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Best Online Master’s Programs in Educational Leadership

Explore the best online master’s programs in educational leadership today. See what you’ll study, how these programs can be affordable and flexible, and ways you can expand your leadership skill set for professional success.

Author: Blake Huggins

Editor: Staff Editor

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A business meeting with three professionals, two women and one man, engaged in a discussion. The man, in a dark suit, is gesturing while talking.

Becoming a leader among students, teachers, and the community is a rewarding feeling. If you’re an experienced educator interested in taking on broader responsibility, earning an online master’s degree in educational leadership is a great option. This degree qualifies you for career paths in which you will play a direct role in establishing goals and setting program standards in the educational field.

But when it comes to earning your master’s, which schools have the programs that will best move you forward in your career? Or how about the right balance of rigorous coursework and an affordable price? The following guide answers these questions and more, starting with our ranking of the best online master’s degrees in educational leadership available today. Take a look inside this year’s top programs.

Best Online Master’s Programs in Educational Leadership for 2024

This list of 2024’s top online master’s degree programs in education leadership is designed to guide you through the decision-making process. Addressing concerns such as cost, timeline, and career outcomes, we’ve handpicked programs that not nurture your leadership skills and prepare you for the challenges and opportunities in the education field.

About the ranking
1
River Forest, Illinois
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

At Concordia University of Chicago, the Master of Arts (MA) in Leadership with a specialization in higher education is designed to prepare students for a career in a leadership role at a postsecondary educational institution. Once enrolled, you will be taking one course per eight-week term over the course of this two-year, fully online program. While most of the program is in the form of traditional lectures, students will also complete a final capstone project. Prospective students should be aware that Concordia University of Chicago is a Christian institution, and this is reflected in their academic philosophy and in the course materials students encounter over the course of their degree.

Program Highlights:

Master of Arts in Leadership: Higher Education Specialization

  • Credits: 33
  • Length: Two Years
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
2
Lynchburg, Virginia
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

At Liberty University, the Master of Education (MEd) in Higher Education — Educational Leadership can be completed fully online in as little as one year. In this program, you’ll be able to complete your courses with maximum flexibility, including Liberty’s policy of allowing up to 50% of your course credits to come from transfers. Over the course of your degree, you’ll be studying higher education from the perspectives of student support and retention, public policy and its effect on the higher education sector, and more. Liberty also offers relatively low tuition rates compared to similar programs across the country. Students should be aware that Liberty University is a Christian institution that emphasizes its religious principles (Evangelical Protestant) in its educational philosophy and in the course material offered, which may affect student experiences.

Program Highlights:

Master of Education (MEd) in Higher Education — Educational Leadership

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: Varies
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
3
Surprise, Arizona
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

The master’s in School Leadership at private Christian Ottowa University is based online but is geared to students in Kansas, where OU has one of its campuses. The program includes pathways for education licensure in Kansas or certification in Arizona, where OU’s other campus is based. Wherever you are, this degree is highly flexible, and students are able to choose from a variety of courses in education including instruction design, principalship, school finance, and more, as well as an optional master’s research project.

Program Highlights:

Master’s in School Leadership

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: Varies
  • Mode: Online, In-person
  • Accreditation: CAEP

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
4
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
5
Stephenville, Texas
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
6
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
7
Pensacola, Florida
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
8
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
9
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
10
Sioux City, Iowa
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
11
Central, South Carolina
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
12
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
13
Ottawa, Kansas
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
14
Livingston, Alabama
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
15
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
16
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
17
Sioux Center, Iowa
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
18
San Angelo, Texas
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
19
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
20
Ashland, Ohio
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
21
Jackson, Tennessee
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
22
Jackson, Mississippi
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
23
Longview, Texas
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
24
New Ulm, Minnesota
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
25
Wilmington, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
26
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
27
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
28
Charlotte, North Carolina
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
29
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation ABHE
30
Orange City, Iowa
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
31
Wheeling, West Virginia
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
32
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
33
Scottsdale, Arizona
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
34
Milledgeville, Georgia
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
35
Gainesville, Florida
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
36
Anchorage, Alaska
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NWCCU
37
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
38
Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NECHE
39
Beaumont, Texas
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
40
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
41
Joliet, Illinois
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
42
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
43
Fairmont, West Virginia
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
44
Jacksonville, Alabama
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
45
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
46
Jefferson City, Tennessee
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
47
Columbus, Georgia
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
48
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC

