FAQ: What can I do with an EdS degree?

Answer: The Education Specialist or EdS degree is designed to help educators, typically in the K-12 education space, to step into more advanced roles in their place of employment. In addition, certain EdS programs are designed to prepare educators to earn certification/licensure/endorsement that can lead to leadership positions in schools and school districts. These programs offer educators with a master’s degree a more direct and targeted path to career advancement compared to completing a doctoral degree in education.

The EdS degree is a post-master’s degree that is highly targeted in that it prepares students for specific career advancements in the field of education, typically in primary and secondary education settings. The EdS is a strong choice for an educator who wants to gain expertise in a particular area of education, and/or qualify for state or district-specific education certifications or licenses (or endorsements), which can lead to career advancement. Unlike doctoral programs in education (i.e., PhD and EdD programs), EdS programs typically do not require as rigorous of a research requirement and thus can be completed in one to two years of enrollment. (Note: While most EdS programs require a master’s degree for admission, there are some programs that accept students with a bachelor’s degree.)

EdS degree programs typically have specializations that are specific to students’ goals in education, such as Educational Leadership, School Counseling, Instructional Design, Educational Technology, Mathematics, and Special Education, to name a few. Moreover, the roles that these programs prepare students for typically align with the specialization of the program. For example, there are programs designed to prepare students for roles in superintendency, principalship, school counseling and counseling leadership, special education leadership, instructional design, reading and literacy, educational technology, teacher leadership, and more.

Below are some examples of EdS specializations and potential roles for students who graduate from these programs.

EdS in Educational Leadership: Superintendency

The EdS in Educational Leadership with a specialization in Superintendency prepares students to assume superintendent positions in public school districts. Superintendents oversee school district administration, curriculum and instruction standards for primary and secondary schools in their district, and budgets and contract negotiations with certified and classified staff, in addition to numerous other responsibilities. Superintendents are usually also in close communication with city and county officials and work with school board members to establish and meet academic goals for the district as a whole.

Superintendents typically need to obtain administrative licensure from their state’s board of education (see below for information regarding licensure), and there are EdS programs with a focus on the superintendency that prepare educators to earn the required credentials. EdS programs that focus on the superintendency generally have courses in leadership theory, program assessment, diversity inclusion, budget management, ethics and legal issues in education administration, and human resource management. They also typically require an internship or field experience (which is a requirement for licensure as a district-level school administrator).

EdS in Educational Leadership: Principalship

EdS programs in Educational Leadership with a specialization in the Principalship typically prepare educators to earn the requisite school administrator license to assume a position as a principal in a primary or secondary school setting. Principals manage the operations of a school and are responsible for the performance of its students in relation to state and district standards. Principals supervise certificated and classified staff; the allocation of school budget to various educational programs and interventions; the development and enforcement of disciplinary protocols on the school campus; and the establishment of ongoing learning teams between the students, teachers, and parents.

As such, EdS programs with a focus on the principalship typically have courses in the structures of school program development and improvement, the creation of learning communities, educational equity and social justice, fiscal management for schools, and education ethics and law. These programs also typically require internship hours, as an internship in school administration is typically a requirement for principal licensure.

EdS in School Counseling

EdS programs with a specialization in School Counseling are typically reserved for individuals who have earned their master’s degree in counseling and who want to specialize in counseling within school settings. Some EdS programs in School Counseling prepare students to earn a credential from their state’s board of education. For example, there are EdS programs in California that prepare licensed counselors to earn their Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential, which authorizes them to develop counseling programs and provide mental health interventions in school settings.

School counselors support the emotional health of students through individual and group counseling, as well as mental health programs and targeted interventions that seek to prevent and address challenges to students’ emotional well-being. EdS programs in school counseling typically have courses in human behavior and development, crisis intervention, family counseling, trauma counseling, classroom behavior management, and the history of support services in school settings. Students are also generally required to complete a counseling practicum or internship.

EdS in Special Education

EdS programs in Special Education give students the expertise to design and implement special education programs using the latest theories, research, and best practices in special education. Leaders and specialists in special education typically work closely with special needs students and their families to create a plan for academic success; they can also lead or engage in special education programming for a diverse range of learners.

