Top 10 Online Education Degree Programs

oed-top-online-programsStudying education is a great option for college students wishing to transform their passion for working with children into a successful career teaching or leading in school communities. Either at the undergraduate or graduate level, education degrees are focused on giving teachers the skills to design curriculum, plan lessons, and foster the highest level of learning in their students. Not only do teachers enjoy excellent salary potential and extended summer vacations, but they also reap the reward of shaping the lives of our country’s next generation of citizens. By 2020, it’s expected that the United States will need around 440,000 more teachers to educate the young minds of children through age 18. Selecting a specialization in bilingual education, mathematics, science, special education, or social science will lead to the strongest job outlook.

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Requirements to become a teacher tend to vary from state to state, but all mandate that individuals have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution to manage a thriving classroom environment. Teachers then need to pass certification exams and receive their initial license to unlock education positions with youngsters. Many also continue on to the master’s or doctoral level while working full-time to advance their pedagogical skills in a specific teaching or administrative area. Thanks to the advent of online learning, it’s increasingly common for teachers to depend on getting a degree at a distance rather than in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Due to student-teaching requirements at the bachelor’s level, most online programs in education are offered to graduate students with a need for added convenience.

Ranking the Best Online Education Degrees

Earning an education degree with the convenience of online learning should never compromise on quality, so we first sorted through the online programs in education with accreditation. All universities that weren’t accredited through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) were immediately eliminated. Since this still left a significant number of online offerings, we next looked through the online program ranking for education published by the U.S. News and World Report. Special preference was given to universities featured among the leaders in providing online graduate education degrees in the United States. In fact, our finalized list included only programs recognized within the top 25 nationwide!

In an effort to provide the best possible listing of degree opportunities, we then focused in on the high-ranking colleges offering a wealth of online programs related to education. Schools had to have at least four degree options that could be obtained by teachers 100 percent online to be included. We also weighed each university on the basis of student engagement, faculty credentials, award recognitions, affordability, financial aid, practical learning experiences, class sizes, certification pass rates, job placement, and other unique circumstances. Without further ado, the following are the 2015 picks for the top 10 online education degree programs that facilitate exceptional career advancement through the power of the Internet.

1. University of Houston

University of Houston square logoBased on a main 667-acre urban campus just southeast of America’s fourth most populous city, the University of Houston is a major top-tier flagship public research institution with a legacy for academic excellence since 1927. With the state’s third highest enrollment at over 40,700 students, UH offers more than 300 degree programs, including several with online learning components. The U.S. News and World Report has ranked UH as the 189th best university, 106th top public school, and 65th best college for veterans nationwide. Furthermore, the university was recognized for having the country’s 110th best teaching college with the #1 best online graduate education degrees. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) also ranked UH’s elementary and secondary teacher preparation programs in the nation’s top five.

Featuring an impressive 96 percent pass rate on the TExES teacher certification exam, the UH College of Education has the mission of preparing graduates to change the world through teaching, leadership, and educational research. UH participates in the Houston Area Teacher Center (HATC) to give students nearly 1,200 field practicum hours in over 30 school districts before entering a full year of student teaching. With an average tuition cost of $10,331 per year, UH students have a considerably lower three-year loan default rate than their other Texas university peers. Through the Division of Distance Education, current and aspiring teachers can fulfill their goals by choosing from a range of fully online master’s programs in education.

Online learners at UH can select to earn their Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Curriculum and Instruction degree fully at a distance to boost their professional credentials. Concentrations are offered in Early Childhood Education, Health Science Education, and Mathematics Education online to tailor the two-year program to students’ individual interests. UH makes it simpler to earn an M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision with a concentration in Higher Education completely online to assume university leadership positions. Students at the University of Houston wishing to pursue an online degree can also choose an M.Ed. in Special Education with an emphasis in the high-needs fields of Special Education or Educational Diagnostician.

