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Online Master’s Programs in Educational Leadership

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Updated on: 09/19/2018

Acquiring an online master’s degree in educational leadership can increase your potential for positions with more authority, some of which may come with a higher pay grade. Teachers with this degree also have the option of specializing in certain areas, which can make them even more marketable in the field of education. Find out how earning an online master’s in educational leadership can help you influence and educate future generations of students. Plus, discover which colleges and universities have the best online programs.

Best Online Master's in Educational Leadership 2018-2019

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Best Online Master’s in Educational Leadership 2018-2019

Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factors

Data Sources: Eligibility Criteria:
  • Each college must be accredited
  • Each college must be a not-for-profit institution
  • Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
  • Each college must have at least one online program 1
  • Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000
Ranking Factors:
  • Affordability
  • Quality
  • Flexibility
  • Program

Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.

1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.

2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.

Notes:
  • A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
  • Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.
2-Year Schools

The best master’s degree programs in educational leadership all have several things in common; they provide experienced, licensed teachers with an opportunity to take on new challenges, skills and knowledge to lead a school of their own, and to oversee teachers and curricula. The following rankings are based on information gathered from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the Department of Education and each university's own published materials. All schools in this list are accredited.

Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia $23,800 96% 24% 55% 1 Yes Yes Yes

By offering fast, flexible online degrees, Liberty University provides students the opportunity to pursue a graduate education in a timely manner while still working. Current educators who want to further their career may be interested in the school's Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction - Leadership. This entirely online program is meant to fit around students' needs, and transfer students can bring in up to 18 credits. A total of 36 credits are required complete the degree, which integrates a Christian worldview. Courses are offered in accelerated 8-week periods, and there are multiple start dates throughout the year. Those studying full time can complete the degree in just over a year, although many students study part time and continue to work while studying. These students tend to finish the degree in about 2 years. The end goal of the program is for graduates to be able to find leadership positions in any type of school, grades K-12. The curriculum closely fits the prerequisites for Virginia's state licensure exam for educational leadership, but students from around the country are eligible for the program. To become licensed, graduates may need to take additional courses beyond the master's degree. Students interested in the program will need to submit a transcript and may be required to submit TESOL scores. An undergraduate GPA of 2.0 is required, although test scores can be used to supplement applications with lower GPAs. Liberty has a flat tuition rate per credit that has been decreasing in recent years.

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2 Cairn University Langhorne, Pennsylvania $13,489 100% 98% 68% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Cairn University, a Christian institution, offers an online Master of Science in Education for students who are interested in advancing their careers and taking on leadership roles within education. The degree is designed for students who are currently educators in a Christian school, or for current educators who want to teach at a Christian school. The program requires 39 credits to complete. The curriculum combines traditional education courses with Christianity, putting emphasis on Biblical studies and teachings. While the degree doesn't offer a concentration, students will have 12 elective credits to complete, and these can be focused on leadership. Because this program isn't explicitly designed for future educators, graduates may not meet all the requirements to become a certified educational leader in their state. However, many students should be able to mold the curriculum to fit most prerequisite needs. The program doesn't require an internship or professional experience and is finished with a capstone project. A 3.0 GPA is required for all courses in the program to be eligible to graduate. Most students complete this program in 2 years studying part time. To be eligible, applicants need a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA. All students are charged a flat tuition rate per credit; however, those who are working as teachers in Christian schools are eligible to receive half-off tuition.

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3 Evangel University Springfield, Missouri $11,073 88% 75% 48% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Based in Christian faith, Evangel University aims to prepare teachers to become educational leaders through their Master of Education in Educational Leadership. This program prepares students to become principals in their area, or to get a leadership role in administration. The degree is a 30-credit program that can be completed in just 2 years. All courses in the program are offered online, but students also have the option to take in-person internships for credit and experience. The internship is not required, so students can complete the program from start to finish online. Because Evangel is a school with strong Christian roots, the curriculum will place a small emphasis on Christianity and faith. This is ideal for those who are interested in becoming educational leaders at private, Christian schools anywhere in the K-12 level. Also, because Evangel is in Missouri, students will be prepared to take the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education building level administrator exam. Graduates may qualify for administrative leader or principal exams in other states as well. Students will need to take the PRAXIS for this program, and a GPA of 3.0 or higher is required to be admitted. Evangel also requires that applicants be licensed teachers with at least 2 years of professional experience. After getting accepted into the program, everyone will be charged the same flat tuition rate per credit, and many individuals at Evangel receive some form of financial aid.

