Best Online Master's in Educational Leadership Degree Programs

There are several different master's degree options for online programs in educational leadership available. Find out what makes some of these programs the best and learn about common courses, admission requirements, and career options. Schools offering Education - Organizational Leadership degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Best Online Master's Degree Programs in Educational Leadership

Online master's degree programs in educational leadership are quite diverse and some may help meet different states' requirements for principal licensure. Some of the best online programs in the field boast affordable tuition rates, experienced faculty members, hands-on learning opportunities, and/or additional certifications or credentials. Here we discuss some of the best online master's programs in educational leadership in depth.

1. Bethel College-Indiana

LocationGraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Mishawaka, IN$8,040

Bethel College in Indiana has a fully online Master of Education (MEd) in School Leadership that totals 36 credits and takes 1 to 2 years to complete. The school is consistently ranked nationally for affordability and the program provides a flexible schedule for working professionals with multiple start dates and the ability to pause or expedite coursework as needed. Students learn from experienced professionals in the field and are required to complete a capstone experience in professional development and leadership.

2. Concordia University-Saint Paul

LocationGraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Saint Paul, MN$8,550

Concordia University in Saint Paul offers a 30-credit Master of Arts (MA) in Education with an emphasis in educational leadership. The online graduate programs in education for the school have been ranked nationally and the school has a 96% overall placement rate for graduate school graduates. The educational leadership program is designed for those wishing to become a principal or other school administrator. Students in the program must complete a capstone course in research and may choose to participate in study abroad.

3. University of Kentucky

LocationGraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Lexington, KY$13,052

The University of Kentucky has an online program in Educational Leadership Studies in Teacher Leadership that culminates in an MEd or Specialist in Education (EdS) degree and totals 30 credits. The program can be completed in less than 2 years and students can further specialize their degree with graduate certificates in areas like school technology leadership or instructional coaching. The school also provides each admitted student with scholarships that are worth 29% of tuition.

4. Kansas State University

LocationGraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Manhattan, KS$11,069

Kansas State University provides a unique Master of Science (MS) in Educational Leadership program that requires 36 credits for those wishing to meet P-12 school-level leadership license requirements (such as a building principal) or requires 30 credits for interested educational professionals who intend to work in areas that do not require licensure. The program is offered in a hybrid format and includes a practicum experience in educational leadership. Graduates of the 36-hour program may go on to take the state's licensure exam for Building Leadership. Students have a chance to learn from experienced faculty, make state-wide networking connections, and they have access to the newest technology in the field.

5. John Carroll University

LocationGraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
University Heights, OH$15,471

John Carroll University offers an Educational Leadership program that allows students to earn an MEd, a principal licensure, and a Certificate of Assessment and Accountability. The program totals 39 credits and is a mix of hybrid courses and online courses. Students can complete the program in 2 years and during the final semester, they take an online course along with a site-based internship experience. The school prides itself on being an affordable option and offers tuition scholarships and a limited number of graduate assistantships.