An Inside Look at Three Online Master’s in Ed Leadership

You know you want to move into educational leadership, but you’re not sure which whether to pursue your degree online or on-campus. To help you decide, we’ve taken a detailed look at three online degrees to give you a better idea of what to expect from an online program. See what courses they offer, how much they cost, and what it takes to graduate with these online master’s in education leadership program spotlights.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University’s online Master of Science in Educational Leadership cultivates the skills you need to manage educational institutions and develop curriculum standards. It prepares students for administrative tasks such as overseeing teachers and optimizing delivery to improve learning outcomes. The program consists of 13 total courses. Over 70% of students graduate in 24 months or less, advancing their careers as school principals and education directors.

Designed for working professionals in K-12 contexts, the program’s course of study offers flexibility through a competency-based learning model. This means you can accelerate quickly through familiar material and set your own pace throughout. Practice-oriented courses provide relevant instruction in the topics you need to meet licensure standards in most states, including systems management and school operations, social-emotional learning, leadership, and school finance. The course of study culminates with capstone experience and practicum components that focus on instruction and professional practice.

Saint Leo University

saint-leo-university-logo

Most students finish Saint Leo University’s 30-credit online Min Educational Leadership in 18-24 months. The course of study qualifies graduates for leadership roles in education and business alike. Recent graduates have filled positions as school principals, corporate trainers, instructional coordinators, and school district administrators. Prospective students must hold a valid teaching certificate and may enter the program with up to 6 transferable credits earned at an accredited institution. The program uses a mix of synchronous and asynchronous elements to deliver its content.

Saint Leo’s educational leadership master’s core curriculum is aligned with national standards and builds key knowledge in learning environment management, technology, human resources, and diversity. A practicum experience near the end of the program students the opportunity to apply gained skills and competency in a supervised setting that supports career advancement. Course topics include, among others, data-driven instructional design, curriculum development for special populations, and school management.

Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University offers an online Master of Education in Educational Leadership that helps working professionals bring their leadership skills to the next level. The program can be completed in as few as 15 months and provides comprehensive training in research methods, school personnel administration, and professional ethics. LSU’s course of study stands out from other online educational leadership programs by offering career and networking opportunities throughout the entire length of the program.

Students work through the 39-credit curriculum at their own pace, making it easy to balance timely study with personal and professional commitments. Classes are delivered entirely online and cover subjects such as applied research techniques, best practices in principal leadership, and school improvement. Students interested in additional topics can also undertake an independent study facilitated by LSU’s leading body of faculty experts. Graduates of the program are fully prepared to build welcoming and challenging learning communities across the educational spectrum.

Advantages of Earning an Online Master’s in Educational Leadership

Online master’s in educational leadership programs know what you need to succeed, but they also know that you’re a busy working professional. Here are just a few of the advantages of pursuing an online master’s degree in educational leadership.

  1. Professional Development

    A main objective of online educational leadership master’s programs is to provide students with the most current leadership skills needed to advance their careers in education. Earning an online master’s in educational leadership means you are ready to take charge of your organization and provide the vision it needs to succeed. You will learn the ins and outs of how to interact with staff, assess programming, and establish challenging but attainable goals.

  2. Networking

    Studying online means you will be exposed to a broad range of experiences and perspectives from a diverse group of peers and colleagues. You’ll have the chance to collaborate and establish key relationships that will pay dividends in the future. These connections can help you locate new career opportunities as well as act as solid resources when it comes time to broadening your organization’s scope.

  3. Flexibility

    If you’re interested in online educational leadership programs, the odds are you already have a career and want to broaden your horizons. The idea of studying while you work might seem daunting, but online programs anticipate that and build in the flexibility you need to successfully balance your education and job obligations. You will be able to access material and complete assignments at those times most convenient to you, so you don’t have to choose between work, family, and school.

What You’ll Learn in Online Master’s Educational Leadership Programs

Online educational leadership master’s programs provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to be an effective leader in a wide variety of educational settings. They give you an understanding of contemporary issues and evaluation practices that equip you to lead with empathy and vision. You will come away with competency in key areas like experiential learning, human resources, and curriculum development.

