Online Master's Programs in Secondary Education

Online secondary education master's degree programs help learners build skills and knowledge to prepare for teaching professions. The top programs in the field address curriculum development, assessment, and adolescent behavior to prepare students for careers teaching, consulting, and overseeing secondary education classrooms and schools.

Due to the diversity of career options for graduates, learners should compare program details to their professional objectives. For example, an aspiring special education teacher would benefit from a related concentration.

This guide includes common elements of accredited education programs, along with information on education careers and certifications. This article also provides links to resources for students and graduates.

Overview of an Online Master's Program in Secondary Education

An online master's in secondary education can qualify graduates for a variety of careers in education. Master's students explore teaching techniques, human development, and management concepts. Specific courses and requirements vary by institution, so learners should consider all program elements to determine the best option for their needs.

Common Classes and Coursework


Adolescent Psychology

This course addresses child development through adolescence, giving consideration to culturally diverse and special needs learners. Students often learn motivational strategies and teaching techniques for certain age groups and develop skills for maintaining structured classrooms. Coursework may cover creating assessments and lesson plans based on students' stages of development.

Foundations of Education

Students explore the history of education, along with philosophical and theoretical aspects of the field. This class may cover modern issues and changing classroom elements, such as technology. Coursework may focus on specific types of learners, including special needs and English as a second language (ESL) children.

Language and Culture

This course emphasizes teaching techniques and theories for educating ESL students. Learners may study management for multicultural classrooms and the impact of culture on second-language acquisition. This course may include field components settings and address relevant legal and ethical concerns.

Teaching Secondary English

Students explore techniques for teaching English topics, including grammar, writing, oral presentations, and literature analysis. This class often addresses state standards for middle and high school English classrooms. Departments may offer similar courses in other subjects, including math, social studies, and science.

Current Issues in Education

Students explore ethical and legal issues in public education, with regard to factors such as globalization, advancing technology, and changing state standards. Departments may tailor this information toward specific learners, such as special needs students. Graduates can apply this knowledge as administrators, instructional coordinators, policy makers, and teachers.

Skills You Will Gain

Online secondary education master's programs typically address adolescent psychology and behavior to help educators connect with and motivate students. This information can also help educators implement effective disciplinary actions to maintain safe and encouraging classrooms.

Learners develop an understanding of teaching, including historical aspects and effective strategies for middle and high school classrooms

Learners develop an understanding of teaching, including historical aspects and effective strategies for middle and high school classrooms. Programs may focus on one secondary subject, such as science, or provide an overview multiple subjects. Coursework may also address cultural diversity and techniques for teaching special needs learners.

Master's programs frequently include a thesis, which requires learners to research and draw conclusions on a field topic. The thesis helps students hone their research abilities, which graduates can apply to tasks such as exploring resources on learning disorders. These research skills prepare students to continue learning as classrooms change over time.

Programs also train students to manage, organize, and oversee classrooms. Learners develop leadership and communication skills, and coursework often addresses behavior and cultural diversity in secondary classrooms. Students explore assessment concepts for determining teaching techniques, and many programs include a supervised teaching experience, through which learners polish these skills.

Departments may emphasize technology for classroom use and encourage creative thinking. This information can help educators adapt teaching methods to each class's learning needs.

Average Degree Length

Students in secondary education master's programs gain the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue middle and high school teaching careers. These programs typically require 30-40 credits, and most students graduate in two years or less. However, program details can alter degree completion time. For example, some schools provide accelerated paths that allow learners to graduate in one year.

Colleges and universities may also structure semesters so learners can complete more classes per year. For example, a five-semester format provides more enrollment opportunities than the typical semester format, which includes spring, fall, and summer terms.

programs typically require 30-40 credits, and most students graduate in two years or less

Some programs follow a cohort format, which means students progress through the curriculum in small groups. Students in cohort programs complete coursework at a set pace. However, students at schools without a cohort structure can alter program duration. Busy students may choose to study part time, which lowers immediate program costs but can increase total expenses. Students can also graduate more quickly by taking a course load beyond full-time enrollment, however this may result in a fee from some departments.

How to Find a Top Program

Students searching for the best master's in secondary education online program should consider factors including cost, accreditation, program duration, and available concentrations. Students should also look for positive statistics from the institution or department. Additional considerations include faculty experience and the school's student support services, since these elements can improve the student's learning experience and career opportunities.

  • High Student Retention Rate

    Student retention rate typically refers to the percentage of beginning freshmen who return to the institution for their sophomore year. High numbers indicate students are satisfied enough with the school's education to invest more time and money in the program.

  • Notable Faculty

    Some departments hire field experts to teach courses. Employers may prefer graduates of these schools, due to the advanced knowledge these individuals can offer students.

  • High Program Rankings

    Sources such as U.S. News & World Report review schools and rank them in categories such as region and discipline. Graduating from a top-ranked program may improve employment chances. However, learners should only trust rankings from reputable sources.

  • Low Student-to-Faculty Ratio

    This ratio illustrates the relative numbers of faculty members and students. For example, an 18-to-1 ratio means a school boasts 18 times as many students as faculty. Low ratios indicate interactive learning environments, since faculty can focus on small groups of students.

