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One of the following online master’s degree programs in educational leadership can prepare you not only to educate, but also to lead the next generation of students.

The quality and quantity of education each of us receives can play a key role in defining our lives. The current and future generation of students need a strong generation of educators, and one of Online College Plan’s 30 online master’s in educational leadership can prepare you to help blaze the trail. Contemporary education and leadership requires a knowledge of the current, ever-changing educational landscape, from emerging technologies to culturally responsive education. 

What Can I Expect to Learn From an Educational Leadership Program?

Educational leadership program curriculums build fundamental leadership skills as well as an understanding of key education principles and tools. On the level of general leadership, students may learn skills such as budgeting, communications and community relations, data-driven decision-making, evidence-based practice, and personnel management. Education-specific courses may explore areas such as diverse and multicultural teaching and learning, information technologies for education, school law and policy, special education, and beyond. 

Why Should I Earn My Educational Leadership Degree Online?

Online education is enhancing the current educational landscape, and may shape it for generations to come. Online delivery allows students to learn anytime, anywhere, with maximum convenience and flexibility. Many online programs are more affordable than traditional on-campus programs, due to the ease of access to learning resources, materials, and services. Online education transcends barriers such as distance, busy work schedules, and beyond. 

By earning your master’s degree in educational leadership online, you can maintain your current education career and apply what you learn in the virtual classroom directly to your own, real-world classroom. Completing an online program may also be helpful in building an understanding of the online education landscape, which you can use as you move forward in educating the next generation of students.

What Are the Best Educational Leadership Degrees?

Online College Plan uses data from the National Center for Education Statistics to determine the best programs. We factor in how robust the school’s online education is, how well that school delivers on its promises, how affordable the program is, and how selective the school is as a whole. For more information, see our methodology page.

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  1. MERIT: 100

    Whether you want to lead teachers or entire schools, Pennsylvania State University offers an online graduate program for you. The university’s World Campus offers a Master of Education in educational leadership. In partnership with the university’s College of Education, World Campus delivers the M.Ed. program entirely online. The program offers three emphasis areas: school leader, school leader without principal certification, and teacher leader. 

    The school leader certification emphasis is available only to Pennsylvania-certified educators, and it includes a year-long mentored internship. The school leader emphasis without certification still includes an internship, but is open to students nationally and internationally. 

    The teacher leader emphasis allows individuals to earn their M.Ed. while maintaining classroom teaching jobs. It is designed to prepare individuals to move into roles as department heads, lead teachers, and mentor teachers. Teacher leader coursework covers curriculum design, learning theory, teacher inquiry, and teacher leadership.

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  2. MERIT: 97.95

    If you intend to become a principal, vice principal, or assistant principal, Western Governor University’s Master of Science in educational leadership may suit your needs. The degree program is designed to enhance the prospects of experienced, licensed teachers. Students can expect to learn skills as diverse as budget management, security, and talking to parents and administrators. 

    The educational leadership curriculum explores areas such as finance, governance, law, leadership, and strategic planning. The 13-course curriculum includes a graduate core that consists of three courses: Cultural Competency and Social-Emotional Learning, Data Literacy and Evidence-Based Practices, and Educational Inquiry. Other course examples include Leading Inclusive Schools, People and Talent in Educational Leadership, and School Law. Most students complete the program in 24 months of study.

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  3. MERIT: 93.85

    Professionals throughout the United States may benefit from the University of Florida’s Master of Education in educational leadership program. Suitable for working school leaders, the degree program is delivered online through the university’s College of Education. Students may enter the program in the spring, summer, or fall, on a full-time or part-time basis.

    Students must complete 39 credits of study, including a course in Issues in English for Speakers of Other Languages.  Individuals who demonstrate ESOL proficiency are only required to complete 36 credits. Other course examples include Leading Change, Public School Law, and Technology Leadership. Students can expect to receive mentorship from faculty members and to engage in an education field experience. The program typically takes two years to complete.

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  4. MERIT: 88.49

    Individuals interested in learning about education from a Christian university may look no further than Liberty University’s master’s in education administration and supervision program. The program is also an ideal option for transfer students, who may transfer in up to half of the required credits toward the degree. The education administration and supervision is specifically designed for licensed teachers seeking add-on endorsements or advanced licensure.

