Best Online Master’s Degrees in Education: Guide to Online Programs for 2021

Best Online Master’s Degrees in Education: Guide to Online Programs for 2021
Imed Bouchrika by Imed Bouchrika
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

An online master’s degree in education can be an asset for professionals interested in building a career in the academic community. With this advanced education degree, graduates prepare to take on administrative and specialist roles in schools, such as those of principals and instructional coordinators. These roles often bring higher pay and more career advancement opportunities within educational institutions.

The best online master’s degree in education also offers various concentrations, such as early childhood education and special education. These specialty tracks are useful to professionals who want to pursue studies that are more aligned with their career goals.

To provide more information on this master’s degree, this guide discusses the learning environment and courses students can expect from an online master’s degree in education. The sections below also provide details on costs and admission requirements for these programs.

Best Online Master’s Degree in Education Table of Contents

  1. Can you get a degree completely online?
  2. Will employers take my online degree seriously?
  3. Are online degrees recognized all over the world?
  4. Online vs. Traditional Master’s Degree in Education
  5. How much does an online Master’s Degree in Education cost?
  6. What are the requirements of an Online Master’s Degree in Education?
  7. Courses to Expect in Online Master’s Degree in Education
  8. Things to Look for in an Online Master’s Degree in Education

Can you get a degree completely online?

These days, it’s possible to get a degree completely online. Various brick-and-mortar universities have started to offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees online, making these degree programs more accessible to students. Advancements in educational technology and the emergence of massive open online course providers have also made it easier for students to pursue their education online.

According to a Georgetown University study on the economic value of college majors, 44% of education majors go on to pursue graduate degrees. Given the popularity of these degree programs, interested students shouldn’t have trouble finding the best online master’s degree in education. California State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Florida are just a few of the well-known institutions that now offer fully online options to students interested in pursuing this advanced education degree.

Many online degree programs in education also offer a variety of concentrations for students who want to gain specialized knowledge. For instance, the online Master of Education degree at the University of San Diego offers specialties in Curriculum and Instruction, Literacy and Digital Learning, and School Leadership (University of San Diego, n.d.).

Will employers take my online degree seriously?

Yes, employers are now more likely to find online degrees acceptable. Online degrees have come a long way since the ’90s and these degree programs no longer have a stigma. This is especially true for online degrees that are offered by accredited institutions.

A 2018 study on educational credentials further states that the increasingly positive perception of the quality of online credentials is caused by a variety of factors, including the growing popularity of online courses and degrees (Gallagher, 2018).

Are online degrees recognized all over the world?

Online degrees are starting to gain recognition and acceptance worldwide, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced universities and colleges all over the world to shift to online education. However, students must still be discerning when choosing an institution and program for their online degree. An institution’s accreditation and reputation play a significant role in a program’s academic quality.

Source: SEMrush

Online vs. Traditional Master’s Degree in Education

Master’s degrees in education are advanced degrees that equip students with the skills and knowledge required for leadership roles in educational settings. While many universities offer generic master of education degrees, other institutions offer highly specialized master’s degrees in various fields of education. For instance, Boston University currently has a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program that students can pursue on-campus or online (Boston University, n.d.).

An online master’s degree in education typically offers the same curriculum and academic quality as its traditional counterpart. However, there are significant differences evident in pursuing an online degree.

Delivery format

Unlike on-campus students who go to classes to attend lectures and submit coursework, online students must log in to learning management systems or virtual classrooms to access course materials. Course materials for online degrees typically include pre-recorded lectures and presentations, audio files, and other reading materials (Terry, 2020).

Since virtual classrooms are designed to provide a full learning experience, these web-based portals also allow students to submit coursework, view grades, and collaborate with classmates when needed. For added convenience, many of these virtual portals can also be accessed via mobile devices. This accessibility is important especially since over 60% of graduate students use a mobile device for online course-related activities (Wiley Education Services, 2019).

Knowledge sharing

An online master’s degree in education offers a different learning environment compared to a traditional degree program. Given its nature, an online degree tends to encourage independent learning. As such, online degree courses in education may be a better fit for individuals who thrive even when studying alone.

However, the independent learning encouraged by online education doesn’t necessarily mean that online students never interact with each other. Virtual classrooms often come with a variety of communication and interactive features to facilitate collaboration. Many of these platforms come with built-in capabilities for video conferencing and instant messaging, along with discussion boards (Sam, 2020).

Various studies have found that online discussion boards and other collaboration venues have improved knowledge sharing and learning capabilities in students as well. For instance, one study by Aderibigbe, titled “Can online discussions facilitate deep learning for students in General Education?”, explored how online discussions complemented students’ learning and instructors’ teaching capabilities. The study found that, while engaging with colleagues and instructors in online discussion forums, students were able to present arguments logically and display a critical understanding of course materials.