2. Florida State University

Florida State University square logoAs a dynamic major public sea-grant and space-grant research institution comprised of 16 distinctive colleges, Florida State University is home for more than 41,700 students on its sprawling 1,391-acre main campus in Tallahassee and online from anywhere. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools on Level VI, FSU is designated as one of the state’s two “preeminent” universities with nearly 350 academic programs. FSU is ranked as the 95th best university and 43rd top public school in America by the U.S. News and World Report. FSU is further acclaimed for hosting the 40th best education college with the #2 best online graduate education programs nationwide. FSU was also crowned a “Budget Ivy” by the Fiske Guide for delivering high-quality educational experiences at affordable rates.

Boasting a very high retention rate of 92 percent, Florida State University houses all of its education degree programs in newly expanded College of Education. From the bachelor’s to the doctoral level, the College has the mission of educating diverse students from more than 40 countries worldwide to improve classroom teaching from a hands-on approach. In fact, FSU is one of just 12 colleges in the United States using the TeachLivE lab to stimulate a middle-school classroom where virtual students act out different teaching scenarios. Those wishing to earn their FSU degree in education online have no shortage of options with five asynchronous programs available with no residency requirements on the Gulf Coast.

Online FSU students in the College of Education can choose to earn an M.S. in Educational Leadership/Administration in a flexible 36-credit curriculum for sharpening leadership potential. An M.S. in Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies is offered online for those looking to boost their understanding of cutting-edge classroom tech. The M.S. in Learning and Cognition allows online students to learn insights into how humans learn across the lifespan. An online M.S. in Special Education Studies is available to receive endorsement in Autism, Severe or Profound Disabilities, Pre-K Disability, or Infant/Toddler Developmental Specialist. Advanced students can even earn an Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) fully online with one face-to-face seminar to become senior-level leaders in educational policymaking.

3. Pennsylvania State University

Penn State University square logoFirst established in 1855, Pennsylvania State University is a comprehensive state-supported public research institution with land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant status. Along with its vast main 5,448-acre campus in University Park and 19 satellite Commonwealth campuses, Penn State is well-known for having a large World Campus with over 60 online programs. Enrolling more than 98,000 students total, Penn State is ranked as the 48th best university, 14th top public school, and 2nd best college for veterans in the country by the U.S. News and World Report. PSU also is acclaimed for having the 36th best education school with the #4 best online graduate education programs in America. Penn State has even been lauded among the top 75 best universities globally by the Times Higher Education.

Since the College of Education offered the first online master’s degree ever, its grow dramatically to provide graduate students with endless learning options in 12 fields either on-campus or online. In the unique Short-Term Teaching Abroad Program, students can even travel internationally to teach children for five weeks in one of over 15 countries. Penn State is also one of just 17 universities in the United States participating in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program. The College partners with the State College Area School District to provide all pre-service teachers with full-year internship experience in local classrooms too. Online learners at PSU have six education degree programs and eight certificates to choose from.

Through the World Campus, Penn State students can work full-time while accessing on-demand class sessions and interacting in online forums to earn their Master of Education (M.Ed.). Online students can specialize their M.Ed. in the areas of Adult Education, Curriculum and Instruction for Children’s Literature, Educational Leadership, Higher Education, or Learning Design and Technology. There’s also a newly added Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) in Organization Development and Change for aspiring corporate educators. Individuals who have already received their master’s degree can further their learning with an online certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Autism, Children’s Literature, Distance Education, Educational Technology, Family Literacy, Institutional Research, or Special Education Supervision.

4. Graceland University

Graceland University square logoAffiliated with the Community of Christ Church, Graceland University is a comprehensive senior private liberal arts institution serving more than 2,300 students in its over 50 academic programs accredited by the North Central Association (NCA). Since its founding in 1895, Graceland has expanded from its main 169-acre rural campus in Lamoni, Iowa, to offer education in Centerville, Cedar Rapids, Trenton, and online through the Internet. Well-known for offering small class sizes for individualized attention, Graceland is ranked as the 103rd best regional college in the Midwest by the U.S. News and World Report. In particular, Graceland stands out among the survey’s rankings for having the 148th best online bachelor’s degrees and fifth top online graduate education programs.

