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Online Masters Degree in Educational Leadership: Program Info

Learn about online master's degree programs in educational leadership. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Many schools offer master's degree programs in educational leadership to experienced teachers who want to become school principals. These programs are usually designed for working teachers, with few in-person requirements and classes that can be accessed at any time. However, some programs do require students to log on for class at established times. Students also generally spend a few months working with a licensed administrator in a school.

In a master's degree program in educational leadership, courses cover topics such as curriculum development, staff leadership, performance assessment and education theory. Education law, access and equity are covered. Students in an educational leadership master's program also learn about school operations and budgeting. A practicum during the final semester of study allows students to use their skills in a real world setting. Applicants need at least 1-3 years of professional work experience in a field related to education.

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Master's Degree in Educational Leadership

Offered as either a Master of Arts or a Master of Education, an online degree in educational leadership is designed for professional teachers interested in becoming school administrators. Students study the theories, practices and policies of educational leadership, including educational access, excellence and equity. Topics covered usually include leadership framework, policy implementation, school finance and ethical foundations. Most online graduate programs in educational leadership require applicants to have at least 1-3 years of professional work experience in a field related to education, such as teaching.

Information and Requirements

Typically requiring two years of study, this type of degree program is usually comprised of approximately 36-40 credit hours. Depending on the program, courses are offered asynchronously, to be completed at the student's convenience, or through real-time weekly class sessions. In addition to the required coursework, most programs expect students to complete an administrative internship under the supervision of a licensed administrator during their last semester of study. Some programs may require students to attend one or two weekend residencies on campus to meet with classmates and professors in order to continue discussions, provide program feedback and share professional experiences.

Common Educational Leadership Courses

Online courses required for educational leadership programs usually focus on four main areas, including practical application, academic rigor, technology and ethical standards. The following examples are typical of a curriculum in this field.

Supervision of Instruction

This online course emphasizes the theories, principles and practices used in supervising a diverse professional and paraprofessional staff. Students gain understanding through interactive practice and case study analysis.

Education Law

Students learn the legal role administrators and teachers play in a school environment. Lessons focus on legislation and school decisions that affect students' rights, academic freedom and teachers' rights.

Curriculum Development and Evaluation

The essential tools, preparation, approaches and influences involved in curriculum development are covered. Discussions revolve around curriculum concepts, procedures and philosophy.


Career Information

Graduates with a master's degree in educational leadership are prepared to pursue administrative positions within educational institutions, with job titles like principal, assistant principal, central office administrator or academic dean. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the availability of education administrator positions in elementary and secondary schools is expected to grow by approximately six percent from 2014-2024. As of May 2015, the BLS reported the median annual salary for elementary and secondary school administrators as $90,410.

According to the BLS, most states require school administrators to obtain licensure. Although specific licensure requirements vary by state, candidates are typically required to have a master's degree and pass a state examination administered by their state's board of education.

Continuing Education Information

In order to maintain licensure, some states require administrators to complete continuing education courses in order to ensure administrators have up-to-date information and skill sets. Public school principals must hold special school administrator's licenses in most states. This requires a master's degree and, in some states, working with a mentor and passing a competency examination.

An online master's degree program in educational leadership combines online coursework with in-person experience working with a licensed administrator to practice curriculum evaluation, instructional supervision and educational leadership. Graduates will need to obtain state licensure to work as elementary and secondary school administrators.

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