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4 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, Minnesota $11,138 100% 57% 49% 1 Yes Yes Yes

At Concordia University – Saint Paul, students interested in the Master of Arts in Education with a focus on Educational Leadership will gain knowledge that will prepare them to become leaders within K-12 schooling. Graduates of this program have found work in both public and private institutions as either principals or administrators. The Master of Arts in Education requires 30 credits to complete, and all courses can be completed entirely online, or through a hybrid of online and in-person studying. Students can work on their degree from anywhere and even have the option to earn some credits while studying abroad. Courses are offered in the traditional semester format and are flexible enough to meet the needs of working individuals. Unlike other Educational Leadership programs, Concordia doesn't prepare students to become certified educational leaders in any specific state. Students from all states are eligible, although Concordia's curriculum may not meet the specific standards for every state. Through part time studying, the degree can be completed in less than 2 years. Prior to applying to the program, students will need to have some experience working as a teacher. Concordia requires a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, as well as a maintained 3.0 GPA throughout the course of the program. Those studying toward a Master of Arts in Education will be charged the same tuition rate per credit.

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5 New England College Henniker, New Hampshire $18,377 77% 99% 36% 1 Yes Yes Yes

New England College prepares educators in the state of New Hampshire who are looking to advance their teaching careers. Those interested in becoming a principal or a similar leadership occupation would be interested in the college's Master of Education with a concentration on Educational Leadership or Educational Leadership: Principal Certification. Both concentrations share similar coursework, with the latter geared toward students who are specifically interested in becoming principals. To complete the master's degree, graduates will need 28 credits. Most of the courses in the program are 2 or 4 credits, and students will also be required to pick 3 elective courses. Those interested in educational leadership will need to use their elective credits toward the concentration they choose. Studying part time, students should be able to complete this program in a few years. Students don't need to submit test scores when applying to this program, though they will need to submit their undergraduate records as well as a resume. There is no minimum amount of work experience required, but students will need to prove that they are licensed educators with teaching experience. This program is also available entirely online, and students from any region are eligible to apply. While most individuals in the program are current educators, students aren't required to be licensed teachers. Prior to applying, it is worth keeping in mind that the program prepares graduates to become educational leaders in New Hampshire, so the curriculum may not meet the standards of other states.

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6 Columbia International University Columbia, South Carolina $23,690 100% 36% 67% 1 No Yes Yes

Columbia International University structures most of its online degree programs with busy, working adults in mind. Current educators interested in Columbia's Master of Education – Educational Administration are expected to continue working while they work toward their degree, and the program is offered entirely online. Columbia's Master of Education requires 30 credits to complete. The Educational Administration concentration can be completed without adding additional courses. Working individuals should be able to complete this program in less than 2 years (if coursework is also taken over the summers). While students can begin the program at any time, the university recommends students begin their studies in the fall and follow their suggested program of study. However, this is not required. Columbia is a religious school, so Biblical studies play a large role in the curriculum. This can benefit students who are interested in becoming leaders at Christian or private schools. Because this program isn't geared specifically toward educational leadership, the curriculum might not satisfy the prerequisites for some states' licensure exams. Also, students are not required to have teaching licensure in any specific state, although it is assumed that everyone in the program is a current educator.

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7 Hampton University Hampton, Virginia $23,762 67% 65% 58% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Instead of studying on the main campus, Hampton University's students in the Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program will be required to commute to the College of Virginia Beach Campus. While Master of Arts in Educational Leadership not an online program, some of the required courses can be completed online. This means that students can study in a hybrid format, although they will need to complete in-person clinical courses to ensure that they're prepared for licensure. To be eligible for this program, students should have professional teaching experience, a 3.0 GPA and will need to take the GRE. The curriculum aligns with the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium's standards, meaning graduates will be eligible to take the educational leader licensure exam in most states. At the very least, students will be eligible to become licensed in Virginia. Prior to this, students will first have to complete 42 credits. Courses in the program are offered in semester formats, and most individuals choose to take 12 credits each semester and 6 during the summer. The program generally takes 18 months to complete. Hampton charges a flat tuition regardless of where students live or how many credits they are taking, so students will benefit by completing as many courses as they can in a semester. Also, students should expect additional fees to be added to their tuition. Hampton does offer financial aid to the majority of its students, so they likely won't have to pay as much as the total cost insinuates.

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8 Clemson University Clemson, South Carolina $15,116 68% 51% 83% 1 No Yes Yes

Clemson University has a history of sports success, a large reason why it created the Master of Science in Athletic Leadership. This 36 credit program prepares students for careers in athletic administration and leadership, specifically at the college level. The Athletic Leadership program is still part of the Clemson's College of Education though, and while students won't meet the standards to become licensed leaders in K-12 schools, they will have the experience to find a similar role geared toward athletics. The 2-year program has 12 courses that are completed over 6 terms. All of the courses are offered online, and most of the courses can be completed whenever students have time. The program also assumes that students will continue working while studying toward the master's degree, so even the courses that require students to be online at specific times are flexible enough to work around busy schedules. To be admitted into the program, students should have an undergraduate degree with a GPA of at least 3.0. The GRE is also required to be admitted. Because the program is focused around athletics, students should have experience with athletic administration or coaching prior to applying. It is worth noting that this is a competitive program and only 25 students are admitted each year, so strong experience in the field will help students earn a spot. Graduates of this program are involved in athletics at colleges and universities across the country.