The Edmund J. Gleazer School of Education at Graceland recently won the “Best Practices in Distance Learning Programming Award” from the prestigious USDLA. Its master’s programs have also received national praise for allowing students to create their own learning experiences based on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Whether online or campus-based, students in the Gleazer School are trained to become effective teachers with community spirit to reflect, lead, and collaborate in active learning environments. From the Christian worldview, Graceland allows students to complete an entire year of student teaching locally, in Kansas City, or abroad in New Zealand. Online students can select their pathway from seven distinctive online master’s programs in education.

Online Graceland students join a cohort team of other practicing teachers to start their two-year full-time graduate studies in October, March, or June every year. Students can elect to concentrate their Master of Education (M.Ed.) program in Curriculum and Instruction, Differentiated Instruction, Literacy Instruction, Mild/Moderate Special Education, Technology Integration, or Instructional Leadership. There’s also a unique M.Ed. for Management in a Quality Classroom, which follows the approach of Dr. William Glassor in preparing teachers to minimize behavior problems in the learning environment. All online education students must hold an undergraduate teaching degree, have current teaching certification, and be employed at least 20 hours per week in a school district.

5. George Washington University

George Washington University square logoAs the largest higher learning institution based in our nation’s capital, George Washington University is a major comprehensive private co-educational research institution serving more than 25,200 diverse students both on-campus in Foggy Bottom and online from afar. Featuring ten academic schools accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), GWU is named the world’s 52nd top university in Times Higher Education. The U.S. News and World Report ranks GWU as the 54th best university in America with the 52nd best education school and eighth top graduate online education programs. Princeton Review also named GWU in the top 10 nationwide for “Most Politically Active,” “Green Colleges,” and “Top Internship Opportunities.”

At the heart of America’s most important educational policy issues, the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University has been providing teaching degrees since 1904. Fully accredited by the NCATE for more than 70 years, the GSEHD has been named among the top 40 providers of graduate degrees to minority students by Diverse Issues in Higher Education. GWU has a long legacy of academic excellence in education with a nearly perfect 100 percent passing rate on initial teaching licensure exams every year. The GSEHD has joined School Without Walls to allow students to complete practicum and internships in their teaching preparation. Online GWU students can choose from four master’s degrees and several certificates in education.

Online learners may wish to earn the M.A. in Educational Leadership and Administration, which will develop the intellectual abilities to lead vibrant school communities. The M.A. in Educational Technology Leadership was the first program of its kind to be offered online in America for preparing teachers to apply technology in the classroom. An M.A. in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners is offered online to equip teachers with the skills for meeting language-related needs. The M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling is available for teachers looking to expand their duties outside the classroom with people with disabilities. GWU also provides graduate certificates online in Multimedia Development, E-Learning, Integrating Technology into Education, Instructional Design, Transition Special Education, Bilingual Special Education, and Brain Injury Education Services.

6. Michigan State University

Michigan State University square logoCrowned the seventh largest school in America with over 50,000 students, Michigan State University is a massive comprehensive four-year public land-grant and sea-grant research institution first opened in 1855. With the motto of “Advancing Knowledge, Transforming Lives,” MSU offers more than 200 degrees accredited by the NCA from its main suburban campus in East Lansing and online at any time. The U.S. News and World Report has ranked MSU as the 85th best university and 35th top public school in the nation. Even more importantly, Michigan State is recognized for having the 13th best education school and 13th top online teaching degrees in the United States. MSU was even placed 195th among universities internationally through the QS World University Rankings.

As home to an intensive five-year teacher preparation program and seven nationally ranked graduate degrees, the MSU College of Education has prepared more than 64,000 teachers over a century through its mission for leadership, scholarship, and service. For 21 consecutive years, the COE has been ranked #1 in America for both elementary and secondary education. With funding from the Ford Foundation, MSU is highly regarded for starting the Student Teacher Experimental Program (STEP) to collaborate with students at community colleges through Michigan for transfer. It was also among the first four universities nationwide to join the Teachers for a New Era initiative. Today, Michigan State University allows current and aspiring teachers to pursue eight different education degrees fully online.

