Teaching high school is a challenging and sometimes frustrating job. But it can also be an incredibly rewarding career.
A master’s degree in secondary education can give you the skills, knowledge, and qualifications to become a transformative educator for middle or high school students.
What kind of master’s degree in secondary education should you get?
If you’re already a practicing classroom teacher, you may want to consider the programs on our list of the Best Online Master’s in Secondary Education. These programs allow you to earn your degree while still working full-time.
However, if you don’t yet have your initial teaching license, a full-time residential program is ideal for helping you land your first teaching job.
How much money do people make with a master’s degree in secondary education?
The average high school teacher with a Master of Education earns an annual salary of $52,923. A high school teacher with only a Bachelor of Education, on the other hand, has an average annual salary of $44,055.
What can you do with a master’s degree in secondary education?
Most graduates with a secondary education degree will work as a middle school or high school teacher. To teach at this level, you’ll need to be certified in a specific content area. You may choose to specialize in English, a world language, math, science, social studies, art, music, physical education, or another teachable subject.
What are the requirements for a master’s degree in secondary education?
While online graduate programs commonly expect candidates to hold a teaching certification, many residential programs do not require students to have any teaching background. These residential programs often lead to initial teaching licensure.
Certain universities may require the GRE or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), and many have a minimum benchmark for undergraduate GPA. Details vary widely, so be sure to check the admissions requirements for your school of choice.
What are the best master’s degrees in secondary education?
To determine which schools make our list, we investigate data from individual college websites, the IPEDS database, PayScale, and U.S. News & World Report. Each college or university is assessed for factors such as institutional reputation, average financial aid packages, tuition rates, and expected early career salary for graduates.
By incorporating all these data points into a composite score for each school, we’ve compiled the following ranking. We hope this list helps you find the right fit for your master’s degree in secondary education.
1. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League institution, and it is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 universities in the United States. Over 10,000 graduate students attend the University of Pennsylvania in a wide variety of nationally renowned master’s, doctoral, and professional programs. The Graduate School of Education (GSE) is one of the largest of the university’s 12 graduate colleges, enrolling roughly 1,500 students. The Master of Science in Education program from GSE is a recognized global leader in teacher preparation.
The M.S.Ed. program from the University of Pennsylvania offers teaching certification for grades 7 through 12 in English, Math, Sciences, and Social Studies. The program features a yearlong student teaching placement in an urban public school. Coursework within this program includes:
- Teaching and Learning in Urban Contexts
- Developmental Theories and Applications with Adolescents
- Teaching Diverse Learners
- Advanced Field Methods in Secondary Schools
Throughout the M.S.Ed. program, students will take two graduate level courses in their areas of content specialization to develop their pedagogical content knowledge. During their student teaching field experience, students will be at their placement sites each morning while taking classes at the university in the late afternoon.
2. Vanderbilt University
The honors and awards granted to Vanderbilt University are extensive: Kiplinger’s named it third in the nation for Best Value Among Private Universities, and the Princeton Review ranked it second for Happiest Students. Peabody College, the university’s school of education, was ranked fifth nationwide by U.S. News & World Report. The Master of Education from Peabody offers an excellent program for aspiring educators, especially those who plan to work in an urban setting.
Students of the M.Ed. program will earn both a master’s degree in Secondary Education as well as initial licensure for grades 6 through 12. Specializations within a number of content areas are available, including English, math, science, and social studies. Coursework for this degree includes:
- Introduction to Exceptionality
- Psychological Foundations of Education
- Social and Philosophical Aspects of Education
- Classroom Ecology
The degree can be completed through either a one-year program or a two-year program. In the one-year track, students will start in the summer term and graduate by the following summer. In the two-year program, students will take classes during two standard academic years (fall and spring term). In both tracks, students will complete a one-semester Secondary Education Practicum followed by a one-semester Internship in Secondary Education.
3. Arizona State University
Arizona State University has been recognized as the most innovative school in the nation. The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU is ranked fourth among the best graduate colleges of education at public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The Fulton Teachers College came in 11th among all universities nationwide, both public and private. These 2017 accolades mark the sixth consecutive year of Fulton Teachers College’s ascent through the rankings.
ASU’s M.Ed. in Secondary Education includes initial teacher certification in grades 6 through 12. The program is designed to be completed in four semesters, and requires a total of 47 credit hours. All students will complete one semester of student teaching. Candidates for the M.Ed. will take the following courses:
- Introduction to Effective Instruction
- American Education System
- Creating Classroom Climate
- Inclusive Practices for Diverse Learners
Certifications are available across a wide spectrum of content areas, including art, biology, chemistry, drama, Earth science, English, history, Mandarin, French, Japanese, Spanish, math, physics, and political science. Applicants should have completed at least 24 college credits in the field they plan to teach. To qualify for the program, applicants should have at least a “B” average (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) in the last 60 credit hours of their undergraduate GPA.
