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2023 Best Online Master's Degrees in Education

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 6/12/2023
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School systems and corporate organizational training and development departments rely on the advanced skills of educators to meet the diverse needs of the populations they instruct. An online master's degree in education can help prepare you for career specialization and job growth in academic and non-academic environments. These degrees allow you to develop the technical skills necessary to deliver curriculum while gaining a deeper awareness of individual student abilities and needs. 

We've ranked this list by our proprietary Salary Score, which ranks colleges by how much their alumni earn compared to graduates with the same degree nationwide. Additionally, our list of the most affordable online master's degrees in education offers more options.

View our methodology for more details about our list, or learn more about OnlineU.

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Online Education Master's Degrees You May Be Interested In

2023 Best Online Master's Degrees in Education

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 University of Massachusetts Global 97 97 $68,798
# 2 #2 Auburn University 96 $67,919
# 3 #3 University of San Diego 95 $67,248
# 4 #4 University of Washington - Seattle 89 $62,545
# 5 #5 California Baptist University 88 $61,957
# 6 #6 California State University - East Bay 84 $60,582
# 7 #7 Hamline University 83 $60,180
# 8 #8 Jacksonville State University 83 $59,854
# 9 #9 University of North Alabama 81 $59,201
# 10 #10 Northeastern University Global Network 80 $59,064

#1 University of Massachusetts Global

  • Salary Score: 97
  • Median Starting Salary: $68,798
  • Locations: Multiple Locations
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

University of Massachusetts Global (UMass Global) is a private, nonprofit institution offering an online Master of Arts in Education - Curriculum and Instruction. The degree is designed for application in various educational systems and environments. UMass Global uses a "scaffolded iterative approach" to instruction so students can gain refined problem-solving skills applicable to real-life teaching scenarios instructing learners of various backgrounds and learning levels. Graduating requires 30 credit hours, which generally takes full-time students at least two years.

UMass Global provides Blackboard to its online learners to access coursework and instruction. Those enrolled in the online master's degree with a concentration in curriculum and instruction may choose from courses like Collaboration for Inclusive Schooling, The Art and Craft of Teaching, Teaching Students with Moderate/Severe Disabilities, and Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders: Etiologies and Characteristics.

#2 Auburn University

  • Salary Score: 96
  • Median Starting Salary: $67,919
  • Locations: Auburn (AL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Auburn University (AU) is a public institution in Alabama offering an online Master of Education in Adult Education that can help students who are interested in employee training and development in the workplace. This online degree program requires completing 30 credit hours, which generally takes two years of full-time enrollment to finish. Similarly, AU offers over a dozen other graduate degrees in education that students can complete remotely in majors such as agriscience education, collaborative teacher special education, business/marketing education, and English for speakers of other languages.

AU uses Canvas in order to deliver its online curriculum to remote learners. Online adult education graduate students take courses that include Nature of Adult Education, Teaching the Disadvantaged Adult, Methods of Teaching in Organizations, and Teaching in the Non-School Setting. Independent study and a practicum are also required to graduate.

#3 University of San Diego

  • Salary Score: 95
  • Median Starting Salary: $67,248
  • Locations: San Diego (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The University of San Diego (UCSD) is a public institution in Southern California offering an online Master of Education for practicing K-12 teachers with at least two years of teaching experience in various settings. It’s offered in five specializations: (1) technology and innovation, (2) STEM, (3) inclusive learning: special education and universal design, (3) curriculum and instruction, and (4) school leadership. Graduating with an online master's degree in any of these specialties requires completing 30 credits, which generally takes two years of full-time enrollment.

UCSD’s online curriculum is delivered via Blackboard. Depending on the specialty students choose, they can choose from classes such as Changemaking with Technology, STEAM and Special Student Populations, Social Justice and Educational Equity, Ethical Leadership in an Era of School Reform, and Media Literacy in the Classroom.

#4 University of Washington - Seattle

  • Salary Score: 89
  • Median Starting Salary: $62,545
  • Locations: Seattle (WA)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

The University of Washington - Seattle (UW Seattle) is a public institution in the Pacific Northwest offering an online Master of Education in Special Education - Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a growing discipline utilizing both psychology and education. Graduating requires completing 30 credits, which takes about two years of full-time study. Students interested in becoming Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)-certified must complete additional coursework to qualify.

