Educational Leadership & Administration M.S. [Online]

Centered on a biblical worldview, the online M.S. in Educational Leadership & Administration is designed for Christian educators who are interested in taking on a leadership role in their school or district.

k-12 principal

Credit Hours


Years (Avg.)

Next Start Date

March 13, 2023

Class Type
100% Online,  7-Week Terms, Asynchronous




The Right Skills to Become an Educational Leader

For educators who want to become a principal or administrator at the master’s level, Cairn’s School of Education offers an online MS in Educational Leadership & Administration designed to develop the management, leadership, and advanced instructional skills needed to become an educational leader.

This specialization provides the legal, financial, data, and personnel management knowledge necessary to meet the daily challenges of school administration as well as the instructional leadership skills required to improve student outcomes.

Designed for aspiring educational leaders, this online program prepares you to:

  • Create a shared strategic vision and collaborative school community.
  • Recruit, hire, and inspire school personnel committed to improving student achievement.
  • Lead curriculum, assessment, and community-building initiatives to improve student outcomes and the learning environment.
  • Manage the complex educational, financial, human resources, and legal issues critical to effective school management.

This program qualifies the candidate to apply for Pennsylvania (PK-12) and/or Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) Principal (all levels) certification after fulfilling the PA testing requirements. Additional certification, program entry, and exit requirements can be obtained by contacting Graduate Admissions.

Students interested in obtaining Principal certification can pursue that certification concurrently with the MSELA program. Learn more here.


The curriculum is designed to assist the student in meeting specific competencies. The goal is that the graduate is able to:

  1. Apply theories of educational leadership, including systems theory, data-driven decision making models, and cultivation of a school culture which promotes holistic learning through best practices and action research in a school environment.
  2. Effectively communicate and personally interact with organizations in the social and political environment including school boards, community organizations, state boards, accrediting agencies, special interest groups, and other professional organizations.
  3. Understand and apply historical and contemporary issues of school law to employment, discipline, privacy, safe schools, crisis planning, drug-free schools, sexual/physical/emotional abuse and harassment, and due process.
  4. Retain and apply fiscal operations, including facilities management, strategic planning, long-range planning, the budget process, technology implementation, and resource allocation.
  5. Apply a personal educational philosophy and integrated biblical worldview in curriculum design, instructional methodology, assessment, and educational decision making based on the individual needs of students and supported by professional development.
  6. Assess and design curriculum based on outcomes, ongoing learning assessment, differentiated learning, authentic learning experiences, and PA Academic Standards.
  7. Design, conduct, and evaluate best practices and procedures in educational research to improve instruction and learning.

Why the M.S. in Educational Leadership & Administration from Cairn?

Faith and Truth Do Matter

Cairn University is committed to the centrality of Christ and the Word of God and is reflected in the curriculum and instruction. While you will study the same educational leadership concepts you would expect from any quality master’s in educational leadership program, all instruction is grounded in the timeless Truth of God’s Word. No matter what your intended career path or field of study, Cairn is committed to helping educators think about their current and future work in education through a biblical worldview.

Flexibility to Learn Anywhere

Complete coursework anywhere through our asynchronous course design, reinforced by substantive faculty engagement.

Programs Begin Every 7-8 Weeks

Cairn Online enrolls new students in early September, October, January, early March, May and early July. A term is typically just 7 weeks long. Start when you’re ready, instead of rushing (or waiting) for the traditional semester enrollment. Students are eligible to enroll up to two weeks prior to the upcoming term.

Committed Faculty Mentors

Our online courses are taught by faculty members who have experience working as principals and are committed to your professional and spiritual growth.

Designed to Apply Concepts and Coursework in the Field

Grounded in best practices and current research, this unique program for scholar-practitioners provides you with opportunities to apply concepts and coursework in the field while working closely with licensed, practicing principals as mentors. Courses with EDL or SPE prefixes each require 15-18 hours of field placement in a school setting.

Prior Learning Credits

At the discretion of the program advisor, three to six credits for prior learning (“CPL”) can be awarded for students with extensive backgrounds in areas addressed by specific courses.

Advance Standing for Bible or Theology Courses

Advance standing may be granted for Bible or theology credits earned at an accredited Bible college, Christian liberal arts college or university, or seminary. Credits will be granted on a course by course basis.


In an effort to allow our students to concentrate on their studies and their service to Christ, Cairn University makes every effort to keep our tuition rates and fees affordable.