Most online master’s in educational leadership programs begin with a sequence of core courses that establish knowledge foundations. Once completed, you’ll move on to elective courses that allow you to branch out and explore your particular education and career interests. Quite a few programs provide a course directory or a menu of current offerings to give you an idea of what to expect. Find out more about some of the most popular classes below:

Popular Courses

  • The American Education System

    This course provides a high-level overview of the U.S. education system. It looks at how that system has evolved over time, including its historical development and formative philosophical sources. Students examine policy concerns and political demands by analyzing key case studies and legal findings.

  • Curriculum Assessment

    This class emphasizes school curricula, both the underlying theories that contribute to their development and strategies for improving learning outcomes. Coursework focuses on the role educational leaders play in these processes and asks students to evaluate curricular success in their current professional context. Additional topics include program assessment and instructional evaluation.

  • Staff Supervision and Development

    Students in this course receive training in managing and working with a team of dedicated teachers within their school. It builds key skills in optimizing instruction and content delivery to meet organizational goals. Course subjects include staff training techniques, supervision and performance feedback, remedial assistance, and recruitment.

  • Contemporary Issues in Educational Policy

    This class focuses on current trends, issues, and policy initiatives in education. It looks at how state, federal, and district mandates affect decision-making at the individual school level. Learners examine how those decisions can improve school goals. Students learn how educational leaders can enhance components related to testing, funding, and student support.

  • School Finance

    This course deals with how economic factors and financial concerns affect schools and educational systems. Students learn to prepare budgets, assess financial needs and debt obligations, and manage overall fiscal health. Additional topics typically include taxation, cost analysis, technology, and material procurement, and government regulation.

Specialization Options

Online educational leadership programs often provide additional opportunities for curriculum specialization. These opportunities are a great way to advance your career by building out additional skills. They focus your studies a bit further and give you the chance to deepen your expertise by exploring popular educational leadership applications. Specializations can be a great asset on the job market because they present you as a well-rounded job candidate who can take on a broad range of responsibilities. Here are few of the most popular specialization options:

  • Generalist Track

    Most programs fall into this category. Even those that do not offer individual specializations will administer a generalist course of study through subjects like needs assessment, best practices, and methods of organizational analysis. This approach gives you broad exposure to educational leadership and its many applications.

  • Training and Development Track

    Online educational leadership programs with this specialization focus on the skills and knowledge you need to successfully train educators under your supervision. Major topics include instructional design and professional development. Students choosing this specialization examine adult learning strategies that empower them to tailor educational content to fit unique staffing needs.

  • Professional Track

    Earning an online master’s in educational leadership with the professional track furthers your skills in building effective leadership. This track often includes an applied internship experience designed to prepare students for primary and secondary education leadership roles. It also brings school and district-level concerns into sharper focus.

  • Academic Track

    The academic track allows you to obtain an instruction-oriented online master’s degree in educational leadership. This is an ideal option for working teachers who do not plan to assume management roles but want to learn more about their organization’s inner administrative workings. Included are courses in counseling and teaching strategy.

  • K-12 Principal Leadership Track

    This specialization focuses on educational leadership in K-12 settings and prepares students for work as school principals. Course topics include school business management, school-community relations, cultural competence, and data-driven decision-making. In addition, students participate in applied internship experiences that support career advancement.

Accreditation for Online Educational Leadership Programs

Before selecting any master’s program, it’s critical that you confirm the program’s accreditation status. Accreditation is a quality assurance measure that verifies the program’s rigor and worth. It ensures that you receive a degree that has lasting value and recognition. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation establish guidelines for this process. They also recognize the independent agencies that carry it out.

Most nonprofit schools with an academic focus will have regional accreditation. For-profit, vocational, and technical schools typically receive national accreditation. Each school you consider should have one of these forms of institutional accreditation.

Education degree programs may hold additional forms of accreditation specific to the field. Most states require this type of accreditation for licensing. Organizations like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation typically oversee this process.

What You Can Do with a Master’s in Educational Leadership

Once you’ve graduated from your master’s in educational leadership program, you will be in an excellent position to assume leadership positions in a wide variety of contexts. The careers listed below give you a good sense of what you can expect to do with your degree. These are high-paying, in-demand positions that require the advanced training you will receive by earning an online master’s degree in educational leadership. Each occupational path provides an opportunity for growth, allowing you to advance your career by stepping into roles that require greater responsibility and more opportunity for strategic input.

