Highest Paying MEd Careers in 2021

People generally go into education because they want to help others learn. The opportunity also exists, though, for another reward – a good paycheck. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the following rank as the highest paying education jobs for those with a master’s in education (MEd):   

  1. Principals – $96,400
  2. College Administrators – $95,410
  3. College Professors – $79,540
  4. Instructional Coordinators – $66,290
  5. High School Teachers – $61,660
  6. Special Education Teachers – $61,030
  7. Middle School Teachers – $59,660
  8. Librarians – $59,500
  9. Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers – $59,420
  10. School and Career Counselors – $57,040

Of course, compensation depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Location
  • Years of experience
  • Level of education (bachelor’s degree vs master’s degree)

Your level of education greatly affects your potential salary. Many of the best paying education jobs require a master’s degree. Other positions certainly can benefit from one. For instance, the National Council on Teacher Quality notes, “On average, a master’s degree earns teachers an additional $2,760 in their first year of teaching compared to a bachelor’s degree. This salary advantage expands to an average of $7,358 per year by the time a teacher reaches the maximum point of the pay scale.”

Highest Paying Careers in Education

What’s involved in the best paying jobs in education? Here’s a closer look at the top 10:

1. Principals

One look at the responsibilities taken on by a principal and it’s easy to see why this position tops the list of highest paying education jobs. As the leader of an elementary, middle, or high school, the principal wears many hats.

Principals oversee the work of teachers and others employed at the school. They hire staff, evaluate performance, and make sure employees have the resources necessary to do their jobs. When workers have a problem or need help, they turn to the principal for solutions.

Principals interact with plenty of other people, too, including students, parents, and those interested in learning more about school policies and activities. 

Principals generally work 40 hours a week or more. Besides the regular school day, they often come in early or stay late for meetings. School events such as plays and athletic competitions sometimes bring them back to campus in the evening or on weekends.

At larger schools, an assistant principal and other administrators assume some of the duties a principal alone might perform at a smaller institution. Likewise, a principal’s responsibilities can differ by whether the school is public or private. Public school principals must keep district, state, and federal regulations top of mind. Private school principals often find themselves involved in fundraising and initiatives to attract more students.

Career Salary

The median annual wage for a principal in 2019 was $96,400, according to the BLS.

Career Job Outlook

The BLS projects employment of elementary, secondary, and high school principals to grow 4 percent between 2019-2029. Growth depends greatly on whether state and local budgets allow more schools to open.

Requirements to Become a Principal 

Principals usually hold a master’s degree in education leadership or education administration. Public school principals must get licensed by their state, and most principals come to the position with several years of teaching experience under their belt.

2. College Administrators

Operating a college involves coordinating a variety of activities. College administrators take charge of these elements, including

  • Housing
  • Course scheduling
  • Admissions
  • Student life
  • Safety
  • Academic policies
  • Budgets

Specific duties vary by role. An admissions officer, for instance, meets with prospective students and their families, travels to college fairs to promote the school, and reads through application packets to make decisions about who gets admitted. 

By contrast, a provost concerns himself with academic-related matters. This administrator does things like oversee faculty research and help with decisions regarding tenure.

The size of the college often dictates the number and scope of administrative positions. For example, the student life leader at a small institution might oversee athletics, extracurricular clubs, special events, and housing. A larger college might employ a separate administrative head in each of these areas.

Career Salary

College administrators earned a median annual wage of $95,410 in 2019. Administrators at junior colleges tend to earn less than counterparts at four-year institutions.

Career Job Outlook

Employment of postsecondary education administrators should grow about 4 percent between 2019-2029, according to the BLS. The future depends heavily on college enrollment and budgets. More students drive the need to expand personnel in admissions, student services, and registrar offices.

Requirements to Become a College Administrator

Most college administrators possess an MEd though some deans and provosts hold a Ph.D. in higher education administration. For all positions, previous experience proves essential. 

3. College Professors

College professors are the academic heart of postsecondary education. They teach classes in their chosen discipline, meet with individuals to offer personalized help, and assess how well students have grasped material. Many conduct research or write scholarly articles in their field of interest.

Postsecondary educators oftentimes have responsibilities outside of the classroom, such as acting as student advisors and serving on college committees. Remaining up-to-date in their field is important, so they attend professional conferences and read about new developments.

Career Salary

College professors made a median annual salary of $79,540 in 2019. Note, however, that this figure varies widely by discipline. For instance, law school teachers posted a median annual wage of $113,530 while postsecondary English language and literature teachers earn a median annual wage of $68,490.

Pay differences also exist based on where one teaches. Compensation at public and private colleges, universities, and professional schools tends to be significantly higher than at state junior colleges.

Career Job Outlook

Postsecondary education is becoming increasingly necessary in our advanced society. The projected need for college instructors reflects this trend and the BLS project employment to grow a healthy 9 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Note, though, that many institutions hire part-time instructors to fill their needs. Opportunities may be more limited for those seeking full-time, tenured positions. Similarly, demand depends greatly on the field. While colleges may be hard-pressed to find enough qualified people to teach nursing and health specialties, openings in fields such as history and geography may remain low. 