Simple, flat $500/credit*. 
*Applies to the 2022–2024 academic years. 

Financial Aid

Scholarships, veterans benefits, federal grants and loans, and discounts are available to Cairn Online students. Please refer to this page for details.

Program Curriculum

The online MS in Educational Leadership & Administration program has been designed with input from our expert faculty in the School of Education, ensuring you graduate with the in-demand skills and knowledge that employers are looking for. The program requires 18 credits from the core curriculum courses, 15 credits from specialization courses, and 6 credits from Bible/theology. View a sample curriculum sheet for a snapshot of the courses you will complete.

EDU 703 – Teaching Models and Instructional Strategies
A pedagogy course designed to explore various models of teaching. The nature of the teaching profession, special characteristics of learners, instruction, management, and evaluation are addressed in relation to current research.

EDU 712 – Curriculum Theory, Design, and Assessment
An introductory course in curriculum theory and development that reviews the theoretical and practical basis for curriculum design, implementation, and evaluation. Emphasis is placed on design and assessment of an effective curriculum. Understanding by Design serves as an exemplar for developing curricular design and assessment based upon learning outcomes.

SPE 664 – Issues in Special Education for School Leaders
A course designed to introduce school leaders to the historical, legal, and ethical foundations of special education from early childhood education through grade 12. Students examine research-based instructional delivery systems and strategies for identified populations and culturally and linguistically diverse populations in inclusive educational settings.

EDU 713 – Educational Research
A course that includes the study and application of methods used to design, execute, report, and evaluate educational research using current technology. This course is an integral part of the writing and research process for the Instructional Design Project (EDU 791) and Action Research Project (EDL 791).

EDU 717 – Theoretical and Philosophical Foundations
A course that surveys major theoretical and philosophical frameworks for teaching and learning. Theories are considered in historical perspective and interpreted within a philosophical framework that focuses on the nature of knowledge, learning, and humanity. The course is designed to help the student develop a personal philosophy of education informed by learning theory through analyzing and systematizing presuppositions and beliefs related to education, the pupil, the teacher, the curriculum, and the teaching/learning process.

EDL 791 – Action Research Project or  EDL 785 – Educational Leadership Internship II
A course designed to guide an action research process implemented in a school environment. The major objective is to conduct an actual intervention that is developed to improve the robustness of a school. Students identify an issue, research potential solutions, carry out the intervention, assess the intervention’s success, and make recommendations for the future.

THE 601 – Overview of Christian Theology
An introduction to the major doctrines of the Bible.

BIB 621 – Biblical Integration for Educators
A course designed to develop the ability of educators to integrate the Bible into their teaching and their own lives.

EDL 741 – Principalship PK-12
A course designed to examine the theory, practice, and dimensions of educational leadership. Students examine administrative practices, complete a thorough investigation and reflective analysis of their own leadership qualities, and demonstrate the ability to solve organizational issues based on best practices. Current leadership theories are evaluated in light of Christian principles.

EDL 742 – Data Management and Technology Integration for School Leaders PK-12
A course designed to provide educational leaders with essential technological skills needed to promote the management and organization of resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment. Students learn how to efficiently analyze and integrate educational data through technological methodology and build organizational capacity through professional development linked to school improvement.

EDL 743 – Financial and Business Management
A course designed to investigate school-based and centralized decision making related to personnel, facility utilization, and budgeting. Revenue at both the state and local levels is examined to determine how to plan for and assess procedures to acquire and allocate funds.

EDL 744 – School Law
A course that addresses the legal trends and implications of court decisions and federal and state laws that affect the educational programs and policies in PK-12 schools. Actual case studies and law implementations are explored.

EDL 745 – Organizational Theory and Team Building
A course designed to examine current organizational theory that should inform the practice of building a community of learners within a PK-12 school. Issues addressed include human relationships; team building; group dynamics; and establishing vision, mission, and goals. Students examine the culture and climate of the school from interior and exterior factors and analyze the role of parents, community leaders, business leaders, and the board. Case study method is used to probe a school community and develop a plan of action.

Optional Internship

EDL 784 – Educational Leadership Internship I
A yearlong internship (270 hours required) which provides opportunities to enhance and expand the student’s emerging leadership praxis. Interns document their experiences and emerging mastery of competencies through a variety of artifacts performance-based projects, which align with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) field placement competencies and core and corollary program standards. The internship must be completed under the supervision and guidance of a state certified administrator (certification may be issued by any of the 50 states or a comparable governmental equivalent (e.g. Canadian provincial administrator’s certificate).

