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Best Online Master's Degrees in Educational Leadership

Dec 13, 2021

What Is an Online Master's in Educational Leadership Degree?

A master's in educational leadership is a degree program that allows educators to work in advanced positions within the field of education. This degree gives teachers and professors the ability to hold leadership roles in their educational institution such as principal or department chair. An online master's in educational leadership is available as a Master of Science or Master of Arts. Students can also choose to get a Master of Education (M.Ed.). The degree is commonly a Master of Arts due to the nature of this degree being a humanities area of study. However some universities offer it as a Master of Science due to the extensive research that needs to be conducted such as when working on a thesis.

The Best Online Masters Degree Programs in Educational Leadership

School Tuition* Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
1 Lamar University $8264 84% 34% 82% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
2 Fort Hays State University $4356 91% 43% 96% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
3 West Virginia State University $8900 80% 53% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits
4 Brandman University $12608 82% 48% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits
5 Regent University $16952 86% 57% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
6 Fitchburg State University $5742 88% 58% 91% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
7 Northwestern State University of Louisiana $9686 82% 44% 97% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
8 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin $6038 88% 40% 91% Yes Yes AP Credits
9 Northeastern State University $5101 100% 33% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits
10 California University of Pennsylvania $12919 97% 50% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits
11 Old Dominion University $13128 89% 53% 94% Yes Yes AP Credits
12 William Woods University $6580 64% 58% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
13 Louisiana State University-Shreveport $7349 84% 31% 94% Yes Yes AP Credits
14 Concordia University-Saint Paul $8550 98% 51% 98% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
15 Stephen F Austin State University $7273 68% 52% 86% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
16 Sam Houston State University $8016 83% 54% 86% Yes Yes AP Credits
17 East Tennessee State University $10559 86% 50% 95% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
18 Northern Arizona University $11121 85% 57% 95% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
19 Immaculata University $12780 81% 67% 100% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
20 Ashland University $6540 71% 65% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
21 The University of West Florida $9062 31% 46% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits
22 Pittsburg State University $8322 96% 52% 94% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
23 Florida International University $11106 58% 63% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits
24 Austin Peay State University $9683 95% 43% 99% No Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
25 Northwest Missouri State University $7023 73% 52% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits
26 Saint Leo University $7296 72% 49% 100% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
27 Arkansas Tech University $6737 95% 38% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
28 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus $14468 77% 71% 75% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
29 Emporia State University $8577 85% 50% 98% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
30 East Central University $5140 59% 37% 88% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
31 Southeastern Oklahoma State University $5022 74% 35% 95% Yes Yes AP Credits
32 The University of Texas at Arlington $10248 83% 51% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits
33 Troy University $8506 88% 47% 92% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
34 University of Colorado Colorado Springs $13912 87% 45% 81% Yes Yes AP Credits
35 University of Central Florida $8872 44% 72% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits
36 California State University-East Bay $8434 76% 50% 86% Yes Yes AP Credits
37 Marshall University $8728 87% 49% 96% Yes Yes AP Credits
38 Minnesota State University Moorhead $9540 65% 53% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits
39 The University of Alabama $10780 83% 71% 79% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
40 Bridgewater State University $11397 88% 61% 91% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
41 George Mason University $15648 87% 71% 74% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
42 Madonna University $15930 75% 60% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits
43 University of Florida $12737 37% 88% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits
44 Jacksonville State University $10600 55% 41% 95% Yes Yes AP Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit our ranking methodology page.

*Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Educational Leadership

Undergraduate degrees include associate's and bachelor's degrees in education. An Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree consists of 60 credits and can be completed in 1-2 years. To work in educational leadership, professionals need to have experience in teaching which requires at least a bachelor's degree. Undergraduate degrees are typically earned in education or elementary education in preparation for a master's in educational leadership. Bachelor's degrees in education can be obtained as a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science. It takes four years and the completion of 120 credits to earn this degree.

Post-Graduate Options After Completing a Master's in Educational Leadership

Students can choose to continue their education after obtaining their master's and get a PhD in education. A PhD program includes the completion of several courses, a dissertation and qualifying exam. When earning this degree, students use evidence-based research to figure out how to improve the field of education. Those who are candidates for a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) complete a dissertation. This involves combining work experience and new research to create change and improvement to leadership in the field of education. It typically takes 3-5 years to earn a doctoral degree and the completion of around 30-90 credits.

Why Should I Get an Online Educational Leadership Master's Degree?

An online educational leadership master's degree is a good fit for someone who is an experienced licensed teacher and wants more from their career. This degree allows for a flexible approach to continuing their education. An online degree allows current educators to continue teaching while earning their degree. When earning this degree, professionals can choose an accelerated option and finish their degree early or enroll in this program part-time. These personalized options help students fit the program into their busy schedule. The degree can be finished at their own pace and students can complete their coursework from anywhere. Those who plan on pursuing this degree should also consider their intended career. Many universities offer variations of this degree such as a Master's (M.Ed.) Educational Leadership & Principal Certification. This may be a good option for someone who plans on becoming a principal upon the degree's completion.

Choosing an Online Educational Leadership Master's Program

Students should consider several factors when choosing an online educational leadership degree. This includes the program requirements, coursework, and format it is offered in. In addition, students should make sure the program they select is accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation provides accreditation for educational leadership programs.

When deciding to continue their education, professionals have several choices when it comes to the degree program they select. A master's degree in educational leadership is very similar to a degree in educational administration. This degree has an emphasis on preparing educators for administrative roles within an institution. Education administration tends to involve the day-to-day functionality in an educational organization. This might not be as helpful to students who are looking to work in leadership positions in particular. While there are a lot of similarities between the two degrees, a degree in educational leadership includes utilizing new ideas to ensure the success of their institutions as well as leading other institutions.