UW Seattle distance learners use Canvas to access coursework. Those enrolled in the online ABA program may take the following classes: History and Philosophy of ABA, Ethics and Professionalism in ABA, Supervision in ABA, and Designing Comprehensive Behavioral Interventions. Courses are delivered synchronously, usually late in the afternoon, to accommodate teachers and students who work full time.

#5 California Baptist University

  • Salary Score: 88
  • Median Starting Salary: $61,957
  • Locations: Riverside (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

California Baptist University (CBU) in Riverside is a private, nonprofit, faith-based institution offering an online Master of Science in Education: Specialization in Early Childhood Studies (MSE/ECS) to provide both broad and specific skills so students can become leaders in early childhood education. Graduating requires completing 33 credits, and this process can take some full-time students as little as a year. Additionally, CBU offers an online Master of Science in Education: Specialization in Educational Leadership and an online Master of Science in Education: Specialization in Curriculum and Instruction.

CBU delivers its online curriculum via Blackboard. Distance learners in the MSE/ECE log in to Blackboard to participate in courses, such as Early Childhood Literacy and Development, Critical Issues in Special Education, Leadership and Supervision in Early Childhood Settings, and Advanced Studies in Early Childhood Development.

#6 California State University - East Bay

  • Salary Score: 84
  • Median Starting Salary: $60,582
  • Locations: Hayward (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

As part of the largest public university system in the U.S., California State University - East Bay (CSUEB) offers an online Master of Science in Education - Online Teaching and Learning for those interested in becoming eLearning instructional designers, technologists, administrators, or specialists in this burgeoning field. Due to its self-paced format, full-time students can generally complete this 30-credit program in as little as a year.

CSUEB uses the Canvas learning management system for online program delivery. MSE students in the online teaching and learning program take classes such as Creating Digital Media for Online Instruction, Building the Online Environment, Content Development for Online Learning, and Supervising and Evaluating Online Teaching and Learning. Students must also complete a capstone project to graduate.

#7 Hamline University

  • Salary Score: 83
  • Median Starting Salary: $60,180
  • Locations: Saint Paul (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

St. Paul's Hamline University (HU) is a private, nonprofit institution offering an online Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) to graduate students who want to help promote equity in schools, build learner communities, and advocate for improvements to the U.S. educational system. Students must complete 34 credits to graduate through independent work and synchronous activities. Program completion generally takes full-time students two years. HU also offers an online Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

HU provides access to its distance learners so they can participate in class and complete coursework. Those enrolled in the online MAEd program take courses such as Understanding Learning, Designing Effective Learning Environments, Investigating Contemporary and Critical Issues in Education, and Educating for Equity and Social Justice. They must also complete a capstone project to graduate. Students are allowed to take up to five electives at another accredited institution.

#8 Jacksonville State University

  • Salary Score: 83
  • Median Starting Salary: $59,854
  • Locations: Jacksonville (AL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Jacksonville State University (JSU) is a public institution in Alabama offering an online Master of Science in Education - Early Childhood Education (P-3) to help prepare students for career advancement instructing young children beginning the process of formalized learning. Graduating requires completing 33 credit hours, which may take full-time students two years. JSU also offers 11 other concentrations within the College of Education and Professional Studies, such as library media, elementary education, instructional leadership, and reading specialist.

JSU utilizes Canvas so distance learners can participate in online classes and engage with their instructors and peers. Those enrolled in the online master's degree program in early childhood education take courses such as Diversity in Today's Classroom, Multicultural Literature, Advanced Twenty-First Century Teaching and Learning, and Intervention in the Early Childhood Classroom. Mastery of the curriculum prepares students for early childhood education certification.

#9 University of North Alabama

  • Salary Score: 81
  • Median Starting Salary: $59,201
  • Locations: Florence (AL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of North Alabama (UNA) is a public institution offering an online Master of Arts in Education - Collaborative Special Education (K-6) in two paths: (1) initial for students holding state teaching certification in any field and (2) advanced for those holding state teaching certification in collaborative special education. Graduating either path requires completing 33-36 credit hours, which generally takes full-time students two years. Other options at UNA include an online Master of Arts in Education - Elementary Education (K-6) and an online Master of Arts in Education - Secondary Education - Curriculum and Instruction.

UNA delivers its virtual curriculum via Canvas. Online collaborative special education students participate in remote learning through courses, such as Special Education Assessment, Instructional Technology, Dyslexia/Related Learning Disabilities, and Autism and Developmental Disabilities. Students in the initial path must also complete a practicum to graduate.

