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The US educational system needs innovation. With national policies directing resources away from institutions and students in need, schools and educational organizations, large and small, have a pressing need for driven professionals who can enact systemic reforms that will reinvigorate the American educational system. With an online master’s degree in education policy and leadership from American University, those with a fervent desire to change the course of American education will have the tools to do so. The master’s in education focuses primarily on policy, leadership, law, economics, and research, allowing graduates to cultivate the perspective and skills necessary to shape education policy and change schools, with an eye toward supporting students—especially the most vulnerable.

MEd graduates leave prepared to join a network of American University alumni who are transforming education in the United States.

Click here for more information on our campus-based programs.

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Required Credits

30 Credit Hours

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Est. Time to Completion

Less than two years

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Transfer Credits Accepted

6 Credits

Program Goal

To attract high-quality, diverse students with both professional and academic accomplishments so that students can learn from one another and have a substantial impact at the national, state, or local level.

Program Highlights

  • Earn your degree in 20 months
  • Learn from current and former DC-based policy makers
  • Join an active and supportive alumni network
  • Receive support for identifying career pathways and opportunities
  • Gain hands-on experience through consultancy projects in educational organizations

Spring 2020 Deadlines

Priority Application Deadline
November 8, 2019
Application Complete Deadline
December 6, 2019
Class Start
January 13, 2020
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Information Webinar Sessions

Join our admissions team for a chance to learn more about our Masters in Education Policy and Leadership program. Ask any questions you might have around the application process or program requirements, meet a faculty member from the program and more.

Register For The Next Event

Why choose a master’s in education?

Prepare to make meaningful change in American education. As an experienced teaching professional, you’ve identified countless opportunities to address systemic shortcomings. You understand how culturally inclusive teaching methods, strategic resource allocation and data-driven decision making can create new ways of working toward equitable schools. Earn your master’s in education to become a trusted leader with the skills and knowledge to affect change at local, state and federal levels. Learn how to evaluate, create and implement effective policy that facilitates exceptional learning experiences for all students, and closes opportunity and achievement gaps for a brighter future.

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The online Master of Education (MEd) in Education Policy and Leadership provides teachers and other professionals with the knowledge and skills to transform schools and school systems. Its focus on Policy Studies prepares graduates to serve as leaders in organizations - including federal and state education agencies, school districts, and nonprofits - that implement education policies and programs. In addition to leadership, policy, legal, economic, and research skills, the curriculum emphasizes the data analysis and performance management skills needed to administer education programs and policies.

Students enroll in two courses each semester and complete the program within a twenty-month period.

Course Schedule

To complete the Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership, students must complete 30 hours of approved graduate work, including a 3-hour capstone experience in their final semester.

Sample Course Schedule

Semester 1

  • EDU-610 Overview of Qualitative and Quantitative Research Strategies
  • EDU-631 Educational Leadership and Organizational Change

Semester 2

  • EDU-790 Quantitative Research in Education
  • EDU-634 Education and Public Policy

Semester 3

  • EDU-636 Education Law and Policy
  • EDU-693 Education Program and Policy Implementation

Semester 4

  • EDU-633 Economic Inquiry in Education
  • EDU Elective

Semester 5

  • EDU-686 Pro Seminar in Education Policy and Leadership
  • EDU Elective

Pro Seminar in Education Policy and Leadership (EDU 686)

Working in small groups, students serve as consultants to an educational organization on a pressing issue of policy or practice. During this field-based project, they apply skills developed through their program of study in education policy and leadership. Students learn approaches to project management, client relations, analytical design, and project presentation, as well as receive support for transitions into policy and leadership careers.

Education and Public Policy (EDU 634)

Students examine major public policy issues and theories in American education through the three-phase lens of policy design, policy adoption, and policy implementation. They learn to describe tensions in federal, state, and local education policies with reference to historical and international comparisons, as well as to evaluate the use of various education policy tools. Policy issues considered include standards and accountability, whole-district reform, school choice, teacher quality, and college and career readiness.

