Education Administration

Pursuing an Online Master’s in Education Administration: What You Need to Know

Pursuing an Online Master’s in Education Administration: What You Need to Know
Principal positions at elementary, middle, and high schools typically require a master's degree in educational administration. Most states also require licensure of public school principals. Image from Unsplash
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Mairead Kelly December 16, 2020

Whether you're seeking new opportunities as a school administrator, educational leader, innovator, or policymaker, an online master's in education administration can prepare for the challenges. Remote learning should make your busy schedule easier to manage.

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If you’re looking to expand your career opportunities in school administration, leadership, or even training and development outside the traditional classroom, an online master’s in education administration (alternately called a master’s education leadership or instructional leadership) may be just what you need. With many online programs available, you can pursue your degree while still working and growing professionally.

In this article about earning an online master’s in education administration, we cover:

  • What is an online master’s in education administration?
  • What careers can you pursue with an online master’s in education administration?
  • What should you consider when choosing an online master’s in education administration?
  • What schools have the best online master’s in educational administration programs?

What is an online master’s in education administration?

Online education administration master’s programs deliver the educational leadership skills teachers and other educators need to advance to the administrative level. Programs in the field vary widely concerning specializations, online course and elective content, required credit hours, and even degree designation: depending on the institution you attend, you may earn a Master of Education (MEd), Master of Arts (MA), or Master of Science (MS). Regardless of their differences, all these programs help students become educational leaders in curriculum, school-community relations, educational culture, school leadership, and student achievement.

A full-time student in these master’s programs can typically complete this graduate degree in one year; part-time students may take three years. Many online education administration programs are primarily or exclusively part-time (although some offer full-time options as well). These programs combine online learning with hands-on field experience or a supervised practicum grounded in theory, research, and educational methodology.

Some of the jobs for which a master’s in education administration prepares students—including principalship and other school administration roles—require a license in many states. Master’s programs may address this need by offering licensure or certification preparation as part of the curriculum. For example, the online master’s in educational administration from the School of Education at the University of Kansas offers a licensure track for prospective principals as well as a non-licensure track for those “who want to increase their knowledge of educational administration but do not seek licensure or endorsement.”


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What careers can you pursue with an online master’s in education administration?

An online master’s program in education administration can prepare you for various career options both in and outside of the traditional classroom learning environment. Graduates of online degree programs fill positions within public and private school systems at the primary and secondary school level, as well as in higher education and beyond. Here are just some opportunities with this degree.

School principal

Principals ensure their schools run smoothly by coordinating with assistant principals, school board members, and other school leaders to define and enforce school policies and guidelines for students, staff, and faculty. Principals also oversee instructional framework, curriculum, school finance timelines, and various school improvements to meet academic standards at the school district, state, and federal levels. They also monitor how teachers meet curriculum demands and, in some cases, carry out tasks that teachers also perform, such as lunch duty, supervising recess, or hall-monitoring.

Principal positions at elementary, middle, and high schools typically require a master’s degree in educational administration. for Most states also require licensure of public school principals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that elementary, middle, and high school principals pulled in a median annual pay of $96,400 in 2019.

University registrar

University registrars work within the higher education administration sphere and are often responsible for supervising both the staff and operations within their institutions’ registrar office. These professionals manage a vast amount of information while scheduling and registering students for classes, coordinating times and spaces for classes, and ensuring that students meet graduation requirements. Other responsibilities include planning commencement ceremonies, reporting grades, preparing transcripts and diplomas, and managing data concerning students and classes. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for postsecondary education administrators—an occupational category that includes this role—was $95,410 in 2019.

Instructional coordinator

Instructional coordinators seek to improve the student learning process, a task requiring mastery of educational technology, principles of professional ethics, and education law. Most work in elementary and secondary schools and colleges or in education programs at professional schools and state and local governments. They are tasked with developing instructional material, coordinating educational content, and providing guidelines to educators to support curriculum and instruction development as well as professional growth and the efficient use of learning technology. The BLS reports that in 2019, professionals in this occupation pulled in a median annual wage of $66,290.

Training and development manager

Training and development managers implement training processes and activities to enhance workplace efficiency and productivity within companies and organizations. They often collaborate with human resources managers, supervisors, and team and department-wide managers to identify new and existing employees’ training requirements and development plans. They typically have in-depth knowledge of instructional methods as well as team coaching skills and experience developing, facilitating, and supervising professional development experiences. According to the BLS, those in this role pulled in a median annual wage of $113,350 in 2019.