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9 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, Florida $11,200 100% 70% 43% 2 Yes Yes Yes

Serving students across the country, Saint Leo University offers an entirely online Master of Education in Educational Leadership for current educators. For students living in Florida, this program is also available in a hybrid format with courses offered both online and on campus. Designed for current teachers and educators, the Master of Education is for those who want to move into a leadership position in Florida. While it isn't required to begin the program, most students are already licensed to teach in Florida. The program meets the requirements set by the state to become licensed educational leaders, part of which requires students to be teachers in Florida. However, the requirements of the program may meet those set by other states since the curriculum fits the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium's standards. Also to be eligible, students will need to have a minimum bachelor's degree GPA of 3.0 and provide GRE or GMAT test results. Some students may be required to prove their English proficiency prior to being admitted into the program. The M.Ed. requires 36 credits to graduate, all of which can be completed online except for a practicum. The practicum needs to be completed in person but doesn't need to be finished on Saint Leo's campus. Most of the courses in the program follow Saint Leo's semesters although some will be 16 weeks long. Upon finishing their degree, students will be prepared to become principals or vice principals in Florida.

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10 Lincoln Memorial University Harrogate, Tennessee $20,880 65% 50% 40% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Lincoln Memorial University has been gradually increasing its online presence, adding new degrees that can be completed entirely online. A new addition is its Master of Education in Educational Leadership, which is set to start accepting students in 2019. The online version of the program will follow the same curriculum as the on-campus version, and the outcome will be the same: preparation to become a licensed educational leader in Tennessee. Like other educational leadership programs, LMU requires that students have experience working as a teacher. To become a licensed educational leader in Tennessee, students must also have a license to teach in Tennessee. The educational leader license is optional for the program though, and those who aren't looking for Tennessee licensure don't need to have a teaching license in the state. While a minimum GPA isn't required to enter the program, students will need to submit test scores to prove their aptitude. A bachelor's degree is also required. To complete the degree program, students will need to finish 33 credits, and courses are styled after the cohort model. Most students continue working while earning this degree, and studying part time, this program can be completed in just over 2 years. All of the courses are offered entirely online, and students will not be required to commute to campus. Those who do want some in-person instruction can meet with faculty.

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11 Southeastern University Lakeland, Florida $13,195 98% 46% 44% 1 Yes Yes Yes

For students interested in working in a Christian school, Southeastern University offers specialized options. Its Master of Education in Educational Leadership combines Christianity with leadership, helping current working teachers find positions in public and private schools. The program prepares students for the Florida Educational Leadership Examination, which is required to graduate. All 36 credits of the degree are available entirely online, and, as long as they have a minimum of 3 years professional teaching experience, graduates should be able to become certified educational leaders in states other than Florida. The length of this program varies depending on how students choose to study. Many choose to continue teaching while earning the degree and typically complete the program in 2.5 years. If students choose to study full time, they can earn their degree in 1.5 years. A supervised practicum is also required for this degree, and students will need to complete this in person. After finishing the program, graduates will have the experience needed to become a principal or principal assistant. To be eligible for the program, students will need to have a bachelor's degree GPA of 3.0 or higher. Those with a GPA below 3.0 will be required to submit GRE scores, and required scores vary from student to student.

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12 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, Michigan $12,232 81% 72% 59% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Central Michigan University offers a flat tuition rate per credit for online students, and those who are employed by the state can receive a discount. This is useful for current Michigan educators who are interested in earning a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership since they are likely employed by the state. The degree has 4 options for concentration: Charter School Leadership, Rural Education Leadership, Supervision and Virtual Education Leadership. Each share the same core requirements and prepares students to take the ETS Praxis exam which is required in 37 states to become a principal or superintendent. In total, students will need to complete 30 credits. Courses are available entirely online for the program and are offered in accelerated 8 week formats. CMU assumes that students will continue to work while earning their degree and the curriculum is structured accordingly. Working students studying part time can complete this program in just 2 years. The program accepts students from all states accept Georgia. To be accepted, students will need to have a GPA of at least 3.0, and they'll need to maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout their studies. Professional experience as an educator is also required. Upon completing their degree, students should have all the experience necessary to acquire an educational leadership position in Michigan and some other states.

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13 Arkansas Tech University Russellville, Arkansas $4,972 40% 64% 47% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Flexibility and ease of study are important parts of Arkansas Tech University's online school. Students working toward a Master of Education in Educational Leadership are able to transfer in up to 9 credits of previous college credit. They can also take individual courses at other institutions toward their Arkansas Tech degree while enrolled in the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program after written approval. The Master of Education in Educational Leadership requires students to complete 34 credits. Courses for the program are offered in semester formats, and students also have the option to take courses during the summer. If students study throughout the year in all 3 semesters, they should be able to complete their degree in a few years. All courses are offered online, although some on-campus instruction will be required. Each student is assigned an academic advisor to make sure they stay on track to graduate and are taking courses that align with their professional goals. Prior to applying, students will need to be licensed to teach in Arkansas, and they must also have 2 year of teaching experience – however, this does not have to be completed in Arkansas. To be eligible to graduate, students will need to earn a minimum GPA of at least 3.0 throughout their studies. After earning the degree, students are eligible to take the School Leader Licensure exam in Arkansas and become certified principals or vice principals. The standards of this program may also be enough to satisfy the needs set by other states' licensure exams.

