Online Master's Programs in Elementary Education

A master's in elementary education can advance field knowledge for current teachers and lead to higher salaries. World Education Services reports that educators with a master's degree increase their average lifetime earnings by nearly half a million dollars, as compared to individuals who only hold a bachelor's degree. Master's degrees can also provide an alternative route to teaching certification for individuals who want to change career paths.

Master's programs equip students with child development and curriculum-related knowledge, emphasizing teaching techniques that complement early learning. This page explores these skills in more depth and also examines potential careers and professional organizations for elementary education graduates.

What to Know About Online Master's in Elementary Education Coursework

Students usually complete 30-45 credits while earning a master's in elementary education. These programs often take 1-3 years and address child psychology and development. The curriculum also addresses educational research, classroom management, and teaching strategies for different types of learners. This information builds organizational and problem-solving skills and also trains degree-seekers to assess student needs.

Elementary education programs may explore common subjects for elementary classrooms, such as natural sciences and primary math. Coursework examines general concepts of these subjects as well as curriculum building and teaching methods for each discipline. These programs give students an overview of many fields and encourage adaptability.

Online programs usually require the same courses as on-campus programs. However, distance education also helps learners develop technological skills that they can use in classrooms. These skills may prove especially helpful if graduates pursue work as online teachers at organizations like VIPKid. However, online learners should choose programs carefully since out-of-state programs may not meet certification requirements within their home state.

What Common Courses Are Offered in a Master's in Elementary Education Program?

Courses in an elementary education master's program explore child development and motivational strategies for children. Programs also prioritize assessment and research for elementary classrooms and train learners to deliver age-appropriate concepts in ways that children can grasp. Course requirements vary among schools. However, students frequently take classes that address the following topics.

Curriculum in Mathematics

Degree-seekers explore teaching strategies for elementary math concepts, such as counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Candidates learn to help children develop problem-solving and analytical skills and determine areas for instructional improvement in classrooms. Similar classes may focus on science, social science, and language arts for elementary learners.

Foundations of Elementary Education

These courses explore the history of education and current field trends. This examination may include sociological and philosophical elements of teaching and reflect scholarly research and theories. Departments may also discuss the influence of globalization on elementary classrooms and examine the connection between education and community.

Educational Research

Candidates study various research methods, such as action research, single-case design, and outcomes-based research. Coursework trains learners to find research questions, perform scholarly research, and present findings in professional ways. Departments may divide this exploration into several courses, such as quantitative research, qualitative research, and applied research.

Child Development

Classes address social, physical, emotional, and cognitive development in children. Coursework explores milestones that elementary teachers can use in lesson plans, disciplinary steps, and motivational strategies. Degree-seekers may also study developmental differences for children with special needs and the influence of community and family on development.

Student Engagement

Students gain skills for encouraging elementary children to participate in class activities through interactive projects and discussions. Candidates also examine methods for building learning independence and confidence in children. These explorations may incorporate child development and psychology to create positive learning environments. Courses address the impact of culture and diverse learning needs on student engagement.

What Specializations Are Available in a Master's in Elementary Education Program?

Some accredited schools offer specializations that focus on learning needs and academic fields. These concentrations examine learning styles and teaching strategies for specific classrooms, such as special education or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This tailored coursework can give students an advantage over general master's in elementary education graduates when pursuing related careers.

Special Education

Degree-seekers explore learning disorders such as autism, dyslexia, and ADHD. Candidates learn assessment techniques for determining each student's needs and methods for building individualized education plans. Departments may prioritize strategies to emotionally, socially, and/or academically encourage students with special needs. Coursework may also address gifted or accelerated learners.


This specialization addresses curricula and teaching strategies for STEM classrooms. Courses examine relevant technologies, STEM education trends, and research practices for culturally diverse schools. Students may need to take general classes in elementary STEM areas, such as natural sciences and primary math.


Coursework for TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) prepares learners to teach non-native speakers by exploring second language acquisition and cultural diversity in classrooms. These programs may address elementary subjects, including literacy and math, as well as child development and psychology. Candidates learn to assess each student's needs and provide instruction that complements various learning styles.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

The curriculum of a master's in elementary education program typically requires a student teaching experience. This fieldwork may include lesson design and delivery in elementary classrooms. Departments may also specify certain classroom types for concentrations, such as special education. Programs generally allow distance learners to perform student teaching at approved local schools. These experiences involve supervision and may require a minimum number of hours or weeks.

Programs may also ask students to put together a portfolio — addressing motivational and teaching philosophies — or complete an original research project. However, these requirements are not as common as student teaching experiences.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Elementary Education Program?

Accreditation means a professional organization recognizes a school, program, or department as being academically rigorous. Candidates should look for regional or national accreditation for schools through agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission. Education programs can also hold specialized accreditation through agencies such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Degree-seekers should also consider program objectives before deciding on a degree. For example, individuals who intend to teach in public schools should select a program that leads to certification. Students may also desire to teach individuals with special needs or learners who speak English as a second language; these candidates may benefit from related concentrations.

Low student-to-faculty ratios mean learners study in smaller classrooms and have the opportunity for more individual interactions. Degree-seekers should also examine student retention, graduation, and satisfaction rates. Higher rates may indicate learners' approval of programs, while low rates often reveal dissatisfaction.

Career Opportunities With a Master's in Elementary Education Degree

The best master's in elementary education programs examine child development and early learning techniques. These concepts benefit elementary and preschool teachers, as well as administrative personnel in school districts.

