The Master of Science in Secondary Education is a 100 percent online program for individuals who possess a bachelor’s degree in a field related to English, math, science, or social studies and are looking to earn a secondary education (grades 7-12) teaching certification from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Most students can complete the program in one year; those who enroll in the Fall or Spring semesters will take longer than 12 months to complete the program.

Typically, those enrolling in this program begin in the summer semester. The entire program, aside from required clinical hours, is offered asynchronously online. In other words, you can complete the program working around your own schedule with limited specific-time requirements. Courses are offered year-round, allowing customization for individual students who may want to attend part time.

Program Overview

  • Options: Master’s, 4+1 for Mercyhurst undergrads
  • Location(s): 100 percent online coursework; school-based clinicals
  • Credits: 36
  • Duration: Minimum 12 months
  • Cost: $894 per credit; $33,000 total
  • Deadline: Rolling admissions
  • Start term(s): Summer (preferred), Fall, or Spring semester
  • Careers: Teaching in a secondary education setting

With a reputation for preparing the region’s best teachers, Mercyhurst is on the cutting edge in developing teacher-leaders who have a rich background in action research. This program satisfies all Pennsylvania certification requirements. If you are able to pass the PRAXIS exam for your desired certification subject, you do not need to take additional subject-based undergraduate coursework. Because this is a Master of Science degree, rather than a Master of Education (M.Ed.), individuals completing this program will be qualified to pursue doctoral programs in educational fields.

Learning Outcomes

We strive to be the region's premier certification program for highly qualified teachers in secondary education. Our students graduate with the skills to:

  • Design, conduct, and evaluate classroom activities
  • Manage the instructional environment
  • Implement, adapt, and assimilate effective instructional strategies
  • Assess and evaluate materials to meet the instructional needs and levels of diverse learners
  • Monitor and adjust instructional strategies
  • Communicate effectively
  • Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior

The 36-credit M.S. in Secondary Education curriculum is designed with career changers in mind. Before you enroll, you are able to meet with the program director for assistance in creating a completion plan specific to your needs. Students in this program demonstrate strong pedagogical skills, leadership, and service to others throughout the program. Courses for the master’s are as follows:

Summer Semester (16 weeks)

Summer Mini 1 (8 weeks)

  • EDSP 521: Psychology of Diverse Learners (3 credits)
  • EDSE 500: Foundation of Pedagogy & Practice (3 credits) (includes 15 clinical hours)

Summer Mini 2 (8 weeks)

  • EDSP 522: Inclusive Practices (3 credits)
  • EDSE 610: 21st Century Literacies (3 credits)

Fall Semester (16 weeks)

  • EDSP 502: Educational Research: Single Subject Design (3 credits)

Fall Mini 1 (8 weeks)

  • EDSE 601: Critical Teaching Strategies (3 credits) (includes 30 clinical hours)

Fall Mini 2 (8 weeks)       

  • EDSE 60X: Curriculum & Instruction: Subject Area Specific (3 credits) (includes 30 clinical hours) 

Spring Semester (16 weeks)

Spring Mini 1 (8 weeks)

  • EDSE 665: Clinical I (3 credits) (includes 4 weeks of classroom field experience)
  • WL 101: Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Learners (3 credits)

Spring Mini 2 (8 weeks)

  • EDSE 675: Capstone Clinical: Student Teaching (includes 12 weeks of student teaching OR 6 weeks of clinicals if already certified); follows EDSE 665 (6 credits)
  • EDSE 677: Research-based Project (3 credits) 
Mercyhurst is the regional partner for PLS 3rd Learning, a provider of continuing education options for teachers looking to satisfy ACT 48 requirements. Courses are geared toward certified teachers. Completion of PLS courses through Mercyhurst can earn you credit towards a master’s degree in Teaching Excellence (for certified teachers only).
Available to qualified Mercyhurst undergraduate students, the M.S. in Secondary Education 4+1 program allows students to begin earning graduate credits during their junior year at no additional cost. Students starting the 4+1 in the fall of their junior years may earn up to 12 credits, shortening their time to master’s completion and saving more than $10,000. Learn More.