Students of EdS programs in this specialization typically take courses in special education policy, instructional methods for diverse learners, curriculum design for special education, support services for special education students, and the history of and contemporary issues in special education. Depending on the program, students might be required to complete an internship or a capstone project.

EdS in Instructional Design and Educational Technology

EdS programs in Instructional Design and/or Educational Technology prepare educators to lead the development and improvement of instructional methods and education programs in their place of work. Graduates of EdS programs in Instructional Design can generally work as curriculum specialists who collaborate with school leadership to design engaging education programs and interfaces. Educational Technology specialists also supervise the integration of technology into the classroom so that it supports rather than detracts from learning.

Students of these programs typically take courses in educational technologies, integration of media into learning environments, and contemporary issues in instructional design. In some cases, schools may offer an EdS in Instructional Design and Educational Technology as a single specialization, due to the interdependence between instructional design and education technology, particularly in recent years. Depending on the program, students may or may not be required to complete an internship or a capstone project.

Note: While not as common as EdS programs that are designed for educators working in PK-12 educational settings, there are some EdS programs with a specialization in Higher Education.

EdS Programs and Licensure, Certification, and/or Endorsement

While many EdS programs are designed to prepare students for state licensure, certification, or endorsement as an education administrator, school counselor, or other school specialist, earning licensure upon graduating from an EdS program is not guaranteed. State boards of education vary in their specific requirements for earning licensure, and these requirements may also be revisited and updated periodically. Prospective EdS students should always check with their state’s board of education and/or counseling to learn about the specific requirements to earn their desired credential; they should also speak with admissions officials at the EdS programs that interest them in order to confirm that these programs will enable them to fulfill their licensure goals.

In addition, earning a license or credential as a school administrator, counselor, or other specialist often requires more than completing a qualifying EdS program; in many cases, candidates are required to pass an examination or fulfill other criteria such as an internship (while EdS programs designed specifically for licensure often include an internship, this might not always be the case). Finally, while completing an EdS program is one way to prepare for licensing requirements, in many states, an EdS is not required for licensure.

Online EdS Programs

With the advent of new interactive learning technologies, more colleges and universities have begun to offer EdS programs online, giving educators working full-time a flexible and more convenient option for earning their specialist degree and advancing their careers. Online programs allow students to access their coursework, including lectures and discussions, from anywhere they have access to the Internet. These programs are also a great option for educators who live in rural areas and for educators who do not live within commuting distance to a school offering an EdS program.

However, online EdS degrees require special consideration, particularly for those who wish to earn licensure in their state of residence. EdS programs that are geared towards preparing candidates for licensure are often designed according to their resident state board of education’s specific requirements, which can pose a potential issue for out-of-state students who might have to fulfill different licensing requirements for their state of residence. As a result, online EdS programs, particularly those that prepare students for licensure, may restrict admission to their program to residents of the state in which they are based. Other EdS programs may accept out-of-state students only from select states, depending on these states’ licensure requirements. Prospective students should always consult with an admission advisor before applying to an out-of-state online EdS programs to ensure they accept students from their state of residence. (As noted above, students should also check their state licensing requirements to ensure an out-of-state program will provide the curriculum needed to meet those requirements.) Check out our FAQ on online EdS programs for more information.

Note: For students researching EdS and Doctor of Education (EdD) programs, check out our EdS vs EdD programs page for more information on how these two degree programs differ.

FAQ: Are there online Education Specialist (EdS) programs?

Answer: Yes. There are several online Education Specialist (Ed.S.) programs available through accredited colleges and universities in the United States.

An EdS is a graduate degree that is designed to empower educators (typically in K-12 education settings) to step into administrative leadership roles. These programs provide students with the requisite training to succeed as leaders in a wide variety of contexts, including primary and secondary school administration, special education, curriculum development and instruction, educational technology, and more. Students who earn an EdS can also typically transfer some or all of the credits they have earned in their EdS to a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree, if they choose to pursue doctoral studies in the future.

Online EdS Programs

Most individuals who are seeking an EdS are already working professionals who are fairly advanced in their careers as educators, and who want to continue working full-time as they earn their degree. As a result, many schools of education offer online programs to provide students with additional scheduling flexibility. Online EdS programs allow educators to earn their degree while still working full-time with fewer disruptions to their family and personal lives, compared to having to commute to an on-campus program for weekly or weekend lectures. In addition, these programs enable students who do not live near a school that offers an EdS program to have a wider array of program options. This can be particularly advantageous for education professionals who live in rural area with limited access to graduate programs.