    Courses are delivered entirely online in accelerated, eight-week course sessions. The 36-credit curriculum includes courses such as Foundations of Exceptionality, Principles of Behavior Management, and School-Community Relations. On average, Liberty students earn the master’s degree in education administration and supervision in one and a half years.

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  5. MERIT: 87.31

    Texas A&M University’s Master of Education in educational administration program offers an emphasis in PK-12 educational leadership. The degree program is designed to prepare culturally-competent leaders to create change in PK-12 schools. The program also pays special attention to the principles of equity, social justice, and social responsibility. 

    Students enter the program as members of a cohort group. The 36-credit curriculum includes courses such as Administration of Special Populations and Special Programs, Developing School-Community Partnerships, and K-12 School Finance and Budgeting. It also includes two semesters of internship. Upon approval from faculty, students who complete the program may sit for principal certification. The M.Ed. in educational administration program is designed to be completed in two years, or five semesters of study.

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  6. MERIT: 84.63

    The University of Central Florida’s College of Community Innovation and Education offers a Master of Arts in educational leadership. The online degree program prepares graduates to work in education environments that do not require certification. 

    Students can expect to learn about contemporary issues, diversity, evaluation methods, and legal aspects of educational leadership. The 30-credit curriculum includes 21 credits of administration courses and nine credits of research courses. Course examples include Community School Administration, Legal Aspects of School Operation, and Statistics for Educational Data. 

    To complete their studies, each student must submit a culminating research report. UCF students can earn their MA in educational leadership in as few as two years. Graduates may go on to work in environments as diverse as corporate human resources, experiential learning settings and museums, private and charter schools, and beyond.

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  7. MERIT: 83.81

    The University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus offers a hybrid Master of Arts in educational leadership program. The degree program is designed to develop future principals and administrators in PK-12 schools. The curriculum is delivered through a blend of online coursework and evening classes. It is designed to build students’ skills in community relations, curriculum development, finance, legal and regulatory issues, technology, and beyond. 

    Course examples include Curriculum Deliberation and Development, School Budgeting and Finance, and School and Community Relations. Each student must also complete an internship in educational administration and a program evaluation. The program is designed to be completed in three semesters of study. Individuals who successfully complete the program will be eligible to apply for the Michigan School Administrator Certificate.

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  8. MERIT: 82.63

    Florida State University’s College of Education offers its master’s degree program in educational leadership and administration entirely online. The program is designed for current education and/or administrative practitioners as well as individuals looking to learn more about the field. Upon entry into the program, students are assigned a faculty advisor to support them with class scheduling and program completion. 

    The 30-credit curriculum includes required core courses such as Data-Driven School Improvement, Leadership for Diversity, Planning Effective Instruction, and The Principalship. Elective offerings include Application of Policy in Schools and Ethics in Educational Leadership. Students can also expect to complete an internship experience and an online comprehensive exam.

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  9. MERIT: 79.86

    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a Master of Education in educational policy, organization, and leadership. The degree program prepares individuals to lead in elementary and secondary education. The 32-credit curriculum is highly customizable because students choose each course they take. 

    Students must choose six courses from options such as District Change for Equity and Social Justice, Educational Politics and Policies, and Policy and Cultural Context of Education. Each student also chooses a policy, organization, and leadership course from options including Asian American Education, Critical Thinking in Education, and Sociology of Education. Educational psychology course options include Early Adolescent Development and Global Issues in Learning. 

    The culminating, two-part capstone course involves a research project and paper. Students may choose a principal or superintendent specialization. Potential graduate job titles include deans, department chairs, office administrators, policy makers, superintendents, and teacher leaders.

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  10. MERIT: 79.79

    Indiana University’s School of Education houses a fully online program that leads to a Master of Science in education with a major in educational leadership. The degree program is specifically designed for experienced teachers who intend to advance to leadership positions in schools. However, the program does consider strong applicants without teaching experience who demonstrate a commitment to educational leadership.

