Best Online Master's in Elementary Education Degrees

Oct 19, 2021

What Is an Online Master's in Elementary Education Degree?

Online master's degrees in elementary education are designed to prepare students to enter the teaching field in the public or private elementary school setting. The grade levels that encompass elementary school vary by state, but can include pre-K up to 6th grade. Elementary teachers generally teach all subjects rather than secondary school teachers, who specialize in one area. Because of this, those pursuing a master's in elementary education will learn how to teach math, English language arts, and science as well as any other mandatory subjects within the curriculum.

Master's in elementary education can be awarded as a Master of Science (MS), Master of Science in Education (MSEd or MSE), Master of Arts (MA), Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), or Master of Arts in Education (MAE). Generally, those seeking initial licensure must pursue a MAT degree while MS, MA, MSE, and MSEd programs are open to those with an existing teaching license.

Why Should I Get an Online Elementary Education Master's Degree?

Individuals interested in pursuing a master's in elementary education are generally enthusiastic about teaching and spending time with young children. To work in this field, it is important to possess patience, a sense of humor, and a sincere interest in the success and wellbeing of students. Aspiring elementary teachers must have a solid grasp of numeracy skills, mechanics of the English language, and concepts in science and social studies because they will be required to teach these core subjects to their assigned grade level.

Online master's degrees are convenient for a wide range of students, including those who are caring for children or family members, working full or part time, active in the military, or anyone wishing to attend an out-of-state university without relocating. Online degrees in this field typically conduct classes 100% online with required in-person teaching components. Students should have access to a computer or laptop and understand how to use basic word processing and online educational applications. A steady internet connection is also a must to login to participate in forums, chats, live classes, and download materials.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Master's in Elementary Education?

The coursework for Elementary education master's degrees can, on average, be completed online in 1 to 2 years. Some online accelerated programs can be completed in as few as 10 months, or may take more than 2 years. Attending part-time rather than full-time can also add time to degree completion. Online master's in elementary education typically do not require prerequisite courses. Degrees completed in 1 to 2 years include coursework as well as the hours needed for the in-person practicum. These hours vary by program and state, so make sure to research your anticipated state of employment.

Curriculum for Online Master's Degree Programs in Elementary Education

Coursework for online master's degrees in elementary education focuses on educational research, innovation, and advanced teaching practice. Depending on whether a student is undertaking an initial licensing program or looking to earn an endorsement, the classes may be slightly different. Those with an undergraduate degree in a field other than education and who are pursuing state teacher certification may have to take additional classes to meet state requirements. Although, these requirements vary by state. Most online master's programs in elementary education incorporate classroom practice, which may include observation and/or supervised practice.

Elementary Education Foundational Courses

Foundational courses for master's programs in elementary education cover the basic pillars of teaching which includes the use of technology in the classroom to aid learning, an overview of human growth and development, effective disciplinary methods, and research methodology as it relates to education. Practicum and internship hours are generally uniform across all programs and give the student the chance to apply their online learning to a real classroom setting. These hours are supervised and count toward degree completion as well fulfil requirements for state licensure. Some typical core course offerings include:

  • Instructional strategies for diverse learners
  • Educational research
  • Technology in the classroom
  • Psychology of development
  • Classroom management
  • Practicum/internship

Elementary Education Specialist and Elective Courses

Within online master's in education programs, the elementary education focus itself is often considered the specialization. Following completion of core courses, future teachers will study the meat of the curriculum, which are the main content areas. As elementary education teachers are expected to teach all core subjects, classes will emphasize mastery of teaching elementary-level science, English language arts, social studies, and mathematics. Some degree programs could also include art and physical education, as schools in some states may not have dedicated teachers for what are thought of as elective classes.

Licensure and Certification in Elementary Education

Those seeking employment in a public school setting must be state certified. Although it is possible to work in a private school without a teaching license, some private schools may ask for a valid license or prefer candidates who are state certified. Every state sets its own requirements for state certification, so it is important to research the steps necessary to become licensed in your state of residence or the one in which you wish to work.

In order to be eligible for licensing, applicants need at least a bachelor's degree in education or a master's degree in education if it is an initial licensure program. Over 40 states currently require a passing score on the Praxis exam. Additionally, many states have their own licensing exam that must be passed prior to issuing a license. Finally, all states mandate that teaching candidates undergo a background check prior to working with children. To maintain their teaching licenses, elementary school teachers may also have to complete continuing education or yearly professional development classes.

