Best Online Master’s Degrees in Education: 2016

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Career and Salary Opportunities with a Graduate Degree in Education

Educators who earn an online education master’s degree are poised to either help students directly or work behind the scenes to improve the level of education a school or district provides, depending upon their choice of concentration. Discover the possibilities that earning a master’s in education can provide, learn how programs are organized, and use the search tool below to find the right one for you.

Online Master’s in Teaching Timeline

Getting in: The Application Process

Students who are ready to get their online education master’s degree should start by doing hefty research and narrowing down their options before applying. Though the application process can vary slightly from one school to another, most institutions will require the following components to complete the admissions packet:

  • A look at undergraduate performance

    Students must hold a bachelor’s degree in education or a related subject, such as psychology or child development, and they might have to meet certain GPA requirements—especially in education courses that would serve as a strong foundation to the master’s degree.

  • GRE scores

    The Graduate Record Examination is required by most colleges and universities for master’s studies. This test can be taken several times to improve the score, and results are sent directly to the colleges specified by the student.

  • Teaching license

    Some master’s degree programs require that a student be a licensed teacher; others offer licensing and certification as part of their program. Be certain to check this requirement before applying.

  • Letters of recommendation

    Two or three glowing letters from former professors, colleagues, volunteer organizations or similar referees can help a candidate stand out. Letters that speak to students’ abilities in problem-solving, creative thinking and forming relationships will look especially favorable for future teachers.

  • Experience

    Competitive master’s programs want to see someone with experience, which might include student teaching or substitute teaching experience, tutoring work and volunteering or working at a school district.

  • Essays or other writing samples

    Why a student wants to pursue the degree is also an important consideration, one that is often asked about in the application essay. Some schools require previous writing samples to demonstrate analytical thinking and written communication ability.

  • Interview

    Whether conducted in person or over video chat, interviews with the most promising candidates are often part of the application process. Candidates for master’s in education programs who demonstrate a passion for teaching and helping students achieve will look favorable to interviewers.

  • Financial considerations

    The school will want to know if a student is able to afford the master’s program. Pay close attention to financial aid, and have all financial documents ready to go when it’s time to apply.

Year 1

The first year of the online master’s in teaching program consists of foundation courses that set the stage for the concentration courses in the second year. Although the classes will all pertain to education in some way, they will be rather general. Some courses students might take include Education Psychology, Instructional Methods, Curriculum Development, and Teaching in the Diverse Classroom. Students can also choose courses in their concentration. For instance, those who want to work as school administrators might focus on additional business or management courses.

Year 2

The second year of the master’s in education program is all about a student’s chosen concentration, which include subjects such as elementary, secondary, or special education. This specialized coursework will push students through to the end of the program and prepare them to move into a more specialized area. In addition to the targeted coursework, students are also expected to complete their graduation requirements, which might include a comprehensive exam, research project, master’s thesis or internship. Most students can complete all of these requirements and their coursework within 18 to 24 months, so a third year is rarely required.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

In addition to successfully completing the required coursework during the two years of master’s degree study, students must also meet certain testing and graduation requirements to earn their teaching degree. Each school has its own requirements and might demand only one of the following; some might require students to complete two or three before graduating.

  • Capstone project

    This project serves as representation of what students have learned during their time in the master’s of teaching program; it might include significant research and a report. Most capstones consist of a research project typically accompanied by a written portion and at some schools, an oral component demonstrating what students have learned.

  • Comprehensive exam

    This test is designed to tap into skills and knowledge learned during the master’s program and prove competency in all areas. Exams may be catered to a student’s specialization. For instance, those who choose a secondary school concentration may be required to pass an exam in the subject they intend to teach.

  • Master’s thesis

    The thesis is often a large research project that requires students to pour time and energy into their own unique ideas concerning education. Much like comprehensive exams, thesis requirements are often pegged to a student’s concentration such as special education or urban education.

