Best Online Master’s Degrees in Education for 2021
The world of online learning changed dramatically in 2020, with big implications for, and even bigger demands on, professional educators. The community learned, and is continuing to learn, a whole lot about what it really means to deliver a quality student experience remotely over the internet at scale.
Maybe you’re already a teacher, and the experiences of 2020 have convinced you that it’s time to build up your expertise and get that pay raise you deserve… or maybe you’ve got a bachelor’s in another field and made up your mind that 2021 is the year to finally work toward your dream of becoming a teacher. In either case, with the right kind of master’s degree, you can accomplish the goal.
This past year might have also convinced you that it’s a wise idea to up your game in online education, which means enrolling in an online master’s just makes the most sense, both out of sheer practicality and convenience for yourself, and as a solid primer for how you’ll likely soon be delivering lessons to students.
Online master’s degrees have long been a convenient option for working professionals, especially teachers looking to add endorsements to their license, and who seem to find they are always short on time trying to keep up on everything from lesson planning and grading homework to staying current on their own continuing education requirements.
Flexible asynchronous courses that allow you to tackle assignments any time of day or night, coupled with synchronous classes that give you the chance to build camaraderie with classmates and actually talk to your professor courtesy of Zoom, both come together to create the ideal learning experience. And with flexible student teaching placements making it easier than ever for new teachers in initial licensure programs to get the experience they need, online options have been critical to creating a convenient pathway into the profession while accommodating graduate students with tight budgets, and even tighter schedules.
All that, and you’ll even get a practical, expert demonstration of best practices for conducting online classes yourself. Sure, you’ll be taking in all the high-level curriculum in teaching strategies and subject-specific course content, but at the same time you’ll pick up the tips and tricks that make online learning fun, effective, and inclusive… a bonus that no traditional on campus program can match.
We’ve picked out the top 25 online master’s programs in education in the country, an elite group, all of which excel at providing first-rate teacher training in a flexible online format. Although their skill in offering online classes is among the very best, that alone wasn’t enough for inclusion on the list: we have a long list of criteria we used to establish the quality of each program before selecting it for this list.
And because earning a master’s is an intensely personal objective, one that has to line up with your own long-term goals and vision for your career, we’ve included plenty of information for you about these programs that goes beyond their general qualities and accomplishments… information like tuition rates, special admissions requirements, noted specializations on offer, and their style of online learning, as well as whether or not they come in hybrid versions for that blend of online and on-campus training that some people respond to so well.
It’s only 25 programs, the very top online education master’s programs in the country… but somewhere in those 25 is the perfect fit for you.
Learn more about how we selected the top 25 schools for this list.
University of Florida
The University of Florida (UF) is a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)-accredited public university. The school’s distance learning program is committed to providing distance learning students with the same access to high-quality education and elite faculty while enjoying a flexible schedule that fits their lifestyle.
UF provides online learners access to several education-related master’s degree programs in areas such as:
- Curriculum and Instruction (Specialization in Education Technology)
- Curriculum and Instruction (Specialization in Teacher Leadership for School Improvement)
- Educational Leadership
- Art Education
- Health Education and Behavior
- Music Education
- Program Evaluation in Educational Environments
- Reading Education
- Special Education
- Student Personnel in Higher Education
The programs are highly flexible, allowing students to take as few as one or two courses at a time.
UF’s Special Education Master of Education program uses Teach Well, an online academy for practicing teachers who are pursuing a master’s in special education. The program features six track options, making it easier for working teachers to complete their education by attending classes part-time.
Students wishing to pursue a Master’s in Education through the University of Florida’s distance learning program must meet the same admissions requirements as in-person students, including meeting application requirements for specific programs.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, which ensures a comprehensive evaluation of the school’s programs. The popular university offers a wide variety of online courses and programs, including several master’s programs in the education field.
Distance learning students learn from the same professors that teach on-campus courses, which ensures a high-quality education for students who need a more flexible education, including career switchers and working professionals.