What should you consider when choosing an online master’s in education administration?

You’ll want to make sure that you choose an online program that meets your needs and interests and offers the support and resources to help you succeed. Here are some things to look for when finding the right program for you.

Where do you want to work?

In many states, administrators must apply for a license for which a master’s degree is a prerequisite. Private schools do not typically require candidates to have a license, but they may prefer candidates with a master’s degree. To qualify for school administrator licensure, your prospective online master’s degree program should hold approval from the state board of education for the state in which it is located. It’s not essential to attend a program that incorporates licensure into the curriculum, but it sure would make your life easier if you do.

Program cost and available financial aid

Some schools discount tuition and fees for their online programs, although this practice is far from universal. At least as many schools charge the same amount for their online and traditional programs. You will need to check for each school you consider.

When researching these factors, don’t forget to research potential scholarships and grants. Start by searching for scholarships offered nationwide to see what’s out there. Then, check and see what scholarships operate at the state, local, and institutional levels.


Accreditation is the screening process higher education institutions undergo to confirm they meet acceptable standards of educational quality. It also figures into students’ ability to receive federal financial aid, sit for certification exams, and transfer credits to other schools, should they choose to continue pursuing their degree elsewhere.

Private, non-government accrediting agencies typically grant accredited status to schools through periodic external reviews. The national accrediting agency for all graduate degree programs in educator preparation is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), an organization formed by the merger of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) in 2016.

Admission requirements

While specific requirements vary by school, prospective students of online master’s programs in education administration typically need a bachelor’s degree and at least a few years of teaching experience to qualify for enrollment. Additionally, most online programs require applicants to meet a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement of 3.0, though more competitive programs may set a higher GPA requirement.

It’s also common for online programs to require GRE scores, though some may waive this requirement for applicants with significant work experience. Additional requirements often include one or more letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, and a statement of purpose.

Class format and scheduling

While compiling your school search results, be sure to note whether each program operates through asynchronous or synchronous coursework. In asynchronous classes, students can access lectures, assignments, tests, and quizzes at any time, so long as they complete assignments by a specified deadline. Synchronous courses require students and their instructors to log in and interact with one another at a set time. Common online learning tools in this realm include video and teleconferencing, live chatting, and live-streamed lectures.

Educational technology

Distance learners need reliable access to a computer and the internet. Some schools may require students to have a webcam, microphone, or audio and video recording software. Some students may need to install and use video conferencing programs like Adobe Connect or Zoom, which may require greater internet speed.

Student support services

Picking a program with adequate support services can be hugely beneficial in helping you stay motivated towards completing your degree. When researching programs, be sure to note which resources each offers to online students, whether academic counseling, guidance regarding financial aid, tutoring, or mentorship opportunities.

Many online master’s in education administration programs also offer career counseling and other related resources to help students compete in the job market when they graduate. Assistance may include aggregate job and internship databases that allow students to track applications and research prospective employers. Other examples of career resources include interview prep, resume feedback, and access to online career-related workshops and webinars and on-campus events such as employer information sessions and career fairs.


Researching the faculty and looking up some of the research published by key figures in your intended department can help you determine whether a university is right for your academic and professional interests. This step can also help you form expectations for which methodologies and theoretical frameworks prospective instructors favor, as well as the topics they’ll emphasize in the field.

Alumni network

Most graduate schools have alumni associations that offer a range of benefits, perks, and networking opportunities to help graduates make the most of their degree. Students can leverage the relationships they form through these networks to land internships and jobs, form partnerships, and pursue other career opportunities. Many networks also host online job boards or publish periodic newsletters or magazines. Formal alumni associations may also provide long-term support resources to students, such as their alma mater’s library materials, journal and periodical databases, and other educational amenities.

Graduation rate

Student success rates is another metric to consider when researching online programs in education administration. If graduation rates are low, it may mean that students do not receive sufficient academic support or feel a sense of dissatisfaction with the faculty or staff.

What schools have the best online master’s in educational administration programs?

US News & World Report‘s annual report of the top online master’s in education administration programs calculates school rankings through criteria including the assessment of student engagement, online learning technologies, and graduate school faculty credentials and training. Of the schools ranked in its most recent list, programs at these institutions placed highest.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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