Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

James M. Tobin, MFA
Updated April 19, 2024
Edited by
Reviewed by
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An online master’s in secondary education helps you develop advanced pedagogical insights or teaching skills. Educators working with middle and high school students often benefit from these programs.

Master’s degrees are becoming more popular with teachers, as shown by a 2023 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report. The NCES found that from the 2011-2012 to the 2020-2021 school years, the number of U.S. public school teachers with master’s degrees rose from 48% to 51%.

As teachers earn advanced degrees at higher rates, an online master’s in secondary education can help you keep pace. Explore tips on what to expect from programs and how to choose the right learning opportunity in this helpful guide.

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Top Online Master’s Degrees in Secondary Education

#1 Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

Ball State University

  • Location-markerMuncie, IN
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,628
  • Out-of-state$26,862
  • Retention Rate73%
  • Acceptance Rate68%
  • Students Enrolled20,319
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment60%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

University of Louisiana at Monroe

  • Location-markerMonroe, LA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,788
  • Out-of-state$17,888
  • Retention Rate69%
  • Acceptance Rate70%
  • Students Enrolled8,718
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment53%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

McNeese State University

  • Location-markerLake Charles, LA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,147
  • Out-of-state$13,185
  • Retention Rate69%
  • Acceptance Rate69%
  • Students Enrolled6,454
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment86%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

Western Kentucky University

  • Location-markerBowling Green, KY
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$10,992
  • Out-of-state$27,000
  • Retention Rate73%
  • Acceptance Rate98%
  • Students Enrolled16,750
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment57%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

University of Alabama in Huntsville

  • Location-markerHuntsville, AL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,730
  • Out-of-state$22,126
  • Retention Rate79%
  • Acceptance Rate74%
  • Students Enrolled9,636
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment62%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

Georgia Southern University

  • Location-markerStatesboro, GA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,371
  • Out-of-state$15,425
  • Retention Rate72%
  • Acceptance Rate91%
  • Students Enrolled27,076
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment65%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

Georgia College & State University

  • Location-markerMilledgeville, GA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,508
  • Out-of-state$26,688
  • Retention Rate78%
  • Acceptance Rate88%
  • Students Enrolled6,763
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment35%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

Citadel Military College of South Carolina

  • Location-markerCharleston, SC
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,356
  • Out-of-state$30,857
  • Retention Rate86%
  • Acceptance Rate86%
  • Students Enrolled3,693
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment32%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

University of Nebraska at Omaha

  • Location-markerOmaha, NE
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$6,344
  • Out-of-state$19,926
  • Retention Rate69%
  • Acceptance Rate87%
  • Students Enrolled15,328
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment75%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education

Saint Joseph's University

  • Location-markerPhiladelphia, PA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$47,740
  • Out-of-state$47,740
  • Retention Rate89%
  • Acceptance Rate83%
  • Students Enrolled6,464
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment40%
  • AccreditationYes

Did You Know…

According to the National Education Association (NEA), teachers with master’s degrees command 7.6% higher starting salaries than peers with only a bachelor’s.

What to Expect From an Online Master’s in Secondary Education

Master’s in secondary education programs differ in their objectives. Some target educators working toward non-licensure careers, while others equip certified teachers with advanced credentials. As you research programs, make sure they match your long-term career goals.

Degrees geared toward educators on non-licensure career tracks aim to build deeper skills with broader professional perspectives. Licensure-track degrees include more rigorous coverage of pedagogy, assessment methods, classroom management, and adjacent topics. Programs focused on licensure may alternately concentrate on building subject-specific or specialist teaching expertise.

In both cases, master’s degrees typically cover about 30-36 credits. Some programs go higher, extending into the 48-60 credit range. If you study full time, you can usually complete your degree in about 18-24 months.

According to the NCES Data Lab, graduate students in education programs at schools offering fully online instruction paid an average of $5,187 in tuition and fees in 2020. However, tuition rates may vary significantly among institutions.

Popular Courses

The courses you’ll encounter in your curriculum depend on the program’s objectives and underlying academic philosophy. Also, note that some master’s programs function as alternative routes to teacher certification for students with non-education bachelor’s degrees. These programs will feature student teaching components, which you’ll need to complete in person.

