Online Masters in Education Leadership and Administration Programs

Online Masters in Educational Leadership programs are designed with on-the-go educators, administrators and students in mind. Many programs allow students to create their own schedule and choose the pace to achieve their goals - whether this is to learn supervisory principles, explore ‘best practices’ for curriculum design, or delve into educational policy and reform.

Through web-based courses, you might develop the ability to translate theory into effective and ethical leadership practice.

Online Masters in Educational Leadership Programs

What is an Online Masters in Educational Leadership Degree?

An online Masters in Educational Leadership program is a graduate course of study that often combines required courses in education and leadership, research, fieldwork and a written final project. After successful completion of all degree requirements, one of several masters level degrees could be awarded. Three of the common forms are the Master of Education (M.Ed.), Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.).

  • The Online Master of Education degree is an action research degree. It might suit certified teachers who want to expand their academic and professional skills and knowledge in a specific area of emphasis (e.g. education administration or policy studies).
  • Online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership programs tends to include plenty of (leadership) theory, educational research methods and ethics. The type of research is usually ‘quantitative’ and students could learn the basics of research design for a small-scale project. Master of Arts programs and their possible areas of emphasis might help students acquire skills and knowledge for inside or outside the classroom.
  • Online Master of Science in Educational Leadership programs may appeal to current teachers who want to build leadership skills. MS students often engage in research in an area they choose, with the aim to apply what they learn to their technical area.

Earning Your Masters in Educational Leadership Online

One thing to know about an online Masters in Educational Leadership program is that it makes ‘going to school’ as easy as setting up your computer. Not that you are in for easier courses. In some universities, the courses cover the same material, and might be taught by the same faculty as the on-campus counterpart. That said, each program is unique and could have different formats. What features could you find?

Web-based Courses

Some universities use a system such as Blackboard to give students access to course materials, email and distance libraries. It also enables students to take part in threaded discussions, and correspond with faculty. Some programs encourage students to spend around 20 hours or more per week on their courses, though programs could still be flexible. For instance, you may not have pre-set log in times, and might get to move onto new material once you show your grasp of a subject area.

Group Work

Some online Master in Educational Leadership programs engage students through group work and team leadership activities. In fact, group work could be woven throughout a course to simulate the workplace. Interactions like this could help students to stay focused and motivated to stay on track. You might also have to head over to campus for a brief residency to engage in activities such as role play.

Applied Coursework

Online students might get a chance to apply course concepts through real-world education leadership projects. As you expand your knowledge and skills, you could build on your professional portfolio.


Administrative internships, which take place offline and possibly in one’s own community, may help students gain real-time leadership experience. Some schools may help students set up internships while others require them to do this independently. Contact programs to learn more.

Which Online Masters in Educational Leadership Degree Is a Fit for You?

Which online Masters in Educational Leadership degree is a fit for you? Keep in mind that schools define their programs in their own ways. You should look at courses, the academic background you need as an applicant and your own career goals. Most programs presume students have earned a bachelors degree, although some specify they are designed for current teachers who already have their license. If you hope to position yourself to pursue teacher licensure or administrative certification in your state, make sure to choose a program that aligns with these needs. Below are some examples of the types of programs and topics you might find at traditional and online universities.

Online MEd in Education Policy and Leadership

An online Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership program could provide a foundation in law, policy, economics, and other disciplines. Through their courses, students may develop a grasp of what makes the educational system tick, its problems, and the necessary solutions from a systemic point of view. Students might have to complete about 30 credit hours of approved graduate work, which might be split between core courses and credits focused on education policy.

Policy studies courses could explore how to use economic principles, such as productivity and return on investment, to assess education policies and programs. Students might also examine basic resource allocation and education finance. Other courses discuss public policy and legal issues. These topics might help students learn how to design, adopt and apply policies, navigate civil rights and learn about educational authorities. The program might end with a capstone, or field-based project that online students may complete in their local school district.

Online MEd in Educational Administration

The online Master of Education in Educational Administration program may appeal to experienced teachers who want to pursue a state principal license for K-12 schools. For this type of program, students might take a series of core courses and clinical internships. The internships typically provide students with the chance to apply what they learn as they observe local schools and districts.

Courses could cover administrative and leadership foundational topics where students might learn how to develop their own leadership style and use it to create a positive school culture. Online students are likely to explore PK-12 legal issues and education finance as well. For instance, they might examine school budgeting, accounting, and resource management. Aside from professional development and administrative tasks, students could learn how to mentor and coach other teachers. They are also likely to discuss how to develop a curriculum, create community partnerships and manage personnel.


