If you have your sights set on becoming a school principal, then it may be time to earn a masters in educational leadership.
This degree program can also be useful for careers in curriculum planning, early childhood administration, and higher education.
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An educational leadership program can help you learn how to be an effective administrator. It can give you the opportunity to gain invaluable tools that can help you create a welcoming school environment for students and staff and make a lasting difference in your community.
Online Masters in Educational Leadership Programs
Principals play an important leadership role in educational settings. These professionals lead both students and staff members. Becoming a principal usually requires specialized training. Having experience as a classroom teacher can be helpful for the role, but that’s not all that’s necessary for success.
In most cases, a graduate degree is essential. Educational leadership master’s degree programs can help you gain the necessary preparation. These degree programs may also qualify you to take industry exams and earn state certification.
The coursework for an educational leadership degree often covers:
- Budgeting and finance
- Curriculum development
- Diversity and multiculturalism
- Facility management
- Education law and ethics
- Human resource management
- Program planning
- Research and data analysis
- School and staff development
It’s common for educational leadership students to spend time in local schools. During practicums or internships, you may observe real-world school leaders and learn from how they do things. You may also get to try out your leadership skills in a supervised setting.
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You may also need to complete a capstone project before graduation. This capstone will be a chance to put your classroom lessons into practice. A common capstone project for this degree is to solve a problem that schools or students face. As part of the process, you may conduct research or start a program to solve the problem.
Not all educational leadership programs are designed with principalship as the end goal. If you have a different career path in mind, you might be able to select a more appropriate concentration for your studies. Examples include programs for higher education administrators, athletic directors, and curriculum specialists.
If you have principal certification in mind, it’s important to pick a school that aligns with your state’s guidelines. Programs usually specify which states’ guidelines they meet. At the end of your studies, you may need to pass one or more professional exams as required by your state.
After completing the program, including any required internships and exams, you may be eligible to work as an assistant principal or a principal. Other potential jobs include lead teacher, instructional coordinator, or college registrar.
Common Online Masters Degree in Educational Leadership Concentrations
If your goal is to be a school principal, then you’ll want a program that prepares you for such a role. If you have a different leadership opportunity in mind, then you may be able to find a concentration track that’s a better fit.
These are some specializations that you might want to consider, depending on your personal career goals:
- Athletic Leadership: Studying human development, physical fitness, and facility management in an athletic leadership track could help you secure a position as an athletic director.
- Higher Education: A higher education track typically includes studies on curriculum planning, education law, and student affairs at the college level.
- Principal Licensure: This track can help you become a licensed K-12 school principal. These programs are often tailored to a particular state’s requirements.
- Special Education: A special education track will likely include courses in special ed law and behavior modification to prepare you to lead a special education department or become the head of a special needs school.
- Teacher Leadership: Teachers who want to become department chairs, curriculum directors, or community liaisons may benefit from this pathway.
Your school might also offer a generalist program that doesn’t lead to licensure. That may be a good choice if you want to provide educational leadership in a non-school setting.
Examples of careers in non-school settings include being the director of a childcare facility, a camp program, a museum education department, or a tutoring service.
Educational Leadership Careers & Salaries
Most master in educational leadership degree online programs focus on preparing students for principalship. After finishing this degree, you may qualify for your state’s principal credential.
With that certification in hand, you might work as an elementary school, junior high, or high school principal. Jobs are available in both public and private schools. In addition to head principals, many schools also have one or more assistant principals. Taking on the role of assistant principal might help you work toward the lead position.
Leadership roles are also available in facilities for young children. Earning a leadership degree could help prepare you to work as a preschool or daycare director. School superintendent is another top position in the field of education. Some principals eventually become district superintendents. To qualify, you might need to take additional classes beyond your master’s degree or apply for an extra certification.
Not everyone who gets a master’s degree in this field wants to leave the classroom. Getting a degree in educational leadership could also prepare you to be a leader among your fellow teachers. For example, you might receive a promotion to head teacher or department chair. Another possibility is pursuing a career as an instructional coordinator or a curriculum specialist.
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Some programs focus on leadership for higher education. The degree may qualify you to work as a college administrator. Examples include positions in the registrar’s office, the student affairs department, or the admissions department. With experience, you might even become an academic dean or a school president.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are some of the careers you could pursue with an MS in Educational Leadership:
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Elementary, Middle and High School Principals (Local Schools)||$98,870|
|Postsecondary Education Administrators (Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools)||$98,180|
|Postsecondary Education Administrators (Junior Colleges)||$94,120|
|Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals (Private Schools)||$79,780|
|Education Teachers, Postsecondary||$63,910|
|High School Teachers||$61,820|
|Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers||$61,350|
|Preschool and Childcare Center Directors||$47,310|
Jobs in education usually require state licenses, certificates, or endorsements. The educational and professional requirements for those credentials vary.
