10 Most Affordable Master's of Educational Leadership Degrees


“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
—Peter F. Drucker

If you’re thinking about getting a Master’s in Educational Leadership, odds are you’re passionate about education reform and school improvement. You may be a teacher who has seen firsthand the success and failure of leadership and the triumphs and defeats of teaching.

This experience will be vital as you enter into administration. As a leader your job will be, as Ronald Reagan said, to help others do theirs better. To empower teachers to excel; to free them to help students learn and achieve This is the serious task of principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches, and others cannot be underestimated.

May Peter Drucker’s clever quip remain forever with you, for successful leaders are ultimately people of character who can be trusted to do what they say and follow through. The best principals I served with made me feel like they believed in me, helped with what I needed, didn’t micromanage, had my back with parents, and were present to me and visible to students.

No matter where you’re at in your journey, whether in the forest like Dante, or on Mt. Doom like Frodo, we are here to help you become one of the nearly million educational leaders shaping the future of our nation.

What should I expect going into a Master’s in Educational Leadership?

A Master’s in Educational Leadership is a one- to three-year degree ranging from 30 to 45 credits. The degree is designed to prepare you for leadership positions. It may include licensure tracks or licensure preparation, though many times there is a separate track or program in addition to the Educational Leadership Program.

Many programs in educational leadership are online or hybrid designed for working professionals. Since teachers are those who move into administrative positions, the programs usually require teaching experience and a valid teaching license for admission, though some do not. If you need to earn your teaching license, visit our ranking for the Most Affordable Online Master of Arts in Teaching Degrees.

As for what to expect for coursework and requirements, expect to learn a lot in a short period. The leadership of schools or in districts is a huge responsibility, and you need knowledge of curriculum, staffing, facilities, and finances.

Some specific courses required for the degree include:

  • Principles of Educational Administration
  • Supervision for Learning Environments
  • Diverse Learning Needs
  • Curriculum Leadership
  • Economics and Financing of Education
  • The Role of the Principal
  • School Leadership in the Twenty-first Century
  • Supervision and Evaluation of School Personnel

What is the job outlook and salary for a job in educational leadership?

The job outlook is slightly above average at 10 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth is expected to continue or increase depending on particular regions and growth through 2020.

The BLS reports that the median salary for Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals is $92,510 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $59,910, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $135,770.

Payscale reports other leadership positions as follows:

  • Assistant Principal—$73,500
  • School Superintendent—$104,500
  • Department Chair—$84,640
  • Elementary School Principal—$80,107

What is your methodology for ranking the schools on the list?

At Top Master's in Education, our goal is to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information to help you make an informed decision. We know that money talks and affordability matters.

We compiled a comprehensive list of all of the Master of Educational Leadership degrees we could find and listed the cost per credit for each program. This information was gathered from various sources including U.S. News and World Report and the National Center for Education Statistics and then cross-referenced on the school's website.

This ranking is based solely on price and contains the ten least expensive programs we could find.

1. Northwest Missouri State University

Founded in 1905 as a normal school, Northwest Missouri State has come a long way since then. NMSU is located in Maryville, Missouri and serves 6,530 students from 39 states and 35 countries. The School offers 127 undergraduate majors and 40 graduate programs. NMSU has been recognized seven times on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement.The Northwest Bearcats compete in NCAA Division II athletics.

At NMSU there is are a few choices in Educational Leadership. The first is the convenient online MSEd in Educational Leadership. The Degree “prepares educational leaders to empower the school's various publics in developing a vision for the school, directing the school and meeting the school's day-to-day challenges.” Accredited by NCATE and DESE, you can be confident the MSEd in EL is respected and effective. In addition to the online offering, the Department of Educational Leadership offers the Specialist in Education program. This program provides a MEd in Educational Leadership with three areas of specialization: Superintendency, Secondary School Principalship, and Elementary School Principalship. They are designed for further study and terminate in an EdS. The MEd degree requires GRE scores, a valid license, and teaching experience among other requirements.

Tuition is affordable at $325 per credit.


2. Queens University of Charlotte

Queens University of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina is dedicated to the liberal arts and a world-class education. Queens is a private school of about 2300 students; the Universities average class of 14 students and 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio provides a personalized experience. The gorgeous campus facilities study, play, and reflection. Queens offers 44 undergraduate and 11 graduate programs.