Online programs enable students to access course content through a learning management system from anywhere as long as the student has an Internet connection and a computer or tablet (some schools even allow students to access course materials through their mobile devices). Online programs may be comprised of primarily asynchronous instruction or use a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction.

Asynchronous instruction is defined as any course content that students can view or complete on their own time (as long as they abide by assignment deadlines). Examples of asynchronous instruction include pre-recorded lectures and discussion forums wherein students can contribute insights or respond to each other over the course of a few days, as well as assignments or exams that students can complete on their own time as long as they do so before established deadlines. Asynchronous instruction can be highly beneficial for individuals who have full workdays, many family obligations, and/or other personal commitments that make it difficult to attend weekly live scheduled lectures.

Synchronous instruction is defined as course content where students must log into their accounts at a specific time in order to attend lectures or engage in discussions that are delivered in real-time (often using video conferencing software). The benefit of synchronous instruction is that it more closely emulates an in-person class session and discussion, in that instructors and students can have a live interactive dialogue about class concepts. Synchronous instruction also provides additional structure to an online program in that students attend weekly scheduled classes which are typically held in the early evening; however, synchronous instruction can also be difficult for working professionals with families or other personal obligations that make it difficult to attend live sessions.

In order to best assess whether an EdS program’s ratio of asynchronous vs. synchronous instruction is ideal for them, prospective students should always reach out to an admissions advisor at their programs of interest. They should also take stock of their current and future responsibilities (both professional and personal), while also considering their learning preferences, in order to ensure they select a program that will be the best fit for their own unique situation.

Examples of Online Education Specialist Programs

Below are several examples of online EdS programs offered by accredited institutions in the U.S. These examples are meant to provide prospective students with an idea of the types of program specializations and courses that are available through online programs.

  • Grand Canyon University has an online EdS degree with an emphasis in K-12 Leadership that focuses specifically on preparing educators to step into leadership roles by improving their instructional skills and giving them a thorough knowledge of leadership ethics, instructional supervision, education policy development, and human resources and staffing. Students take courses such as Progressions in Leadership Thought, Training and Collaboration for Learning, Trends and Issues in K-12 Education, Strategic Planning in K-12 Education, Analysis of Educational Research, History and Politics for K-12 Education, and Ethical Dilemmas and Stewardship.
  • Liberty University offers an online EdS degree with a wide variety of specialization options, including Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership, Elementary Education, Higher Education Administration, Middle Grades Education, School Administration and Supervision, Secondary Education, and Special Education. All students of this program take courses in theories of advanced learning and leadership, as well as the history and philosophical foundations of education. Students then take courses according to their concentration choice, such as courses in curriculum design and development, learning technologies, education leadership and public relations, conflict resolution, technology for instructional improvement, organizational analysis and problem solving, curriculum and teaching methods for middle grade students, and more.
  • The University of Florida has an online EdS in Educational Technology that is designed for K12 educators who want to learn how to leverage the latest education technologies to enhance curricula and other education programming. Students of this program take core courses such as Teacher Leadership for School Improvement, Designing Technology-Rich Curricula, Blended Learning Environments, Classroom Research/Guided Inquiry, and Instructional Computing II: Media Ecologies and Open Education. For their concentration coursework in Educational Technology, students take classes such as Instructional Design, Designing Integrated Media Environments, and Issues and Trends in Educational Technology Research. Students’ culminating experience is a practicum and a supervised research project.
  • Wayne State College offers an online EdS that is designed to prepare students for all aspects of PK12 educational administration, from education policy analysis and advocacy to financial planning, community relations, and conflict resolution. Students take a set curriculum of courses such as School Law for Administrators, Human Resources Administration, Educational Finance and Business Management, Information Management, Educational Facility Planning, and Problem Resolution in Educational Organizations. Students are also required to fulfill an Advanced Internship in Educational Leadership.

