Getting Your Master’s in Education

african american female student studying for her master's in education degree
african american female student studying for her master's in education degree

About the Master’s in Education

Degree Type:

Master’s, MEd


Online, Classroom, Hybrid


2 – 3 Years

Total Credits:

30 – 40 credits; 70 – 90 quarter credits

Aid Eligible:

Yes, FAFSA, Scholarships and Grants for qualified students and accredited programs

There are many different routes you can take to earn a master’s degree in education and a number of different types of master’s degrees you can earn. Sometimes the difference between a certificate and master’s program is only 15 credits, but some master’s programs take an additional year or more to complete, depending on your previous degree and the requirements of your master’s.

Admissions Requirements for a Master’s Degree in Education Program

To get accepted into a master’s in education, you’ll first need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. You’ll generally also need to choose a specialty. These include a Master’s in Teaching or a Master of Education. Here are the general differences between the two:

  • For a Master in Teaching (MIT or MAT) degree, you’ll decide whether you want to teach elementary or secondary school, and what subject you’ll teach. Special education as well as other focuses are also popular choices.
  • For a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree, you’ll choose between the following specialties: Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Psychology, Educational Leadership and Policy, or Special Education.

Besides choosing your master’s type, other admissions requirements typically include the following:

Passing the GRE General TestInternational students must submit TOEFL scores
Successfully pass state required basic skills tests and assessmentsHold a GPA of 3.0
Send sealed transcripts from each previous schoolWrite a Statement of Purpose or Goal Statement
Submit two to three letters of recommendationSubmit a professional resume or CV
Submit scholarly writing samples, such as course papers, articles or essaysSuccessfully pass an admission interview

Coursework depends on your area of expertise, but will consist of upper-level courses (400- and 500-level, and above), educational research, exams and term papers.

Students must often complete a final project to fulfill their degree requirements. Depending on the school and specialty, your final project may be comprised of one-or any combination-of the following:

  • A master’s thesis overseen by an adviser
  • A written exam
  • A non-thesis work (research project, internship or special assignment)

How Long Should My Master’s in Education Program Take?

As a rule, master’s degree programs take two to three years to complete, including a Capstone project. This time frame may change depending upon the program you select. For example, the 4+1 program merges your master’s coursework with your bachelor’s degree classes so you complete both in five years. Online programs can be determined by your schedule. But a traditional school master’s program typically takes two years with additional time for your project and preparation externship.

Master’s in Education Program Choices

One of the biggest benefits of holding a master’s degree in teaching is the ability to become a National Board Certified Teacher, whose certification will follow them throughout the country. Higher salaries, more advancement opportunities and the option of transitioning into school leadership positions such as educational administration or leadership roles are other common perks.

Fifth Year Master’s Degree in Education

Fifth year master’s degree programs allow college graduates to take another year of coursework and intensive student teaching to qualify for a teaching credential and a master’s in education. Additional state requirements may have to be completed to become a certified teacher; however, almost all master’s programs meet state requirements. Many secondary teachers choose this degree because it allows them to focus on their subject area as an undergraduate, then learn pedagogy-the art of teaching-as part of their graduate education.

Master’s Degree in Education (MEd)

Of all of your educational master’s degree options, the MEd tends to be the most general degree you can get. Teachers interested in entering educational administration, leadership or research and policy do well with this degree as it provides a nice base for further educational opportunities, such as an educational specialist degree or doctorate. It is often a requirement for guidance counselors and other counseling professions.

Online Master’s Degree in Education

In states where a master’s degree isn’t required to start teaching, students with a bachelor’s degree may be able to continue teaching while earning their master’s degree at night or online from an accredited program. An online master’s degree in education is a great option if you work full-time or cannot commute to class, giving you the flexibility to fit continuing education into your busy schedule.

Master’s in Education Specializations

Once you have identified the master’s program type that will best suit your lifestyle and education needs, you’ll want to consider where you want to focus your postgraduate degree. If you focused your bachelor’s degree on an area of education and want to continue honing your skills within your master’s, here are some of the most common specializations where you can point your educational energy and expertise:

Special EducationCurriculum and Instruction
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics Integrated InstructionLiteracy and Digital Learning
Educational Administration and Leadership

Typical Curriculum for a Master’s in Education

Depending upon your specialization, your coursework will differ for each program. Using Educational Administration and Leadership as the master’s focus, here are the types of courses* you can expect to take:

Qualitative Methods in Educational Research3
Data Driven Decision Making3
Social Justice and Educational Equity3
Ethical Leadership in School Reform3
Educational Research Methodology3
Cognition and Learning3
Instructional Leadership3

Regardless of specialization, some coursework will transcend focus, as it lays the groundwork for success in advanced education careers. Classes such as Qualitative Methods in Educational Research and Data Driven Decision Making, for example, are mandatory core curriculum. But as a contrast, take a look at this sampling of specialized coursework for the Curriculum and Instruction specialization:

Teaching Digital Readers3
Teaching Students on the Autism Spectrum3
Designing Learning Environments for All3
Critical Media Literacy in the Classroom3
Identifying and Responding to the Needs of Diverse Learners3
Disability in Education Policy and Law3
Communication, Technology and Curriculum Design3

*University of San Diego, Master’s in Education Curriculum

You can see how classes are tailored to your area of focus. Besides your classroom coursework, you’ll need to use part of your program (usually a semester and a set number of credits) to complete your Capstone project and participate in a teaching or leadership school and community preparation program.

Salaries for Master’s in Education Degree Holders

The 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Employment Projects tracks the unemployment rate and median national weekly earnings by educational attainment so you can understand the value of your postgraduate degree. Take a look at how education affects salary:

DegreeUnemployment RateMedian Weekly Salary
Bachelor’s degree3.5%$1,334
Master’s degree2.6 %$1,574
Doctoral degree1.5%$1,909

You can see that you’ll earn over $200 a week more than a bachelor’s degree holder on average when you earn your Master’s in Education. That winds up earning you $5,000 more annually.

Let’s look at some specific careers in education. The 2021 BLS reports the following median annual salaries for careers that require a master’s in the education field. Using the specializations above, are median national averages in related career fields:

Education CareerMedian Annual Salary
Educational Administrator$101,320
Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator$66,490
Training and Development Manager$120,000
STEM Program Manager$95,370

Careers and Job Outlook for Master’s in Education Degree Holders

Once you earn your master’s, you’re set to embark upon a career in the higher echelons of education. Whether as a school leader, educator, or innovator and policy-maker, you’ll be prepared to tackle the challenges that are sure to come your way as you deal with the evolving education landscape, budgets and bureaucracy, and all kinds of student bodies.

The BLS rates the job growth national average for all professions at 5% through 2032, and using that as our baseline, let’s take a look at some job growth date for educational administration careers requiring a master’s degree in education:

Postsecondary Education Administrator3.5% job growth, faster than average
Elementary, Middle and High School Principal1.1% job growth, as fast as average
Instruction and Curriculum Coordinators2.5% job growth, faster than average
School Librarian3% job growth, as fast as average

Ready to Get Started?

Whether you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree in education or a related field-and you’re ready to take your career to the next level by earning your master’s degree, we can help you get started. Start researching accredited online and classroom master’s degree in education programs with one click.