Middle school and high school teachers have a unique opportunity to make a profound impact on the lives of their students.
High school students are on the cusp of their professional and adult lives. Having a teacher that encourages and supports them in their favorite subject (or in their least favorite one) can truly make a difference in that student’s life.
With a master’s degree in secondary education, teachers will be better prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities unique to middle school and high school education.
What kind of master’s degree in secondary education should you get?
You can choose to pursue a master’s degree in secondary education through either an online program or a residential program. If you’re a practicing classroom teacher, you’ll likely value the flexibility and convenience that an online program offers. To get a sense of all your options, don't miss our list of the Best Online Master of Arts in Teaching Degrees.
How much money do people make with a master’s degree in secondary education?
According to PayScale data, a high school teacher with a Master of Education earns an average salary of $52,923 per year. Compare this to a high school teacher with only a Bachelor of Education: Teachers who hold this degree have an average annual salary of $44,055.
With or without a master’s degree, becoming a high school teacher likely won’t make you a millionaire. But a graduate degree can lead to a healthy pay raise—and, perhaps more importantly, it will make you a more effective educator for your students.
What can you do with a master’s degree in secondary education?
The majority of graduates who earn a master’s degree in secondary education will hold jobs as high school or middle school teachers. A master’s degree will qualify educators to teach at the community college level, or to teach dual-enrollment courses for college credit at their high school.
What are the requirements for a master’s degree in secondary education?
Some graduate programs require students to take the GRE, while others do not. Certain universities require that candidates already hold a valid teaching license to apply to a graduate program. Other universities offer initial licensure programs at the graduate level. Requirements vary with each program, so be sure to speak with a representative from your school of choice if you have any questions.
What are the best master’s degrees in secondary education?
We define “best” based on two main categories: institutional excellence and student success. Using data from individual college websites, PayScale, the IPEDS database, and U.S. News & World Report, we assign each school a score in both of these categories.
The score for institutional excellence is based on student-to-faculty ratio, incoming students’ test scores, graduation rate, and endowment size. For student success, we consider factors such as financial aid packages, average tuition costs, student indebtedness after graduation, and expected early career salary for graduates.
All of these factors together allow us to provide a comprehensive ranking of the best online master’s degrees in secondary education.
1. The University of Alabama
The University of Alabama was established in 1831 as the first public college in Alabama. Today, as the flagship campus of the University of Alabama System, the university ranks 51st nationwide among all public universities according to U.S. News & World Report. The distance education program (known as Bama By Distance) offers an outstanding Master of Arts in Secondary Education degree program.
Students can pursue a fully online M.A. in one of two tracks. One of these includes a Reading Specialist P-12 Certification, while the other includes an English Language Arts 6-12 Certification. The M.A. program is designed for practicing educators who already hold a certification in Secondary Education - English Language Arts. Required courses for this degree include:
- Introduction to Educational Research
- Computer-Based Instructional Technologies
- Modern Secondary School Programs
- Improving Language Arts Instruction
The M.A. in Secondary Education requires 30 to 33 credit hours. Students must complete a comprehensive written exam to graduate from the program. Bama By Distance offers a wide assortment of other education degrees at the graduate and doctoral level. Fully online options include an M.A. in Educational Leadership, in Educational Psychology, in Higher Education Administration, and in Elementary Education.
2. Ball State University
For more than a decade, Ball State University has been ranked among the top universities in the Midwest by the Princeton Review. The university, located in Muncie, Indiana, is one of just 24 in the nation to be named to the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll. Ball State is home to a suite of highly acclaimed online programs, including three online graduate degrees that are in the top 20 nationwide in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings.
The online M.A. in Secondary Education is suitable for current classroom teachers and for students who are seeking initial teaching licensure. The program requires 30 credit hours in total, including 12 credit hours of elective coursework. Course titles available within this program include:
- Dynamics of the Secondary Classroom
- Principles and Procedures of Curriculum Development
- Social and Cultural Minorities in American Education
- Technology Policy and Pedagogy
Online students have access to Ball State’s extensive student support services, including a writing center, library services, tutoring, and technology support. The distance learning programs are designed to require no campus visits at all (unless students choose to attend graduation). Ball State has an overall career placement rate of 93 percent for its graduates.
3. Old Dominion University
Old Dominion University is a leading research university located in the coastal city of Norfolk, Virginia. Housed in the acclaimed Darden College of Education, the online Master of Science in Education for Secondary Education includes options for licensed teachers and for those seeking initial teaching licensure (grade 6 through 12).
