2018 Best Online Colleges for Education Degrees
Online education degrees are available at 521 accredited colleges and universities. Our comprehensive list of online education degrees includes options at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. In addition to this list, we highlight 25 top online schools for online education degrees based on affordability and academic strength.
The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is the primary programmatic accrediting body for education degrees. Accreditation is very important for online education degrees, especially for students looking to earn a teaching license. Prospective students should make sure that the online programs they are considering are recognized by the teaching board in the state where they hope to earn licensure.
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Education Degrees (521)
2018 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Education Degrees
The 25 schools on this list offer the top online Bachelor's in Education degrees based on both affordability and academic excellence. University of the Cumberlands holds the #1 spot on the list, as its Bachelor's in Education degree costs only $6,368 and has an academic strength rating of 62%. The Baptist College of Florida, ranked #2, offers 4 different bachelor's degrees related to education, including education studies and social studies secondary education.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Academic Strength|
|#1 University of the Cumberlands||Annual Tuition $6,368||Academic Strength 62%|
|#2 The Baptist College of Florida||Annual Tuition $7,680||Academic Strength 63%|
|#3 University of Southern Mississippi||Annual Tuition $8,169||Academic Strength 63%|
|#4 University of Central Missouri||Annual Tuition $8,173||Academic Strength 62%|
|#5 Bemidji State University||Annual Tuition $8,530||Academic Strength 62%|
|#6 University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Annual Tuition $8,400||Academic Strength 61%|
|#7 University of Missouri||Annual Tuition $10,863||Academic Strength 74%|
|#8 Dakota State University||Annual Tuition $9,380||Academic Strength 63%|
|#9 University of Wisconsin-Superior||Annual Tuition $9,270||Academic Strength 62%|
|#10 Mississippi State University||Annual Tuition $11,377||Academic Strength 69%|
|#11 University of Nebraska at Omaha||Annual Tuition $10,650||Academic Strength 65%|
|#12 North Greenville University||Annual Tuition $11,850||Academic Strength 69%|
|#13 Indiana Wesleyan University Online - Adult Education||Annual Tuition $11,250||Academic Strength 66%|
|#14 Northern State University||Annual Tuition $10,050||Academic Strength 59%|
|#15 Eastern Oregon University||Annual Tuition $9,810||Academic Strength 58%|
|#16 Old Dominion University||Annual Tuition $11,439||Academic Strength 64%|
|#17 Liberty University||Annual Tuition $11,700||Academic Strength 66%|
|#18 Regent University Online||Annual Tuition $11,850||Academic Strength 65%|
|#19 University of Louisiana-Monroe||Annual Tuition $12,000||Academic Strength 66%|
|#20 Sterling College - KS||Annual Tuition $10,850||Academic Strength 58%|
|#21 South Dakota State University||Annual Tuition $12,150||Academic Strength 64%|
|#22 Warner University||Annual Tuition $10,512||Academic Strength 54%|
|#23 Bluefield College||Annual Tuition $11,680||Academic Strength 57%|
|#24 Central Michigan University||Annual Tuition $12,927||Academic Strength 64%|
|#25 Ball State University||Annual Tuition $14,070||Academic Strength 68%|
Online Education Degree Overview & Career Information
Online certificates and associate degrees in education can provide an introduction to the field and preparation for later college-level work. These degrees cover general liberal arts topics, as well as courses in curriculum design, child development, and instructional methods. Stand-alone undergraduate certificates are usually available in early childhood education areas, while certificates that are part of bachelor’s degrees cover a wider range of topics, such as education policy or adult education.
Bachelor’s degrees in education are the minimum requirement to teach in public elementary and secondary schools. Online degrees are available in elementary education, early childhood education, secondary education, and special education. In general, half of the credits in bachelor’s degrees in education are in the education major core, while half are in liberal arts topics like natural science, social science, communications, and math.
Online graduate certificates and master’s degrees in education are often used to earn a teaching credential and state teaching license. Current teachers can use these programs to advance their understanding of teaching skills. Master’s programs and certificates are available in specializations such as education technology, elementary teacher education, special education, literacy, teacher leadership, administration, and adult education.