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14 Midwestern State University Wichita Falls, Texas $7,160 75% 74% 50% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Midwestern State University offers a few options for students interested in educational leadership. Through its Master of Education in Educational Leadership program, students will have the option to choose between Principal Certification or Superintendent Certification. Both are hybrid programs, so students will have to commute to campus to complete some coursework. The Principal Certification focus is for students who want to become principals in Texas. A minimum of 2 years teaching experience is required to be eligible for the program, and students will complete the degree prepared to take the TExES exam to become a certified principal. A bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher is also required for this program. The Superintendent Certification program will require that students already have a master's degree and a principal's certificate, as well as at least 2 years of experience in school administration. It requires 18 credits to complete, and it is offered in the cohort format. Students will be grouped with 5 other students who will all take classes together. MSU also offers a Master of Education in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Bilingual Education/ELL. This is a 42 credit degree that prepares students to become certified principals at schools with both English and Spanish speaking students. The program is only partially online, requires more in-person learning and takes up to 3 years to complete.

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15 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, Nebraska $7,350 65% 75% 69% 1 No Yes Yes

The University of Nebraska - Lincoln has close ties with agricultural groups, and many of its students focus on environmental and agricultural studies. This is applied to its Master of Science in Leadership Education. This is a traditional Leadership Education program in that graduates will be prepared to become principals and administrative leaders upon earning their degree. However, what makes it unique are the optional specializations in Environmental Studies and Great Plains Studies. The end result of the program is eligibility to become licensed as an educational leader in Nebraska, and the specializations help students find a role in more rural areas. The Master of Science in Leadership Education requires 30-36 credits, depending on the track students choose. UNL offers 3 options, each requiring a different number of credits, different number of graduate credits and the requirement of a thesis. Each of these is designed to be completed in just over a year, assuming students are taking 2-3 courses a semester. The option that students pick will also play a role in how much of the program can be completed online. This is a hybrid program, and students will need to be able to study in person regardless of which option they choose. To apply for this program, students will need to submit GRE scores and may need to prove their English proficiency. While students outside of Nebraska can apply for the program, they will need to live in the state to complete the in-person parts of the degree. Tuition for this program varies depending on where students live.

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16 William Carey University Hattiesburg, Mississippi $8,400 86% 51% 60% 1 No Yes Yes

William Carey University is a private school located in Massachusetts, and students interested in its Master of Education in Educational Leadership will want to live in the state. While some of the courses in the program can be completed online, the majority of the courses will require students to appear in person. Before applying, students should already have completed 3 years of teaching, and they should be a certified teacher, preferably in Massachusetts (although this is not required). An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher is needed, and students should take the GRE prior to applying. William Carey follows the trimester system, so students will be studying at 3 different points during the year, along with the possibility of a fourth term during the summer. When studying full time, this program can be finished in just 5 terms (15 months). Part of the 36 required credit hours will include clinical practice, an in-person experience that's required to become a licensed educational leader in Massachusetts. A total of 500 clinical hours are required to graduate, so William Carey helps connect students with these opportunities. The curriculum is aligned with the requirements to become an educational administrator in Massachusetts, and the state's standards may align with the standards of other states.

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17 Texas Tech University Lubbock, Texas $8,486 43% 63% 62% 1 No Yes Yes

Texas Tech University's Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Principal Professional Certification Preparation Program will require some on-campus study. While this is a hybrid program, students will spend the majority of their time studying online through Blackboard. The only in-person requirements students may need to make are on-site professional instruction or any internships they may be involved in. The principal certification part of the program is required, and it prepares students to become principals in Texas. The objective for this program is principalship, although not all graduates end up in that role. The M.Ed. requires 36 credit hours to complete, and there are multiple start days throughout the year. Of the 36 hours, 6 will be an internship as a principal that requires in-person study. The curriculum is varied enough to give students exposure to all levels of K-12 education, so their internship will help them narrow their focus to a specific level. Aside from the internship, most work will be completed online, allowing students to continue teaching while working toward their master's degree. To apply for this program, students will need to have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and will be required to supply test scores if their GPA isn't high enough. At least one year of work experience as a certified teacher is also required. After graduating, students will be prepared to take the TExES principal exam and earn the certification needed to work as a principal in Texas.

