The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment for Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals to grow 6% through 2024 (or about 14,000 jobs), on pace with all professions. In addition to overseeing all day-to-day activities at school, principals are also tasked with developing curricula, supervising teachers and staff, managing operations, and ensuring a safe, productive educational environment for a diverse demographic of students. Nearly all principalships require a master’s degree in Education, the most popular of which is the Administration emphasis, which covers curriculum and instruction, school finance, school law, HR/personnel management, student development and counseling, and school and community relations, among other subjects. (Some programs include certification, as well.) Given education professionals’ busy schedules, many are now turning to online programs, which provide flexible and affordable options. Below are our top ten online programs.
- Affordability (1/3): Combined analysis of overall tuition of the program, financial aid or scholarship assistance programs, and estimated cost per credit hour for out-of-state students.
- Flexibility (1/3): The number of flexibility-enhancing elements specific to the degree program including teaching philosophy concentrations, degree specialties, prior learning or life experience crediting options, accelerated or self-paced courses, personalized student advisement/guidance, and competency-based credit options.
- Academic Prestige (1/3): The academic prestige of the parent institution operationally defined through the analyses of the rankings/reviews of prominent education review entities such as US News & World Report and The Princeton Review.
1. Chadron State College
Chadron State College, founded in 1911, is a public university in Nebraska. With over 60 undergraduate and graduate programs, CSU has an enrollment of about 3,000 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 20:1. The average class size is 14, promoting a highly collaborative, close-knit educational community. Further, the instructors are some of the most qualified in the country: 83% of full-time faculty hold the highest degree in their fields. Chadron State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
CSU offers an MEd in Educational Administration with four concentration options: Elementary/Secondary/PK-12, Middle School, Special Education Supervisor, and Curriculum/Assessment Supervisor. Consisting of 36 total credits, core requirements include Research Design & Data Analysis, Educational Philosophy, Curriculum Development, School Law, Supervision of Instruction, Personnel Administration, and a practicum or internship to gain in-classroom experience. From there, students meet with their academic advisor to review elective options for their concentration (approved by the graduate committee). Designed for working education professionals, CSU’s program is flexible to accommodate individual schedules; all applicants should hold a teaching certificate or be qualified to do so. Additional endorsements and certificates are available, which require extra practicum work. This program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
- Tuition Per Credit: $325
2. Capella University
Capella University is a majority-online school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, specializing in distance education since 1993. Of the 40,000 enrolled – from all 50 states and 61 countries – most Capella students attend courses on a part-time basis as working professionals and/or adult learners. Half of students are enrolled in master’s programs, a quarter are in doctorate or EdS programs, and a quarter are enrolled in bachelor’s degrees. In particular, Capella emphasizes building professional skill sets for real-world needs, and faculty are closely aligned with experts in their respective fields to ensure curricula are updated to fit current workforce demands.
Capella offers an MEd in Educational Administration with an emphasis in Leadership that consists of 46 quarter credits. Core requirements include Foundations for Master’s Studies in Education, Survey of Research Methodology, Assessment and Improvement of Instruction, and Strategies for Eliminating the Achievement. From there, students take classes like Personnel Administration, P–12 Principalship, The Funding of Educational Institutions, Education and the Law, and School Leadership and Management Practices. All students must complete a capstone experience to graduate. Courses are designed for maximum flexibility and deliver in accelerated 10-week blocks, and students can complete the degree in as little 15 months on a two-course per block schedule. Students with previous academic credit or relevant work experience can further accelerate the program thanks to Capella’s generous transfer policy – up to 12 credits. The program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
- Tuition Per Credit: $444
3. University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Founded in 1869, The University of Nebraska – Lincoln has a total enrollment of 25,000, making it the largest and oldest university in the state. Ranked among the top 50 public schools in the region by US News, Forbes, Washington Monthly, and Times Higher Education rank it highly, as well. Nebraska’s 22:1 student-to-faculty ratio encourages a tight-knit, collaborative learning community, and almost 40% of classes have fewer than 20 students – an impressive number for a school of its size. Less than 20% of classes have more than 50 students. Nebraska also offers financial aid opportunities: nearly half of students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 80%. Nebraska graduates include winners of the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, and more.