Admissions Considerations for Online EdS Programs

Online EdS programs have the same admissions requirements as their on-campus counterparts. In general, these programs expect applicants to submit a statement of purpose, a CV or resume, and transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work. The majority of EdS programs require applicants to hold a master’s degree, though there are some programs that accept students who have only completed a bachelor’s degree (however, these programs often require students to take additional coursework).

In addition to those requirements, some EdS programs also require applicants to have a certain number of years of relevant professional experience in education, and depending on the specialization of the EdS program, students may need to demonstrate competence in a particular area of education, such as curriculum and instruction, counseling, special education, or middle school education. Finally, some programs may also have a minimum GPA requirement (typically a threshold of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale) for applicants’ past undergraduate and graduate work, and require letters of recommendation.

State Authorizations and Restrictions for Online EdS Programs

Prospective students of online EdS programs should also bear in mind that some programs do not accept online students from every state. This can be due to two reasons: state authorizations and/or licensing requirements for programs designed specifically for certification and/or licensure. Colleges and universities that offer online programs need to seek approval to enroll online students from states in which they do not have a physical campus. While this process is becoming more streamlined, there are still some schools that do not accept students from all 50 states.

Online EdS programs that are designed to prepare educators for administrative licensure* (e.g. programs designed for principal licensure preparation or principalship, or for superintendent license preparation) can be particularly restrictive in their admissions process for out-of-state students, as these programs are often tailored to meet the specific needs of educators who are residents of the state in which the school is located. As a result, students should always check with an admissions advisor for the program(s) that interest them in order to receive the most detailed and up-to-date information on admissions requirements and state restrictions.

Note: For more information on Education Specialist programs, including details about their curricula and example courses, read our FAQ: What is an EdS degree?.

*The certification/licensure process for administrators (i.e. principals and superintendents) varies by state. Educators interested in these or similar roles that require licensure should review the licensing requirements set by their state’s Board of Education (or educator credentialing body) to ensure that an online program (either in-state or out-of-state) will provide the training needed to meet the requirements for licensure in their state of residence.

More Online Education Specialist (Ed.S.) Programs

School NameProgram
Belhaven UniversityOnline Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in School Leadership and Administration
East Carolina UniversityOnline EdS in Education Administration and Supervision
Fort Hays State UniversityOnline Specialist in Education (Ed.S) in Education Administration (Superintendent)
Kennesaw State UniversityOnline Ed.S. in Secondary Education English
Liberty UniversityOnline Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Administration and Supervision – Educational Leadership
Liberty UniversityOnline Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Curriculum and Instruction (with Tracks in Educational Psychology, Elementary Education, Middle Grades Education, Online Teaching and Learning, Secondary Education, and Special Education)
Liberty UniversityOnline Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership
Liberty UniversityOnline Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Higher Education Administration, and Higher Education Administration – Student Affairs
Lindenwood UniversityOnline Educational Specialist (EdS) - Educational Administration
Lindenwood UniversityOnline Educational Specialist (EdS) - School Administration
National UniversityOnline Education Specialist (EdS) with Specializations in Curriculum and Teaching; Early Childhood Education; E-Learning; English Language Learning; General Education; Instructional Leadership; International Education and Globalization; Leadership in Higher Education; Leadership in K-12 Education; Organizational Leadership; Special Education; Sport and Athletic Management; Social-Emotional Learning; Trauma-Informed Educational Practices; School Safety, Security, Emergency Management
Northwest Missouri State UniversityOnline Ed.S. Educational Leadership (K-12)
Piedmont UniversityOnline Education Specialist with Tracks in Art Education, Curriculum and Instruction, and Music Education
Seton Hall UniversityOnline Education Specialist (Ed.S) in Education Leadership, Management and Policy (ELMP)
University of ArkansasOnline Educational Specialist in Curriculum and Instruction with Specializations in Program Administrator, K-12 Online Teaching, Literacy/Dyslexia, and Education Examiner
University of FloridaOnline Specialist (Ed.S.) in Educational Technology
University of the CumberlandsOnline Ed.S. with Tracks in School Counseling, Director of Special Education, School Superintendent, Supervisor of Instruction, Principal, and Director of Pupil Personnel
University of VirginiaOnline Ed.S. in Curriculum & Instruction
Wayne State CollegeOnline Education Specialist (Ed.S.) - School Administration / Educational
William Woods UniversityOnline Education Specialist (EdS) in Curriculum Leadership

FAQ: What is an EdS degree? Is an EdS a terminal degree?

