The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment for Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals to grow 5% through 2031 (or about 14,200 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
- 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 are educational administration degrees. A master’s in educational administration covers areas like:
- curriculum and instruction
- school finance
- student learning
- school law
- HR/personnel management
- student development and counseling
- school and community relations
Some education programs include certification, as well. Given education professionals’ busy schedules, many are now turning to online educational administration 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, Nebraska
Master of Arts in Education – Educational Administration
Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $4,650/year in-state and $9,300/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 16:1
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 2,260 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1. 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 online master’s in educational administration with two concentration options:
- Elementary/Secondary Principal (PK-8, 7-12, PK-12)
- Special Education Supervisor (Birth-Grade 12)
Consisting of 36 total credits (or 45 credits if taking Endorsement Electives for added level certification), core requirements include:
- Research Design & Data Analysis
- Educational Philosophy
- Curriculum Development
Students must complete 250 clock hour 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). The program is designed for working education professionals, with build in flexibility 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).
2. Capella University – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Master of Science in Education, Leadership in Educational Administration Online
Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $14,826/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 35:1
Capella University is a majority-online school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, specializing in distance education since 1993. Of the almost 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. The faculty are closely aligned with experts in their respective fields to ensure curricula are updated to fit current workforce demands.
Capella offers an online master’s in educational administration. The Leadership in Educational Administration program consists of 46 quarter credits. Core requirements include:
- Foundations for Master’s Studies in Education
- Survey of Research Methodology
- Assessment and Improvement of Instruction
- Strategies for Eliminating the Achievement Gap
From there, students take specialized classes like:
- Personnel Administration
- P–12 Principalship
- The Funding of Educational Institutions
- Education and the Law
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.
Students must also complete a capstone experience to graduate. This 250-clock hour site-based internship serves as a way for students to develop a final portfolio that demonstrates their proficiency in leadership and educational administration. The program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
3. University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska
Master of Arts in Educational Administration
Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $16,805/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Founded in 1869, The University of Nebraska – Lincoln has a total enrollment of 23,805, making it the largest and oldest university in the state. Nebraska’s 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio encourages a tight-knit, collaborative learning community. 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 an online master’s in educational administration allows prospective students to choose between a concentration in Community Colleges or Higher Education. The Community Colleges concentration area offers courses in:
- Teaching and Learning in the Community College
- The Community/Junior College
- Workforce, Economic, and Community Development
- Higher Education Planning
The concentration in Educational Administration is a great choice for students who are currently employed at a college or university who want specific knowledge related to institutions of higher education. Course offerings include:
- Issues in Governance of Educational Institutions
- Diversity and Equity in Educational Organizations
- Program Evaluation and Assessment of Student Affairs
- Counseling Principles for 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.
4. Western Governors University – Salt Lake City, Utah
Master of Science in Educational Leadership
Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $7,765/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 42:1
Western Governors University, founded in 1997, is a private non-profit university with a total enrollment of about 156,935. This online university was founded by 19 US governors after an idea to expand online education offerings was presented at a 1995 meeting of the Western Governors Association. WGU offers 35 online master’s degree programs, including their Master of Science in Educational Leadership, accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation.
WGU offers an online master’s in educational leadership for licensed teachers who want to take their career to the next level. The program is designed to enhance expertise in areas like:
- educational governance
- strategic planning
The program aligns with the National Educational Leadership Preparation standards as well as the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders. The program consists of 13 courses including an educational leadership capstone. This culminating experience required students to execute a problem-based learning project. Students will use what they have learned over the course of the program to propose a solution to an actual problem they are likely to face in their career. Over 60% of students complete their degree in just 21 months.
5. Gwynedd Mercy University – Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania
Online Master’s in Educational Leadership – K-12 Principal Certification
Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $15,246/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 8:1
Founded in 1948, Gwynedd Mercy University, just outside of Philadelphia, has a total enrollment of 2,091. Payscale ranks GMU as a top school in the state for return on investment. Thanks to its 8:1 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
- social responsibility
Gwynedd Mercy offers an online master’s in educational administration that consists of 33 credits, which can be completed on an accelerated 20-month track. Requirements include:
- Research Skills for School Leadership
- Curriculum and Instructional Supervision
- The Principalship
- Human Resources and Staff Development
- Educational Leadership and Equity
- Current Issues in Education
- School Law and Policy Issues
From there, students complete practicums. The first practicum is in Leadership and School Administration while the second is in K-12 Principalship. Designed for maximum flexibility, course work is 100% online, delivered via Teachscape, to accommodate working education professionals. Graduates have the skills needed to become a certified principal in Pennsylvania.