  • Relevant Student Organizations

    Student organizations allow learners to network and explore field concepts. These organizations may also connect students with field organizations. For instance, the National Council for Exceptional Children offers a student chapter.

Secondary Education Careers After Earning Your Master's

Online secondary education master's degree programs prepare students to work in public or private schools as middle school teachers and high school teachers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% increase in both of these positions from 2016-2026. Graduates can also pursue positions in K-12 education, designing curricula and advising school boards on learning strategies.

Graduates can also work in postsecondary education, teaching education courses and encouraging high school students to consider enrollment. Education master's programs may also prepare students for teaching positions at trade and vocational schools that accept high school students.

High School Teacher

These educators typically teach one subject, such as math. High school teachers deliver lessons, grade students' work, and prepare students for state testing and college. The BLS projects an 8% growth in these positions from 2016-2026. High school educators must hold a teaching certification or license.

Average Annual Salary: $60,320

High School Principal

High school principals advise teachers on educational methods, maintain order among students, and make budget and curricular choices for grades 9-12. These positions require certification and extensive experience in teaching and administration.

Average Annual Salary: $95,310

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary educators teach several classes per semester in their discipline. These educators teach at colleges and universities. They may also help students choose course schedules and perform field research. The BLS projects a 15% increase in these positions from 2016-2026. Some schools hire postsecondary teachers, especially adjunct faculty and lecturers, with only a master's degree, though tenure-track faculty positions usually require a doctorate.

Average Annual Salary: $78,470

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators review data to identify areas to improve curricula. These professionals design new curricula and train teachers in educational practices. Instructional coordinators often work at K-12 schools, and they may need a license. The BLS projects these positions to increase 11% from 2016-2026.

Average Annual Salary: $64,450

Educational Specialist

Educational specialists advise schools on appropriate curricular and educational practices. These professionals may also adjust learning methods and train faculty members. Educational specialists may need a teaching certification.

Average Annual Salary: $49,746

Source: BLS and PayScale

Additional Certifications for Secondary Education

Online secondary education master's degree programs help students develop knowledge and skills for positions in middle and high schools. However, some careers require additional credentials. Public school teachers, for example, must hold a teaching certification. Graduates can also pursue voluntary certifications to advance their skill set and improve employment opportunities. Requirements for these credentials vary, but often include fieldwork and education.

Teaching Certification

K-12 teachers must hold a state teaching certification. Most states require candidates for this credential to hold at least a bachelor's in education. However, candidates with an undergraduate degree in another field often pursue a master's degree to qualify for certification. Candidates typically complete supervised fieldwork and may need to pass at least one certification examination, such as the Praxis.

Gifted and Talented Teacher Certification

Students who intend to focus on gifted and talented classrooms should consider this credential. Requirements vary but commonly include a bachelor's degree with a specialization in gifted and talented education, supervised teaching experience, and passing standardized test scores. This credential can also qualify candidates to become instructional coordinators for gifted and talented programs.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TESOL) Certification

This certification verifies experience with second-language acquisition and is ideal for teachers who work with ESL students. This credential can also qualify candidates for TESOL positions helping individuals in other countries learn English. Candidates for this certification may need a degree specialization in ESL education and a passing score on a TESOL exam.

Professional Organizations and Resources for Secondary Education Students

Many field resources and professional organizations offer publications, events, and training opportunities to help students and professionals expand their knowledge. Some organizations also provide resources on specific education topics, such as learning disabilities. Educators can use the following resources to develop lesson plans and explore career opportunities.

  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ASCD offers newsletters and books on education topics such as literacy and culturally diverse classrooms. The association also delivers webinars and events, including the Leader to Leader Conference.
  • Library of Congress This organization offers lesson plans in various subjects, including history, journalism, and poetry, along with primary source materials such as photographs and letters. The Library of Congress maintains a blog with educational tips.
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals NASSP hosts the National Principals Conference and the NASSP Advocacy Conference. School principals can participate in the group's webinars, workshops, and Twitter chats to explore new field concepts and network with other professionals.
  • National Association of State Boards of Education This association provides resources on topics such as assessment and curricula. The group also offers publications, including The State Education Standard journal, along with webinars and a yearly conference.
  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics NCTM hosts events related to math education, including workshops, the Research Conference, and the Leadership Conference. The council also delivers webinars and publications that address curricula and assessment.
  • National Education Association NEA's website provides lesson plans and tips for classroom management. The association offers the Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly and provides classroom funding opportunities.
  • Project Gutenberg This resource includes full-text copies of literary classics and primary historical sources. Teachers can browse these texts by category and assign books for students to read at no cost.
  • Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution offers resources and professional development opportunities related to several museums, including the American Art Museum and the Air and Space Museum. Teachers can also take students on museum field trips.
  • Teacher.org This website offers resources for K-12 teachers, including math, science, English, and social studies lesson plans. Educators can also explore scholarship and teacher discount opportunities.
  • U.S. Department of Education This department provides resources on topics such as literacy and astronomy. The department connects educators to The Teacher's Edition newsletter and the Teach to Lead program.
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