Are you a credentialed teacher looking to take your career to the next level? Have you thought about specializing in a specific domain, like special education, administration, or leadership? Adding a Master's Degree in Education to your undergraduate experience is a great way to gain the skills and training to tackle new challenges in the classroom and beyond.
We've compiled a list of the Top 10 Affordable Online Master's in Education that offer students unique and convenient ways to enhance their education. You can pursue advanced certification or licensure, or enroll in a non-licensure program that aligns with your long-term career goals. Beyond teaching, graduates of online Master's in Education programs go on to become principals and administrators, school and career counselors, educational coordinators, curriculum specialists, or educational consultants.
The programs on our list are designed for busy professionals. Accordingly, classes are offered in a convenient, asynchronous format or with user-friendly hours if students are required to be online at the same time. Degree programs that lead to certification or licensure will include a practicum requirement, which can be completed in the student's community. In most cases, the degrees are offered as terminal degrees and can be completed with a portfolio, project, or comprehensive examination. Students interested in earning a doctorate should look for degree programs that offer a graduate thesis option.
Educators who earn graduate degrees are prepared to take advantage of expanding job opportunities while boosting their incomes. According to Salary.com, the average pay for a public school teacher with a master's degree is over $52,000 per year. School administrators are earning an average of over $90,000 per year. The number of available positions for teachers is growing, too. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics expects more than 13,000 special education teacher jobs to be created between 2018 and 2028. Similarly, the bureau estimates more than 11,000 elementary, middle, and high school principal jobs will be created by 2028.
Ranking Methodology: "It's science!"
The researchers and writers at Best Master's Degrees don't make recommendations based upon preference – we back our rankings with science. Here's a quick breakdown of how we organize ranking data:
- Finances (40%)
- Academic Rigor (35%)
- Student Gratification (25%)
Nearly half of the data used to score each ranking involves finances and are acquired from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, Glassdoor, and PayScale. Financial data encompasses the cost of tuition, fees, and class supplied; the average price of living; access to financial aid and social services; and lastly, the projected annual salary acquired from degree outcomes and income for loan repayment. The second-largest category of information involves the quality of education, how competitive degree applicants should be for consideration, and how exclusive a degree program is overall. The final 25% of collected data is dependent upon student and alumni reviews from sources such as PayScale, Rate My Professor, and Students Review.
Want to Learn More?
The amount of information available for specific degrees is plentiful, and Best Master's Degrees aims to provide as many resources as we can. Check out our Methodology page for more information and resource links.
#10 – University of Utah
Master of Arts in Teaching – Fine Arts
Salt Lake City, UT
Combine your love of the arts with a passion for teaching with the University of Utah's Master of Arts in Teaching – Fine Arts. This online program features two 12-day intensive campus residencies during each summer of the program. Students will have time to collaborate with classmates and develop methods-based arts teaching skills. A total of 12 credit hours will be earned through these sessions. The remainder of the program's 30 semester hours is completed entirely online. The program's curriculum exposes students to a broad range of subjects in the arts, including visual arts teaching methods, music and dance, materials and methods, art project design, and more. Students will complete the degree with an arts-based teaching portfolio that will be reviewed and graded by their graduate committee. A non-thesis final project is also part of the degree's culminating experience. Qualifying applicants will need a bachelor's degree in a specific art form or a state arts endorsement in theatre, dance, visual arts, film, or music. An arts-based teaching portfolio must also be submitted at the time of application. Applicants do not need to hold a professional educator's license.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,988 / $24,665
#9 – University of Central Florida
Master of Education in Exceptional Student Education
With the Master of Education in Exceptional Student Education, you'll gain the qualifications for a rewarding career in special education. The program focuses on social justice and educational excellence, both of which can be found through the curriculum. The degree is designed for active teachers who already hold a certificate or license in special education. Upon completing the degree, students will qualify for Florida state certification in Exceptional Student Education. Students will complete all 33 credit hours online, except for supervised teaching practicum. Students unable to complete the practicum requirement may substitute an approved elective. Other specialized courses include Teaching Spoken and Written Language, Methods of Behavior Management, a seminar on critical issues in special education, and more. Degree candidates may complete the program with either a graduate thesis or a research report. The university offers additional programs in Pre-Kindergarten Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Special Education.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,916 / $25,759
#8 – University of Southern California
Master of Arts in Teaching
Los Angeles, CA
Strengthen your skills as an educator with the wide-ranging Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California. Students select from five concentrations within the MAT, including Multiple Subjects, Secondary English, Secondary Mathematics, Secondary Science, and Secondary Social Science. The program blends online instruction with a hands-on component located in the student's community. Students can expect to spend 20 hours per week engaged in student teaching. This dual approach qualifies graduates for a California teaching credential. Applicants should check for interstate reciprocity agreements to see if the credential can be transferred to their home state. Candidates can broaden their educational focus by adding optional certificates in Special Education, Gifted Education, or Bilingual Authorization for Spanish. Students who enroll in the program full-time will typically complete the degree in 13 to 15 months. Part-time students finish within two years on average. Students may join the program at any of three start dates throughout the year, and the university will consider applications on an on-going basis.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $44,712
#7 – San Diego State University
Master of Arts in Educational Leadership
San Diego, CA
The Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from San Diego State University helps current teachers tackle the challenges of leadership roles in their classrooms, schools, and districts. Students are required to complete a series of classes, including Organizational and Systems Leadership, School Improvement Leadership, Communication, and more. Students also take part in seminars focusing on technology architecture and advanced topics in educational leadership. The program is conducted entirely online, and most students will finish their studies within 12 months. Students will enter the program in the summer and progress through the plan of study in a cohort model. Classes are completed by the following fall. The program is open to applicants with a valid teaching license, although applicants residing in the county of San Diego will not be considered. The university holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,176 / $16,680
