Education is a diverse field with many areas of expertise, including elementary and secondary education, curriculum design and educational leadership and administration. A growing set of online colleges and universities nationwide makes it easier than ever for busy educators to increase their knowledge and expertise by earning their master’s of education degrees online.
Earning an online master’s of education can offer the same degree of expertise as an on-campus education, with the added benefits of saved tuition and commuting costs. Enrolling in an online program allows professional students to structure their weekly schedule around priorities, such as family and full-time jobs.
According to a recent study, there is little significant difference between online and face-to-face learning. Seventy-six percent of online students found that instructors were quicker to respond with feedback on assignments, while 68% of on-campus students made the same claim. A master’s of education can also make educators more valuable to employers, resulting in higher salary rates over time.
The following list ranks the top 25 online master’s in education programs for 2016. Peruse the profiles to find the online school that’s right for you.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
Johns Hopkins University
|Baltimore||525 North Wolfe Street|
Baltimore, MD 21205
The Online Master of Science in Education is the product of a partnership between Johns Hopkins School of Education and Teach for America (TFA). The two-year program centers on the 'teaching as leadership' rubric and comprehensive real-world skills. Students participate in classroom observations and constructive feedback from educational coaches during the first year. Johns Hopkins is the official provider of TFA Corp members in the Baltimore area. The accredited online degree is open to TFA corp members and alumni in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Online classes are hosted on the Blackboard learning management system and accessed by logging into the myJHU portal, which is also accessible on mobile devices. Online students complete an online orientation, which provides tutorials on how to navigate Blackboard's interface, before beginning their classes. Most online courses are asynchronous, but the school offers some synchronous classes that must be logged into at set times. JHU offers 24/7 technical support for Blackboard through phone and email.
Ohio State University
|Columbus||190 N. Oval Mall|
Columbus, OH 43210
The MS in Agricultural and Extension Education is offered through Ohio state's Department of Agricultural Communication, Education and Leadership. The program provides the knowledge and skills necessary to plan, create and assess education and communication programs in the food, agriculture and environmental sciences. Admission is geared toward professionals who are employed full-time and are interested in earning a future doctorate in education.
With the exception of one annual in-person meeting, students are not required to visit campus to complete this degree. The program is generally completed over two years, with thesis and non-thesis options available. Ohio State uses the Carmen course management system to deliver online classes, which are held to the same standards as on-campus classes and often require weekly real time discussions and instructional webinars. Students have access to helpful tutorials through the Office of Distance Education and eLearning Resource Center.
University of Pittsburgh
|Pittsburgh||4200 Fifth Avenue|
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Prospective students of the University of Pittsburgh's online Master's in Education programs have four options to choose from: elementary, English and communications, mathematics or secondary social studies. Recorded and one-on-one virtual open houses are offered for students interested in learning more about the school's online programs. After admissions, online students participate in an orientation designed to familiarize them with the online classroom interface.
Online courses are delivered through CourseWeb, powered by the Blackboard learning management system. Classes are usually asynchronous and include active discussions via forums, email or chat rooms. Online students have the option of transferring to an on-campus program at anytime, if available. Students have access to online tutorials as well as 24/7 technical help through the Computing Services Help Desk.
Michigan State University
Michigan State's Master of Arts in Education is geared towards professional educators. Admission is offered in the U.S. and overseas, with access to courses year-round. Academic plans are customizable; Michigan State has a unique selection of courses, and students may choose to develop one or two concentrations in the areas of special education, technology, school leadership, math and science, literacy and sports leadership and coaching. The online degree is a non-thesis program and must be completed within five years.
Online courses, accessed through the web system Desire2Learn, are taught by MSU tenure-line faculty. Classes are generally asynchronous, though instructors may use features such as synchronous discussions through Google Hangouts and collaborate project editing through Etherpad. Students create and maintain an online portfolio throughout their graduate program that serves as a final capstone project.
|Saint Charles||209 S Kingshighway|
Saint Charles, MO 63301-1695
Lindenwood's MA in Education with an emphasis in Educational Technology prepares students for leadership roles in educational technology in the classroom, business and other industry environments. The 33-hour program is designed to be completed in two years or less.
