Master’s in Educational Leadership

Note: This page provides details for a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership. For doctoral information, please see our page for PhD in Educational Leadership.

Educational leadership is a field of study for those who want to work in the educational system as administrators. These individuals guide the talents of faculty, staff, students, and even community toward common educational goals. In order to pursue a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership, one must first have a bachelor's degree, usually in a related field like education. This leadership degree can only be earned at the master's or doctorate level.

Choosing an Online Master's Degree in Educational Leadership

An online Master's Degree in Educational Leadership suits the working adult student. These master's degree candidates should already hold a bachelor's degree and in many cases, teaching certification. Those who seek this degree usually already work in the field of education. These days, there are many good online programs to choose from. Before making your selection, make sure the one you choose is reputable and legitimate. To help you, consider the following:

Is the program accredited? Program accreditation is one of the first stops to finding out if an online school is reputable or not. Accreditation shows that a school offers a high quality education. Colleges and universities, both online and on-campus, achieve accreditation by a process of peer review. This process should be conducted by an official agency or organization representing the field of teacher and administration preparation. The Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA) conduct most of the said reviews. The United States Department of Education offers more information on the overall accreditation process.

How Long Has the Program Been Offered?

Longevity is usually a good sign. Keep in mind that online learning is a relatively new form of education; however, a good candidate online school is one that has been around long enough to receive full accreditation.

What Technologies Will Be Used to Facilitate Online Learning?

To facilitate teaching and learning in an online educational leadership program, schools utilize virtual learning platforms. These platforms, such as Moodle or Canvas, allow students to chat, access learning materials, and submit assignments all through a website. Not all schools use the same website. Before committing to a program, you may want to access the online learning platform of the school's choice in order to see how learning will occur.

What Resources Will I Have Access To?

Resources are tools to help students succeed. Many schools offer online resources such as research databases, scholarly journals, and other empirical research tools. Some schools offer more resources than others, so it may be a good idea to learn about what is offered before signing on. There will be a lot of research requirements in an educational leadership program, so student resources will definitely be helpful.

What Skills and Topics Are Covered?

A reputable school will be able to communicate measurable program goals and objectives. See if the master's program curriculum is in line with your career and personal goals. Be extremely skeptical of a school or program that is not able to provide this information to you.

Do You Have Job Placement Information for Students Who Recently Graduated from the Program?

Recent graduates can be a great resource. To find out how an online Master's Degree in Educational Leadership may affect your career, connect with alumni. Through alumni, you will be able to see how an online Master's in Educational Leadership translates to the workforce.

What Are the Program Requirements?

Most Master's Degree in Educational Leadership programs require the students to first have a bachelor's degree and a valid teaching credential. Some programs may even require three to five years of classroom experience prior to program acceptance.

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Is an Online Degree Right for You?

An online Master's Degree in Educational Leadership can be a real time saver for busy students. There are many programs available online for those choosing to go into education administration. To help you assess if online learning is right for you, review the following:

Flexible Schedule

Many Master's Degree in Educational Leadership candidates have full-time school jobs. For these adult students, it is not possible to fall off their working schedule. Online education administration students have the luxury of completing school requirements at their convenience. In other words, online students can set their own schedules.

Opportunity and Accessibility

Many who seek a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership do not live near a campus that offers such a program. In other cases, students do not have the means to relocate or commute. Online learning gives students the opportunity to earn a master's degree regardless of geographic location or physical ability to attend class.

Tuition and Costs

When considering a Master's degree in Educational Leadership, tuition and overall cost may be some of the first things that come to mind. Depending on the college or university, overall expenses tend to be greater at traditional schools compared to online schools. Consider the following:

  • No costs associated with commuting, parking, car maintenance, or dining on campus.
  • Students can continue to work during the day, thus maintaining a source of income.
  • Out-of-state fees may not be required.
  • No costs associated with relocating or moving closer to campus.

Keep in mind that online students are eligible to receive financial assistance through FAFSA.

Program Curriculum

The curriculum of online Master's in Educational Leadership programs should be similar to on-campus ones. In a good online program, you may find:

  • Deadlines to help keep students on the right track.
  • Reading assignments, practicums, projects, assignments, quizzes, tests, presentations, and reading reflections.
  • Whole class message boards where students are required to communicate and collaborate.
  • Field experience components.
  • Final cumulative exam, thesis, portfolio, or project.

Faculty and Staff

Faculty and staff play a huge role in the overall success of a degree program. In reputable online programs, teachers should be held to the same standards as traditional on-campus teachers. The caliber of a school's faculty and staff is a good assessment of the program. Here are some things to think about:

  • What kind of field and work experience do the instructors have? Have they held a career in the field of educational leadership?
  • Are any of the teachers published authors? Are any of them occupied in their own research? Do the instructors collaborate with campus partners such as schools, adult centers, or other colleges?
  • Are the teachers tenured, part-time, full-time?

Master's Degree Program Course Topics

Those who are already in the field of education may be interested in pursuing a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership. Master's degree programs offer evidence-based instruction mixed with practical experiences. While programs vary from school to school, most educational leadership master's programs are structured around the following elements:

  • Study of current research and theory for curriculum development, implementation and assessment
  • Develop the skills necessary to analyze, construct, and conduct studies with an emphasis on extracting data
  • Compare and contrast quantitative and qualitative research
  • Review current and past research on effective schools and districts.
  • Analyze the characteristics of successful school leaders
  • Analyze instructional components, assessing student and teacher performance in an evidence-based manner
  • Study methods regarding the positive impact of school climate, motivation and leadership
  • Reflect on leadership theories in order to promote self-awareness and growth as an educational leader
  • Strategies for guiding a school through a process of transition
  • Effective leadership, instruction, and management strategies regarding diverse teaching and learning environments
  • Analyze demographic issues dealing with urban and suburban areas in order to understand practical strategies to utilize the strengths of each
  • Review of the legal foundations of public education
  • Examination school governance at the local, state, and federal levels
  • Continuous school improvement strategies
  • Resource for management in education having to do with school budget and finance

What Can I Do With a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership

There are many career opportunities within the field of Educational Leadership. Here are a few:

School Principal

A school principal is in charge of faculty and staff as well as administrative duties at a school, typically found in the K through 12 setting. This individual is responsible for supervision of students, staff, and teachers as well as accounting for strategies used in the school, implementing district and state level mandates, and creating and adhering to a school budget. School principals are typically in the school building in a central location to staff, teachers, and students. The average salary for this position is about $98,420 yearly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains more information on school principals. Read more on becoming a School Principal.


A superintendent is responsible for overseeing the schools within a regional school system according to regulations, policies, and overall goals of the area. The duties of a superintendent may include, but are not limited to school committee relations, leadership, budgeting, and personnel management. Pay can vary greatly based on experience and the region in which one is employed. This is an area that is highly competitive with slower than average growth rate. Learn more about becoming a Superintendent.

Director of Student Services

A director of student services is most often found at the post-secondary educational level and may serve as a leader in admissions, counseling and career services, as well as financial aid. There may be one or many directors of student services at any given school depending on size. Job prospects in this field are growing as more students attend higher education institutions.

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Professional Associations

Professional associations, or organizations, provide opportunities for professionals to network and stay up-to-date with the latest findings in educational leadership. Such organizations are dedicated to the growth and advancement of students and leaders in the educational realm. The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), for example, supports school improvement efforts. The organization conducts a national conference, offers webinars, and runs a mentor training program.

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Education Administrators, Kindergarten through Secondary, reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.