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WESTERN GOVERNORS UNIVERSITY Comparing Education Master's Degrees

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Which Education Master's Degree Is Right for You?

If you’re ready to expand your impact as a teacher or become qualified for additional roles in the education world, it’s likely you’ve thought about a master’s degree program. But with all the options out there, which one is right for you?  

WGU offers three education master’s degree programs:

This guide reviews these degree programs, their coursework, and their job outcomes so you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you. 

Curriculum and Instruction – M.S.

An online master's degree for those who have educational...

An online master's degree for those who have...

An online master's degree for those who have educational experience and are looking to further their careers with a graduate program focused on curriculum development and design.

  • Time: 72% of grads earned this degree within 18 months.
  • Tuition: $3,665 per 6-month term.

Coursework in this program covers the following areas of study:

  • Curriculum theory and development
  • Instructional theory
  • Research fundamentals

Help schools create engaging, meaningful, and memorable learning experiences to improve learning outcomes for all students with this M.S. degree.

Educational Leadership – M.S.

An online master's degree for current teachers looking to move...

An online master's degree for current teachers...

An online master's degree for current teachers looking to move into a school or district leadership position, like principal, vice principal, or administrator.

  • Time: 73% of grads earned this degree within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,665 per 6-month term.

Coursework in this program includes:

  • Process management
  • Strategic planning
  • Performance excellence
  • Governance, finance, law, and leadership
  • Measurement, analysis, and knowledge management
  • Workforce focus
  • Other courses, including a capstone project and a series of performance tasks to take place under the leadership of a practicing state licensed school principal or assistant principal in a practicum school site (K–12). 

Put your leadership skills to good use—in the service of America's children—with this education master's degree. 

States that do not accept this program: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota.

Learning Experience Design and Educational Technology – M.S.

The M.S. in Learning Experience Design and Educational...

The M.S. in Learning Experience Design and...

The M.S. in Learning Experience Design and Educational Technology from WGU is for instructional designers tasked with creating engaging and immersive virtual learning experiences that can substitute for on-ground instruction.

No teaching license required.

  • Time: 70% of grads finish similar programs in 18 months
  • Tuition: $3,665 per 6-month term

This program includes two tracks for students:

  • The K-12 Learning Designer pathway
  • The Adult Learning Designer pathway

Coursework in this program includes:

  • Learning experience design
  • Instructional technology
  • Curriculum planning

Develop training and instruction expertise to help you in the classroom, in educational settings, or in corporate world.


Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction

Who Should Apply for this Program?

If you already have a bachelor's degree in education and are interested in enhancing your career by building strong learning opportunities for students, then a master's degree in curriculum and instruction is one to consider.

You’ll play an integral part in impacting the future for students and teachers alike with a master's degree in curriculum and instruction. This program provides you a direct path to become a leader in education, impacting individual students in classrooms, and shaping the future of your community.

What Will I Learn in the M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction Program?

You’ll cover topics including: 

  • Curriculum Theory  
  • Learning Theories 
  • Educational Psychology  
  • Curriculum Design
  • Curriculum Evaluation 
  • Assessment for Student Learning 
  • Differentiated Instruction 
  • Instructional Theory
  • Research Foundations
  • Research Design and Analysis
  • Research Questions and Literature

Master of Science in Educational Leadership

Who Should Apply for This Program?

If you’re an experienced, licensed teacher who’s ready to take the next step in your career and move into an administrative or leadership role, a master’s degree in educational leadership can help you do just that. 

This program will give you the skills you need to manage educational institutions, including overseeing teachers, developing and implementing curriculum standards, and improving how your staff helps students achieve their academic goals. You'll also be positioned to manage budgets, ensure proper security, and better interact with parents, the public, and district administrators.

What Will I Learn in the M.S. in Educational Leadership Program?

