Best Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Degree Programs

To obtain a position in educational leadership, candidates should have several years of teaching experience and a graduate degree in educational leadership. Unfortunately for many prospective administrators, teaching is a demanding profession, and those who want to move into administrative roles usually don’t have time to take traditional campus-based courses. For this reason, many teachers find that earning their master’s in educational leadership online is a more convenient way to advance their career.

Currently, the market for educational administrators is strong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in postsecondary administration will grow 15% by 2020, with principal positions in elementary, middle and high schools growing as well during that time. As the country’s population rises, skilled leaders and administrators will be needed to accommodate an increasing number of students.

Below, we’ve ranked the best online master’s in educational leadership (M.Ed.) programs in the country. These schools thoroughly prepare graduates for careers in school administration and provide distance learners with a premier education. To take the next step in your career without disrupting your professional and personal life, consider pursuing an online master’s in educational leadership from one of these top schools.

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1George Washington UniversityWashington$$$$$2121 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052
(202) 994-1000

GWU offers an online master's degree in educational leadership and in educational technology leadership. The educational leadership program has been preparing graduates for positions as principals or school administrators for over 30 years, with a curriculum that fosters practical leadership skills.

The educational technology leadership degree introduces prospective administrators to recent technological advancements that enhance learning opportunities for students of all ages. The program includes courses on hardware and software systems, computer interface design and implementing new technology in educational settings.

  • Educational leadership students must complete 30 credits, including six internship credits.
  • The program meets administration certification requirements in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and states that honor interstate compact agreements. It can be completed in just two years.
  • The educational technology program is comprised of 36 credits, 27 of which are part of the core curriculum. Most students complete the degree within two years.

GWU's online courses are archived and implemented through the Blackboard course management system.

2University of DaytonDayton$$$$$300 College Park
Dayton, OH 45469
(937) 229-1000

Dayton's master's in educational leadership online program suits prospective scholastic administrators in Catholic and non-public Pre-K-12 schools. The program touches on pressing issues impacting educators today, from school law to finance and leadership in diverse learning environments. Tuition scholarships are available to applicants already employed in Catholic schools or diocesan offices.

  • Applicants with a GPA below 2.75 must submit GRE or MAT test scores. All applicants should submit a professional resume and three letters of recommendation from professors or employers.
  • Admissions are based on a rolling deadline.
  • Students must complete 30 credits to graduate.

Dayton's online programs are offered through Isidore, an in-house branch of the Sakai learning platform. The program is aptly named after St. Isidore, the patron saint of students and schoolchildren.

3University of FloridaGainesville$$$$$
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 392-3261

Distance learners at Florida can pursue a certification track to principal licensure, based on requirements from the Florida Principal Leadership Standards. Students take 36 credit hours over a two-year period, including an on-site principalship covering 150 hours of field experience that is a requirement in Florida. Out-of-state students are permitted to enroll in the program but are expected to complete the field experience in Florida.

  • This program uses a cohort model, where students complete classes linearly with the same set of classmates.
  • Applicants must submit GRE scores, official transcripts and two letters of recommendation.
  • A 3.0 GPA is required for admission.

Online courses at UF are facilitated by the Canvas learning management system.

4University of South CarolinaColumbia$$$$$Columbia-Campus
Columbia, SC 29208
(803) 777-7000

South Carolina's master's in educational leadership online program is designed for in-state educators looking to move into school administration. The school structures its curriculum around the theoretical and practical facets of principalship and administration, and is taught by former superintendents, principals and administrators. Students may pursue a concentration in either high school or elementary school administration.

  • To graduate, students must complete 36 credit hours.
  • Distance learners take courses in three credit, eight-week sessions.
  • The curriculum includes seven core courses, two elementary or high school concentration courses and three electives.
  • Applicants are admitted on a rolling deadline.

South Carolina's online courses are offered in a blended format that can be supplemented with face-to-face sessions. Courses are delivered either asynchronously or synchronously, depending on the class. Archived materials are available through Blackboard, while live lectures are presented through various formats including Prezi and Canvas.