Published in Heliyon in 2021, the study concluded that “These study findings indicate that students’ learning, participation, and contributions in online discussions were in-depth and guided by thoughtful learning principles, described as the deep learning approach. Drawing on these results, it is fair to conclude that the online discussion forum can facilitate and promote students’ deep learning in General Education courses.”

Pacing and schedule

Most online degree programs are structured for asynchronous learning, unlike on-campus degrees that offer synchronous learning. With asynchronous learning, online students are able to access course materials on their own time and learn at their own pace. This flexibility can prove to be an advantage to students.

The self-paced nature of an online degree also allows students to set their own schedules or study plans. Depending on the institution, students may be allowed to take one course at a time. This flexible schedule is particularly suitable for teachers and education professionals who plan to pursue an online master’s degree in education while they work.

Moreover, many institutions offering online master’s degrees offer multiple start dates and rolling admissions. These make it easier for professionals to balance their careers and studies.

Is an online degree cheaper?

An online master’s degree in education can prove to be cheaper than its residential counterpart, especially for students who choose to enroll at more affordable colleges. Online students don’t have to pay for room and board, which allows them to save up to $11,900 per year if they’ve enrolled at four-year institutions (Hanson, 2021).

In most cases, online students also don’t have to deal with expenses for transportation, entertainment, and personal care, further bringing down the costs of an online degree.

Is an online degree as good as a regular degree?

These days, accreditation standards ensure that an online master’s degree is just as valuable as its regular counterpart. The best online master’s degree in education offers the same curriculum and requires students to do the same coursework as an on-campus master’s degree. As such, online students will have earned the same skills and knowledge as others who choose to study on campus.

As earlier stated, employers’ changing perspectives on online educational credentials also affirm the value of online degrees.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How much does an online master’s degree in education cost?

The costs associated with an online master’s degree in education vary across institutions. Universities and colleges charge their own per-credit tuition costs and additional fees. Whether online or not, the cost of a college degree is also affected by factors such as the student’s state of residence and the number of credits required to complete a master of education degree.

To give students an idea of how much it would cost to pursue an online master’s degree in education, below are per-credit tuition costs in various universities in the country.

Per-Credit Tuition Costs of an Online Master's Degree in Education at Various U.S. Universities

IntitutionTuition Cost Per Credit
Purdue University Global
California State University, Bakersfield
Greenville University $476
Merrimack College $533
Belhaven University $585
Southern New Hampshire University$627
University of San Diego$710
Boston University$916
Texas A&M University$287 (in-state)
$816 (out-of-state)
University of Central Florida Online$327 (in-state)
$1,152 (out-of-state)

Is an online master’s degree in education worth it?

An online master’s degree education may be worth it for teachers looking for more advanced positions and higher pay, especially since education is considered a relatively high-paying college major. It may also be in the interest of teachers and education professionals to continuously pursue learning during their careers. Over 40% of employers now have increased expectations in terms of the education they require or prefer in employees (Gallagher, 2018).

Data on the job outlook for education occupations similarly indicate that an online master’s degree in education is worth it. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in education, training, and library occupations is expected to grow by 5% through the next decade.

What are the requirements of an online master’s degree in education?

Admission Requirements

Similar to tuition costs, admission requirements for an online master’s degree in education vary depending on the institution. However, most universities and colleges require students to have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited four-year institution before applying for a master’s degree. Below are other common admission requirements for a master’s degree in education:

  • Minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5 to 3.0
  • Official transcripts from all previously attended institutions
  • GRE or MAT test scores
  • Proof of English proficiency (for international students)
  • Application fee

Program-Specific Requirements

Aside from the aforementioned admission requirements, applicants to an online master’s in education degree must comply with certain program-specific requirements. These requirements include an updated resume reflecting relevant teaching experience along with proof of a valid, unexpired standard professional license.

Most universities also require students to submit letters of recommendation and writing samples, such as an academic statement or a statement of purpose. For instance, applicants to Martin Luther College must submit a written statement that describes their views of education (Martin Luther College, n.d.).

What are the technological requirements of online learning?

Students must have a computer and an Internet connection to access the course materials provided in online degree programs. A stable cable-powered or fiber Internet connection ensures that students can download and stream lectures and participate in synchronous discussions should they arise.

Students will also benefit from certain technical skills, including basic computer operations, Internet browsing, and online research. Familiarity with communication software and other platforms for completing coursework can also help students easily navigate online degree programs.