    Each educational leadership student must complete 36 credits of study to earn their master’s degree. The curriculum includes 27 credits of major requirements, including courses in Data-Driven Decision Making for School Leaders, Public School Budgeting and Accounting, and School Community Relations. The remaining nine credits of the curriculum are fulfilled by three advisor-approved courses. The program includes a built-in pathway to Indiana principal licensure for students who have worked as licensed counselors or licensed teachers.

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  11. MERIT: 79.56

    Whether you are interested in classroom leadership, education administration, or special education, University of Cincinnati’s Master of Education in educational leadership can help. Designed for working educators, the fully online degree program prepares graduates to lead in classrooms and entire schools. It offers students the choice between three concentration areas: online learning and leadership, principal leadership, and special education leadership. 

    The 30-credit curriculum includes 15 core credits and 15 concentration credits. Course examples include Educational Leadership Theory, Leadership for Social Justice, and School and Community Partnerships. All students are required to complete an educational leadership internship. Individuals can complete the graduate program in just one year of study, or they may follow a flexible, part-time track toward their degree.

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  12. MERIT: 77.41

    If you are interested in curriculum development, instruction, and leadership, you may consider Southern New Hampshire University’s Master of Education in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in education leadership. The online degree program teaches individuals key skills for classroom and administrative leadership, as well as innovative approaches to curriculum development and instruction. 

    The program is open to experienced educators and new teachers, and it is most ideal for licensed teachers seeking add-on endorsements. Applicants are expected to have at least six months of K-12 curriculum development or instruction experience. The program does not lead to initial licensure, and teaching certification eligibility requirements may vary by state. 

    The 36-credit M.Ed. curriculum includes courses such as Building Community Through Education, The Educator as Leader, and Emerging Theory and Design. Students can access course content asynchronously—on their own schedules—and earn their degree in as few as 15 months.

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  13. MERIT: 77.24

    The University of Iowa does not simply offer a graduate program in educational leadership—it offers a Master of Arts in teaching, leadership, and cultural competency. Housed in the university’s College of Education, the fully online program prepares working PK-12 educators to lead in schools and education communities. 

    Each degree candidate must complete a minimum of 33 semester credit hours, including 24 core credits and nine specialized elective credits. Core courses include Diversity and Identity in K-12 Schools, Issues in U.S. Schools, and Second Language Classroom Learning. Students may specialize their electives in English language learners, STEM, or talented and gifted students. 

    Courses are delivered in five eight-week sessions each year. Even while holding full-time jobs in education, individuals can complete the MA program in as few as 20 months. Those based in Iowa may apply their degree credits toward maintaining state licensure.

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  14. MERIT: 75.78

    If you’re looking for an accelerated program, the University of North Texas offers an accelerated path to a Master of Education in educational leadership. The degree program emphasizes contemporary research and decision-making skills in affecting positive change in school environments. The 30-credit educational leadership curriculum consists of 10 courses. Required courses include Campus Level School Law; Organizational Change and School Improvement; and Race, Class and Gender Issues in Education. 

    In order to meet principal certification requirements, each student must have a valid teaching certificate and two years of teaching experience in an accredited school. Each student must complete an internship in educational administration in order to earn principal certification. Students can earn their M.Ed. in educational leadership from UNT in as few as 12 months.

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  15. MERIT: 76.72

    If you are interested in leading at the college or university, Stony Brook University’s Master of Arts in higher education administration program may be a good fit. Housed in the university’s School of Professional Development, the degree program offers students multiple options for maximum flexibility. 

    The program is suitable for both experienced and emerging education professionals. Students may enroll in the program on a full- or part-time basis, and they may complete the program on campus, entirely online, or in a hybrid format. The 36 credits includes 18 credits of core courses and 18 credits of electives. 

    Core courses include Diversity and Higher Education, Leadership in Higher Education, and Survey of College Student Development Theory. Elective offerings include The Contemporary Undergraduate, International Higher Education, and Student Affairs Administration. Each student must also complete a capstone seminar and project. Full-time students can earn their MA in as few as 16 months.

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  16. MERIT: 75.96

    Colorado State University’s Global campus offers a Master of Science in teaching and learning with an education leadership concentration. The online degree program prepares graduates to pursue job titles such as principal or vice principal in K-12 settings. Students have the option to pursue a principal licensure concentration, but the program itself does not provide educator licensure or add-on endorsements. 