Most online MSU students choose to earn the Master of Arts in Education (MAED) degree with one of the six concentrations, which are Literacy Education, P-16 School Leadership, Science and Mathematics Education, Special Education, Technology and Learning, or Sport Leadership and Coaching. There’s also pathways to earn a Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET), Master of Arts in Teaching and Curriculum (MATC), Master of Arts in Special Education (MASE), or Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Education Technology (EPET) from a distance. Special education majors are specifically given the chance to follow an Autism Spectrum Disorders or Learning Disabilities track. In partnership with the College of Osteopathic Medicine, an Online Master’s in Health Professions Education is offered too.

7. Ball State University

Ball State University square logoClassified as a high research activity university by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation, Ball State University is a major state-supported public institution first founded in 1917 by the industrialist Ball Brothers. Today, BSU educates more than 21,000 students from its sprawling 1,140-acre urban campus in the small city of Muncie, Indiana, and online virtually from anywhere worldwide. With a student-faculty ratio of 16:1, BSU is ranked as the 173rd best university and 97th top public school in the United States by the U.S. News and World Report. The survey also recognized Ball State for having the 96th best education school and 8th best online graduate education degrees. BSU has previously been acclaimed as the “most wired” university in the country by Intel for its 625 Wi-Fi access points.

As one of the “Best Buys” in education on, the Teachers College at Ball State University has the mission of preparing the nation’s next generation of classroom teachers to enhance the development of our youth. BSU teachers complete up to 1,500 immersive learning experiences each year from Indiana across the United States to abroad in Venice and Hong Kong. BSU has also developed the “Schools Within the Context of Community” program for students to be placed in high-need elementary schools for practical education. Along with NCATE accreditation, Ball State has been approved by the CEC, NAEYC, ELCC, ACEI, NCTM, NAGC, and NASP. While juggling family or work obligations, students can choose from 16 unique online education degree programs at BSU.

Undergraduate students have the opportunity to begin teaching young children from birth through age five in the non-licensure Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education degree online. At the graduate level, master’s degrees can be earned entirely online in Adult and Community Education, Applied Behavior Analysis, Career and Technical Education, Coaching Education, Curriculum and Educational Technology, Educational Administration and Supervision, Educational Psychology, Elementary Education, Mathematics Education, Secondary Education, Special Education, or Technology Education. Online learners may also consider advancing to leadership with the Ed.S. in School Superintendency or Ed.D. in Educational Administration and Supervision. Certificates with no campus requirements run the gamut from Charter School Leadership and Literacy Instruction to Middle Level Education and Community Education too.

8. University of South Florida

University of South Florida square logoFully approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the University of South Florida is an elite top-tier public space-grant research institution educating the minds of over 47,500 students annually either on-campus or online. From its main 1,913-acre urban headquarters in sunny Tampa near the Gulf of Mexico, USF delivers more than 80 undergrad and 130 graduate degree programs in 13 divisions. The U.S. News and World Report ranks USF as the 161st best university, 88th top public school, and 51st best college for veterans in America. Furthermore, South Florida is acclaimed for having the 83rd top education school with the 20th best online graduate teaching degrees. Washington Monthly magazine also distinguishes USF as the nation’s 78th best master’s-level institution for social responsibility.

Since its initial inception in 1957, the USF College of Education has been one of the university’s fastest-growing schools and produced countless leaders in various educational fields. With NCATE approval, the College has the goal of offering a challenging learning environment in which students grow as PK-12 educators and ethically serve local community schools. USF has held a high-achieving chapter for the Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society for nearly a half-century to promote excellence in scholarship. USF also has a job placement rate of 88.2 percent in instructional programs, which is considerably higher than several other Florida programs. There’s currently the opportunity to complete 11 education degree programs fully online at USF.

Students wishing to work with students with disabilities can earn their M.A. in Special Education fully online with a concentration in Exceptional Student Education, Learning Disabilities, Behavior Disorders, or Intellectual Disabilities. An M.A. in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Severe Intellectual Disabilities is offered online. Teachers can also receive their M.A. in Adult Education, M.A. in Career and Technical Education, M.A. in Gifted Education, M.A. in Physical Education, M.Ed. in Instructional Technology, or M.Ed. in Secondary Education with an emphasis in TESOL. Advanced students can further their in-depth expertise in education by pursuing the Ed.S. in Instructional Technology or the Ph.D. in Career and Work Education online in a convenient self-paced curriculum.