  • Teaching internship

    Internships give students real-world experience and are often a final requirement of a master’s degree in education program. For most graduate-level studies, internships will consist of student teaching hours, that involve working alongside established teachers to manage the classroom, create curriculum plans, and gain first-hand experience with different student groups.

  • Teaching license or certificate

    Some programs include licensing and certification in their requirements; students must pass the licensing exam in order to meet their final requirement toward graduation. This prepares master’s program graduates to enter the workforce and prove their competency in teaching to schools and future employers.

Search Online Master’s Degrees in Education

At some point, those who are serious about pursuing their online master’s in teaching will have to focus on just a few schools. To help with this daunting task, we have created a comprehensive search tool that allows students to search via degree level, tuition cost, student population, school type and location.

Student Population:
School Type:
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Master’s in Education: Career Paths & Possibilities

When many people think of someone with an education degree, they picture a teacher standing in front of a chalkboard and talking to a classroom full of students. Although an education degree can definitely put a person in the classroom, there are other career options available to those who have earned their master’s degree in education. Here are just a few of the concentrations available to the master’s degree student, along with the careers that might result.

Early Childhood Education

Education starts early, and this concentration is great for those who want to work with the youngest of learners. In addition to practical teaching instruction, this concentration might include some administrative and leadership classes.

Elementary School Teacher
Elementary School Teacher

Typically teaches everything from math to science to English for a specific grade from kindergarten to grade six.

Preschool Director
Preschool Director

Coordinates instruction to provide basic skills to young children, including knowledge that enhances their life, social and literacy skills.

Secondary School Education

High school is the final push to prepare for college, and this concentration prepares teachers to deal with the college-bound learner. As an added bonus, those who can handle teaching in a high school may also choose to teach in a middle school.

High School Teacher
High School Teacher

Focuses on one subject and has the added responsibility of helping students prepare for college or life beyond the classroom.

Middle School Teacher
Middle School Teacher

Often teaches several subjects to those in the middle grades, reviews earlier work, and prepares students for tougher high school classes.

Special Education

Some students need more help to learn, and the special education concentration prepares teachers to deal with students who have developmental delays, learning disabilities, behavioral challenges or other special needs. The concentration also touches on public policy and disability legislation pertaining to education.

Special Education Teacher
Special Education Teacher

Works with students who have disabilities that affect their ability to learn. This includes adapting coursework to suit a specific child, assessing student success, and forming learning plans with parents and other teachers.

Education Consultant
Education Consultant

Focuses on enhancing instruction, curriculum and teaching skills for employees of everything from school districts to colleges to private religious schools.

Curriculum and Instruction

This concentration prepares students to design and implement courses through the use of both practical and theoretical approaches. Some might choose to specialize the concentration even further by taking courses targeted at a particular educational level, such as high school or middle school.

Instructional Coordinator
Instructional Coordinator

Plans the curriculum for school programs, develops and assesses instructional materials, and coaches teachers on how to use these resources.

Education Consultant
Education Consultant

Focuses on enhancing instruction, curriculum and teaching skills for employees of everything from school districts to colleges to private religious schools.


Provides in-depth instruction in a variety of areas to postsecondary learners working toward a degree.

Administration and Leadership

Typically designed for those who are already in administrative positions, this concentration can enhance knowledge and skills as well as serve as a stepping stone to a doctoral degree.


Works in an elementary school, middle school or high school to provide teacher support, manage school activities, coordinate the curriculum and ensure an effective learning environment.


Oversees an entire school district, including general operations, budgeting, regulations and student and teacher achievement.

Preschool Director
Preschool Director

Coordinates instruction to provide basic skills to young children, including knowledge that enhances their life, social and literacy skills.

Instructional Coordinator
Instructional Coordinator

Plans the curriculum for school programs, develops and assesses instructional materials, and coaches teachers on how to use these resources.

Education Consultant
Education Consultant

Focuses on enhancing instruction, curriculum and teaching skills for employees of everything from school districts to colleges to private religious schools.

