Online Master's Degree in Education

An online master's degree in education is an accessible, affordable choice for current educators and students who are new to the field. Master's programs help learners develop a specialty, improve their teaching skills, and earn qualifications necessary for advanced teaching positions. Master's degree holders are more competitive in the job market and earn higher average salaries than teachers with only a bachelor's degree. An online master's program is ideal for students who aspire to teach special education, serve on a school board, or design engaging lesson plans.

Master's programs help learners develop a specialty, improve their teaching skills, and earn qualifications necessary for advanced teaching positions.

An online program combines the academic rigor of an on-campus education with the flexibility to balance school, work, and personal commitments. Many educators pursue online education to increase their career opportunities without disrupting their current responsibilities. Distance learners study and complete coursework at their convenience and often save money on campus fees, housing, and transportation. Earning a master's degree online is an economical and convenient way for students to develop or strengthen their credentials.

Earning a master's degree in education improves career opportunities, boosts earning power, and prepares students to earn a Ph.D. Educators with a master's degree earn higher median salaries and have more job options than bachelor's degree holders. Some advanced positions, such as school superintendent or principal, require at least a master's degree. In certain states, public school special education teachers and principals must hold a master's. For aspiring teachers with a bachelor's degree in an area other than education, a master's in education leads to a postgraduate credential or alternative certifications that qualify graduates to lead a classroom.

Some learners earn a master's in education in pursuit of a doctorate. This route is ideal for students who plan to pursue careers in postsecondary education, administration, or research. A doctoral degree is usually required to teach at the college level, and applicants to Ph.D. or Ed.D. programs must have a master's degree.

The three common types of master's degrees in teaching are the MAT, the M.Ed., and the MS in education. All three degrees are similar, but they focus on different aspects of education, feature different curricula, and prepare students for different careers. MAT programs are designed for bachelor's degree holders who want to become classroom teachers of any subject or grade level. Grounded in theory, MAT curricula develop strong teaching skills.

Most students who pursue an M.Ed. have a background in teaching and aspire to administrative or supervisory roles. MS candidates are typically established teachers who want to improve their instructional and curriculum development techniques. MS curricula vary according to the student's concentration or focus area, such as special education, administration, or bilingual education.

Program and course details for online master's in education programs vary by institution. The information below provides a general overview of requirements to earn teaching degrees online, but each program differs slightly in curriculum, delivery method, and admission requirements.

Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Teaching Programs

Admission requirements for online master's in education programs often depend on state laws regarding teaching licensure. Applicants often need a valid state teaching license or to be in the process of obtaining licensure. Licensing regulations may prevent some schools from accepting residents of certain states. Consider the following common admissions requirements when researching teaching programs.

  • Hold a bachelor's degree

    Applicants to any master's program must hold a bachelor's degree, but many master's in teaching online programs require applicants to hold an undergraduate degree in teaching or a related area. Other master's programs are designed for students with a bachelor's degree in an unrelated major, such as science or mathematics.

  • Minimum GPA requirements

    Most schools prefer applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better. While some programs consider the applicant's cumulative GPA, others consider the student's GPA in major courses or their final year of undergraduate coursework.

  • Receive passing scores on required exams

    Policies regarding standardized test scores vary among master's in education online programs. Many institutions do not require standardized test or entrance exam scores, while others require GRE, GMAT, or MAT scores. Although some schools require minimum scores, most simply request the student's record.

  • Meet work experience requirements

    Some programs only accept applicants with a certain amount of teaching experience; the most common requirement is two years of experience. Applicants may need to provide two or more letters of professional recommendation from supervisors or colleagues. Programs may waive standardized or entrance exam requirements for applicants with significant professional experience.

  • Meet teaching license or certification requirements

    Certification admission requirements depend on the school and the type of degree. For example, many M.Ed. programs require that applicants hold a valid teaching license, and some distance learning programs are only available to individuals licensed in a certain state.

Do You Need a Master's to Teach?

In most states, K-12 public school teachers need only a bachelor's degree. Some specialized and administrative positions, however, require a graduate degree. For example, competitive candidates for special education positions should hold a master's degree in special education; some states require a master's for special education licensure. Likewise, most school principal positions require a master's in education administration.

While most aspiring teachers pursue a bachelor's or master's degree, some earn an early childhood education certificate or an associate degree and become education paraprofessionals or teaching assistants.

Concentrations Available for an Online Master's Degree in Teaching

Curriculum for an Online Master's in Teaching

All online master's programs in education are different, and course offerings vary by school. Some foundational subjects, however, are part of most master's in education curricula. You can expect to find some version of each of these classes in most master's programs.

