Teachers work closely with peers, administrators, and parents. Above all, they have an immeasurable impact on the lives of their students.
Daily activities at the middle and high school levels include developing lesson plans, student assessments, and grading. Some teachers choose to lead extracurricular activities, coach teams, or offer homework help during lunch.
The greatest middle and high school teachers know their material. They relate to teens and tweens by using real-world scenarios. An ideal teacher sets clear, understandable goals for students. He or she remains positive and flexible while providing structure and support.
Any of the exceptional master's degree programs on our list can help you become this kind of effective, transformative educator.
What are the options for a master's degree in secondary education?
Teaching certification at the secondary level is typically earned in a specific content area, such as mathematics, history, English, or science. Be sure to find a degree program that offers a specialization in the content area you plan to teach.
Some graduate programs in secondary education are designed to lead to initial teaching licensure. Others require students to have several years of experience as a classroom teacher prior to enrolling. Look for a program that corresponds to your current career phase.
If you've yet to earn a bachelor's degree, don't miss our rankings of the Best Online Bachelor’s in Secondary Education Degrees and the Best Online Bachelor’s in Elementary Education Degrees.
What can you do with a degree in secondary education?
In addition to teaching, those who earn a master’s degree in secondary education can pursue new careers. They may become principals, school counselors, and educational directors for public attractions. Graduates with this type of degree may act as a consultant, curriculum developer, or corporate trainer.
How much can you earn with a master’s degree in secondary education?
Median salaries for high school teachers take a slight lead over their middle school equivalent. While middle school teachers report a median annual wage of $56,720, high school educators make $58,030.
Income varies by state. Middle school teachers in New York earn $78,060. In Connecticut, they report $77,250. Alaska, Massachusetts, and New Jersey also pay an annual mean wage over $71,000.
Meanwhile, high school teachers with the highest annual mean wage reside in Alaska ($82,020). New York follows with $81,410. Connecticut, New Jersey, and California range from $74,940 to $46,260.
Anticipate eight percent growth in jobs for middle and high school teachers through 2026. The Bureau of Labor Statistics points to a surge in teacher retirement to explain the need for new teachers. At the middle school level, eight percent equals 47,300 more jobs. For high school educators, the figure is 76,800 new positions.
What are the requirements for a master’s degree in secondary education?
Every public school teacher must hold a license or state certification. A master's degree program that leads to initial licensure, an add-on endorsement, or a certificate upgrade will typically include an in-person practicum. This practicum or internship may last a few weeks up through an entire school year. Other degree requirements vary with each program.
What are the best online master's degrees in secondary education?
To assemble this list of the 15 best online master’s degrees in secondary education, we utilize a range of statistics.
Factors for each ranking include the average net price, admissions criteria, and successful completion rates. Each university’s or college’s website provides information on degree requirements, course descriptions, and admissions standards.
Data on enrollments in distance education come from the National Center for Education Statistics. The same resource provides Carnegie Classifications. The site also lists student populations, net prices, retention rates, and loan default rates for each institution.
Following are the top 15 online master’s degree programs in secondary education in the United States.
1. The University of Alabama
Enrollments at The University of Alabama (UA) began in 1831. Today, the school earns the Carnegie Classification of Doctoral/Higher Research. Of the 5,000-plus graduate students, 38 percent take some or all classes through distance education.
The University of Alabama offers an online MA in Secondary Education with English Language Arts 6-12 Certification. Students complete 30 credit hours. A sample of the Secondary Education curriculum at the University of Alabama:
- Computer-Based Instructional Technologies
- Introduction to Educational Research
- Multicultural Education
UA utilizes rolling admissions per semester. Candidates must hold an undergraduate degree and teaching certificate. The program mandates a 300 or higher GRE score or an MAT score in the 50th percentile.
2. Saint Joseph’s University
Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, follows the Jesuit educational model. SJU ranks in the Carnegie Classification for Master’s/Larger Programs. Three thousand seek graduate degrees at the school. Of those, 63 percent take all courses online.
SJU provides a 36-credit-hour MS in Education—Secondary Education. The degree includes the Online Accelerated Teaching Certification (OATCERT). Alternatively, students may opt for an accelerated, 30-hour program for only the OATCERT. Classes for the MS in Education—Secondary Education:
- Critical Contemporary Educational Issues
- Teaching Adolescents in Inclusive Environments Seventh through Twelfth Grades
- Theory and Practice in Secondary Teaching
The master’s degree program takes two years to complete. Applicants may gain admittance without any teaching experience or education degree. Sessions begin in January, May, and August with rolling admissions.