5North Carolina State University at RaleighRaleigh$$$$$2101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27695-7001
(919) 515-2011

NCSU's master of school administration program is restricted to applicants working in select North Carolina counties and requires a year-long full-time internship. Students in the program acquire certification and licensure to operate as a North Carolina scholastic administrator. They'll also develop leadership strategies focusing on promoting interactive, dynamic and diverse educational landscapes.

  • Students must complete 42 credits including eight three-credit courses and an 18 credit internship.
  • Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA, three years of teaching experience, three letters of recommendation and an official score from the GRE or Miller Analogies Test taken within the last five years.
  • The program can typically be completed in two years.
  • Students are admitted on a rolling deadline.

NCSU uses Moodle to deliver classes and host course materials.

6The University of Texas in ArlingtonArlington$$$$$701 S. Nedderman Dr.
Arlington, TX 76013
(817) 272-2011

At UTA, distance learners can obtain a degree in educational leadership & policy studies, a certification program propelling K-12 educators in Texas into administrative positions. The program aligns with the Educational Leadership Constituent Council's standards and is approved and accredited by the University of Texas System.

  • Students must finish 36 credit hours to graduate; the program can be completed in 18 months.
  • Courses are five weeks long. The curriculum includes an administrative internship at an educational facility and a capstone final research project.
  • Unconditional admission is generally offered to applicants with a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and appropriate GRE scores.
  • Applications are reviewed on a rolling deadline.

UTA's distance education programs are hosted on Blackboard. Students can use the platform to access course materials, discussion forums and their grades.Tech support is available 24/7.

7University of Nebraska - LincolnLincoln$$$$$14th and R St
Lincoln, NE 68588
(402) 472-7211

Nebraska offers an online master's degree in educational leadership through their Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication. The program provides students with a detailed understanding of theoretical and practical educational leadership goals for a variety of disciplines in postsecondary, business, government and private education. With help from academic advisors, students can tailor the curriculum to focus on their professional interests.

  • The program includes a leadership development emphasis and a teaching education specialization.
  • The application deadline is March 3rd.
  • Students must complete a thesis or minor in a second discipline to graduate.

Nebraska's online courses are archived and delivered through the Blackboard course management system. Instructors emphasize a collaborative approach to learning with group projects, discussions and interactive assignments.

8Ball State UniversityMuncie$$$$$2000 University Ave
Muncie, IN 47306
(765) 289-1241

Ball State's M.Ed. offers students a quick but comprehensive certification route to a K-12 administration and supervision license. Nearly 25% of principals and school administrators currently employed in Indiana graduated from Ball State University.

  • Applicants are admitted on a rolling deadline; enrollment is limited to ensure a low student-faculty ratio.
  • Students must complete 36 credit hours to graduate; most distance learners complete the program in 18 months.
  • Students earn six of their credits in a principal internship at a K-12 school.

BSU's online students use Blackboard to access course materials. Most classes are taught asynchronously, though lectures occasionally require real-time student participation. BSU students also have access to various online programs and courses from Microsoft, Apple and Adobe through Lynda.

9Texas A&M UniversityCollege Station$$$$$805 Rudder Tower
College Station, TX 77843-1244
(979) 845-3211

The master's in educational leadership online offered by Texas A&M provides students a two-year path to principal certification in Texas. Designed for professionals already working in teaching and education, the curriculum features eight online classes and four hybrid courses. Students develop a broad understanding of scholastic administration at all levels. They must also complete an internship and capstone course.

  • Applicants are accepted once per year, prior to the fall semester.
  • The application deadline is December 1st.
  • Applicants must submit three references, a professional resume and a career objective.

Texas A&M's online courses are offered through the eCampus learning portal, where students can conveniently access coursework and interact with classmates and instructors through email and on discussion forums.

10Concordia University - ChicagoRiver Forest$$$$$7400 Augusta
River Forest, IL 60305-1499
(708) 771-8300

Students at Concordia have two different options for pursuing postsecondary degrees in educational leadership. They can either earn an online master's in educational administration or pursue the master's in leadership program, with a higher education specialization. Concordia University's maximum class size is 18 students, ensuring plenty of interaction between distance learners and faculty.