The M.S.Ed. in Secondary Education is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than teaching. Students will choose from a number of content area concentrations, including mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, social science, English, and TESOL. The program requires a minimum of 34 credit hours. Coursework for this degree program includes:
- Digital Age Teaching and Learning
- Dynamic Assessment of Teaching and Learning
- Practitioner Inquiry in Elementary and Secondary Grades
- Reading to Learn Across the Curriculum
All students in the M.S.Ed. in Secondary Education track who are pursuing initial licensure will be required to complete a practicum and a Teacher Candidate Internship. If students hold a bachelor’s degree in a field that does not align with their content area concentration, they will be expected to take additional coursework. Licensed teachers will complete a thesis as part of their graduate program. ODU Online earned the number 29 slot from ValueColleges.com for the Best Value Online Graduate Education Programs.
4. Saint Joseph's University
Rooted in Jesuit tradition, Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia provides holistic education grounded in the liberal arts. First established in 1851, SJU now offers 52 graduate programs in business and in the arts and sciences. Among these programs is a fully online, highly respected Master of Science in Education - Secondary Education degree.
The M.S.Ed. in Secondary Education is a 36 credit hour track. Graduates will be eligible for the Pennsylvania teaching license for grades 7 through 12, with certifications available in Math, English, Citizenship, and Science. Students may also pursue a teaching certification without the master’s degree through an accelerated 30 credit hour program. Core curriculum for the master’s degree includes the following courses:
- Historical and Contemporary Perspectives in Education
- Secondary Teaching in Inclusive Environments
- Diagnostic Assessment and Progress Monitoring
- Literacy and Learning Across the Curriculum
Candidates who are earning their initial licensure will be required to complete a field experience. This can be in either a public, private, or international school setting. The field experience must be completed in the classroom of a certified teacher prior to the required student teaching placement. Students who are already licensed teachers may complete the field experience requirement in their own classrooms.
5. Mississippi State University
In 2016, the National Science Foundation ranked Mississippi State University as the leading research university in the state and among the top 100 research institutions in the country. Groundbreaking research, distinguished faculty, and outstanding student opportunities make Mississippi State an excellent choice for graduate education students. The Master of Science in Education for Secondary Education (MS-SEED) is the perfect example of all that MSU has to offer.
The MS-SEED degree track requires 33 credit hours. Participants in this program can choose from a number of 7-12 or K-12 licensure options. Concentrations are available in biology, business, chemistry, English, foreign language, math, social studies, reading, and other areas. Candidates for the MS-SEED will take the following courses:
- Middle and Secondary School Curriculum
- Advanced Planning and Managing
- Functions and Methods of Research
- Dispositions and Reflection
Students will be expected to successfully complete a comprehensive written examination prior to graduating. The written exam consists of two four-hour sessions, with two extended essay prompts in each session. While the program can be completed online from almost anywhere in the United States, local students have the option of taking some coursework on campus. MSU offers numerous other online graduate degrees in education, including a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Science in Instructional Technology.
6. Liberty University
Liberty University is the largest private nonprofit university in the United States, and the largest Christian university in the world. The student body of Liberty numbers over 110,000 strong, including both the residential students on the Lynchburg, Virginia campus and the students who attend remotely. The university offers a total of 175 graduate programs online, including a celebrated Master of Arts in Teaching for Secondary Education.
The M.A.T. in Secondary Education degree is designed for students with no prior teaching experience. The program leads to initial licensure and requires 36 credit hours, including three credit hours in student teaching. Although the bulk of the program is online, students may need to attend the Lynchburg campus to complete required intensives. Core coursework includes:
- Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education
- Foundations of Exceptionality
- Content Instructional Procedures
- Principles of Behavior Management
The distance learning program at Liberty offers a full complement of online graduate education degrees. Other options include a Master of Education in Teaching and Learning (with specializations in Early Childhood Education, Educational Technology and Online Instruction, Gifted Education, Leadership, Student Services, and many other areas), or an M.Ed. either in Administration and Supervision or with a Reading Specialist Endorsement or Math Specialist Endorsement. The M.A.T. is also available with specializations in Elementary Education, Middle Grades, and Special Education.
7. Georgia Southern University
A Carnegie-designated Doctoral Research institution, Georgia Southern University is a leading center of higher education in the Atlanta region. Located in Statesboro, Georgia, the university serves just over 18,000 undergraduate and 2,600 graduate students. The distinguished College of Education at GSU was named number 68 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in their Best Online Graduate Education Programs ranking.
