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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Education

education degree

Editor's Picks: Online Schools for Education

Oregon State University won our award for best value of schools that offer online master's degrees in education. According to, Oregon State University's annual return on investment (ROI) is 8.9%. The ROI is a calculation of what a student pays for tuition compared to how much they receive in lifetime earnings. If financial aid is factored in, the annual ROI increases to 10.2%.

Kaplan University earned our award for best flexibility. The university's online master's degree program in education allows students to complete their course work in their own time, full or part-time, from anywhere they can access the internet. College Prowler gave Kaplan University an A+ for academic flexibility, which indicates the degree to which a school makes reasonable accommodations to work around a student's schedule.

Financial Support
Jones International University claimed our award for financial support because 93% of its students receive some sort of financial aid, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The university helps students receive aid from federal, state, and local government programs, scholarships, grants, and student loans. Jones International University has aligned with a variety of organizations and agencies that offer a variety of aid programs.

Technology Support
Drexel University won our award for technology support. The U.S. News & World Report ranked the school No. 5 in its rankings of student services and technology of the top online graduate education programs. Drexel University provides its online students live tutoring, a smartphone application, live streaming video, and career placement assistance.

Student Engagement
Troy University earned our award for student engagement for the ease of which students can participate in class and communicate with their professors. The U.S. News & World Report ranked Troy University No. 3 in student engagement and accreditation of the top online graduate programs in education. Students can expect a response from a professor within 24 hours, and instructors typically have 10 hours of office time per week.

Library and Research Support
Southern New Hampshire University won our award for library and research support. The university's Shapiro Library allows students to search for print and electronic resources such as magazines, journal and newspaper articles, books, e-books, and films. Students can also use the system to search for material in other libraries, request material through Interlibrary Loan, and access other off-campus library services.

Learning Support
The University of Houston earned our award for learning support. The U.S. News & World Report ranked it No. 3 for student services and technology of the top online graduate education programs. The school offers career placement assistance, live tutoring, and its course content is delivered through a smartphone application and by live streaming video. The university also offers an online orientation course that helps familiarize students with how Blackboard system works.

Faculty Credentials
Jones International University also claimed our award for faculty credentials. The U.S. News & World Report ranked the school No. 7 in its rankings of faculty credentials and training of the top online graduate education programs. According to the U.S. News, 72% of Jones International University's faculty have at least two years of online teaching experience, and the university provides online instructor training which is required to teach.

Faculty Accessibility
Florida State University earned our award for faculty accessibility and involvement. College Prowler gave Florida State University a B+ for academics, which demonstrates that professors are knowledgeable, accessible, and interested in how their students perform in their classes. The schools are also graded for class size, whether or not classes are engaging, and how well professors communicate.

New Online Student Orientation
Southern New Hampshire University claimed our award for best new student orientation. The university provides an online student orientation course that informs them about the school's academic policies, withdrawal policies, academic advising and student support, and the best practices for online learning. Southern New Hampshire University's website also has tutorials on how to log in and navigate Blackboard, use the schools email account, submit assignments, and access grades.

Explore a Master's Degree in Education

Online master's degrees in education are designed for licensed teachers who want to sharpen their skills in the classroom, and for career-changers who have a bachelor's degree in a different area and want to transition into teaching. As an alternative, some online master's programs are set up to help experienced teachers transition into a career in education administration. Most master's programs in education allow students to specialize in a particular area, such as science education, mathematics education, curriculum and instruction, or special education. This degree program is a good fit for anyone who has a passion for educating students and who wants to be equipped with more tools to do that effectively.

Many online master's programs in education can be completed in two to three years of full-time work, although program length differs by university and the number of credit units required. Students may be able to transfer credits from previous graduate work completed at other accredited universities and thereby reduce the amount of time it takes to graduate. However, students who attend the program part time will take longer to complete the program.

Class Curriculum

A master's program in education tends to emphasize research-based best practices in teaching certain populations of students, modern educational technology, methods of assessment and evaluation, laws and ethics in teaching, and strategies for teaching diverse classrooms. Courses will vary significantly based on the specialization, but a few classes you may encounter in an education master's program include:

  • Dynamic Teacher Leadership. In this course, students learn how to serve as leaders in their respective classrooms by keeping up with relevant teaching theory and making decisions based on research. Students also study the qualities and attitudes of effective education leaders, and learn how to cultivate those qualities in themselves.
  • Foundations of Educational Administration. An introductory course for those who wish to pursue careers as education administrators, this course exposes students to the roles and responsibilities of educational administrators, from instruction to personnel to finance. This course may begin with the history of educational leadership and conclude with the contemporary issues and challenges that administrators face.
  • Educational Assessment and Evaluation Systems. In this course, students learn how to establish learning goals, devise strategies for accomplishing those goals, methods of assessing your progress toward meeting those goals, and how to evaluate the effectiveness of your current strategies. By this process, students learn how to make improvements and therefore enhance the educational experience and make better progress toward achieving learning goals.

Students in an online master's program in education will be assigned a variety of written assignments and projects, including critiques of education research, responses to case studies, and research papers on various topics. Most courses that emphasize teaching strategies will incorporate practicum requirements in which students report to a school and apply what they are learning in the classroom on the job. Some programs will require students to assemble a portfolio that demonstrates their experience in education leadership, instructional design, curriculum development, skills in working with various types of educational technology, and scholarly research. Others will require a comprehensive exam and/or a thesis.

Building a Career

Many graduates of online master's degrees in education continue their careers as K-12 teachers in public and private schools, where they may move into roles as master teachers and mentors for new and/or struggling teachers. Others go on to become school principals, district administrators, and instructional coordinators. Still others use their master's degree as a stepping stone into future doctoral study in education as they pursue careers in academia as university professors and researchers.

Whether they teach kindergarten, elementary, middle, or high school aged children, public school teachers must be licensed in the state where they teach, and licensure requirements vary by state. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned median salaries of $48,800 and $51,660, respectively, while middle school teachers earned a median salary of $51,960, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). High school teachers reported the highest median salaries of all K-12 teachers, at $53,230, the BLS noted.

Instructional coordinators, who provide oversight to school curriculums and help set teaching standards in school districts, are expected to experience 20% job growth through 2020, which is faster job growth than most other occupations, according to the BLS. They reported a median salary of $58,830, and work in a variety of industries, including elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private educational support services; junior colleges; and colleges, universities, and professional schools.

School principals and assistant principals, who typically must have a master's degree, also generally have experience as teachers before becoming principals. Some must have school administrator licensure as well. Elementary, middle school, and high school principals reported a median yearly wage of $86,970, the BLS stated. However, keep in mind that salaries for all of these professions vary based on one's experience, location, and other considerations.