Answer: An EdS, or Education Specialist degree, is a post-graduate degree designed to prepare educators for impactful leadership positions at the school and school district levels. The EdS degree can be an ideal option for students who want to empower themselves with more advanced skills in curriculum development, educational technology, program evaluation, and/or special education leadership, among other areas, but who do not want to commit the level of time, tuition, and research intensiveness that an EdD (or PhD in Education) requires. Many EdS programs also provide the training needed to qualify individuals for principal, superintendent, or educational administrator licensure in their state of residence. There are also some EdD programs that require candidates to have earned their EdS in order to qualify for admission.

The Education Specialist (EdS) degree is a type of program that is uniquely suited to individuals who want to step into leadership positions in primary and secondary education settings, and whose goals may not require them to devote the considerable time and effort that earning a Doctor of Education (EdD) entails. While an EdD program can prepare students to step into more advanced leadership positions in a broad range of settings (e.g., roles in PK-12 educational administration, higher education leadership, adult learning, student affairs administration, corporate and organizational leadership, etc.), the EdS degree is usually specific to educators who want to be more impactful in K-12 (or PK-12) settings through advanced training in areas such as educational leadership, educational technology, curriculum and instruction, early childhood education, special education, and more.

In general, while the minimum degree requirement for educators to pursue their principal or superintendent license is typically a master’s degree*, EdS programs provide educators with graduate level training in school leadership without having to complete a second master’s program. As a result, many individuals who are seeking an educational leadership license are interested in the EdS degree, because the EdS provides students with the requisite curriculum content and professional training to help them step confidently into more administrative, program development, and educational leadership roles. (In contrast to EdS programs, some EdD programs with courses in P-12 education may prepare students for certification; however, in general, many EdD programs are not designed to prepare students for licensure).

EdS degrees are typically comprised of 30 post-master’s credits, and include coursework in areas such as curriculum development, diversity and social justice in education, program evaluation, instructional technology, and special education. Unlike EdD programs, which require approximately twice the number of credits and the completion of a dissertation (or research intensive project), EdS programs are mainly comprised of courses, without the intensive research component (with that said, some EdS programs require the completion of a final capstone project, paper, internship, or comprehensive examination). The relatively small number of course credits for an EdS, combined with the fact that it does not require a dissertation, often means that students can complete their EdS in between one and two years (relative to the three or four years that an EdD typically takes).

Note: An EdS is not a terminal degree in the field of education, as students can pursue either an EdD or PhD in Education, both of which require a dissertation. For more information on how EdS programs differ from EdD programs, check out our FAQ on EdD versus EdS degree programs.

Curriculum Details for Education Specialist Programs

In general, EdS programs are comprised of a minimum of 30 course credits. Depending on the program in which they enroll, students may be able to choose from a number of specializations, craft their own focus from a variety of courses, or they may take a prescribed course sequence in a specific area of education leadership. Examples of common specializations for EdS programs include but are not limited to:

  • Educational Leadership and Administration
  • School Leadership – Principal Licensure
  • Superintendency
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Special Education
  • Instructional Technology
  • School Counseling
  • Reading

As the above sample specializations illustrate, EdS degrees are highly focused on helping educators improve educational programs and outcomes at their current place of work. Therefore, while an EdD program might have students from sectors other than education, such as professionals in health care, political advocacy, or the corporate sphere, EdS programs tend to have students exclusively from academic settings, and typically in the K-12 sphere.

Example Courses in EdS Programs

EdS programs are designed to give educators the tools to evaluate educational programs and systems, pinpoint areas for improvement, and implement strategies to enhance learning outcomes and better support their students. Going beyond teaching and curriculum implementation to design curricula, develop and improve programs, and create innovative solutions to education challenges requires that students build key research and leadership skills. The courses below provide some illustration of the kinds of research, skills, methods, and best practices that EdS students might learn over the course of their program.

