Exploring the Best Online Elementary Education Master’s Degree Programs

Continue your teaching journey by adding a master’s in elementary education online degree to your resume. Discover the best programs with top scores in convenience, specialization options, and value.

An online elementary master’s degree can help you be the best teacher you can be—one of those who make a true impact in the lives of so many children. With a multitude of specialization options available, the master’s in elementary education online does more than just advance your teaching career; it can also open doors to related occupations, such as educating future elementary school teachers or moving into administration.

Many elementary master’s degree programs are available online, making it possible for students to continue working while taking classes. You might have questions such which programs are best, how much it costs, and how your career might change after graduation. We aim to answer those and many other questions, giving you all the information you need to choose the best master’s degree in elementary education program for your professional needs.

2021 College Spotlights: Best Online Elementary Education Master’s Degree Programs

Individuals interested in going back to school for a master’s degree in elementary education have plenty of programs to choose from. Finding the right program can be tricky, not only to meet your professional goals but also your financial goals. To give you a jumpstart on your search, we’ve found three top schools that stand out in terms of learning options, value, and accreditation. These schools are part of a large list of ranked schools that we’ll be releasing later this year, so check back to see even more.

Ball State University

Ball State University’s Master of Arts degree in elementary education is intended for those who already have their teaching license but would like to learn about recent developments in technology and teaching and how they can change elementary education. Accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), this program’s coursework includes classes such as:

  • Research in Elementary Education
  • Education in a Diverse Society
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Effective Use of Technology in the Classroom

This curriculum is exactly the same as what on-campus students take and is taught by the same professors. However, online students take their courses asynchronously. This allows them to take classes at the time and place that’s most convenient for them.

For students who want to earn their initial teaching certification, there’s also the Elementary Education—Transition to Teaching program. On its own, this program does not lead to a master’s degree. However, with just five more classes students can earn their online master’s degree in elementary education.

University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota is a leader in distance learning, and its CAEP-accredited M.Ed. in elementary education is no exception. To earn the degree, students complete at least 32 credits, the majority of which are fully online. Students also need to complete a practicum, which gives them hands-on experience and education training in a learner-oriented setting.

Most students take two to three years to complete their online elementary education master’s degree, which culminates with a thesis, independent study, or scholarly project. Students also take at least four electives, allowing them to customize their online elementary education master’s degree.

For those with master’s level coursework already under their belt, the University of North Dakota allows 25% of their curriculum to consist of transfer credits from another qualified institution. Students need between 30 and 36 credits to graduate.

University of Alabama

The University of Alabama’s online Master of Arts in elementary education online program is a good fit for educators who already have their teaching license and want to learn about updated teaching methods at the elementary level. Accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the program requires between 30 and 36 credits and focuses on advanced teaching skills, such as applying educational research findings to the classroom and integrating computer-based instruction into the elementary curriculum. Students choose one or two of the following specialty options:

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Literacy
  • Science

These courses take up 12 credits. The rest of your credits will cover topics like research, curriculum development, and instructional methods.

Applicants must have a teaching certificate and bachelor’s degree in elementary education from an accredited school. They’ll also need at least a 3.0 GPA in the most recent 60 credits completed at the postsecondary level.

Benefits of Earning an Online Master’s in Elementary Education

Even though many teaching positions require only a bachelor’s degree, the master’s in elementary education online degree offers a variety of advantages. Many of these revolve around the professional doors the master’s degree can open for you to step into administration, research, or teacher education. As you’re deciding whether to take that next step and pursue a master’s in elementary education online, consider these advantages.

  1. Learning flexibility

    The majority of prospective master’s in elementary education students will be new graduates about to enter the educational field or those already working as teachers. And most of them will want to continue teaching while pursuing their master’s degree. The online learning format makes this easy to do, with most classes offered so students can complete their classwork while still taking care of their personal and professional obligations.

  2. Pay boost

    Many school districts and states give teachers a pay increase after they earn a master’s degree. These pay increases range from modest stipends to offset educational costs to significant raises. Either way, a master’s degree in elementary education online can soon pay for itself.