Requirements to Become a College Professor

As experts in their discipline, college professors typically hold a Ph.D. or the professional equivalent. Some junior colleges hire faculty possessing only a master’s degree. Postsecondary instructors teaching students going into an occupation requiring a specific license or certification usually hold that same credential, such as a nursing teacher being a registered nurse.

4. Instructional Coordinators

Responsibility for what students get taught and how well they grasp these concepts falls under the realm of instructional coordinators. Sometimes known as curriculum specialists, these professionals perform actions such as recommending textbooks and training teachers on new methods of instruction. Evaluating whether or not student scores on standardized tests meet the requirements set by the government and individual school boards is another important aspect of their job.

About half of instructional coordinators work for public or private elementary and secondary schools. Other employers include the government, colleges, and educational support services.

Instructional coordinators tend to work full-time, year-round. 

Career Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for instructional coordinators in 2019 was $66,290. People in this occupation employed by the government tended to earn about $10,000 above this figure.

Career Job Outlook

Accountability for test scores and graduation rates remains a hot issue in education. Thus, interest is hiring professionals who can contribute to improving the educational attainment of students should stay strong. Aspiring instructional coordinators face a job market projected to grow 6 percent between 2019-2029.

Requirements to Become an Instructional Coordinator

Applicants need an MEd in education or in curriculum and instruction. Many come to the role after several years as a teacher.

Instructional coordinators working in public schools should check with their state’s Board of Education regarding licensing requirements. All individuals going into this job should plan on keeping up with the latest developments in learning standards, teaching methods, and educational technology in order to stay current.

5. High School Teachers

The task of instructing students in grades 9-12 falls to high school teachers. At most schools, teachers specialize in a certain academic area, such as English or math. Responsibilities include coming up with lesson plans, covering material in ways students understand, and monitoring progress through tests and other evaluations.

High school teachers oftentimes interact with students outside of the classroom and supervise things such as lunch, detention, extracurricular activities, and special events. Teachers communicate with parents through means such as email and face-to-face conferences. As important members of the school community, teachers attend meetings and serve on committees to stay abreast of educational developments at their institution.

Career Salary

High school teachers earned a median annual wage of $61,660 in 2019. Factors such as years of experience and geographical region influence pay. Also, teachers employed at public schools tend to pull in about $6,000 more than their private-school counterparts. 

Career Job Outlook

The BLS projects employment growth of 4 percent between 2019-2029. Prospects look particularly promising for teachers of math, science, and English as a second language.

Requirements to Become a High School Teacher

While some people teach high school after earning a bachelor’s degree, a master’s in education opens more doors. Some institutions require this higher degree or want staff members to earn it over time. 

Prospective public-school teachers need to obtain a state license that certifies them to teach at the high-school level. Requirements typically include successful completion of a bachelor’s degree program that includes student teaching, passing a background check, and an appropriate score on the state’s teaching certification test. For people with a bachelor’s degree who did not take education courses in college but later decide they’d like to teach, states offer alternate methods of obtaining certification.

6. Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers educate students with different types of disabilities. With the help of other school staff members, special education teachers develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student under their care. Regular meetings with parents, social workers, and counselors contribute to the special education teacher’s plans and adjustments.

Special education teachers generally instruct fewer students than other types of educators. The smaller class size allows more individual attention. Besides students experiencing academic challenges, special ed classrooms also may contain students with behavioral or physical problems who could benefit from the personalized environment.

Career Salary

The median annual salary for a special education teacher was $61,030 in 2019. Public schools tend to pay more than private schools. Likewise, some salary variations occur depending on the grade level, with high school special education teachers earning more than colleagues in elementary and middle school education.

Career Job Outlook

The BLS projects employment of special education teachers to grow 3 percent between 2019-2029. Demand at the preschool level may increase at a greater rate due to efforts to identify disabilities at an earlier age and help children affected by them.

Requirements to Become a Special Education Teacher

People in this profession generally hold at least a bachelor’s degree in special education. Some schools allow a major in elementary education with a special education minor. Many institutions prefer applicants possessing an MEd or who are willing to work toward one. If employed by a public school, a special education teacher needs state certification just like teachers in regular classrooms.

7. Middle School Teachers

As instructors for students in grades 6-8, middle school teachers focus on the education of preteens. They build on academic fundamentals taught in elementary school and start moving students toward more complex ways of thinking necessary for high school.

Classroom responsibilities include teaching, grading assignments, and administering assessments. Middle school teachers may work individually with students outside of class hours to provide extra academic help. Many serve as sponsors for school clubs and activities and interact with parents and school administrators to discuss student performance or behavior.

Career Salary

BLS data shows the median annual salary for a middle school teacher in 2019 as $59,660.