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18 Troy University Troy, Alabama $10,415 57% 91% 39% 2 Yes Yes Yes

With a large online selection, Troy University offers teachers and educators plenty of options. Troy's Master of Instructional Leadership and Administration is an online master's degree intended for students interested in school leadership. While the program is designed for current principals or administrative workers, students with a bachelor's degree and professional teaching experience are eligible to apply. The master's program follows the cohort model, so students will be learning with the same group through the 2 years that it will take to complete this 36 credit degree. Courses can be completed online, but students also have the option to choose a hybrid format of online and on campus learning if they prefer. Regardless of which students pick, they will be required to meet in person for experience. Students will get exposure to all levels of P-12 education, and they'll be able to choose elective courses to specialize toward the level that they prefer. Through the curriculum, students will also be able to get a mentor position, gaining experience in the specific setting they're interested in. The Master of Instructional Leadership and Administration follows the guidelines required to become a professional in Alabama, and students will be prepared to gain licensure in the state after graduating. This program requires students to learn on-site in Alabama schools, so students will need to live in or near the state. Troy offers the same flat tuition rate to all online graduate students regardless of where they live.

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19 University of Nebraska at Kearney Kearney, Nebraska $7,512 70% 85% 60% 7 No Yes Yes

Embracing online education, the University of Nebraska at Kearney offers some programs exclusively online. For students interested in educational leadership, UNK has 2 options: a Master of Arts in Educational Administration – School Principalship, PreK-8 and a Master of Arts in Educational Administration – School Principalship, 7-12. While the end results are different, the 2 entirely online programs share a lot of the same curriculum and have similar admissions processes. Both require an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or higher, and both require some work experience. Each program requires 36 credits to graduate, the majority of which are core specialization classes. The PK-8 focus offers more elective credit options, allowing graduates to focus more on elementary or middle school education. Students will need to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher to graduate, and they should be able to complete the program in a few years. Students who have previous credit in the field may be able to transfer up to 9 credits, essentially cutting an entire semester of study. Most students study throughout the year and continue to work while earning their degree. Upon completing the program, students will be eligible to become certified educational leaders in Nebraska. Nebraska has stricter requirements than some other states, so students may also be eligible for certification in their resident state through this program.

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20 Indiana State University Terre Haute, Indiana $8,890 80% 86% 41% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Indiana State University offers an online program for students interested in educational leadership. The Master of Education in School Administration and Supervision degree doesn't allow for specialization, but the curriculum is structured around the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium standards, so students will learn what it takes to be a leader in the education system. Prior to applying to the program, students should note that it is only available to residents of Indiana, and that it prepares students specifically for licensure in that state. The M.Ed. requires 33 credits to graduate, and students who study at the suggested pace should be able to finish their degree in just over 2 years, although some students choose to complete the degree at a slower pace to fit their schedule. The coursework prepares students for occupations such as principal, district administrator and instructional coordinator. Most of the courses in the Master of Education in School Administration and Supervision can be completed entirely online; however, students are required to commute to campus for Saturday instruction 3 times each semester. This degree program assumes that students are still working while earning the degree, so aside from the on-campus instruction on Saturdays, students can complete this degree at their own pace. Part of Indiana State's program includes an internship where students can gain experience in the area of educational leadership they're interested in. Also required is an undergraduate degree in an appropriate field from an accredited institution with a GPA of 2.5 or higher.

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21 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, Texas $5,048 54% 67% 81% 5 No Yes Yes

One of the largest schools in the nation, Texas A&M University offers several online degrees. Those interested in working in educational leadership may want to consider the Master of Education in Educational Administration with an emphasis on PK-12 Educational Leadership, which is offered through the College of Education and Human Development. To be eligible for this program, students will need to have teaching certification as well as 2 years of teaching experience. The M.Ed. in Educational Administration is an entirely online program that follows the cohort model, meaning the same students will be taking the same courses with each other throughout the course of this 5 semester program. In total, students will need to complete 36 credit hours to graduate. While the total coursework can be completed in less than 5 semesters, most students continue to work full time while earning this degree so it may take more than 5 semesters to finish all requirements. Students should also be prepared to meet Texas A&M's residency requirements. The residency is meant to give students professional experience to prepare them to become certified as educational leaders in Texas. How much residency experience is needed varies depending on how much previous experience the student has and whether or not they are currently working full time. This experience is important for taking the TExES state principal exam, a test that's required to be a principal or leader in a Texas school.

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22 Fort Hays State University Hays, Kansas $5,132 73% 91% 44% 2 No Yes Yes

Fort Hays State University offers educational leadership degree options for students regardless of where they live. Students interested in educational leadership may be interested in the online Master of Science in Educational Administration – Building Principal. The objective of the program is to prepare students to become principals and covers topics such as building administration, finance and leadership. The MS in Educational Administration requires 36 credit hours to complete, all of which can be studied online. Most courses are offered in an accelerated 8-week format, but some courses are also offered in traditional 16-week formats or an even more condensed 4 week period. Because Fort Hays is located in Kansas, students will not be required to have an internship or spend time in a professional role. However, some states require this experience to become a principal, so out-of-state students should plan accordingly. Students in Kansas will be eligible to become licensed in the state, and the program is accredited by the Kansas State Department of Education. To be eligible for this master's program, Fort Hays requires that students possess a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the final 60 credits of their undergraduate degree. Experience as a teacher and letters of recommendation are taken into consideration. All students pay the same tuition rate per credit regardless of where they reside, and no additional fees are tacked on to the tuition.