Dr. Linda Dunlap, Associate Professor of Education at Queens, says of their online MA in Educational Leadership, "We're committed to providing the same supportive, personalized mentoring and engaging learning environment we have on campus to our online students." If you choose to go for Queen’s 100 percent online MA in Educational Leadership, you will be satisfied with the quality, convenience, and affordability. Learning outcomes include the ability to use data and statistics in designing a plan for improvement, tools to effectively manage your school with available resources, and leadership skills to bring positive change for students and teachers. The degree does not require a GRE or an application fee, and there is a licensure or non-licensure track for those who do not wish to be principal, but still in leadership positions or for those seeking to fulfill continuing education requirements. After coursework, there is a six credit-hour internship under personal guidance and mentorship of Queen’s expert faculty.

Queen’s cost is an only $390 per credit.


3. Southern Wesleyan University

Eighteen hundred students attend Southern Wesleyan University in Central, South Carolina. Founded by the Wesleyan Church, the private Christian school educates students in the liberal arts. There are 40 undergraduate and five graduate programs, as well as an excellent Honors College, and multiple study abroad options. Student life is active with athletics in NCAA Division II and NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association) as well as over 15 clubs and organizations.

If a small school in the Christian tradition with an excellent educational leadership program is what you’re looking for, Southern Wesleyan’s got it. The Master of Education in Administration and Supervision program is designed for educators who plan to become principals at the building level and supervisors at the building and district level. The 36-credit program is completed in 23 months and includes coursework in leadership, communication, educational law, school finance, data-driven assessment, and more; It also includes three practicum opportunities and an internship where theory is applied under the guidance of experienced experts. Do note that if you are a member of the Palmetto State Teacher’s Association, you are eligible for a 10% scholarship to apply to each course throughout your MEd program. Knowing the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) granted national recognition without conditions to the MEd program adds a level of confidence to your choice for SWU.

If the factors mentioned above are attractive, it will only help to know SWU’s tuition per credit is affordable at $425.


4. Minnesota State University—Mankato

Established as many of our universities were as a normal school in 1868, Minnesota State University has tremendous experience in education. The mission expanded to what it is today, the largest school in the University of Minnesota System with 15,000 students. Minnesota State is located in Mankato, Minnesota on 303 acres atop the bluff of the Blue Earth River Valley. This beautiful setting is conducive to study, leisure, merriment, and relaxation. MSU’s educational options are many, 130 undergraduate and 70 graduate programs.

There are two master's degrees and a specialist degree offered at Minnesota State University. The MS in Educational Leadership, a 34-credit program delivered in a blended format that teaches theory and skills for leadership positions, but does not lead to an administrative license. If you're interested in being a principal, superintendent, or director of special education, the master's degree becomes a prerequisite for the Specialist in Educational Leadership & K-12 Administrative Licensure Program. The MS in Experiential Education, a new degree at MSU is for working adults seeking leadership but not administrative licensure. It features project-based and active-learning that leads to critical thinking and leadership skills to be applied in positions such as outdoor adventure programming, K-12 education, higher education, or corporate training.

MSU’s cost per credit is $472.


5. McDaniel College

With a pledge to guide each student on an individual educational path and quest for personal development, McDaniel strives to be better. The School is a private four-year selective liberal arts college in Westminster, Maryland and with a European campus in Budapest, Hungary. The 1600 total students enjoy the 160-acre campus, many study abroad options, a January "mini-mester" of uncommon courses, and the ability of self-designed majors. Some popular majors are Social Sciences, Business, Management, Marketing, Visual and Performing Arts and Psychology.

McDaniel, one of the Colleges that Change Lives, by Loren Pope, should be considered for educational excellence, convenience, and affordability. The MS in Educational Leadership is perfect for certified teachers seeking to become administrators as the program is guided by the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) Standards and approved by the Maryland State Department of Education. It does lead to licensure or further education should you desire. McDaniel’s flexible scheduling and hybrid, face-to-face, or online delivery work for you in the combination you need. Courses include The Role of the Principal, Supervision, and Evaluation of School Personnel, School Leadership in the Twenty-first Century, and Economics and Financing of Education. A capstone portfolio that includes a research paper and interview is also required.

McDaniel’s $490 per credit tuition only adds to their merit.


6. University of Louisiana-Monroe

Founded in 1931 and part of the University of Louisiana System, the University of Louisiana-Monroe is a public university, with over 9000 students. Offering approximately 100 majors and minors, the School is known for excellent business, nursing, and pharmacy programs. There are over 150 students groups at ULM.