UNL offers both an MA and MEd in Educational Administration (37-43 and 36 credits, respectively; the MA includes a Student Affairs Administration specialization option). Example classes include Higher Education in America, Law and Higher Ed, Finance in Higher Ed, Administrative Theories in Educational Organizations, College Student Development, Counseling Principles for Educational Leaders, and Foundations of Research & Methods of Inquiry in Educational Administration. Education faculty are experienced professionals, curriculum specialists, and college administrators devoted to training the next generation of education leaders. For those interested, Nebraska also offers an EdD a PhD in Educational Studies, and EdD and PhD in Educational Administration – all online.
- Tuition Per Credit: $609
4. University of Scranton
The University of Scranton, founded in 1888, is a private Jesuit university with a total enrollment of about 5,500. The Princeton Review, Forbes, The Economist, and Newsweek all rank the school among the best in the nation; US News ranks it sixth in the region, as well as a top university for veterans and overall value. The school’s excellent 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio helps create an intimate, tight-knit educational setting that emphasizes individualized instruction and collaborative learning. Over half of classes have less than 20 students, and just .1% have more than 50. Scranton also offers top-notch financial aid. 70% of students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 71%.
Scranton offers an MS in Educational Administration that consists of 39 credits (13 courses), which can be completed on accelerated 18-month track. Course requirements include Educational Research & Statistics, Curriculum Theory and Development, Literacy and Diversity, Problems in School Administration and Supervision, School Finance, School Law, Principles and Practices of Supervision, and Principal as Administrator, among others. All students must also complete practicums in Elementary and Secondary Education, which include customized task plans, professional feedback, and certification opportunities. For those interested, Scranton also offers a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction (36 credits).
- Tuition Per Credit: $510
5. Gwynedd Mercy University
Founded in 1948, Gwynedd Mercy University, just outside of Philadelphia, has a total enrollment of 2,600. US News ranks it among the best schools in region; Payscale ranks it a top school in the state for return on investment. Thanks to its 10:1 student-to-faculty ration, GMU students enjoy a highly collaborative, intimate educational experience. Over 60% of courses have fewer than 20 students, and 35% consist of 20-49. Financial aid is available, as well: 80% of students receive some form of aid, and the average need is 64%. Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, GMU is Roman Catholic; its core values include academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, compassion, and community and collaboration.
Gwynedd Mercy offers an MS in Educational Administration that consists of 33 credits, which can be completed on an accelerated 20-month track. Requirements include Research Skills for Reflective Practitioners, Curriculum and Instructional Supervision, The Principalship, Human Resources and Staff Development, Educational Leadership, Current Issues in Education, and School Law and Policy Issues. From there, students complete practicums in Leadership and School Administration and K-12 Principalship. Students also have the opportunity to specialize in Master Teacher, Curriculum and Instruction, and Special Education. Designed for maximum flexibility, course work is 100% online, delivered via Teachscape, to accommodate working education professionals.
- Tuition Per Credit: $525
6. Fort Hays State University
Founded in 1902, Fort Hays State University is the fourth-largest public university in Kansas with 11,200 students, half of which take online courses through FHSU’s robust distance education program, The Virtual College, which offers 40 online associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. The school’s 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports a vibrant, collaborative learning environment, and nearly half of classes consist of fewer than 20 students. Less than 5% have 50 students or more. Fort Hays also receives high marks for affordability: its tuition is in the lowest 2% in the U.S. FHSU’s online center is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The Virtual College offers an MS in Educational Administration with a Principal track that consists of 36 hours. Course requirements include Utilization of Technology in Classrooms, Education Research, School Law, School and Community Relations, Special Education for School Leaders, Data Analysis and Assessment, Cultural Diversity, and Curriculum Planning & Evaluation PK-12, among others. (Note that the curriculum closely follows the standards set by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium.) Students have access to a variety of services: personalized academic advising, tech support, online orientation and demos, and a career services center that helps students and alumni hone resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills, and more. The program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
- Tuition Per Credit: $272
7. Grand Canyon University
Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University is a Christian research university based in Phoenix. Fortune ranks the university as a top-five online school for entrepreneurs, and U.S. News ranks GCU among the best schools in the region. Since 2009, the school has grown at a rapid pace and become a leader in online education. In order to reduce costs and increase availability to adult learners and working professionals, the school has developed a number of corporate and strategic educational alliances. As a Christian school, Grand Canyon integrates religious values into its degrees and has a nationally recognized community service initiative.