Example Courses

Classroom Management Students learn effective methods of leading a classroom. They're taught how to create a positive and inclusive learning environment, and how to resolve minor disciplinary issues. Learners explore research-based teaching systems that promote student self-awareness, emotional intelligence, individual motivation, and academic performance.
Multicultural Education This course explores the history of multicultural approaches to learning in the context of the U.S. educational system, including its sociological and philosophical foundations. Coursework emphasizes the role of ethnicity in identity and examines issues common among disabled students, bilingual learners, and talented and gifted individuals.
Literacy Development and Instruction Building on fundamental theory, this course explores methodologies and instructional strategies for teaching reading. Topics include the use of technology in encouraging literacy, assessment techniques, and expanding student knowledge through exciting learning opportunities in language arts.
Assessment Methods This course introduces research-based assessment techniques and key concepts related to designing and scoring assessments. Students are prepared to incorporate ethical, data-driven methods of measuring classroom success. Future teachers learn to gauge the efficacy of a curriculum against student progress and to adapt their teaching methods accordingly.
Instructional Planning Current and prospective teachers explore strategies for integrating subjects across a curriculum, developing and planning lessons and educational units, using classroom technologies to encourage student engagement, and presenting topics in an age-appropriate manner.

Student Teaching and Practicum Requirements

Most master's in education curricula, including distance education programs, require a student teaching or practicum component. Students pursuing a teaching master's online complete an in-person supervised classroom experience; those who live far from campus may complete the experience at a local school. While course materials, assignments, and exams are typically available online, student teaching experiences are integral to preparing future educators and are always completed in person. The type and length of the practicum requirement varies by between programs.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Master's in Teaching?

Several variables affect the length of an online master's degree. While most programs require 30 to 35 credits and take about two years to complete, factors such as transfer credits, concentration choice, and program structure can impact completion time.

Some programs are asynchronous and feature flexible deadlines and self-paced coursework. Because students can complete assignments quickly, at their convenience, learners typically complete asynchronous programs in less time. Synchronous programs are usually taught in a structured cohort format where students complete program requirements with a small group of classmates. While cohort-based programs offer additional support and collaborative opportunities, they tend to take longer than self-paced, asynchronous programs.

Prospective students should look for a program that fits their goals, budget, and lifestyle. Factors to consider include tuition costs, available financial aid, and geographic location. Living near the institution simplifies the process of completing student teaching requirements, while rural distance learners may find it difficult to complete in-person requirements.

most programs require 30 to 35 credits and take about two years to complete

Some programs take longer than others to complete, and course delivery methods impact the time required to earn a master's degree in education. Students generally complete asynchronous programs more quickly than synchronous, cohort-based programs. Students interested in developing a specialty or exploring a certain aspect of education should ensure each prospective program offers their desired concentration.

Finding Accredited Online Education Programs

While researching online programs, ensure each institution you consider is accredited. Accreditation verifies that colleges and universities adhere to rigorous ethical and academic standards. The most common types of accreditation in the U.S. are regional and national, with regional accreditation being the most popular and respected.

Programs may also hold field-specific accreditation. Organizations that accredit education programs include the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and its affiliate, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. These organizations assess postsecondary education programs according to their curricula, instruction quality, ethical practices, and cost. Choose a master's program accredited by one of these organizations to ensure you receive a comprehensive, academically rigorous online education that employers will recognize.

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Not every professional with an online master's degree in teaching works in a classroom. Career options for graduates also include positions like curriculum coordinator and school superintendent. A master's degree in education is ideal for students who plan to work with toddlers, design courses and textbooks, or help adult learners complete their GEDs.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

These administrators manage a particular area of a college or university, such as registration or student affairs. Responsibilities vary according to area of expertise and may include reviewing student applications, maintaining academic records, or scheduling athletic events. These professionals must hold a master's degree and have several years of professional experience.

School/Career Counselor

A school counselor's duties depend on the type of school at which they work. High school counselors may assist students in the college application process, while those working in elementary schools often focus on students with emotional difficulties and behavioral issues. Counselors at every level must hold state licensure.

School Principal

Charged with the management of school operations and standards, principals oversee class schedules, staff, and standardized testing. They counsel and discipline students, meet with parents, and represent the school publicly. Public school principals must hold a master's degree and a state-issued administrator license.

Special Education Teacher

These teachers work one-on-one with special needs students of all levels and ages. They assess children's needs and develop customized educational plans. In some states, special education teachers must hold a master's degree to obtain licensure to work in public schools.

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators assess, modify, and develop curricula. In addition to reviewing textbooks and standardized test scores, these professionals recommend new methods of teaching, organize workshops and conferences, and train teachers in new educational content.