3. Liberty University
Liberty University (LU) in Lynchburg, Virginia, provides a Christian education. It bills itself as the largest private, nonprofit university in the United States with 110,000 enrollees. Ninety-six percent of all graduate students take online classes.
Liberty designed its MA in Teaching—Secondary Education for students without any previous teaching experience. Coursework has been certified by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Classes in Secondary Education at Liberty University:
- Current Issues in Content Areas
- Curriculum and Methods for the Middle School
- Student Teaching
Interested candidates should learn more about state reciprocity requirements before enrolling in Liberty University’s program. Students finish 36 credit hours to obtain their degree. The school allows up to half of these hours to be transferred from other institutions.
4. Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University began under the Morrill Act of 1862, which established the country’s land-grant institutions. Graduate students number 3,532. Of these, 34 percent take all or part of their classes by distance education.
The MS in Secondary Education Online degree fits both experienced and newly licensed teachers. Classes focus on research, theory, and classroom practice. Coursework in the Secondary Education program:
- Directed Individual Study
- Effective Instruction
- Pedagogy (Social Studies, Science, Language Arts)
Applicants must already hold a teaching license. The Office of the Graduate School requires a statement of purpose and three references. Plan to submit both transcripts and GRE results.
5. Ball State University
Ball State University (BSU) began as a college for teachers in 1899. It became a university in 1965. Sixty-seven percent of all graduate students complete their degrees online.
Ball State’s MA in Secondary Education focuses on six critical foundations. These are pedagogy, curriculum, technology, research, multicultural education, and the foundations of education. Coursework for the MA in Secondary Education:
- Dynamics of the Secondary Classroom
- Principles and Procedures of Curriculum Development
- Research on Impacting Student Learning
Students who lack their teaching license may earn one after completion of the master’s degree. Courses total 30 credit hours. BSU requires a course in research.
6. Old Dominion University
Old Dominion University (ODU) began as an extension of both the College of William and Mary and Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Students originally studied either teaching or engineering. Today, more than half of all graduate students complete classes through ODUOnline, the school’s distance education program.
ODUOnline provides an online MS in Education in Secondary Education (6-12) with Virginia licensure. Students concentrate in English, biology, math, history/social science, chemistry, TESOL, physics, or earth science. The degree prepares non-educators for teaching careers. Coursework which may apply to the MS in Education in Secondary Education:
- Developing Instructional Strategies for Teaching in the Middle/High School
- Digital Age Teaching and Learning
- Introduction to Research Methods in Education
The only prohibition on enrollment is for students in Washington state. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree outside of education. The program requires 34 credit hours.
7. Georgia Southern University
Georgia Southern University began in 1906. Today, the school boasts a Carnegie Doctoral/Moderate Research designation. Fifty-nine percent of all graduate students take online classes.
Georgia Southern University offers a 100-percent online M.Ed. in Secondary Education. Applicants must carry Professional Level Four certification. Courses within the M.Ed. in Secondary Education program at Georgia Southern:
- Enhancing Student Performance
- Readings and Research in the Content Areas
- Teaching Middle Grades and Secondary Mathematics
Graduation requires completion of 36 credit hours. All candidates for the M.Ed. must choose a concentration in the same area as their certification. Those who graduate may move up to the Level 5 Certificate.
8. Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw State University serves metropolitan Atlanta and belongs to the University System of Georgia. Carnegie designates the University as Doctoral/Moderate Research. Forty-four percent of graduate students complete their degrees entirely online.
Kennesaw State University provides an online M.Ed. in Secondary or Middle Grades Education. Students focus on English/language arts, history/social studies, mathematics, or science. Courses in Secondary or Middle Grades Education at Kennesaw State:
- Applied Quantitative and Qualitative Research
- Differentiation, Academic Language, and Assessment in Middle and Secondary Classrooms
- Reflective Inquiry for Transformative Teaching and Learning
Master of Education candidates complete 36 credit hours. Of those, 15 hours consist of core classes and 12 hours involve the teaching field. Electives make up the last nine credit hours.
9. University of the Cumberlands
The University of the Cumberlands (UC) began in Williamsburg, Kentucky, in 1888. The school earns Carnegie’s Doctoral/Moderate Research Classification. Sixty percent of all students enroll for graduate work. Of these, 79 percent finish their degrees through online courses.
UC offers an online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Secondary Education. Coursework includes curriculum development, classroom management, and field experience. Classes for an MAT in Secondary Education from the University of the Cumberlands:
- Characteristics, Identification, and Instruction for Students with Disabilities
- Clinical I, II, and III: Professional Experience
- Educational Psychology
The Department of Education at UC accepts up to 9 transfer credits. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA, three recommendation letters, and GRE or Praxis scores. The MAT in Secondary Education requires 33 credit hours.
