The 5 Best Master’s in Elementary Education Online

Updated April 26, 2023 | Staff

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Online Masters in Elementary Education

Getting an online master's in elementary education is a great way to advance your career, especially if you would like to become a principal, administrator, curriculum coordinator, or school counselor. Principals, for example, make a median salary of more than $94,000, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 8% growth in the field over the next 10 years.

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In this ranking, our editors examine our picks of the top 5 Online Master's for Elementary Education programs. For more generalized information regarding distance learning visit our ranking of the top online colleges.

We were able to narrow these initial findings by applying a few factors such as affordability (average net price is capped at $35,000), program customization, return-on-investment, and career prospects. Finally, we used information from U.S. News & World Report as well as from each school’s website to apply the rating and ranking methodology above. In the event of a tie in points, the school with the lower tuition receives the higher ranking.

What Is a Master's in Elementary Education

A master's in elementary education prepares students to work in an elementary setting either by furthering their education or prepares students who are looking to change careers and begin working in elementary schools. Coursework may include classes such as educational psychology and human development of children and adolescents, foundations of education, and children's literature. Most master's programs can be completed in two years, but many programs offer accelerated programs where students can finish in about 18 months. 

Question About Elementary Education

What is the difference between a degree in early childhood education and a degree in elementary education?A degree in early childhood education focuses on teaching in a setting that is preschool or lower. A degree in elementary education focuses on teaching children in grades kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade.  
How long does it take to earn an online master's degree in elementary education?Most master's programs take two years to complete; however, there are several online programs that offer accelerated programs where students can earn a degree in one year.
How much does an online master's degree in elementary education cost?The cost of a master's degree can range from $30,000 and $120,000, depending on the school. Students who are looking for affordable school options should consider applying in-state and looking for scholarships grants. 

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Careers for Elementary Education

Students who earn a degree in elementary education can explore careers as elementary school teachers, but with a master's degree other career opportunities are available. A master's degree can help increase earning potential as a teacher and also allow individuals to move into management positions with a school, such as working as an elementary school principal or taking on a position as a childcare center director.  

  • Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher: Students who are interested in working as an elementary school teacher must have a bachelor's degree and hold a state license if working in a public school. A master's degree can help increase salary and may qualify as a continued learning credit. Elementary teachers work in grades kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade, they manage the classroom, instruct students, and communicate with guardians and other faculty members. 
  • Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal: Elementary school principals must have a master's degree in education, administration, or a related field and usually need prior teaching experience. Principals are responsible for managing all school staff members and any activities that are taking place on school property. They discipline and counsel students and may oversee the school budget, among other duties. 
  • Preschool and Childcare Center Directors: In order to work as a preschool and childcare center director, individuals must have a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, although education requirements may vary. Some childcare centers may require the director and staff to hold additional certification. Directors oversee preschool teachers and staff members, maintain educational and instructional standards, and meet with student guardians.  
CareerMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate (2020-2030)
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher$60,6607%
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal$98,4908%
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors$49,16011%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Elementary Education Masters Program Top Rankings

#1 – North Carolina State University

Online Master’s in Elementary Education



NC State hosts a mostly online master’s in elementary educationonline in a hybrid format. Aimed at students seeking their first license to work in K-12 classrooms, the program consists mostly of web-based courses but also requires distance learners to travel to Raleigh for face-to-face classes. The university created the program for initial licensure and not for practicing teachers seeking advanced credentials or pre-doctoral studies.

The program’s competencies include the integration of technology into the classroom, the ability to work with families and communities, and sensitivity to cultural diversity. The school constructed the curriculum around 15 credits of core courses. Degree seekers must complete an additional 18 credits in electives and in a specialty area. Specialties include language arts, elementary reading, elementary science, and instructional practice.

The program follows an accelerated schedule, and full-time students earn their degrees in a year and a half.

Tuition Fee:$452.88 per credit hour

#2 – East Carolina University

Online Master’s in Elementary Education



East Carolina University established its online master’s degree inelementary educationfor working teachers. Not a licensure program, it serves as an advanced degree for educators who already hold a K-6 elementary teacher’s license. The 36-credit curriculum includes focused study in one of three concentration areas: content pedagogy, gifted education, and English as a second language. Graduates leave eligible for M-level licensure in North Carolina. Teachers should check with their own states to find out the requirements for advanced licensing.

Program participants can enroll on a part- or full-time basis and complete all credits through the web. Most coursework runs asynchronously, though some professors hold real-time sessions. The curriculum splits into three parts: students must complete 12 credits in the professional core, 15 credits in the elementary core, and nine in their focus area.

Tuition Fee:877.35 per credit hour

#3 – Oregon State University

Online Master’s in Elementary Education



Students in Oregon State University’smaster of arts in teaching with an option in clinically based elementary educationprogram enroll in a cohort and complete most of their academic work online. In the first year, they teach as substitutes in Beaverton schools while taking classes. During the second year, participants teach full time in the classroom, earning a stipend. Graduates leave with an accumulated 650 hours of internship and practicum experience.

The program requires three prerequisite courses: civil rights and multicultural issues; purpose, structure, and function of education in a democracy; and learning across the lifespan. Students must complete fingerprinting and background checks before working in classrooms.

Admission requires a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. OSU admits one cohort per year and offers a flat tuition rate for all distance learners.

Tuition Fee: $538 per credit hour

#4 – Troy University

Online Master’s in Elementary Education



The university offers amaster’s in elementary educationonline that gives students the option of taking some classes on campus. Optimized for working teachers, the program allows educators to continue in the classroom while furthering their career goals. Distance learners can earn all 36 credits through the web on a full- or part-time basis, or take classes on campus. Most classes run asynchronously in accelerated, nine-week terms.

Troy recommends the elementary education master’s to teachers who want advanced credentials or want to continue on to a doctorate. Many graduates take leadership roles after completion of the program. The curriculum emphasizes lesson planning, student assessment, and development of research proposals. The program divides the curriculum between required core classes and teaching field courses.

Tuition Fee: Resident –$494 per credit hour | Non-resident – $988 per credit hour

#5 – University of North Carolina – Charlotte

Online Master’s in Elementary Education



UNC Charlotte created itsmaster of education in elementary educationfor veteran North Carolina teachers who want to add an advanced license to their list of credentials. Available entirely online, the program promotes a global, culturally sensitive educational philosophy. Distance learners enroll part-time and complete the program in three years or less. Educators select from among a variety of focus areas, including anti-racism, academically and intellectually gifted, English as a second language, and instructional systems technology.

UNC Charlotte breaks the curriculum of its online master’s degree in elementary education into four parts. Phase I develops perspectives in cultural diversity. Phase II revolves around collaborative inquiry and research. Phase III includes investigative leadership. The final phase consists of electives and the concentration area. Most classes run asynchronously, but some may require real-time components.

Tuition Fee: $872 per credit hour

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