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2023 Most Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Education

By the OnlineU team | Updated 12/9/2022
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Educators, curriculum developers, and anyone delivering quality instructional content to students of various ages and learning abilities may pursue an affordable online master’s degree in education. The programs we identify below aim to help graduate students develop advanced, up-to-date skills in instructional technology, educational policy and law, and educational leadership and aid career advancement. 

Additionally, our most affordable online master’s degrees in elementary education or educational leadership may interest those unclear about which path to take. Our list of affordable online doctoral degrees in education can help students interested in a PhD or doctorate plan ahead. View our methodology for details about rankings or learn more about us. You can also check out our overall list of the most affordable online degrees for more inspiration.

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Rank School Locations Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Midway University Midway (KY) $3,750
# 2 #2 The University of Texas at Arlington Arlington (TX) $4,100
# 3 #3 Southwest Baptist University Bolivar (MO) $4,185
# 4 #4 Georgia College & State University Milledgeville (GA) $4,320
# 5 #5 Fort Hays State University Hays (KS) $4,478
# 6 #6 Evangel University Springfield (MO) $4,500
# 7 #7 Northeastern State University Tahlequah (OK) $4,575
# 8 #8 Wichita State University Wichita (KS) $4,620
# 9 (tie) #9 (tie) Athens State University Athens (AL) $4,875
# 9 (tie) #9 (tie) California Coast University Santa Ana (CA) $4,875

Getting an Online Master's in Education

What is the Difference Between a Master of Education and Master of Arts or Science in Teaching?

When deciding whether to go for a master’s degree in the education field, many prospective students also wonder what type of degree they should pursue. The most common offerings are a Master of Education (M.Ed.), a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), and a Master of Science in Teaching (MST). Although there are some commonalities among them, there are distinct differences. Many schools have created separate master’s degree programs so that students can focus on the most relevant facets of education that align with their career goals. The following is a comparison of these degree types.

MAT and MST Programs

  • Who They're Designed For: MAT and MST programs are generally designed for educators who envision themselves spending their entire careers in the classroom teaching.
  • Program Length: These programs often take two to three years, and the number of credit hours needed to graduate averages 30-45 credits. As many as one-third of these credits may be devoted to practicums and student teaching assignments where students develop practical skills through hands-on experience.
  • Prerequisites: Applicants may or may not be required to have prior teaching experience before entering an MAT or MST program.
  • Courses: Coursework for an MST may be more heavily focused on teaching skills, pedagogical theory, and methods. MAT coursework may lean more toward honing expertise in teaching a particular discipline, such as math, language arts, or social studies, or on working with a particular student group, such as middle schoolers or special education students. MAT and MST programs both include courses on curriculum development, instructional design, and leadership, which are also typically found in M.Ed. programs.

M.Ed. Programs

  • Who They're Designed For: M.Ed. programs are aimed at educators who want to enhance their teaching skills and are considering taking on other roles in the educational system. These occupations include principals and other administrative positions, learning specialists, and curriculum designers.
  • Program Length: M.Ed. programs usually require the completion of 30-36 credit hours over two years.
  • Prerequisites: Applicants are often required to have some teaching experience before entering a program.
  • Courses: Coursework in an M.Ed. program often explores teaching theory and encourages students to research and analyze education practice. Enrollees may be able to choose an area of concentration that allows them to focus on a particular aspect of K-12 education, such as curriculum design, counseling, or administration.

The Importance of Accreditation

When selecting a college or university for an online education, it’s important to choose one that has been accredited. Accreditation means that a school’s programs, faculty, and student services have been examined and evaluated by an independent agency, and that this agency has determined that the school meets established standards of quality and accountability. All students who want to remain eligible for financial aid, transfer credits from one institution to another, or earn certification or licensure as a teacher must attend an accredited college or university. Students who plan to become educators also need to be enrolled in programs that are recognized by the board of education in the state where they intend to teach.

Online degree programs may be accredited by any one of several different approved agencies. A program may be accredited by one of six authorized regional accrediting boards, by an accrediting board specializing in education programs, or by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. For example, agencies that specialize in accrediting education programs include the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA). For a complete list of accrediting agencies and accredited colleges and universities, visit the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) websites.

Common Courses in Online Master’s in Education Programs

The following is a list of online courses that master’s in education students might be required to take in their graduate programs. The course titles vary from school to school, but the core topics remain consistent.

  • Assessment in the Classroom: This course explores tools and methods that fall into the six categories of assessment: diagnostic, formative, summative, ipsative, norm-referenced, and criterion-referenced. Educators learn how to develop, implement, and score various assessments to evaluate students’ levels of learning and comprehension. They will also gain an understanding of the larger role of assessment in determining individual students’ progress as well as shaping the curriculum.
  • Creating a Positive Learning Environment: Contemporary educators have developed many practical skills and effective strategies for creating a classroom where students can thrive. This course shows educators how to demonstrate leadership in the classroom by implementing healthy, high-impact methods for helping students feel safe, supported, and connected. Specific strategies are designed to meet students’ needs, help them feel heard and understood, and build trust among students, while allowing teachers to maintain a sense of order, focus, and control.
  • Curriculum Design: The curriculum for any given course is made up of the content, interactive activities, exercises, and assessment strategies that help students meet the learning objectives for the class. In a course on curriculum design, future teachers learn how to develop an effective curriculum that is appropriate and engaging for their students. They will study the many types, sources, and models of curriculum development, and discover how to map out their chosen curriculum.
  • Educational Policy and Law: Federal, state, and local governments have established laws and policies that govern all levels of education. Teachers and administrators alike need to understand this legislation in order to implement and comply with it. Educators in this course will learn about current policies and laws related to equal education opportunity, gender discrimination, “no child left behind,” charter schools and voucher programs, desegregation, religious conflicts, free speech, and more.
  • Multicultural Studies: One of the primary objectives of today’s classrooms is to eliminate prejudice and engender respect for all people and cultures. This course teaches educators how to create an inclusive environment in the classroom by incorporating content—such as literature and music—from diverse cultures. Course materials also help teachers learn how to build a sense of civic and social responsibility among students.
  • Trends and Issues in Education: Educational researchers and practitioners are continually discovering improvements to methods and practices used in the classroom. Current trends include self-care, blended learning, digital citizenship, and bite-size learning. A course on trends will introduce future educators to the most current thinking in the field and how to apply it in their work. The course is also designed to keep educators abreast of any changes in legislation that could affect their practice.
  • Using Technology to Enhance Learning: From computers to hand-held devices, technology has been shown to increase student engagement and enhance the learning process. Using technology for classroom activities and homework also helps students develop valuable skills. Educators in this hands-on course will discover the many technology resources available to them and how to integrate them effectively into course curriculum.