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23 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin Odessa, Texas $4,312 78% 81% 37% 1 No Yes Yes

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin is public university serving over 5,600 students. The Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program can be completed entirely online in as few as 12 months. Students prepare for positions of leadership in education by training in instructional and administrative leadership, cultural sensitivity, public relations, ethics and other essential topics in the field. Students have the opportunity to pursue the master's degree with the option for Principal certification. The certification option requires additional steps in the application process. Students seeking this credential must earn a passing score on the Texas Principal certification exam and have at least 2 years of creditable teaching experience. At UTPB, you will complete 36 credit hours for graduation, including courses such as School Finance, School Law, Theories on Educational Leadership, Principalship and Cultural Proficiency. Master's students must also complete a supervised practicum in administration in a school setting. Eligible students may pursue the Superintendent Certification upon completion of this program and the principal certifications in Texas. Graduates of this program typically take on careers as assistant principals, principals or superintendents. Prospective students should have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and at least 1 year of teaching experience. Applications must also include a personal essay answering, "What do you see as the role of an educational leader?" The GRE is not required but may be submitted, along with 2 letters of recommendation, to bolster lower GPAs. UTPB has a rolling admissions policy with 6 available starting dates each year. Students may apply at any time.

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24 Columbia College Columbia, Missouri $6,585 27% - 40% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Columbia College is a private, nonprofit liberal arts institution that was established in 1851. It's distance learners can earn the Master of Education in Educational Leadership degree online or in a blended format. In this program, you will study both the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary for leadership roles at educational institutions. Learners choose between 2 tracks: Principal Track or Instructional Leader Track. Each track entails 15 dedicated credit hours, 3 of which students choose on their own. Students who enroll in the Principal Track are not guaranteed principal certification and should verify that the program meets the requirements for licensure in their home state. Required courses for both tracks include diverse offerings such as Research Design, Data-based Instructional Decision Making, Advanced Application Learning Science and Curriculum Design and Evaluation. In total, students need at least 36 credit hours to graduate.Columbia has a rolling admissions policy so that you may apply at any time. The school recommends that you submit your application at least 1 month before the start of classes. Prospective students should have a cumulative GPA of 3.0. Learners will also need to provide their official transcripts, 3 recommendation forms downloaded from the admissions department, a resume and a personal statement. Incoming students may be able to transfer previously earned credits toward their degree, pending approval of the registrar. Students at Columbia have access to its Career Services Center, the Toomey Seabrook Writing Center, the Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship and tutoring in math, English and computer skills.

School website
25 Heritage University Toppenish, Washington $9,240 100% - 25% 1 Yes Yes Yes

As part of its Principal and Program Administrator Certification Program, Heritage University offers a hybrid Master of Education in Educational Administration degree. This program is for distance learners seeking careers in leadership roles within K-12. This synchronous curriculum helps students prepare to be leaders in progressive educational environments with training in managerial and administrative skills. Heritage offers an accelerated program that qualified full-time students can complete in 1 year. In total, you will need 32 credit to complete the degree. Throughout the program, students compile a portfolio of their teaching experience and research projects. This portfolio meets industry standards and will help you in the competitive job market. Incoming students should have a minimum of 3 years of teaching experience, not including substitute teaching, and a Teacher or Career Teacher Education certification (CTE). Prospective students should also include a personal essay outlining their experience and contributions to student learning, a list of publications or approved curricula and a letter from a principal verifying their teaching experience. Applicants need a 3.0 GPA or higher, 3 letters of recommendation and a resume. If your application passes the initial evaluation, you will interview with the department chair or Professional Education Advisory Board. While enrolled you must maintain a 3.0 GPA to remain in good standing. Heritage subscribes to a rolling admissions policy, so there is no hard deadline for your application. The school encourages students to be mindful of application deadlines for federal and state financial aid.