  • The MA in Educational Administration program consists of 30 credits over a 24 month span. The MA in Leadership with a Higher Ed specialization requires students to complete 36 credits over 22 months.
  • Both degree programs culminate with a capstone course.
  • GRE scores are not required.
  • Students are admitted on a rolling deadline.

Concordia's online courses are available on Blackboard through Concordia Connect. Online courses at Concordia are supplemented with collaborative bulletin boards, video lectures and simulation labs.

11California State University - NorthridgeNorthridge$$$$$18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330
(818) 677-1200

The M.Ed. program at Cal-State Northridge is a two-year degree that prepares graduates for leadership roles in schools, colleges, universities and government agencies. Distance learners commence the program in a cohort with 20-35 other students. The program is deliberately kept small, ensuring that faculty members have time to devote individual attention to each student. Students are assigned to program managers, who offer personalized academic support and professional services help.

Students must complete 11 three-credit courses, including a fieldwork internship and a comprehensive final exam. Online courses are available through Moodle, which features collaboration software, course materials and exams.

12Brandman UniversityIrvine$$$$$16355 Laguna Canyon Road
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 341-9800

Brandman offers two online M.Ed. programs: one in educational leadership and another in educational leadership and administration with a preliminary administrative services credential. Both programs explore theoretical and practical leadership in educational settings. The educational leadership program provides a broader look at administrative responsibilities and allows students to tailor their courses to align with their professional interests. The administrative services offering provides students with practical field experience as part of the curriculum.

  • Courses are eight weeks in length and commence six times a year.
  • The MA in educational leadership requires 30 total credit hours, while the preliminary administrative services credential requires 34 credits.
  • Brandman uses a rolling admissions deadline.

Courses at Brandman are pre recorded and archived. Students can view lectures and other course materials on the Blackboard learning management system.

13DePaul UniversityChicago$$$$$1 E Jackson Blvd
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 362-8000

DePaul's M.Ed. program includes six concentrations for students to pursue. These include a general concentration as well as specializations in Catholic leadership, higher education, physical education, principal licensure and teacher leadership. The program can be completed in two years by full-time students or three years by students taking classes part-time.

  • A cumulative 3.0 GPA is required to complete the program; students must earn at least a 'C' to receive course credit.
  • Depending on their concentration, students must complete either a thesis or a capstone project.
  • Specific degree requirements depend on the selected concentration.
  • Applicants are admitted on a rolling deadline.

DePaul's online courses are facilitated through the D2L learning management system.

14Emporia State UniversityEmporia$$$$$1 Kellogg Circle
Emporia, KS 66801-5415
(620) 341-1200

Emporia State's online offerings include a M.Ed. degree designed for students seeking licensure as principals and athletic directors in Pre-K-12 schools. The curriculum can be adjusted to prepare for either building-level licensure or district-level licensure.

  • The program requires 35 credit hours consisting of 27 hours of required courses and eight hours of practicums.
  • Applicants are admitted on a rolling deadline.
  • Qualifications for acceptance into the program include one year of accredited teaching experience, completion of the MAT or GRE, a valid teaching certificate in public schools and two professional recommendations.

Online courses at Emporia State are archived and accessible through the Canvas learning management system. On Canvas, students are also expected to participate in class discussions and to complete assignments and exams.

15Texas A&M University - CommerceCommerce$$$$$2600 South Neal
Commerce, TX 75429-3011
(888) 868-2682

Texas A&M's Commerce branch offers a fully online master's in educational administration with a principal certification program. Courses educate students on a range of administrative topics and issues, from how to lead effective schools and design curriculum to using research and analytics to develop an optimal learning environment. Enrolled students are encouraged to select an approved elective aligning with departmental requirements for principal certification.

  • Students must complete 30 credits to graduate.
  • Twelve credits are obtained in core courses; the rest are electives.
  • Students are expected to complete an internship focusing on leadership in an academic environment.

Online courses at Texas A&M Commerce are available through eCollege, where students can access course materials and collaborate with faculty and classmates. Digital library materials, career services and financial aid are also available to distance learners.