Students can register for courses that fit their schedule and priorities. Online classes are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system, and students can access their course sites from their mobile devices. Lindenwood also offers students Turnitin, a cloud-based program for peer editing and plagiarism prevention for written assignments, and online learners are able to work in teams using Collaborate. Students have access to a 24/7 online support center through phone and live chat.
The University of Tennessee - Knoxville
|Knoxville||527 Andy Holt Tower|
Knoxville, TN 37996
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville offers a Master of Science in Special Education online. This degree prepares students for initial licensure while giving them the skills they need to recognize their teaching style and adjusting that to meet the needs of all students. Students may also pursue this degree on a non-licensure track.
All courses are delivered through the Blackboard Learn course management system, which is available through the Online@UT website. Students can also access Blackboard Collaborate for live class discussions. UTK provides students with tutorials to familiarize themselves with the platform, as well as access to an online learning readiness quiz.
|West Lafayette||Hovde Hall of Administration|
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2040
Prospective online students of Purdue University can choose from an MS in Education in Learning Design and Technology or an MS in Special Education with a focus on mild intervention. Students who choose the latter option can complete their degree with or without licensure, though the licensure track requires an in-school practicum.
Students access all courses and content through the Blackboard Learn platform. Most online courses are asynchronous, though students still participate in online discussion boards with peers and their instructors. While assignments may be adapted to an online format, the curriculum is held to the same standards and quality as on-campus programs. Purdue provides students with a comprehensive set of technical and academic support services, including Mixable, a social networking application that allows users to converse and share resources from anywhere.
California State University - Fullerton
|Fullerton||800 N State College Blvd|
Fullerton, CA 92831-3599
California State University-Fullerton (CSUF) offers a fully online master's in education in six concentrations: educational technology, elementary curriculum and instruction, reading, secondary education, instructional design & technology and special education. All programs are nationally accredited by NCATE. CSUF is recognized as #21 on U.S. News and World Report's Best Online Graduate Education Programs.
CSUF delivers most of its online courses through the Moodle learning management system, which, by popular vote, was renamed TITANium. Students are provided with semester-long syllabi for long-term planning and weekly to-do checklists for all coursework and assignments. Students can email instructors with any questions and expect a response within 24 hours. Most programs require an on-campus boot-up orientation, in which students are introduced and acquainted with program requirements, faculty, the course management system and other program details.
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208
The online Master of Education in Teaching program, which can be completed in two years, is structured to leverage and encourage application for National Board Certification. Online students work with an adviser to customize the second half of their programs; this allows them to select courses based on their professional interests. Online courses are taught by the on-campus faculty, and students must complete all graduation requirements within six years.
Online materials and class sessions for the master's in education online are hosted on the Blackboard learning platform; students and instructors login to the LMS through their My USC account. Course delivery format varies depending on the content and instructor, so students should be prepared to encounter Powerpoint presentations, recorded videos and forum discussions. Students are provided with a number of Blackboard guides and video tutorials through the Center for Teaching Excellence Teaching Resources.
University of Massachusetts - Amherst
|Amherst||374 Whitmore Building 181 Presidents Drive|
Amherst, MA 01003
The online M.Ed. in Science Education, offered by the College of Education and College of Natural Sciences, requires 33 credits and is designed for working elementary and middle school science teachers. The M.Ed. program qualifies Massachusetts educators for professional licensure.
Courses are delivered through the Blackboard Learn platform and accessed by logging into the UMassOnline portal. In addition to access to course material and assignments, students routinely engage with peers and their instructors on discussion boards. All faculty have a background in teacher education, and courses are designed to appeal to an adult audience. Students can access live support for any technical issues via the UMass Amherst Support Center.
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
|Winona||700 Terrace Heights|
Winona, MN 55987-1399
Prospective students at Saint Mary's University can pursue a M.Ed. in Learning Design & Technology or a Master of Arts in Special Education. Both programs, as long as students are not seeking licensure, are offered fully online. By taking two courses every eight weeks, he M.Ed. degree was designed to be completed in 20 months; non-licensure online students can earn the special education degree in two years.
Online learning includes collaborative discussion and interactive activities with peers. Students access materials and forums through the Blackboard Learn management system, which is also available via mobile devices. Live remote assistance is provided for help with any technical issues. Interested students can participate in a virtual open house where they can learn more about the master's in education online.
