Ed.S. vs Ed.D. Programs: What are Education Specialist Degrees? (2023)

What is an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) Degree?

An Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree is aimed at educators with a master’s degree who wish to gain advanced proficiency and skill sets in their chosen field.

  • Status: The Ed.S. is not a doctorate. Think of it as an intermediate degree between the master’s and the Ed.D. With the exception of School Psychology programs, most Ed.S. degrees are only 30-36 credits in length.
  • Purpose: Ed.S. degrees are built to be short and career-focused. To that end, Ed.S. programs will often be designed to help you a) qualify for a pay bump or leadership positions; and b) earn specific licenses, certifications, or endorsements.
  • Focus: Ed.S. coursework will focus on advanced topics & specialist knowledge. Unlike Ed.D. programs, Education Specialist degrees do not put a strong emphasis on applied research. And no dissertation is required.
  • Outcomes: You can use the Ed.S. to advance your understanding, move up the career ladder, and get a head-start on Ed.D. coursework.

Note: A number of universities now offer “bridge” programs that will allow you to transfer Ed.S. credits into a doctoral completion program (e.g. All But Dissertation Ed.D. Programs). If you’re interested in this path, just be sure that your Ed.S. is coming from a regionally accredited university with a solid reputation.

Education Specialist (Ed.S.) vs. Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Programs

Ed.S. vs. Ed.D.

OFFICIAL NAMEEducation Specialist (Ed.S.) or Educational SpecialistDoctor of Education (Ed.D.)
DEGREE EMPHASISAdvanced Proficiency in Your Chosen FieldProfessional Leadership & Applied Research
CONCENTRATIONSMultiple OptionsMultiple Options
  • Acquiring Knowledge in a Specific Discipline
  • Gaining Workplace & Leadership Skills
  • Preparing for Licensure, Certification, or Endorsements
  • Applied Research & Theory
  • Tackling Real-World Problems of Practice
  • Gaining Workplace & Leadership Skills
DISSERTATIONNo Dissertation; May Contain a Final Project, Culminating Experience, or ExamTraditional Dissertation, Dissertation in Practice (DiP) or Capstone Project
  • 1-2 Years
  • Often Part-Time
  • 2.5-7 Years
  • Often Part-Time
TYPICAL CAREER PATHProfessional Educational Leadership RolesProfessional Educational Leadership Roles

How to Choose Between an Ed.S. and Ed.D. Program

Whether you opt for an Ed.S. or Ed.D. will depend on a number of factors. Here are a few ways to simplify your decision-making process.

  • Time Commitment: Education Specialist programs are going to be shorter than education doctorates (e.g. 1-2 years vs. 2.5 years or more). However, committing to an extra year or so for the Ed.D. isn’t going to be a huge hardship. And you’ll have a more prestigious qualification.
  • Affordability: Because they have fewer credits, Ed.S. programs are always going to be cheaper than Ed.D. programs. But remember that Ed.D. candidates may qualify for unique scholarships and funding opportunities targeted at doctoral students.
  • Career Goals: If you need an Ed.S. for certification purposes or to qualify for a pay rise in your district, then your choice is simple. If you’re interested in educational leadership & administrative roles, an Ed.D. may be a better fit.
  • Recognition in Your Geographic Area: The Education Specialist degree is popular in certain areas (e.g. South/Midwest) and less well-known in other regions (e.g. New England). Chat to local mentors and colleagues about your plans—they’ll tell you whether an Ed.S. or Ed.D. is your best bet.

Benefits of an Ed.S. Degree

An Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree might be a good pick if you wish to:

  • Earn specific educator licenses, certifications, or endorsements in your state
  • Acquire a career-focused qualification in a short period of time
  • Avoid a lot of research coursework and the hassle of a dissertation
  • Leave your options open for further education (e.g. Ed.D. completion)

Benefits of an Ed.D. Degree

A Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) is the best choice if you want to:

(Video) DOCTOR OF EDUCATION VS. PHD! How to choose the best #gradprogram

  • Qualify for top-level educational leadership & administrative jobs that require a doctorate
  • Have the prestige of using “Doctor” in your title
  • Get stuck into a research topic that tackles real-world problems of practice in your workplace
  • Apply for doctoral scholarships & tuition deals

Bonus Round: Ed.S. vs. Ph.D. in Education

The Ed.S. is a program for active educators who wish to continue working in their field (e.g. teaching or administration).