6. Fort Hays State University – Hays, Kansas
Master of Science in Educational Administration – Building Principal
Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $3,729/year in-state and $10,602/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Founded in 1902, Fort Hays State University is the fourth-largest public university in Kansas with 12,949 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 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports a vibrant, collaborative learning environment. 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 is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
FHSU offers an online educational administration program for students who want to prepare for the role of a school principal. This 36-credit hour program includes courses in:
- Supervision and Evaluation of Personnel
- Special Education for School Leaders
- School and Community Relations
- Ethics and Professional Norms for Building Administrators
- Data Analysis and Assessment
- Culturally Response Building Administrators
- Building Finance
The curriculum closely follows the standards set by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium. Students have access to a variety of services including:
- personalized academic advising
- tech support
- online orientation and demos
Fort Hays State University also has a career services center that helps students and alumni hone resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills, and more. The program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
7. Grand Canyon University – Phoenix, Arizona
Online Master’s in Educational Administration Degree
Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $10,655/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 20:1
Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University is a Christian research university based in Phoenix. 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 is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
GCU offers an online master’s in educational administration that consists of 36 credits. Core courses include:
- Education Law
- Education Finance
- Shaping School Culture
- Developing Professional Capacity
- Improving Teacher Performance and Self-Efficacy
- Developing and Empowering Instructional Leaders
- Strategic Leadership and Management in Principalship
The program aligns with the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders led by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration. All students must also complete 90 hours of field experience and three internships, for a total of 270 clock hours. Courses deliver in accelerated 6-week blocks, and the program is designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working education professionals. Applicants should have at lest two years of teaching experience. Students typically complete course work in two years.
8. Drexel University – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Online Master’s in Educational Administration Degree
Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $36,234/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1
Drexel University was founded in 1891 in Philadelphia. It has over 22,000 students, split evenly between undergraduate and graduate students. Drexel has a special co-op program. They also have a popular online education program which was launched in 1996. Since then, Drexel 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 one of the top educational administration programs online. Students can choose from four program tracks including:
- Principal Certification
- Principal Certification and Special Education Leadership
- Special Education Leadership
- Non-Certification Track
Core requirements include courses like:
- School Law and Politics
- 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
- Evaluation and Assessment Competencies
Students can choose from a variety of capstone courses depending on their professional goals. Options include a practitioner capstone or a thesis. School principal internship courses are also required in focus areas like technology and finance. The program is designed for flexibility, so courses are delivered in 10-week blocks. This helps working professionals manage their busy schedules.
9. Lamar University – Beaumont, Texas
Online Master of Education in Administration
Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $6,471/year in-state and $13,815/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 20:1
Founded in 1923, Lamar University, in Beaumont, Texas, has a student enrollment of approximately 16,800. Lamar’s online school has gained recognition for its many programs and affordable prices in recent years. Starting in 2009, the school started a special online program with UT Arlington. It’s for high school students in the state and it’s free thanks for state funding. Lamar has a 20:1 student-to-faculty ratio. This means there are fewer students for each teacher. About 35% of classes have fewer than 20 students. Only 10% have more than 50 students. The small classes create a close and collaborative learning environment at Lamar. Financial aid opportunities are available, as well: 63% of students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 50%. Lamar is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.
Lamar’s Master of Education in Administration was the first online graduate program. It consists of 30 credits and can be completed in as little as 18 months. Courses include:
- Fundamentals of Leadership
- School Community Relations
- Leadership for Accountability
- Curriculum Management
- Human Resource Management
- Instructional Leadership
Students must also complete two in-classroom internships to graduate. Courses deliver in accelerated 5-week blocks. The program is designed for maximum flexibility, with multiple entry dates, to accommodate professional educators. Prospective school administrators should have at least two years of teaching experience. Online student services include tech support, enrollment assistance, and more.
10. Columbia International University – Columbia, South Carolina
Online Master’s of Education in Educational Administration
Average Graduate Student Tuition Rate: $10,710/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Columbia International University was established in 1923. It is a small private school in South Carolina. The total enrollment is about 2,480 students, including both undergraduate and graduates. CIU is an evangelical school with a focus on religious teaching, values, and service. The school’s 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio encourages a vibrant, tight-knit learning community. Graduate students benefit from 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 Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
Columbia International offers an MEd with a concentration in Educational Administration. The administration track consists of 30 credits including courses like:
- Curriculum Development and Instruction
- Educational Administration
- Institutional Advancement
- Law and Personnel
- Supervision of Instruction
- Understanding the Learner
The online master’s program at CIU is made for Christian educators and follows ACSI certification requirements. All courses are 100% online and designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working professionals and adult learners.