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602
Online students at the University of Georgia can choose to earn their Master of Education in a variety of fields, including: adult education, educational psychology, reading education and music education. While admission into one of the M.Ed. programs is offered to students in the U.S. and overseas, some programs are competitive, with a specific number of students admitted to a cohort per semester.
The online class format is geared toward busy professional teachers. All courses are accessed through UGA's eLearning Commons, which is powered by the Desire2Learn Brightspace content management system and supported by the Center for Teaching and Learning and Enterprise IT Services. Both synchronous and asynchronous courses are offered, depending on the program. Students may participate in discussion forums and seminars to create and share teaching knowledge and strategies. Online proctoring may be used for some online course exams.
Louisiana State University
|Baton Rouge||156 Thomas Boyd Hall|
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-2750
Students at Louisiana State University choose from an MA in Education with a Specialization in Higher Education Administration or an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership. Both degrees are designed for working professionals and can be completed in as few as 15 months. Students who enter the MA in Education generally work at a college or university. The accredited M.Ed. is geared toward teachers and includes some hands-on experience through part-time internships and other real-world administrative applications.
Online courses for the master's in education online are delivered through the Moodle learning platform and accessed through the MyLSU portal. Students have access to all course material and assignments, as well as a variety of interactive features such as discussion forums and wikis. Additional tools that may be made available to students include Kaltura open source video, which allows students to create a video assignment, and Turnitin, an anti-plagiarism tool. LSU offers students a comprehensive set of technical tutorials and live chat via GROK, an online knowledge base.
Virginia Commonwealth University
|Richmond||910 W Franklin St|
Richmond, VA 23284-2512
Virginia Commonwealth University offers an M.Ed. in Reading, with a concentration in K-12 education. The 30-credit program is designed for experienced teachers who are considering becoming experts in reading from preschool to adult levels. The online program, which is nationally-accredited and state-approved, results in the Virginia endorsement for K-12 reading specialist.
Online courses for the master's of education online are delivered via the Blackboard learning platform. Courses are flexible, and students can complete much of the coursework at their own pace. Students interact with peers and instructors through discussion forums, Skype conversations and face-to-face coaching. In addition to a resident summer internship, students complete an online externship course in which they work in groups to create and implement an action research project, then present results virtually.
James Madison University
|Harrisonburg||800 South Main Street|
Harrisonburg, VA 22807
James Madison University's M.Ed. degree in Educational Technology is designed for students who want to pursue related careers in education, business and industry or consulting. The 36-credit degree program may be completed in two years when students are enrolled full-time; part-time students have up to six years to complete the program.
JMU uses the Canvas learning management system to deliver its online learning experience. A number of support tutorials, along with dedicated phone and email, are available to students through JMU's CIT Support. Microsoft Lync may also be used for instant messaging, audio and video conversations and virtual meetings. Online courses may be synchronous or asynchronous, depending on the instructor's preference. Students complete an electronic portfolio over the course of their program that serves as a final exit exam.
California State University - Fresno
|Fresno||5241 N Maple Ave|
Fresno, CA 93740
The online MA in Teaching degree prepares educators for careers in the classroom as a teacher leader, curriculum consultant, action research consultant, a multicultural social justice consultant or a community college instructor. The program, which is geared toward certified teachers, is completed in three semesters. A two-day, on-campus orientation is required for all students.
Online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning platform, and students have access to Blackboard mobile learn. Cal State offers tutorials and tech support by phone and email through the Blackboard Resource Center. Students develop an action research project throughout their course of study, which is implemented and presented virtually in a multimedia presentation. Students also complete a capstone project, thesis or comprehensive exam to complete their degree requirements.
University of Wyoming
|Laramie||Corner of Ninth and Ivinson|
Laramie, WY 82071
University of Wyoming's Outreach School offers a hybrid master's of education online with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction, a fully online M.Ed. in Instructional Technology or a hybrid online M.Ed. in Special Education. White the Instructional Tech program is available to many online students in the U.S., he MA in Education and M.Ed. in Special Education programs are not available fully online to students outside Wyoming.
Hybrid courses are delivered in a variety of formats, including video or audio conference; intensive weekends, held in central location determined by instructor; web-based construction; or a combination of these models. Students access online courses through WyoCourses, powered by the Canvas learning platform. Courses are accessible 24/7, but sessions are often synchronous and require students to be online at certain times. Online classes have a small student-to-faculty ratio and are structured to be interactive via discussion threads, document sharing and live chat sessions. A dedicated UW IT Help Desk offers helpful videos and live chat support.
