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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Educational Leadership

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Editor's Picks: Online Schools for Educational Leadership


The University of Dayton won our award for best value of colleges that offer online master's degree programs in educational leadership. According to, the University of Dayton's annual return on investment (ROI), or the amount a student pays versus what they receive in lifetime earnings, is 7.5%. If financial aid is considered, the university's annual ROI increases to 8.7%.

Financial Support

The University of Dayton also earned our award for financial support. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 91% of undergraduate students receive some sort of financial aid, including student loans, grants, and scholarships. The university's office of financial aid helps students identify the types of financial aid they can receive, and they help students manage their expenses.

Technology Support

Georgia Southern University earned our award for technology support. In its ranking of the top online graduate education programs, U.S. News & World Report placed Georgia Southern University 13th in student services and technology. The university offers its online students career placement assistance, live tutoring, a smartphone application, and students can access course content through live streaming video.

Student Engagement

The University of Dayton won our award for best student engagement. U.S. News & World Report ranked the university 12th in student engagement and accreditation of the top online graduate education programs. When an online student asks their professor a question, they can typically expect a response within six hours, and professors have at least three hours of office time per week. The University of Dayton's education program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Library and Research Support

Penn State University claimed our award for library and research support. The school's University Libraries system is the seventh largest research library in North America with more than 100,000 e-books. Students can search through Penn State's online reference shelf, which includes the Oxford Reference and the Gale Virtual Reference Library. These two resources offer more than 100 dictionary, encyclopedia, language, subject reference works, almanacs, and specialized reference resources in many different subject fields.

Learning Support

Florida State University earned our award for best learning support for online students. U.S. News & World Report placed it 22nd in its ranking of student services and technology of the top online graduate education programs. Florida State offers its students live tutoring, career placement assistance, a smartphone application, and live streaming video. College Prowler also gave the university a grade of "B+" for academics, which is a reflection of the quality of the school's professors and how engaging the classes are.

Faculty Credentials

Jones International University claimed our award for faculty credentials. U.S. News & World Report placed Jones International University seventh in its rankings of faculty credentials and training of the top online graduate education programs. According to the U.S. News, 72% of the university's faculty have at least two years of online teaching experience. Jones International University also requires professors to complete an online instruction training program, which the school finances.

Faculty Accessibility and Involvement

Nova Southeastern University earned our award for faculty accessibility and involvement. College Prowler gave Nova Southeastern University a grade of "B+" in academics, which demonstrates that professors are knowledgeable, accessible, and interested in how their students are doing in their classes. In determining the grade, College Prowler also considered class size, whether or not classes are engaging, and how well professors communicate.

Alumni Engagement

Florida State University earned our award for alumni engagement for the benefits and services it offers to members of its alumni association. Members receive discounts at certain hotels, restaurants, retail stores, travel packages through airlines, insurance and financial services, car rentals, and career services. These services include career counseling, employer information, online job postings, on-campus interviewing with recruiters, career expositions, and more for free.

New Student Orientation

Penn State University also won our award for new student orientation. The university's technical support and academic advising staff are available through extended work hours by email, phone, and instant messaging. They help students find financial aid, prepare for learning in an online environment, access the University Libraries system, and take advantage of student resources such as career counseling and writing and math tutoring.

Explore a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership

Online master's degrees in education leadership are designed for K-12 teachers who would like to be more effective leaders in the classroom, and for people who would like to transition from classroom teaching to administrative leadership. Many students pursue master's programs for the opportunity to earn a higher income as a teacher or administrator, have a greater impact on youth, or both. Education leadership programs will hone a student's skills in educational technology, curriculum development, classroom management, and creating and supporting the educational vision of a school.

Most master's programs in educational leadership can be completed in about two years, although program length may vary from program to program. Students who attend the program part-time will take longer to complete the program, while students who bring in transferable credits from graduate work completed at other accredited colleges may reduce the time it takes to complete the program. Many online master's programs in education leadership are delivered fully online and asynchronously, meaning students can log in to their courses from their home computers at the time of day that works best for them. Other education leadership programs are hybrid programs that are primarily delivered online, but require a student's presence on campus from time to time.

Class Curriculum

The curriculum in an online master's degree program in education leadership emphasizes theory and practical application of education leadership principles. Practical skills that a student learns may include curriculum design, assessment methods, execution of research-based instructional strategies, and methods of motivating students to learn. Students also learn about the family and socioeconomic factors that affect education. Required courses vary greatly from program to program, but a few courses you might see in the program might include:

  • Organizational Management of Schools. In this course, students learn about the various managerial duties and responsibilities of educational administrators. Key topics include oversight of personnel, oversight of school finance, oversight of school facilities and grounds, scheduling and planning, and working with diverse populations of both staff and students.
  • Planning and Resource Allocation. This course walks students through the process of putting together a master schedule for middle and high schools, as well as elementary schools. Students also learn how to plan school events and activities from start to finish, from making sure there is enough space allocated for an event to making sure that students have the necessary equipment to making sure there are no scheduling conflicts.
  • Supervision and Evaluation of Teaching. In this course, students are introduced to the process of evaluating teachers, including explaining expectations in pre-observation conferences, the observation process, discussing performance in post-observation conferences, and drafting professional growth plans. Students also learn how to promote growth in teachers, which in turn leads to improved student achievement.

Students will encounter a variety of research and writing assignments in a master's degree program in education leadership. Students will write research papers on best practices in education, citing reputable sources. Nearly all master's programs will require a supervised internship in a K-12 school or school district setting. In this internship, students will get to put into practice the principles they have learned in their course work thus far as they participate in various activities such as managing daily operations, drafting and implementing school improvement plans, and interacting with students, staff, parents, and community leaders. Students must also keep a written log of what they learn on the job during their internship experience.

Building a Career

Students who complete master's degrees in education leadership may pursue careers as elementary, middle school, and high school principals and assistant principals, overseeing operations, setting academic standards, and making sure the school's teachers and staff have the resources and training they need to do their jobs effectively. Others pursue careers as instructional coordinators or educational administrators in school districts. Some, however, remain teachers in K-12 schools, taking on new roles as master teachers and even serving as mentors for new or struggling teachers.

In most cases, school principals must have a master's degree in an area such as educational leadership or education administration, and significant teaching experience before they qualify for the job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition, most states require school principals who work in public schools to hold a license as a school administrator. Employment growth for school principals is projected to be 10% between 2010 and 2020, the BLS notes. The median yearly salary for principals was $86,970.

Instructional coordinators are responsible for a school district's curriculums and teaching standards. They must possess a minimum of a master's degree and most states require them to be licensed either as a teacher or an education administrator, the BLS explains. Faster-than-average employment growth of 20% is projected for these professionals, who reported a median yearly salary of $58,830. However, keep in mind that your salary may differ, depending on your employer and level of experience.