Rank School Name Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
6University of Nebraska at KearneyKearney, NE$7,187
7University of IowaIowa City, IA$11,336
8Western Washington UniversityBellingham, WA$11,438
9Indiana University-BloomingtonBloomington, IN$10,564
10Fitchburg State UniversityFitchburg, MA$3,828
11Endicott CollegeBeverly, MA$12,191
12Niagara UniversityNiagara University$14,308
13University of ScrantonScranton, PA$11,630
14Saint Mary's University of MinnesotaWinona, MN$9,000
15University of Nebraska-LincolnLincoln, NE$7,588
16Franciscan University of SteubenvilleSteubenville, OH$12,888
17Texas A & M University-College StationCollege Station, TX$9,812
18Dordt CollegeSioux Center, IA$5,860
19East Carolina UniversityGreenville, NC$7,485
20Bridgewater State UniversityBridgewater, MA$10,530
21South Dakota State UniversityBrookings, SD$8,875
22Saint Joseph's UniversityPhiladelphia, PA$16,992
23Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmond, VA$14,496
24University of Southern MississippiHattiesburg, MS$8,624
25The University of Tennessee-KnoxvilleKnoxville, TN$13,120
26Immaculata UniversityImmaculata, PA$12,780
27University of South DakotaVermillion, SD$6,835
28University of Oklahoma-Norman CampusNorman, OK$8,577
29George Mason UniversityFairfax, VA$15,138
30Pittsburg State UniversityPittsburg, KS$8,164
31Georgia College & State UniversityMilledgeville, GA$7,206
32Gwynedd Mercy UniversityGwynedd Valley, PA$11,286
33Creighton UniversityOmaha, NE$17,376
34University of ArkansasFayetteville, AR$8,612
35Northwestern CollegeOrange City, IA$6,050
36Wisconsin Lutheran CollegeMilwaukee, WI$9,810
37Appalachian State UniversityBoone, NC$7,961
38Missouri State University-SpringfieldSpringfield, MO$6,038
39Wheeling Jesuit UniversityWheeling, WV$9,710
40Fort Hays State UniversityHays, KS$4,266
41Nicholls State UniversityThibodaux, LA$8,088
42John Brown UniversitySiloam Springs, AR$13,440
43Montclair State UniversityMontclair, NJ$12,837
44Rowan UniversityGlassboro, NJ$16,360
45Marshall UniversityHuntington, WV$8,432

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Degree Overview for Online Master's Programs in Educational Leadership

Online master's degree programs in educational leadership may be offered as MEd, MA, or MS degrees and typically require between 30 and 40 credits. Some of these degree programs may be available fully online, while others might incorporate hybrid courses and/or require site-based learning experiences, such as internships. However, most of these programs are designed for working professionals and do provide some flexibility in the schedules. Several programs help prepare students for state licensure as a school principal and some may offer additional certifications. Below, we discuss various aspects of these online master's programs in more detail.

Length of Program

Most online master's degree programs in educational leadership can be completed in 2 years or fewer. Some programs may allow full-time students to expedite their courses and finish in as little as 1 year. Students may also be able to cut down on time to degree completion if they have transfer credit.


While most online MEd and MS degree programs in educational leadership do not offer traditional concentration areas, there are some programs, such as an MS or MA in Education, that provides a specialization in areas like educational leadership or leadership in educational administration. There are also various ways for students in educational leadership programs to focus their studies and align programs with their career goals.

Based on the degree title, some online master's degree programs may focus on a particular area of educational leadership, such as teacher leader or principalship. In other programs, students may be able to focus their studies in a particular area of leadership through elective courses. Still other programs may provide additional certifications through the program, such as a graduate certificate in areas like assessment and accountability, leadership for deeper learning, school technology leadership, or instructional coaching.

Common Courses

Coursework for online master's degree programs in educational leadership consists of core courses and some programs may also include some electives, specialization, and/or concentration courses. Many also include some sort of final capstone experience. This may be in the form of a capstone course, comprehensive exam, and/or internship experience. The title of courses in each program is unique, but educational leadership master's programs generally include course topics in:

  • Legal/Ethical Issues in Education- Students in these courses examine the various legal and ethical issues faced by teachers, administrators, and others in education. They may also examine laws and policies at the state and/or federal levels. Specific topics typically include moral philosophy in education, methods to resolve legal issues, liability, and statutory authority.
  • Financial Resources- Courses like these explore financial management and how principals and other school leaders must oversee the financial resources of a school and/or district. Students may discuss the organization of finances and/or ethical issues surrounding finances. Some programs may include topics in human resources along with financial resources.
  • Curriculum- Courses in curriculum and instruction look at the role of administrators in the development and implementation of the curriculum. Students may also examine the various methods and strategies used for instruction. Some programs may also include topics in the assessment of curriculum.
  • Instructional Supervision- Courses in instructional supervision aim to help leaders develop the skills needed to work with teachers to improve instruction for students. Students may discuss topics in in-service education, curriculum improvement, and evaluating teachers and methods.
  • Educational Issues- These courses explore problems that are unique to the education systems and/or school administrators. Students may examine topics in the current condition of our education system and the future of education, as well as issues with student support and/or community relationships. Some programs may also explore a historical context to education and discuss academic goals that have emerged.