10. University of Louisiana at Monroe
The University of Louisiana at Monroe began as a junior college in 1931. Carnegie classifies ULM as Doctoral/Moderate Research. Forty-seven percent of the 1,260 graduate students take distance courses.
The University grants a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Secondary Education (6-12). Students without education-related undergraduate degrees work toward their Louisiana Teacher Certification. Courses in Secondary Education at ULM:
- Assessment Principles and Practice for All Learners
- Internship in Secondary Education
- Utilization of Instructional Technologies
Program eligibility includes an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75, Praxis scores, and a bachelor’s degree. The MAT requires 36 credit hours. ULM has Teacher Certification Reciprocity agreements with 41 other states.
11. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Northwestern State University of Louisiana (NSU) first opened in an old mansion in Natchitoches. This former Normal School for teachers now operates three satellite locations as well as its eNSU Global Campus. Ninety-three percent of graduate students enroll in eNSU courses.
NSU’s MAT in Secondary School Education gives non-teachers the opportunity to obtain Louisiana teacher certification. Content areas include Science, Business, English, Math, Social Studies, and Speech. The required coursework includes 33 credit hours. Classes in Secondary School Education at Northwestern State University of Louisiana:
- Educational Philosophy and Leadership
- Principles of Instructional Design
- Reading Strategies for Teaching in Content Subjects
Candidates for the MAT need a bachelor’s degree with a 2.50 GPA. Submit passing scores on Praxis I and II as well as the GRE. Graduate students must maintain a 2.50 or higher GPA to stay in the program.
12. University of Maine
The University of Maine (UMaine) began with the Morrill Act in 1862. Today, UMaine earns Carnegie’s Doctoral/Higher Research designation. In 2015-2016, nineteen graduate students completed the online Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction program.
The University of Maine offers an M.Ed. in Elementary and Secondary Education—Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction Concentration. The program caters to experienced, licensed teachers. Classes required for the M.Ed. in Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction:
- Dynamics of Change in Schools
- Introduction to Students at Risk
- Practicum: Action Research in PreK-12 Schools
The M.Ed. in Elementary and Secondary Education requires 33 or more semester hours. Graduates of the program gain leadership and research skills. Applicants with undergraduate GPAs of 3.0 or higher receive a waiver on MAT and GRE requirements.
13. Western Kentucky University
The General Assembly established Western Kentucky State Normal School in 1906. The modern Western Kentucky University (WKU) educates teachers through the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. WKU Online administers the University’s online degree programs.
Western Kentucky provides the M.A.E. in Teacher Leadership-Secondary Education. Specializations available fully online include Biology, History, Social Studies, Library Media Education, and Literacy. Coursework for the M.A.E. in Teacher Leadership:
- Action Research Design
- Curriculum Development
- Foundations of Teacher Leadership
Program participants complete between 30 and 37 hours. Professional education includes pedagogy, leadership, and core content for Kentucky Teacher Standards. Specializations fulfill 18 hours toward the degree.
14. Southeast Missouri State University
Southeast Missouri State University (Southeast or, affectionately, SEMO) sits on 328 acres in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The University currently provides 250 of its courses online. Half of all graduate students enroll in these distance classes.
The Master of Arts in Secondary Education (Online) provides professional educators with advanced classroom management and instruction methods. Two options include Educational Technology and Educational Studies. This is a non-licensure degree. Classes in Secondary Education through Southeast Online:
- Improvement of Instruction and Assessment
- Internet in Education
Students need to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.25 to obtain their degree. Neither an internship nor a practicum appears in the curriculum. A graduate paper or thesis will be required in the final semester.
15. Mercy College
In 1950, the Sisters of Mercy founded Mercy College in New York. In the 1970s, the school expanded to include extension locations and campuses in Westchester County and New York City. Since the 1990s, Mercy College has offered online programs and degrees. Fifty-four percent of graduate students take online classes.
A Master of Science in Secondary Education, Grades 7-12 from Mercy College follows two tracks. Track A leads to the Initial New York State teaching certification. Track B students have one or more years of experience teaching in classroom settings. Coursework in Secondary Education, Grades 7-12, Track B:
- Educational Psychology and Adolescent Development
- Approaches to Literature: Early Childhood to Adolescence
- Education Law
In addition to online classes, students take courses in Secondary Education on every campus. Certifications available through Mercy include English, Social Studies, Mathematics, Biology, Physics, and Chemistry. Certification in Teaching Students with Disabilities requires three additional courses.