Courses to Expect in Online Master’s Degree in Education

Courses included in an online master’s degree in education depend on an institution as well. Course offerings may also be affected by the specializations or concentrations of a university’s master of education program.

Despite the difference in their courses, though, most online degree programs in education require 30 to 36 credits to complete. Capstone projects, practicum courses, and internships are also common requirements for many master’s programs in education.

Below are some common core courses to expect from an online master’s in education program.

  • Educational Leadership – The course teaches leadership theories and practices for classrooms and larger educational settings, including schools and school districts. Effective communication and collaboration strategies within the classroom and within professional settings are also discussed.
  • Curriculum Design and Instruction – The course prepares students for evaluating curricular programs and designing improvements to these programs. Students learn the skills and knowledge required to develop curricula that are more aligned with students’ learning needs and academic standards.
  • Diversity and Social Justice in Teaching – Students in this course explore how issues of social justice and diversity affect the educational system. Students also learn how to develop culturally relevant teaching practices, developing their leadership skills in the light of social inequities in schools and communities.
  • Change Management in Education – This course explores how the change process affects instruction strategies in schools. To prepare students for administrative responsibilities, students are also taught theories in change management in conjunction with educational administration.
  • Research Methods and Design in Education – This course teaches students how research methodologies and strategies are effectively applied to educational research. Students are also taught proper data analysis and interpretation as well as methods for critically evaluating educational research.

Things to Look for in an Online Master’s Degree in Education

As college enrollment statistics indicate the growing popularity of online programs, it’s more important than ever for students to be more discerning of the institution and online degree program they choose. The following factors can help students make the right choice for their online master’s degree in education.

The institution’s reputation and accreditation

It’s important to choose a degree program from an institution with an established reputation. These institutions are more likely to offer degree programs that have high-quality curricula. Moreover, over half of hiring managers and employers think that an institution’s brand and reputation have the most significant impact on the value of an educational credential (Gallagher, 2018).

An institution’s accreditation is also a crucial factor to consider when choosing an online degree. Accreditation ensures that a program’s curriculum meets certain academic standards. As such, it’s best to choose an institution with accreditation from an accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Choosing an accredited program or institution also ensures that students are eligible to transfer previously earned credits and receive federal financial aid.

Concentrations and specialty tracks

An online master’s degree in education usually offers numerous concentrations or specialty tracks for students who want to pursue more specialized studies. Below are common specializations available for these education degrees:

  • Educational Leadership
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Adult Education
  • Higher Education
  • Child Development
  • School Counseling
  • Special Education

Each specialization comes with its own course offerings and learning outcomes, so it’s best to carefully consider the concentration that best aligns with your career goals.

Hidden costs

Aside from tuition costs, a variety of fees and expenses can drive up the cost of pursuing an online master’s degree in education. These fees usually vary per institution and may include technology fees and graduation fees. For instance, Belhaven University charges a technology fee per credit hour, along with a portfolio assessment fee, and a graduation audit fee, along with tuition costs.

Source: univstats

What is the best online master’s degree in education?

The best online master’s degree in education is the one that best aligns with your career goals, especially since it involves plenty of concentrations. When choosing an online program, it’s best to consider an institution’s reputation and accreditation, as these factors help ensure that you’re getting a high-quality education. Doing thorough research on a program’s tuition costs and additional fees can also help ensure that you’re financially prepared for pursuing a master’s degree.

If you’re looking for similar degree programs in education, you can check our guide on online master’s degrees in education technology.



  1. Aderibigbe, S. A. (2021). Can online discussions facilitate deep learning for students in General Education?. Heliyon7(3), e06414. Elsevier
  2. Belhaven University. (n.d.). Scholarships, discounts, tuition, fees information for online bachelor and master degrees. Belhaven University
  3. Boston University. (n.d.). Higher education administrationBoston University
  4. Gallagher, S. R. (2018). Educational credentials come of age: A survey on the use and value of educational credentials in hiring. Center for the Future of Higher Education & Talent Strategy. Northeastern University 
  5. Hanson, M. (2021, July 10). Average cost of college & tuition. EducationData
  6. Georgetown University. (n.d.). What’s it worth?: The economic value of college majors. Georgetown University
  7. Martin Luther College. (n.d.). Application for admission – Graduate studies. Martin Luther College
  8. Sam, A. (2021, May 12). What is a virtual classroom and why does it matter? eLearning Industry
  9. Terry, C. (2020, August 10). How do online classes work? Noodle
  10. University of San Diego. (n.d.). Master of education. University of San Diego
  11. Wiley Education Services. (2019). Online college students 2019: Comprehensive data on demands and preferencesWiley Education Services

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