Online doctoral degrees in education are usually aimed at students who want to work in higher-level education policy or administration roles. These degree programs require students to perform research into a particular area of education, such as learning sciences and technology or race and language in education.
Online certificates in education are available in a variety of focuses, from teacher certification to school leadership or educational policy. These programs typically take a year or less to complete and are comprised of 6 to 10 courses. Applicants need an accredited bachelor’s or master’s degree, depending on the focus and level of the certificate. Some programs also require previous experience working with children or teaching, as well as a clear criminal background check.
The coursework in the education certificate will vary, depending on the program’s goals. Many programs are designed to certify teachers in a particular subject area, such as elementary or secondary education. These programs discuss instructional abilities and teaching theory. Some programs are aimed at experienced educators and discuss education administration and leadership topics, such as human resources issues and professional communication techniques. Other certificates are useful for seasoned teachers who want more knowledge in a particular teaching area, such as teaching students with disabilities or using educational technology.
The career opportunities available after completing an education certificate will depend on the graduate’s previous education and experience. Many use the certificate to take a state licensing exam, either to become a kindergarten-through-12th-grade teacher or a school principal. Education certificates can also be useful for teachers interested in moving into policy or research roles in local, state, and federal governments. Other programs are used by practicing teachers to deepen their curriculum and cement their role in their current school.
Individuals who are interested in starting careers in education may choose to start out with an associate degree. Associate degree holders in education are generally qualified to become teaching assistants. Those who wish to advance in their field may need to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree.
Most two-year degree programs in this area are offered at community or junior colleges and require the completion of at least 60 credit hours. Applicants should possess a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment.
Students in associate degree programs in education can chose from many different areas of specialization. The most common concentrations are early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education, and special education. Some students may also choose to specialize in a particular subject, such as math or biology. Regardless of the area of interest, students will learn about classroom management, curriculum development, and best practices for working with school staff and parents. Coursework typically includes topics such as education fundamentals, education technology, education psychology, and child development and growth. In addition to classroom learning, students in these programs may be required to complete internships or externships in order to graduate.
Depending on the state and grade level the student intends to instruct, the bachelor's degree may be sufficient to launch a teaching career. In some states, secondary school teachers are required to complete graduate training. Private schools set their own standards for teachers, and a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for employment in certain schools. Prospective teachers should investigate their state's teaching licensure procedures to understand the rules that apply to them.
Students in an online education bachelor's program study a broad array of curriculum and instructional techniques. Education bachelor's students specialize in a particular grade level or subject area. These programs require about four years of full-time study and include 120 credit hours of coursework. Applicants need a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Core classes in the education program explore the structure of public education, major topics and issues in public education, cultural effects on student achievement, education around the world, and the political state of education. Other classes explore curriculum development, evaluation techniques, and teaching techniques. To earn a four-year degree in education, students also take a number of general courses in math,biology, the arts, and the humanities.
The upper-division coursework in the bachelor's program is centered around the student's particular focus area in education. Possible specializations include elementary education, special education, middle school, or secondary education. Students specializing in secondary education also take coursework in a particular teaching subject area, such as math, science, or English. Teaching-oriented bachelor’s degrees require that students complete teaching labs or practicums, as well as an internship.
An online master’s degree in education includes study in teaching theories and instructional techniques. Individuals with no teaching experience can use the master's to earn a state teaching credential; current teachers can use the program to broaden their skills or become education leaders.