  • Curriculum Design and Evaluation: The essential principles, methods, and best practices of designing and implementing an effective curriculum. Students also learn how to evaluate learning outcomes from an implemented curriculum, and to make improvements and modifications accordingly.
  • Diversity and Social Justice in Education: The importance of ensuring that all students in a given school and/or school district have equal access to learning opportunities and support. The role that diversity, multiculturalism, and equal educational accessibility play in the establishment and maintenance of social justice in society.
  • Foundational Theories and Methods of Educational Leadership: Students in this course examine both historical and contemporary scholarly literature around the meaning of leadership in educational settings, as well as the fundamental theories that underpin effective educational leadership across diverse K-12 settings. Students also discuss the applicability of this research to their current place of work.
  • Instructional Technology in School Reform: The latest educational technologies and how they can be leveraged both inside and outside of the classroom to improve students’ learning outcomes. The role that remote learning and learning management systems can play in assignments, examinations, and interactive educational activities.
  • Community Building in Learning Environments: How educators can build productive partnerships and connections between other educators, students, parents, and other members of the community. How building a sense of cohesive community and organizational identity within academic settings can increase students’ sense of belonging, the readiness with which they seek out support systems, and their overall academic performance.
  • Problem Solving in Educational Organizations: An in-depth look at some of the most pressing issues facing secondary school systems, and how to take a multifaceted and team-based approach to solving these challenges.
  • Research and Program Evaluation for Educational Leaders: The different types of advanced research methodologies that can be used to assess and improve educational systems at the classroom, school-wide, and district levels. How to conduct qualitative and quantitative research, analyze data, and arrive at insights that can drive key educational solutions.
  • School Improvement Planning: How to create a comprehensive school improvement plan through a combination of program development, community building, effective school or district-wide communication, resource allocation and budgeting, and the establishment of key partnerships.
  • Capstone Project: Students take what they have learned over the course of the curriculum and apply it to a personalized project of their own choosing that seeks to improve a particular educational environment.

*Licensing requirements for principals and superintendents vary by state. For the most up-to-date information on the education requirements, professional experience and credentialing requirements, and testing requirements in your state of residence, contact your state’s Board of Education or teacher credentialing body.

FAQ: What is the difference between an EdD and an EdS degree?

Answer: While Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) programs may cover similar topics and even be offered in the same concentrations, these two degrees are quite different when it comes to their requirements and intent. The EdD is a doctorate, designed for working professionals who want to take on the highest leadership roles in educational settings. It typically involves substantial research work and contributing new knowledge to the field in the form of a dissertation. The EdS is also a postgraduate degree (typically post-master’s), however, it is not a doctorate. Students pursue this degree, which requires roughly half the number of credits as an EdD, in order to gain particular skills for a particular type of job (e.g., principal, superintendent, director of educational technology).

The EdD and EdS are both post-master’s degrees, primarily intended for educators looking to advance in their current careers or move into leadership positions. The differences between them can be compared to those between a master’s degree and a post-baccalaureate graduate certificate program. Much like a master’s degree, the EdD takes longer to obtain and includes a capstone (e.g. dissertation). Students gain advanced knowledge and skills in their area of focus, as well as a strong foundation in both theory and research. An EdS, like a graduate certificate, is more focused, providing specific education and training without a final capstone. Students can finish an EdS in less time, often doing so in order to develop qualifications for a certain license or position.

One other distinction between EdS and EdD programs that is important to note is their curricular focus. In general, EdS programs are designed for K-12 educators looking to advance their careers in primary and secondary schools and school systems. While there are EdD programs that are also designed for K-12 educators, there are also EdD programs for students interested in higher education administration, community college and adult education, student affairs leadership, and organizational leadership.

The learn more about EdS and EdD degree programs, as well as the differences between these two credentials, continue reading below.

Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) Degree Programs

The EdS is unique to the field of education, a postgraduate degree somewhere between a master’s and a doctorate. These programs are a great option for professionals who already possess a master’s degree and want to advance in their careers, but would prefer not to pursue an EdD or PhD due to the research requirements/dissertation, time commitment, or cost. Students in EdS programs are typically seeking very specific job skills related to a certain position they are trying to obtain, such as principal or superintendent. In fact, many EdS programs are based around certification preparation, with students pursuing the degree in order to gain the qualifications they need for licensure.

