What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Program?

Educational leaders can be found at public and private institutions of learning across the country. At elementary and secondary schools, principals, vice principals and deans of students oversee their operation, while superintendents and their supportive personnel typically manage entire school districts. At the postsecondary level, deans, department chairs and administrators oversee their college or university’s operation as a whole or within individual departments.

Online programs for a master’s in educational leadership offer the same quality education as what you would find in an on-campus program. Online master’s degree programs are convenient because you can typically take classes at your own pace. So, if you have other commitments, such as work or family, you can fit classes in during the evenings or on the weekends whenever you have time. When browsing through master’s programs in educational leadership, it’s important to find a program that’s right for you and your career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Educational Leadership

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Principal Leadership Prepares students to become leaders of public and private schools, usually in the role of a principal or vice principal. Extensive internships are usually involved with this concentration. Principal, vice principal at public or private K-12 school
Teacher Leadership Ideal concentration for someone who wants to become a department head in a specific area, such as chemistry, math or English. Students enrolled in this type of program learn to lead through curriculum innovation and mentorship. Department head at a college or university, teacher, vice principal
Administration Leadership Focuses on the operations and processes that take place behind the scenes in a school. This is a good option for teachers at private or nontraditional schools (such as Montessori) who want to grow into a leadership role. Curriculum coordinator, principal, teacher, dean

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Educational Leadership

While the individual courses you take during your master’s in educational leadership program are going to depend on your chosen concentration area and individual faculty, many online master’s in educational leadership programs cover similar core courses in certain foundational areas, including:

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Curriculum Development Instead of learning to create individual lesson plans as many master’s in education programs do that are designed for teachers, students enrolled in master’s in educational leadership take a look at the big picture in curriculum development courses.
School Finance Learn about school budgets, what issues are common in school finance and what solutions may be available for addressing them.
Internships Online master’s in educational leadership programs involve many experiential components with many on-the-job skills learned through internships.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership?

Most online master’s degrees in educational leadership require about 36 credits and can be completed in 1-3 years, depending on your pace. Many programs feature flexible, individually paced learning schedules that are specially designed for working students. This way, students can take classes and complete coursework at their own pace, either in the evenings, on weekends or during the summer if they’re currently employed as a teacher.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Prepares For

The type of certification or license you’ll receive after completing a master’s in educational leadership program is going to vary by what state you live in because requirements for educational employment vary so widely by state. This type of program prepares for a principal certification license that’s state-specific.

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
State-specific Principal Certification or License Most of these master’s in educational leadership programs prepare students for state licensure requirements or a principal certification. Be sure to check with your home state’s requirements before enrolling in a program. Most of the time, the certification is built into the program directly, so you graduate with the degree and license at the same time.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Educational Leadership

When selecting an online master’s in educational leadership program, it is important to consider whether or not that program is accredited. Accreditation is important for employment as many schools won’t hire or consider an individual for employment unless the online master’s program they completed is accredited. Accreditation takes place at either a regional or national level. National accreditation is mostly used for online colleges and universities but can apply to any school. Regional accreditation usually applies to brick and mortar schools and many of their online programs.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the US Department of Education oversee the accreditation process and provide recognition for the accreditors. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits most master’s of education programs, including educational leadership.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Educational Leadership Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Students who earn a master’s degree in educational leadership generally enjoy more favorable employment opportunities compared to their counterparts who earn a bachelor’s degree or less. Also, in many cases, requirements for applying for a job such as a principal, vice principal or curriculum coordinator require you to hold a master’s in the field.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce released a study that indicates a low unemployment rate for experienced education professionals with a graduate degree at just 2.2 percent. Compare this number to the unemployment rate for professionals with a bachelor’s degree, which is between 3.7 percent and 5.1 percent, depending on experience level, and it’s easy to see why holding a master’s in educational leadership encourages more favorable job prospects

Expected Salary

In addition to experiencing more positive job prospects, individuals who earn a master’s in educational leadership can also expect to earn a higher salary. Below is a table with the average expected salary in popular jobs in educational administration.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Geographical location also plays a big role in salary as does the type of school you choose to work at. Public and private schools typically have different pay scales, and a lot of it is also dependent on your experience. Below is a map that outlines the annual mean wage for education administrators in elementary and secondary school nationwide. Some of the highest salaries for this position in the country are found in the Northeast, a few in the Midwest and on the West Coast.