4. University of Washington
The University of Washington has earned recognition at the regional, national, and global level for its breadth of outstanding academic options and impactful research ventures. The College of Education is home to an array of programs that reflect UW’s top-tier status as a leading institute of higher learning. Graduate degrees are available in Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy, Educational Psychology, Special Education, and Curriculum and Instruction.
The Secondary Teacher Education program at UW provides a unique combination of academic coursework and practical experience. The yearlong degree track features a designated course sequence and gradually increasing time in the field throughout each quarter (spring, summer, fall, and winter). In the winter quarter, students will complete approximately 350 hours in the field. The academic coursework for this degree includes:
- Topics and Tensions in Education
- Adolescent Development
- Creating Classrooms for All Students
- Assessment in Secondary Education
The program is cohort-based, and all candidates within the cohort move through the course sequence together. Program specializations are available in math, science, social studies, English language arts, and numerous world languages. In addition to the yearlong master’s degree program, educators may also choose the Accelerated Certification for Teachers (U-ACT) program. This program is designed for candidates who are working as full-time classroom teachers with a conditional or emergency certification.
5. University of Texas at Austin
Ranked as a best value school by both Kiplinger’s and Forbes, the University of Texas at Austin is the flagship institution of the University of Texas System. The school was first established in 1883 and today serves over 11,000 graduate students in 139 master’s and doctoral degree programs. The nationally renowned Master of Education program provides the skills and certifications for teachers to be successful in diverse urban classrooms.
Through the M.Ed. program, students will earn a secondary teaching certification and an English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement as well as a master’s degree. Candidates may choose to earn their certification in English language arts or in social studies. The degree track requires 42 total credit hours. Coursework for the M.Ed. includes:
- Learning and Teaching in Urban Contexts
- Writing Process and Pedagogy
- Second Language Acquisition
- Literacy and Social Change
The M.Ed. coursework is based on a curriculum of 36 credit hours, while teacher certification requires an additional six credit hours. Students will have the option to take several elective courses outside of their major. Popular electives for this degree include classes in the English, Rhetoric and Writing, Educational Psychology, Special Education, Educational Administration, African and African Diaspora Studies, Mexican American Studies, and Asian American Studies departments.
6. University of Michigan
The University of Michigan has a main campus in Ann Arbor and additional campuses in Dearborn and Flint. The university holds an array of honors and accolades for its graduate programs, and is home to a School of Education that’s been ranked number 12 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Michigan’s M.A. for Secondary Education offers an intensive, rigorous program for future teachers.
The Secondary Master of Arts with Certification program, known as SecMAC, is designed for candidates with bachelor’s degrees in English, mathematics, history, physics, or another teachable content area. Students will be placed in cohorts with 20-25 classmates. As part of their cohort, students will complete the following courses:
- Educational Linguistics
- Exceptionalities 6-12
- Teaching and Learning
- Educational Psychology
This 12-month program features a defined sequence of field work and academic courses. Orientation begins in mid-June. In July, students begin participating in a clinical field experience at a local school several mornings each week. In August, students meet with their assigned mentor teachers and prepare for the school year. The students work two days per week in their mentor teachers' classrooms September through December. By April, they spend five days a week in their placement classrooms. All candidates will complete a capstone project which will be showcased in early June.
7. Michigan State University
Located in East Lansing, Michigan State University serves roughly 39,000 undergraduate and 11,200 graduate students. The main campus covers 5,200 acres, and the university owns another 19,600 acres for agricultural and natural resources research and education across the state. MSU is home to a number of celebrated teacher education programs at the graduate level, including a non-degree post-bachelor’s route to initial certification.
The Master of Arts in Literacy Instruction is designed for practicing classroom teachers. The degree track allows students to take nine credit hours in an area of specialization. Options include Reading Specialist, Writing Instruction, Early Literacy Foundations and Development, Teaching Literacy to Diverse Learners, Children’s Literature, and Technology Certificate. Available coursework within the Literacy Instruction graduate program includes:
- Philosophical Inquiry and Contemporary Issues in Education
- Comparative Analysis of Educational Practice
- Race and Educational Policy in the United States
- Psychology of Learning in School and Other Settings
The MSU College of Education offers a Master of Arts in Education and a Master of Arts in Teaching and Curriculum, both available fully online. The post-bachelor’s route to initial teacher certification at MSU requires at least two years. More time may be required for students whose bachelor’s degree does not correspond to the intended area of licensure.