Central Michigan University
|Mount Pleasant||106 Warriner Hall|
Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
Central Michigan University's MA in Education, offered through their Global Campus, is designed for both new and experienced teachers in the field of adult education. Students choose from three concentrations: Community College, available only in Canada; Curriculum and Instruction; and Training and Development. CMU will also be offering an online MA in Educational Technology and an MA in Reading and Literacy K-12 beginning January 2016.
Online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. CMU offers a comprehensive set of student tutorials through its Online Learning Resource Center. Most classes are asynchronous, though some may require scheduled chat sessions. Students submit assignments, access lectures and communicate with peers and instructors online. Most courses require students to schedule proctored exams. All education programs require an action research experience as a capstone project for degree completion.
University of Arizona
|Tucson||1401 E University|
Tucson, AZ 85721-0066
University of Arizona offers an online MA in Special Education and Behavioral Support, available to students nationwide excepting Alabama and Maryland residents. The 36-credit program does not lead to teacher certification, but it prepares students to take the exam offered through the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB). Program curriculum is the same as that offered to on-campus students.
Students generally take 3-5 online courses per week and often interact with peers to participate on discussion boards or complete group projects. Courses are usually asynchronous, but some some professors may require students to login to their classes at set times. All lectures, assignments and quizzes are accessed through the Desire2Learn Brightspace content management system. A 24/7 IT support center is available to students online. New students are also offered an online student orientation to review program requirements and expectations.
Grand Valley State University
|Allendale||1 Campus Dr|
Allendale, MI 49401-9403
Grand Valley State offers two online education degrees: a M.Ed. in Educational Technology and a M.Ed. in Literacy Studies at the K-12 level. The M.Ed. in Educational Technology program prepares educators in K-12 and adult education to integrate the latest technology into curriculum and classroom activities. All students are required to complete an online self-assessment to ensure they have the background knowledge to be successful in the Educational Technology program.
The M.Ed. in Literacy Studies program requires students to participate in synchronous class sessions during the week, which are held via Blackboard Collaborate in a virtual classroom. Students in all education programs complete a development project or a research thesis as their final capstone experience. Most online courses for the master's of education online are offered through the Blackboard learning platform, though some courses may be delivered through the Moodle content management system.
|Saint Louis||470 E Lockwood Ave.|
Saint Louis, MO 63119-3194
Webster University offers three MA in Education programs and a M.Ed. in Educational Technology online. Students in the MA in Education and Innovation program have the option of taking a thesis or non-thesis track, while those pursuing the Communication Arts degree have a choice of 11 emphasis areas. All programs are nationally accredited.
Students and instructors access their online courses, hosted by Canvas, by logging into their WorldClassRoom portal. Online class size is limited to 24 students to encourage peer interaction, and the online faculty also teaches on campus. All online courses are offered asynchronously format, but students are required to follow scheduled structure with weekly due dates for assignments and tasks. All assessments are completed online. Webster provides a dedicated IT service desk for technical problems.
California State University - Northridge
|Northridge||18111 Nordhoff St|
Northridge, CA 91330
The Online MA in Educational Administration at California State University-Northridge is a two-year program for students who aspire to serve in leadership positions in schools or even in government setting with an education focus. The program, designed for K-12 educators, is offered jointly with CSUN's Michael D. Eisner College of Education, the largest school of its kind in the nation.
Upon admission, students are assigned a dedicated program manager who provides one-on-one support services for busy professionals. CSUN uses the Moodle learning management platform to deliver the online learning experience. Though not self-paced, courses are asynchronous, and students can complete assignments during the week around other priorities. Online learners progress through the program in a cohort of 25 to 30 students to promote a more intimate learning community, and online faculty are the same as those who teach on campus.
Cardinal Stritch University
|Milwaukee||6801 N Yates Rd|
Milwaukee, WI 53217-3985
The online MS in Educational Leadership program is designed for educators who want to grow their leadership skills. It is ideal for those seeking a career as a "site council member, grade level coordinator or department chair," according to the program itself. The 31-credit program can be completed in 18 to 20 months, and students have seven years to earn their degrees.