Admissions Requirements and Prerequisites

Students applying to online master's degree programs in educational leadership generally need to have at least a bachelor's degree. Some programs may require a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher. Depending on the program, students may also be required to hold a state teaching license. Some programs may be designed for various kinds of educational leaders, but typically these programs are designed for those with a teaching background who are looking to take on more leadership. Due to this design, many applicants are already working as teachers. Graduates can also go on to pursue their principal license, which commonly requires some years of teaching experience.

Other common application materials include official transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, and/or a personal statement. Some programs may also include a self-survey and typically international students must demonstrate English proficiency. Depending on the program, students may be required to schedule an interview for admission.

Job Options for Graduates with a Master's in Educational Leadership

A master's degree in educational leadership is a very flexible degree that can be applied to various educational settings. While many graduates tend to work in K-12 public schools or K-12 private schools, other possible settings for graduates include the government, colleges and universities, or school district offices. Graduates may pursue a master's in educational leadership and continue working as teachers with sharpened leadership skills, and/or pursue other career options such as:

  • Principal
  • Assistant principal
  • Instructional coordinator
  • Education director
  • University department chair
  • Curriculum director
  • Technology specialist
  • Athletic director
  • Instructional coach
  • Director of admissions

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

As mentioned, elementary, middle and high school principals generally need a master's degree in education leadership or administration and several years of teaching experience. Typically, public schools also require a state principal license, while private schools may not. Licensure may require an exam and/or a background check. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these principals made a median salary of $95,310, as of 2018. The BLS also reported that principals had a job outlook of 4% from 2018 to 2028, which is slightly slower than the average for all occupations, which stands at 5%.

Principals are responsible for managing the daily activities of a school, as well as helping plan and prepare for long-term school goals. They oversee teachers, staff, and students and work to help create a safe learning environment. Principals may have to assist with discipline, handle school finances, interact with parents, and ensure curriculum standards are being met.

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators are required to have a master's degree and typically need at least 5 years of work experience. This work experience may include teaching and/or administrative experience. Depending on the state, some coordinators working at public schools may be required to hold a state license, which may be a teacher license or education administrator license. In 2018, the BLS reported that instructional coordinators made a median salary of $64,450 and had a job outlook of 6% from 2018 to 2028.

Instructional coordinators focus specifically on curriculum and work closely with school principals and teachers to ensure that academic standards are met. They may be required to help develop a curriculum for their school and then evaluate the effectiveness of their materials. They may help teachers incorporate new teaching methods and/or technologies into their instruction, as well as help train teachers in professional development settings.

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators include a wide range of titles, such as deans, admissions officers, and registrars. These professionals usually need to have at least a master's degree and some work experience. More advanced positions, such as deans and provosts, may require a doctoral degree. Many institutions also prefer these professionals to have work experience in a postsecondary administrative office. As of 2018, the median salary for postsecondary education administrators was $94,340 and the job outlook was 7% from 2018 to 2028, per the BLS.

Due to the diversity in job titles for these administrators, job duties also vary greatly. Many schools divide these jobs into areas like admissions, student affairs, and the registrar's office. Those in admissions are responsible for recruiting, admitting, and preparing new students for the institution. Student affairs involves academics, housing, and extracurricular activities. Professionals in student affairs may be responsible for planning and scheduling events, assisting students with a variety of school-related issues, contacting parents, and/or ensuring safe living areas. The registrar's office is in charge of developing class schedules, planning commencement, maintaining student data, and managing registration.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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