The Best Online Masters Degree Programs in Elementary Education

School Tuition* Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
1 Northwestern State University of Louisiana $9686 82% 44% 97% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
2 Pittsburg State University $8322 96% 52% 94% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
3 Old Dominion University $13128 89% 53% 94% Yes Yes AP Credits
4 Delta State University $7671 94% 39% 94% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
5 Concordia University-Saint Paul $8550 98% 51% 98% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
6 University of North Dakota $12058 81% 61% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits
7 Chaminade University of Honolulu $24000 95% 59% 99% Yes Yes AP Credits
8 University of North Alabama $7200 89% 49% 96% Yes Yes AP Credits
9 University of West Georgia $6362 59% 45% 94% Yes Yes AP Credits
10 The University of Alabama $10780 83% 71% 79% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
11 Kansas State University $11277 95% 65% 88% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
12 Ball State University $9512 77% 67% 91% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
13 Kennesaw State University $7334 75% 46% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits
14 East Carolina University $7535 79% 66% 79% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
15 Liberty University $8400 51% 47% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
16 University of West Alabama $6868 35% 35% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits
17 University of South Alabama $8156 79% 46% 95% Yes Yes AP Credits
18 Southeast Missouri State University $5959 86% 50% 96% Yes Yes AP Credits
19 University of North Carolina at Pembroke $6770 85% 41% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits
20 Missouri State University-Springfield $6250 88% 56% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits
21 Auburn University at Montgomery $8128 90% 34% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits
22 Northern Arizona University $11121 85% 57% 95% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
23 Western Kentucky University $12140 97% 48% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits
24 Eastern Kentucky University $10450 94% 45% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits
25 Elizabeth City State University $5635 66% 39% 97% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
26 Appalachian State University $7976 77% 73% 70% Yes Yes AP Credits
27 University of Missouri-St Louis $12007 73% 52% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits
28 University of Northern Iowa $10432 79% 67% 83% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
29 Mercy College $16806 82% 44% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
30 Faulkner University $11530 78% 33% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
31 University of Louisiana at Monroe $9239 80% 47% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits
32 Minnesota State University-Mankato $8474 63% 50% 88% Yes Yes AP Credits
33 Georgia Southern University $7069 54% 50% 91% Yes Yes AP Credits
34 Brenau University $13254 58% 46% 97% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
35 University of North Carolina at Charlotte $7430 65% 64% 74% Yes Yes AP Credits
36 Lesley University $18690 75% 60% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
37 SUNY at Albany $13403 54% 63% 85% No Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

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

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

Admissions Requirements for Online Elementary Education Master's Programs

To qualify for admission to an online master's program in elementary education, interested applicants typically need at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Some universities may accept lower GPAs from those with relevant work experience, but this depends on the institution. For initial licensing programs, students may have a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field. However, for practicing teachers seeking an additional endorsement or to further their career prospects with a postgraduate degree, a bachelor's degree in education and valid teaching license are required. Generally, students must submit official copies of transcripts from all undergraduate universities attended. Other typical application materials include:

  • Application fee
  • Up to 3 references from professors or work supervisors
  • GRE scores
  • Personal statement
  • Recent CV/resume
  • Copy of teaching license (for qualified teachers)

What Can I Do with an Elementary Education Master's Degree?

Elementary education graduates without an education background generally go on to teach following completion of the master's. Individuals who complete these programs are usually career changers who wish to enter the field and pursue careers in elementary education. Existing teachers who earn a master's may continue teaching in their current role or progress to higher level positions. With experience, elementary education master's degree holders may go on to work as assistant principals or principals, resource teachers, or head teachers. Outside of the classroom, graduates may take positions in the fields of editing, curriculum design, or in creation of educational materials.

Job Outlook for a Master's in Elementary Education

Per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the job outlook for those holding a master's in elementary education is positive across several major career paths. The following job growth is predicted between 2019-2029:

Unfortunately, despite rising elementary school enrollment, funding for teaching, administrative, and other positions in the public school system depend on projected budgets laid out by the state and local authorities. This means that jobs may be lost or simply not added due to budget cuts. Educational funding continues to be a topic of interest and debate in the US.

