2021 Best Online Masters in Elementary Education Programs

Earning an online masters in elementary education is a smart way to become the best educator that you can be.

Whether you want to teach in a classroom or provide school leadership, your expertise can make a lasting difference for kids who are just getting started with their education.

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You may be a seasoned teacher or just entering the field of education for the first time. Either way, a master’s degree in elementary education can help you inspire kids from kindergarten through sixth grade to love learning.

Online Masters in Elementary Education Programs

Elementary teacher helping his student in class

An online masters degree in elementary education may be a wise choice for those who want to be teachers and leaders in school settings for young children.

The curriculum for this program may cover psychology, sociology, human development, and learning theories. You can also explore instructional methods and techniques for behavior management. Other classes may focus on specific instructional subjects, such as math, reading, art and physical fitness.

Concentrations are common for online master’s programs in elementary education. Examples of available concentrations include literacy instruction, school leadership, mathematics, and special education.

If you’re already a licensed classroom teacher, then this graduate course of study can help you expand your opportunities and authority as a teacher. You might choose a master’s track that helps you acquire new teaching knowledge. For example, you could study classroom technology or instructional methods.

With a master’s degree, you may be able to add endorsements to your state teaching licensure. You might become recognized as a literacy expert, or you could begin teaching in a special education classroom.

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Alternatively, you could explore leadership skills for school settings during your master’s program. Your degree might equip you to become an administrator, a curriculum advisor or a lead teacher.

Not everyone who goes into an education master’s program is already a licensed teacher. In fact, your academic and professional background might be entirely unrelated to teaching.

It’s not too late to switch careers and become a teacher. Getting an online masters in elementary education might qualify you to earn state licensure for the first time. Licensure requirements vary from state to state, so you’ll need to consult an education board in your area for more information on the correct steps to take.

During an online master’s program in elementary education, you may have opportunities to visit local classrooms to observe teachers or gather data for research projects. If you’re pursuing licensure for the first time, you’ll need to complete a months-long student teaching experience.

Elementary Education Careers & Salaries

Elementary Education Careers & Salaries

Classroom teaching is one of the most popular careers for people with online elementary education degrees. Depending on your licensure and state rules, your elementary education master’s degree might qualify you for positions in preschool, kindergarten, elementary or middle school settings.

Some elementary school teachers specialize in special education. They work with preschool or elementary-age students with cognitive, physical, or behavioral disabilities. Specific licensure may be required for teaching special education classes.

With a master’s degree, you might be able to move into advanced or supervisory roles. For example, you might get promoted to head teacher, or you might work as an instructional coordinator who picks out curriculum and suggests teaching methods for educators to use.

Certain elementary school master’s degrees can help prepare you to work as a principal or another school administrator. Regulations about qualifications for administrative positions vary from state to state.

Elementary teacher with his students in library

You may also be able to teach about education-related topics in a college setting. While full-time, tenured faculty positions usually require a doctorate, you may be able to work as an adjunct professor or teach at a community college with your master’s degree.

Not all teaching takes place in school settings. For example, your expertise might qualify you for an educational role in a museum or a community organization. You could plan interactive programs and lead classes for children.

As an education expert, you could do behind-the-scenes work for schools. Curriculum writers prepare materials for classroom teachers to use. Employees in regional education offices help local schools fulfill their mission.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for people in education, training and library careers is $52,380, and these jobs are expected to grow at a 5% rate through the next ten years.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals $98,490
Postsecondary Teachers $80,790
Instructional Coordinators $66,970
Special Education Teachers $61,420
Elementary School Teachers $60,940
Middle School Teachers $60,810
Kindergarten Teachers $57,860
Archivists, Curators and Museum Workers $52,140
Preschool Teachers $31,930
Teacher Assistants $28,900

Some school districts rely on a set schedule for pay and raises. In that case, earning a master’s degree could automatically qualify you for a salary increase. The same applies for those who pursue their PhD in elementary education online.

