Earning a Master's in Secondary Education Online

Education stands out as one of the most common undergrad majors. By earning a master's in secondary education, you set yourself up to stand out, advance in your career, and make a higher salary. Whether you recently graduated or you possess years of teaching experience, you can reap the benefits of an advanced degree without committing to months of night classes. Consider pursuing a master's in secondary education online. Learn about tips for funding your degree, what it takes to succeed, and other resources to guide you along the way.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Secondary Education?

After completing your undergraduate program, you can jumpstart the next chapter of your life with an online secondary education degree. Students who wish to pursue a specialization in education, recent grads with bachelor's degrees in education, and working professionals who desire higher pay and new opportunities can benefit from earning a master's in secondary education online. Even if you remain unsure about whether you should pursue a professional certification or a master's degree, look into this opportunity.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Secondary Education?

Pursuing Specialization

High schools typically offer specialized classes. If you want to become a high school educator, consider getting a specialized online master's in secondary education. Certain online degrees in secondary education allow you to pick a specialization, such as art, music, or foreign language. Educational leadership positions typically require a master's degree that specializes in administration. Even if you don't use your specialization in your teaching career, you can explore a new career field, such as graphic design.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Whether you love teaching in high school or you wish to move to postsecondary education, continuing your education with an online master's degree in secondary education offers many benefits. Secondary education administrators typically earn more than elementary and middle school administrators. If you choose to become a postsecondary professor, you can enjoy a flexible schedule and job perks, such as sabbaticals. Secondary education jobs usually require a master's degree and offer more responsibility, which can be rewarding.

Online Learning Technology

The education field changes as technology evolves. Secondary education programs online allow future and current educators to experience learning through technology. By engaging in online discussion boards, watching filmed lectures, and taking computer quizzes firsthand, you learn how to guide your students to do the same. Doing so helps students prepare for their own online college classes or remote jobs. You might even learn how to use advanced learning software.

Prerequisites for Online Secondary Education Master's Programs

Before you begin your secondary education degree online, you must complete the necessary prerequisites:

  • Work Experience: You typically do not need previous work experience in the secondary education field to earn a master's in secondary education online. You can begin your online graduate degree straight out of undergrad; however, teaching for a few years prior to earning your degree gives you experience you can apply to your school work.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Many graduate schools require you to complete the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Praxis exam. Rather than focusing on your overall exam grades, most online graduate schools examine your percentile ranking. The higher your percentile ranking, the more desirable you appear to potential graduate schools. GRE scores remain valid for five years and Praxis scores remain valid for 10 years. Some online master's in secondary education programs do not require the GRE or Praxis, such as the University of Kansas and Purdue University.
  • Coursework: The prerequisite coursework for an online secondary education degree varies by school. Although schools typically do not require specific courses, all legitimate programs require a bachelor's degree. Many online graduate programs require at least a 2.8 GPA.
  • Recommendations: A recommendation letter remains a common requirement for an online master's in secondary education. Most programs require a recommendation letter by a former professor or employer.
  • Essays: You can expect to write many essays in graduate school, starting with an essay with your application. Most colleges and universities provide applicants with an education-related prompt. These essays typically require little to no research and ask you to write about personal experiences.
  • Interviews: If you desire an online master's in secondary education, you most likely must submit a video interview; however, some competitive programs require in-person interviews. You should prepare for these interviews as you would for a job interview. Dress nicely, research the institution and program, and prepare a list of questions.
  • International Students: If you apply for a graduate program in America, you must understand, speak, and write in English. Native English speakers applying for a secondary education graduate program in a foreign country should check language requirements. English remains the primary language for many foreign programs.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Secondary Education?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average pay for a high school teacher with a master's in secondary education hovers around $56,000. The 2017 median salary for a high school principal is more than $94,000. Higher education promotes a broader set of hard skills. If you veer from traditional secondary education jobs, these hard skills prove valuable to future employers. Just because you earn a master's in secondary education does not mean you must remain in a school setting. Feel free to explore nontraditional career paths.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Secondary Education Graduates

Career Stats Description

High School Principal

Median Pay: $94,390

Job Growth: 8%

High school principals oversee a school's day-to-day operations, guide disciplinary actions, and coordinate with teachers to ensure children learn in a safe and effective environment.