Masters Degree in Education Leadership Online Curriculum
You’ll probably need to take 10 to 13 classes to earn your educational leadership online masters degree. While the curriculum will vary from school to school, these are some examples of common courses taken for this degree.
- Community and Family Relations: This course typically focuses on fostering strong relationships between schools, families, and the community at large.
- Curriculum and Instruction: This class provides instruction in how to select and implement instructional materials that align with state standards and meet the needs of diverse learners.
- Diversity and Inclusivity: This class discusses how to build a welcoming community where all students—including those of different learning levels and socioeconomic backgrounds—feel capable, safe, and respected.
- Educational Data and Research: A class on quantitative and qualitative research, such as this, can help you learn how to conduct studies related to education and evaluate the results.
- Higher Education Leadership: You might spend one or more semesters studying law, finance, and administration for higher education settings.
- Human Resources and Relations: You may have a course on managing staff, resolving problems, and creating a welcoming workplace.
- Legalities of School Administration: A class on school law typically covers federal and state regulations related to student success and teacher employment.
- Role of the Principal: This foundational course on principalship explores the role of the principal and what it means to be a leader in a school setting.
- School Finance: A class on finance, covering topics like accounting and budgeting, can help prepare you for the business side of school leadership.
- Supervision and Evaluation: You may receive training in how to evaluate staff members’ job performances and provide effective feedback.
It’s common for educational leadership graduate programs to require the completion of 30 to 36 credit hours. Some of those hours may come from an internship or a practicum experience.
How to Choose an Online Educational Leadership Masters Program
A successful grad school experience starts with picking the right program. Everyone’s preferences are different, but considering the factors below can help you make the best decision.
- Accreditation: You may want to look not only for regional accreditation but also for programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
- Concentrations: Depending on your specific career goals, you may want a program that allows you to focus on sports leadership, principalship, curriculum planning, or higher education. There are also generalist tracks for people who don’t need a narrow focus.
- Licensure: Not all educational leadership programs are designed for licensure preparation. Those that are may be suitable only for residents of certain states.
- Requirements: Some schools may require you to complete a thesis, and others may require a capstone project. Internships and practicums may be involved as well.
Remember, different schools use different approaches to online education. Yours may have traditional semesters or accelerated, 8 week terms. The classes may be streamed live or use recorded materials.
Masters in Ed Leadership Admissions Requirements
For educational leadership graduate programs, you may need a specific set of credentials. To show that you’re a good candidate for this field of study, you may need to submit:
- Bachelor’s degree transcripts with a minimum GPA
- GRE scores (not required by all colleges)
- Letters of reference from school administrators or other professional supervisors
- Resume with several years of experience as a teacher, a school counselor, or another education professional
- Teaching license or other state certification from the education field
At many colleges, the admissions requirements may be different depending on the state where you live and work.
Educational Leadership Online Programs Accreditation
No matter which college you choose for an educational leadership master’s degree—whether on-campus or online—it is important to check if it is regionally accredited. Accreditation is almost universally accepted as the mark of a good, reputable school.
You are more likely to be able to transfer accredited coursework from one college to another. That might be something you need to do if you decide to change schools mid-program or want to go back for a second master’s degree later in life. Graduating with an accredited master’s degree may also qualify you for programs leading to a doctorate in educational leadership online or on campus.
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Professional exams and licensure often require accredited college studies. Plus, hiring committees may look more favorably on resumes that list regionally accredited schools.
Educational Leadership Licensure and Certifications
Some master’s degree programs in educational leadership can prepare you for industry credentials. They vary based on the program you’re in and the state where you work.
Education leadership master’s programs commonly prepare students so they can earn their credentials to work as school principals. To earn this credential, you may have to pass an exam in addition to completing your graduate coursework.
In some states, you might be issued a principal license. Other states may add a principal endorsement to your teaching license. You may need a separate certification to work as a school superintendent. That could require additional coursework after completing your master’s degree.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
The school district where you currently work may help pay for your education master’s degree. Some districts offer partial reimbursement, and others may cover the full cost.
Government assistance can be valuable to grad students as well. You may receive low-interest loans from your state or through a federal aid program. As an educator, you might also be eligible for grants, but they are less common than loans. You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn more about government programs.
The school you attend may offer you an institutional aid package that includes scholarship money. You may be able to supplement that assistance with scholarships from private organizations, such as professional educator groups or community philanthropists.
What Is a Masters in Educational Leadership?