Choosing an Online Masters in Elementary Education Degree

Getting a master’s degree in education is a big deal, so you’ll want to make sure that you choose the right college for the job.

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To help you decide on a college program, consider your goals and seek out a school that will help you meet them.

  • Accreditation: One of the most important characteristics for any college, including an online one, is its accreditation status. Regional accreditation is the most esteemed variety.
  • In-person requirements: Many programs require practicums or internships in elementary schools. These can be valuable methods of gaining practical teaching tips, and you may be able to fulfill these requirements in your local area.
  • Licensure plans: Some master’s tracks are for current teachers, and others are for those pursuing licensure for the first time. If you need to become licensed, make sure that a university’s program matches up with your state’s requirements.
  • Online format: Online programs may be synchronous, meaning that you have to log in at specific class times, or asynchronous, meaning that you can complete the coursework at any time of day. Some online colleges use a traditional two semester calendar, and others offer short-format classes that run back to back throughout the year.

There’s no single-best school for everyone. A program that was a great fit for one of your teacher friends may not offer quite what you’re looking for. Explore the pros and cons of various universities to determine which one best lines up with your learning style, interests, and ambitions.

Elementary Education Curriculum & Courses

Elementary teacher checking her students during class activity

Most M.Ed. programs require about 30 to 40 credit hours of study. Programs that lead to licensure may take longer than non-licensure tracks.

  • Children’s Literature: You may spend time reading some of the top children’s books from classic and modern authors and discuss strategies for working these books into your classrooms.
  • Classroom Management Strategies: This class covers ways to keep school days running smoothly and deal with children whose behavior disrupts their own or others’ learning.
  • Diversity in the Classroom: This class discusses teaching children from a variety of backgrounds and the ways that culture, socioeconomics and other factors may influence a child’s educational experience.
  • Educational Technology: During your time in this class, you may explore ways to use computers, apps and cloud-based setups to enhance both in-class experiences and distance learning.
  • Elementary Science and Social Studies: This course can help prepare you to cover life science, astronomy, government, geography and other such topics with your elementary students.
  • Learning Theories: This class explores scientists’ latest understanding of how people learn and provides a look at historical approaches to education.
  • Literacy for Beginning Readers: This course can help you become an expert in helping children learn letters and become fluent readers.
  • Methods for Math Instruction: This course is designed to teach students how to help children develop number sense and build a foundation for future mathematics studies.
  • Psychology and Development of the Young Child: This course can help you understand how children change physically, mentally, emotionally and socially from birth through adolescence.
  • Special Needs Instruction: The more that you learn about various disabilities, the more strategies you will have for reaching exceptional children and helping them achieve their full potential.

Student teaching and other field experiences may count toward your accumulation of credit hours.

Admissions Requirements

Masters in Elementary Education Degree studying online on her laptop

The graduate school experience doesn’t begin until you’ve been admitted to a program. Most colleges request a variety of admissions materials in addition to a basic application form.

  • Goal statement: You might be asked to write an essay that outlines your experiences so far and your plans for the future.
  • References: You should ask teachers or bosses who think highly of you to write recommendation letters.
  • Test scores: Some colleges ask graduate applicants to submit GRE scores, but you might be able to skip this step by looking for a no-GRE college or requesting a waiver.
  • Transcripts: This record of your undergraduate coursework shows admissions committees your educational background and your academic aptitude. If you’ve taken other master’s classes, include those transcripts as well.

Some programs only admit students who are licensed teachers and can furnish evidence of that. Other programs are designed for students who do not yet hold licensure.

Accreditation

Masters in Elementary Education Degree Accreditation

If you enroll at an accredited school, you can trust that you’ll be earning a reputable degree. Accreditation is granted to schools that have proven their ability to educate students well.

The best type of accreditation to consider is regional accreditation. There are seven organizations in the U.S. that are allowed to grant this type of accreditation. They include the Higher Learning Commission and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, among others.