2018 Best Online Colleges for a Master's in Education
Affordable tuition and scholastic merit make these colleges the best options for students seeking an online master's degree in education in 2018. With annual tuition averaging at only $6,275, all 25 schools offer degrees for less than $8,200 a year. Drury University ranks #1 with a tuition of $6,462 and a stellar academic strength rating of 74%. Morningside College ranks #2 and offers the lowest tuition at $4,500 a year and an academic strength score of 67%.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Academic Strength|
|#1 Drury University||Annual Tuition $6,462||Academic Strength 74%|
|#2 Morningside College||Annual Tuition $4,500||Academic Strength 67%|
|#3 Missouri State University||Annual Tuition $4,845||Academic Strength 68%|
|#4 Southeast Missouri State University||Annual Tuition $5,010||Academic Strength 65%|
|#5 Franciscan University of Steubenville||Annual Tuition $7,920||Academic Strength 73%|
|#6 University of Central Missouri||Annual Tuition $5,103||Academic Strength 62%|
|#7 Montana State University||Annual Tuition $7,479||Academic Strength 71%|
|#8 Dickinson State University||Annual Tuition $4,617||Academic Strength 60%|
|#9 Valdosta State University||Annual Tuition $5,274||Academic Strength 62%|
|#10 Kennesaw State University||Annual Tuition $6,894||Academic Strength 67%|
|#11 Utah State University||Annual Tuition $7,055||Academic Strength 68%|
|#12 Hamline University||Annual Tuition $7,922||Academic Strength 71%|
|#13 University of Sioux Falls||Annual Tuition $5,950||Academic Strength 63%|
|#14 Delta State University||Annual Tuition $5,617||Academic Strength 61%|
|#15 Mississippi State University||Annual Tuition $8,177||Academic Strength 69%|
|#16 William Carey University||Annual Tuition $5,550||Academic Strength 59%|
|#17 Western Illinois University||Annual Tuition $5,604||Academic Strength 59%|
|#18 East Central University||Annual Tuition $5,977||Academic Strength 61%|
|#19 Salem College||Annual Tuition $8,000||Academic Strength 68%|
|#20 University of West Georgia||Annual Tuition $5,616||Academic Strength 59%|
|#21 University of Central Arkansas||Annual Tuition $6,500||Academic Strength 62%|
|#22 (tie) South Dakota State University||Annual Tuition $7,108||Academic Strength 64%|
|#22 (tie) University of South Dakota||Annual Tuition $7,108||Academic Strength 64%|
|#24 Minot State University||Annual Tuition $5,652||Academic Strength 59%|
|#25 University of North Georgia||Annual Tuition $6,930||Academic Strength 63%|
Applicants need an accredited bachelor's degree. Online master’s degrees in education usually have a core of five to eight required classes, along with electives the student can choose. Students can expect to complete an average of 30 credits in two years to earn the degree.
The courses in the master’s program depend on the type of training the student is seeking. Some programs are entry-level degrees, aimed at individuals with no previous teaching experience. These programs cover the theory of education and instructional techniques for a particular grade level or subject. These degrees also include teaching practicums and internships that help students master hands-on teaching skills. Other master's degrees are aimed at current teachers who want to deepen their understanding of a particular subject area or gain leadership skills. These programs may focus in areas like special education, technology in education, reading and literature, or curriculum and instruction.
With a master’s degree in education, a graduate can continue or launch a career in educational leadership, teaching, or education lobbying and development. Administrators typically need experience in teaching or the education system in addition to a master's degree.
Students in online education PhD programs usually conduct original research in a particular area of education theory or practice to help prepare them to lead transformative change in the field of education.
