Obtaining An Online Master’s in Educational Leadership

Life can get busy, and move quickly. Getting your master’s degree in educational leadership may not be as simple as registering for classes and staying to a weekly schedule. Luckily, you can get your master’s in educational leadership online, and make your goals of pursuing a career in educational administration a reality.

Why Pursue An Online Master’s in Educational Leadership?

Most online master’s degree programs are focused on the working professional. This is particularly beneficial to those seeking a career in educational leadership, since most positions require at least a few years of experience working as a teacher. Rather than having to interrupt your professional career to go back to school, an online Master’s in Educational Leadership affords you considerable convenience and flexibility over traditional higher education.

The ability to continue to commit to both a family and a career while simultaneously advancing your education is the key benefit of getting your master’s in educational leadership online. Without having to commute to campus or attend physical lectures, almost all of the inflexibility of traditional learning is removed from the equation. All educational resources are made available online, including lectures, assignments and relevant course materials, so there is no need to go to the library or ask your professor to repeat something that was said in lecture.

There has been some speculation in the past about whether online educational leadership master’s programs are as effective as their traditional, in-class counterparts. The reality is that while there are differences between online and in-class learning environments, the benefits of online learning and technology have long been proven effective and even superior to traditional schooling. Less stress over time and logistics, combined with greater accessibility and resources is a massive advantage for anyone wanting to pursue higher education.

What Careers and Job Titles do Online Educational Leadership Master’s Degrees Lead To?

Almost all careers in educational administration begin with at least a master’s degree. The most common career entry point and job title is assistant principal, followed by a promotion to principal of an elementary, middle, or high school. Dean of students is another possible job title, though the title is more common at the university or collegiate level.

Beyond administration of a single school is the prospect of working for or overseeing a school district or school system. The top executive position at the district level is the superintendent, who is responsible for overseeing all schools in a school district. All positions within a school system require advanced policy implementation, decision-making and management skills, which an online master’s in educational leadership can prepare you for.

What Should You Consider When Choosing an Online Master’s in Educational Leadership?

There are over 250 accredited online master’s degree programs in educational leadership and narrowing the list down to those that will work best for you can be daunting. Unlike choosing a traditional program and being limited by geographic proximity, you can enroll in any online course across the nation. Here are some things to consider when searching for an online Master’s in Educational Leadership that’s right for you.

Where do you want to work?

In most states, educational administration jobs require you to be a licensed educational administrator, and that requires taking and passing a licensure test. Many online master’s degrees in educational leadership prepare you for or integrate an educational administrator license test, but the requirements vary from state to state. It is important to make sure that the program you decide on satisfies the requirements of the particular state that you are hoping to work for, otherwise, you may find yourself having to take additional classes somewhere further down the road.

Tuition & cost of attendance

One of the biggest concerns for those seeking to further their education is cost. Online tuition costs vary from school to school, and although online master’s programs tend to be less expensive than traditional routes, there are some cases in which you could end up paying more. When applying out-of-state, check to see which tuition rate you will be charged. Some schools charge out-of-state online registrants the out-of-state tuition rate, while others have a policy that grants online students the in-state tuition rate. Some schools charge an entirely separate rate altogether for online programs. It pays in the long run to make sure that your school is within your budget, or at least within your expected salary range once you graduate, as student loans are becoming more and more burdensome on students.

Are local resources made available by the school?

Educational administration is a hands-on career, and there are some real-world scenarios that you will want to gain experience in that you cannot experience online. The importance of live interaction cannot be understated when choosing an online program. Many online master’s programs in educational leadership offer local, hands-on training sessions that you can choose to participate in throughout the semester. These workshops and experiences can make a huge difference in your role comfortability and overall education and can help you build a network of other educational administrators as you go.

Accreditation status and school reputation

Always make sure that the school and program that you are applying to is accredited, and that the reputation of the school is in good standing. Some programs that seem more affordable or easier to get through may not be accredited, and this could cause problems for you further down the road. There are numerous accreditation bodies across the United States, and if you are unsure about the status of any particular school, a quick search should give you both the name of the accrediting body and the school’s accreditation dates and status.