Troops to Teachers

Current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces interested in pursuing new careers as educators are encouraged to explore the Troops to Teachers program. Mercyhurst University proudly partners with this organization to assist transitioning service members and veterans with meeting the requirements necessary to become teachers, training motivated, experienced, and dedicated leaders for today’s classrooms. Troops to Teachers provides counseling and referral services for participants to help them meet education and licensing requirements to teach, and subsequently helps them secure teaching positions. Since 1993, more than 21,000 veterans have successfully transitioned to careers in education.

Mercyhurst’s master’s in Secondary Education is an excellent option for transitioning service members and veterans, offering a 100 percent online path to secondary education (grades 7-12) teaching certification from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Open to those with a bachelor’s in a field related to English, math, science, or social studies, this program can be completed in as little as one year, with student-teaching in a district near you.

Troops to Teachers PA at Mercyhurst University is funded through a grant from DANTES, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. For more information about Troops to Teachers, please contact Dr. Amy L. Burniston, chair of Mercyhurst’s Secondary Education graduate program, at or 814-824-2437, or email Troops to Teachers PA at

Admissions Requirements

Prospective applicants for the M.S. in Secondary Education must fulfill the following admissions requirements. At the discretion of the director of the secondary education graduate program, admission may be granted to applicants who have not fulfilled all the admissions requirements provided they agree to the conditions of the acceptance prescribed by the director.

Admissions decisions are made by the program director on a rolling basis after a holistic review. Applicants can choose to start in either the Summer (preferred), Fall, or Spring semesters. Fall and Spring starts will take longer than one year to complete.

  • Completed (free) online application
  • A bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited school with a preferred overall minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you’ve attended 
  • A current resume 
  • A 500- to 750-word personal statement outlining your reasons for enrolling and personal and professional goals
  • A letter of recommendation from a professional or academic source (such as an employer or professor)
  • Please note: for those seeking secondary education teaching certification, during the course of your program it will be necessary for you to undergo the following:
    • Criminal background check 
    • Fingerprinting
    • Child abuse clearance
    • Drug screening
    • Medical verification of TB vaccination

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I complete this program as a part-time student? 

Yes, but the time to graduation will be extended by at least one year

What if I live outside of PA and want to be certified to teach a state other than PA?

Students can complete the program outside of PA and gain certification through your state after you have received your PA certification. Depending on your state, you may have to take an additional exam for certification. 

How often must I come to campus? 

While on-campus seminars will be offered, students are not required to physically attend. If the distance to campus is too far for travel, students will be required to participate in an online capacity.  

Do I have to do the clinical experiences if I’m already a certified teacher?

Six weeks of clinical experience is needed for teachers who already have certification. 

What are the technological requirements? Do I have to have a laptop or special software?

Students must have access to a computer with Microsoft Office software, webcam, and headphones for several of the online courses in this program. 

I'm interested in becoming a teacher, but I'm not sure if it's the right career for me. Is there any way to get some experience before enrolling in the program? 

Both the Intermediate Unit 5, located near Edinboro, and Kelly Services, located on West Ridge Rd in Erie, help administer emergency substitute teacher, sometimes referred to as guest teacher, programs that provide substitute teachers for several of the school districts throughout Erie, Warren and Crawford counties. If you are looking to get some secondary ed experience before committing to our master's degree program, reaching out to either of those facilities would be a good first step.

I'm currently a long term substitute teacher. Can I get credit for that? 

If you are currently a long term sub or anticipate being a long term sub, our program director is willing to review your experience for credit. While the policy for awarding credit for substitute teaching experience is still under development, our intent would be to award credit based on a portfolio of your experience as a long term sub in the classroom.

Explore Financial Aid

Earn an affordable master’s degree in secondary education with competitive per-credit costs. Visit our Graduate Cost and Financial Aid webpage or contact us at or 814-824-3351.

Contact Us

Amy Burniston, Ph.D., Ed.D.
Assistant Professor
Office: Hirt 300D
Phone: 814-824-2437

Colleen Hordych
Assistant Director, Graduate Admissions
Phone: 814-824-2297