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

Answer: Yes. There are several online Education Specialist (EdS) 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 EdS 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 EdS 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.


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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 EdS 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, online EdS 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.