9. California State University – Fullerton

California State University - Fullerton square logoHighly regarded as both a Hispanic-serving institution and an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander serving institution (AANAPISI), California State University Fullerton is a large comprehensive public teaching institution with over 38,100 students. With the largest graduate-level enrollment in the CSU system, Fullerton is based on a 236-acre urban campus in Orange County to deliver over 240 degrees face-to-face and online. The U.S. News and World Report ranks CSU Fullerton as the 40th best regional college and 9th top public school in the West with full accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). In particular, CSU Fullerton hosts the 21st best online graduate education programs in America. The Daily Beast also ranked Fullerton among the top 100 best colleges nationwide.

Recently awarded a grant for $3 million from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the CSUF College of Education is focused on maintaining high-quality teacher education programs to prepare future teachers in California’s newest K-12 curriculum. Named #1 in California for credentialing teachers in bilingual education, the College produces around 605 graduates every year for educating children in Southern California. All of the programs are cohort-based with the goal of providing ample opportunities for students to apply theories in group projects and actual classroom internships. At this time, California State University – Fullerton provides the chance for graduate students to attend one of six full-time online education degree programs.

Delivered 100 percent online, the M.S.Ed. in Educational Technology program is available to prepare students for integrating innovative technological advancements into curriculum. An M.S.Ed. in Educational Administration is offered online for those wishing to assume leadership roles in K-12 schools. Students can earn their M.S.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction degree with an online concentration in Elementary Education or Secondary Education (Middle and High School). The M.S. in Instructional Design and Technology seeks to train professionals for directly applying technology into the learning process. Last but certainly not least, the M.S. in Reading Education is esteemed for meeting the California Reading Certificate and Reading Language Arts Specialist credential with 30 units completed fully online.

10. Arizona State University

Arizona State University square logoInitially founded in 1885, Arizona State University is a major public flagship research institution enrolling more than 50,200 students in its over 250 academic programs with very high research activity. ASU is a truly metropolitan university with five locations scattered across the bustling Phoenix area and a virtual campus accessible from anywhere at any time. Well-known for following the “New American University” model, ASU is ranked as the 129th best university, 63rd top public school, 2nd best up-and-coming college, and 34th top school for veterans nationwide by the U.S. News and World Report. ASU is also distinguished for housing the country’s 17th best education school with the 23rd top online teaching degrees for graduates.

As a pioneer and innovator in the education field, the ASU Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is home for award-winning professors who share the dedication of equipping students with the latest educational theories for classroom success. Serving around 5,800 teachers each year, the College gives both on and off-campus learning experiences centered in the newest standards for teaching. ASU has created the Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy for adolescents, which gives aspiring teachers plenty of hands-on practice. There’s also an annual study abroad trip for Fulton students to build skills in science education while immersing in the culture of San Jose, Costa Rica. There’s currently eight education degree options that can be completed online by ASU students striving for flexibility.

Undergraduate students can pursue the non-licensure Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies fully online to prepare for working with youth outside traditional classrooms. At the graduate level, ASU students can select to earn a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction online with a tailored curriculum in Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Early Childhood Education, English as a Second Language, or Gifted Education. There’s an online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation available for aspiring leaders too. Graduate certificates can be achieved 100 percent online in topics ranging from Online Teaching and Gifted Education to Bilingual Education after completing at least a bachelor’s.

Jumpstarting Your Teaching Career Online

It may seem counter-intuitive to earn an education degree online because successfully becoming a teacher means plenty of time in the classroom. However, many of the nation’s leading universities have created rigorous online curricula that closely rivals their traditional on-campus counterparts. Plus, working from the comfort of home online allows busy working teachers the freedom to advance their career in a flexible, self-paced manner. The above online education degree program ranking was created to highlight the best of the best when it comes to getting great teacher preparation at a distance. When searching for more online education programs, be sure to look for schools offering accreditation, teacher certification pathways, financial aid, flexibility, good faculty credentials, technical support, and classroom experience.

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