Ideal for: Individuals with prior teaching experience who love organization, leading teams, and motivating others.

Adult Literacy and High School Diploma Equivalency Teacher

Median Pay: $52,100

Job Growth: -5%

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers help adults learn basic reading and writing skills. They also help students learn to speak English.

Ideal for: Patient individuals who want to empower their peers and older adults with knowledge.

High School Teacher

Median Pay: $59,170

Job Growth: 8%

High school teachers prepare students for their next life stage. Often, high school teachers remain responsible for one or two related subjects. For example, a high school history teacher might also teach classes about social issues, but most likely would not teach a chemistry class.

Ideal for: Individuals with a passion for a specific subject and those who love providing students with advice, guidance, and inspiration.

Instructional Coordinator

Median Pay: $63,750

Job Growth: 11%

Instructional coordinators develop and oversee curriculum. They work with teachers and school administrators to evaluate and improve the implementation and content of instructional material. These individuals typically work year round.

Ideal for: Individuals who possess expertise in a subject and critical thinkers who strive for perfection.

Nontraditional Careers for Master's in Secondary Education Graduates

Career Stats Description

Education Consultant

Median Pay: $62,487

Job Growth: N/A

Education consultants perform similar duties to instructional coordinators. In fact, the BLS puts the two professions in the same category; however, education consultants focus on providing their expertise and guidance to students. These consultants give advice about postsecondary education planning and help students declare a major.

Ideal for: Former teachers, administrators, or instructional coordinators who enjoy advising students one on one.

Special Education Teacher

Median Pay: $58,980

Job Growth: 8%

Special education teachers work with students who possess mild to severe disabilities. They help students overcome learning obstacles and meet goals on their individualized care plan. Some students need assistance getting around due to a physical disability, while others require extra help reading due to a learning disability such as dyslexia.

Ideal for: Patient, caring individuals who desire to help students overcome barriers.

School Superintendent

Median Pay: $104,700

Job Growth: 8%

If a school principal is like a manager, the school superintendent is like a chief executive officer. School superintendents develop strategies and policies that keep schools on track. Typically, this position oversees a network of schools in a district.

Ideal for: Individuals who love planning, execution, leading teams, and motivating teachers and administrators to work together to meet collective goals.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, Projections Central

Paying for a Master's in Secondary Education Online

Don't let the cost of graduate school deter you from gaining the knowledge you need to advance in your career. Earning a master's in secondary education online is more affordable than pursuing a degree on campus. By accelerating your study timeline and applying for subject-specific financial aid, grants, and scholarships, you can significantly reduce the bill.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants, and Scholarships

Many options exist when it comes to paying for your online master's in secondary education. Apply for secondary education-specific financial aid, grants, and scholarships.

What to Expect from Online Secondary Education Master's Programs

Online degrees in secondary education typically last anywhere from a few months to three years. As you complete your degree, you can look forward to major milestones such as completing capstone coursework and student teaching. To succeed in the virtual classroom setting, you must demonstrate self-motivation and a willingness to engage in online discussion boards. You might also need to make more of an effort to maintain open communication with your professors.

Major Milestones

  1. Form a Program of Study Committee (POSC)

    To kick off your graduate degree study, you must rally a committee of trusted advisers to help you stay on track during your coursework. This committee will review your progress and final thesis.

  2. Create Thesis or Dissertation Proposal

    Since a thesis or dissertation remains a major component of online degrees in secondary education, you should begin working on it as early as possible. About halfway through your program, pitch your ideas to your POSC. Do not delay starting your thesis or dissertation.

  3. Complete Research-Based Projects

    Most master's of secondary education programs require one or two research courses. In these classes, you must complete a research project to potentially submit to scholarly journals.

  4. Enroll in Capstone Class

    Before you can receive your degree, some programs require you to complete a group capstone project. This project should demonstrate the knowledge gained through your studies. You can expect to apply your knowledge to a real-world situation, usually through some form of service work. Some programs only require a thesis and not a capstone.