The M.Ed. in Secondary Education requires that candidates already hold a valid teaching certification in biology, broad fields science, business, chemistry, economics, English, geography, history, mathematics, physics, or political science. (Students seeking initial licensure can pursue the online Master of Arts in Teaching degree, although this degree is not offered online.) Coursework for the M.Ed. program includes:
- Enhancing Student Performance
- Trends, Issues, and Research in Education
- Readings and Research in the Content Areas
- Educational Research
Students applying to the program must submit their scores for the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), or the verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing sections of the GRE. Candidates for the M.Ed. degree will complete a three-credit Seminar in Secondary Education. This seminar includes a field-based study and is a required capstone course for all secondary education programs.
8. Kennesaw State University
Located on two campuses in the Atlanta metropolitan area, Kennesaw State University is a member institution of the University System of Georgia. KSU has been named among the top 10 percent of institutions nationwide by the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification. The university has also been ranked highly for affordability, diversity, and particularly for the strength of its distance learning programs.
The online M.Ed. in Secondary or Middle Grades Education is designed for educators who hold either a middle grades or secondary certification in English/language arts, history/social studies, mathematics, or the sciences. The degree requires a total of 36 credit hours. This includes 15 hours in core coursework and 12 hours in the student’s teaching field. All candidates for this master’s degree program will take the following courses:
- Differentiation, Academic Language, and Assessment in Middle and Secondary Classrooms
- Transformative Teaching and Learning with Families and Communities
- Applied Quantitative and Qualitative Research
- Reflective Inquiry for Transformative Teaching and Learning
While a number of tracks within the M.Ed. program are fully online, others are hybrid and require some time on campus. The details vary by content area specialization, the type of certification (middle grades or secondary), endorsement add-ons, and the number of students enrolled in a given term. The degree program is based on a cohort model.
9. University of the Cumberlands
Serving just over 3,000 graduate students, the University of the Cumberlands is a nationally ranked Christian university in Williamsburg, Kentucky. UC has been named among the top universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report, and its online graduate degrees in education have been recognized as some of the top programs nationwide.
The M.A.T. track provides options for initial certification for Elementary Education (P-5), Middle School Education (5-9), Secondary Education (8-12), All Grades (P-12 for Art, Health, Music, and Physical Education), Business and Marketing (5-12), and Special Education–Learning and Behavior Disorders (P-12). At the secondary level, students can choose to specialize in Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, English, Math, Physics, and Social Studies. Available M.A.T. coursework includes:
- The Modern Secondary School
- Advanced Human Behavior
- Classroom Management and Discipline
- Research Methods in Education
The fully online M.A.T. degree incorporates field experiences in each student's local community. Because the program is designed for working adults, students have a large amount of flexibility in how quickly they complete the program. The average time to graduation is 18 months. In 2015, the Cumberlands School of Education was awarded accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
10. Mercy College
The main campus of Mercy College is located along the Hudson River in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Other campuses are located in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Yorktown Heights. Forty degree programs are offered fully online. Mercy College’s School of Education offers an excellent Master of Science in Secondary Education, which can lead to either initial licensure or professional certification for grades 7 through 12.
Candidates for the M.S. degree who do not yet have a teaching license will pursue the Track A course of study, which leads to initial licensure. Candidates who are practicing teachers with at least one year of experience will pursue the Track B course of study. Track A students will complete the following coursework:
- Educational Psychology and Adolescent Development
- Teaching English as a Second Language
- Foundations of Education for Students with Disabilities
- Approaches to Literacy Instruction in Early Childhood through Adolescence
Both Track A and Track B require 36 credit hours. These tracks are available on all four campuses as well as fully online. Students may pursue an optional certification in Teaching Students with Disabilities for grades 7 through 12. The Master of Science is also available with a concentration in Teaching Literacy (Birth through Grade 12) and in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
11. University of Maine
Established in 1868 as a land grant college, the University of Maine is located in Orono. The university also operates 16 UMaine Cooperative Extension offices and five research field stations across the state. As the flagship institution of the University of Maine System, UMaine serves roughly 1,900 graduate students. The highly respected Master of Education in Elementary and Secondary Education is one of 85 master’s degrees offered at UMaine.
Available fully online, the M.Ed. in Elementary and Secondary Education includes a concentration in Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction. Students are expected to hold a teaching license prior to enrolling. Candidates for the M.Ed. at the University of Maine will take the following courses:
- Classroom Practice to Improve Learning
- Dynamics of Change in Schools
- Introduction to Students at Risk
- Methods of Teaching with Computer Technology
UMaine Online also offers an M.Ed. in Special Education, Instructional Technology, and Literacy (Writing and the Teaching of Writing). Students with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above do not need to take an admissions test. However, students with a lower undergraduate GPA will need to submit their scores for the GRE or Miller Analogies Test.