Admissions requirements

Most master of educational leadership online degree programs have prerequisites that need to be fulfilled before you can be accepted into the program. Almost universally, this includes a bachelor’s degree, a teacher’s license or teacher’s credential, and at least two or three years of teaching experiencing. In addition, some schools require applications to take and submit their GRE scores, though there are many accredited programs that do not require this. Check to make sure that you meet all of the program’s prerequisites before applying.

Class availability and scheduling

There are two major types of online courses: synchronous courses and asynchronous courses. If you enroll in a synchronous class, everyone in the class will log on at the same time to receive a live-stream lecture and participate in an online discussion. These classes are the most similar to traditional lectures. They allow for good classroom participation but remove much of the flexibility and independence that appeals to working professionals. Asynchronous classes, on the other hand, allow students to study entirely on their own schedule, usually requiring students to log on, download materials, complete assignments, and take tests within given timeframes. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and it is up to you to decide which you prefer.

Technology used in the online program

One of the subtle advantages to an online program is the technical skills and knowledge that you will gain from working within a learning management software (LMS). If you are unfamiliar with online video and audio conferences, learning modules, discussion boards, collaborative documents, or live streams, then an online master’s degree program might double as a crash course in computer and technical proficiency. Check to make sure that you are comfortable and familiar with the technology that will be implemented throughout the program, as you will want to keep the focus of your studies on educational leadership.

Support services provided to online students

One of the chief concerns of working within an online program is how and when you will be able to contact your professor. Having someone who can help guide you through difficult material, even if it is peer-to-peer support, can be crucial in successfully completing an online program. Check to make sure that your online program has support options or online office hours available, should you find yourself with questions and concerns throughout the duration of the course.

Faculty & curriculum

As in standard university settings, the experiences and teaching abilities of your professor plays a large role in how effective your online master’s in educational leadership will be when you put it into practice. This is especially important if you are aiming for a specific area of educational administration, such as Title I school administration or creation and administration of charter schools, which require more specific curriculum and training. Make sure that the curriculum of the online program that you choose is well-fitted to your prospective career path. Some programs feature specializations or are led by professors who carry special insight into areas of educational administration that are relevant to your overall goals.

Alumni network

One of the most valuable resources that you can take away from an online educational leadership master’s program after completion is a network of other alumni who are currently serving as educational administrators across the nation. This collaborative network can help you launch or further your career and may provide a space for problem-solving or future questions that you come up against post-degree. It is worth looking into a school’s alumni association or alumni network to see what benefits you might enjoy as a graduate from any given institution.

Career services provided by the school

If you are unsure of where you would like to ultimately end up or are interested in career opportunities that you might not have been exposed to in your research into education administration, check to see if your online program offers career planning services. Even if you are confident about where you would like to see yourself upon completion of an online program, utilizing career services might open the door to future positions or better career paths than the ones that you discovered on your own.

Graduation rates and job outcomes

Most schools post relevant information about the success of their programs online, and it is worth looking at these data carefully before applying to the school’s online program. Check for successful graduation rates, job titles, starting salaries, and job placement percentages as indicators of the school’s prestige and general effectivity. This is also a useful place to look if you are comparing schools side-by-side and are having difficulty choosing between multiple programs.

Ultimately, you will want to make sure that the online program that you choose is a good fit for your career path. Most schools will post information about where their graduates go on to work, and you will want to make sure that your destination is included in that list. Check to see what types of schools and what types of cities your online program focuses on, and where most graduates from that program go on to work. Your online master’s in educational leadership is ultimately what you make of it, and in choosing a program, you will want to set yourself up for the greatest success.

Works Cited:

Why pursue an online masters? http://science.sciencemag.org/content/323/5910/85

The Best Online Leadership Programs. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44428305?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Online tuition. http://www.nber.org/chapters/c13709.pdf

Should you go online? https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ909842

The collaborative network. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0374.2011.00310.x/full

A look at online schools. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/postsecondary-education-administrators.htm

Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.