  5. Take an Oral Exam

    After you complete your coursework, you might participate in an oral exam administered by your POSC. Often pass or fail, this exam remains conversational in nature. Most online programs allow this oral exam to occur via a conference call.

  6. Submit Dissertation or Thesis

    Adding the final touches to your dissertation or thesis remains the final step of earning your online secondary education degree. Once your POSC approves your dissertation or thesis and you have passed all your classes, you are ready to graduate.


Familiarize yourself with these five common courses you can expect to take while earning your master's in secondary education online.

Foundations Course

Most online degrees in secondary education start with a foundations course that provides an overview of what the program covers. Typically, this class centers around educational leadership skills.

Curriculum Course

In graduate school, you learn how to implement and develop curriculum. Even if you choose not to enter the field of curriculum development, it remains beneficial to know the process behind the creation.

Strategies Course

After students learn foundational knowledge, they learn the strategies and tactics that go into implementation. This course usually also covers management tactics.

Diversity Course

Many programs include a class that equips future teachers with the knowledge they need to create an inclusive classroom experience. This class focuses on current issues and tips for empowering culturally diverse students.

Research Course

Research remains a common component of a master's in secondary education program. In this course, students construct an education-related thesis and put it to the test. Students often strive to submit their research paper to scholarly journals.

Licenses and Certifications

After you earn your master's in secondary education online, you might be ready to jump into your career; however, you can still further your education in other ways. Continuing your education makes you a competitive candidate, which opens the door to more job opportunities. You can gain experience by earning additional certifications, accumulating work experience, taking a research sabbatical, and getting published. While often helpful, do not consider these extra steps mandatory.

  • Certifications: After you earn your initial teaching certificate, usually obtained during your undergraduate studies, you can acquire more certificates by meeting the requirements set by each state. For example, you must take the Missouri Content Assessment to become certified in additional subjects in Missouri.
  • Experience: If you want to become a high school administrator or college professor, you usually need a few years of experience. After you understand how to apply teaching fundamentals through real world practice, you become a more favorable job candidate.

Professional Organizations and Resources

If you want to work in education, you likely appreciate the importance of lifelong learning. By joining secondary education professional organizations and taking advantage of resources, you can connect with other professionals, find mentors, learn about job opportunities, and stay current in the field. Professional organizations often host annual conferences, which allow you to focus on your career development.

  • American Association of School Administrators: Working as a high school administrator comes with a unique set of challenges. By joining AASA, you gain access to a nationwide network of other administrative professionals. Make sure to attend the annual conference and take advantage of the resource library.
  • American Federation of Teachers: AFT exists as a union for teachers that advocates for workplace equality and quality education for students across America. This organization aims to politically advocate for education. By joining the union, you gain support and can find solutions to the problems facing education.
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: ASCD stands out as an ideal organization for professionals who wish to work in administration or become curriculum developers; however, all educators benefit from joining ASCD. The organization's main goal remains empowering teachers to provide the best educational experience for students.
  • Computer-Using Educators: CUE strives to inspire teachers to use innovative technology in the classroom. Since technology frequently advances, joining this organization helps you stay current. This organization also hosts a monthly conference in California.
  • Discovery Education: This website offers free lesson plans and educational tools for teachers who work in the STEM field. You can take your students on virtual field trips or engage them with interactive lessons.
  • National Education Association: This organization stands out as a staple for educators in the public K-12 setting. By joining this association, you gain access to online education tools, discounted legal services, and online and print publications about current events in public education.
  • Purdue OWL: Purdue University created this helpful resource that guides students on best writing practices. From grammar to proper citations, this website helps students elevate the quality of their work.
  • Teach for Us: This blog offers real-life accounts of the experience of working in high-needs schools. This resource remains ideal for educators working in lower-income schools or future teachers who desire to work in lower-income schools.
  • Teaching Tolerance: This website provides educators with tips on how to tackle difficult conversations in class surrounding racism and other forms of hate. TT also offers conversation points for current events that impact the education realm, such as mass shootings.
  • Turnitin for Secondary Education: TSE remains a go-to resource for teachers who assign essays. This plagiarism checker catches students who attempt shortcuts in their academic career.