Elementary and Secondary School Educational Administrator's Annual Mean Wages by State
Figures in US Dollars per year

Source: Bureua of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

Students who earn a master’s degree in educational leadership qualify for dozens of positions in the education industry. Individual eligibility for specific jobs depends on your chosen area of concentration, career goals and overall experience. Here are some of the most common career pathways for master’s degree holders in educational leadership.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
K-12 Principal Principals work in public or private schools and oversee the daily operations of their school, including daily school activities. They coordinate curricula, oversee school staff, faculty and other teachers, meet regularly with parents and do their best to provide a safe, productive learning environment for their students. $94,390 per year 8%
Postsecondary Administrator Usually employed at colleges or universities, postsecondary administrators oversee student services, academics and faculty research processes. Specific job duties vary depending on the area of the college they manage, such as admissions, the registrar’s office or student life. Some postsecondary administrators work as department heads as well in individual majors such as math, political science or chemistry. These department heads may also work as professors and teach classes. $92,360 per year 10%
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors Directors of preschool and childcare centers often hold a master’s degree in educational leadership. These individuals lead and supervise their staff, create and monitor program plans and teachers’ daily lesson plans and prepare budgets. They’re responsible for all aspects of their center or preschool’s program, including meeting individual state requirements for licensure. $46,890 per year 11%
Instructional Coordinators Usually employed in public or private schools, either at a district-level or school level, instructional coordinators manage the implementation and content of school curricula and teaching standards. They help develop instructional material, coordinate the implementation of that curriculum with teachers and administrators and assess its effectiveness on student learning in the classroom. $63,750 per year 11%

Professional Organizations

Joining professional organizations is critical to your success in the field of educational leadership. These organizations often provide opportunities for continuing education and professional development, have active job boards, host networking events and offer online training courses. Resources like the professional organizations listed below are invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to apply for jobs in the field.

National Association of Secondary School Principals: The NASSP is represented by principals, vice principals and other administrative personnel in middle schools and high schools across 35 different countries. It hosts networking functions, offers continuing education opportunities and provides chances for its members to become advocates for key areas in school administration.

National Association of Elementary School Principals: The NAESP was founded in 1921 and serves principals, assistant principals and administrative personnel at the elementary level in the United States, Canada and overseas. This organization’s website features an online learning center with webinars, tutorials and links for classroom-based learning programs. The NAESP’s site also has an online resource library for administrative professionals.

Association of Deans & Directors of University Colleges & Undergraduate Studies: A nonprofit organization, the AD&D represents administrative personnel at postsecondary institutions and deans across the United States. It has an annual conference at a different location each year, and individual and institutional memberships are available.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Educational Leadership

While online degrees are often less expensive when compared to the cost of receiving an on-campus education, many students still need financial assistance to help them pay for classes. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is a good place to start. Filling it out can help you find out information about grants, scholarships and other financial aid options available through the government. Two-thirds of college students at the undergraduate and graduate levels rely on loans to fund their education, but there are other options available that are worth investigating. Private grants and scholarships are typically available through private companies, nonprofit organizations or even at the school you’re applying to. Be sure to check out resources available at the individual programs you’re considering in addition to those listed below.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

AASA Educational Administration Scholarship

Award: $2,500

Deadline: September

Eligibility: Must be enrolled in an accredited U.S. graduate school and pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree related to school administration or educational leadership. Five awards are available.

Donald H. and Verna S. Duncan Scholarship

Award: Varies

Deadline: June

Eligibility: Must be a member in good standing of Phi Delta Kappa International and pursuing a graduate program in educational leadership.

Ruth Abernathy Presidential Scholarship

Award: Varies

Deadline: December

Eligibility: Enrolled in a master’s or doctorate program in educational administration or related area and a U.S. citizen.