Overview of Qualitative and Quantitative Research Strategies (EDU 610)

Students are introduced to concepts and principles of social science research design. Observation, interview and survey design, literature reviews, development of problem statements and research questions, surveys of quantitative and qualitative data analyses, and formative and summative evaluation techniques are emphasized. Students demonstrate their competencies by engaging in a small-scale research study.

Quantitative Research in Education (EDU 790)

Analysis of and practice in the design of quantitative educational research. Emphasizes the nature and function of quantitative data gathering and analysis and the statistical approaches and techniques utilized to obtain particular outcomes.

Instructional Leadership and Teacher Support (EDU 687)

Students examine theories and strategies for supporting and mentoring teachers and providing professional development opportunities in schools. They learn how to analyze instruction, provide instructional feedback, facilitate peer observation processes, develop professional learning communities, promote reflective practice, and create shared opportunities for curriculum and assessment development.

Student Stories

Gloria M-E.
“After three years in the classroom, I joined the Government Affairs team at TFA, working to build and sustain relationships with Members of Congress and key decision makers in the Executive Branch to ensure educational opportunity for all children.”

Gloria M-E.

Christopher H.
“I was attracted to the program because I wanted to get a MEd from a credible university; the partnership American University has with TNTP helped accomplish that. Even though I love being in the classroom, the program focus created potential to open doors down the road if I ever want to move out of the classroom teacher role.”

Christopher H.

Liana P.
“I am currently a teacher and math teacher leader in the District of Columbia Public Schools through the Teacher Leadership Innovation program. I spend half the day teaching 3rd grade math and science and the other half of the day coaching other teachers.”

Liana P.

Employer Testimonial

Guy Johnson
“Our team at the Opportunity Institute was ready to take on a big and complex multi-state project relating to equity in teacher pension policies. The students we worked with from American University were sharp, reliable, and focused, and their timely work helped us move forward with some significant work. The work we’ve done together over this semester has pointed a way forward for us and our partners on this topic, and we will definitely be engaging with the program again in the future.”

Guy Johnson

Senior Program Director of Federal and National Networks

New AU Alums Thrive in All Economic Sectors and in Grad Schools

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  • Bridges Public Charter School
  • City Year
  • DC Prep
  • DC Public Charter School
  • DC Public Schools
  • Elizabeth Seton High School
  • Excel Academy Public Charter School
  • Hospitality High School
  • Jumpstart
  • Leadership for Educational Equity
  • Live It Learn It
  • Prince George’s County Public Schools
  • Southern Education Foundation
  • Teach For America
  • The New York City Department of Education


  • Seattle University

Recent AU Grads are Competitive in the Marketplace

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Alumni & Outcomes

Our alumni are working to change the lives of students throughout the country and the world. Within six months of completing their programs, 100 percent of American University’s MAT graduates are working, continuing their education, or both.*

Our students channel their talents into a wide variety of career roles:

* American University does not guarantee employment after graduation.

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Program Head

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Bilingual Teacher

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Policy Maker

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Classroom Teacher

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Edu. Game Designer

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Curriculum Specialist

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Art Coordinator

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Adult Educator

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Learning Specialist

What makes American University’s online education master’s programs unique?

Our faculty members have worked in the fields they teach, which means they know that formulating beautifully written policy is only a first step in affecting positive and lasting change.

“No matter how brilliant or researched a policy idea is, the wheels always fall off if there’s weak implementation,” says Jason Snyder. “That’s why American University’s master’s in education policy and leadership focuses as much on putting policy into practice as it does on policy development.”

In other words, we meet passion with real-world, hard-won lessons to give students the best possible chance for success upon graduating, ensuring that they have the resources and tools required to bring innovation to the American educational system. We don’t doubt that our students can transform educational systems for the better, and that means we’ve worked hard to establish an education master’s program that marries the theoretical with the practical, the heady with the imperfectly real.

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