  • If you’re considering a career in academia (e.g. Professor of Education) or high-level research roles, we recommend you apply for a Ph.D. in Education instead. A Ph.D. in Education is focused on original research and university teaching.
  • Some universities will accept Ed.S. coursework as transfer credits for the Ph.D. (e.g. UMass Amherst’s Ed.S. in Special Education), but it’s much simpler—and cheaper—to enroll in a fully funded Ph.D. program from the start.

Ed.S. Specializations

Education Specialist degrees are available in tons of concentrations, including elementary & secondary education, higher education, and organizational leadership. In order to help students qualify for certifications & endorsements, universities tend to offer a lot of Ed.S. specializations in the PreK-12 realm. We’ve covered some of the most popular options below, but there are plenty more out there!

Ed.S. in Educational Leadership/Administration

An Ed.S. in Educational Leadership or Administration will prepare you for senior-level leadership positions in educational administration (e.g. principal, superintendent, program director, curriculum supervisor, etc.).

  • A number of Ed.S. in Educational Leadership programs include preparation for superintendent or principal licensure. That’s why the curriculum will often contain an administrative internship.
  • Ed.S. programs in Higher Education Leadership are available, but an Ed.D. or Ph.D. is going to have more clout on your résumé. If you opt for the Ed.S., you may wish to consider earning a doctorate further down the line.

Ed.S. in School Psychology

Ed.S. programs in School Psychology are aimed at educators who wish to qualify for positions as K-12 school psychologists. In fact, some states include the Ed.S. as a minimum requirement in order to obtain a license. An Ed.S. will also meet the degree requirements necessary for national certification.

Ed.S. in Counseling or School Counseling

An Ed.S. in Counseling or School Counseling will set you up for advanced level positions in the field.

  • Professional Counselor: Thinking about becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)? A number of Ed.S. programs contain licensure preparation (e.g. University of Montana’s Ed.S. in Counselor Education). You’ll need a master’s degree in counseling or a closely related field to be eligible.
  • School Counselor: Interested in pursuing an Ed.S. in order to earn school counselor certification/licensure in your state? Check the program description. Some Ed.S. degrees will assist you with this process; some won’t. In certain cases, Ed.S. programs can also help current LPCs become school counselors.

It’s worth noting that the CACREP doesn’t accredit Ed.S. programs. But you’re welcome to see if universities with CACREP-Accredited Ph.D. & Ed.D. Programs in Counselor Education & Supervision also offer Education Specialist pathways.

(Video) Education Specialist Degree

Ed.S. in Special Education

An Ed.S. in Special Education is a good fit for special education teachers who aspire to leadership roles in a school, university, or district (e.g. Special Education Director) or consultancy roles. Graduates often qualify for advanced certification in special education—check individual program descriptions for full details.

Ed.S. in Reading & Literacy

An Education Specialist degree in Reading or Language & Literacy will help you qualify for specialist certifications or endorsements in reading education. Armed with expertise in the science of reading, Ed.S. graduates often serve as reading specialists, school-based literacy coaches, heads of department, curriculum developers, and more.

Ed.S. in Curriculum & Instruction

An Ed.S. in Curriculum & Instruction is worth considering if you’re interested in becoming a teacher trainer, department head, curriculum developer, or district leader for curriculum development. Teachers & administrators also choose this Ed.S. when they have experience in another PreK-12 area, but they want to improve their understanding of the field.