8. Boston College
The very first college established in the city, Boston College is a Catholic Jesuit institution with roots that go back to 1863. BC has a total student body of roughly 14,400 across its eight schools and colleges. The Boston College Lynch School of Education offers a Master of Education, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Science in Teaching for Secondary Education.
Students of the M.A.T or M.S.T. track will typically take five graduate level courses in the content area where they plan to teach. Students pursuing an M.Ed. will take a minimum of two graduate courses in their content area. The M.Ed. program is better suited to students who hold a bachelor’s degree in their desired area of licensure. Required coursework for the M.Ed. in Secondary Education includes:
- Applied Adolescent Development
- Instruction of Students with Special Needs and Diverse Learners
- Literacy and Assessment in Secondary School
- Teaching Bilingual Students in Secondary Education
All three of the graduate degree tracks in Secondary Education lead to initial licensure for grades 8 through 12. Candidates may pursue certification in English, history, biology, chemistry, geology (Earth Science), physics, classics, Spanish, French, or mathematics. According to U.S. News & World Report, BC is home to the best Catholic school of education in the country.
9. University of Oregon
The University of Oregon occupies 295 acres in the Willamette Valley, a short drive from the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. In this scenic setting, the University of Oregon has built a reputation as a Tier 1 national research university. The outstanding teacher preparation program, known as UOTeach, offers a master's degree that is an ideal gateway to a successful teaching career.
The Secondary Education track from UOTeach is a one-year program leading to a Master of Education and initial certification. All candidates for the M.Ed. will complete a 34-week field experience. During the field placement, students will work closely with mentor teachers and university professors while taking graduate coursework at the same time. Available course titles for the M.Ed. program include:
- Foundations of Teaching and Learning
- Language, Power, and Education
- Creating Supportive Learning Communities
- Technology and Education
An English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) endorsement is incorporated into the M.Ed. curriculum. Content-specific endorsements are available for a number of subject areas, including English Language Arts, Mathematics (Advanced or Foundational), Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or General Science), World Languages (Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Japanese, or Spanish), and Social Studies. The program includes a number of career service workshops, which help students build their professional portfolio and form relationships in local school districts.
10. University of California Irvine
One of the 10 campuses of the University of California System, the University of California Irvine is a top-ranked public research university serving 5,000-plus graduate students. U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of California Irvine 25th in the nation for its College of Education. With extensive partnerships in K-12 schools throughout Orange County, UCI offers a graduate program grounded in practical experience.
The Master of Arts in Teaching program allows students to earn their initial teaching certification in one or multiple subject areas in 14 months. All candidates for the M.A.T. will complete a yearlong apprenticeship at a school placement site. Coursework for M.A.T. students includes the following:
- The History and Culture of Schooling in the United States
- The Policy Environment of Teaching
- Educational Equity and the Exceptional Learner
- Media and Information Literacy in the Secondary Classroom
The Single Subject Credential track allows students to pursue certification for middle grades or high school in social science, mathematics, English language arts, sciences, art, music, or world languages. The total enrollment for UCI’s M.A.T. program is typically between 115 and 140 students each year.
11. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
One of the original 37 public land grant institutions of 1862, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is located roughly 140 miles south of Chicago and 125 miles west of Indianapolis. Serving over 11,400 graduate students, the university is home to a College of Education that’s been ranked 23rd in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The Department of Curriculum and Instruction, which houses the M.Ed. program, is ranked 10th in the nation.
A Master of Education is available leading to licensure in English, mathematics, science, and social studies. Certification is for grades 9 through 12. The program requires a total of 32 credit hours, including eight hours of foundational coursework, 12 hours in education courses, and 12 hours in elective courses chosen with input from an academic advisor. Available coursework for the program includes:
- Education Reforms and Inquiry
- Discourse in STEM Classrooms
- Bilingual and ESL Assessment
- Urban Schools and Schooling
The Master of Education degree track does not require a thesis. Candidates must complete their graduate coursework within five years of enrolling as a degree-seeking student. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also offers graduate programs in Educational Psychology; Special Education; and Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership.
12. Indiana University-Bloomington
The flagship school of the eight-campus IU system, Indiana University-Bloomington was first founded in 1820. Today, the university is recognized as a leader across a breadth of academic fields, including social psychology, nonprofit management, finance, music and theatre, and more. U.S. News & World Report ranks many of IU’s graduate programs in the top 20 nationwide, including the School of Education’s graduate program in Secondary Education (ranked number 10 in the country).