16University of Central FloridaOrlando$$$$$4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816
(407) 823-2000

UCF's M.Ed. program consists of 30 semester hours divided across nine courses, which can be taken in any order. The program also requires students to complete a culminating research report. Course content covers a range of educational and leadership topics from data-based decision making to school organization and administration.

  • Twenty-one credits are composed of administration courses while the remaining nine credits focus on research and measurement.
  • Applicants are required to have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. The school does not require GRE submissions.
  • Applicants are admitted on a rolling deadline.
  • Courses are offered asynchronously.

Distance courses at UCF are provided through the Canvas learning management system.

17Nova Southeastern UniversityFort Lauderdale$$$$$3301 College Ave
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314-7796
(954) 262-7300

NSU's online M.Ed. program comes with an education track to help prospective school administrators develop practical management skills. Through a variety of coursework and research topics, NSU instills graduates with leadership techniques directly applicable to modern educational systems. The degree is also a viable program for professionals outside of the field of education, as NSU's leadership courses can be applied to a variety of industries.

  • The program requires students to complete 40 credit hours.
  • Students must earn a 3.0 cumulative GPA in the program to graduate.
  • Successful applicants have earned a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA in their bachelor's program and a either a GRE score of 300 or a raw MAT score of 50.

Nova Southeastern's online courses are archived and accessible through SharkLearn, NSU's iteration of Blackboard.

18The University of Tennessee - KnoxvilleKnoxville$$$$$527 Andy Holt Tower
Knoxville, TN 37996
(865) 974-1000

Tennessee's M.Ed. program comes with an optional K-12 licensure certificate track. Courses are offered entirely online, though internships and a final thesis paper will require students to leave home. The degree requires 36 credit hours, six of which are dedicated to an administration internship. The non-licensure track degree is designed for students interested in leadership positions at nonprofit organizations or non-traditional schools.

  • Applicants are required to have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 and an application portfolio containing a professional resume and cover letter, a teaching certificate and references.
  • Applications are due by March 15th.
  • As part of your application, you may be interviewed over Skype.

UT's online courses are organized and implemented through the Blackboard course management system.

19Columbia International UniversityColumbia$$$$$7435 Monticello Rd
Columbia, SC 29203-1513
(803) 754-4100

Columbia International's master's in educational administration program prepares young professionals for leadership positions at Christian schools by providing an overview of administrative responsibilities inherent in Christian education. Courses are taught from a biblical perspective and are proctored by six full time experienced faculty members. Class sizes are small and distance learners are encouraged to regularly connect with their professors.

  • The application deadline for domestic students is August 1st. The international student deadline is July 1st.
  • Courses are divided into foundation, core and concentration curriculums for a total of 36 credits.

  • The program may be completed in two to four years.

Online courses at Columbia International University are made available through the Moodle platform and are supplemented with 24/7 technical support.

20The University of Texas at TylerTyler$$$$$3900 University Blvd
Tyler, TX 75799-6699
(903) 566-7000

The online M.Ed. degree at UT-Tyler comes with a principal certification program. Intended for educators in Texas looking to become school administrators, the program helps students develop their leadership and communication skills. The degree is open to Texas residents with a teaching certificate only. Courses are divided into four blocks: special populations and special functions, best practices in curriculum and instruction, intro to the field of educational administration and the principalship.

  • Prerequisites for admission include a bachelor's degree, GRE scores, teaching experience in Texas, three letters of recommendation and an interview.
  • Students must complete an on-site internship at an educational institution.
  • Students must also complete a cumulative research project based on their teaching experience.

Students can access their online courses through the Blackboard course management system. Regular communication with faculty and classmates is required and conducted through IChat.

21University of CincinnatiCincinnati$$$$$2624 Clifton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0063
(513) 556-6000

Cincinnati offers an online M.Ed. program for teachers looking to advance in their careers. The program prepares graduates for leadership positions as principals, vice principals, union leaders, department heads and school board members. As part of the program, students complete two principal internships with supervision from certified instructors.

  • 30 credits are required for to complete the degree, which can take as little as 21 months.
  • The curriculum consists of ten 14-week courses. Students can enroll in two courses per semester.
  • The application deadline is July 1st. Applicants need a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. They must also submit three professional recommendations and their GRE scores.
  • Courses are offered year round and students can start during any semester.

