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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Elementary Education

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Editor's Picks: Online Schools for Elementary Education


West Virginia University won our award for best value of schools that offer online graduate degree programs in elementary education. The university's annual return on investment (ROI) — the amount a student pays for tuition compared to what they receive in lifetime earnings — is 8.7%, according to If financial aid is considered, West Virginia University's annual ROI increases to 10.1%.


Western Governors University claimed our award for flexibility. The university is an online higher education institution that offers programs for adult learners who need flexibility to earn a degree. College Prowler gave the university a grade of "A-" for academic flexibility, which indicates the degree to which the school makes reasonable accommodations to work around students' schedules. In determining the grade, College Prowler considers class availability, ease of transferring credits, easy of registering for classes, and time investment required by the course work.

Career Support

Western Governors University also claimed our award for career support. The school's career services includes interview preparation, career search planning, job search tools, resume and cover letter tips, networking tips, and internships. College Prowler gave Western Governors University a grade of "A" for its career services, which indicates that the university is very supportive in helping students find employment after they graduate. The website considers the quality of the career center, strength of the alumni network, and the services available to students and graduates when determining a grade.

Financial Support

Dominican University obtained our award for financial support. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 100% of full-time beginning undergraduate students received some sort of financial aid. The university's financial aid website has information on aid eligibility, tuition and fees, scholarships, student loans, and governmental grants. Dominican University participates in the William D. Ford Direct Loan program, a U.S. Department of Education administered program that enables students to borrow funds from the federal government.

Technology Support

Western Kentucky University earned our award for best technology support. U.S. News & World Report placed the university 11th in its ranking of student services and technology of the top online graduate education programs. Western Kentucky University offers its students live tutoring, a smartphone application, course content delivered through live streaming video, and career placement assistance.

Student Engagement

Troy University claimed our award for student engagement. U.S. News & World Report placed Troy University third in its ranking of student engagement and accreditation of the top online graduate education programs. According to U.S. News, professors respond to students questions within 24 hours and they have 10 office hours per week.

Library and Research Support

Western Kentucky University received our award for library and research support. The university library's website allows students to search for e-journals, e-books, streaming media, and through databases and course reserves. Western Kentucky University also offers tutorials that cover how to use the library and effectively search for materials, and the library staff is available by phone, email, or instant message.

Faculty Credentials

Auburn University won our award for best faculty credentials. The university placed 12th in U.S. News & World Report‘s ranking of faculty credentials and training of the top online graduate education programs. According to U.S. News, 94% of Auburn University's faculty have at least two years of online teaching experience. The university also requires its professors to complete an online instruction training program, which it finances.

Faculty Accessibility and Involvement

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

Alumni Engagement

California State University – Fullerton received our award for alumni engagement because of the programs and services it offers its graduates. Members of the alumni association receive discounts on insurance and at local business and restaurants, and access to special events and the campus' recreational center and libraries. Members of the alumni association can also take advantage of the school's free career services, which includes resume development, interview preparation, use of an online career database and a career resources library, and access to online job postings.

New Student Orientation

Western Kentucky University claimed our award for new student orientation. The university provides tutorials that are designed to help students develop a better understanding of distance learning, the course enrollment process, online learning strategies, the Blackboard system, and the support available to online students. These tutorials include videos and written guides that delve into such topics as communicating online, finding articles and websites through the library, and how to use the writing resources.

Explore a Master's Degree in Elementary Education

Elementary educators are responsible for teaching the fundamentals of science, math, English, and social studies to children in the first through fifth grades. Although a bachelor's degree is necessary to qualify for an entry-level teaching position, some states require or encourage teachers to earn a master's degree later on. An online master's degree program in elementary education gives students the chance to get their degree without disrupting their busy schedules. An elementary education master's degree program may take 32 credit hours to complete, which may be done on either a full or part-time basis. However, the length of the program may vary by the institution.

Class Curriculum

In an online master's degree program in elementary education, students will learn about effective teaching practices, the foundations of teaching, and research fundamentals. Since an elementary teacher may need to teach more than one subject, they may enroll in science or mathematics in the elementary school, writing in the classroom, and foundations of reading instruction. They may also study tools and techniques in assessment and curriculum planning. Read on for a closer look at three common elementary education courses:

  • Rethinking Curriculum. A Rethinking Curriculum course examines the relationship between the traditional approaches to curriculum and the way it has evolved due to social, historical, and economic factors. The course also considers the affect a diverse population has on the development of a curriculum, and students will learn how to judge a curriculum in a broader context.
  • Foundations of Reading Instruction. This course focuses on the factors that affect the development of reading skills in children, as well as the research programs and features of the classroom that support effective learning. Students will also learn about phonemic awareness, onset, phonemes, effective assessment strategies, differentiated instruction, and reading theories.
  • Foundations of Research. The Foundations of Research course covers the theory and practice of research. In studying the theory of research, students will learn about the theoretical, ethical, and philosophical methods of critiquing research findings. Students may also delve into the sampling, design, and execution of research studies.

Depending on the course, students will be required to complete reading assignments, essays, research papers, exams, and class discussions. They may also need to complete other exercises, such as writing lesson plans or planning classroom exercises. Some schools also require completion of an independent study course, scholarly project, or a period of student teaching in a classroom.

Building a Career

Although a bachelor's degree is required to become an elementary school teacher, some states require that educators work to receive a master's degree during the first few years of their career. Elementary school teachers are responsible for teaching their students math, reading, and other basic subjects so they will be prepared for middle school. They prepare lesson plans, grade papers, administer tests, work with individual students, and enforce rules and teach proper behavior.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that kindergarten and elementary teachers earned a median annual salary of $51,380. Employment of elementary educators is expected to increase 17%, or about as fast as average, between 2010 and 2020. The BLS expects an increase in employment because of an expected increase in the number of children enrolled in elementary school classes. However, this could vary by region. Salary and employment growth statistics are no guarantee of actual salary or employment opportunities, which are determined by the state of the economy and the needs of local schools.