If you're passionate about education and feel that your strengths would be best used in the upper tiers of administration, educational leadership degree programs are your stepping stone to the next level. Training in educational leadership can give you the skills you need to provide the best experience possible for your students, staff and teachers.
A few colleges around the country offer educational leadership degrees at the undergraduate level, but most programs you'll find lead to master's degrees or higher. Program duration tends to vary from institution to institution, ranging from one to three years in most cases, and it's wise to earn some experience as a teacher or entry-level school administrator before jumping into a master's in leadership.
College and university admins know that teachers and other education pros are busy, so you'll find plenty of online educational leadership degrees available. Online degrees for educational leadership students come with a high degree of scheduling flexibility, allowing you to keep working while you further your education.
Best Colleges for Educational Leadership Degree Programs 2018-19
With more than 500 schools in the U.S. offering educational leadership and administration degrees, we wanted to dive into the numbers and figure out which ones sit at the top of the heap. Tap the methodology button below to see how we used National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data to calculate the scores, and read on for our list of the ten best colleges for educational leadership programs.
Affordability helped put Wayne State College over the top for our No. 1 spot overall. Its 2015 tuition and fees average of less than $5,900 was good enough for a top 20 placement among the 500+ schools we surveyed nationwide. It also posted a graduation rate that ranked No. 5 in our top ten and tied for our list's second-largest variety of advanced educational degrees.
The Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) at Wayne State is one of the many online degrees available for educational leadership students and allows you to specialize in elementary education, secondary education or the full pre-kindergarten through 12th grade spectrum. The Nebraska school also offers an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree for educational leadership students looking to go beyond the master's level.
Northwest Missouri State University took the No. 4 spot among our top ten schools in both affordability and graduation rate, and it reserved our list's largest budgetary percentage for instructional expenses like classroom technology and course development. In fact, this Marrville, Missouri, institution used more than two-thirds of its budget for expenses related to instructional and academic services in 2015.
Educational leadership students at Northwest can choose from a list of six different study tracks, including three plans that lead to an M.S.Ed. and four post-graduate programs. Online educational leadership degrees are also represented in the catalog -- the full K-12 study plan at the master's level can be earned entirely online -- and the lone Ed.D. plan trains you in both educational leadership and policy analysis.
This medium-large institution at the opposite corner of Missouri to our No. 2 school had our top ten's third-highest percentage of students taking at least a portion of their classes via distance education. The array of online degrees for educational leadership students at Southeast Missouri State University is similarly noteworthy, featuring two educational leadership degrees that each take their own approach to the discipline.
The online Master of Arts (M.A.) program in elementary or secondary school administration at Southeast is designed for aspiring principals and superintendents and focuses on operations and administration coursework. The M.A. in higher education administration, on the other hand, works to prepare you for a career in leadership at the post secondary level, preparing you for the responsibilities of a department head, college dean, provost or registrar.
The Mansfield campus of Ohio State University earmarked our list's second highest percentage of its 2015 budget for instructional and academic support expenses. The school set aside a 65 percent of that year's total expenditure to spend on classroom tech, academic counseling services and more. It was also the smallest public school on our list, so students who prefer an intimate feel to their college experience might find their ideal environment here.
The M.A. in education at Ohio State Mansfield is offered as a generalized education degree at the graduate level but features numerous areas of concentration through which you can customize your experience. Don't forget check with your advisor and make sure the institution has a concentration that meets your specific educational leadership goals.
The average cost of tuition and fees at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin weren't just the lowest among schools that made it into our top ten -- they were some of the most affordable nationwide. Just seven other schools out of the more than 500 in our analysis charged less in the 2015-16 academic year than the average of $5,250 recorded at UTPB.
This Odessa, Texas, school is another institution that features online educational leadership degrees, notably the M.A. in educational leadership that can be completed in just 12 months with the right course schedule. Several individual classes from the educational leadership curriculum are available online as well, so hybrid degree plans can likely be assembled from a mix of online and on-campus courses.
Located in Huntington, West Virginia, Marshall University took the No. 5 spot in the affordability category among schools that made our list. It also demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that its courses stayed on the cutting edge, setting aside a larger raw dollar amount per full-time enrolled student for course development and other instructional expenses than any other school in our top ten.
Marshall's online degrees for educational leadership students are listed as leadership studies programs. A principal licensure track is available for aspiring public school leaders, while other aspiring admins can choose a non-profit and public agency track. The College of Education and Professional Development at Marshall also offers Ed.S. and Ed.D. programs in education leadership for students who have already earned a master's degree.
Emporia State University was one of the more affordable educational leadership schools we surveyed, charging students an average tuition and fees total that came in under $6,000 in 2015-16. It also posted a distance education enrollment percentage of 43 percent, according to NCES numbers, so you'll likely have plenty of study partners in the virtual classroom if you elect to pursue its online educational leadership degrees.
Along with an M.S. in educational administration that includes a licensure program for aspiring principals, ESU is one of the few institutions to feature leadership training for undergraduates. If you're looking to get a head start on your educational leadership master's degree, consider majoring in education with a leadership minor at this Kansas school.