  3. Alternative career options

    The master’s in elementary education online isn’t just for helping you get a job in elementary education or improving your teaching practice. It can also provide the academic credentials necessary to begin teaching in other environments, such as at the postsecondary level, or to begin working in elementary school administration.

What You’ll Learn in a Master’s in Elementary Education Online Program

The courses you take during your online elementary education master’s degree will vary depending on the program and your specialization. You’ll also encounter different requirements. For example, students may have the option of choosing a scholarly project, independent study, or thesis. There may also be a field experience or practicum requirement in addition to the online coursework.

Here are five popular classes that master’s in elementary education online students may find in their program.

Popular Courses

  • Teaching Literacy to Diverse Learners

    This class teaches how to adjust reading lesson plans to account for students from diverse backgrounds. This includes students who are gifted, special needs, or who don’t speak English as a first language. Teachers also learn to be more aware of gender, class, and ethnic issues and how they can impact the effectiveness of your lessons.

  • Early Childhood and Elementary School Curriculum

    This course provides an overview of recent developments in academic instruction. It examines historical and present-day trends in educational theories concerning the teaching of preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school students.

  • Mathematics for Elementary Educators

    This course focuses on how to more effectively teach mathematical concepts to elementary students. It also covers math concepts that elementary school students can expect to start seeing in middle school, such as geometry, measurement, and basic concepts in statistics and probability.

  • Practicum in Schools

    This class allows students to visit a local school to observe elementary school students. It also includes applying what they’ve learned in the master’s program to addressing practical problems in the classroom and teaching under the supervision of a licensed teacher. If you’re already teaching, the specifics of your master’s in elementary education online program will determine if you can complete your practicum at your current school or if you’ll need to visit another school.

  • Student Teaching Seminar in Professional Practice

    This class consists of discussing strategies to improve teaching techniques and adjust lesson plans. The discussions occur after students have had a chance to gain valuable teaching experiences through their field work or practicum.

Specialization Options

Master’s in elementary education online degree programs offer different approaches to specializations. One option is to allow a wide range of electives to choose from so students can create their own specialization. Another option is to offer specializations in a particular academic subject, like science or social studies. Many programs offer certificates in specific concentrations that students add on to their online elementary education master’s degree. Below are some of the more popular options available.

  • Literacy

    Elementary school is where reading skills kick into high gear. This concentration teaches various methodologies and theories such as literacy assessment, the relationship between intellectual development and reading, and literacy remediation.

  • Autism

    This newer specialization offers targeted training to help teachers identify students who may have an undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder. Teachers learn how to more effectively teach students on the autism spectrum. Much of this concentration addresses applied behavior analysis and related techniques and methodologies.

  • Education of Gifted and Talented Students

    Gifted and talented students stand out not only in ability but also in learning style. Teachers in this specialization learn the principles surrounding these special students, then transition into how to create curricula to make the most of their talents and abilities.

  • Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

    Students who have or are at risk for developing emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD) need a different approach to learning. This is a high-demand specialization in which courses cover teaching methods for EBD students, how to motivate students, and a historical background of EBDs.

  • Educational Technology

    One of the biggest changes in the education world has been the use of technology, including remote learning options for students. This specialization teaches not just how to use technology in the classroom but also how to incorporate it into the curriculum to improve student learning.

Accreditation for Online Elementary Education Master’s Degree Programs

Accreditation is the process in which an independent organization verifies that a school or program delivers an education that meets a certain level of quality. Accreditation is important to ensure the academic credential earned is recognized by other schools, employers, or financial aid providers.

There are two major types of accreditation, institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation refers to the accreditation of an entire school. Institutional accreditation typically comes from a regional accrediting body, although national accrediting bodies exist. Programmatic accreditation applies to a specific program offered by a school.

The primary programmatic accrediting body for master’s in elementary education online programs is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Depending on when a specific program received its programmatic accreditation, it’s possible the accreditation will be from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Due to organizational changes among accrediting organizations, NCATE became CAEP.

To confirm if a program or school you’re interested in is accredited, visit the CAEP website or the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

What You Can Do with a Master’s in Elementary Education

A bachelor’s degree is often the minimum needed to become an elementary school teacher. Earning a master’s degree in elementary education online provides additional skills and theories that can improve your ability to communicate and teach elementary-aged students. Since there are many specializations available, you can shift your focus into working with a different group of elementary school students, such as those with special needs. The master’s degree also offers the option of changing careers within the field. Due to the highly skilled nature of these positions, many pay well.