Master’s in education degrees available from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign include several niche programs, including:
- Agricultural Education
- Curriculum & Instruction – Bilingual/Bi-cultural
- Curriculum & Instruction – Digital Learning
- Curriculum & Instruction – Perspectives & Practices
- Diversity & Equity in Education
- Foundations of E-Learning in Higher Education
- Global Studies in Education
- International Education Administration & Leadership
- Learning Design & Leadership
- Library & Information Science (includes school librarian licensure program)
- New Learning (LDL)
- Special Education: Learning & Behavior Specialist II
- Technology Specialist (LDL)
These programs give practicing teachers the education and skills they need to continue their teaching careers and better serve a diverse population of students.
Most online courses at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are recorded and posted online, allowing students more flexibility to learn at their own pace. The school doesn’t currently require applicants to take the GRE and offers rolling application deadlines, making it easier for students to apply and pursue their master’s in education.
Purdue University is a large public research university committed to helping students pursue higher education. Purdue boasts two Nobel Prize winners, cutting edge research facilities, and a diverse student body from more than 135 different countries.
Students looking to pursue an online master’s degree can choose from several different programs at Purdue, including diverse options ranging from special education to learning design and technology. They even offer a graduate certificate or master’s in educational studies with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis that includes the Verified Course Sequence (VCS) you need to meet the curriculum requirements for the BCBA credential.
Purdue’s online master’s programs offer a generous credit transfer policy, personalized support for online students, and a virtual classroom designed to allow students to earn their master’s in education while juggling the pressures of home and work. This built-in flexibility makes it possible for students with busy schedules to pursue their dreams of higher education.
Founded in 1889, Clemson is the highest-ranked national university in South Carolina. The school is also home to a diverse online learning program that helps students pursue their master’s in education – even while living a busy life. Clemson’s award-winning online programs provide students with a competitive, innovative, and accessible education.
If you’re considering pursuing your master’s in education, Clemson University’s online programs offer plenty of programs to choose from, including:
- Administration and Supervision: prepares current teachers to become building administrators
- Literacy: helps current teachers earn endorsements in Literacy Teacher or Literacy Coach or certifications in Literacy Teacher and ESOL
- Teaching and Learning: current teachers can specialize in Effective and Reflective Teaching, Experiential Learning for Early Childhood, Instructional Coaching, or Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM).
- Special Education
Clemson no longer requires incoming online graduate students to submit GRE scores. Still, specific programs may require students to be current teachers, submit unofficial transcripts, and have a GPA or 3.0 for their most recent degree.
Clemson’s online programs are asynchronous, allowing students to learn at their own pace and then connect with classmates and teachers for critical deadlines. This flexibility is ideal for current teachers and students with a demanding schedule. Current South Carolina teachers receive a 10% discount on tuition.
As the oldest private research university in California, the University of Southern California has a long history of providing students with a world-class education. In addition to providing in-person education programs at the Los Angeles campus, the school also provides access to several well-regarded online education master’s programs.
At the USC Rossier School of Education, masters students can focus on a wide range of specialties to prepare them for a long future in education, including:
- Teaching: trains teachers to work in primary (K-7) OR secondary schools; primary lets you study all core subjects, while secondary has a single-subject focus, and both may lead to an education specialist credential
- Teaching English to Speaker of Other Languages: includes courses in both language acquisition and culturally responsive teaching; California teachers may complete an English Language Development Credential in addition to TESOL
- Learning Design and Technology: prepares students for careers in instructional design, particularly for businesses
- Enrollment Management and Policy: rather than focusing on instruction, this program teaches learners how to best manage enrollment and recruitment for colleges and private schools
- School Counseling: trains future school counselors in K-12 academic and guidance counseling
The University of Houston is a public research university with a long history of educating teachers. Today, the school boasts more than 45,000 undergraduate and 8,000 graduate students and a robust program of online degrees, including several top master’s in education programs.
Online master’s programs available at UH include:
- Early Childhood Education
- Mathematics Education
- Reading, Language Arts, and Literature Education
- Special Populations Special Education
- Special Populations Gifted & Talented
- Health Science Education
- Higher Education
- Learning, Design, and Technology
All programs, except Learning, Design, and Technology, prepare teachers to instruct in their specific subjects, which focuses on diversity and preparing students to become responsible members of society. Learning, Design, and Technology focuses on curriculum development with a focus on the use of technology in instruction.