The graduation rate at our No. 8 school ranked No. 3 on our list, and the percentage of its budget devoted to instructional and academic support programs tied for the No. 2 spot in that category. The University of Central Missouri was also the largest institution among our top ten schools, graduating more than 3,500 students in 2015, and it features on-campus degree programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends.
UCM offers three degrees for educational leadership students: an M.S. and an Ed.S. in school administration and an Ed.D. in educational leadership. Students looking for an extra helping of off-site work can also choose a collaborative principal preparation program (CPPP) that is designed to combine classroom instruction with real-world experience.
Educational Leadership Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Although you may qualify for certain entry-level careers in educational leadership with just an undergraduate degree, most positions in the field seek candidates with some level of graduate study. Most graduate programs in educational leadership or administration focus on organizational and managerial principles, fiscal management, curriculum development and educational ethics.
Career Outlook for Educational Leadership Majors
If you stay on top of the movements of the job market, you'll likely be prepared for whatever employment climate is out there when it comes time to leave school and enter the working world. Here are some job growth projections for educational leadership careers, provided by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Educational Leadership
Financial aid programs for undergraduates in educational leadership or administration programs are typically available either directly from your school or at the state/regional level, so check with a financial aid advisor to see what's out there for you. If you decide to move into graduate study, however, you may qualify for national options like the $2,500 award from AASA.
Renewable for up to three years of graduate/professional study and up to two years of Ph.D. study.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed January 2018, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed February 27, 2018: Masters in Educational Leadership & Administration, Capella University, https://www.capella.edu/online-degrees/masters-leadership-educational-administration/; Master of Education in Educational Administration Online, Grand Canyon University, https://www.gcu.edu/degree-programs/master-education-educational-administration; Master of Education - Educational Administration and Policy, University of Georgia Gwinnett Campus, https://gwinnett.uga.edu/prospective-students/degree-programs/educational-administration-and-policy-med; MEd in Educational Administration, Concordia University Nebraska, http://www.cune.edu/academics/graduate/med/educational-administration/; Master of Science in Education (MSE), Wayne State College, https://www.wsc.edu/info/20155/school_administration; Specialist in Education (Ed.S.), Wayne State College, https://www.wsc.edu/eds; Educational Leadership, Argosy University, https://www.argosy.edu/locations/online/degree-programs/educational-leadership; Online Degree Programs, Argosy University, https://www.argosy.edu/locations/online; School of Education, Northwest Missouri State University, http://www.nwmissouri.edu/education/programs/index.htm; Master of Arts in Elementary or Secondary School Administration, Southeast Missouri State University, http://www.semo.edu/online/online-degrees/MA-elementary-secondary-school-admin.html; Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration, Southeast Missouri State University, http://www.semo.edu/eduleadcounsel/graduateprograms/ma-higher-education-administration.html; Graduate Program, Education, The Ohio State University at Mansfield, https://mansfield.osu.edu/academics/academic-departments/department-of-education/graduate-program/; Educational Leadership Doctor of Education, Argosy University, Sarasota, https://www.argosy.edu/locations/sarasota/education-3/doctor-of-education-in-educational-leadership; Educational Leadership, The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, https://www.utpb.edu/ced/advanced-graduate/education-leadership/; Online MA Educational Leadership, The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, https://degree.utpb.edu/programs/online-degree-master-arts-educational-leadership.aspx; Educational Leadership Course Offerings, The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, https://www.utpb.edu/docs/default-source/utpb-docs/soe/pdf/edd -- -pdf/ma-courses5eee.pdf?sfvrsn=2; Leadership Studies Programs, Marshall University, http://www.marshall.edu/coepd/graduate/leadership-studies/; Education Administration - Building Level, Emporia State University, https://www.emporia.edu/teach/slmste/edadmin-building/index.html; Leadership Studies Minor, Emporia State University, https://www.emporia.edu/leadership/; Master of Science in Education (MSE) in School Administration, University of Central Missouri, https://www.ucmo.edu/elhd/programs/admin/mse.cfm; Collaborative Principal Preparation Program, University of Central Missouri, https://www.ucmo.edu/ced/grad/cppp.cfm;
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed February 19, 2018: Elementary, Middle and High School Principals, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm; Postsecondary Education Administrators, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/postsecondary-education-administrators.htm;
- Professional organization pages, accessed February 19, 2018: Benefits, American Association of School Administrators, http://my.aasa.org/AASA/My-AASA/Benefits/AASA/MyAASA/Benefits.aspx; Membership Form and Benefits, National Association of Elementary School Principals, https://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/docs/membership-form-and-benefits-2018-01.pdf; ACSD Membership, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, http://www.ascd.org/memberships.aspx;
- Educational Administration Scholarships, American Association of School Administrators, accessed February 19, 2018, http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=3402
- Master's in Higher Education Administration, Georgetown University, Accessed July 2018, https://scs.georgetown.edu/programs/448/master-of-professional-studies-in-higher-education-administration
- Master of Education, Indiana Wesleyan University, Accessed July 2018, https://www.indwes.edu/adult-graduate/programs/med/curriculum-and-instruction
- M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, The Citadel, Accessed July 2018, http://www.citadel.edu/root/educational-leadership-graduate-programs/med-educational-leadership-school-administration-and-supervision
- Adult Education Specialization, Capella University, Accessed July 2018, https://www.capella.edu/online-degrees/masters-adult-education/