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Online Master's Programs in Secondary Education

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Updated on: 11/22/2018

If you hold a bachelor's degree and are employed as an educator, earning a master's degree in secondary education can be a great way to expand your expertise and career opportunities. This page includes an overview of what students can expect in an online master's in secondary education program, including what courses they might take, specializations within the curriculum, and salary and job outlook information for their career path. Because so many regions have teacher shortages, educators with graduate credentials are especially in demand, so completing your online master's in secondary education could be a fruitful opportunity.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Secondary Education Program?

Students pursuing a master's degree in secondary education can develop skills that make them effective educators for diverse student bodies. Programs typically take students two years to complete, though some programs feature accelerated options that allow students to earn their master's degree in as little as one year. Part-time students often take three or more years to complete their graduate degree. The curriculum for master's in secondary education programs differs by institution, but typically, programs require students to successfully complete 36 credits of coursework. Online and on-campus programs are usually taught by the same instructors, so the quality is equal. Online programs afford students a level of flexibility they do not receive in an on-campus program. Some online programs do require students to complete on-campus courses or residencies.

What common courses are offered in a master's in secondary education program?

Students pursuing their master's in secondary education online complete a variety of courses relevant to their career, including technology for instruction, classroom culture and student behavior, and teacher leadership and collaboration. Coursework varies depending on the program and university, though students can expect to complete courses that aim to prepare them for successful careers in secondary education.

Writing in the Classroom

Writing in the classroom courses introduce students to practices and theories of writing instruction. Students will write across genres and learn to use mentor texts, create mini-lessons, and develop assessment tools.

Technology for Instruction

In the technology for instruction course, students learn to integrate technology and digital media into their curriculum. They develop skills in digital storytelling, HTML, social learning and collaboration, and digital video.

Classroom Culture and Student Behavior

The classroom culture and student behavior course equips learners with the tools necessary to lead a classroom and effectively discipline students. Understanding the group psychology of young students allows for teachers to manage their activities more efficiently and with more authority.

Teacher Leadership and Collaboration

This course prepares future K-6 teachers to work as leaders outside the classroom, including collaborating with other teachers and advocating for education. Students explore topics like assessment, professional development, and curriculum development.

School in a Multicultural Society

The school in a multicultural society course teaches students to examine education in local, regional, and national demographics of American culture. Students learn to incorporate these diverse cultural perspectives into their classrooms.

What exams or projects should I expect?

Most master's in secondary education programs require students to complete a capstone or final project. These requirements ask students to compile their knowledge in one document as a demonstration of their skills. Master's in secondary education students might complete a capstone that explores curriculum designed for specific student populations. A final project might compare methods of student motivation, methods to assist at-risk students, or methods for hands-on learning. Students can specialize their capstone to showcase their professional interests and convey how they intend to use their skills in their career.

What specializations are available in a master's in secondary education program?

While not every master's in secondary education program offers specializations or concentrations, there are some programs that provide students with the opportunity to tailor their degree to their personal interests and career goals by choosing a concentration for their program. Some common specializations for master's in secondary education programs are listed below.

Curriculum and Instruction

The curriculum and instruction concentration prepares educators to deliver advanced classroom instruction to students with diverse learning styles, abilities, and motivation. Students learn to integrate new theories of instruction into their classroom, write lesson plans, and diversify subject areas in their curriculum.

Special Education

Educators who intend to work with students with special needs can pursue a concentration in special education. In this concentration, students learn to develop lesson plans modified for students with disabilities. They study human development, learning disabilities, and educational psychology.

STEM

Students interested in teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can pursue a STEM concentration. Students learn to create STEM lessons that engage students in critical thinking and investigation, develop content knowledge in the STEM field, and develop leadership and coaching skills.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Secondary Education Degree?

With a master's degree in secondary education, several career paths are available to students. Traditionally, graduates pursue careers as middle or high school teachers after earning teacher certification in their state. These teachers focus on specific subject areas when instructing students, like English, science, math, or history. This position allows graduates to focus on their particular area of expertise to effectively educate students. Graduates with their master's in secondary education can also pursue careers as school principals, though they will first need experience as a teacher. They can also enjoy other career opportunities, like career and technical education or teaching adult education.

High School Teachers

Responsible for planning lessons in their subjects, high school teachers prepare students for college and the workforce. High school teachers assess and evaluate students to determine their strengths and weaknesses. They grade students' assignments and exams, communicate with parents about student progress, and prepare students for state-required standardized tests.

Middle School Teachers

These teachers typically work with students in grades 6-8. They are responsible for classes in one or two core areas, helping students build on their fundamental elementary school educations to prepare for high school. Middle school teachers must design lessons, communicate with parents, prepare students for standardized tests, and grade assignments.