Cincinnati's online courses are available through Blackboard's course management system.

22Concordia University - PortlandPortland$$$$$2811 NE Holman Street
Portland, OR 97211-6099
(503) 288-9371

Concordia's Portland campus offers an online M.Ed. program dedicated to preparing graduates for administrative positions in K-12 schools and higher education. The program provides a broad overview of theories and practical applications of leadership in education and is designed to give students the skills and knowledge to lead on diverse educational issues.

  • This program requires 30 total credit hours, 27 of which come from core curriculum courses. The final three credits are earned through a capstone project. An action research project, thesis or internship are all possible options for capstone projects.
  • Applicants are admitted on a rolling deadline.

Distance courses at Concordia are facilitated through Blackboard.

23Iowa State UniversityAmes$$$$$3410 Beardshear Hall
Ames, IA 50011-2030
(515) 294-5836

Iowa State's online M.Ed. program prepares graduates to obtain supervisory roles in schools, school districts and educational agencies. Courses are delivered in a hybrid cohort model, where some in-person attendance is required at one of ISU's campuses throughout Iowa. The curriculum features ten three-credit courses and a faculty-supervised field experience at an elementary or secondary school.

  • Students complete a comprehensive portfolio as a final project.
  • Applicants are not required to submit GRE scores.
  • Applicants must have three years of teaching experience. Exceptional circumstances are considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Courses are proctored by six accredited faculty members.

Courses at Iowa State are offered both synchronously and asynchronously. All course materials are accessible through Blackboard.

24Central Michigan UniversityMount Pleasant$$$$$106 Warriner Hall
Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
(989) 774-4000

Central Michigan's M.Ed. curriculum prepares students for administrative roles in public schools, charter schools, daycares, government programs and other educational facilities. Graduates from CMU will have learned to apply field-based research and data to practical settings. The program also qualifies students for initial administrative certification in Michigan. Students can pursue one of four concentrations as they study, including an emphasis in rural schools, charter schools, supervision or virtual education.

  • Applicants should have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0, three years teaching experience and two letters of reference.
  • Students must complete 30 credits to graduate, including 24 from the core curriculum.
  • Applicants are admitted on a rolling deadline.

Online courses at Central Michigan are accessible through Blackboard. Students use the Blackboard portal to complete exams and assignments, collaborate with classmates and interact with faculty.

25University of South DakotaVermillion$$$$$414 E Clark St
Vermillion, SD 57069-2390
(605) 677-5301

USD's master's in educational administration program prepares students for administrative and leadership positions throughout the school system. The school offers flexible schedules, small classes and dedicated faculty and advisors. Students can pursue either the school district superintendent specialization or the Pre-K-12 principal specialization.

Applicants are required to submit a statement of purpose, official transcripts and three letters of recommendation. The school provides distance learners with an online student handbook in preparation for work in the program. Like other public schools in the state, USD uses D2L to host online courses and class materials. On D2L, students can also access email and discussion forums to collaborate with instructors and classmates.

Graduates from M.Ed. programs are prepared for employment as principals, vice principals, deans, directors or supervisors in the diverse field of educational leadership. Secure job prospects, projected growth, high salaries and a chance to positively impact student lives are just some of the enticing reasons to consider an education in the field.

An online master’s in educational leadership also prepares professors and teachers to jump from the classroom into school administration. Administrative positions are highly desirable, and many teachers see them as a means to enact meaningful change on a wider scale than possible as a teacher. Additionally, administrators earn a higher salary: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary and secondary school administrators earn an average yearly salary exceeding $91,000.

A crucial element to finding success as an educational administrator lies in internships, field experience and networking. Many schools require an internship to complete their curriculum, and this is where students gain valuable experience and develop connections in the field. Internships are particularly critical for students interested in a school district where they haven’t worked before: it exposes them to new administrators, giving them an opportunity to make a powerful first impression and potentially earn a full time position after graduation.

Ultimately, an online M.Ed. program prepares students for a variety of careers in educational leadership. Regardless of the specific job you want in the field, you can prepare for a rewarding position as an administrator in the school system without disrupting your current professional responsibilities.