In addition to fully online programs, UH also provides several hybrid programs for master’s of education degrees. Classes for these courses can be completed by students living near the UH campus without requiring every class to be taken in-person. Courses may use a mix of online, in person, and hybrid teaching options.
Hybrid education master’s programs at UH include:
$432-$448 per credit
To learn more about tuition costs, visit one of the degree pages listed above.
Since 1855, Michigan State University has provided students with access to award-winning higher education. The public research facility is more affordable than many private universities while still offering students access to a world-class education.
Currently, MSU offers students access to 12 different master’s degrees in education in a wide range of specialties, including:
- Applied Behavior Analysis
- Educational Technology (hybrid)
- Educational Technology (online)
- Foreign Language Teaching
- Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education
- K-12 Educational Administration (hybrid)
- Program Evaluation
- Special Education Leadership
- Special Education
- Sports Coaching and Leadership
- Teaching and Curriculum
Students who need the flexibility of online programs but prefer in-person teaching might consider one of the three hybrid programs, which include a mix of online and in-person learning.
All programs provide courses in pedagogy, classroom management, and, when relevant, classes specific to the subject at hand. Applied behavior analysis is a relatively unique online program that helps students leverage data to establish strategies and educational activities for students with autism and other intellectual or neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Texas A&M is a public research university that is home to more than 69,000 students, including nearly 15,000 graduate and professional students. TAMU’s College of Education and Human Development currently offers more than 30 different graduate programs in education with specialties such as bilingual education, educational technology, and special education.
In addition to a robust in-person education department, Texas A&M also offers students the opportunity to pursue online distance education programs, which they define as programs where at least half of the courses can be completed online. Some in-person courses may be required, depending upon the program you select.
The master’s in education programs at TAMU prepare students to become leaders in technology and education by studying learning theory, education innovation, and instructional design. Most programs don’t require a GRE score to apply.
TAMU distance education programs for education master’s include specialties:
San Diego State University, colloquially known as SDSU, is a public university. Formerly a teacher’s college, today, the school is home to more than 35,000 students in a variety of majors.
SDSU’s College of Education offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees, including master’s and doctorate degrees. In recent years, the school has expanded its online education master’s programs to allow professionals to pursue higher education in a more flexible online setting.
There are currently two online education master’s programs in:
The Teacher Leadership program helps current educators gain the skills needed to become mentors for new educators, leaders in their professional learning communities (PLCs), evaluate programs, and run initiatives. Courses include those in school equity, mentoring, and educational research. SDSU’s Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling aims to help rehabilitation professionals use technology to better assess the needs of individuals with disabilities, including K-12 and college students, and discover best practices for their use.
North Carolina State University is the largest university in the Carolinas. As of 2019, the school was home to more than 10,000 graduate students and 25,000 undergraduate students. The College of Education offers students access to dozens of graduate programs, including a robust list of fully-online options designed to accommodate working students’ schedules.
NC State University distance learning courses work with the schedule challenges that real working adults deal with every day. Online programs also offer reduced tuition rates, making online education more flexible and more affordable.
The university’s College of Education offers a wide selection of graduate education programs – far too many to list in this short review. Some of the online education master’s programs of interest to potential students include:
- Adult, Workforce and Continuing Professional Education
- Higher Education Administration
- New Literacy and Global Learning
- Learning Design and Technology
- Science Education
- School Counseling
- Special Education
- Mathematics Education
- Curriculum and Developmental Supervision
While counseling programs do require on-campus meetings for internships, the other programs are 100% online. Students can also choose to continue their online education by pursuing an online certification or one of two online doctoral programs in education.
California State University-Fullerton is a nationally accredited university with a diverse population of nearly 40,000 students. The school is a US Department of Education-designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, with almost 42% of the school’s population made up of Hispanic and Latinx students.
The College of Education at CSUF is the only public university in Orange County that offers NCATE-accredited professional education programs. The college’s online Master in Education is a practice-oriented degree that prepares teachers to tackle the unique problems facing educators and their communities.
CSUF works to create a collaborative, engaging online experience to ensure students get a flexible, practical education they can put to work in the classroom – or where ever their learning takes them.
Concentrations available for education students at California State University-Fullerton include:
- Counseling in Education
- Curriculum and Instructional design
- Organizational Leadership and Management
All three concentrations aim to prepare scholar-practitioners to take on the “big picture” issues that teachers at large are facing in the ever-evolving world of education.