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Because earning regional accreditation requires colleges to go through a rigorous evaluation process, employers look favorably on accredited degrees. Also, other colleges think more highly of credits earned at accredited schools.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

financial aid for Masters in Elementary Education Degree students

The more financial assistance you can get for college, the more affordable grad school will be. It’s always a good idea to start the process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Based on your FAFSA results, you’ll learn what sort of government aid you can receive.

Loans are a common form of state or federal student aid. Taking out loans will reduce the amount of tuition that you’ll have to pay upfront. Instead, you’ll borrow the money and pay it back with interest after graduation.

You might qualify for grants as well. There’s no need to pay back grants. Some education students receive grants in exchange for teaching in an underserved area after grad school.

Scholarships are another form of free tuition money. They come from private sources, such as foundations and community groups. Most programs grant their awards to the most qualified applicants.

What Can You Do With a Masters in Elementary Education Degree?

Elementary teacher assisting her students during an activity

Teachers can be some of the most influential adults in children’s lives, and a master’s degree in education can help you become the kind of teacher that leaves a lasting impression.

Many people who earn a master’s in elementary education do so because they love teaching. This course of study can help you excel at educating young students, usually ones in kindergarten through sixth grade. You could pursue jobs teaching general education, a specific subject area or special education.

You could also earn a master’s degree to become a school administrator, a supervising teacher, or a curriculum and instruction expert.

How Much Does an Online Masters in Elementary Education Program Cost?

Masters in Elementary Education Degree student studying on her laptop

Earning your masters in elementary education online is an investment in your future. You might pay between $300 and $700 per credit hour for your studies. Tuition rates vary widely among schools, so you will probably find some programs that are outside of this range.

To calculate the price of a program, figure out how many credit hours you’ll need to earn. Multiply that by the cost per credit hour, and factor in additional fees. A college’s financial aid office can help you learn more about the total cost of a degree and how student aid can reduce your expenses.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Masters in Elementary Education Degree?

Masters in Elementary Education Degree students studying in university library

Most students spend one to two years earning an elementary education master’s degree. The number of credits required for your studies will play a large role in how quickly you can graduate. You may be able to finish a 30 credit program several months sooner than you would a 39 credit program.

Your course load will be another important factor. Part-time studies may take twice as long as full-time enrollment. Some parts of an education degree can’t be rushed. For example, if you have to do student teaching, you should expect that experience to last three to five months.

Are There Any Affordable Online Masters in Elementary Education Programs?

Yes, you may be able to find an online master’s program in education that costs just $300 to $400 per credit hour. To keep your costs low, think about attending a university that offers discounts to online students, military service members, and even in-state residents.

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You can apply for financial aid and scholarships as well. These may put a sizable dent in your overall tuition obligations. You might want to look into programs that cover tuition costs for teachers who work in impoverished or vulnerable areas.

How Much Does a Teacher With a Master’s Degree Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for an elementary school teacher is $60,940. The top 10% of elementary teachers earn more than $100,480 each year. Having a master’s degree may move you toward the higher end of the scale, but wages vary considerably from one district to another.

Educators with the training and experience to land supervisory roles can earn more than standard classroom teachers. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, instructional coordinators make around $66,970 on average each year. School principals earn an average of $98,490 annually.

Is a Masters in Elementary Education Degree Worth it?

Elementary teacher teaching her students in a classroom

Yes, a Masters in Elementary Education is worth it for many students. In education, training, and library field, jobs are projected to grow at a rate of 5% in the next 10 years (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Common elementary education careers in this field include school principal, elementary school teacher, kindergarten teacher, instructional coordinator, and special education teacher.

Parents and communities count on having quality educators who will invest in their children and help them learn academic fundamentals.

Education can be a rewarding field, and many teachers find it encouraging to know that they’re making a difference in students’ lives.

Universities Offering Online Master’s in Elementary Education Degree Programs

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.