The University of Louisiana—Monroe’s Graduate School, offers a MEd in Educational Leadership which takes 36-credits to complete. The program has several advantages: after the first six credit hours are completed, students will qualify for the Teacher Leader endorsement and be assigned to a mentor. The guide will walk with you through the program, including your internship. Recognized as one of the biggest advantages of the Program by alumni, the internship starts before the school year and end after its over. Graduates will leave having experienced the administrators academic year, which is longer than it is for teachers and students. The Program is NCATE-accredited program and offers top-notch academics. To be admitted to the program, one must have a minimum 2.75 GPA, GRE scores, and a valid teaching license.

The cost per credit is $500 the annual ROI is 9.1 percent, making it one of the most affordable programs available.


7. University of Cincinnati

With a unique “co-op education” model, initiated and expanded to other schools as well, the University of Cincinnati offers students “a balance of educational excellence and real-world experience.” UC is located in Cincinnati, Ohio and was founded in 1819 giving it a deep well of experience. Currently enrolling about 44,000 students choosing from hundreds of degree programs in about every field, UC makes a $4 billion annual economic impact. Innovation and research are important at UC, which receives $400 million annually in research funding.

UC’s MEd in Educational Leadership is perfect for educators desiring to move into leadership positions such as principals and assistant principals, union leaders, department chairs, and school board contributors. In 21 months, taking two courses every 14-week semester, the 30 credits can be completed, and you will be on well on your way to bringing real and lasting change to schools through integrating technology, curriculum, management, and leadership. Coursework includes Educational Leadership Theory, Leadership for Social Justice, Human Resources Administration in Education, and the Principal Clinical Internship I and II. Students are also required to complete a graduate portfolio. A GRE is required for admission to this degree.

With a $548 tuition and 100 percent online format, UC may be just right.


8. Winona State University

The motto of Winona State is like a window into a room: “A Community of Learners Improving Our World.” With this mission, 8500 students at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota embark on an educational adventure through 80 undergraduate, pre-professional, licensure, graduate, and doctorate programs on three campuses: the Main Campus in Winona, the West Campus in Winona, and Winona State University-Rochester.

If you want to become a team leader in curriculum and instruction, educational technology, student assessment, school business management, alternative education such as charter leadership, student services, dean of students or a school building administrator, WSU delivers the goods. The MEd in Educational Leadership features 18 credits or core classes in the foundational leadership, and then you choose the track, either the K-12 Principal track or the non-principal track where you specialize in your professional area (educational technology for example). The 33-credit program has both a capstone writing component and comprehensive exam, so you know WSU takes the responsibility of preparing effective leaders seriously. In fact, the online courses associated with this blended program have been peer reviewed by those outside the Winona community through the Quality Matters (QM) Program, a nationally recognized, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of online courses and online components.

Tuition is a reasonable $562 per credit.


9. Liberty University

Jerry Falwell founded Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971. From the beginning, the School grew more and more to the point it is today -LIiberty University, the largest Christian University in the world. Currently serving 110,000 students with 94,000 of the total online, Liberty offers a vast variety of degrees, over 550 actually, all taught through the lens of the Christian faith. Liberty is located in Lynchburg, Virginia and their athletic teams compete in NCAA Division I.

Liberty University’s online Master of Education in Educational Leadership, Administration, and Supervision Specialization is ideally suited for teachers seeking to become administrators. Liberty has a generous transfer policy of up to 50 percent of the total credit hours, in this case, 18 of the total 36. Upon completion the NCATE-accredited MEd in EL, AS Specialization you will be prepared to pass the Virginia exam for certification. The curriculum includes courses such as Understanding Educational Research & Assessment, School-Community Relations, Supervision of Instruction, and an internship. The degree is not 100 percent online and does require what LU calls “Intensives,” on-campus requirements. Besides the Administration and Supervision specialization, there is a Math Specialist Endorsement, Reading Specialist Endorsement for those seeking teacher leadership roles in those areas.

The cost per credit is $565.


10. Arkansas Tech University

Located in Russellville, Arkansas, Arkansas Tech University was founded in 1909. Originally known as the Second District Agricultural School, the purpose was to provide classes that led to a high school degree. Today, Arkansas Tech provides a comprehensive higher education to over 12,000 students.

Arkansas Tech University offers a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership that requires 34-credit hours. Upon completion, candidates will qualify for licensure in the State of Arkansas for principal, assistant principal, or other building leadership positions. The degree is primarily online, although there are some residency requirements. Coordinated through the Center for Leadership & Learning, courses include Action Research and Data Analysis, Communication with School and Community, Instructional Leadership, Principles of Curriculum for School Leadership, and Administrative Law. An internship, a cumulative grade point average of 3.0, and a portfolio are required for graduation; a teaching license and two years teaching experience is required for admission to the Program, as well as approval from a Program Director.

The cost per credit is $568.