2018 Best Online Colleges for a Doctoral Degree in Education
The 25 schools on this list offer the best online doctoral degree in education in terms of affordability and academic strength. University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign holds the top spot on the list with an annual tuition of $6,990 and an academic strength score of 84%. University of Arkansas, ranked #2 on the list, offers a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and a Doctor of Education in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Academic Strength|
|#1 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign||Annual Tuition $6,990||Academic Strength 84%|
|#2 University of Arkansas||Annual Tuition $6,302||Academic Strength 70%|
|#3 University of Massachusetts-Lowell||Annual Tuition $8,050||Academic Strength 75%|
|#4 Kennesaw State University||Annual Tuition $6,511||Academic Strength 67%|
|#5 University of North Georgia||Annual Tuition $6,060||Academic Strength 63%|
|#6 University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Annual Tuition $5,745||Academic Strength 61%|
|#7 Valdosta State University||Annual Tuition $6,153||Academic Strength 62%|
|#8 University of West Georgia||Annual Tuition $5,616||Academic Strength 59%|
|#9 Indiana University - Bloomington||Annual Tuition $8,686||Academic Strength 73%|
|#10 Notre Dame of Maryland University||Annual Tuition $7,500||Academic Strength 67%|
|#11 William Carey University||Annual Tuition $6,150||Academic Strength 59%|
|#12 Auburn University||Annual Tuition $9,150||Academic Strength 73%|
|#13 Columbus State University||Annual Tuition $6,750||Academic Strength 60%|
|#14 Marshall University||Annual Tuition $6,318||Academic Strength 58%|
|#15 Sam Houston State University||Annual Tuition $7,401||Academic Strength 62%|
|#16 Northwestern State University of Louisiana||Annual Tuition $7,600||Academic Strength 62%|
|#17 West Virginia University||Annual Tuition $8,415||Academic Strength 65%|
|#18 Ball State University||Annual Tuition $9,240||Academic Strength 68%|
|#19 Oakland City University||Annual Tuition $7,200||Academic Strength 58%|
|#20 University of South Carolina-Columbia||Annual Tuition $11,045||Academic Strength 75%|
|#21 University of Northern Colorado||Annual Tuition $8,960||Academic Strength 65%|
|#22 Old Dominion University||Annual Tuition $8,928||Academic Strength 64%|
|#23 Evangel University||Annual Tuition $9,000||Academic Strength 65%|
|#24 Northwest Nazarene University||Annual Tuition $8,925||Academic Strength 64%|
|#25 Boise State University||Annual Tuition $9,588||Academic Strength 64%|
These programs require completion of 70-90 credit hours and take four to five years to complete. Applicants to these programs typically need a bachelor's and master's degree, along with a strong education-based resume.
The curriculum varies between programs, but courses generally provide reading, discussion, and writing forums for students on topics like education finance, the achievement gap, and education reform. Students also choose an emphasis area, such as elementary education, mathematics education, science education, special education, school administration, or educational technology, and take courses focusing on topics in that field. One of the most important components of a doctorate in education program is the dissertation. Students choose an original topic and an advising professor, then read extensively about their topic, and conduct their own research.
Graduates of these programs often become professors in universities and colleges, teaching classes in general education, teaching, education policy, education administration, and educational psychology and counseling. Professors of education also participate in research studies, often with the goal of publishing their findings in academic journals; they may also advise graduate students as they write their theses and dissertations. Some graduates will work in education policy and reform, while those who studied education administration can become principals, headmasters, deans, superintendents, or employees for state and national departments of education.
Attending an accredited school is one of the best decisions that a student can make. Accreditation is a designation awarded to a school for complying with a set of academic and personal support standards. Students who need financial aid, hope to earn certification or licensure as a teacher, and who may want to attend graduate school or transfer credits must attend an online school that is accredited. All individuals seeking a teaching credential must attend an education program that is recognized by their state’s board of education.
To ensure the best possible outcomes for your education program, the online degree program you choose should be accredited by either one of the six primary regional accrediting boards, the Distance Education Training Council, or an accrediting board that specializes in education programs. Examples of these programmatic accrediting agencies include the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA), Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS), and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
Any school's accreditation status can be checked through the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. For more information about accreditation, please visit our comprehensive accreditation hub.
Education graduates who plan to become a teacher or an administrator (e.g., principal or superintendent) in a public school district will need to follow the proper procedure to become licensed before they can begin working. Each US state has its own set of licensing or certification requirements, so it's best to check with your particular state before embarking on a path to become an educator or administrator. In general though, educators and administrators must earn an accredited degree, have professional experience, and pass at least one competency exam.
Specific details about licensing and certification requirements for public school teachers can be found in Guide to Online Schools' Complete Guide to an Online Teaching Degree. The licensing process for public school principals is more rigorous than the process for obtaining a teaching certificate, as administrators are expected to have advanced leadership skills and knowledge about operating a school or school district. To become a principal, most states require candidates to have a master's degree from a regionally accredited school, a teaching certificate, and at least three years of teaching experience.