Each program requires 36 credits and takes an average of two years to complete.
Founded in 1821, George Washington University is a private university located in the nation’s capital. Notable alumni of the school include Colin Powell, Alec Baldwin, and Elizabeth Warren. As of 2020, the university is home to more than 26,000 students from more than 130 different countries.
GWU’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development, one of the top-ranking online schools in the nation, offers students access to a high-quality education on their terms. Online master’s programs include:
- Educational Leadership and Administration: created for current full-time employees who want to become school or district administrators
- Educational Technology Leadership: allows learners to create technologies and best practices for their use in K-12 and higher education schools
- Secondary Special Education & Transition Services: focuses not just on instruction for special education students but also on helping them transition to the workforce or higher education and supporting adults with disabilities as they become independent adults
- Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners: an unusual type of program focusing on teaching students from around the world who not only need to learn English but also have special needs
IU Bloomington is the largest public university in the Indiana University system, with more than 43,000 current students. The school has been home to several Nobel peace prize winners throughout the years.
IU Bloomington offers more than 40 different master’s degrees in an online or hybrid format, including eight educational programs. Online education master’s degrees at IU Bloomington include the following specialties:
- Adult Education
- Educational Leadership
- Educational Technology for Learning
- Instructional Systems Technology
- International and Comparative Education
- Literacy, Culture, And Language Education
- Special Education
Master’s of education programs require between 30 and 36 credits each.
While most of IU’s master’s programs are 100% online, the Adult Education M.S.Ed. is a hybrid program, with 80 to 99% of the course work offered online. Students must also attend a three-day residency course on campus. Other courses in the program include Introduction to Adult Education Theory, Adult Education Planning and Development, and a Capstone Seminar in Adult Education. All programs focus on pedagogy, best practices in their fields, and diversity.
The online master’s programs at IU Bloomington give students the flexibility and freedom to complete their education while juggling their personal and professional lives.
Mercy College is a diverse school located in the New York City area. The private college is small, with just over 10,000 students, including undergraduate, graduate, and distance learning students. The institution offers 40 different online degree programs, including six master’s in the education field.
Online master’s degrees in education at Mercy College include specialties in:
- Adolescence Education
- Bilingual Education
- Childhood Education
- Early Childhood Education
- Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
- Teaching Literacy, Birth-Grade 12
Mercy College offers purely online courses, where all meetings are online; blended online courses, which are hybrid classes with both online and in-person meetings; and web-enhanced courses, where most sessions are in-person but supplemented with an online portal.
For online programs, students may be required to complete student teaching or clinical practice experience in a school environment to meet teaching certification requirements.
Mercy College also offers five-year bachelor’s to master’s programs in several of their fields; however, it would be wise to check with the school to verify that you may complete the master’s portion entirely online.
The University of Georgia was founded in 1785, making it one of the country’s oldest public universities. Notable alumni from the University of Georgia include Alton Brown, Ryan Seacrest, and Terrell Davis. The school is home to more than 38,000 students, including 8,500 graduate students.
UGA is a highly respected university and part of a growing number of institutions offering students the ability to learn online alongside some of the brightest minds in the education field. If you’re considering pursuing a master’s in education, University of Georgia has several online programs to choose from, including:
- Educational Psychology, Applied Cognition & Development
- Educational Psychology, Gifted & Creative Education
- Learning, Design & Technology, Instructional Design & Development
- Reading Education
- Workforce Education
- Education in Middle Grades Education
- Science Education
- Music Education
UGA also offers graduate certificate programs in ESOL and Reading Education.
Online class sizes are limited so that the students can form strong relationships with their professors and each other—it’ll be hard to get lost in the shuffle as a result. All programs involve courses in evaluation and assessment, curriculum development, and research.
The University of Dayton is a private Roman Catholic university. Founded in 1840, the school is currently home to a small student population of around 10,000 students.
Despite the small size of the school, the University of Dayton offers educators access to an online master’s in education degrees focused on Educational Leadership with an optional Principal Licensure. This program paves the path for current educators to become licensed school principals. The curriculum includes topics such as school law, community relationships, school finance, leadership in diverse communities, and curriculum instruction.