Salary Expectations for Master's Degree in Teaching Graduates

Earning a master's in education online often leads to higher wages and new career opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, education professionals with a master's earn significantly higher salaries than those without; education administrators, principals, and preschool and kindergarten teachers benefit significantly from a master's degree. Some states require certain specialized and advanced teaching professionals to hold licensure available only to individuals with a master's degree. You can explore this resource from TeachingDegree.org to learn how laws and regulations in each state affect teachers' earning potential.

Average Salary for Master's Degree in Education Graduates
Postsecondary Education Administrator $62,127
School/Career Counselor $48,737
School Principal $87,926
Special Education Teacher $45,386
Instructional Coordinator $55,149

Average Salary and Employment for Education, Training, and Library Occupations

Students earning a master's degree in teaching online have a variety of options for financing their degrees. Begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine whether you qualify for federal funding, including grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study programs. Current educators may be eligible for tuition reimbursement programs through their school district or the federal government. These reimbursement programs typically offer free or deeply discounted tuition to graduate students in exchange for a period of service in an understaffed school district or subject area.

Scholarships are ideal options for funding a master's degree. Unlike federal or private loans, recipients do not need to pay back scholarship funds. Many colleges and universities, private and public organizations, companies, and special interest groups offer need- and merit-based scholarships. Education students can pursue field-specific scholarships and awards reserved for students of specific backgrounds or locations. The scholarships below are a few of the hundreds of awards available to graduate students.

Scholarships for Master's Degrees in Education

AASA Educational Administration Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be graduate students who intend to become school superintendents. Applicants must be education students and must be nominated by their department chairs. View Scholarship

Bound to Stay Bound Books Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: This award supports students pursuing an advanced degree in or related to children's library science. View Scholarship

Teacher.org Inspire Our Future Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be students in certain education-related fields who hold a minimum 3.5 GPA. Applicants must submit a short essay. View Scholarship

Edwyna Wheadon Postgraduate Training Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports public school English and language arts instructors who intend to pursue postgraduate education or professional development training and who are members of the NCTE. View Scholarship

James Madison Graduate Fellowships $24,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be enrolled in a qualifying U.S. graduate study program and must intend to teach American history, government, or civics to students in grades 7-12. View Scholarship

Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Full Tuition & Stipend

Who Can Apply: This award supports STEM majors and professionals interested in teaching grades K-12. Amount: Full tuition, plus stipend View Scholarship

Harry S. Truman Scholarship $3,000

Who Can Apply: Students must be nominated through their institution and must provide three additional letters of recommendation and a policy proposal. Applicants must maintain at least a 3.5 GPA, intend to pursue a service-related career, and hold a leadership position in their school or community. View Scholarship

Janice Jones Scholarship for Prospective Teachers $400

Who Can Apply: Students must be enrolled in an education-related program at a school partnered with the American Association for Employment in Education. View Scholarship

Teach NYC Graduate Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Teach NYC offers this scholarship to current and prospective graduate students who hold an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 and who intend to work in bilingual special education, speech pathology, visually impaired education, or school psychology within the New York public school system. View Scholarship

Future Journalism Teacher Scholarships $1,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a teacher preparation program. Applicants must plan to teach journalism at the secondary level, must be in good academic standing, and must submit a personal essay. View Scholarship
  • National Education Association As the country's largest professional association dedicated to public education, the National Education Association advocates strongly for educators. The association tackles complex funding and legislative issues and provides members with several resources, including lesson plans, classroom management and teaching strategies, and exclusive grant opportunities.
  • National Association for Gifted Children This organization prioritizes the advancement of exceptional and talented students, their families, and those who teach them. NAGC offers 15 scholarship and award opportunities to current and prospective educators. The association also provides eLearning courses, members-only job boards, and collaborative, credential-granting continuing education programs.
  • National Association of Special Education Teachers NASET members receive access to continuing education programs, publications, classroom resources, and cutting-edge research in special education. The association maintains an extensive multimedia library that contains video and audio lectures and courses, PowerPoint presentations, and an active job board.
  • ASCD Since 1943, ASCD has offered support and guidance to prospective, current, and retired instructors. Known for developing the unique Whole Child and Understanding by Design approaches to education, the organization hosts webinars dedicated to recent innovations and current challenges in pedagogy. Member benefits include insurance opportunities, discounts, and career assistance.
  • International Literacy Association This global advocacy group empowers educators by providing resources that encourage literacy. Members have access to complete classroom reading units created by professional instructors and literacy researchers, in addition to print and digital publications detailing the association's groundbreaking research.

Master's Degree in Education Master's Degree in Curriculum & Instruction Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education Master's Degree in Education Administration
Master's Degree in School Counseling Master's Degree in Educational Leadership Master's Degree in Educational Technology Master's Degree in Elementary Education
Master's Degree in Higher Education Master's Degree in English Language Learning Master's Degree in Reading & Literacy Master's Degree in Special Education
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