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Best 20 Online Master’s in Educational Leadership in 2021

March 28, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Schools need effective leaders that can cultivate a positive school culture and develop strategic plans for student success. Educational leadership programs prepare educators for careers as assistant principals, principals, and superintendents. Principals in K-12 schools make a median salary of $96,400 per year. 

What Do Educational Leaders Do?

The most common career for someone with a master’s degree in educational leadership is that of the K-12 school principal. Principals are in charge of managing staff, coordinating curriculums, and working to establish a productive and safe learning environment. As a part of their responsibilities in directing the operation of a school, a principal may also establish programs such as counseling, after-school child care, and extracurricular activities. Other positions suitable for this type of degree can include superintendency or other district level leadership positions.

What Is It Like To Work As A Principal?

Most principals work in local public schools, however about 18% work in private institutional settings. The work is demanding, as districts hold principals accountable for their school meeting local and federal standards for performance and educator qualification. Principals must work not only with faculty but also parents, students, and the community at large.

This is a full-time career, sometimes exceeding 40 hours per week. It’s not unusual for principals to work evenings or weekends in order to meet the needs of parents and to attend school functions. They work year round even when students are not in school, including summers. Despite these demands, many find working with the students under their care to be extremely rewarding.

Discover more online graduate degrees in educational leadership by using our quick and easy degree finder tool.

The Best 20 Value Online Master’s In Educational Leadership

We ranked a list of 20 schools from across the United States on a 100-point scale. Our criteria focused on estimated tuition cost and the number of credit hours needed to complete the program. View the results below!

1. Louisiana State University Shreveport – Louisiana – 71 points

Louisiana State University Shreveport offers a master of education in educational leadership program that may be completed in as little as 12 months. Interested applicants must have either a graduate degree from an accredited University or a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 overall GPA. LSUS has a graduate enrollment population of 6,002. 

  • Program cost: $12,697
  • Credit hours: 34

2. East Central University – Oklahoma – 70 points

The master’s degree program at East Central University can be completed within 1.5 years, with courses averaging 8 weeks. Up to 9 credits may be transferred into the program. Students gain hands-on experience through a 146-hour practicum. ECU has a graduate population of 632.

  • Program cost: $10,176
  • Credit hours: 32

3. Austin Peay State University – Tennessee – 69 points

Austin Peay State University features an online program taken as a cohort with internship experiences embedded into course assignments. Completion of this degree program and passing required state exams will make students eligible for Tennessee School administration licensure. Interested applicants must already have a valid teaching license and a letter of support from their current principal. APSU has 1,077 enrolled graduate students.

  • Program cost: $11,760
  • Credit hours: 30

3. Troy University – Alabama – 69 points

Troy University offers a master of science degree in instructional leadership and administration. This program admits three cohorts per year in the fall, spring and summer. Applicants must have a valid Class B Bachelor level Alabama professional educator certification or a master’s-level professional educator certificate in a teaching field. Applicants must have a minimum of three years paid full-time teaching experience. Troy University has a graduate enrollment population of 3,441.

  • Program cost: $14,820
  • Credit hours: 30

5. Regent University – Virginia – 64 points

The master’s degree program at Regent University is approved by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education to provide endorsements for students who already hold a teaching license. This program has eight start dates throughout the year. Applicants must have a current teaching license and at least three years of professional pre-K through 12 teaching experience. Regent University has 5,957 enrolled graduate students.

  • Program cost: $16,500
  • Credit hours: 30

6. Bowling Green State University – Ohio – 59 points

Bowling Green State University offers an educational leadership master’s degree that includes all the OAE courses required for an initial administrative license. Full-time students who take summer courses can complete this degree in 2 years. The fully online option comprises a mix of asynchronous and synchronous sessions. Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or higher or submit recent GRE scores. BGSU has a graduate enrollment population of 2,630.

  • Program cost: $13,992
  • Credit hours: 33

6. University of North Dakota – North Dakota – 59 points

The master’s degree program at the University of North Dakota can be completed in about one to two years. They designed this program for licensed teachers who have a minimum of 2 years of experience. Upon completion of the degree, students may have the requirements for the North Dakota principal credential for the elementary or secondary level. UND has 3,418 enrolled graduate students.

  • Program cost: $15,999
  • Credit hours: 30

8. Indiana Wesleyan University – Indiana – 58 points

Indiana Wesleyan University offers a master of science in school administration licensure which is available to students in all states. Completing this program will allow students to become eligible for a building level administrators license in Indiana or Ohio. Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 2.75, have a valid teaching license, and have access to a P-12 school in which the principal can serve as a mentor for the internship requirement. IWU has 4,485 enrolled graduate students.

  • Program cost: $15,510
  • Credit hours: 33

9. Arkansas State University – Arkansas – 57 points

Students can complete the online MSE in educational leadership at Arkansas State University in as little as 20 months. The program has multiple start dates per year with courses ranging in length from 5 to 7 weeks. Interested applicants must have a valid teaching certificate and at least one year of teaching experience and a bachelor’s degree with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. ASU has 4,428 enrolled graduate students.

