When you choose a graduate school, you want to know that you’re receiving the best possible education—and getting the best possible value.
We’ve compiled this ranking to help you choose a master’s degree program that makes no compromises on academic quality, but is still within your financial reach.
What kind of master’s degree in elementary education should you get?
There are hundreds of graduate programs in elementary education available. You can narrow down the list by considering some of the factors that are important to you. For example, you might want a program that leads to initial teaching licensure, allows you to pursue a specific type of endorsement, or focuses heavily on educational research.
Regardless of the professional focus you choose, you'll need a bachelor's degree before you apply to any of the programs in this ranking. If you don't already hold a baccalaureate degree, pay a visit to our Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Elementary Education Degrees ranking.
What can you do with a master’s degree in elementary education?
The majority of master’s degrees in elementary education are intended for K-6 classroom teachers.
Many programs will allow you to specialize in a certain area of education, such as STEM, literacy, or instructional technology. A specialization can qualify you to take on leadership roles within your school or district.
How much money will you make with a master’s degree in elementary education?
The answer to this question varies widely depending on how many years of teaching experience you bring to the table. According to PayScale, here's what you can expect as an elementary school teacher:
- Entry level: $39,142 median salary per year
- Mid-career: $44,096 median salary per year
- Late career: $56,274 median salary per year
What are the requirements for a master’s degree in elementary education?
Individual graduate programs may have academic benchmarks for their applicants, such as a minimum required undergraduate GPA or a specific cut-off score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Some graduate programs will also require a baccalaureate-level teaching license, or a certain number of years of experience as a classroom teacher.
Each school will have its own set of admissions requirements. If you run into any questions about whether you qualify for a particular program, the best solution is to get in touch with an admissions representative.
What are the most affordable online master’s degrees in elementary education?
This ranking was compiled using data from individual college websites, U.S. News & World Report, and the IPEDS database. We examined published tuition rates as well as the availability of financial aid to bring you a comprehensive look at the most affordable online master’s degrees in elementary education.
1. Western Governors University
Western Governors University is a nonprofit, online university offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, information technology, health and nursing, and education. Founded in 1997 by a group of U.S. governors, WGU utilizes a competency-based curriculum model that emphasizes mastery and accomplishment over testing and grades. Among more than 1,100 programs nationwide, the Teachers College at WGU was ranked the number one best value by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
The program at WGU is designed for students with a non-teaching background. This track culminates in a Master of Arts in Teaching for Elementary Education. Upon graduation, students will be prepared to meet licensure requirements in any state. This degree program is nationally recognized by the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI). Required coursework includes:
- Classroom Management, Engagement, and Motivation
- Fundamentals of Diversity, Inclusion, and Exceptional Learners
- Instructional Planning and Presentation in Elementary Education
- Elementary Reading Methods and Interventions
In addition to intensive student teaching experience, students in this program will graduate with a professional portfolio. Among the candidates for this degree, 83 percent finish the program within six to 24 months. Ninety-seven percent of alumni would recommend WGU to prospective students. As of spring 2018, the tuition rate for a six-month term at WGU is $3,190. (Tuition is charged by term rather than by credit hour.)
2. Troy University
Offering more than 110 undergraduate degrees and 50 graduate degree programs, Troy University has been ranked by the Princeton Review as one of the top colleges in the Southeast for 10 consecutive years. The Military Times, Victory Media, and Military Advanced Education have all named Troy among the nation's top universities for veterans, military members, and their families. The online teacher education programs at Troy have been ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
Troy University’s Global Campus offers an online 36-credit hour program that leads to a Master of Science in Education for Elementary Education (kindergarten through grade six). Candidates for this degree should already hold a baccalaureate-level certification in any teaching field. Available coursework for this program includes:
- Educational Technology in the Curriculum
- Psychological Foundations of Education
- Adaptive Teaching Strategies for Students with Moderate/Severe Disabilities K-6
- Teaching Students with Emotional and Social Needs
On-campus students also have the option of pursuing an initial certification program for Elementary Education. The certification track requires 45 credit hours. The current tuition rate for graduate students at Troy is $494 per credit hour. For currently serving members of the United States military or National Guard and Reserve, the rate is $250 per credit hour. Spouses and dependents of military members may receive 25 to 50 percent off their tuition.
3. University of North Alabama
Located in Florence on the banks of the Tennessee River, the University of North Alabama serves over 7,400 students. UNA has earned widespread recognition for affordability: Approximately one-third of the University’s students receive an institutional or endowed scholarship to lower the cost of their tuition. This commitment to affordability combined with an outstanding teacher education program makes UNA a strong choice for students of Elementary Education.