For instance, graduates with field experience may qualify to design age-appropriate curriculum for children. Individuals can also take advantage of field knowledge while working at childcare centers as directors and owners or teaching elementary learning concepts to higher education students. Many of these careers offer salaries that surpass the national average for all U.S. employees.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

These teachers build lesson plans covering concepts such as addition, reading, and the water cycle. Educators deliver this information in terms that children can understand and assess classrooms for indications of learning difficulties. Candidates plan activities that encourage learning, confidence, and social interaction and discuss children's needs with families and other faculty. Public school elementary teachers must earn a teaching certification, which typically requires an education degree.

  • Median Salary: $57,980 per year
  • Currently Employed: 1,569,000
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +3%
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

These directors create and enforce policies at organizations. Candidates must also choose employees and train workers through workshops and personal direction. They oversee curricula, programs, and teaching strategies to guarantee quality education and care. Other tasks include managing budgets, updating parents on children's accomplishments, and determining if organizations meet state standards. Applicants may need a bachelor's degree for these careers. However, an accredited master's in elementary education indicates familiarity with child development and learning beyond a bachelor's level, which may appeal to employers.

  • Median Salary: $47,940 per year
  • Currently Employed: 66,700
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +7%
Instructional Coordinators

These professionals make curriculum decisions for schools. They determine student needs based on information like standardized test scores. They also design new curricula, recommend textbooks, and suggest teaching methods. Additional responsibilities may include providing workshops for teachers and advising schools on effective technologies. Since school districts typically insist on a master's for these positions, a master's in elementary education may qualify candidates to manage curriculum for early grades.

  • Median Salary: $64,450 per year
  • Currently Employed: 181,600
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +6%
Special Education Teachers

These teachers adjust lessons for students with special needs, including learning and emotional disorders. Educators determine students' learning needs to build effective educational plans. Teachers must communicate with parents and other faculty on children's struggles and accomplishments and should understand common disorders to select teaching tactics. Candidates should choose programs with a special education focus. Teaching certifications may call for only a bachelor's degree, but a master's in elementary education can lead to advanced, alternative certification in certain states.

  • Median Salary: $59,780 per year
  • Currently Employed: 437,200
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +3%
Postsecondary Teachers

These teachers educate college-level students in their discipline, such as elementary education, and often teach several courses each term. Individuals must design syllabi and assignments and present field information in lecture format. These teachers may help departments shape the curriculum. They may also help students choose courses for upcoming semesters and write scholarly articles for publication. A master's qualifies graduates to teach at some two-year colleges. However, many schools require a doctorate for these positions.

  • Median Salary: $78,470 per year
  • Currently Employed: 1,350,700
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +11%

Source: BLS, 2019

What's the Expected Job Growth for Elementary Education Careers?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects all careers that were mentioned in the previous section to grow between 2018 and 2028. The BLS projects the highest growth for postsecondary teachers (11%) and the lowest for kindergarten, elementary, and special education teachers (3%). These projections are based on a variety of factors, including anticipated increases in school enrollment.

Employment levels also vary by location. For example, California offers a higher employment level of elementary teaching positions than any other state. Degree-seekers can increase their employment chances by determining what careers are commonly available in their areas.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Elementary Education

Elementary teachers can attend conferences and seminars that are delivered by professional organizations. These events can extend professional networks and enhance educators' understanding of teaching techniques. Other benefits include access to job listings, field publications, workshops, and online courses for professional development. Groups may also deliver educational programs for children that teachers can use in their classrooms.

National Association for the Education of Young Children

  • NAEYC publishes books and periodicals related to educating children. Members can attend the group's annual conference, webinars, and virtual classes. NAEYC also delivers a job search tool.

National Education Association

  • NEA provides funding for classrooms and hosts events such as an annual meeting and a representative assembly. Its website also gives educators tips for lessons, activities, and classroom design by topics and seasons.

Council for Exceptional Children

  • Educators can build field knowledge through CEC's books, journals, and webinars. Its website also offers special education resources and a list of available positions. Premier members benefit from liability insurance and free or reduced-rate journals and books.


  • Scholastic provides book recommendations by grade level, subject, and topic. Teachers can purchase books at discount rates and explore articles on classroom libraries and reading encouragement through the site.

International Literacy Association

  • ILA hosts a conference with speakers, book sales, workshops, and author signings. The association also publishes the magazine Literacy Today and three journals. Local organizations can request two-day ILA intensives for guidance on current literacy problems in their communities.

How to Pay for a Master's in Elementary Education Degree

Educational costs for a master's in elementary education include tuition, fees, and textbooks. These costs vary by school, but often amount to thousands of dollars each year. Students should consider the most affordable programs and explore financial aid opportunities to help manage these expenses.

Federal Financial Aid

Students can submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to see whether they qualify for federal grants and work-study programs. These funding options do not require repayment. Candidates may also qualify for federal loans with relatively low interest rates and income-based repayment plans.


Many schools and businesses offer scholarships with varying criteria and application steps. Possible criteria may relate to a student's heritage and major. Applicants may need to submit essays, references, and transcripts. Recipients only repay funds if they do not complete professional or academic obligations. For example, learners who do not finish a semester may need to repay funding for that term. The Isabel M. Herson Scholarship in Education is one scholarship available to aspiring educators.

Tuition Reimbursement

Some employers offer to pay partial or total tuition for their employees. This funding may require an application and include stipulations such as a minimum GPA or course focus. Payment details vary. Some organizations may pay tuition up front or reimburse costs after the term has ended.

Private Loans

Private loans come from non-federal sources, such as banks, and do not usually offer the same benefits as federal options. For instance, students may need to start paying back these loans before graduating, and interest rates often exceed federal loan expectations. Additionally, private loans may not come with income-based repayment plans or deferment options.