    Students can expect to spend six to eight hours per week in internships. Course examples include Cultural Responsiveness in the Differentiated Classroom, School Culture and Equity Leadership, and Technology and Innovation. The program also includes action research and a research-based, professionally-oriented capstone project.

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  17. MERIT: 75.96

    Northern Arizona University offers multiple Master of Education in educational leadership programs. Students may choose an emphasis area in adult learning, community college and higher education, instructional leadership, K-12 teacher, or principal K-12. Each student must complete at least 30 credits and get approval for their plan of study from their advisor and department chair.

    The M.Ed. curriculum varies by emphasis. Course examples include Creating Technology Learning Environments, Distributed Learning Delivery Systems, Instructional Theory and Strategies in Technology Integration, Leadership Skills, and Social Entrepreneurship in Higher Education. The M.Ed. in educational leadership culminates in two seminars: a master’s seminar and a professional development seminar.

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  18. MERIT: 75.91

    San Diego State University’s Master of Arts in educational leadership is designed for working teachers and administrators seeking leadership positions in K-12 classrooms, schools, or districts. It is also ideal for individuals who are interested in leading the new generation of education enhanced by cutting-edge technologies. 

    The educational leadership curriculum consists of a set course sequence that can be completed in one year. It includes four leadership courses: Organizational and Systems Leadership, Professional Learning and Growth Leadership, School Improvement Leadership, and Visionary Leadership. It also includes graduate seminars in tech architecture and learning and leading through technology. The program culminates in two intensive seminars with a written project.

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  19. MERIT: 75.81

    The University of Kansas School of Education offers a Master of Science in education in educational administration. The degree program follows a cohort model and is designed to be completed on a part-time basis by working educators. Students may complete the program online or in a hybrid format that blends online coursework with classes on the university’s campus in Lawrence, KS. 

    The curriculum includes courses such as Data-Driven Leadership, Education in American Society, Principalship, and The Student in Society. It also includes an extensive field-based practicum experience with an accompanying electronic portfolio and a comprehensive exam. 

    Students who intend to pursue principal licensure may follow the program’s building leadership track, which includes an internship. The non-licensure track is fully coursework-based and does not lead to licensure.

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  20. MERIT: 75.40

    The University of Texas at Arlington offers an online program leading to a Master of Education in educational leadership and policy studies. The university developed the program in collaboration with local school districts. It leads to principal certification and is designed to prepare graduates to become assistant principals or campus principals. It is an accelerated, non-thesis program. 

    Course examples include Diversity in Educational Settings; Governance, Political, and Legal Aspects of Education; and Leadership Theory. The curriculum also includes an administrative practicum and a capstone internship. Students can earn their M.Ed. in educational leadership and policy studies and earn principal licensure in as few as 16 months.

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  21. MERIT: 75.31

    George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development offers a Master of Arts in education and human development. The online degree program is designed for working professionals in diverse K-12 settings. Students may choose to join hybrid cohorts throughout Virginia.

    The 30-credit curriculum includes courses such as Leadership for Equity and Social Justice; School, Family, and Community Engagement; and School Law and Policy. It also includes a three-credit administrative internship, which most students complete in the school where they work.

    Students can earn their degree in as few as two years. The program helps qualified students meet administrator or principal licensure requirements for multiple states, including the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Graduates may go on to work as assistant principals, principals, and instructional supervisors.

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  22. MERIT: 74.79

    Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College offers a Master of Education in educational leadership with a concentration in principalship. Each student must be employed in a school setting in order to apply what they learn. Students can complete the degree program in a fully online or hybrid format. Online students may enter the online program in the fall, spring, or summer semester. 

    The 36-credit curriculum includes required core courses such as American Education System; Critical Issues in Educational Leadership; and School, Family and Community Connections. Each student must also complete a two-semester internship and a culminating applied project. The program qualifies students for preK-12 principal certification in the state of Arizona. Students can earn their M.Ed. in educational leadership in six or seven semesters.

