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Educational Specialist Degree

As a teacher, you might be thinking about taking the next step in your career. Perhaps you are interested in expanding your knowledge, changing direction, or moving into a leadership position. Or, you might want to tap into the greater prestige and higher salary that typically comes with career advancement. Although there are a number of ways you can advance your career, one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways is to get an Education Specialist Degree (Ed.S.).

This page provides all the information you need to know in order to embark on this career, including: what the degree is and what it entails, available specializations, careers, and online Ed.S. degrees.

What Is an Educational Specialist Degree?

Educational specialist degrees are targeted degrees that fall between master’s and doctorate degrees. These degree programs require applicants to possess a master’s degree but involve less coursework than a doctorate (Ph.D. or Ed.D.). As the name implies, the Ed.S. is highly focused on developing proficiency in a particular specialization. Thus, it is important that you decide what area you want to specialize in before you pursue a degree.

Types of Ed.S. Degree Programs

Based on your area of interest within the educational spectrum, you can choose from a number of different specialty areas. These programs generally fall into four categories:

  1. Leadership and policy
  2. Curriculum development
  3. School psychology
  4. Specific areas of teaching such as special education, reading and literacy, etc.

You can learn more about available careers and how specializations translate into jobs in the What Can I Do With an Education Specialist Degree? section.

Who Should Consider an Ed.S. Program?

An Ed.S. degree is not for everyone. They are unique degrees that lead to career advancement in particular areas. This degree might be a great fit for you if:

  • You want to advance your career but are not sure you want to invest the time and money involved in getting a doctorate.
  • You feel confident about your knowledge of general educational topics and theories but want to advance your understanding in areas such as special education, ESL, or literacy remediation.
  • You are interested in working behind the scenes to develop curriculum, both traditional and technology-based.
  • You aspire to move into leadership positions, which require advanced knowledge of leadership policy and administrative skills.
  • You’re considering an Ed.D. or Ph.D. but want to use the Ed.S. degree as a transition. Some schools offer Ed.S. to Ed.D. ladder programs that allow students to transfer credits gained from their specialty program into the doctorate degree. It’s less common to find Ed.S. to Ph.D. bridge programs because Ph.D. programs typically lead to academia and research careers rather than specialty teaching careers.

What Can I Do with an Education Specialist Degree?

Educational specialist degree programs can open the door to a wide variety of focused careers. These careers fall into the following general categories.

Leadership and Policy

If you are interested in making a difference not just in the classroom but at the school or district level, you will want to explore degree programs in this area. Common careers for graduates of these programs include:

  • Principal: Individuals working in this area of school administration oversee the day-to-day running of a school as well as goal-setting and planning. They manage teachers and students, communicate with parents, handle disciplinary issues, and work with their school’s district to discuss roadblocks and successes and develop solutions.
  • District administrator: These professionals oversee groups of schools based on a county or region of a state. The job is administrative in nature and focuses on financial management, student assessment, and communicating with the school board.
  • Dean of students: Deans work in colleges and universities to manage student life, campus programming, student organizations and councils, disciplinary issues, and services for transfer and/or international students.

Curriculum Development

Behind the scenes of the classroom are the professionals who develop the curricula that is the backbone of instruction. This involves an understanding of state or federal standards, knowledge of educational theory and the ways that people learn, and awareness of cutting-edge research. Common careers for graduates include:

  • Instructional coordinator: Job responsibilities for this position include developing new curricula, training teachers on how to implement the curricula, incorporating standards into textbooks and teaching materials, and gathering student test data.
  • Director of instructional technology: These professionals focus on integrating technology into the classroom. They assess technology needs, train teachers and students, and implement new systems into a school.
  • Curriculum specialist: Rather than working directly for a school or district, these professionals are often employed by educational publishers. They develop new curricula to be used nationally, state-wide, or district-wide, and sometimes provide professional development as well.