A masters in educational leadership is a graduate degree for people in the teaching field. These programs are designed to cultivate students’ abilities to provide leadership in educational settings.
The classes in an educational leadership masters online program will likely focus on organizational structures, leadership theories, and staff development. Many people pursue this degree in order to become school principals or administrators. Others have in mind leadership roles in different learning environments, such as colleges, childcare centers, or tutoring programs.
What Can I Do with a Masters in Educational Leadership?
You might qualify to work as a school principal after getting this degree. Principals and assistant principals provide leadership in elementary, middle, and high schools, both public and private. Some oversee schools for children with disabilities or behavior disorders.
Other graduates stay in the classroom but assume greater leadership roles. For example, they may become department chairs. There’s also the option to take on a different role in a school setting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that a master’s degree is an important step toward becoming an instructional coordinator. Working as an athletic director might be another option.
Is a Masters in Education Leadership Degree Hard?
For a master’s degree in educational leadership, you’ll take a variety of classes essential for the management of a school. They may cover topics like education law, staff supervision, community relations, and business practices.
Since this is a graduate-level program, you can also expect to have research courses. You’ll likely learn about quantitative and qualitative research. You may design your own research project, analyze the data, and share your findings in a report.
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You may also be required to complete an internship that lasts one or more semesters. This can give you the opportunity to observe mentors in the field and gain feedback about your leadership style.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership?
The length of time it takes to complete your master’s degree depends on your school’s format and credit requirements. In general, though, most can be completed in 1.5 to 2.5 years if you’re a full-time student.
The fastest programs to complete are usually those with low credit requirements, short practicum experiences, and year-round accelerated classes. Schools that use accelerated calendars may have courses that are just 8 weeks long. If you have transfer credits from a previous graduate program, you may not have to complete as many classes, which can also speed up the process.
What’s the Difference between an MEd vs. Masters in Educational Leadership?
In this field, you might notice the option to get a Master of Education in Educational Leadership, also known as an MEd. That’s somewhat different from a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Arts (MA) in Educational Leadership.
These are some of the differences:
|MEd in Educational Leadership||Master’s in Educational Leadership|
Depending on your specific career goals, you may want to pursue an MEd in Education Leadership rather than an MS or an MA in Educational Leadership program online.
What’s the Difference between a Master Degree in Educational Leadership vs. Educational Administration?
Two similar areas of study are educational leadership and educational administration. Despite all they have in common, one might be better for you than the other.
|Educational Leadership||Educational Administration|
If you can’t decide, you may want to look for a school that offers a combined leadership and administration program.
What’s the Difference between a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction vs. Educational Leadership?
In general, master’s programs in curriculum and instruction appeal to people with different career goals from those who choose educational leadership programs.
|Educational Leadership||Curriculum and Instruction|
It’s sometimes possible to choose a curriculum concentration in an educational leadership program.
Is a Masters Degree in Education Leadership Online Worth It?
Yes, a masters degree in education leadership online is worth it for many students. School principals and other educational leaders play a key role in students’ learning. Earning this degree can help you develop the leadership skills needed to effectively be the head of academic programs for kids, teens, or even adults.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for school principals are growing at an 8% rate, and a master’s degree is usually required. Positions for college administrators are increasing at the same rate, and instructional coordinator jobs are experiencing 10% growth.
Universities Offering Online Masters in Educational Leadership Degree Program
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
California State University—East Bay offers a Master of Science in Educational Leadership that can be earned completely online. The degree can typically be finished in 18 months. It includes 30 units of courses such as Leading for Social Justice and Equity in Urban Schools, Issues in Educational Leadership, and Collaborative Research for Equity.
Cal State East Bay is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Clemson University offers an online program for a Master of Education in Educational Leadership. New cohorts start every fall, with students taking one course at a time in 8 week terms. While there are deadlines to meet, the courses are otherwise asynchronous. This program is intended for those who already have at least 2 years of professional teaching experience.
Clemson University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Florida State University offers an MS in Educational Leadership and Policy. The program is online, and students can apply to begin in the fall, spring, or summer. Cohorts take two courses at a time each semester and typically finish in 2 years. Coursework includes Teacher Leadership Development, Planning Effective Instruction, Data Driven School Improvement, and more.
The Florida State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
George Washington University offers a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration. Students take classes part-time with a cohort and typically graduate in 2 years. The program uses a hybrid of online and face-to-face instruction and includes internships and field experiences.
George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Georgia College and State University’s MEd in Educational Leadership can help classroom teachers pursue careers in administration. Students complete coursework online and can potentially finish in 1 year including the summer. A new cohort starts every August. The degree requires a total of 36 credit hours.