How Education Specialist (Ed.S.) Programs Work

Ed.S. Admission Requirements

  • Master’s Degree: M.Ed. or a master’s degree in a relevant field.
  • Basic Licensure or Certification: Ed.S. candidates often need to have a baseline teaching or administrative license. Requirements will vary according to the Ed.S. specialization.
  • Relevant Work Experience: Universities are typically looking for Ed.S. applicants who are employed as teachers or educational leaders; 3 years of educational leadership experience is often desired for administrative Ed.S. programs.
  • GPA: The standard minimum is 3.0 on all your previous graduate work. This may be higher at more prestigious schools (e.g. 3.25-3.5).
  • GRE & MAT Scores:Standardized test scores may or may not be required—each school is different. GRE scores will sometimes be waived if you have a strong GPA.
  • Letters of Recommendation: You’ll usually need at least 2 letters of recommendation. Many schools will ask for 3.
  • Additional Requirements: You could also be expected to supply a résumé, personal statement, and writing sample.

Ed.S. Plan of Study

With the exception of School Psychology programs, Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degrees are intended to be short & sweet. You’ll usually be looking at:

  • Credits: 30 credits (e.g. 10 courses), 33 credits (e.g. 11 courses), or 36 credits (e.g. 12 courses).
  • Length: 16-24 months on a part-time schedule (e.g. 2-3 courses per semester, including summer). Universities will often allow you to extend the length if you have other commitments.

Ed.S. Curriculum

Ed.S. programs often resemble Ed.D. programs that have been stripped of heavy research coursework, dissertation prep, and dissertation completion.

  • In an Ed.S., you’ll be expected to tackle advanced coursework in theory and practice, but you won’t usually be diving into detailed research work.
  • Ed.S. courses might cover areas such as practical matters (e.g. education policy), career skills (e.g. school leadership), certification or licensure prep, and specific issues to do with your field.
  • Ed.S. degrees usually contain an internship or fieldwork. Some programs will contain an action research project, but it won’t be as demanding as an Ed.D. dissertation or capstone.

Online Education Specialist (Ed.S.) Programs

Are Online Ed.S. Programs Available?

Yes. A number of Ed.S. programs are available in a 100% online format, with no campus visits required. Keep in mind that you may need to complete internships or fieldwork in your local area.

(Video) Should I get a Ph.D. or an Ed.D.? | Kathleen Jasper

If you’re willing to expand your search parameters to hybrid Ed.S. programs (e.g. Indy State’s Ed.S. in School Administration), you’re going to have a lot more choice. You may also be able to choose a public university program in your area that offers great in-state tuition rates.

Online Ed.S. Degrees & Certification/Licensure

Interested in earning an Ed.S. in order to qualify for specific certifications or licenses? Before you choose an online program that’s outside of your state, check with the Ed.S. program coordinator. You need to be certain that your degree will be accepted by your state licensing body.

The safest option is to pick an Online Ed.S. that’s offered by an accredited, brick & mortar university in your home state. These programs are often designed to meet local certification & licensure needs (e.g. FSU’s Online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership leading to Florida Educational Leadership Certification).

Top 5 Schools with Online Education Specialist (Ed.S.) Programs

1. University of Virginia

UVA’s Online Ed.S. in Curriculum & Instruction is an excellent pick for mid-level educators (e.g. 4+ years of experience) who want to become PreK-12 teacher leaders, curriculum specialists, or instructional coaches. We particularly like the fact that it allows you to choose 2 areas of emphasis. That means you can customize the program to suit your career interests (e.g. ESL, gifted education, instructional technology, etc.).

2. Florida State University

FSU has two pathways for the Online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership—one leads to Florida Principalship certification and one doesn’t. But both options cover useful topics such as teacher leadership development, data-driven school improvement, resource management, and practical experiences. The certification track contains an 80-hour internship.

3. University of Florida

UF’s Online Education Specialist programs come in a range of intriguing concentrations, including an:

(Video) EDDEDS Paths

4. University of Kentucky

At UK, students can choose between the Online Ed.S in Teacher Leadership, with the added value of graduate certificates in specific topics (e.g. instructional coaching), or the Online Ed.S. in Principal Preparation for Level I & Level II certification. The Online Ed.S. in Principal Preparation is targeted at Kentucky school leaders—students have the option to attend Next Generation Leadership Academy days throughout the year.