School website
26 Southern Wesleyan University Central, South Carolina $15,075 100% 55% 51% 1 No Yes Yes School website
27 Henderson State University Arkadelphia, Arkansas $4,716 61% 66% 37% 1 No Yes Yes School website
28 Lamar University Beaumont, Texas $6,048 20% 76% 38% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
29 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, Texas $5,139 25% 72% 56% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
30 Jackson State University Jackson, Mississippi $7,141 39% 63% 48% 1 No Yes Yes School website
31 The University of Texas at Tyler Tyler, Texas $4,896 58% 69% 46% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
32 South Dakota State University Brookings, South Dakota $7,516 57% 91% 60% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
33 Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, Louisiana $9,132 57% 76% 67% 1 No Yes Yes School website
34 Stephen F Austin State University Nacogdoches, Texas $4,896 64% 62% 46% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
35 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, Indiana $8,695 55% 79% 80% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
36 Tarleton State University Stephenville, Texas $3,672 50% 50% 47% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
37 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, Texas $10,350 70% 23% 42% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
38 University of West Alabama Livingston, Alabama $6,390 57% 53% 36% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
39 Columbus State University Columbus, Georgia $5,706 11% 53% 37% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
40 Bridgewater State University Bridgewater, Massachusetts $1,675 43% 81% 63% 1 No Yes Yes School website
41 Iowa State University Ames, Iowa $8,474 78% 87% 70% 1 No Yes Yes School website
42 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, Arizona $8,956 82% 78% 54% 1 No Yes Yes School website
43 The University of Texas at Arlington Arlington, Texas $7,141 48% 70% 47% 1 No Yes Yes School website
44 Wayne State College Wayne, Nebraska $3,600 23% - 50% 1 No Yes Yes School website
45 Western Carolina University Cullowhee, North Carolina $4,348 68% 41% 59% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
46 Wilmington University New Castle, Delaware $8,190 3% - 31% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
47 New Mexico State University-Main Campus Las Cruces, New Mexico $4,088 61% 60% 51% 1 No Yes Yes School website
48 Jacksonville State University Jacksonville, Alabama $8,904 61% 53% 34% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
49 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, Mississippi $7,549 68% 60% 51% 1 No Yes Yes School website
50 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches, Louisiana $5,738 49% 62% 40% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Educational Leadership Program?

All students studying a master’s in educational leadership program online will receive instruction in how to operate schools from an administrator’s prospective, often preparing students to become principles or administrators on a school board. Students can expect to learn specific skills, including:

  • Concentrated leadership for school-wide management
  • Student-centered curriculum development
  • Current instructional models
  • Employee leadership and development skills

Teachers who have graduated with a master’s degree in educational leadership who wish to become a school principal will also have to obtain a principal license or certification. Some state licensing boards have different requirements for obtaining this. Common requirements include a valid teaching certificate, a stipulated number of years of experience teaching and a master’s degree in educational leadership. Graduates will need to contact the licensing board of the state in which they wish to become a principal to find out what specific requirements they must meet.

What’s the difference between a master’s in educational leadership and an MBA in educational leadership?

Both a master’s in educational leadership and MBA in educational leadership help students move up the educational career ladder, but there are some distinct differences between these majors. Typically, an MBA in educational leadership offers a joint master’s degree in both educational leadership and business administration. This degree path is designed for students who wish to continue their educational careers from a business or administrative prospective. The master’s in educational leadership focuses more on reaching career goals of principalship or leadership in a local school district.

What common courses are offered in a master’s in educational leadership program?

Courses in online master’s degree programs in educational leadership tend to differ from college to college. However, many online universities do offer common courses. These may include:

Professional School Leadership

Students will acquire all the skills necessary to become an effective leader in a school environment. Course topics include examining the qualities of effective leadership and creating a personal leadership model. Students will have the opportunity to reflect on professional and personal goals.

Research Methods in Education

This course is designed to outline theories for methodological approaches, use and abuse of research and findings and techniques for generating data. Students learn how to analyze data, make interpretations, decisions and conclusions while respecting and valuing research participants. Participants are equipped with knowledge and skills to apply research findings to the individual student, classroom, school and district levels.

Perspectives on Diversity and Culture

This course examines aspects of promoting equal learning opportunities in the classroom. Students learn how to facilitate collaboration between students, parents, staff and colleagues who are ethnically, culturally, linguistically and socio-economically diverse.

Personnel and Human Resource Management

Students will focus on the skills principals need to communicate and work effectively with staff and faculty. This includes current theories and practices pertaining to assessment, recruitment, appraisal and development of personnel, as well as staff retention and conflict resolution.

Emerging Issues and Trends in Education Leadership

This course examines the interconnectedness of emerging issues and trends related to educational leadership, particularly those which are set to influence the future of education. Teachers will learn how to address emerging trends.

Education, Law, Ethics and Politics

This course introduces the legal, political and ethical aspects governing K-12 schools in the United States. The focus is on topics such as federal codes, policies, case law and analysis of key legal concepts. Students learn about risk management, dealing with personnel, as wells as student and teacher rights.

What exams or projects should I expect?

The culmination of an online master’s degree in educational leadership will depend on the course and the college. Most courses require a practicum or internship and a written exam; some may also require a thesis.

If a written examination is required to culminate an online master’s degree in educational leadership, students will sit the exam during the final semester of their course. The exam will cover all the theoretical and practical aspects of their course and will be completed in one sitting.

Students are often expected to complete a short or long-term internship within a K-12 school setting. The setting will depend on any specializations the student may be taking. The practicum will be directed by the college faculty and an experienced on-site school principal.

Writing a thesis is an important part of the master’s in educational leadership program. The thesis should reflect an in-depth understanding of educational theory and developmental psychology, while simultaneously demonstrating the author’s leadership qualities.

What specializations are available in a master’s in educational leadership program?

Some online master’s in educational leadership programs offer specialist courses. These may include:

Early Childhood

This specialization enables students to advance their knowledge, skills and understanding of educational leadership as it pertains specifically within early childhood learning environments.