School Principal

One of the more popular jobs for this degree. School principals oversee school operations and manage day-to-day activities. They maintain curriculum standards, monitor staff performance, and often meet with families to discuss student progress. School principals also often provide counseling services at times and analyze school data to determine success. Along with your degree, you’ll need to obtain state licensure for employment as a school principal.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$63,070

$96,400

$148,630

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

School Superintendent

School superintendents act as the head administrators for their school districts, including all K-12 operations. They oversee the school system’s direction and work to provide leadership and vision to teachers, principals, and staff. In addition, school superintendents work closely with local communities and school boards to ensure quality programming.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$83,000

$119,730

$192,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Postsecondary Education Administrator

These professionals fulfill high-level leadership roles in higher education institutions. They can work in various capacities in registrar’s offices, student affairs, admissions, and financial aid. Others find jobs focused on student housing, residential life, and multicultural affairs. Depending on the college or university’s size, postsecondary education administrators may report directly to provosts or academic deans.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$55,320

$95,410

$194,090

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Curriculum Director

Curriculum directors establish education guidelines and work with teachers and other staff to coordinate programming and oversight. They set curriculum standards and are often tasked with developing effective instructional strategies. Curriculum directors also assess performance and offer recommendations based and program evaluation and targeted research.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$46,000

$75,263

$109,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Education Director

Education directors oversee all education-related projects and activities for their organizations. They typically work in the nonprofit sector but are can also be found in private and corporate contexts as well. Their duties typically include planning education programming, determining staffing needs, and providing leadership to instructors. They may need to travel at times for training and development events.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$39,000

$64,199

$105,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Master’s Degrees in Educational Leadership

Education at the master’s level isn’t cheap, so it’s important to understand the costs involved in your degree program before you commit. There are quite a few financial aid options out there if you know where to look. Some schools offer substantial scholarship and fellowship opportunities to their students. More than 80% of students at Arizona State receive some form of financial aid, for example.

The table below details the current tuition of costs for three online master’s in educational leadership programs. Tuition rates can vary quite a bit, so it’s always best to consult individual programs for more information. Factors to consider in this regard include the type of school (public or private), your enrollment status (part-time or full-time), and where you will be living during your study.

What Your Online Master’s Degree in Educational Administration Could Cost

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Total Tuition Cost

University of Central Florida

Online Educational Leadership, MA

30

$327/credit (in-state)
$1,151/credit (out-of-state)

$9,810 (in-state)
$34,530 (out-of-state)

30

$680/credit

$20,400

30

$1,002/credit

$30,210

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Educational Leadership Master’s Degrees

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in educational leadership?

Overall, most schools follow a similar process. However, requirements and deadlines can differ, so the best rule of thumb is to check with admissions departments for the most up-to-date information. A complete application package typically includes the following:

  • A relevant bachelor’s degree earned at an accredited institution with a competitive GPA.
  • Official academic transcripts for all previous work.
  • An updated resume detailing professional experience in education.
  • Active teaching credentials.
  • At least three letters of reference from persons who assess your readiness to study.
  • A written personal statement indicating your intent to study and your career goals.

It’s worth mentioning here that the professional experience and teaching criteria vary widely by state and individual program.

How long will it take to finish my online master’s in educational leadership?

Time frames for completion largely depend on your unique circumstances and preferred pace of study. Online master’s in educational leadership programs are very flexible and can accommodate a wide range of circumstances. Accelerated programs like those at Fitchburg State and Florida International University graduate students in 12-16 months. St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and Arkansas State University extend that timeline a bit (just under two years). Students can, however, still set their own study pace in each case, and most finish their studies in 2-3 years.

Can I earn a master’s in educational leadership 100% online, or do I need to visit campus?

Earning an online master’s degree in educational leadership means you won’t have to travel to campus unless that’s your preference. Most programs deliver their curriculums entirely online using innovative technologies. They still provide plenty of opportunity for the hands-on interaction you’d experience in traditional instruction, but they do so within a learning environment specifically designed for busy working professionals.

Does an online master’s in educational leadership prepare you for initial teaching certification?

It depends on the specific program. Some programs lead to initial licensure, but only in certain states. Penn State, Arizona State, and the University of West Florida are good examples of such programs. Other options, like those at Gonzaga and Montclair State, are more ambiguous. The online educational leadership programs at Southern New Hampshire University, the University of North Dakota, and Indiana University Bloomington do not lead to initial licensure and only accept applicants with an active teaching license because they aim to help you obtain certification as a school principal.