12. University of Louisiana at Monroe
With just over 800 graduate students, the University of Louisiana at Monroe is located along the banks of Bayou DeSiard. ULM has flourished in recent years, adding programs in pharmaceutical science, toxicology, accounting, and other disciplines. These new degrees and certificates add to ULM’s already broad academic offerings, including a celebrated Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) for Secondary Education program.
The M.A.T. in Secondary Education is designed for students to pursue initial teaching certification in the field where they earned their bachelor’s degree. Graduates will be eligible for licensure to teach grades 6 through 12. The program requires 36 credit hours to complete, including six credit hours in an internship. Required coursework for the M.A.T. degree from ULM includes:
- Classroom Management and Organization
- Instructional Strategies for Middle and Secondary Schools
- Educational Techniques for Diverse Learners in Inclusive Classrooms
- Assessment Principles and Practice for All Learners
To qualify for the program, students must submit their score from the GRE (verbal plus quantitative). This GRE score, when multiplied by the applicant’s undergraduate GPA, must be at least 1875 for the applicant to qualify for Regular Status admission. Students whose score (GRE × GPA) is between 1650 and 1875 may qualify for Conditional Status admission.
13. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Northwestern State University of Louisiana has a main campus in Natchitoches and satellite campuses in Leesville and Alexandria. The university was founded as a teaching college in 1884. More than 130 years later, NSU offers a full complement of undergraduate and graduate degrees. eNSU, the university’s distance learning program, is Louisiana’s first and largest electronic campus. The M.A.T. from eNSU is affordable and convenient while maintaining high standards of academic rigor.
The NSU Master of Arts in Teaching for Secondary Education leads to initial Louisiana licensure for grades 6 through 12. Graduates may become certified in content areas such as Biology, Business, Chemistry, English, Family and Consumer Sciences, Mathematics, Physics, Social Studies, and Speech. The degree track requires 33 credit hours, including the following courses:
- Educational Philosophy and Leadership
- Reading Strategies for Teaching in Content Area
- Educational Psychology Applied to Teaching
- Research in Curriculum and Instruction
All candidates for the M.A.T. in Secondary Education will complete a one-year teaching internship. Program starts are available in the summer, fall, or spring semester. Online-only students through eNSU do not pay any out-of-state tuition fees, making this one of the most affordable options for distance learning students.
14. Western Kentucky University
Located in Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University is a public university with nationally ranked programs in journalism, business, engineering, and education, among many other areas. The NCATE-accredited School of Teacher Education boasts a range of degrees and certificates in all areas of modern education. The Master of Arts in Education (M.A.E.) in Teacher Leadership for Secondary Education is one of the many highly respected graduate education programs at WKU.
The M.A.E. in Teacher Leadership for Secondary Education offers a great deal of flexibility. Students can tailor their coursework to their professional interests and goals through numerous specializations. Options include Biology, Exceptional Education, Gifted and Talented Endorsement, Library Media Education, Literacy, Instructional Computer Technology Endorsement, and more. All of the coursework for these specializations is available fully online. Core curriculum for all Secondary Education majors includes:
- Foundations of Teacher Leadership
- Classroom Instructional Strategies and Management
- School and Classroom Assessment
- Curriculum Development
Depending on the specialization and endorsement(s) that a student chooses, the degree program will require between 30 and 37 credit hours. All candidates for the M.A.E. in Secondary Education will complete a three credit hour Action Research Capstone for Teacher Leaders.
15. Southeast Missouri State University
Founded in 1873, Southeast Missouri State University has a main campus in Cape Girardeau. Satellite campuses are located in Sikeston, Malden, Kennett, and Perryville. SMSU serves roughly 1,000 graduate students through these campuses and through its robust distance learning programs. The fully online Master of Arts in Secondary Education offers a unique curriculum and plentiful opportunities for students to pursue their academic interests.
The SMSU Master of Arts in Secondary Education offers two tracks: Educational Technology and Educational Studies. The Educational Studies track requires students to take 18 credit hours in core curriculum. The remaining 15 credit hours can come from advanced placement workshops, coursework in autism or special education, or other teacher education electives. Core curriculum for the Educational Studies track includes:
- Methods of Research
- Curriculum Construction
- Multimedia in Education
- Improvement of Instruction and Assessment
Applicants to the M.A. in Secondary Education program do not need to take the GRE. However, applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75. Students are not required to hold a teaching license, but the program does not lead to initial licensure. The M.A. degree track does not require an internship or practicum experience. SMSU is fully accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
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