IU offers a Master of Science in Education for Secondary Education program that is designed for practicing classroom teachers. The university also provides the option of a Secondary Transition to Teaching program, a cohort-based, 18 credit hour track leading to initial certification. For the M.S.Ed. in Secondary Education, students may complete the following coursework:
- Instruction in the Context of Curriculum
- Learning and Cognition in Education
- Anthropology of Education
- Critical Thinking and Education
The M.S.Ed. is a 36 credit hour track. Students will complete nine credit hours in electives, either inside or outside the School of Education, and 15 credit hours in a specialization. Six credit hours will come from either a thesis or a practicum experience. The 18 credit hour certification-only option is a full-time program beginning in June and running through the end of the spring semester.
13. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Chartered in 1789, UNC is the nation’s first public university. Times Higher Education ranked UNC the third best public university in the country. The UNC School of Education houses a number of nationally ranked programs, including a Master of Arts in Teaching degree that includes initial licensure.
Students of the M.A.T. program can choose to pursue certification in science, social studies, English language arts, and mathematics. Licensure is available either for grades 6 through 9 or grades 9 through 12. The program is a year long and runs from summer to summer. Required coursework for UNC’s M.A.T. degree includes:
- Schools and Community Collaboration
- Innovative and Engaging Teaching
- Advanced Methods for Teaching Secondary Subjects (STEM or Humanities)
- Methods and Materials for Teaching Secondary Subjects
All students in the program will complete a yearlong residency in a public school classroom, working closely with an experienced teacher mentor. The degree track will require students to develop an inquiry-based classroom or community-based research project. M.A.T. candidates have the option of pursuing an add-on license for Special Education or English as a Second Language.
14. George Washington University
Located just four blocks from the White House, George Washington University is a private research university at the heart of a dynamic metropolitan region. The university serves more than 15,000 graduate students across 10 academic schools. Within the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, students can pursue an array of degrees in Counseling and Human Development, Curriculum and Pedagogy, Educational Leadership, and more.
M.Ed. in Secondary Education candidates at George Washington University may enroll in either a one- or two-year cohort. Both tracks lead to initial licensure. Certification is available in a range of content areas, including English, English as a Second Language (ESL), Mathematics, Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics), Social Studies (History, Civics, Economics), and Foreign Languages (Spanish, French, German, Latin, and others). Regardless of their content area, students will complete the following core courses:
- Teacher Leadership in Education
- Instructional Models and Classroom Management
- Theories of Learning and Development
- Foundations of Assessment, Testing, and Measurement in Education
The ESL specialization requires 36 credit hours. All other tracks require 30 credit hours. GW’s location—in the heart of the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) region—means that M.Ed. students will have access to a diverse variety of school environments, including urban and suburban settings and public, charter, and private schools.
15. University of Colorado Boulder
The extensive community outreach programs at the University of Colorado Boulder impact over 110,000 K-12 students and teachers across 114 school districts. Much of that community outreach is driven by UC Boulder’s nationally ranked School of Education. The master’s degree and teacher licensure programs have earned UC Boulder a slot in the top 30 among all graduate schools of education, public and private, on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking.
At the graduate level, students may pursue a Master of Arts in Education that includes initial teacher licensure for grades 7 through 12. The M.A. program includes options for licensure in English, math, science, social studies, and music. Requirements for all M.A. candidates include the following courses:
- Advanced Social Foundations of Education
- Adolescent Psychology and Development for Teachers
- Differentiation in the Classroom
- Education and Practice
Graduate students at the University of Colorado Boulder also have the option of a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction, with numerous specialties such as Humanities, Literacy Studies, and Math and Science Education. A Master of Arts degree is also available in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity; Educational Foundations, Policy, and Practice; and Learning Sciences and Human Development.
16. University of California Davis
The University of California Davis is located 20 minutes from the state capital of Sacramento. The thriving college town of Davis is just two hours from the San Francisco Bay, Lake Tahoe, and Napa Valley. The location of the university adds an extra dimension to the world-class academic quality of its graduate programs. UC Davis’ School of Education is ranked 36th in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The Master of Arts with Credential degree track is an intensive two-year program. Single subject teaching credentials for grades 7 through 12 are available in Agriculture, English, Math, Science, and Social Science. An optional Bilingual Authorization in Spanish credential is also offered. Coursework available in this program includes:
- Effective Instruction
- Educational Psychology
- Culture and Diversity in Education
- Educating Children with Disabilities
All students in the M.A. with Credential track will complete a primary yearlong student teaching placement. Candidates will also complete a secondary short-term field experience. The UC Davis teacher preparation program has a well-established relationship with numerous diverse school districts in surrounding communities, including Davis, Dixon, Sacramento, West Sacramento, Vacaville, and Woodland. Academic advisors will work with students to find a student teaching placement that corresponds to their preferred grade level and location.