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  23. MERIT: 74.66

    Iowa State University’s College of Education offers a Master of Arts in educational leadership with built-in principal licensure. Individuals must have three years of preK-12 teaching experience. 

    The online degree program requires 36 semester hours of study, plus 12 semester hours of clinical coursework for those pursuing licensure. All coursework is delivered online, including the clinical component, with weekly live virtual course sessions. Interaction is promoted through audio and video streaming. 

    The core curriculum includes eight courses, such as Contemporary Management Strategies for the K-12 Principal, Legal Aspect of School Personnel, and School and Community Relationships. The clinical component includes courses in early childhood leadership, elementary leadership, secondary leadership, and special education leadership. All students must successfully complete a comprehensive exam.

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  24. MERIT: 74.20

    Sam Houston State University’s Master of Arts in higher education administration program prepares students for mid-level leadership positions in colleges and universities. The fully online curriculum focuses on academic affairs, governance and organization, and student success, as well as contemporary topics such as information technology. 

    The 36-credit curriculum includes courses such as Diverse Student Populations, Leadership in Education, and Student Services in Higher Education. Elective offerings include Concepts in Academic Advising, Fundamentals of Data Management, and Statistics for Institution Research. Students have the option to complete a thesis, but it is not required. Students also have the option to pursue a certificate in academic advising or higher education assessment and institutional research.

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  25. MERIT: 73.84

    The University of Nebraska’s Office of Graduate Studies is home to a Master of Arts program in educational administration. Students may follow an online track with a specialization in higher education. The online option is a non-thesis program that requires 36 credits of study. Course examples include College Students in America, Higher Education Environments, Law and Higher Education, and Personnel Management. 

    Students have opportunities to attend events such as the Sybouts Student Research Symposium and the Women in Educational Leadership Conference. All students must successfully complete a comprehensive exam prior to graduation. Part-time students with full-time jobs can complete the program in four semesters and two summers.

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  26. MERIT: 72.64

    Michigan State University’s Master of Arts in education program offers six unique areas of concentration, including P-12 school and postsecondary leadership. Housed in the university’s College of Education, the MA in education program is an online, coursework-based program. The leadership concentration is designed for working educators in adult education and higher education settings. 

    The concentration is not designed to meet administrative certification requirements. Concentrated course examples include Adult Career Development, Concept of a Learning Society, Engaging Diverse Students and Families, and Issues in Urban Education: Racial Achievement Gap. Students must complete 30 credits toward their degree, including a course in Concepts of Educational Inquiry, a capstone Education seminar, and an online portfolio.

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  27. MERIT: 71.06

    Minnesota State University Moorhead offers a highly personalized, competency-based, fully online Master of Science in educational leadership program. The degree program is designed to prepare graduates for administrator licensure as a director of community education, director of special education, and K-12 principal and superintendent in Minnesota or North Dakota. 

    Students have the option to pursue a generalist program or an additional emphasis in K-12 administration, student affairs and higher education, and student affairs. The 32-credit MS curriculum includes core courses such as Educational Law and Organizational Structure of Education; Personal Communication and Ethics; and Social, Cultural, Political, and Community Dimensions of Education. Each student must also complete a portfolio and presentation, a practicum experience, and written and oral comprehensive exams.

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  28. MERIT: 70.63

    Ball State University offers the largest principal program in Indiana, in the form of a fully online program leading to a Master of Arts in education in educational administration. The degree program prepares individuals to earn a P-12 building-level administration and supervision license, also known as a principal’s license. 

    The 36-credit curriculum includes required courses such as Educational Finance, Human Resource Development, and School Law. Each student must choose one of the following three elective courses: Education and Ethics, History of American Education, or Multicultural and Multiethnic Education in American Schools. 

    The program also requires two semesters of internship in principal positions at an elementary, middle, or high school. Students can complete the MA in education program in as few as 18 to 20 months.

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  29. MERIT: 70.56

    Originally founded as a teacher’s college, the University of Southern Mississippi has a long tradition in preparing competent educators. The university offers busy working educators a fully online program leading to a Master of Education in educational administration and supervision. 