#10 Northeastern University Global Network

  • Salary Score: 80
  • Median Starting Salary: $59,064
  • Locations: Boston (MA)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Boston's Northeastern University is a private, nonprofit institution offering an online Master of Education in eLearning and Instructional Design through its Global Network with the opportunity for students to work on short-term, real-world projects virtually through its Experiential Network (XN). Graduation requires 30 credits, which may take full-time students as little as 1.5 years. NU also offers an online Master of Education Learning and Instruction.

Northeastern's distance learners access online coursework and instruction via Canvas. Curriculum in the online eLearning and instructional design program includes courses such as Experiential Learning Theory and Practice, Culturally Responsive Experiential Teaching and Learning, Open Learning, and E-Learning Design as a Collaborative Profession.

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What Is a Master's in Education Degree?

Generally speaking, master's in education degrees are designed to prepare graduates for careers in education outside of the classroom. The courses in these programs typically emphasize curriculum and instruction development, learning design, and the application of evidence-based research. 

Leadership is another common element of most education master's programs, enabling graduates to take on higher-level roles in education. However, there are also master's programs that are focused entirely on educational leadership.

Although it is possible to earn a generalist education master's degree, many schools encourage or require students to choose an area of concentration. Some of the many specializations available include literacy, educational technology, global education, diversity and inclusion, multilingual students, special education, gifted and talented students, adult education, and human resources.

Depending on the school, a master's in education program may lead to a Master of Education (MEd), Master of Science (MS), or Master of Arts (MA) degree. Although there are many similarities among the three, MEd programs often put a greater emphasis on developing administrative and managerial skills while MA and MS programs focus on curriculum development.

If you're interested in enhancing your classroom teaching skills with a cost-effective advanced degree, you may be interested in our list of the most affordable master's programs in teaching.

Degree Requirements

Prospective students can choose between earning a master's in education degree online or in person. Either type of program requires the completion of 30-36 credit hours. In general, full-time students often earn this degree in two years, while part-time students may need three years. 

To be accepted into an on-campus or online education master's program, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Depending on the school, they may need to have maintained a minimum GPA of perhaps 2.8 or higher. Some programs also require enrollees to have a teaching credential and some teaching experience.

With most programs, an applicant's bachelor's degree doesn't necessarily have to be in a  related subject, such as teaching, elementary education, early childhood education, or secondary education. However, incoming students without any previous experience in education may need to take several prerequisites. 

Many schools of education ask for transcripts, a statement of purpose, one or two letters of recommendation, and a resume along with an application. Some schools also require test scores, such as GRE scores. 


In a master's in education online program, graduate learners can expect to take a wide variety of classes. Below are some examples of the common core courses:

Family-Centered Education

Research shows that young students perform better academically when their families and communities are involved in the educational process. This course helps master's students understand the power of building supportive relationships, and it allows students to develop effective communication and collaboration skills that enhance the learning environment.

Instructional Design

In this course, master's students practice using several different instructional design models to develop competency-based instructional materials. This hands-on course requires students to apply their knowledge to real-world situations.

Learning Theories and Teaching Strategies

This course introduces a number of important learning theories and explores the instructional strategies that can be derived from them. Coursework may cover topics such as coaching classroom teachers, assessment practices, and the use of technology in instruction.

Applied Research Project

The capstone to many programs is a semester-long project involving primary and secondary research into an education problem chosen by the student, usually related to the student's concentration or specialization. The purpose of this project is to give learners an opportunity to apply what they've learned about data collection, experimental design, data analysis, and evidence-based recommendations.

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

For those who want to work in the education field but not necessarily as a classroom teacher, a master's in education may be the stepping stone to alternative leadership roles in the field. Depending on your career goals, a master's degree can also lead to additional education. 

Further Education

To be eligible for the highest-level roles in education, you may want to pursue one of two types of terminal degrees in this field:

A Doctor of Education (EdD) in Education or Educational Leadership program is designed to give graduates the skills they need to take on education administration roles at the regional or state level. In addition to enhancing their managerial abilities, EdD students learn to use data and evidence to solve problems in the education system.

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education explores the process of learning. A PhD is usually the better choice for those interested in working in academia where they can conduct research on issues in education.