Educational Leadership is a 30-credit program, while the Principal licensure program requires 42 credits. Both can be completed in as little as two years, depending on the number of classes taken each semester. Students must also complete two 150-hour internships during the program.
The University of Utah is home to more than 32,000 students as of 2019, including more than 8,000 graduate students. In 2017, the school began offering hundreds of online courses and degrees, including graduate programs in nine different focus areas, including education.
The University of Utah offers just one education master’s in Teaching Fine Arts. The two-year program prepares educators to provide a high-quality education in all sorts of arts, including both performing and visual. Courses focus on building skills such as methods-based arts teaching, curriculum planning, and art teaching theory.
The University of Utah online program combines traditional learning online learning, which allows students to study at their own pace, with an interactive online experience, including group projects, discussion forums, and peer reviews. Online students also have access to the same instructors and academic advising resources as in-person students.
It’s worth noting that the University of Utah’s Master of Arts in Teaching – Fine Arts program is a hybrid degree. This means much of the course work can be completed online; however, students must complete two 12-day summer intensives on campus at the University of Utah’s main campus. The complete program is 30 credits and takes an average of two years.
Portland State University was originally an educational institution for World War II veterans. Today, the school is home to more than 26,000 graduate and undergraduate students.
Online students at Portland State University have access to more than 20 online graduate programs, including four master’s of education in:
- Curriculum and Instruction
- Early Childhood: Inclusive Education and Curriculum & Instruction
- Early Intervention Special Education
- Visually Impaired Learner
All programs involve coursework in contemporary issues in education and research. The master’s program for Visually Impaired Learners is a unique program designed to fill a critical need for teachers for visually impaired learners. The curriculum includes legal and ethical foundations, Braille I and II, assessment of the visually impaired, methods of teaching academics, and visually impaired learners with additional disabilities. The program is 90% online but requires six to 15 credit hours of in-person student teaching, as well as a three-week in-person orientation.
Auburn University is home to more than 30,000 students, including nearly 6,000 graduate students. The school offers dozens of online master’s programs, including a dozen master’s programs in the education field.
Students who choose Auburn University for their online education master’s can specialize in fields such as:
- Administration of Elementary & Secondary Education
- Adult Education
- Agriscience Education
- Business/Marketing Education
- Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling
- Early Childhood Education
- Elementary Education
- English for Speakers of Other Languages
- Foreign Language Education
- Library Media
- Music Education
- Special Education
The department requires students to take classes in theory, research, and assessment for all programs. Many of the programs are available online or in person, though some programs may require in-person courses or student teaching.
One of the more unique programs offered at the University of Auburn is the Agriscience Education program, which prepares students to teach agriculture, animal sciences, and forestry. Courses for this program include methods of teaching, language and literacy, integrating technology, and an in-person clinical residency.
USF is a public research university that is home to more than 50,000 students, including 10,000 graduate students. The school is known for its innovation and high research activity, which supports more than 4,000 jobs each year.
USF’s online programs empower educators to further their education while juggling the demands of busy work and home life. Students can collaborate with highly-skilled faculty in a fully-online program.
The school offers ten diverse programs for students pursuing a master’s in the education field, including the following specialties:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder and Severe Intellectual Disabilities
- Career & Technical Education
- Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Secondary Education: Teaching English Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
- Exceptional Student Education
- Learning Design and Technology
- Physical Education
- Reading Education (K-12)
- Special Education, Gifted
USF also offers access to ten graduate certificate programs.
While all programs are renowned and prepare their students to become excellent teachers, USF’s Master of Arts (MA) in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Severe Intellectual Disabilities is particularly unique. This is because most online special education programs prepare their students to work with those who have “mild” disabilities, while this one allows teachers to focus on those who have the highest needs. This track helps educators better evaluate students and work cooperatively with their families and other professionals to improve educational opportunities for all children.
The University of South Carolina is a public research university that’s home to more than 52,000 students pursuing degrees both online and in-person.
The school’s education department helps prepare teachers to work with a diverse student population to inspire change. In addition to several in-person degrees, the University of South Carolina also offers six master’s level education degrees and several doctoral degrees through their distance education program.