Georgia College & State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Harvard University offers a part-time, 2 year Master’s in Educational Leadership program. The program includes both synchronous and asynchronous components. It is mostly online, but students are required to come to campus for one summer residency. Students can choose between the PreK-12 Pathway or the Higher Education Pathway, depending on their career goals.
Harvard University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Indiana University—Bloomington offers a 100% online program for an MSEd in Educational Leadership. GRE and GMAT scores are not needed to apply, and prospective students can apply to begin in any semester. The program requires 36 credits of courses such as School Community Relations, Data-Informed Decision Making for School Leaders, and Legal Perspectives on Education.
Indiana University – Bloomington is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Kennesaw State University offers an MEd in Educational Leadership. Students may choose from three concentrations: Coaching for Performance, Leadership in Urban Schools, or Leading Independent and Charter Schools. The latter two are available in a fully online format. Graduates are eligible to pursue GaPSC Tier I Leadership Certification.
Kennesaw State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Louisiana State University offers an online program for a Master of Education in Educational Leadership. The program requires a total of 39 credit hours. It consists of courses such as Understanding and Applying Research in Education, Ethics and Educational Leadership, and Administration of School Personnel. Students must also complete an internship.
Louisiana State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Minnesota State University—Moorhead offers an online program for an MS in Educational Leadership with a 100% job placement rate. The program is designed to prepare students for work in administrative positions in either K-12 schools or higher education institutions. Coursework is asynchronous to provide flexibility for working adults.
Minnesota State University – Moorhead is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Mississippi College’s online MEd in Educational Leadership program can potentially be completed in just 1 year. Students are required to complete 36 credit hours. The curriculum consists of courses such as Introduction to Administrator Preparation, School Law, and Information Management Dimension of Leadership. Mississippi College provides a faith-based curriculum.
Mississippi College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Pennsylvania State University offers a Master of Education in Educational Leadership. There are three areas of emphasis to choose from: Teacher Leader, School Leader (with School Principal Certification in Pennsylvania), and School Leader (without Principal Certification). The program requires the completion of 30 credit hours of coursework and offers internship opportunities.
The Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Texas Tech University offers an online program for an MEd in Educational Leadership with an Emphasis in Educational Policy. The program requires 36 credit hours of coursework and no thesis. The curriculum is designed to teach students how to apply scientific research to inform decisions and policies in the field of education.
Texas Tech University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Central Florida offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. The program requires 30 credit hours of coursework and can potentially be completed in just 2 years. It is designed to prepare students for careers as district or school administrators, instructional coordinators, or similar roles.
The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Cincinnati offers a Master of Education in Educational Leadership. Three program concentrations are available: General Administration and Policy, Special Education Leadership, and Principal Leadership. Students are required to complete 30 credits of coursework and participate in internships to gain hands-on experience. The program can be started in the spring, summer, or fall.
UC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Florida offers an MEd in Educational Leadership. The program includes a track leading to Florida Level 1 certification in educational leadership, as well as a non-certification track. Class sizes average just ten to fifteen students, and students can potentially finish in less than 2 years.
The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of New England offers a 100% online program for an MSEd in Educational Leadership. The program requires 30 credit hours of coursework and can potentially be finished in less than 2 years. It is designed to lead to Building Administrator 040 certification in Maine. Prospective students can apply to begin in the spring, summer, or fall. No GRE scores are needed to apply.
The University of New England is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
The University of North Texas offers an online program for a Master of Education in Educational Leadership. The degree requires 10 courses. With the addition of one practicum course, students can also pursue a Principal as Instructional Leaders Certification. Practicum courses last for a full semester, but all other courses are offered in 8 week sessions.
UNT is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of West Florida offers an online program for an MEd in Educational Leadership. The program requires 30 credit hours of courses offered in 8 week terms, and students can potentially finish in 18 months. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for the Florida Educational Leadership Exam.
The University of West Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Western Governors University offers an online program for a Master of Science in Educational Leadership. The program consists of 13 courses that most students can complete within 21 months. These courses include Leadership Foundations and Ethics, School Law, Leading Inclusive Schools, Datal Literacy and Evidence-Based Practices, and more.
Western Governors University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Getting Your Masters in Educational Leadership Online
If you’re passionate about education, it might be time to get a master’s degree in educational leadership. The program can help you increase your influence, and it may qualify you for promotions.
You may also want to think about getting your educational leadership masters online. Distance learning is especially appealing to busy teachers who can’t visit campus on a regular basis. With an accredited online degree in education program, you can get a high-quality education without quitting your job or upending your life. You can fit schoolwork in on the weekends, in the evenings, and over summer break.
To get started, you can research online educational leadership master’s programs to find the one that is right for you.