Receive credit for previous experience and coursework: At the discretion of the program advisor, three to six credits for prior learning (CPL) can be awarded for students with extensive background in areas addressed by specific courses.

Cairn Online Frequently Asked Questions

The tuition for post-secondary education has become expensive in general. However, Cairn Online programs rank amongst the most affordable online bachelor’s and master’s programs. While the tuition costs vary by program level, the rate is typically $425 per credit or 12K per year for A.A. and B.S. programs and $300-$725 per credit for graduate programs. 

The current tuition rates are available from this page. Scholarships and financial aid are also available. 

Currently there are over 6 million online learners in the United States, and those numbers are growing every day. Online degrees that have regional accreditation are held to the same standards as traditional universities, ensuring that students earn a valuable degree that will prepare them with the skills and credentials for their career. Do research to find an online degree that is accredited and reputable, such as those offered at Cairn University.

Cairn Online courses based on Cairn’s 100+ years tradition of excellence in biblical education. Our on faculty has carefully designed them taking into consideration what works best for the online learner. The modular design and asynchronous delivery enable you to complete your studies while you pursue your career, ministry and spend time with your family.

Courses typically contain seven units and are delivered in 7-week terms*. Each unit contains 5-7 modular activities. Each learning activity includes instructional videos accompanied by reflections, quizzes, discussion forums and other assessments. Courses also utilize adaptive learning technologies such as Cerego for long-term retention of concepts and VoiceThread for enhanced collaboration.

The asynchronous delivery provides flexibility around your daily busy schedule. In most courses, interactive activities are typically due by Wednesday while the rest of the unit’s work is due by Sunday night. The MBA, M.A. in Music and Criminal Justice programs use the 7RD2 process and require the completion of certain activities daily to optimize learning.

Our own Cairn faculty intentionally participate in the course throughout the week to provide you with an incarnational experience.

*Few capstone courses are intentionally offered in 14 weeks to optimize student learning.

A.A. programs usually take 2 years and B.S. and B.A. programs typically take 3-4 years to complete.

Graduate programs vary in length by program. As an example, Cairn’s traditional MBA typically takes 20 months to complete but then there is also the accelerated One-Year MBA that you can complete in 12 months.

If you are looking to complete your program sooner, you can consider taking more 7-week courses at a time. 

All courses are developed by one or more course developers and taught by our own faculty. The instructors are also intentionally involved in the course throughout the week by providing direction in the course activities, participating in the forum discussions, grading the student work and providing substantive feedback. Most courses also offer optional office hours weekly via Zoom or similar video conferencing tools.

Our instructional design team works very closely with the course developers and carefully plans the courses to balance the technology requirements. Most courses use the eLearning platform for hosting the course materials, Panopto for video capture and storage, VoiceThread for enhanced discussion forums, and Cerego for adaptive learning. Zoom is used at times for virtual office hours. These sessions are optional.

Except for the Hebrew and Greek language courses for the B.S. in Biblical Studies program, typically there are no required meeting times for the completing the course activities.  

The course transfer depends on where you are transferring from, and what program you are transferring to. If you are coming to Cairn Online from another institution, it is very likely you will have some credits that will transfer. Because there are so many options, we encourage you to talk to an enrollment counselor. If you are transferring out, Cairn is a regionally accredited school and some credits should transfer with relative ease. Each college sets their own transfer criteria, so be sure to check their policies for specifics.

Cairn Online offers a variety of options for prior learning and experience. You can receive up to 6 credits for prior learning for graduate programs. At the discretion of the program advisor, three to six credits for prior learning (CPL) can be awarded for students with extensive background in areas addressed by specific courses. Additionally, advance standing may be granted for Bible or theology credits earned at an accredited Bible college, Christian liberal arts college or university, or seminary. Credits will be granted on a course by course basis.

Cairn is approved to offer financial aid because of its regional accreditation. There are many options available and typically students qualify for at least one type of federal aid. Many students receive scholarships and grants that make earning their degree even more affordable. Cairn offers a variety of scholarships and discounts in addition to options for loans and grants. Please refer to this page for details. 

The requirements depend on the program you are considering. Please refer to this page for details. 

Program Details

Additional Information

NC-SARA Approved InstitutionCairn Online has been approved to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), which regionally oversees postsecondary online education.

Additional Accreditation Information