Students wishing to pursue an online master’s in the education department at the University of South Carolina can choose from the following specialties:
- Master of Education in Educational Administration
- Master of Education in Educational Technology
- Master of Education in Teaching
- Master of Education in Language and Literacy
- Master of Science in Adapted Physical Education
Most programs require some face-to-face requirements, such as orientation, clinical, and internships.
The University of Pittsburgh is a public university located in the Oakland neighborhood, just three miles from downtown Pittsburgh. The school was founded in 1787 and is home to nearly 10,000 graduate students and 29,000 undergraduate students.
Online education master’s programs at the University of Pittsburgh are offered through Pitt Online, an award-winning part of the University Center for Teaching and Learning. Those looking to pursue an online master’s in education from the University of Pittsburgh can choose from two specialties in:
- Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Elementary Education
- Master of Education (M.Ed.) in English Education
The school also offers serval certificate programs through a hybrid program, which requires both online and in-person lessons.
Both programs take approximately two years to complete and require 36 credits. Additionally, if you completed your initial teaching certification through this institution, you may transfer up to 18 course credits to your M.Ed. program, potentially cutting your time in half—though be sure to speak to your advisor to find your specific number of transferrable credits.
The University of North Carolina-Charlotte is a public research facility offering more than 23 doctoral and 64 master’s degree programs. The school is home to a diverse student population of nearly 30,000 students and 1,500 academic staff.
Students who are interested in pursuing their online master’s in the education field can choose from 13 different specialties, which is far more than most other online universities offer. Specialties include:
- MAT in Elementary Education (Phase II)
- MAT in Foreign Language Education (K-12) (Phase II)
- MAT in Middle Grades and Secondary Education
- MAT in Special Education (K-12)
- MAT in TESOL
- M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction
- M.Ed. in Elementary Education
- M.Ed. in Learning, Design, and Technology
- M.Ed. in Reading Education
- M.Ed. in Special Education and Child Development Concentration in Academically or Intellectually Gifted
- M.Ed. in Urban Education
- M.Ed. in Special Education and Child Development: Concentration in Special Education
- Master of School Administration
Most programs can be finished in two years or fewer but must be completed within six years of the start date.
The Distance Education department at UNC Charlotte focuses on delivering the same high-quality education student receive on campus. Some programs require students to log in at a specific time to participate in online discussions or live classroom sessions.
The University of Cincinnati is a public research university founded in 1819. The university has an average annual enrollment of 44,000 students.
UC Online, UC’s distance learning program, helps busy adults expand their career options through high-quality online educational opportunities. Educators looking to attend an online master’s program at UC can choose from a range of specialties, including curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, instructional design and technology, literacy and second language, and special education. Most of these programs allow you to further specialize. For instance, you could focus on gifted students in curriculum and instruction or special education leadership in educational leadership.
The programs are highly flexible, and many can be finished in just one to two years if attending full time. Part-time options are also available.
George Mason University is a public research university founded in 1956. The university is the largest four-year university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and offers more than 140 different degrees, including more than 30 online graduate programs.
Students seeking a master’s in education from George Mason can choose from a variety of concentrations, including:
- Advanced International Baccalaureate
- Gifted Child
- Reading Specialist
- Physical Education
- Special Education
- Teacher Leadership
- Education Leadership
- Independent School Leadership
- Blended and Online Learning in Schools
- Literacy Leadership for Diverse Schools: K-12 Reading Specialist
- Mathematics Specialist Leader (K-8)
- Learning Design & Technology
Depending on the program you select, students may take classes entirely online or in a hybrid format that requires some in-person instruction. Both types of programs limit fact-to-face meetings so students can learn at home, while stationed abroad, and while traveling. The coursework in different areas varies widely, and many have different requirements for enrollment.
When you’re putting together a collection of the best degrees to teach people about teaching, you better believe there are some high standards involved. That goes double for online degrees, which are every bit the equal of traditional programs these days, offering the same curriculum delivered by the same professors as traditional campus-based options. Naturally, each school is fully accredited, but that’s true of plenty of schools that didn’t make the list as well. If you are going to go with an online program, you want one of the very best.
So we went to the mat to determine the top 25 online master’s programs in the field this year, with subjective, yet rigorous criteria to ensure that you are only seeing the cream of the crop.