Despite these caveats, many master’s in education online programs cover similar subjects. Here’s a sample of commonly required courses:

Child and Adolescent Development

This course, rooted in developmental psychology, focuses on education-related aspects of child and adolescent development. It explores cognitive, physical, and social developmental indicators through theory and applied research.

Classroom Management and Behavioral Support

In secondary settings, educators draw on targeted classroom management strategies. This course introduces multiple strategic approaches and builds student proficiency with best practices for using them. It also examines positive behavior intervention techniques to prevent academic failure.

Critical Secondary Education Issues

Learning and teaching processes are affected by external socioeconomic factors. This course builds awareness and sensitivity for these issues, examining their everyday effects on public school classrooms.

Educational Assessments for Secondary Students

Coursework delves into techniques for assessing learning and knowledge retention in secondary students. In addition to relevant theories and common practices, this class also considers institutional policy and how it affects assessment standards and learning outcomes.

Secondary School Teaching Strategies

In this course, learners explore teaching methods for secondary students. Covered instructional strategies may include elaboration, interweaving, retrieval practice, spaced practice, and other evidence-based techniques.

Degree and Specialization Options

Master’s degrees in education typically lead to master of arts (MA) or master of education (M.Ed.) designations. Both cover similar material, but M.Ed. programs tend to place more emphasis on technical teaching skills.

When you pursue a master’s in secondary education online, you can choose from generalist or specialized programs. Generalist tracks focus on versatile, broadly applicable skills. They may cover specialized topics but with a limited scope or through electives. Examples of these concentrations include:

English as a Second Language

ESL teachers specialize in helping English language-learners. They focus on teaching techniques for developing proficiency and building confidence with listening, speaking, reading, and writing the English language. In the United States, ESL teachers frequently work with immigrant populations.

Instructional Design

The instructional design specialization focuses on innovative and creative ways to engage students in classroom learning. In the 21st century, the field has become increasingly centered on integrating digital and networked technologies into public school classrooms. You can use insights from this course beyond the classroom as a curriculum developer.

Special Education

Special education concentrations train teachers to work with students with emotional, intellectual, physical, and/or learning disabilities. Some special education programs focus on particular degrees of disability, such as “mild to moderate” or “moderate to severe.” Special education programs may also focus on the unique needs of intellectually gifted students.

Graduation Requirements

To qualify for graduation, you’ll need to satisfy the program’s credit and academic performance requirements. Some online master’s in secondary education degrees require learners to earn minimum passing grades, such as a C- or B-, in all required courses. Others may track your cumulative GPA in core coursework, which must remain at or above a specified level.

Programs may also include culminating experiences. Depending on your degree’s focus, these components could extend to one or more of the following:

  • Capstone, research, or thesis projects
  • Clinical experiences
  • Field-based observational and/or student teaching components
  • Internships

In some states, you may also need to meet special training requirements covering sensitive topics like preventing school violence or standards for identifying and reporting suspected cases of child abuse.

What Can I Do With an Online Master’s in Secondary Education?

Many people who do a master’s in secondary education online go on to work as classroom teachers. However, you’ll also have other career options after earning this degree. Their pay rates generally align with classroom teachers who have similar credentials.

As you’ll see below, many but not all adjacent related jobs involve frontline work with students. The following section includes several available career paths:

Academic Coordinator

Also known as instructional coordinators, academic coordinators develop and implement school curricula. They help create learning materials, plan academic programs, and monitor students’ academic outcomes.

  • Required Education/Licensure: Typically hold at least a master’s degree plus multiple years of administrative or teaching experience; some states require licensure
  • Median Annual Salary: $66,490
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +2%

Educational Consultant

Educational consultants work for schools or school boards, or as independent professionals. They liaise with students, students’ families, teachers, and school leadership to improve institutional effectiveness.

  • Required Education/Licensure: Master’s degree plus multiple years of teaching or administrative experience
  • Average Annual Salary: $66,640 (March 2024)

Education Policy Analyst

Policy analyst duties focus on data analysis. These specialists gather and analyze information about educational programs and policies. They evaluate that data to measure the effects of existing policies and/or identify policy proposals with the potential to generate positive outcomes.

  • Required Education/Licensure: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in education policy or a related specialization
  • Average Annual Salary: $64,060 (March 2024)

Instructional Designer

Instructional designers develop, revise, and update school curricula to reflect current best practices and education standards. They also create learning materials for educational use and make policy recommendations on educational technology integrations.