Courses range from six to eight weeks in length. Cardinal Stritch uses the Canvas learning management system to deliver its online courses via computer and mobile devices. A help desk is available through Student Support Services for technical issues. Students may submit coursework, quizzes and participate in graded discussions through Canvas. Students also complete a leadership portfolio throughout their program as part of their administrator licensure requirements.
University of Northern Colorado
|Greeley||Carter Hall - Rm 4000|
Greeley, CO 80639
University of Northern Colorado offers multiple online MA Education degrees through its Extended Campus. MA degrees are offered in four main areas : Teaching; Special Education; Theater, Art & Dance; and Educational Leadership. Each area offers a variety of concentrations. Most degree programs are geared toward certified teachers or educators, and they are designed to be completed in two years or less.
Online programs can be started during any term throughout the year. Some programs may require one or more in-person practicums or workshop experiences. Online courses are accessed via the Blackboard course management system. Courses are asynchronous, and students complete assignments and coursework according to their schedules. Students and instructors may set up voluntary meetings through Blackboard Collaborate. Most courses are taught by on-campus faculty. Students have access to technical support via email, the web and Facebook.
University College - Azusa Pacific University
|San Dimas||300 North Lone Hill Avenue, #200|
San Dimas, CA 91773
The online Master of Arts in Education: Special Education program at Azusa Pacific prepares graduates to work with students on the Autism spectrum. Though it does not lead to credentialing, the 45-credit, online program immerses students in topics that include: Autism Spectrum Disorders: From Theory to Practice; Historical and Philosophical Perspectives of Disability Studies; Technology in Special Education; and Implementation of Special Education Legislation.
Online courses are nine weeks long, and students complete them in sequential order. There are no set times when online learners should login to their classes to participate in discussions or view lectures, but they must meet all deadlines and due dates. Azusa's online classes are hosted on and accessed through the Sakai learning management system. Students participate in an online orientation that lasts two weeks; this prepares them for online learning by familiarizing them with the LMS. They have access to a number of resources and tools to help them through their online degrees.
New and veteran educators have a wider field of career options with a master’s in education. Many leadership positions, including school administrators, content or subject specialists, curriculum directors and school principals require a master’s-level education. Educators who remain in the classroom are better equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to assume teacher leadership roles for their grade level or school-wide.
A master’s in education correlates with greater chance of employment and higher salary earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for professionals with a master’s degree decreases by over 1% with each level of degree earned. Additionally, average weekly salary with a master’s degree increases by about 20% compared to a bachelor’s degree, and by about 50% in contrast to an associate degree. Though salary varies widely based on position and location, the average annual salary for a classroom educator with a master’s degree is about $9,000 more than those who hold only a bachelor’s degree.
Keys to Success in an Online Master’s Program
Online learning is a more convenient option for many professionals, but it also requires added self-discipline and motivation on the part of the learner. Education students can increase their chances for success in an online master’s program by following a set of basic guidelines.
All students should immediately become familiar with their program requirements and host institution. Many colleges and universities offer or require an initial online or in-person orientation before students begin online classes. A number of institutions also offer students self-assessments or surveys to determine their readiness for online learning based on personality and skill sets.
The following keys to success in an online master’s program were adapted from University of Massachusetts’ online education guide:
- Manage your time effectively. Be aware of deadlines and timelines, and plan a schedule that works with other priorities to allow you to meet these goals.
- Become comfortable with writing your ideas. Although many online programs offer virtual learning learning classrooms, and audio and video discussion options, much of the interaction between peers and instructors is in written form in discussion threads and chat rooms.
- Equip yourself and become familiar with the technology. Determine the technical requirements for your master’s program. Many institutions list technical requirements on the program or learning management system page. Make sure to set up and test all technology before starting your first class.
- Ask for help. Online instructors often post virtual office hours when students can reach out in real-time via chat or phone, and most will respond quickly to email inquiries. Most institutions also dedicate a 24/7 help desk to resolve any technical issues for distance and online learners.
- Network. Networking with peers, faculty and outside organizations and professionals during your program of study can help open up career opportunities once you’ve earned your degree. Many institutions also offer online students access to career services, which students can utilize to help prepare a formal resume and cover letter, as well as seek out possible job openings.
While these pointers could be considered more general advice, these strategies are, nonetheless, invaluable to students whose first degree online will be a master’s in education.