and sociological needs to build effective learning environments.

Students learn to assess each learner's needs to determine methods for delivering course information. Elementary education master's programs prepare students to recognize the best approaches for teaching elementary students. Programs often require a student teaching experience.

Elementary education master's programs prepare students to recognize the best approaches for teaching elementary students

Students master techniques for teaching specific subjects, such as math and reading, as well as for educating certain types of students. For example, departments may offer coursework, concentrations, or endorsements related to teaching special needs, gifted and talented, or bilingual learners.

Students in online elementary education master's degree programs build communication and leadership skills, which graduates use to guide classrooms and delivering lesson plans. These skills also help educators interact with families and faculty.

Master's programs often include a thesis that requires extensive research. The thesis process helps students enhance their field knowledge and improve their research skills. This skill set can help educators explore resources on learning disorders, educational programs, and government funding.

Average Degree Length

Earning an online master's in elementary education can qualify graduates for teaching positions, provided the program leads to certification. A master's degree demonstrates advanced knowledge in the field, which can lead to increased employment opportunities.

Master's programs in the field typically require 30-45 credits, which students often complete in less than two years. However, graduation time varies. Programs with higher credit requirements may take longer to complete. Additionally, students attending schools with more semesters per year can graduate more quickly.

Master's programs in the field typically require 30-45 credits, which students often complete in less than two years

Delivery method also impacts program duration. Some institutions offer accelerated programs, such as a five-year combined pathway to a bachelor's and master's degree. Programs may also use a cohort format, which involves a set path to graduation.

Students in non-cohort programs can take more credits per semester to graduate more quickly. However, some programs charge overload fees for students who surpass full-time enrollment. Students can also take fewer classes at a time, which extends program length. Enrolling part time lowers per-semester costs but may increase overall expenses.

How to Find a Top Program

Several factors indicate a high-quality education master's program. Students should look for a program that offers concentrations or credentials relevant to their career goals. Prospective students should research program statistics related to student satisfaction and post-graduation success. Learners pursuing an online master's in elementary education should also review each program's funding options and faculty details.

  • Low Faculty Turnover

    Turnover refers to the number of faculty members who stop working for the institution. High turnover can indicate low educational quality, since the university must frequently search for new faculty rather than building strong, long-term departments.

  • High Graduation Rate

    This rate indicates how many beginning freshmen graduate from the school within a specified time period. High graduation rates demonstrate student satisfaction, since they indicate few learners transfer or drop out.

  • Available Financial Aid

    Schools may offer scholarships based on criteria such as GPA and discipline. This funding can help learners pay for college expenses and may eliminate the need for student loans.

  • Add-On Credentials

    Departments may offer teaching credentials in special education or individual subjects. Some programs lead to initial teaching certifications. These opportunities equip students with the knowledge and qualifications for specific careers.

  • High Job Placement Rate

    This figure represents the percentage of graduates who find employment within a certain time period. Some placement rates consider only field-related employment. High job placement rates verify the program prepares learners for professional success.

Elementary Education Careers After Earning Your Master's

Earning a master's in elementary education online may qualify candidates for elementary teaching certification. This degree can also help certified teachers increase their employment opportunities. Non-teaching careers for graduates include positions as elementary school principals and instructional coordinators who shape elementary curricula. Some colleges and universities hire master's holders for postsecondary teaching positions.

Elementary education master's programs explore child development in regard to social, physical, and academic growth. This knowledge can qualify graduates for careers in settings such as childcare facilities and preschools.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Elementary educators teach multiple subjects in K-6 classrooms and encourage social growth in children. These positions require certification and a bachelor's. However, some states require these professionals to hold a master's degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects this career to grow 7% from 2016-2026.

Average Annual Salary: $57,980

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators make curriculum decisions to help schools improve student performance. These professionals examine test data, train faculty, and suggest course materials. The BLS projects an 11% growth for these positions from 2016-2026.

Average Annual Salary: $64,450

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary institutions may hire master's holders to teach classes in their discipline. These educators create syllabi, grade student assignments, and advise students on course selections. The BLS projects a 15% increase in these positions from 2016-2026.

Average Annual Salary: $78,470

Special Education Teachers, Elementary

These educators identify the best teaching methods to help special needs children understand course material. The BLS projects a 7% increase in positions for elementary special education teachers from 2016-2026.

Average Annual Salary: $59,390

Elementary School Principal

These principals manage elementary schools by upholding policies and rules, designing safety procedures, and providing input on curricula. Principals may also oversee budgets and make hiring decisions.

Average Annual Salary: $95,310

Sources: The Bureau of Labor Statistics

Additional Certifications for Elementary Education

Students earning a master's in elementary education online gain skills and knowledge for careers inside and outside of classrooms. Certain professions require additional credentials, which may involve the completion of experience and standardized tests. Graduates can also pursue licenses and certifications to increase employment opportunities.

Teaching Certification

K-12 teaching positions at public schools require teaching certification. Requirements for this credential vary by state, but usually include a student teaching experience and a bachelor's in education. Some master's programs prepare learners for initial certification. Candidates may also need to pass a state certification exam.

Child Development Associate Credential

This credential is ideal for professionals who teach children younger than six years old. The credential demonstrates expertise in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten education. Requirements include 120 hours of related education and 480 experience hours. Candidates must submit a professional portfolio and can earn this credential for various settings, including preschools and family childcare centers. The credential may also include bilingual specialization.

Reading Specialist Certification

Aspiring reading specialists and individuals who plan to help elementary students become literate should consider a certification or add-on credential in the field. Each state sets unique standards for this credential. Common requirements include a teaching certification, a related master's degree, and supervised experience.

Professional Organizations and Resources for Elementary Education Students

Members of professional organizations can attend events, seminars, and conferences for continuing education and networking. Many of these groups provide career resources, publications, and funding opportunities. Additionally, professional organizations may offer training experiences that fulfill continuing education requirements for certifications.

  • Association of American Educators This association provides a blog with educational tips and awards classroom grants for full-time teachers. Members qualify for liability insurance and can receive the group's newsletter, Education Matters.
  • Council for Exceptional Children CEC provides professional development webinars and events, along with publications such as e-books, journals, and the CECatalog. The group delivers special education resources and maintains a job board.
  • Education.com This website features worksheets, games, lesson plans, videos, and activities for children from preschool through fifth grade. Teachers can explore resources by grade level, subject, or topic.
  • International Dyslexia Association IDA delivers events and workshops that address dyslexia, including free webinars and a yearly conference. The group connects site viewers to the Center for Effective Reading Instruction for certifications.
  • Library of Congress The Library of Congress offers teaching resources and lesson plans on various subjects, including science, history, literature, and politics. The website includes a blog that explores educational topics, such as the use of primary sources for teaching.
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children NAEYC delivers field resources such as books, periodicals, and a blog. The group provides professional development training options and hosts a yearly conference. Members benefit from virtual courses and free or discounted NAEYC products.
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals This association provides learning opportunities for principals. Members can attend the Pre-K-8 Principals Conference and view webinars. Members can also explore jobs through the career center and read the association's publications, such as Principal and Communicator.
  • National Education Association Teachers can browse resources on lesson plans and classroom structure through NEA's website. Professionals can participate in group events and programs, such as the National Leadership Summit and Read Across America.
  • Scholastic Scholastic provides teaching resources such as lesson plans, student activities, classroom discussion tips, and a blog on educational topics. Teachers can browse books for classrooms by grade level.
  • U.S. Department of Education This department provides resources on classroom management and academic subjects, including literacy, social sciences, and history. The department also provides a newsletter, The Teacher's Edition, and supports the Teach to Lead initiative.
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