Another option is that educators can find master's degrees in educational administration and leadership or leadership in educational administration. These degrees are a combination of leadership and administration. This allows professionals to include aspects of both areas in their studies.

Curriculum for Online Master's Degree Programs in Educational Leadership

Most online master's degrees in educational leadership degrees consist of 10 to 13 courses that include research and practicums. It typically takes two years to complete this degree.

Educational Leadership Foundational Courses

The coursework in an educational leadership degree helps educators develop curriculum, understand communities and work with other teachers to figure out ways to improve education for students. The courses in this degree are designed to include relevant information that allows educators to apply the material they learn directly to their career. Those who earn this degree are able to combine their professional work experience with coursework to further their knowledge on how to become a leader in education.

Foundational courses include:

  • School Law
  • Leadership Foundations and Ethics
  • Systems Management and School Operations
  • Organizational Leadership & Change Management
  • Data Based Decision Making
  • Leadership in Curriculum and Assessment

Educational Leadership Specialist & Elective Courses

Students may also take apprenticeship courses if they have a specific career in mind. This may include something like a principal clinical experience. Many universities offer programs that combine educational leadership degrees with educational administration. This allows students to take more administrative courses such as systems management and school operations or school resources management.

For students who may be interested, there are also free courses online in education leadership.

Licensure & Certification in Educational Leadership

Most people who choose to get a degree in educational leadership are professionals who have worked in or are currently working in education. To hold these positions, a license or certification is already a requirement. While a degree in educational leadership provides educators with the opportunity for career advancement, they must maintain their licensure/certification and make sure it is up to date.

Admissions Requirements for Online Educational Leadership Master's Programs

The admission requirements for online educational leadership master's degree programs include having earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Applicants typically must have maintained at least a 3.0 GPA while earning their previous degree. Specific requirements may vary depending on particular universities, but students often have to submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, a resume, and an application fee. For this particular degree program, some universities may require applicants to have a professional educator license, teaching experience, teaching evaluation, and a background check.

What Can I Do with an Educational Leadership Master's Degree?

An online master's in educational leadership allows professionals to further their careers and impact within the field of education. There are many jobs in K-12 and higher education for those with a master's in educational leadership. These include working as a principal, school administrator or department chair. Students can also work in schools or colleges as administrators, managers or directors. These are roles that deal with the management of the educational institution they are teaching at.

There are many online education leadership resources dedicated to providing educators with information about leadership in the field of education. Through these resources educators are able to learn from professionals working in educational leadership roles who can share strategies and tips based on their experience holding those positions.

Job Outlook for a Master's in Educational Leadership

Since a master's degree provides advancement opportunities, professionals can work in leadership roles within their school or college/university. One popular career for professionals pursuing a degree in educational leadership is a principal. This can be at an elementary, middle or high school level managing operations within a school for K-12 students. Alternatively many professionals choose to work in higher education as a postsecondary education administrator. Just like with principals, any growth in this occupation is a result from increasing student enrollment in those educational institutions.

How to Become a Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal

Elementary, middle, and high school principals work to maintain operations and activities within a school. In order to become a principal, you typically need a master's degree in education administration or leadership. To hold this position you need to be a teacher or have prior teaching experience. Master's degree programs help aspiring principals understand the responsibilities and day-to-day work that must be completed. This includes creating budgets, setting goals for the school and working with students, parents and their community. In most states it is a requirement for public school principals to be licensed as school administrators. An exam as well as background check could also be necessary.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of elementary, middle, and high school principals is projected to increase 4 percent from 2019 to 2029. As of May 2019, the median annual wage for elementary, middle, and high school principals was $96,400.

How to Become a Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators work at colleges/universities in areas such as student services, academics, and faculty research. In order to work as a postsecondary education administrator, you usually need to have earned a master's degree. However, there may be some entry-level positions for those who have a bachelor's degree. Some postsecondary education administrators have experience working in the registrar's office or as a resident assistant while they were in college. Employers are looking for those who have experience working in a postsecondary education administrative office such as deans or registrars. Experience is necessary to hold these advanced positions, but this is not the case for those who want to work in admissions or student affairs.

The employment of postsecondary education administrators is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029 as per the BLS. As of May 2019, The median annual wage for postsecondary education administrators was $95,410.

Financial Aid, Scholarships & Grants for Online Master's in Educational Leadership Programs

Just as you do when applying to undergraduate programs, those interested in earning a graduate degree should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to see if they qualify for any federal aid.

Depending on the career and type of role an individual is looking to hold, there are many scholarships available.

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) offers a wide range of awards and scholarships to educators working in the field of education and school administration. This includes the Educational Administration Scholarship which is awarded to graduate students who plan on working in the role of a school superintendent.

Those who plan on earning their degree in educational leadership may be able to qualify for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education. This is a federal student grant for those who meet the requirements and are working in a high-need field of education. According to the U.S. Department of Education, a TEACH-Grant-eligible program is a degree of study that prepares students to teach as a highly qualified teacher in a high-need field and that leads to a bachelor's or master's degree.

Educational Leadership Professional Organizations

There are many professional organizations within the world of educational leadership. One of these being the American Association of School Administrators, which is known today as the School Superintendents Association. Its mission is to provide resources and high quality public school education to students. This starts from the leadership in schools and the school system. The AASA is made up of more than 13,000 educational leaders in the U.S. and across the world.

Another organization is the National Association of Elementary School Principals. The NAESP represents elementary and middle school principals as well as other educational leaders. The organization works in support of principals throughout their careers so that they can be successful school leaders. The services and activities they provide are not only designed to help principals, but the children, families and communities impacted by their leadership.

These organizations provide a community for professionals to come together, share ideas, and figure out ways to change and improve education for the better.

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