To qualify for the online Master of Arts in Education program, students should hold a baccalaureate-level professional educator certificate. Upon graduation, students will qualify for a Class A Professional Educator Certificate. This degree track will require a minimum of 33 credit hours, which students may earn through courses such as:
- Methods of Action Research
- Instructional Technology in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education
- The Master Teacher
- Issues in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education
Students applying to the Elementary Education program must have a score of at least 388 on the Miller Analogies Test, 800 on the combined verbal and quantitative portions of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), or a passing score on the appropriate Praxis II subject examination. The Department of Elementary Education at North Alabama also offers a fully online Education Specialist degree in Elementary Education. The current in-state graduate tuition rate is $326 per credit. The out-of-state rate is $652.
4. Eastern New Mexico University
Eastern New Mexico University is in the top 10 percent of institutions with the lowest tuition among 81 public Southwestern universities. Highlighting a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, ENMU is a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution and a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). ENMU’s Elementary Education program emphasizes differentiated instruction and serving students of diverse backgrounds.
The online program at ENMU leads to a Master of Arts in Education with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction and an Emphasis in Elementary Education. While most coursework for this degree is asynchronous (meaning it can be completed at any time), there is one synchronous class (where students will need to be online at designated class times). Students with extenuating circumstances who are not able to participate in the synchronous class meetings are still encouraged to apply. This degree requires 36 credit hours, including courses such as:
- Critical Pedagogy in Educational Reform
- Instructional Leadership
- Trends in Mathematics and Science
- Creativity Across the Curriculum
To graduate with the M.A.Ed. in Elementary Education, degree candidates will need to either write and defend a thesis or pass a comprehensive examination. Both the thesis defense and the comprehensive exam must be completed on campus rather than online. ENMU also offers fully online programs leading to an M.A.Ed. in Educational Technology, in Special Education, and in Pedagogy and Learning.
5. Indiana State University
Founded in 1865 as Indiana State Normal School, Indiana State University now offers more than 155 undergraduate and graduate programs, including over 60 fully online programs. The University has a total enrollment of more than 13,500 students. The online Master of Education in Elementary Education from Indiana State offers three concentrations: early childhood, literacy, and primary/intermediate.
Depending on the requirements of a student’s home state, the literacy concentration in the Elementary Education program may lead to Reading Teacher Certification. All tracks require a minimum of 32 credit hours. Based on their chosen concentration and their professional goals, degree candidates may take courses such as:
- The History of American Education
- Building Innovative Curriculum in Literacy (Writing)
- Early Childhood: Interagency Collaboration and Parent Involvement
- Improving Social Studies Instruction in the Elementary School
Students who attend the Terre Haute campus can also pursue the M.Ed. in Elementary Education as an initial licensure track. Full-time students can earn the M.Ed. in as little as 18 months. Part-time students may take up to seven years to earn the degree, although most students complete the program in much less time. The graduate rate per credit hour for in-state students is $404. Qualifying non-resident students in an online program can receive a discounted rate of $513 per credit hour (regularly $793).
6. West Virginia University
Between Potomac State College, WVU Tech, and its main campus in Morgantown, the West Virginia University system serves more than 31,000 students. According to the Center for World University Rankings, WVU places among the top 1.5 percent of universities in the world. WVU Online offers over 600 courses, eight certificates, and more than 30 degrees, including a renowned Advanced Master of Arts in Elementary Education.
Presented by the College of Education and Human Services, the Elementary Education program requires 30 credit hours and is typically completed in two years. To be eligible for this program, students must already hold a valid teaching certificate. The degree track features required courses such as:
- School Curriculum for Classroom Teachers
- 21st-Century Teaching and Learning
- Science Research and Teaching Ethics
- Technology Integration through Capstone Experience
Applicants to the Advanced M.A. in Elementary Education must have an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or above. The Professional Education Preparation Unit at WVU is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The 2018 tuition rate for the online Elementary Education program is $561 per credit hour. This rate is the same for both West Virginia residents and out-of-state students.
7. American Public University
Since 2013, U.S. News & World Report has ranked American Public University among the nation’s top online universities. APU offers a number of graduate programs for teachers, counselors, and administrators, including master’s degrees in Educational Leadership, Secondary Education, and Elementary Education. The Elementary Education program focuses on exploring the use of technology in 21st-century classrooms, implementing best practices for classroom management, and writing instructional plans.