You’ll cover topics such as: 

  • Leadership Foundations and Ethics
  • School Law
  • Leadership of Curriculum Design and Instruction
  • People and Talent in Educational Leadership
  • School Financial Leadership
  • Practicum in Educational Leadership–Focus on Professional Practices
  • Practicum in Educational Leadership–Focus on Instruction and Operations
  • Educational Leadership Capstone
  • Systems Management and School Operations
  • Leading Inclusive Schools
  • Data Literacy and Evidence-Based Practices
  • Cultural Competency and Social-Emotional Learning

Master of Science in Learning Experience Design and Educational Technology

photo of a teacher helping a student

Who Should Apply for this Program?

This master’s degree in learning experience design and educational technology does not require students to be a licensed teacher or even to have any background in education. Thus, this program is well suited for two groups: educators and administrators working in academic environments, and trainers working in a corporate environment. The program is split into two tracks providing actionable knowledge either for traditional educators looking to improve learning experiences, or individuals in corporate environments looking to enhance their organization’s design and delivery of workforce development and training. Applicants to this program should hold a bachelor’s degree in any field. An undergraduate degree in teaching is not required.

This degree program will teach you how to design engaging learning experiences with a focus on the modern online learning environment. It includes an in-depth focus on assessment and learning analytics, learning technology, and e-learning course design for either K–12 students or adults, depending on the track you select. 

What Will I Learn in the M.S. in Learning Experience Design and Educational Technology Program?

Some areas of study in this master’s degree include:

  • Learning Experience Design Foundations
  • Assessment and Learning Analytics
  • Learning Technology
  • Learning Experience Design Lab
  • Identifying Learner Needs and a Research Problem
  • Developing an E-Learning Solution and Research Methodology
  • Implementing and Evaluating E-Learning Solutions
  • Designing and Facilitating E-Learning Experiences for K–12 Students or Adult Learners

What Careers Can I Pursue with an M.S. in Learning Experience Design and Educational Technology?


What Are the Differences between These Programs?

The biggest differenc between these programs is the enrollment requirements and career outcomes. For example, to be considered for the M.S. in Educational Leadership, you must be a current, licensed teacher. If you’re looking for an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, you should also have work experience in education. However, this isn’t the case for the M.S. in Learning Experience Design and Educational Technology, which requires a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, but not a teaching license.

On top of the eligibility differences, each degree will prepare you for vastly different education careers. Here is a quick recap of how the programs differ in who they cater to:

  • The M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction is best for those with educational experience who want to move into curriculum design roles and change what and how students learn.
  • The M.S. in Educational Leadership is best for licensed teachers who want to move out of the classroom and into administrative roles.
  • The M.S. in Learning Experience Design and Educational Technology is best for K–12 teachers, higher education instructors, or corporate trainers who are set on solving problems related to learner experience, particularly in online learning environments.

Explore all of WGU’s online, accredited education programs and get started today!

"Coming back to get my master's degree after obtaining my bachelor's degree from WGU was the absolute best thing I could have done. I never dreamed before obtaining my bachelor's that I would get a master's degree, but WGU was such an amazing experience I was excited to continue." Tammie Montgomery
M.S. Curriculum and Instruction

WGU Alumni Shine on the Job

They're Prepared

97% said that their WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs

97% of employers said that WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs.

They're Top Candidates

95% said they would hire another WGU graduate

95% of employers said they would hire another WGU graduate.

They Wow

98% of employers said WGU graduates meet or exceed expectations

98% of employers said WGU graduates met or exceeded expectations.

Source: 2021 Harris Poll survey of 300 employers
“I set my own goals, and I listened to what I wanted—not what others said I should do. I wanted Learning and Technology. It has opened so many doors! Many opportunities from that career decision were a springboard for me to becoming Teacher of the Year.” Annie Mewborn
M.Ed. Learning & Technology

Why WGU?

It's Affordable

Tuition is charged per six-month term—not per credit hour—which means you can complete more courses in one term without paying more money.

It's at Your Pace

Competency-based education means you can use your knowledge and professional experience to your advantage. Move through courses at your own pace to accelerate your program and graduate faster.

It's Flexible

Because our courses are all online, you can continue to work full-time and manage your responsibilities while earning your degree. You don't have to leave your job to pursue your degree—something you and your employer will both appreciate.