Elementary School Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators manage the curriculum at their respective institutions. An elementary school instructional coordinator identifies elementary-level academic topics to teach and develops or recommends the curricula to teach that information. For most instructional coordinator positions, specialized training and experience in curriculum development is required. This usually necessitates a master’s degree.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$38,260 $66,290 $103,790

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Elementary School Teacher

These teachers focus their efforts on students in grades one through six. Depending on the school, elementary school teachers may provide instruction on a variety of academic subjects, such as science, social studies, math, reading, and writing, or they may specialize in just a few of these subjects. A master’s degree in elementary education online can help teachers shift into a new teaching role and assist teachers in learning new ways to provide instruction.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$39,020 $59,670 $97,900

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Elementary Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers at elementary schools work with students who have learning, emotional, and/or mental challenges. Tasks include assessing abilities, crafting lesson plans to convey class materials, and implementing Individualized Education Programs. An online elementary education master’s degree is helpful for entering this career, thanks to the special education concentration available in many programs.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$40,560 $60,460 $97,210

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Elementary School Principal

Elementary school principals manage all the activities and operations that occur in an elementary school. The master’s in elementary education online degree offers some of the high-level skills necessary to accomplish these duties as well as a depth of understanding of curriculum and effective teaching methods. This position typically requires a master’s degree.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$63,070 $96,400 $148,630

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Postsecondary Education Teacher

Postsecondary education teachers provide instruction to those who have finished high school. While a doctoral degree is common among postsecondary education teachers at colleges and universities, the master’s degree is often sufficient for teaching at technical schools or community colleges. An online master’s degree in elementary education can help prepare individuals to teach elementary education topics to these postsecondary students.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$31,730 $65,510 $128,140

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Master’s Degrees in Elementary Education

The online elementary education master’s degree might be ideal for your education career goals, but is it ideal for your bank account? Fortunately, there are a number of sources for financial aid to help pay the cost of attendance, such as scholarships, grants, fellowships, student loans, and employer tuition assistance. Each option will have its advantages and disadvantages, as well as intricacies in obtaining it. To learn more, visit our financial aid page.

What Your Online Master’s in Elementary Education Could Cost

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

Kansas State University

31

$495

$15,345

McDaniel College

33

$537

$17,730

University of Missouri

30

$463

$13,903

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Elementary Education Master’s Degrees

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in elementary education?

The admissions requirements differ among the various master’s in elementary education online programs. The most basic requirements include the following:

  • Application
  • Application fee
  • Official transcripts showing bachelor’s degree completion and GPA
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation

Some programs will also require applicants to submit:

  • Praxis Core test scores
  • Copy of a valid teaching certificate
  • GMAT, GRE, or other nationally recognized standardized test scores

Carefully check the requirements for any program you’re considering so you’re clear on what you’ll need to submit and when.

How long will it take to finish my master’s in elementary education online?

Most master’s in elementary education online programs consist of 30 to 36 credits. Depending on the curriculum and your pace, you’ll most likely need one to four years to complete your master’s degree in elementary education. If attending class full-time, your degree will take you about two years, such as with this program at American University. Some schools offer accelerated programs that last just over a year. For instance, at the University of Louisiana Monroe students can graduate in 15 months.

Can I earn a master’s in elementary education 100% online or do I need to visit campus?

Most master’s in elementary education online programs offer 100% of the coursework online, with no on-campus visits required. However, these programs still have a field experience or practicum class that requires students to complete in-person training at an approved location. Often this is student teaching at an accredited elementary school near the student.

Does an online master’s in elementary education prepare you for initial teaching certification?

Most online elementary education master’s degrees are intended for certified teachers who would like to shift their teaching focus into elementary education or advance their elementary education teaching skills. McDaniel College is one example of these types of schools.

Of the limited programs that do lead to initial teacher licensure, students need to take additional coursework that provides the in-person classroom experience most states require to become a certified teacher. Grand Canyon University’s Master of Education in Elementary Education online program is one such example.