The Master of Education in Teaching for Elementary Education is a non-certification program, intended for students who do not have and are not seeking any teaching licensure. This degree track requires 45 credit hours, a maximum of 15 of which may be transferred in from another institution. Full-time students can complete this program in two years. Required coursework includes:
- Effective Instruction for the Inclusive Classroom
- Diversity and Communication in Education
- Literature for Elementary School Children
- Elementary School Arts Across the Curriculum
Candidates for this degree will complete 125 hours of on-site observation in an elementary school in their local area. Classes at American Public University start monthly and last either eight or 16 weeks. Currently, the graduate tuition rate at APU is $350 per credit hour. Eligible graduate students receiving a military grant will pay $325 per credit hour.
8. Southeast Missouri State University
Located in Cape Girardeau, Southeast Missouri State University is a comprehensive university that is frequently ranked among the best in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report. Enrolling nearly 12,000 students, Southeast is home to five academic colleges, including the regionally acclaimed College of Education. Southeast’s College of Education leads the state in preparing educators, counselors, and administrators to meet the challenges of 21st-century education.
The online Master of Arts in Elementary Education is designed for in-service classroom teachers and does not lead to initial certification. Students in the program can choose a concentration in Reading, Math/Science, or Early Childhood Education. All tracks for this degree require a minimum of 33 credit hours. For the Reading concentration, candidates will take courses such as the following:
- Understanding and Applying the Multi-Dimensional Processes of Reading
- Inquiry and Research Model Used to Improve Reading
- Effective Literacy Leadership
- Effective Literacy Instruction at the Middle and Secondary Level
Through this program, licensed teachers can earn an advanced teaching certificate as a Reading Specialist. Southeast Missouri State University also offers a fully online Master of Arts in Exceptional Child Education and a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
9. Valley City State University
For 20 consecutive years, Valley City State University has been ranked the number one public regional college in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report. Founded as a teachers college, VCSU now offers more than 80 undergraduate programs, as well as an array of graduate options in teacher education. VCSU offers online programs leading to both Master of Arts in Teaching degrees and Master of Education degrees.
The M.Ed. in Elementary Education requires 36 credit hours. This program does not lead to initial teaching certification. Candidates for the degree will be required to complete an action research project and an oral defense of a comprehensive portfolio. The curriculum features a 12-credit hour education core and 15 credit hours of required Elementary Education courses, including:
- Principles for Teaching and Learning in Elementary Education
- Field Design and Implementation
- Literacy as Communication in Elementary Education
- Teaching with 21st-Century Tools
All core classes are offered twice in each academic year. Online classes are available in all three terms (spring, summer, and fall). By completing two courses per semester, students will earn their degree in two calendar years. Master of Education students at VCSU who are North Dakota residents are eligible for one of 10 departmental scholarships. Each award is in the amount of $1,000.
10. University of North Carolina at Charlotte
As the state's leading urban research university, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is home to internationally celebrated research initiatives and creative activity. The Distance Education division of UNC Charlotte offers master’s degrees in health and human services, engineering, and education. The online graduate program in Elementary Education helps teachers develop an educational philosophy that values cultural knowledge and multiple worldviews.
The Master of Education in Elementary Education is designed for experienced elementary school teachers and leads to a North Carolina Advanced (M) teaching license. This 100 percent online program requires 33 credit hours. Required courses for all M.Ed. in Elementary Education candidates include:
- Current Issues in Global and Urban Elementary Schools
- Theories of Human Development and Learning in Cultural Contexts
- Classroom Management and Leadership for Diverse Learners
- Instructional Differentiation and Leadership for Diverse Learners
The degree track offers emphasis areas in Academically or Intellectually Gifted, Anti-Racism in Urban Education, Teaching English as a Second Language, Elementary Mathematics, Education in Instructional Systems Technology, and Special Education. As of spring 2018, the cost for this program is $250.65 per credit hour for residents of North Carolina. The estimated cost of the entire program for a resident student is $8,271.45. For non-resident students, the cost is $909.65 per credit hour.
11. Eastern Kentucky University
With a main campus in Richmond, Eastern Kentucky University is a comprehensive regional university serving over 16,000 students. In addition to a full complement of on-campus options, EKU offers an array of highly regarded online graduate programs in fine arts, health and medicine, engineering, psychology, and education. U.S. News & World Report ranks EKU among the Top 100 Online Graduate Programs in Education.
EKU's Master of Arts in Education for Elementary Education is intended for students who already hold initial teaching licensure in the intended area of advanced study. The degree track requires 30 credit hours (up to nine of which may be transferred in from another university). This program is offered 100 percent online, and no campus visits are required. Coursework for this degree may include:
- Leadership Skills for Teachers
- Effective Instructional Models and Practice
- Discipline and Classroom Management
- Exceptional Learners in the Regular Classroom
Upon successful completion of the program, Kentucky teachers will be eligible for the Kentucky Teacher Leader Endorsement. Teachers who work outside of Kentucky are advised to consult their state’s licensing agency to find out whether the EKU program will lead to advanced certification. For the 2017-2018 academic year, the cost of this M.A.Ed. program is $510 per credit hour.