Most states require public school principals to be licensed as school administrators. Licensure requirements vary by state, but most require a masters degree.i

Online MEd in Teacher Leadership

The online Master of Education in Teacher Leadership program is often designed to help current teachers build their classroom skills and turn into effective mentors. Students are often introduced to ‘action research’. This means they could learn how to turn educational research into decisions that impact their students' achievement. To this end, they might study theories of cognition, and how to support and motivate diverse learners such as special education students, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students. Through creative instructional strategies, you might be prepared to manage, motivate and engage many types of students at all stages of development and ability levels.

Online MA in Educational Leadership

An online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program could provide practical instruction in how to lead, manage, supervise, and even inspire, others. These programs are often intended to help students meet principal or administrator licensure requirements in their state. This usually means that students participate in some type of field experience along with a series of core courses. While there may not be a thesis, students could learn the vocabulary of critique and research.

Core courses in an online Masters Degree in Educational Administration program are likely to explore theories and principles of leadership, as well as how these can be applied. The school administrator must develop a sense of how to work within the educational system and the community. To address this need, courses could be offered that speak to school law and policy to help future principals consider the legal issues that affect schools. Other courses are likely to speak to issues such as student enrollment and management tasks in instruction, curriculum, budget, and staff development. Also, students might learn how to communicate effectively and foster good relationships with parents, teachers, and members of their community.

Online MS in Educational Leadership

An online Master of Science in Educational Leadership program may be aimed at educators who want to expand their leadership knowledge and skills to serve in both formal or informal leadership roles in schools. The course content could highlight the knowledge, skills and traits that are compatible with effective school leadership. Students who are enrolled in some MS programs may accrue practicum hours and complete a leadership portfolio as a step towards meeting administrator license requirements.

While like the MA, the MS typically involves more in-depth research on the part of each student, and could examine leadership through a more analytic and technical lens. Case studies and data analysis are sometimes used for this purpose. Students might then develop an ability to think systematically, analyze data, and strategize to help an organization meet goals.  

In terms of coursework, online MS students might survey school law and legal areas that impact leaders and institutions. They might also take a course that explores the link between curriculum, instruction, assessment and learning. On the administrative side, courses are likely to explore financial leadership, staff development and how to create a professional development plan. Programs vary.

Online MS in College Student Affairs

The online Master of Science in College Student Affairs program is devoted to the theories and skills needed in student affairs administration. Some programs consist of core courses and areas of emphasis such as conflict analysis and mediation. Students could also be required to complete a supervised practicum in a functional department or an area such as recreation, student unions or student housing. They are also likely to conduct research, analyze the results and contribute insight to their research topic through a written thesis.

In their courses, learners might discuss adult development, student characteristics, and the interplay between the legal system and college conduct. They may also tackle administrative topics such as personnel practices, budget, finance and program development. Moreover, students could take courses to help them develop their ability to work with groups.

Online MBA in School Management

Students in an online Master of Business Administration in School Administration program may develop the ability to strategize, problem solve and think critically. Online MBA students may learn to apply these skills to business administration disciplines. For instance, they are likely to take courses in management, accounting, finance, and economics to support continuous organizational improvement. Through other courses, students might develop their own personal management style and develop strategies to build their communities and drive academic success.

Online Education Specialist in Educational Leadership

An online Education Specialist (EdS) degree is designed for those who already have their Masters in Education or a related field of study (e.g., guidance and counseling, social work, human services, organization leadership, etc.).

Coursework in an EdS program could explore research-based strategies, ‘best practices’, analytics and applied educational statistics. For example, students might take a course that stresses the use of data to make decisions about curriculum, instruction, and student success. Students might use the EdS degree to grow their knowledge base, drive their career or enhance their current professional skills.


You could find online Masters in Educational Leadership programs at regionally or nationally accredited schools. Accredited schools are ones that have met or surpassed standards at specific intervals for things like their finances, student services, faculty and curricula. Within these schools, you might find individual programs that have been professionally approved. For instance, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits some masters programs. Visit accrediting body websites to learn more about requirements and which programs are accredited.

What Might I Do With an Online Masters in Educational Leadership Degree?

Some of the career paths that students with an online Masters in Educational Leadership degree might pursue could include school leadership, principal, assistant principal, athletic director, education coordinator, director of admission, assessment director, dean of students, program director, and adjunct or part-time faculty. ii

As an alternative, students could choose to go on to pursue the next level of education such as a Doctor of Education (EdD) in Organizational Leadership, or PhD in Educational Administration degree. Most professors of education have a doctoral degree, as do college deans and provost. iii

Begin Your Search

There could be many great online Masters in Educational Leadership degrees to choose from. To get started, you can refine the types of programs you look at by subject. Educational policy, educational research and student affairs are three broad categories in education leadership and administration. Easily compare programs from your list, then use the on-page form to request info from those schools right away. Take your next step now!

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GCU offers a variety of M.A. and M.Ed. education programs designed for current educators looking to take the next step in their career. Earn your degree from an accredited non-profit university. No Application Fee!

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  • Capella University offers doctoral programs designed to take you to the forefront of your profession.
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