  • Required Education/Licensure: Master’s degree in education with a specialized focus on learning or instructional design
  • Average Annual Salary: $68,850 (March 2024)


Tutors work with students individually or in small groups outside of the classroom. They help students learn and master academic material. Some tutors specialize in preparing secondary students for college entry exams like the SAT/ACT. This career path may appeal to master’s degree-holders seeking non-licensed student-facing roles.

  • Required Education/Licensure: Bachelor’s degree
  • Median Annual Salary: $36,680
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +3%

Choosing the Right Online Secondary Education Graduate Program

Key considerations for choosing a program include:

  • Relevance for your planned career path
  • Specialization or concentration options
  • School location
  • Program costs and financial aid availability
  • Post-graduation placement rates

In addition, look closely at each program’s curriculum and graduation requirements. If you plan to seek a teaching license, be sure your degree includes face-to-face student teaching components, as required for state licensure.

Accreditation is also critically important. You must attend an accredited institution to ensure employers and other colleges will recognize your credentials. The U.S. Department of Education offers resources to help you research the accreditation status of schools you’re considering.

Some programs and departments hold specialized credentials for education degrees. These accreditations may signal elevated levels of academic rigor, quality, or excellence in a specific area.

Examples of these organizations include the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Paying for an Online Master’s Degree in Secondary Education

Students often pursue online master’s degrees in secondary education to boost their earning power. As this April 2023 NEA report indicates, public schools throughout the United States tend to offer teachers with master’s degrees higher salaries.

That extra earning power can come at a price, however. Higher education is expensive, and students often need help meeting their schooling costs. Consider these financial aid options:

Scholarships and fellowships both offer non-repayable forms of financial aid. If you secure these forms of funding, you’ll receive a lump-sum award that you can use to meet direct education costs, such as tuition fees. Educational institutions, charities, individual donors, and philanthropic groups provide need-based and merit-based scholarship funding. Fellowships are similar, except that they are primarily available to graduate students and often provide higher awards.

Work-study programs pair school enrollment with a part-time job, usually in a setting related to your degree. As an online master’s in secondary education student, you may not have access to campus-based work-study placements unless you live locally. However, some programs support off-campus employment, which might offer you some options.

The federal government’s TEACH Grants provide up to $4,000 in funding per academic year. To qualify, you must commit to working full time for at least four years in a lower-income educational setting. If you meet all requirements, your grants are non-repayable. Otherwise, your grants will automatically convert to standard federal student loans.

Each year, you can claim up to $2,000 in credits on your income tax return through the Internal Revenue Service’s Lifetime Learning Credit program. Notably, there are no eligibility limits. You can claim the credit during any year in which you paid qualified educational expenses.

By attending an institution accredited by a recognized agency, you will qualify for federal student loans, making institutional accreditation a critical consideration. Private loans can help you fill any leftover funding gaps. However, federal and private loans both create long-term debt, so make sure to use them sparingly.

Questions About Getting a Master’s in Secondary Education Online

Do I need to get certified or licensed to teach after earning a master’s in secondary education?

Yes. If you plan to become a classroom teacher, you must pursue certification or licensure independently of your degree with the appropriate state-level agency. Master’s programs do not automatically lead to teacher certifications or licenses.

What are the benefits of getting a master’s in secondary education online?

Master’s in secondary education programs with online delivery feature flexible schedules and often incorporate asynchronous learning. This makes it easier for people with busy lifestyles to accommodate their studies. A master’s degree can also increase your earning power.

Do I need a bachelor’s in education in order to get a master’s in education?

Not necessarily — it depends on the school and program. Many universities offer post-bachelor’s education programs for learners with non-education degrees. These study paths are one of the major alternative paths to teaching licensure.

Is an online master’s in secondary education worth it?

From a financial standpoint, educators with master’s degrees often generate strong returns on their investments through access to higher salaries. However, researchers are divided on the question of whether teachers with master’s degrees do a better job in the classroom. Some trustworthy sources say they do. Others say a master’s degree makes little identifiable difference in teacher effectiveness.

Which professional organizations should I join to help my teaching career?

High-profile national professional organizations for teachers include the NEA and the Association of American Educators. These groups offer extensive professional development resources and excellent networking opportunities.

Next Steps

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by Accredited Schools Online. Page last reviewed March 25, 2024.

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