Career/Technical Education Teachers

Career/technical education teachers are responsible for imparting professional skills to students, especially those intending to move directly into the workforce after graduating high school. Industries that employ these educators include state governments, technical and trade schools, and vocational rehabilitation services.

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

In charge of managing school operations, principals oversee staff and daily activities. They establish and monitor class schedules, observe and evaluate teacher performance, counsel and discipline students, and create security procedures for the school. Principals must have several years of prior teaching experience.

Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers and Instructors

Responsible for instructing and teaching out-of-school adults and youths in remedial education classes, English as a second language, literacy, or GED preparation, adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers and instructors focus on alternative education. These teachers do not always work in a traditional educational institution, sometimes working in places like prisons or vocational training centers.

Professional organizations are a great resource for secondary education graduates. Students can join educational professional organizations and enjoy a variety of benefits. Organizations allow members to connect with other professionals in the field to develop new ideas, build long-lasting business connections and cultivate professional relationships.

National Education Association

The nation's largest professional organization, the NEA commits itself to advancing public education. The NEA boasts affiliate organizations in more than 14,000 communities.

American Federation of Teachers

The American Federation of Teachers represents 1.7 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates around the world. AFT represents five divisions including pre-K through 12th grade teachers, higher education faculty, government employees, paraprofessionals, and healthcare professionals.

Phi Delta Kappa

Committed to connecting leaders in education, Phi Delta Kappa offers a professional education magazine to members, provides discounted insurance, and offers scholarships.

Computer-Using Educators

Dedicated to engaging teachers as leaders, speakers, volunteers, and attendees, CUE hosts conferences and promotes professional development for members. CUE places an emphasis on student development through technology.

Kappa Delta Pi

Kappa Delta Pi is an international honor society in education that works with educators throughout their careers. KDP promotes research-based strategies and provides members with professional development opportunities.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Secondary Education?

The secondary education field leads to career opportunities with steady growth rates. While earning a master's degree in secondary education does not automatically qualify individuals to pursue the following careers, the degree does open many possibilities to students. Students may need to earn a license or certification after graduation to begin their career.

Job Title Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
High School Teacher Less than $39,080 $59,170 More than $95,380 8%
Middle School Teacher Less than $38,540 $57,720 More than $91,670 8%
Career/Technical Education Teacher Less than $33,430 $55,240 More than $89,880 4%
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals Less than $60,760 $94,390 More than $140,780 8%
Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers and Instructors Less than $31,310 $52,100 More than $87,160

Source: BLS 2018

Most careers in the secondary education field see a growth rate of 8%. Employment of middle and high school teachers depends on state and local governments. As teachers retire, new positions open, which means a steady job outlook for incoming teachers.

Salaries can differ in the secondary education field depending on a professional's educational background. Educators with a master's or doctoral degree make more money annually than their counterparts with only a bachelor's degree. On average, the annual salary for an educator with a bachelor's degree in secondary education is $48,000. Educators with their master's degree in secondary education earn an average annual salary of $64,000. Students can consider their potential earnings when deciding how they would like to continue their education.

Online Master's in Secondary Education Program Accreditation

When students decide which school to attend, they must evaluate accreditation. Students are strongly encouraged to attend a regionally accredited institution. Regional accreditation is reserved for schools dedicated specifically to education, whereas national accreditation is usually awarded to vocational and technical schools. Students pursuing their master's in secondary education online should look for programs that are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, an accrediting agency that strives to regulate excellence in education programs and ensure that graduates are prepared for the profession.

How to Pay for a Master's in Secondary Education Degree

There are a variety of ways students can pay for their master's in secondary education online. They can receive federal financial aid by completing their FAFSA, obtain scholarships from their program or professional organization, or participate in a fellowship opportunity. Students can contact academic advisers to explore available financial aid opportunities.

  • Federal Financial Aid

    Federal financial aid is awarded to students after they complete and submit their free application for federal student aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA requires students to provide their personal and financial information to determine financial need. Master's in secondary education students should fill out their FAFSA each year to determine how much federal funding they are eligible to receive.

  • Scholarships from Professional Organizations

    There are a number of professional organizations in the secondary education field, such as the National Council of Teachers of English. Master's in secondary education students can review scholarship opportunities within their professional organizations. Criteria varies for each scholarship and students can review application requirements before they apply.

  • Scholarships from Programs

    Many master's in secondary education programs offer scholarships to students in the program. Program scholarships follow specific criteria that students must meet to receive scholarships. Many programs list these opportunities on their program website.

  • Fellowships

    Students can pursue fellowship opportunities relevant to master's in secondary education programs. Fellowships are merit-based, competitive financial awards that support projects, internships, and research.