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University campus

The Master of Arts in Elementary Education program at Appalachian State University is a 39 credit program that’s offered part-time to interested students. Courses are designed to meet the advanced requirements set by the North Carolina Excellent Schools Act. The program grants level M licensure for teachers teaching grades K-6.

Appalachian State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Auburn University

Auburn University campus

The Master of Arts in Elementary Education program at Appalachian State University is a 39 credit program that’s offered part-time to interested students. Courses are designed to meet the advanced requirements set by the North Carolina Excellent Schools Act. The program grants level M licensure for teachers teaching grades K-6.

Auburn University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Ball State University

Ball State University campus

Students enrolled in Ball State University’s Master of Arts in Education program can select a concentration in elementary education.

The program is entirely customizable, allowing students to further streamline their focuses in fields like human development and learning, English as a new language, gifted and talented education or educational technology.

Ball State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

East Carolina University

East Carolina University campus

At East Carolina University, students can enroll in the Master of Arts in Elementary Education program.

The program accepts both full-time and part-time students and allows students to choose from the following concentrations: English as a second language, teacher leadership, teaching gifted students, early childhood, and teaching children in poverty.

East Carolina University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Indiana State University

Indiana State University campus

Indiana State University’s Master of Education in Teaching and Learning program offers concentrations in several areas including elementary education (K-5). The program requires 33 credit hours and can be completed in as few as 18 months. The curriculum is designed to help students develop leadership skills in their chosen concentrations.

Indiana State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Students in Liberty University’s Master of Arts in Teaching – Elementary Education program learn about methods of teaching and classroom management, current educational trends, theories and methodologies of education, and educational behavior and development.

The program has NCATE accreditation and can lead to licensure in as few as two years.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University campus

North Carolina State University offers two online master’s programs in elementary education – a Master of Education (M.Ed.) and a Master of Science (M.S.). The M.Ed. program consists of 30 credit hours, while the M.S. program requires 33 credit hours.

There’s an optional “mathematics specialist” add-on available for students who are interested.

North Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University campus

Students interested in leadership positions in the field of elementary education can enroll in Old Dominion University’s online Master of Science in Education program. The 30 credit hour program can be completed in about 18 months and has a thesis component to it. Applicants must already hold valid teaching licenses.

Old Dominion University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Samford University

Samford University campus

Samford University’s Master of Science in Education – Elementary Education program is designed specifically for full-time educators who need flexible, online college schedules. The curriculum is a blend of practical, hands-on experience and theoretical concepts. The class sizes are small, and students can earn their degrees in only 16 months.

Samford is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Slippery Rock University

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania campus

The Master of Education in Elementary Education: K-8 Math and Science program at Slippery Rock University is a good option for certified teachers looking to become leaders in the math and science departments at their schools. The program is flexible, can be completed in four semesters and aligns with Common Core standards.

Slippery Rock University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Troy University

Troy University campus

Troy University’s Master of Science in Education program offers different routes to certification in both collaborative K-6 (special education) and elementary education K-6.

The program has accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and is offered both full-time and part-time. The alternative certification routes require one semester internships.

Troy University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Alabama

University of Alabama campus

Students in the University of Alabama’s NCATE accredited Master of Arts in Elementary Education program can choose up to two subject specialties from math, science, social studies, language arts and literacy.

The curriculum includes classes on guiding early and elementary learning, designing curricula for early childhood and elementary schools, and educational research.

The University of Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Central Missouri

University of Central Missouri campus

The University of Central Missouri offers the longest continuously CAEP accredited Master of Science in Education degree in Missouri. Students can select a concentration in elementary education curriculum and instruction.

The curriculum is designed to teach students to think systematically, learn from experience, and demonstrate their commitment to their students.

The University of Central Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Maine

University of Maine campus

The University of Maine offers a Master of Education in Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction (Elementary and Secondary Education) degree with rolling admissions dates and no required standardized test scores.

It’s a cooperative program that teaches students to use research-based knowledge, up-to-date technology and field-tested experience to meet students’ diverse needs.