  • Program cost: $11,412
  • Credit hours: 36

10. University of New Mexico – New Mexico – 55 points

The University of New Mexico‘s master of arts in educational leadership program develops leadership skills that can assist students in achieving licensure by the State Public Education Department. However, the school does not guarantee approval for licensure because additional requirements exist for students seeking such licensure in New Mexico. Interested applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. UNM has a graduate student population of 5,399.

  • Program cost: $11,808
  • Credit hours: 36

11. Brandman University – California – 54 points

Brandman University offers their master’s degree program in a fully online or hybrid learning option. They also offer a more specific degree in leadership of early childhood education programs. Brandman expects applicants to have a current resume, bachelor’s degree, and meet one of 4 GPA options. There are 4,171 graduate students currently enrolled at Brandman University.

  • Program cost: $20,100
  • Credit hours: 30

12. West Texas A&M University – Texas – 50 points

The educational leadership program at West Texas A&M features newly redesigned courses that conform to the new state standards for principal certification. They offer courses during fall, spring, and summer at full or half semester. The self-paced program features long courses and practicum that can be completed on approved campuses of a student’s choice. WTAMU has 2,615 enrolled graduate students.

  • Program cost: $19,890
  • Credit hours: 30

13. Marshall University – West Virginia – 40 points

Marshall University features a leadership studies program with a focus on principal administrative licensure. Every student in this online program must designate a current principal to act as their mentor during their studies. Applicants are required to have a professional teaching license or a student support certificate in school counseling, and must have a minimum of two years of experience. Marshall University has an enrolled graduate student population of 3,437.

  • Program cost: $15,228
  • Credit hours: 36

14. Columbus State University – Georgia – 38 points

In the master’s degree program at Columbus State University leads to Tier 1 certification in educational leadership, which is the initial certification track for the field in the state of Georgia. Full-time students can complete the program in approximately 16 months. Students who currently hold a master’s degree in education may earn the leadership certification within 12 months. Regardless of the chosen program, the student will complete internships with a certified mentor. CSU  has 1,376 enrolled graduate students.

  • Program cost: $13,860
  • Credit hours: 36

14. Grand Valley State University – Michigan – 38 points

Grand Valley State University features an educational leadership master’s degree program with a 100% acceptance rate. Individual courses last 15 weeks and are offered in fully online and hybrid formats. Students willing to pursue a degree in hybrid format can also choose to specialize in special education administration. GVSU has 2,921 graduate students.

  • Program cost: $23,694
  • Credit hours: 33

16. University of Southern Maine – Maine – 31 points

The MSEd program at the University of Southern Maine features an embedded internship that includes 240 hours of field experience and a research project. Program duration varies but can be completed within 14 months. Students can choose from 3 certification strands: school principal, curriculum coordinator, or special education director. USM has 1,754 enrolled graduate students.

  • Program cost: $15,480
  • Credit hours: 36

17. Florida International University – Florida – 30 points

Florida International University offers a 100% online program that may be completed in 16 months. The internship requirement is also online. Students do not need to submit GRE scores for admissions. They require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of at least 3.25 and at least 3 years of successful full-time teaching experience. FIU has a graduate student enrollment population of 9,385.

  • Program cost: $22,930
  • Credit hours: 39

18. Columbia College – Missouri – 19 points

The educational leadership program at Columbia College features 4 emphasis areas: initial principal certification, reading specialist, gifted certification, and instructional coach. Certification courses apply only to the state of Missouri, and students must already hold a valid Missouri teaching certificate. Special tuition rates are available for members of the military. Columbia College has a graduate student population of 526.

  • Program cost: $17,640
  • Credit hours: 36

19. Kean University – New Jersey – 14 points

Kean University features 3 master’s degrees and five certificates in educational administration. Students with a valid instructional certificate or educational services certificate and 3 years of experience can qualify for certification as a general supervisor in the K-12 setting. Those with five years of experience may qualify for principal certification upon completion of an additional New Jersey state written examination. Kean University has 2,189 enrolled graduate students.

  • Program cost: $26,034
  • Credit hours: 36

20. Mercy College – New York – 13 points

The master of science in educational administration degree at Mercy College allows students to pursue certificates in School Building Leader and School District Leader tracks. As part of the certification process, all students must also pass the Educating All Students Exam. Although courses are available online, students will still have to complete a two semester internship at a qualifying partner school within New York City and Westchester. Mercy College has 2,564 enrolled graduate students.

  • Program cost: $33,948
  • Credit hours: 36

Explore additional online education opportunities with our site resources and degree finding tools.

Our Ranking Methodology

We gathered a list of 20 schools from across the country that offer online master’s in educational leadership degrees. In order to rank them on a 100-point scale, we gathered estimated program cost and credit hours directly from each school’s website. We also included total graduate enrollment as reported to the National Center for Education statistics. Estimated full tuition cost made up 40% of the ranking, with credit hours making up another 40%. Graduate student enrollment made up the remaining 20% of points.

Reporting Errors

Those who work for the schools mentioned in the above article may reach out to us in order to correct erroneous data. We will work swiftly to correct errors.

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