Career Job Outlook

Like high school teachers, middle school teachers face a projected employment growth of 4 percent. Much depends on how much states can budget for education in the years ahead.

Requirements to Become a Middle School Teacher

Schools require middle school instructors to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Some teachers major in elementary education, while others specialize in a subject area such as history or math. Individuals with a master’s degree in education or a related field often have an edge when applying for positions. Middle school teachers working in a public school need to obtain state certification.

8. Librarians

Yes, librarians still read to children and recommend good books. Modern librarians, though, also spend a good deal of time navigating databases and reference materials to help people find the information they seek. Other responsibilities often include organizing the library’s collection, determining what new books and technology to purchase, and teaching classes about information resources.

Roughly a third of librarians work in elementary and secondary schools. Others find employment at 

  • Colleges
  • Local libraries
  • Businesses
  • Museums
  • Governmental agencies
  • Law firms
  • Institutions that host their own libraries or need help from a professional librarian.

Career Salary

In 2019, librarians had a median annual salary of $59,500. Note, though, that work setting plays a major role in compensation. Librarians at public and private colleges, for instance, earned a median annual salary of $64,750.

Career Job Outlook

The BLS projects employment of librarians to grow 5 percent between 2019-2029.

Requirements to Become a Librarian

Librarians commonly hold a master’s degree in library science or information studies. Some school librarians possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education along with coursework in library science. Many states require people who work in public libraries and public-school libraries to achieve certification.

Librarians employed in special settings usually have a graduate degree related to the institution’s purpose. For instance, a law librarian commonly has a background in law.

9. Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

As the first teachers children encounter in the educational system, kindergarten and elementary school teachers set the stage for future achievement. They teach fundamentals such as reading, writing, and basic math, and also help students develop socially and emotionally.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers interact with parents more frequently than instructors at higher grade levels. They communicate ways for parents to play an active part in their child’s education and provide observations and assessments. Teachers who notice problems with learning or other issues bring them to the attention of professionals on staff such as a speech pathologist or a psychologist.

Career Salary

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned a median annual salary of $59,420 in 2019. Note that teachers working in public schools tended to earn more than people employed by private schools. Also, kindergarten teachers working at child day care services make substantially less than those teaching at elementary schools.

Career Job Outlook

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers face the same projected rate of employment growth as colleagues teaching higher grades — 4 percent. As Baby Boomers continue to retire, more opportunities may open up for new teachers to fill their vacancies.

Requirements to Become a Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher

At a minimum, kindergarten and elementary school teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree. Employers often favor candidates with a master’s degree in education or who are open to pursuing an MEd. Working in a public school requires certification as determined by the state in which the individual is employed.

10. School and Career Counselors

Nothing makes a school counselor happier than seeing students succeed. To this end, these professionals provide guidance tailored to the needs of individuals. They observe and assess students to gain insight into their academic performance, behavior, and emotional state. From what they learn, school counselors strategize ways to help. School counselors also consult with parents, teachers, and others on the school staff who can offer support.

At the high school and college level, counselors often aid students with career plans by identifying occupations of interest and the background requirements needed for such positions. Social service organizations also employ career counselors to assist the adults they serve with things such as creating a resume and interviewing for a job. 

Career Salary

The BLS reports the median annual wage for school and career counselors in 2019 was $57,040. Elementary and secondary school counselors earned significantly higher wages than similar professionals employed by colleges or by healthcare/social assistance agencies.

Career Job Outlook

BLS projections show employment of school and career counselors growing 8 percent between 2019-2029.

Requirements to Become a School Counselor

Most states require school counselors to hold a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Aspiring school counselors should check with the American School Counselor Association to learn how to obtain a state-issued credential for the geographic location in which they wish to work. For instance, some states require school counselors to have prior teaching experience.

Highest Paying States for M.Ed. Graduates

Geographical region affects pay. For master’s-holding graduates looking to maximize earnings, here’s a look at the five highest paying states for two popular educational careers:

Education Administrators, Kindergarten through Secondary

  • New York: $130,600 
  • New Jersey: $129,990
  • Connecticut: $129,700
  • California: $128,880
  • Washington: $120,300

Instructional Coordinators

  • District of Columbia: $96,640
  • Connecticut: $94,450
  • Oregon: $83,110
  • California: $80,970
  • New Jersey: $76,680

Master of Education vs. Master of Arts in Teaching

Earning either a master of education (MEd) or a master of arts in teaching (MAT) puts the recipient on the path to higher-paying educational positions. The choice between the two comes down to preference and ultimate career goals.

Though some remain teachers, an MEd prepares for careers outside of the classroom. Students gain leadership skills and learn about “behind the scenes” operations in education. Common career outcomes include administrator and curriculum designer.

People interested in honing teaching skills often favor a MAT. They increase knowledge of their particular subject matter and learn new ways to teach pupils at certain grade levels.

Both degree programs take about two years to complete. Whichever one chosen puts a student on track not only to more pay but to greater opportunity to make a difference as an educator.