The University of Maine is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of Mississippi

University of Mississippi campus

Students in the Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction program at the University of Mississippi can select an elementary education concentration. Emphasis is placed on research; students learn to research effectively and use the research of others to become better educators. The program generally takes five semesters to complete.

The University of Mississippi is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Nebraska – Kearney

University of Nebraska at Kearney campus

University of Nebraska – Kearney’s Master of Arts in Education program offers concentrations in both elementary education and early childhood education. There are additional specializations to help students’ develop the perfect curricula for them.

These include the fields of reading and special education, English as a second language, STEM and instructional effectiveness.

UNK is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of New Mexico

The University of New Mexico campus

The Master of Arts in Elementary Education program at the University of New Mexico puts a focus on teacher leadership.

Courses are specifically designed to teach educators to address critical issues affecting education, test new approaches to learning, be effective teacher leaders, increase community engagement, and foster innovative learning environments.

UNM is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of North Alabama

University of North Alabama campus

The University of North Alabama offers online programs in elementary education and elementary education with a combined collaborative teacher component. The elementary education master’s program curriculum focuses greatly on research.

Classes include methods of action research, applied action research, and becoming the master teacher. There’s also a special education component.

The University of North Alabama is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of North Carolina – Charlotte

University of North Carolina Charlotte campus

Students in University of North Carolina – Charlotte’s part-time Master of Education in Elementary Education program will complete 30 credit hours.

The program helps students develop leadership skills and specialized content knowledge in one of the following fields: literacy, anti-racism in urban education, elementary mathematics, STEM, and academically or intellectually gifted.

UNC Charlotte is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota campus

University of North Dakota’s Master of Education in Elementary Education program is perfect for current education professionals seeking to gain advanced knowledge in assessment and curriculum development.

The school also offers an Elementary Education Resident Teacher Program, which allows first-year teachers to earn master’s degrees in one year while teaching.

The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh campus

The online Master of Education in Elementary Education program at University of Pittsburgh helps educators improve their understanding of research, educational theories, and educational policy.

Upon program completion, participants should be able to better meet the needs of their students and should have advanced knowledge in at least one subject.

The University of Pittsburgh is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Southern Mississippi

University of Southern Mississippi campus

Currently, the University of Southern Mississippi is waiving all GRE requirements for applicants into its Master of Education in Educational Curriculum and Instruction (Elementary Education) program.

The curriculum includes required courses on research in reading, elementary mathematics methods, developing curricula for elementary schools, and a seminar in early childhood education.

The University of Southern Mississippi is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University campus

Western Carolina University offers online Master of Education programs in both elementary education and middle grades education.

Both programs are designed to help educators develop and apply research skills to teaching, further their understanding of child psychology, deepen their content area knowledge, and become reflective decision makers in their schools.

Western Carolina University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University campus

The Master of Arts in Teaching, Elementary Education program at Western Governors University helps prepare students for teacher licensure.

The program is very affordable because it offers flat-fee tuition charged by term, not by credit hour, with no additional hidden fees. Other scholarships are available for qualified students with further financial need.

Western Governors University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University campus

Western Kentucky University offers Master of Arts in Education Teacher Leader programs in various concentrations including elementary education.

The core curriculum is designed to empower teachers to address diverse student needs, utilize effective classroom management techniques, and improve student learning. The program is also customizable to fit students’ needs.

Western Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Masters in Elementary Education Online

Masters in Elementary Education Online students studying online

For people who are passionate about children, there may be no greater joy than working as an educator. An online master’s degree in elementary education can help you make a lasting difference in students’ lives.

Graduate school can allow you to enter the classroom for the first time, increase your knowledge about teaching strategies or prepare you for school leadership roles. Because this field of study offers a wide variety of concentrations, you can pick the one that’s just right for your career goals.

To become the educator you’ve always wanted to be, start exploring online master’s programs for elementary education.

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Joy Cromwelle
WRITTEN BY
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.