12. Delta State University
With roughly 3,500 students and a student-faculty ratio of just 11 to 1, Delta State University offers personalized attention and outstanding student support. Delta State presents more than 40 undergraduate programs as well as graduate programs at the master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral levels. One of Delta State’s regionally renowned programs leads to a Master of Education in Elementary Education.
This online program is designed to prepare teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to deliver effective instruction. The curriculum includes nine credit hours in core coursework and 21 credit hours in major-specific coursework. The 21-credit hour Elementary Education required core includes:
- Effective Instruction in the Elementary School
- Curriculum Theory Development and Revision in Elementary Education
- Fundamentals of Early Childhood Education
- Literacy Instruction in Elementary Education
To qualify for admission, students must have an overall undergraduate GPA of 2.5 (or 2.75 on the last 64 hours of required coursework). Applicants to this program must hold a Class A teaching certificate or equivalent certification. By taking one course at a time during the fall and spring semesters and two courses simultaneously during the summer semesters, candidates can earn their degree in one year. Students pursuing this degree may qualify for the Mississippi Teacher Fellowship, a program offering scholarships to educators who will work in areas of Mississippi with critical teacher shortages.
13. Western Carolina University
Located in Cullowhee, North Carolina, Western Carolina University is the westernmost campus of the UNC system. WCU is consistently ranked as one of the top 15 public regional institutions in the South. Students at WCU can pursue a Master of Arts in Education for Elementary Education, with a concentration in Literacy, STEM, or Academically and Intellectually Gifted Education (AIG).
The M.A.Ed. from Western Carolina is designed for educators who already hold an initial teaching license for elementary grades. This online-only program requires 30 total credit hours. The curriculum features four courses within the Professional Core, four courses within the student’s chosen track, and two capstone courses. For the AIG concentration, required coursework will include:
- Creative Thinking and Problem Solving
- Foundations of Gifted and Creative Education
- Critique of Local School System’s AIG Plan
- Curriculum Differentiation for Gifted and Creative Learners
Each student will work with an advisor to plan a degree pathway that accommodates their schedules and commitments. This degree can be earned in as little as two years. All candidates for this degree must present a satisfactory portfolio demonstrating advanced competencies in their concentration. A number of funding sources and scholarships are available to graduate education students, such as the Invest in Teachers Award and the Morrill Family Fund for Research in Education.
14. University of Mississippi
Classified by the Carnegie Foundation as an R1: Doctoral University with Highest Research Activity, the University of Mississippi is the state’s flagship institution. Ole Miss serves more than 24,000 students through 15 academic divisions, including a nationally ranked School of Education. Coursework for the Master of Education in Elementary Education is offered at all of the Ole Miss regional campuses as well as fully online.
Students applying to the Elementary Education program should already hold a state-issued teaching license. Through this degree track, certified teachers can earn a Mississippi Pre-K license endorsement. The program requires 10 courses, totaling 30 credit hours. Available coursework for the M.Ed. in Elementary Education includes:
- Measurement and Evaluation for Classroom Teachers
- Literacy Connections in the Elementary School
- Science, Technology, Society in the Classroom
- Integrating the Internet in Education
This program does not require applicants to submit GRE scores. However, students should have an overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above. Once accepted, most students take two courses per semester and complete the program in one to two years. Numerous scholarships are offered specifically to graduate students in the School of Education. Available awards include the Lamar Memorial scholarship, the R.H. Price Memorial scholarship, and the Joan Gilbert Smith scholarship.
15. University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota offers over 200 fields of study to its 15,000 students (including roughly 3,700 graduate students). While the main campus of UND is in Grand Forks, the University also offers a suite of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees through a robust online division. The Elementary Education graduate program is designed for K-6 educators, featuring a blended focus on theory, research, and practical experience.
UND’s online Master of Science in Elementary Education requires 32 credit hours. Most working professionals earn the degree in two years, or six semesters (including two summer semesters). This degree is offered as both a thesis and non-thesis track. Available coursework for M.S. in Elementary Education candidates includes:
- Foundations of Reading Instruction
- Science in the Elementary School
- Introduction to Educational Research
- Social Studies in the Elementary School
Program starts are available in the fall term (August), spring term (January), and summer term (June). This program does not require any on-campus visits, although it does include some real-time, synchronous classes that meet on weekends and evenings. Candidates for this degree will complete a 90-hour teaching practicum in their local area. All students in the online Elementary Education graduate program will receive in-state tuition, regardless of residency.