5. University of Arkansas

At U of A, you have a choice between the Online Ed.S. in Curriculum & Instruction, with 3 career-focused coursework blocks (e.g. Special Education Program Administrator), and an Online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership with a 100% pass rate on the School Superintendent Assessment (SSA) exam. Both programs are 100% online.

Ed.S. Degrees: Practical Considerations

How Much Does an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) Degree Cost?

The cheapest Ed.S. degrees tend to cost between $8,000-$10,000 in total tuition. That’s approximately $267 per credit for the most inexpensive options. A large number of Ed.S. programs fall in the range of $10,000-$20,000.

Before you make a decision:

  • Explore all the Ed.S. options offered by public universities in your home state. In-state tuition rates will be pretty cheap in some areas (e.g. South, Midwest, etc.).
  • Ask the Ed.S. program coordinator for a sample budget. This should include tuition, mandatory fees, one-off costs, and any additional extras.
  • Have a look at our rankings of the Cheapest Online Ed.D. Programs in the country. There are a few options that cost less than $20,000. You could decide to bite the bullet and simply earn a doctorate.

What Can I Do With an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) Degree?

Many students pursue an Ed.S. in order to qualify for specific job titles or a pay raise. Popular career paths for Ed.S. graduates include:

  • Superintendent
  • Principal
  • Instructional Specialist
  • District Consultant
  • School Counselor
  • Athletic Director
  • Central Office Administrator
  • PK-12 Dean
  • Department Chair
  • Education Advisor
  • Education Consultant
  • Program Director
  • School Psychologist
  • School Counselor

What Certifications & Licenses Can I Earn With an Ed.S. Degree?

A lot of Education Specialist programs are set up for certification & licensure preparation. That means the choices are pretty endless! You’ll see Ed.S. programs that offer assistance with:

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  • PreK-12 Administrative Licenses (e.g. Principal, Superintendent, Administrator, etc.)
  • Specialist Certifications (e.g. School Psychologist)
  • Subject-Specific Endorsements (e.g. Reading, ESL, Gifted Education, Math Education, etc.)
  • Upgrades to Teaching & Teacher Leadership Certification

If you’re considering an Online Ed.S. from an out-of-state university, check with the Ed.S. program coordinator. You’ll be responsible for ensuring that your online degree meets state licensing & certification requirements.

Is an Ed.S. Degree Worth It?

The answer will depend on your short-term and long-term goals. Generally speaking, an Ed.S. will be worth the money if you:

  • Wish to earn a specific certification, endorsement, or license
  • Want to qualify for a pay increase in your district
  • Can’t afford tuition for the Ed.D. at this time
  • Qualify for tuition reimbursement, education benefits, or employee scholarships at your place of work


Is a specialist the same as a Masters? ›

Specialist degree in the United States. In the United States, the Specialist's degree is hierarchically above the master's degree and below the Doctorate.

What does EdS mean degree? ›

An education specialist degree (EdS degree) is an advanced degree for teachers who want to keep working while gaining specialized proficiency in a particular area of interest, such as administrative leadership, education technology, or early childhood.

Is an Education Specialist degree higher than a masters? ›

An EdS is a postgraduate degree unique to the field of education, which is considered more advanced than a master's degree but generally requires less coursework than a PhD or EdD.

Is an Education Specialist degree worth it? ›

Is an EdS Worth it? Yes, an Education Specialist (Ed. S.) is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 5% job growth in education, training, and library occupations over the next 10 years.

Is a specialist degree the same as a doctorate? ›

An education specialist degree, or EdS, is an advanced practitioner course that goes beyond the master's degree. It is designed for educators seeking to continue their studies but are not interested in a doctorate program.

Is an EdS degree considered a doctorate? ›

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.

What is a specialized degree? ›

A specialized degree is both technically and professionally oriented to provide the best knowledge and skill set that a student needs. A specialization deepens knowledge of a chosen area of study, focusing and directing towards utilizing maximum learning potential.

Is a specialist degree considered a professional degree? ›

The education specialist degree is a professional degree. As the title suggests, it is a highly specialized degree for education majors.

Is a specialist degree a professional degree? ›

An education specialist degree, an Ed. S., is a terminal professional degree that is higher than a master's degree but below a doctorate degree.

