Question: What can I do with an EdS degree? What are some careers for EdS graduates?

Updated: May 31, 2023

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.