Another way to enhance your knowledge in a particular aspect of education without pursuing another degree is to earn a postgraduate certificate in education. Educational leadership, digital learning, special education, and literacy are just a few of the many subjects you can explore. These programs usually require 9-12 credit hours, and they can often be completed in less than a year. 

No matter what level of degree you want to earn, you can save money with online programs. Discover our rankings of the most affordable doctorates in education

Education Careers

Although some students who earn a master's in education degree follow a teaching career path, most prefer to work in education behind the scenes. 

One possibility is to take on an administrative role as a school principal. These professionals manage their schools' staff and facilities, including overseeing schedules, maintenance, and security. They also communicate with students and their families to support collaborative student learning and assessment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), elementary, middle, and high school principals earn a median salary of $98,420.

Another option is to focus on developing curricula for a school by working as an instructional coordinator. Also known as learning or curriculum specialists, instructional coordinators support teachers by identifying educational resources, recommending teaching strategies, and training teachers to use new programs and materials. Instructional coordinators earn a median salary of $63,740, which is comparable to the median for K-12 teachers.

Licensure For Educators

Generally speaking, most states require all professionals who work directly with children to obtain some type of state-issued license or credential. Each state has its own licensure criteria in terms of education, prior work experience, and exams. 

A degree from an accredited program is likely to be one of your state's requirements, which is why our list of the best online master's in education degrees only contains institutionally accredited programs. These programs may be accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) or a similarly authorized agency.

Before enrolling in any master's program, check with your state's education board to determine all of the qualifications you'll need to obtain a license to practice the occupation you have in mind. Also take care to select a program that will prepare you to meet your state's requirements, not the criteria for the state where your school is located. 

Financing Your Master's Degree in Education

Master's students enrolled in accredited online degree programs may be eligible for financial aid from several federal, state, and college sources. To determine whether you qualify for any amount of funding, submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online form. 

Ideally, you'll be offered scholarships or grants, such as the TEACH Grant for future educators. These types of funding generally don't have to be repaid. Also, you may be eligible for some type of tuition reimbursement or financial incentive from your employer if you're already working in the education field.

Of course, many students turn to loans to finance their education, but these can get expensive. Before accepting a loan offer, determine the total amount of a federal or private student loan by using our student loan repayment calculator. Keep in mind, however, that your job as an educator is considered a public service, which may entitle you to full or partial loan forgiveness when you start your career.

We've identified many more cost-effective options for earning a master's degree in the field of education. Review our lists of the most affordable early childhood education, most affordable elementary education, and most affordable secondary education programs.

FAQs About Master's in Education Programs

How Long Is a Master’s Degree in Education?

Both traditional and online education master's degrees require the completion of 30-36 credit hours. They're designed to be finished in two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study. 

There are also a few schools that offer accelerated online programs, allowing students to earn their degree in less than two years. To accomplish this, students take back-to-back courses during shorter terms that may last only seven or eight weeks.

How Do You Abbreviate a Master’s Degree in Education?

The abbreviation used for a master's degree in education depends on the specific degree. Some schools offer Master of Education degrees, abbreviated as MEd. Other schools offer Master of Science (MS) in Education degrees or Master of Arts (MA) in Education degrees. 

What Comes After a Master’s Degree in Education?

After earning a master's degree in education, you may decide to pursue the highest level of degree — a doctorate. You can choose between a PhD in Education, which is centered on research in the education field, or an EdD that will qualify you for high-level positions in education leadership and administration.

Is a Master’s in Education Worth It?

Only you can decide whether a master's in education will be worth the money and time you invest. However, the advanced skills and knowledge you acquire while earning this degree should prepare you for rewarding roles that often feature higher salaries. Having a master's degree will also make you more competitive in the job market. 

How Much Does a Master’s in Education Cost?

Colleges of education charge a wide range of tuition rates and other fees for their master's programs. However, according to the most current data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a graduate degree is $19,749 per year. For a typical two-year program, this amounts to $39,498.

One way you could reduce the cost of earning a master's degree is to choose an affordable master's program in education or educational leadership.

Bottom Line

In the education field, you have many opportunities to earn an advanced degree. Choosing a master's in education with a specific concentration will allow you to zero in on the exact aspect of education that interests you most. By earning the degree online, you'll have more flexibility in your schedule and the freedom to choose the best program for your career goals without having to relocate.

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