Question: Are there any online EdS to EdD degree programs?

Updated: February 1, 2024

Answer: Yes – there are schools that offer online programs specifically for students who already possess an Educational Specialist degree and want to earn a Doctor of Education. Online EdS to EdD programs are currently available at three institutions: Northwest Nazarene University, University of Arkansas, and William Carey University. In addition to these programs, which explicitly require an EdS for admission, there are many other traditional EdD programs offered online that allow students to transfer credits from an EdS toward completion of their doctorate. This typically satisfies a significant portion of the EdD requirements, making it possible to graduate in less time than those entering with only a master’s degree.

The EdS and EdD are both post-master’s degrees in the field of education. However, they differ quite a bit when it comes to their overall focus and requirements. An EdS requires around half as many post-masters credits as a doctorate (typically around 30, instead of the 60 or so needed for an EdD) and is intended primarily for those looking to gain specific job skills related to career advancement. For example, many professionals pursue an EdS to gain the qualifications necessary for a certain position, certification, or licensure, such as those needed to become a principal or superintendent. While the EdD is also a practitioner’s degree, focused on preparing educators for advanced roles in academic leadership, it involves additional coursework in theory and research, as well as a substantial dissertation project. (For more about the differences between these two credentials, check out our FAQ on EdD vs. EdS degree programs.)

The majority of online EdD programs only require a master’s degree for admission (or in some rare cases, accept a bachelor’s degree along with sufficient graduate credits or professional experience). There are, however, some programs designed specifically for students who have completed an Educational Specialist degree and are now looking to earn the additional doctoral credits necessary to get an EdD. These EdS to EdD pathways generally require less credits than full EdD programs, as students will have already completed certain post-master’s requirements as part of their EdS. However, a major component that EdS holders will need to complete in order to earn their doctorate is a dissertation (or applied research project, for programs that have that option), which can take a considerable amount of time depending on the scope and focus of their research.

To learn more about online EdS to EdD programs available from schools in the U.S., as well as other options for students who possess an EdS and want to pursue their doctorate, continue reading below.

Schools with Online EdS to EdD Programs

As mentioned above, only three schools in the United States offer dedicated EdS to EdD programs online at this time.

Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho offers a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership online designed for EdS graduates. This program has a curricular emphasis on K-12 Education, with courses that train students in doctoral level qualitative and quantitative research, effective leadership and change management, and education policy. This EdS to EdD program requires a total of 36 doctoral credits, and can be completed in just 26 months with a two-week on-campus residency session.

The University of Arkansas offers an online EdS to EdD program in Educational Leadership, which consists of 42 credit hours and takes around three years to finish. While the majority of coursework is delivered online, students must attend three intensive doctoral seminars on the U of A campus over the course of their studies. These in-person sessions give students the opportunity to meet and collaborate with classmates and faculty face to face, as well as receive help with their dissertation and attend lectures given by scholars and practitioners in the field.

William Carey University in Mississippi offers a Doctor of Education in P-12 Educational Leadership through entirely online study. The EdD requires 33 credit hours of doctoral coursework and research, along with 30 hours transferred from an accredited EdS program. Students must complete a 15-credit Advanced Leadership Core, comprised of courses in Data Analysis for Instructional and Performance Improvement Using Technology Tools, Professional Educational Development for Adult Learners, Developing the Culture of Learning, Developing Advocacy for the School and Community, and Using Conflict Resolution and Mediation. The curriculum also includes two required research courses (Descriptive Statistics and Survey Design, and Advanced Applied Research), as well as 12 credits dedicated to applied research in educational administration.

Online EdD Programs that Accept EdS Transfer Credits

Along with the dedicated EdS to EdD pathways discussed above, many schools offer online program options that allow students who have earned an Educational Specialist or equivalent degree to apply some of their post-master’s credits toward completion of an EdD. For example, Central Michigan University has a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership students can pursue in one of four concentrations: K-12 Leadership, K-12 Curriculum, Higher Education Leadership, or Educational Technology. While the EdD requires a total of 63 credit hours, those with an EdS from an approved institution may be able to transfer up to 27 credits toward their doctorate. Students entering the online EdD programs at Appalachian State University, Belhaven University, or Regent University with an EdS can similarly waive a portion of the total credit requirements, depending on faculty approval.

Some schools even offer clearly defined EdS to EdD bridge options as part of their more traditional online Doctor of Education programs. At the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, students can pursue a doctorate online in Education Leadership with a specialization in International Education. While the full program requires a total of 62 credits, there is a 42-credit option for those who have completed a post-master’s Sixth-Year certificate program or Educational Specialist degree. Murray State University in Kentucky offers a similar pathway for EdS graduates, allowing them to waive up to half of the credit hours needed to earn their online Doctor of Education in P-20 and Community Leadership.

Note: These are only some of the options for students with an EdS looking to complete their doctorate online. Those interested in an online EdD program not mentioned on this page can always reach out to an admissions representative to inquire about their policies regarding transfer credits. It is possible that other programs may allow students to apply some or most of their EdS credits toward an EdD degree.