Principals must also complete a principal preparation program or internship to develop their leadership skills and their knowledge of how to improve students' educational experiences. Other requirements often include passing an exam to demonstrate basic reading, writing, and math skills; passing a state-based educator standards exam; and submitting to a criminal background check. Some states have different levels of principal certification, starting with an initial "residency certificate" and advancing to a "professional certificate" after two years of experience as an employed administrator. Some states break down their certifications even further for elementary vs. secondary school principals, while other states have the same requirements for both academic levels.
To become the superintendent of a school district, some states require that applicants have a current principal or teaching license and a certain number of years of experience in each professional role. Superintendents may also be required to complete a superintendent preparation program as well as an accredited master's degree program with a superintendent focus before they can take a licensing exam. After passing the exam, they may be eligible for an initial superintendent certificate for a certain number of years before they must renew their certification.
Educational administrators are the leaders of schools, colleges, and other types of educational organizations. They are the leaders and guides in the educational field, either working intimately with students or with the larger community. School administrators work at state and federal levels and help develop state policies that affect education. Administrators can also be school superintendents, principals, or principal support staff.
Students who are seeking entry-level administrative positions in a school district office or at state or federal levels may wish to start with an associate or bachelor's degree in education administration, while those with more professional experience and who hope to work as a superintendent or hold a position as an education administrator at the state or federal level should consider a graduate degree or certificate in education administration.
One-year education administration or education leadership graduate certificate programs are available for students who are currently earning or have already earned a master's degree. They are typically designed for education professionals who would like to advance into a career as a school leader or school district leader. Associate and bachelor’s degrees in educational administration give a broader and more in-depth liberal arts experience. An undergraduate degree program in early childhood education administration provides students with an understanding of the education industry, helps them gain advanced organizational management skills and trains them in the theories of child development.
Graduate degree programs provide highly advanced education in education administration. A master’s degree program in educational leadership offers aspiring principals, deans, and other administrators an opportunity to further develop their professional skills and prepares them to effectively manage the way a school operates. Educational leadership doctorates introduce current educators to advanced theories in educational psychology, educational leadership and public relations, school law, and leadership ethics.
Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in today's classrooms. Everyone from kindergarten through graduate school is enjoying the benefits of computers, presentational technology, and new programs in the classroom. Some of the best teachers in today's classes are skilled at incorporating new forms of technology to enhance student learning, whether it be computer programs, tablets, or podcasts. Technology has become so important in today's classrooms that there are entire degree programs dedicated to creating new ways of including technology in one's teaching style. Both current and aspiring teachers can benefit from learning about instructional technology in a formalized degree setting.
Instructional technology degrees are usually earned as graduate degrees. Most people who become interested in this field are already educators or educational leaders, such as vice principals or curriculum developers. Students who are choosing instructional technology paths are interested in becoming better at their jobs, learning to take their techniques and skills in new directions. This makes the masters degree or the masters of education degree very popular. Students study computer programming, the teaching of computer programming, introducing students to technology, using technology paired with written literature and traditional teaching methods, and training other teachers to use technology in their classrooms.
Associate degrees and bachelor's degrees that feature an instructional technology option are more likely to be degrees in education or teaching with an instructional technology specialization option. Students will study teaching techniques, curriculum development, evaluation techniques, and classroom management, all while learning about how they can use technology to enhance their teaching skills. Some schools require that students who are applying for master's in instructional technology already have official teaching experience. Doctoral programs may even require curriculum development or teacher leadership experience.
Traditional degree programs in instructional technology revolve around group discussion, helping students build ideas off of one another. This is not easily done through online programs, so instructional technology students will be asked to complete a lot of reading and writing assignments. Many online programs (as well as some traditional programs) require that all students be full-time, licensed teachers.
- Becoming a Principal or Superintendent in Texas. Texas Education Agency. Accessed March 1, 2018. http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=25769812520.
- Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed March 1, 2018. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm.
- Education, Training, and Library Occupations. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed March 1, 2018. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/home.htm.
- Certification. Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. State of Washington. Accessed March 1, 2018. http://www.k12.wa.us/certification/AdminMain.aspx.