Our big considerations for the programs that made this list fall into these categories:
Instructors Who Lead The Field Forward
Teachers who teach teaching had better be the elite of the profession, and these schools have gone out of their way to stack the faculty bench with experts who not only have a firm command of the state-of-the-art in modern pedagogy, but who have that special knack for sharing that information with students in a way that ensures they really get it.
Those kinds of professors are often widely-published and have interesting theoretical and practical research projects in the works, which offer grad students the opportunity to participate in some of the developments that will help shape the field they’re going to enter after graduation.
Not only do they have the research and investigative skills to parse out the theories and techniques that will push the state of education forward into the future, but they also have the sort of practical experience to make that research relevant. With decades of actual classroom experience in the same subjects they will be teaching you about, instructors from these universities have walked the walk. There are no better people to learn your craft with, and none who will be more devoted to your success.
Variety and Diversity to Build Strength and Empathy
Diversity is a keyword in education today, and we looked for schools that do more than just talk about it—you’ll find enormous diversity in the student bodies of these master’s programs, drawing students in from all over the country and from every socio-economic group. You’ll be exposed to new ideas and new cultures, all of which will help you when it comes time to handle diverse, modern classrooms of your own.
A wide range of ideas and experiences can only benefit you as you are exposed to them through regular interactions and partnerships with your fellow students, making you a stronger educator and a person with a broader perspective.
The Right Specializations to Fit Your Professional Objectives
You’re not just looking for a master’s degree in education, as valuable as that credential can be. You really want a master’s class in how to teach in specific, specialized areas, offering you a real focus in the subject matter that you expect to build your career teaching in.
So we went out of our way to find schools that offer a wide range of unique and in-depth concentrations in master’s programs, ranging from the common reading and mathematics specializations out into more rarified fields like blended and online learning, or applied behavior analysis and teaching to students with severe intellectual disabilities.
And simply offering a lot of concentrations wasn’t enough to make the grade either. For our purposes, they have to be expertly taught, with a unique and focused curriculum and instructors that are authorities within that field, not just whichever faculty member happened to have a free slot that semester. These schools all hit that mark, with a greater variety and more in-depth education than the competition.
Online Teaching Expertise Can’t Be Faked
Blended and online learning is a very appropriate concentration for master’s in education programs, because it’s a unique and highly specialized area of expertise. As millions of teachers and administrators across the country found out in 2020, it’s a real challenge to create and lead effective online classes.
Whether these schools offer that concentration or not, we picked them in part because they have demonstrated the expertise and taken the time to develop the right technical systems and support services to deliver superb online learning experiences. From the selection of learning management systems to the quality of audio and video streams, it all matters to the students on the other end. And in this case, that means you. So we didn’t even think about including schools that haven’t aced this category, regardless of their other qualities.
Reputation and Accolades Tell a Story About Every School
You might be wondering a bit about how much you can trust our evaluations of these schools, but let’s put that to bed: we’re not the only ones who think they are superb. How do we know that? Because including reputation and other third-party assessments of quality is all part of our process as well.
We not only consider rankings from other third-party observers like U.S. News & World Report, we also look for schools that have either current faculty or that regularly produce graduates who go on to great professional accomplishments. Whether it’s professors recognized as Nobel laureates or students who go on to serve in high political office or in other notable roles.
The history of these schools was also important to us, since you don’t last a long time as an institution without proving that you are doing some things right. Old schools have strong endowments, powerful traditions, and attract some of the best and the brightest both to their student bodies and to the faculty ranks.
Seamless Student Teaching Arrangements
One of the biggest concerns for students who are considering master’s degrees in education is the student teaching setup. Some of the most critical parts of the learning process for teachers don’t happen in their college classrooms, virtual or otherwise—they happen in the classrooms of elementary and high schools, where practical experience offers a golden opportunity to grasp concepts that lectures and study can only hint at.
When you are located halfway across the country from your university, that can raise questions about how well they actually know the placements they are offering your and what level of oversight and quality they can maintain.
So we were sure to pick schools that have the problem knocked, with solid nationwide arrangements and processes to make sure your student teaching offers a seamless, high-quality experience that aligns with your coursework, and where instructors have a clear window into your performance and can offer feedback and guidance even from hundreds of miles away.