How to Become an Elementary Education Teacher

Elementary education teachers are responsible for educating young children in the school setting. This includes teaching core educational concepts such as reading, writing, and basic math and science, as well as social skills and emotional regulation. Teachers are responsible for planning and delivering lessons, grading work and providing feedback, and interacting with parents to report on student progress.

To become an elementary education teacher, there are minimum educational requirements that must be met before qualifying for licensure. Individuals hoping to enter the teaching field at the elementary level need at least a bachelor's in education, or for those with a non-education background, a master's in elementary education that meets initial licensure requirements. Teachers must also be licensed in the state in which they wish to teach. Requirements for state certification varies by state, but may include the Praxis test and/or state-specific exams. All candidates must undergo a background check prior to working with children.

Between 2019-2029, the BLS estimates a job growth of 4%, which is about as fast as average when compared with all other fields. As of May 2019, elementary school teachers earned a median yearly wage totalling $59,670. When comparing public vs. private education salaries, public school teachers earned $60,870 compared to $48,100 earned by those teaching in private schools.

How to Become a Elementary School Paraprofessional

Elementary school paraprofessionals, also known as teacher/teaching assistants, work with classroom teachers to provide individual attention and support to students. Paraprofessionals may assist teachers by leading small groups or by working one-on-one with students who need additional attention. They may also help with grading, assessment of students, monitoring children during lunch and/or recess, and decorating the classroom to create a warm learning environment.

Paraprofessionals in elementary schools generally have at least an associate's degree or two years of college, although some states will accept those with a high school diploma. They tend to be individuals who have studied elementary education or child development and have an interest in and experience with working with children. Some states require candidates to take a paraprofessional assessment called the ParaPro and/or other basic skills tests.

The job outlook for paraprofessionals is positive with 50,500 jobs estimated to be added by 2029. As of May 2019, paraprofessionals can expect to earn a median yearly salary of $27,920. Between 2019-2029, the BLS estimates that employment in the field will grow by 4%.

Elementary Education Professional Organizations

  • Childhood Education International (CEI): founded in 1892, this international association works to promote equal opportunities in education for all children. Membership in their Global Friend program includes access to educational courses and resources, a copy of the Journal of Research in Childhood Education distributed four times a year, and a monthly e-newsletter detailing advances in elementary education around the world.
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP): originally established in 1921, NAESP serves elementary school principals by providing a host of benefits to support their success in leadership. Members enjoy free liability insurance and various discounts on office supplies, computers, travel, and mentor training registration. Their networking and online career center can also aid in professional development.
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC): NAEYC is a professional organization with over 60,000 members and focuses on educational practice, research, and policy for children age birth through 8. There are four membership levels which include entry-level, standard, premium, and family. Benefits include discounts on insurance, online networking, and access to digital articles on early elementary education.

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Elementary Education

There are two options for online elementary education master's degrees which have different requirements for undergraduate degrees. One type of program is for educators who have a current teaching license. These students are required to have an undergraduate degree in education. For the other option, students may have a bachelor's degree in any field. These individuals must apply for programs offering initial licensure should they wish to teach in public schools. These master's programs give students the training they need to apply for licensure.

Post-Graduate Options After Completing a Master's in Elementary Education

After completing a master's in elementary education, graduates may choose to pursue further study by enrolling in a doctoral program. Doctoral degrees in elementary education are awarded as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.). You may be wondering, however, 'what can I do with a Ph.D. in Education?' Doctoral degree classes cover research, policy, and advanced teaching theory. Some programs may offer online education administration courses as a part of their doctoral curriculum. These programs can help graduates secure employment in educational research, policy, administration, or curriculum design. A Ph.D. may also lead to better job prospects as well as salary increases. These programs are offered in online, on-campus, or hybrid formats.

Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants for Online Master's in Elementary Education Programs

Thinking about how to fund an online master's in elementary education can be stressful, but luckily there are options for prospective students. Aspiring educators can apply for federal student loans, scholarships from public or private sources, or need-based grants. The US government offers loans to both undergraduate and graduate students that must be repaid following graduation. To apply, interested applicants need to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online to determine their eligibility.

Students who borrow money in the form of federal financial aid may be eligible for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. Teachers who have at least a bachelor's degree, teach in a low-income school for five consecutive years, and meet the other remaining requirements may receive cancellation of up to $17,500 on their subsidized or unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans. Graduates may apply for the program after completing their five years of service.

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