#6 – North Carolina State University
Master of Education | STEM Education – Science
Train to teach tomorrow's visionaries with the Master of Education | STEM Education – Science degree from North Carolina State University. Students can choose from concentrations in mathematics and statistics education, science education, or engineering and technology education. Through the degree program, students will earn a total of 30 credit hours and may qualify for professional licensure. All students will take the required course Special Problems in Mathematics Teaching before moving into specialty courses for their chosen concentration. The university offers more than 200 classes, and topics range from dendrology and geospatial modeling to environmental stressors and the fundamentals of climate change science. To qualify for admission, applicants will need a bachelor's degree in science or science education with a GPA of at least 3.0. A graduate entrance examination is not required. The education graduate program has been approved by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for advanced licensure for master's degrees. The university offers an eclectic mix of distance education degrees with more than 100 total programs delivered entirely online.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,917 / $25,405
#5 – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Master of Education
Boost your teaching skills with the Master of Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The program is divided into two tracks, allowing students to pursue their specific career goals. The Ed.M. in Curriculum and Instruction gives teachers the skills to educate diverse populations with a strong focus on educational technology. Within this emphasis, students may further focus on Bilingual/Bi-Cultural Education or Digital Learning. The program's other track leads to an Ed.M. in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership. Students in this track can further concentrate their studies on Diversity and Equity, Education Administration & Leadership, Global Studies in Education, Human Resource Development, and Learning Design and Leadership. The schedule features weekly, online synchronous classes to encourage interaction among students and faculty. The program is open to applicants with a valid teacher's license and who graduated with a bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. Students who are interested in the graduate program but do not yet hold a teaching license can obtain their initial licensure through the university's Master's Plus Teacher Licensure Program.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $15,068 / $28,221
#4 – Texas A&M University, College Station
Master of Science or Master of Education in Special Education
College Station, TX
Gain insight into the development of diverse student populations with the Master of Science or Master of Education in Special Education from Texas A&M University. The 36-credit-hour program does not require applicants to hold a teaching license, but it is recommended that applicants have teaching or clinical experience working with individuals with disabilities. The program incorporates several classes designed to help students build skills in educational psychology. Courses include Behavior Management, Bilingual Special Education, and Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis. The program is offered as an M.Ed. or MS degree. Students interested in the MS option will produce a written graduate thesis in addition to the required coursework. M.Ed. students will complete a comprehensive examination at the conclusion of their studies. Students in both degree tracks may elect to pursue certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Certification requires the completion of a series of behavior and research courses that can be selected with the help of a graduate advisor.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,552 / $17,904
#3 – University of Georgia
Master of Education in Reading Education
Help young students grow their literacy skills with the Master of Education in Reading Education from the University of Georgia. Designed for current teachers and literacy professionals, the degree emphasizes the use of new and digital literacies in K-12 classrooms. The degree includes 36 credit hours delivered through a series of 12 online courses. By carefully designing their plan of study, students may qualify to add the Georgia Reading Endorsement to their teaching licenses at the conclusion of the program. Students will take classes in reading instruction, digital resources and literacy, popular culture, literacy development, and beyond. Students will also participate in field experiences through the required Practicum in Reading Instruction and Assessment. All students will take part in a three-credit-hour capstone course focusing on electronic assessment in literacy classrooms, before sitting for a comprehensive final examination that is required to earn the degree. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,704 / $24,692
#2 – Purdue University, Main Campus
Master of Science in Education in Special Education
West Lafayette, IN
Expand your skills as a teacher with a Master of Science in Education in Special Education from Purdue University. The program exposes participants to cutting edge interventions for students with learning disabilities, mild developmental disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, and high functioning autism. Degree candidates select from six concentrations that are designed to meet a variety of career and academic goals. Non-licensure, initial-licensure and additional-licensure concentrations are all available through this online degree program. Credit requirements range from 31 credit hours for the non-licensure option to 45 credit hours for students seeking an initial license. Core coursework includes topics in research, issues in special education, behavior analysis, assistive technology, and more. In addition to completing the required core courses, licensure students will also take part in a special education practicum. Practicum experiences take between seven and eight weeks to complete and can be scheduled during the academic year. The program holds current accreditation from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,208 / $28,010
#1 – Johns Hopkins University
Master of Science in Education – Educational Studies
Master of Science in Education – Educational Studies from Johns Hopkins University delivers the professional development teachers need to achieve their personal and professional goals. Since 2012, the university has offered this non-licensure program to corps members of Teach for America and The New Teacher Project. Alumni of both TFA and TNTP are encouraged to apply as well. Students work closely with graduate advisors to develop a program plan based on the student's current teaching placement and program affiliation. The degree is made up of a combination of core teaching pedagogy courses along with a selection of electives. Core classes include Classroom Management, Transformational Leadership and Teaching, literacy courses, and the development of a teaching portfolio. Students may select from a wide range of electives to customize their degree focus. Common elective topics include school law, human development, the politics of learning, and more. The program is delivered entirely online in an asynchronous format, giving students the freedom to study at their convenience.