PK-12 School Counseling

This course is designed to help education professionals operate in culturally diverse settings. Emphasis is placed on theory-to-practice models and development, prevention and intervention.

Athletic Administration

This course covers an array of leadership skills required for managing an athletic department within K-12 schools and charter and private schools. Topics include financial management, budgeting, managing facilities, legal issues, risk management and strategies for coaching teachers.

What Can I do with a Master’s in Educational Leadership Degree?

Graduating with a master’s degree in educational leadership creates several options for potential careers. These include:

Assistant Principal

The role of assistant principal involves overseeing curriculum standards, disciplinary measures and staff evaluation within elementary and secondary schools. Typically, classroom teaching experience is a requirement.

Elementary School Principal

Elementary school principals interact with teachers and other school personnel, manage school budget and activities. They also interact with the students, parents and the public on behalf of the school.

High School Principal

High school principals are responsible for approving curricula for grades 9 to 12. They also evaluate teaching staff. Principals run the school’s administration, which includes reviewing budgets, allocating funds and interacting between the school and the community.

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators can work with elementary, secondary or post-secondary educational institutions. Their main role is to create curricula for schools or sometimes for training programs for employees.

Post-secondary Education Administrator

This type of educational administrator often manages several departments within a college, such as student affairs, admissions or the registrar’s office. Post-secondary education administrators generally deal with nonacademic programs.

Joining a professional organization can benefit students or recent graduates of master’s degrees in educational leadership programs. Such organizations often offer professional development services, career leads and resource libraries. Three such organizations are listed below:

Association of Leadership Educators

ALE has been welcoming members since the 1980s. The organization provides small grants to fund projects related to program assessment, curriculum development and other areas of educational leadership.

National Association of Elementary School Principals

The NAESP has been providing support and advocacy for elementary school principals since 1921. The organization publishes a print magazine as well as three online journals. It also offers the National Principal Mentor Training and Certification Program.

National Association of Secondary School Principals

The NASSP offers the McKinsey Management Program for School Leaders. This is a part-time online training program that culminates in two years. The organization also published a bulletin, magazine and peer-reviewed journal.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Educational Leadership?

Job seekers should take a look at the careers listed below and their potential salaries to see what opportunities may be open for those with this degree. As noted above, in addition to a master’s degree in educational leadership, additional certification or licensure may be needed for some careers in this field.

Career Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Elementary, Middle & High School Principals Less than $60,760 $94,390 More than $140,780 +8%
Instructional Coordinators Less than $35,550 $63,750 More than $101,500 +11%
Post-secondary Education Administrators Less than $52,960 $92,360 More than $182,150 +10%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

All listed careers are advancing as fast as average, with the exception of instructional coordinators, which is advancing faster than average at a projected growth of 11% between 2016 and 2026. This is likely because of the continued emphasis on test scores and student data. Schools are increasingly turning to educational coordinators to help provide curricula which get better results and to increase teachers’ effectiveness. The information and training educational coordinators provide enable schools to meet their required standards in student achievement. Although demand for instructional coordinators will continue to grow as schools seek additional training for teachers, employment growth will largely depend on state and local budgets.

Teachers seeking to improve their job satisfaction and employment status by seeking an online master’s degree in educational leadership should consider how different courses and specializations may affect their potential salary scale. For example, a master’s degree in educational leadership with a focus on student counseling may potentially lead to a higher paying job than a general master’s degree in educational administration.

Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Program Accreditation

One of the most important considerations for teachers who wish to apply for an online master’s degree in educational leadership is the colleges’ accreditation. Many employers require job candidates to hold a degree from an accredited institution. Prospective students should look for online colleges that are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) or the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

How to Pay for a Master’s in Educational Leadership Degree

Continuing education can be expensive, even for students who are in full-time employment. There a number of options for students who wish to seek financial aid to complete their online master’s degree in educational leadership.

  • Federal Financial Aid

    Just like on-campus studies, online students may apply for federal financial aid. The application process is just the same and begins with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Once the college has assessed the student’s suitability, they will send a letter of eligibility.

  • State Funding

    In some states, students who are applying for an online master’s degree in educational leadership may be eligible for state funding. More information can be obtained from local state education boards.

  • Foundations and Organizations

    There are numerous private and non-profit organizations throughout the United States that have grants to help with tuition fees. Particularly for master’s degrees in specific fields of education, including educational leadership. One graduate scholarship is offered through The School Superintendents Association and is awarded to graduate students studying to become school superintendents.

  • Employer Assistance

    Prospective students who are already working in education may be able to obtain help with funding from their employer, particularly if advancing their education will benefit the school. These days many employers value continuing education and like to retain valuable members of staff.

  • Tax Credits

    Graduate students may apply for up to $2000 from the Lifetime Learning Credit to spend on educational materials. The credit can be applied to 20% of educational expenses including tuition. Suitable applicants include single filers with an income of $62,000 or less and married people with an income of $124,000 or less.