Whether you've just recently earned your bachelor's degree or you're an established classroom teacher looking to take your career in education to the next level, earning an online master's degree in education might be the right step for you.

A master's degree in education can help you advance into an administrative or leadership role at your current school or qualify you for career opportunities in sub-fields such as learning coordination or curriculum development. Earning an advanced degree can also clue you in to new teaching methods and strategies that allow you to better help your students reach their potential, whether you're planning to use them at the K-12 or post-secondary level.

Earning an online master's in education not only teaches you how to facilitate improved student learning outcomes; they can also develop your understanding of high-level teaching concepts, leadership techniques and best practices for student supervision and exemplary instruction. Read on to find out more about master's programs in education and the ways in which graduates are putting them to use on the job market.

Frequently Asked Questions

Depending on the specialty you pursue, fully online master's programs in education may be available. Such programs require zero campus attendance and maybe offered in a synchronous or asynchronous format. Certain program concentrations or specialties may require visits to campus or program-affiliated sites for intensive instruction sessions. Programs that contain an internship section typically cannot be completed entirely online, and an internship may be required in order to obtain certain educator's licenses in some states.

If you're hoping to move into a career in education administration or other top-level positions in the field, it's often the case that agencies hiring for such positions prefer candidates who hold at least a graduate degree. What's more, if you're hoping to sharpen your classroom skills to better serve your students, the right master's degree in education can provide the advanced training you're looking for. Whether or not your master's degree is worth the investment can depend on what you want to get out of it, but such degrees have been shown to open doors in education careers.
Accreditation serves as an acknowledgement that the instruction provided in a given school or program meets a nationally accepted standard of quality. In order to ensure that you're getting an education that meets the needs of employers, seek out schools that are recognized by a regional accrediting agency and programs that have earned a stamp of approval from program-specific accreditors like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).


Master's in Education Program Overview

Students typically must hold a bachelor's degree before applying for acceptance into a master's degree program in education. Programs vary, however, and some may not require candidates to have specific educational credentials before signing up.

Programs that lead to an education master's degree may additionally require students to hold a valid teaching license or credentials before applying. Some such programs may include provisions for students to earn their license and gain any necessary teaching experience while completing their degree.

Types of master's degrees in education include Master of Education (M.Ed.), Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees. Some programs focus on classroom teaching, providing advanced instruction in behavior management and other practitioners' tools, while others are designed to prepare you for a career in education leadership, advocacy or policymaking.

Earning an Online Master's Degree in Education

How long does an online master's in education program take?

Graduate programs in education tend to have a shorter average time to completion than master's degrees in some other subjects, with many study plans lasting around 18 months from enrollment to graduation. Programs for students who don't already hold a teacher certification tend to take longer — two to three years on average — because of the additional coursework necessary to become certified while earning your degree.

Working adult students, whether pursuing their education master's online or in the traditional classroom, may choose to complete their degree on a part-time basis. This approach can help you avoid adding too much to your existing day-to-day schedule, but can extend the total time spent in school.

What are the requirements to start an online master's degree in education?

It's a general rule that master's programs in education require applicants to have previously earned a bachelor's degree, although that degree doesn't necessarily have to be in teaching or education. Education master's programs also typically have academic performance requirements in place for applicants, prioritizing student GPA and scores on standardized tests like the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

Many colleges and universities also require some personal material with your application, such as recommendation letters and a current curriculum vitae (CV). Students applying for master's degrees that cover classroom teaching may also be asked to demonstrate subject matter knowledge.

Why earn a master's in education online?

Most educators begin working in local schools shortly after earning their bachelor's degree, but moving up in the profession often requires more advanced college credentials. Earning your education master's online may give you the power to design your school schedule around your existing career and family responsibilities, allowing you to keep working while you make moves toward your graduate degree.

Online college courses usually follow the same curriculum as their campus-based counterparts, and in many institutions are taught by the same instructors. There are even some cost savings that can come with an online education degree, typically in the form of lower transportation expenses and virtual textbooks.

Degree Timeline

Early study

Early coursework in a graduate education program can depend on your previous training. Students with undergraduate education degrees can sometimes dive right into advanced courses, while those with other degrees may work to fill prerequisites for high-level education study.

Choose a specialization and take elective courses

Many graduate students in education have a particular administrative specialization or student age group that they intend to work with once they graduate. Some programs may allow you to begin studying your specialization in your first term, while others save specialized study for later semesters.

Thesis/capstone project

As the final step in your master's degree process, you can likely be asked to compose a substantial written thesis or complete a project that demonstrates the knowledge and skills you've gained in the program.

Internship/ practicum

Some programs may require an internship or practicum section, both of which aim to provide real-world experience to compliment the knowledge you've gained through your coursework. Internships typically must be done in person, even if your degree plan is offered online.