In terms of coursework, earning an EdS is roughly equivalent to completing a second master’s degree and requires approximately 30 credit hours. Students can expect to complete one of these programs in one to two years of study, depending on their specialization and the specific path they take to earn the degree. While there are standalone EdS programs, as mentioned below, some students start by originally pursuing an EdD and then stopping partway through, before they fulfill the requirements for their doctorate. In these cases, some programs may grant students an EdS for the credits they have already earned, or students may be able to transfer their post-master’s credits towards the completion of an EdS at another institution.

EdS programs are available in a number of specializations, but are typically designed for PK-12 or K-12 educators interested in educational leadership or administration, curriculum and instruction, special education, educational technology, or school psychology. As mentioned earlier, many programs also focus on specific careers, offering concentrations dedicated to superintendency or principalship, which prepare students for licensure in those positions. It is important to note, however, that licensing requirements vary by state. Additionally, while an EdS may be adequate or even required for top administrative roles at some schools, it may not be at others. In most cases, students pursue an EdS to advance their career, gain new skills, and qualify for better pay in a relatively short amount of time, without having to complete a full doctorate program and dissertation. These are often teachers who want to become principals or program directors, but lack certain qualifications necessary to do so.

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Degree Programs

The EdD is a doctoral degree and a terminal degree in the field of education. It is one of the two doctoral degrees one can earn through collegiate study and focuses mainly on advanced practice. (The other is a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education, which focuses more on research and theory. To learn more, see our FAQ on EdD vs. PhD in Education programs.) Students typically pursue an EdD in order to gain the real-world problem-solving skills and proven strategies needed to excel in educational leadership positions. For the most part, these programs are designed for working educators and administrators looking to take on top positions in their field and implement positive change in their current or future organizations.

An EdD generally requires approximately 60 post-master’s credit hours and takes around three years to complete. The majority of EdD programs require a master’s degree for admission; however, there are a limited number of programs that offer tracks for students with a bachelor’s degree and significant work experience. There are also some EdD programs that accept EdS credits or require the degree for admission, allowing students who have already earned significant post-master’s credits to transfer them toward completion of their doctorate. Programs are available in a wide range of specializations, including higher education leadership, PK/K-12 educational administration, early childhood education, curriculum and instruction, adult education, educational technology, special education, organizational leadership, and more.

Curriculum varies by concentration; however, most EdD programs combine coursework in theory and research with practical skill development in areas such as organizational management, finance and budgeting, curriculum design and assessment, professional development, instructional methods, educational technology, and law. Students also spend a significant portion of their studies working on a dissertation, an original research project in which they identify and attempt to address an issue currently facing their field, current organization, or education in general. (Note: The majority of EdD programs require a dissertation; however, there are a few that replace the dissertation requirement with an applied project.)

Depending on their area of focus, graduates of EdD programs can go on to work in a wide range of positions and settings. Unlike PhD graduates, who almost exclusively work in research or academia, those with EdDs might pursue high-level administrative or educational leadership roles in schools, colleges, universities, school districts, nonprofits, the government, or related private sector organizations. Some also end up taking on teaching positions at the collegiate level, overseeing courses in their particular area of expertise. Students who earn an EdD in Organizational Leadership have an even wider range of options to choose from, as their degree prepares them for upper management roles both in and outside of education.

Note: Some EdD programs grant students an EdS after they complete their academic coursework, before they start their dissertation. Students who complete their course credits but decide not to complete a thesis may also be able to earn an EdS, depending on the program.

Ed.D. vs Ed.S. Degree Programs

The primary difference between an EdD and EdS comes down to their overall length and focus. The EdD is a full doctoral degree, which requires a substantial time commitment (three or more years) and completion of an original dissertation project. Students learn both practical job skills in their area of focus (e.g., higher education leadership, educational technology, adult education…), as well as more broad knowledge, such as advanced research skills and a theoretical foundation in leadership and education.

An EdS, on the other hand, is more focused on earning specific skills and knowledge in one area, to allow students to quickly gain the qualifications they need to advance in a certain vocation. While it is a post-master’s degree, the EdS is not a doctorate, does not require a dissertation, and can be completed in as little as one to two years, in most cases. EdD and EdS students may study many of the same topics and even qualify for the some of the same positions (e.g., principal, superintendent); however, the EdD is ultimately a degree of higher standing, allowing graduates to take on university-level faculty and teaching roles or top leadership positions in their organizations.