GCU offers an MEd Educational Administration that consists of 36 credits. Core requirements include Education Law, Education Finance, Shaping School Culture, Developing Professional Capacity, Improving Teacher Performance and Self-Efficacy, Developing and Empowering Instructional Leaders, and Strategic Leadership and Management in Principalship, among others. (The curriculum follows standards set by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium and Educational Leadership Constituent Council.) All students must also complete two clinical internships to gain real-world experience. Courses deliver in accelerated 6-week blocks, and the program is designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working education professionals. Students typically complete course work in two years.
- Tuition Per Credit: $515
8. Drexel University
Founded in 1891, Drexel University, in Philadelphia, has a total enrollment over 26,000, split evenly between undergraduate and graduate students. Forbes, Washington Monthly, and Times Higher Education rank the university among the best in the nation, and US News has recognized Drexel on its lists of best value, veteran services, and innovation. In addition to a unique co-op program, Drexel has also developed a large online education program, launched in 1996, that has become a leader in distance education. In 2007, Drexel Online founded National Distance Learning Week, which recognizes schools for excellence and innovation in online education. Nearly 10,000 students are enrolled in online course work.
Drexel Online offers an MS in Educational Administration (45 credits), with 4 concentration options, including principal certification. Core requirements include School Leadership & Decision Making; Integration of Technology with School Instruction and Management; School Finance and Facilities; School and Community Partnerships and Relations; Mentoring and Collaborative Leadership; Leading in Urban, Rural and Suburban Settings; Resource Management, Allocation and Entrepreneurship; and Interpreting & Evaluating Research & Achievement Data, among others. All students also complete an action research project to graduate. Courses deliver in accelerated 10-week blocks, and the program is designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working education professionals.
- Tuition Per Credit: $894
9. Lamar University
Founded in 1923, Lamar University, in Beaumont, Texas, has a student enrollment of approximately 15,000. Lamar is regionally ranked by US News, and is one of only 16 higher learning institutions to receive an “A” rating from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni for core curriculum standards. In recent years, Lamar’s online school have received recognition for its wealth of programs and affordability. In 2009, the school began offering a unique online dual credit program with UT Arlington for high school students in the state, available for free through state funding. Lamar’s 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports a collaborative, tight-knit educational setting; 35% of classes have fewer than 20 students, and just 10% have more than 50. Financial aid opportunities are available, as well: 63% of students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 50%.
Lamar offers an MEd in Educational Administration that consists of 36 credits and can be completed in as little as 18 months. Courses include Fundamentals of Leadership and Technology, School Community Relations, Leadership for Accountability, Curriculum Management, Organizational & Management Issues, School Law, Diverse Learners, and more. Students must also complete two in-classroom internships to graduate. Courses deliver in accelerated 5-week blocks, and the program is designed for maximum flexibility, with multiple entry dates, to accommodate professional educators. (Applicants have at least two years of teaching experience.) Students services include tech support, enrollment assistance, and more.
- Tuition Per Credit: $275
10. Columbia International University
Founded in 1923, Columbia International University, in South Carolina, is a small private school: total enrollment stands at 1,000, divided between undergraduate and graduate students. Ranked among the best universities in the region by US News, CIU is an evangelical school with a focus on religious teaching, values, and service. The school’s 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio encourages a vibrant, tight-knit learning community, with individualized instruction and collaborative education. More than 70% of classes consist of fewer than 20 students, and just 10% have more than 50. CIU is regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Columbia International offers an MEd with a concentration in either Educational Administration or Instruction & Learning. The administration track consists of 33 credits: Transformational Education, History & Philosophy of Education, Biblical Foundations for Curriculum, Understanding the Learner, Authentic Assessment, Curriculum Development & Instruction, Educational Research, Educational Administration, Institutional Advancement, Law & Personnel, and Supervision of Instruction. CIU’s curriculum is primarily designed for Christian educators and s aligned with certification requirements of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). All courses are 100% online and designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working professionals and adult learners.
- Tuition Per Credit: $475