17. Virginia Commonwealth University
With roots that reach back to 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University has a rich heritage of academic excellence. Over 5,000 graduate students attend VCU through an array of master’s degree programs, many of which are ranked in the top 50 nationwide. The VCU School of Education comes in 41st in recent U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings.
The Master of Teaching program includes initial certification in a number of subjects, including biology, chemistry, Earth science, English, history, mathematics, and physics. Candidates in the M.T. program will complete a student teaching placement in the spring semester. Candidates for the Master of Teaching with licensure program may take the following courses:
- Advanced Educational Psychology for Secondary Teachers
- Theory and Practice of Educating Individuals with Special Needs
- Educational Foundations for Collaboration and Universally Designed Learning
- Advanced Computer Applications in Education
Program starts are available in the spring, fall, and summer semesters. A Secondary Education track is available within the Richmond Teacher Residency program, an initiative that pairs students with a teacher mentor working in an urban Richmond public school. Alumni of AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, and other national service organizations are encouraged to apply to this highly selective program.
18. Georgia State University
Spread across seven campuses in the dynamic city of Atlanta, Georgia State University is an innovative research institution serving 51,000 students. GSU is the top nonprofit or public university in the state for awarding undergraduate and graduate degrees to African American, Asian, and Latino students. A variety of Master of Arts in Teaching degree programs prepare students to become highly effective educators in English, math, social studies, and science.
The length of the M.A.T. program varies depending on the intended area of licensure. The Social Studies certification program, for example, requires 45 credit hours, to be completed in four semesters (one and a half years). Depending on their content area specialization, students in the M.A.T. track may complete courses such as:
- Teaching and Learning in Urban Contexts
- Integrating Technology in School-Based Learning Environments
- The Psychology of Learning and Learners
- Social and Cultural Foundations of Education
Candidates for the M.A.T. will undergo a field experience in a metro Atlanta school. Students will be assigned a mentor teacher at the placement school, and the experience will be supervised by one of the experienced faculty members of the Middle and Secondary Education department. Georgia State University also offers a Master of Arts in Creative and Innovative Education, as well as many certificate and endorsement non-degree programs.
19. University of Iowa
Established in 1847 in Iowa City, the University of Iowa is a top-ranked public research institution. For 13 years running, the university has earned a slot on the Fiske Guide to Colleges “Best Buy” list. U.S. News & World Report has recognized the school as number 31 among the best public universities in the country. Education students at the University of Iowa have a variety of options at the post-baccalaureate level through the nationally ranked College of Education.
Students may choose to pursue initial teacher certification without a degree. They may also choose an M.A.T. or an M.A. in English Education, Science Education, Math Education, and Foreign Language and ESL Education. An M.A. is also available in Music Education, Art Education, Social Studies Education, and Special Education. Required coursework for the M.A.T. in English Education (a licensure track) includes:
- Technology in the Classroom
- Approaches to Teaching Writing
- Human Relations for the Classroom Teacher
- Educational Psychology
In general, the university's M.A.T. programs lead to an initial teaching certification in grades 5 through 12. M.A. programs are typically designed for practicing teachers to hone their existing skills. The University of Iowa also offers a Certificate in Online Teaching, Teacher Leader Certificate, Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate (TEFL), and a Graduate Certificate in College Teaching.
20. Temple University
Temple University has risen 17 slots through the U.S. News & World Report Best National Universities rankings in the last several years, landing most recently at number 115. The school, located in Philadelphia, boasts top national rankings for its academic programs and research activity. The forward momentum of Temple University has driven the ongoing innovation and revitalization of the school’s renowned graduate education programs.
A rich assortment of master’s degrees are available in education fields, including an M.Ed. in English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and World Languages. Students in these programs will be eligible for initial teaching licensure in grades 7 through 12. (The World Languages licensure is K-12.) Candidates for the M.Ed. in Secondary Science Education will complete the following courses:
- Child and Adolescent Development
- Literacy and Differentiation in the Academic Areas, 7-12
- Inclusive School Practices
- Foundations of Language Teaching: Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners
Non-degree programs are offered leading to initial certification without a master’s degree. M.Ed. programs typically require 31 credit hours. All candidates pursuing licensure will complete a student teaching placement. An M.S.Ed. degree in Accomplished Teaching is available for practicing teachers to further develop their pedagogical knowledge and professional practice.
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