Cost of an Online Degree

How Much is an Online Master's Degree in Education?

The cost of an online Master of Education (M.Ed.) varies depending on a number of factors. One way to compare program costs is to consider per-credit tuition rates multiplied by the number of credits required to graduate. At the 25 schools we've ranked for offering the most affordable online graduate degrees in education, cost per credit ranges from $250 to $336, and programs require anywhere from 30 to 42 credit hours. That translates to annual tuition rates ranging from $3,500 to $5,366. Other programs can cost closer to $20,000 and higher. When determining the total cost of earning a graduate degree in education, students may have to factor in other expenses, such as:

  • Books and other supplies
  • Fees charged by many schools, such as for application, technology, and graduation expenses
  • Interest on a student loan, if that type of financing is needed
  • Childcare, for students who have small children at home
  • Possible transportation and accommodation costs related to visiting the campus for orientation, practicums, workshops, and conferences, which might be required by some programs

When considering cost, students may factor in how much they're likely to make to decide if pursuing an online master's will pay off. The actual amount of additional pay and the lifetime earning potential vary widely depending on the school district but a 2021 report by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that having a master’s degree notably increased salary growth at 52 out of 90 school districts sampled. When compared to the initial cost of the online degree, a master’s in education could mean a healthy return on investment.

How Much Does an Online Master’s Degree in Teaching Cost?

Some of the schools on our list of the most affordable online education degrees offer online master's in teaching programs. The price range for online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degrees or Master of Science in Teaching (MST) degrees varies even more widely than for online master’s in education degrees, mainly because the number of credit hours needed to graduate can range anywhere from 30 to 45 credits, with some programs requiring as many as 60 credits. Students must also factor in additional expenses, such as books, supplies, and various types of fees, to reach the total cost of the degree.

At the #3 ranked college, Dickinson State University, the total tuition fee for a 33-credit Master of Arts in Teaching is $11,088. When prospective students explore other choices beyond these affordable degree options, they’ll find online MAT programs at much higher tuition rates. Johns Hopkins University, for example, offers an online Master of Arts in Teaching Writing, which carries a total tuition cost of $30,735.

Funding an Online Master's in Education Program

All Online Graduate Students: Distance learning students pursuing master’s degrees have a variety of options when it comes to funding their online education. The preferred choices are financial aid sources that don’t have to be paid back, such as scholarships, grants, and fellowships. Some online students may also be able to land teaching assistantships or other work-study programs at the college or university they attend or at affiliated locations. Graduate students have the option of obtaining federally funded loans or private loans from banks, although these must be paid back with interest over time. To determine what type of aid is available, students should begin by filling out and submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

Master's in Education Students: There are also many opportunities expressly designed for master’s in education students. Some are available to all teachers, while others may be designated specifically for teachers who are working with a particular age group or subject matter, such as biology, art, or English. For example, the federal TEACH grant provides up to $4,000 per year for students planning to teach high school students in low-income areas, while the Nancy Larson Foundation funds students who plan to become elementary school teachers. Additionally, some school districts provide full or partial tuition reimbursement for credentialed teachers who want to go back for a graduate degree in education. (Teachers can contact their school districts directly for more information on tuition reimbursement for graduate degrees.)

Is an Online Master's in Education Worth It?

A master's degree requires money, time, and hard work, so it's natural to weigh the costs and potential benefits more carefully. Everyone's personal and financial circumstances are different and nobody can answer the question absolutely. However, an online master's degree in education can be a worthwhile investment for students with a passion for teaching, including those interested in teaching at the post-secondary level.

Potential benefits

  • Teachers with master's degrees typically earn $5,000 more per year than those with bachelor's degrees.
  • Research suggests that teachers have relatively high levels of job satisfaction and believe they make a difference in their students' lives.
  • Many school districts only hire teachers with licensure and a degree in education, so a master's in the field can help those transitioning careers meet the requirements without needing to earn a bachelor's degree in education.

Potential drawbacks

  • Teachers tend to earn lower wages than college-educated professionals in other occupations.
  • Despite relatively promising job satisfaction, most teachers report that society doesn't value their work.

Online learning in general has pros and cons, but there are none specific to education degrees. Students in online programs enjoy the ability to watch lectures and contribute to discussion forums on their own schedule, which allows them flexibility to adjust for their other responsibilities. However, distance learning often leads to less social interaction among classmates and fewer chances to network, which can potentially hamper a student's career.

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