Master's in Education Concentrations

There are various specialized concentrations available in graduate-level education programs. Here's a list of common specializations, along with a brief explanation of each one:

  • Curriculum and instruction. This popular specialty focuses on how to adapt existing study plans or develop new curriculum to fit the evolving needs of elementary and secondary students.
  • Educational leadership and administration. Concentrating on school law, financial management and other necessary administration skills can give you the tools you need to be an effective leader in education.
  • Adolescent literacy and learning. Understanding how young people read and understand written information, in order to better teach reading and learning skills, is the goal of this specialization.
  • ESL education. Teaching English to acquired speakers comes with a different set of challenges than teaching it to children as their first language, and an ESL concentration can help you succeed at the task.
  • Special education. Teaching and designing lessons for students with special needs requires the right set of knowledge and skills, and a special education concentration focuses on this unique area of the profession.
  • Educational technology. Technology is becoming more and more closely integrated with the way students learn, and concentrating in educational technology can help you stay on the cutting edge of classroom tech.

Career Outlook

What Can You Do with a Master's in Education?

A master's degree in education can lead you down several different paths in the education field. Here are a few positions that might be available to candidates with the right master's degree:

Classroom teacher. A master's degree that focuses on teaching can give you an expanded toolbox of strategies to improve learning outcomes in the classroom. Whether you intend to teach at a specific grade level, in a specific subject or with a specific population — such as learning-disabled students — a graduate degree can boost your skills.

School counselor. School counselors work with students to help ensure that their journey through school can serve them well once they've graduated. A master's degree is required for school counselor positions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and some states may require a degree that specifically focuses on school counseling.

Instructional coordinator. Specializing your master's degree in curriculum and instruction is the most direct route to a career as an instructional coordinator, which makes you responsible for the oversight of curriculum content and teaching standards at a school or district. Instructional coordinators develop curriculum materials and organize training and workshops for faculty and staff, among other duties.

Education administrator. Every school at every level needs competent administration in order to function as it should, and concentrating your study in education leadership can help you fill one of those vital positions. Job titles in this field include principal, superintendent, program coordinator, resource coordinator and more.

Postsecondary education teacher. If you want to use your skills to pass on the knowledge of master educators to the next generation of teachers and administrators, consider going into education at the college and university level. Some institutions may hire professors with a master's degree, while others might prefer candidates with a doctorate.

Education Salaries by State

State NameAverage SalaryAnnual Job OpeningsProjected Job Growth Potential
New Jersey$154,4302107.7%
New York$140,8701,70014.5%
North Dakota$125,980403.1%
Rhode Island$121,110605.1%
Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Financial Aid for a Master's in Education

Earning a master's degree in education doesn't have to deplete your savings or force you to cut back your budget to the essentials. Check out this list of financial aid opportunities for education graduate students:

Source: Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of CollegeXpress, a division of Carnegie Dartlet. Copyright © 2020 by CollegeXpress.

Master's in Education Certifications

All teachers need a state-issued license or certification to work legally, but teaching certifications are not one-size-fits-all. Here's some information about a few types of teaching certifications:

Computer Science Teacher Certification

Young students may be savvy about social media and online gaming, but it takes a trained computer science teacher to introduce them to deeper concepts in computing and technology.

Requirements: Varies by state, but typically a bachelor's or master's degree in teaching or computer science is required.

Exam Format: Varies by state.

How long does the certification last?: Varies by state.

American Sign Language Teacher Certification

Becoming certified to teach American Sign Language (ASL) can give you the option of instructing high school students on the art, as well as prepare you to teach common school subjects to classrooms of deaf students.

Requirements: Varies by state, but it's common to require a bachelor's or master's degree and proficiency in ASL.

Exam Format: Varies by state.

How long does the certification last?: Varies by state.

Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Teacher Certification

There are certain special challenges that teachers face when working with highly intelligent learners. Becoming certified to teach gifted and talented students can help ensure that you have the right tools.

Requirements: Varies by state, but a master's degree is often required.

Exam Format: Varies by state.

How long does the certification last?: Varies by state.

Physical Education (PE) Certification

Perhaps now more than ever, it's understood that physical activity contributes to the health of young minds. Becoming certified to teach PE can help you provide a healthy, active environment for students.

Requirements: Varies by state, but a bachelor's or master's degree and a documented period of supervised teaching are commonly required.

Exam Format: Varies by state.

How long does the certification last?: Varies by state.

Professional Associations for Master's in Education

Joining a professional association can provide you with a support network and other career advantages. Here's a list of educators' associations you might consider joining:

This national organization is the largest non-union professional association for teachers in the U.S. and offers benefits like access to scholarships and grants, liability insurance and a library of professional resources.
Dedicated to the advancement of education through technology integration, AECT offers members a range of publishing opportunities in industry journals overseen by its publishing partners.
Teachers of middle school students can join this association, which features a student membership for half the cost of a professional one, for access to a range of classroom resources and other perks.
Instructional coordinators and other individuals in curriculum development and supervision-related positions can join ASCD for professional learning opportunities, discounts on school and office supplies and more.