School Psychology

More and more, education professionals are realizing the importance of addressing individual students’ issues in order to facilitate learning. A great teacher, solid curriculum, and enlightened district are not enough to guarantee success for students who have certain types of problems.

Typical roles include:

  • School counselor: Common responsibilities for these professionals include providing guidance and counsel to students on matters about school, family, friends, academics, and study skills. They help students set and achieve goals and communicate with teachers and parents.
  • School psychologist: School psychologists evaluate and treat children and adolescents in areas of behavioral issues, academic problems, learning disabilities, and family problems. They may also communicate with teachers and parents.

Content Area Specializations Education

Educators are increasingly needed to teach specialty populations and remediation. As such, schools offer degree programs in areas such as:

  • Special education
  • Early childhood education
  • Gifted and talented education
  • Reading and literacy

While some individuals may decide to use knowledge gained in an Ed.S. program to teach, others create programs/curricula and conduct teachers training.

Using an Ed.S. Degree in Untraditional Settings

While many of the careers discussed above focus on careers in school settings, there are a wide variety of non-school careers that Ed.S. graduates might apply their skills to. Examples include:

  • Continuing education and training program manager at a large corporation
  • Education programming development manager at a hospital, public health outreach center, or community health education agency
  • Education specialist for governmental or federal agencies to help inform policy and legislation
  • Supervisory youth development representative at a law enforcement agency focused on the juvenile court system

Education Specialist Degree Programs

Ed.S. degree programs vary widely depending on area of focus. It is important to decide which specialty you want to pursue before exploring schools.

In general, Ed.S. programs require between 30 and 65 credits and take 18 months to 4 years to complete. If you’re considering pursuing a doctorate degree sometime in the future, make sure that credits earned in your selected program are accredited and can be applied toward the degree.

What Are the Program Requirements for an Education Specialist Degree?

Admission requirements may differ based on the school and specialization you choose. However, most programs require the following:

  • A master’s degree in education from an accredited institution
  • Qualifying scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A current teaching license
  • Documented teaching experience

Other requirements might include a specified grade point average in the applicant’s master’s program, writing samples, or personal statements.

The Curriculum in an Educational Specialist Program

Given the highly focused nature of educational specialist degrees, most programs launch immediately into specialized topics instead of focusing on the general core curriculum. Following are descriptions of curriculum in some of the different specializations:

  • Leadership: Leadership programs are not just about the nuts and bolts of being a principal or school administrator. They also focus on theoretical topics such as ethics in educational leadership, educational politics, administrative analysis and change, and inquiry and organization for educational leaders.
  • Instructional technology: Since this specialty is technology-heavy, many schools require you to have specialized computer skills and several years of relevant experience before you can enroll. In this type of program, you will learn about issues in educational technology, training and educations students and educators, and developing technology-based programs in schools.
  • Reading literacy: In a reading literacy and assessment program, you will learn about ways to help assess and improve students’ reading and literacy skills. You will examine existing research in effective assessment and theories about best practices for teaching literacy to students who need to ramp up to grade-level reading.
  • English as a second language (ESL): You don’t necessarily need to speak a second language to enroll in an ESL program. These programs generally do not focus on specific languages; rather, you will learn about linguistics, language acquisition, intercultural learning, and curriculum development and assessment.

Online Ed.S. Programs

Most online Ed.S. programs are hybrid programs, meaning that although you can take many courses online, you will also need to engage in hands-on training such as a school internship.

Online programs allow you to pursue your degree at your own pace. They provide flexibility for those who are unable to go to school full-time due to work or family responsibilities.

However, because online programs are relatively new, many are still establishing their reputations. Ask people you know and trust, such as administrators in your school district, whether they think the programs you’re considering will help you achieve your professional goals. Do your own research, too. Look online to see what graduates of the programs you’re considering have to say. If a program produces lots of alumni who say their experience there was valuable, and who have landed the types of jobs you want to someday hold, then that might be the right online program for you.