    The 34-credit curriculum follows a set course sequence, with each term of courses building on the previous term’s. Course examples include Advanced Leadership for Organizational Effectiveness, Leading Diverse School Populations, Socio-Political Issues and Educational Leadership, and Transformational Leadership. Each student completes an administrative internship spread over three semesters and carried out in at least two school sites.

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  30. MERIT: 70.53

    The University of Arkansas’ College of Education and Health Professions is home to a Master of Education in educational leadership program. Prospective students must hold a valid teaching license in order to be admitted to the program. Applicants may apply at any time, and admitted students may start in the fall, spring, or summer semester. 

    The degree program is designed to prepare educators for administrative positions in elementary and secondary schools. It is delivered entirely online, with the exception of a required in-person internship experience. The 33-credit curriculum includes courses such as Aspects of Special Education, Effective Leadership, School Finance, and School Law. Students can earn their M.Ed. in two years of study.

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What Can I Expect From a Career in Educational Leadership?

Educational administrators face a variety of job prospects in leadership roles in education-related settings. They may work as principals, assistant or vice principals, superintendents, or instructional coordinators. They may lead elementary, middle, or high schools; higher education, departments, colleges or universities; or even entire school districts. Alternatively, education professionals may work in adult education, special education, government agencies, or education-related nonprofits.

Education administrators in elementary or secondary schools are responsible for planning and overseeing the school’s academic, administrative, and even extracurricular activities. The median wage for elementary and secondary school administrators was $94,390 in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The bureau reports a similar wage for education administrators, at $94,340 per year as of 2018. Postsecondary education administrators work in adult education settings, colleges, and universities. They oversee academics, faculty research activity, and student services, from admissions to career services. A master’s degree is typically the minimum requirement for entry-level careers in postsecondary education administration. The demand for postsecondary education administrators is growing faster than the average occupation, at a projected 10-year rate of 7%.

Many educational administration employers prefer candidates with teaching experience. Employers for postsecondary education positions may favor candidates who have experience in higher education occupations, such as academic deans and registrars.

Other Educational Leadership graduates may work as instructional coordinators. Instructional coordinators have a more specialized role in educational settings. They are responsible for developing school curriculums, teaching standards, and instructional materials. They may work in a variety of settings, including colleges and universities, educational support services, elementary and secondary schools, government settings, and professional or trade schools. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, instructional coordinators earned a median salary of $64,450 in 2018. Instructional coordinator job prospects are growing at an average speed, with a 6% growth rate by 2028.

A master’s degree in an education-related field is often required or preferred for most positions in educational leadership, but some professionals also require certification, licensure, and/or prior, lower-level experience in education.

What Are the Typical Admissions Requirements for Master’s Degree Programs in Educational Leadership?

The educational leadership programs listed above are designed for individuals from recent undergraduates to current teachers and experienced education professionals. The programs are designed for individuals seeking administrative, leadership, or supervisory positions in PK-12 school or higher education settings. 

Many educational leadership programs, especially online master’s degree programs, require students to hold a current educator position while pursuing their degree and/or to have a certain number of years of professional education experience. Because the above programs are delivered fully or entirely through online coursework, they are often designed for practicing educators to promote invaluable real-world experience in the field. 

As they pursue their master’s degrees, degree candidates can apply what they learn in online courses to their own classrooms and school workplace environments. Many programs include an internship or practicum requirement, which working educators can often complete in their own place of work. 

Some educational leadership programs, even those that are not designed for practicing educators, require prospective students to hold a current teaching license in their state. A relevant education license also gives individuals an early advantage in the educational leadership job market, as licensure is often a minimum requirement for positions in the field. 

Some educational leadership programs include built-in tracks to administrator or principal licensure in select states. Others may offer licensed education professionals add-on endorsements that may advance their career prospects. 

In addition to the education-specific requirements, many of the master’s programs mentioned follow similar general graduate admissions requirements, such as a relevant undergraduate degree with a strong grade point average. Some programs may require applicants to submit Graduate Record Exam scores, letters of recommendation, and a current resume outlining relevant professional experience.

If you’re interested in pursuing higher education, then you should check out THE 30 BEST ONLINE PHDS IN CURRICULUM & INSTRUCTION!