Salary Potential with a Master’s Degree

Being happy in a job can be more valuable than a number on a paycheck. Those who have earned a master’s degree in education reported they were “extremely satisfied” with their job, according to Still, educators who choose to earn a master’s degree in education can enjoy a higher salary, thanks to the many career options that open up to those with an advanced degree. For instance, a bachelor’s degree holder might work as a high school teacher and make about $41,000 per year, according to PayScale — but when that same person earns a master’s degree, she or he might see a pay increase to about $77,000. The master’s degree also qualifies people to become high school principals, who earn $85,492 per year on average. The numbers below reflect the expected job growth and median salary for administrators at all levels:

Growth potential 6%
Average salary $89,540

Additional Resources & Links

Teachers who are interested in pursuing their online master’s in education can benefit from learning more about the potential careers out there. The following resources might help those who are expanding their horizons with higher education:

Best Online Master’s in Education & Teaching Degrees

Online teaching degree programs have become extremely popular, and for good reason — they allow students to earn a top-notch education while still having time to juggle important family and work commitments. But with so many suitable programs available, how can students narrow them down? Our rankings of the Best Online Master’s in Education & Teaching Degrees for 2015-2016 is a great place to begin.

To understand how we chose these schools, check out our methodology here.

1 Appalachian State University 100.00 16:1 70%
2 North Carolina State University at Raleigh 97.00 16:1 75%
3 University of Nebraska at Kearney 96.00 15:1 56%
4 Ball State University 94.00 15:1 59%
5 Indiana University-Bloomington 93.00 17:1 78%
5 North Carolina Central University 93.00 15:1 47%
5 Clemson University 93.00 16:1 82%
5 East Carolina University 93.00 18:1 59%
5 University of Idaho 93.00 17:1 58%
10 Michigan State University 92.00 17:1 79%
10 Lehigh University 92.00 10:1 87%
10 Hampton University 92.00 9:1 66%
10 University of Florida 92.00 21:1 88%
14 Purdue University-Main Campus 91.00 12:1 73%
14 George Mason University 91.00 16:1 67%
14 Andrews University 91.00 9:1 59%
14 Western Carolina University 91.00 16:1 58%
14 Canisius College 91.00 12:1 68%
14 Asbury University 91.00 12:1 68%
20 University of Northern Iowa 90.00 16:1 64%
20 Concordia University-Wisconsin 90.00 13:1 61%
20 University of Mississippi 90.00 18:1 61%
20 Auburn University 90.00 17:1 71%
20 George Washington University 90.00 12:1 79%
25 Texas A & M University-Commerce 89.50 18:1 52%
26 Drexel University 89.00 10:1 67%
26 University of North Carolina Wilmington 89.00 17:1 71%
26 Texas A & M University-College Station 89.00 20:1 79%
26 Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus 89.00 17:1 86%
26 University of Central Florida 89.00 31:1 70%
26 Fort Hays State University 89.00 17:1 43%
26 University of North Carolina at Charlotte 89.00 19:1 55%
26 Webster University 89.00 13:1 64%
26 Harding University 89.00 16:1 63%
35 Johns Hopkins University 88.00 9:1 93%
35 Baldwin Wallace University 88.00 13:1 68%
35 Columbia International University 88.00 14:1 68%
35 University of Wyoming 88.00 15:1 54%
35 Niagara University 88.00 13:1 64%
35 Belhaven University 88.00 12:1 50%
35 University of Alaska Fairbanks 88.00 14:1 32%
35 University of Southern California 88.00 9:1 91%
35 Saint Joseph’s University 88.00 13:1 73%
44 Rowan University 87.00 17:1 67%
44 Wayne State College 87.00 18:1 49%
44 University of Southern Mississippi 87.00 17:1 48%
44 University of South Carolina-Columbia 87.00 18:1 73%
44 Creighton University 87.00 11:1 78%
44 University of North Carolina at Greensboro 87.00 17:1 56%
44 University of Arkansas 87.00 19:1 62%