What is specialist education? ›

As a service we endeavour to offer a wide range of support, advice and training opportunities for schools and settings to enable them to deliver high quality support for individual children to ensure that the people who work with them and their families are equipped to understand and meet their individual needs.

Is a masters in education the same as a Masters in teaching? ›

The primary distinction is that the master's in teaching focuses more directly on teaching and classroom management. In contrast, the master's in education is a broader degree, applicable to a classroom career but also to jobs in administration, curriculum development, and education policy.

What is an instructional specialist? ›

1. INSTRUCTIONAL SPECIALIST. GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES. Responsible for providing an instructional program designed to assist teachers with developing skills in the preparation of effective learning (lesson) plans, presentation of content, classroom management, and school and community communications.

Is a specialist degree considered a professional degree? ›

The education specialist degree is a professional degree. As the title suggests, it is a highly specialized degree for education majors.

Is a specialist degree a professional degree? ›

An education specialist degree, an Ed. S., is a terminal professional degree that is higher than a master's degree but below a doctorate degree.

What is a specialized degree? ›

A specialized degree is both technically and professionally oriented to provide the best knowledge and skill set that a student needs. A specialization deepens knowledge of a chosen area of study, focusing and directing towards utilizing maximum learning potential.

Is Russian specialist diploma equivalent to a Master's degree? ›

The Russian Specialist Diploma

Your Russian Specialist Diploma is usually equivalent to a Master's Degree in the U.S. In Russia it qualifies you for professional positions and doctoral programs.

What is the difference between EdS and EdD? ›

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 ...

Is an EdD called a Doctor? ›

An EdD, or Doctor of Education, is a professional doctorate best suited for experienced educators and mid- to senior-level working professionals who want to lead and implement change within their organization.

What is the difference between major and specialist? ›

Specialist: This program type is the greatest concentration on one subject area. More than half of the credits taken (9-16) will be in this academic area. Major: A major consists of around one third (6-9) of the total credits. Minor: This is the smallest program type at just 4 credits.

What is specialist education? ›

As a service we endeavour to offer a wide range of support, advice and training opportunities for schools and settings to enable them to deliver high quality support for individual children to ensure that the people who work with them and their families are equipped to understand and meet their individual needs.

What are specialist courses? ›

Specialist care training courses can provide the skills and knowledge necessary to complete a range of specialist tasks, including the management of instances relating to conflict or challenging behaviour. Specialist services in the area of care cover physical and mental attributes that affect individuals.

What is half a master's degree called? ›

Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip)

A postgraduate diploma is a shorter postgraduate study option that includes challenging masters level content but without the dissertation or major project. A PGDip typically takes approximately 15 months to complete if you're studying part-time and is worth 120 academic credits.

What is specialized master degree? ›

Specialized master programs are tailor-made for students who want to specialize in a particular niche in order to meet the growing needs and demands of the market. The specialized master program has a lot of advantages on the plate to offer.

What is a specialist degree in Russia? ›

Unlike Bachelor's Degrees, Specialist Progrmmes are more focused on practical work in the selected industry. These programmes are offered to individuals who have education equivalent to Russian general secondary or vocational secondary education. The course is designed for 5 years.

What are dual degree programs at Upenn? ›

Penn's specialized dual degree programs offer students the opportunity to pursue an integrated curriculum jointly offered by two schools within the university and incorporating interdisciplinary course work. Students receive two degrees upon completion of the specialized curricula.

Is specialist diploma same as degree? ›

Specialist Diplomas, also known as higher diploma courses, are designed with proper practical exposure in chosen fields and have an entry requirement of at least a diploma. It is on the same level as an associate degree or certificate/advanced certification but below a bachelor's degree.

Is specialist diploma same as diploma? ›

Advanced Diploma (AD) and Specialist Diploma (SD) courses enable existing diploma or degree holders to deepen their knowledge and to develop specialisations within their trained disciplines. SD courses have a shorter duration of between 240 and 300 hours and can be completed within a year.

Are Russian degrees recognized in the US? ›

Yes, your degree will almost certainly be recognized, but you probably will not get what you want.


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