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If you’re an educator with a bachelor or master degree, an Education Specialist (EdS) program might offer an opportunity to invest in professional development and develop an education specialty. 

But what is an EdS degree, exactly? Is it a master or a doctoral degree? How long does it take to get one, and how could completing a program impact your career?

In this guide, we’re answering all of these questions and more to break down everything you need to know about the EdS career track, how it compares to other advanced degrees in education, and how an EdS degree can fit into a career track. 

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EdS Degrees: Everything You Need to Know

In short, it’s a postgraduate degree program designed to help educators develop a specialty in a specific discipline.1

To further explore the EdS degree, let’s answer a few frequently asked questions from educators. 

Is an EdS a master Degree?

An Education Specialist degree isn’t technically a master or a doctoral degree—it’s classified as a postgraduate professional degree. 

But, its classification outside of the master/doctorate dichotomy provides a few advantages for students:

  • It could provide a stepping stone – If you have a bachelor or master degree and are unsure if you’re ready for the rigor of a doctoral program, an EdS degree can serve as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. 
  • It may offer a specialty opportunity – While many master and doctoral programs provide general expertise in education, the EdS offers one of the education field’s only opportunities to develop in-depth specialty expertise. 
  • It could provide less demanding research requirements – master and doctoral students typically must complete a substantial research project to receive a diploma. But, most EdS programs don’t require a thesis or dissertation.

Are There Different Types of EdS Programs?

An Education Specialist program offers students the chance to develop knowledge in a specialty—so there are numerous EdS programs focusing on specific disciplines. 

EdS programs vary by:

  • Discipline – Some programs offer specialties related to specific disciplines, like school psychology
  • Application – Some EdS programs are designed to support administrative specialties, while others focus on instructional applications. 
  • Credentials – Some specialties qualify graduates to take advanced credential exams. For instance, some EdS school counseling programs in California prepare students for the state’s pupil personnel services (PPS) credential. 

But despite their differences, most EdS programs offer similar timelines and credit hour requirements, making them structurally uniform across disciplines.

It’s important to note that not every institution offers the same specialties. So, if you’re interested in one specific discipline, you may only have a few programs to choose from. 

How Long Does It Take to Get an EdS?

One of the appealing elements of EdS programs is that they typically take less time to complete than a doctoral degree (like a PhD or EdD). On average, it can take two to four years to complete the coursework required for the EdS degree. 

That said, the timeline can depend on:

  • Your institution – Individual colleges and universities feature unique curricula, so timelines across institutions can vary. 
  • Your specialty – Some EdS specialties require more in-depth subject matter knowledge or hands-on experience, which can impact degree timelines.
  • Your previous experience – Your degree timeline might depend on your previous educational experience; if you already have a master degree, for instance, you might qualify for an accelerated degree track.

What’s the Difference Between an EdS and MAE?

An educational specialist (EdS) program and a master of arts in education (MAE) program are two completely different degree tracks:

  • While MAE programs equip students with generalized education knowledge and skills, EdS programs help students develop a specialty.
  • Many MAE programs require students to complete a master thesis, while research requirements for EdS programs are typically more limited. 
  • Some MAE programs require that applicants have bachelor degrees in specific fields; EdS programs are typically open to all bachelor degrees. 

But, there can certainly be overlap between similar MAE and EdS programs. For instance, both an MAE in school psychology and an EdS in school psychology might prepare California educators for the PPS credential or careers in student mental health services. 

How Does an EdS Impact Your Teaching Credentials?

As noted above, some EdS specialties prepare students for specific teaching credentials, like California’s PPS credential.

In addition, EdS programs might prepare students for:

It’s important to note that if you currently hold a teaching certification in your state, an EdS program won’t change your need to maintain or renew that certification. You still need to meet your state’s instructional time and professional development requirements to renew your certificate. 

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What to Expect When You Enroll in an EdS Program

While EdS programs vary across specialties and institutions, students in any program can generally expect:

  • Robust instruction – Students will have  in-person, online, or hybrid classroom experiences, learning from qualified and expert faculty. 
  • Research opportunities – While many EdS programs don’t require a large research project like a master thesis or a doctoral dissertation, individual courses may require students to conduct research or develop a functional knowledge of existing research. 
  • Hands-on learning experiences – Many EdS programs help students hone their educational specialties by facilitating field experiences like student teaching, supervised lessons, and mentorship opportunities. 

Since an EdS is a postgraduate degree, students should expect the coursework to be more rigorous than a bachelor degree program but perhaps less rigorous than a doctoral program. 

What Can You Do with an EdS Degree?

Once you complete your EdS program how might your career change? Will you be more qualified for any specific positions? Let’s explore three different educational areas (leadership, instruction, mental health, and higher education) and explore how an EdS degree program might impact a student’s trajectory in each.

School and District Leadership

If you choose a leadership-related EdS specialty, you might be more qualified to pursue positions in school or district leadership, like:

  • Assistant principal
  • Principal
  • Assistant or deputy superintendent
  • Superintendent 

Alternatively, if you choose an EdS program with a strong curriculum focus, you might be more suited to school or district leadership roles related to:

  • Curriculum and standards development
  • Textbook selection
  • Student evaluation, assessments, and testing

An EdS program might offer potential career advancement opportunities for educational professionals already working in these areas. Alternatively, an EdS program might equip you with the skills you need to fulfill your duties as effectively as possible. 

Classroom Instruction

EdS programs also offer additional training to instructional staff, like:

  • Classroom teachers
  • Vocational educators
  • Special education instructors
  • Aides and staff who provide one-on-one instruction

Instructional staff looking to enhance their pedagogical knowledge or improve their overall teaching ability can benefit from an EdS program’s sheer professional development opportunities. Or, it might help them develop an instructional specialty that might qualify them for specialized state certification (and jobs in that discipline). 

In addition, classroom teachers looking to serve more niche student communities like special needs students or highly gifted students might use EdS opportunities to learn how to uniquely serve these types of students. 

But instructional staff looking to pivot to leadership, administrative, or counseling work could also turn to an EdS program for certification preparation, training, and overall career development. 

School Counseling and Psychology Program

Student mental health is a critical element in educational systems nationwide, and multiple EdS programs cater to this specialty. As you search for programs related to student mental health, you’ll likely discover EdS opportunities related to:

If you want to be a school psychologist or counselor, there are a few reasons why an educator might pursue an EdS degree in student mental health:

  • Knowledge enhancement – Classroom teachers and administrators might complete an EdS specializing in student mental health to enhance their working knowledge and support student outcomes more effectively. 
  • Career readiness – An EdS specializing in mental health might help prepare a future or existing school counselor for a career related to student counseling or psychology.
  • Career advancement – Current school mental health professionals might use an EdS opportunity to secure more knowledge and qualify for more advanced job opportunities. 

Higher Education

People currently working in (or aspiring to work in) higher education can also pursue EdS opportunities for:

  • Career preparation
  • Career advancement
  • Specialty development

While many instructional staff at colleges and universities have master and doctoral degrees already, faculty might choose to pursue an additional EdS degree to advance their existing knowledge or support their career trajectories. 

EdS degree specialties in education administration and instructional leadership can also be highly relevant for people working in these disciplines at the college or university level. 

Discover EdS Programs at Alliant International University

Whether you’re in graduate school looking to change your educational career trajectory, develop your professional skills, or prepare for a specific job in the education system, an educational specialist degree (EdS) can contribute to your overall career development. 

If you aspire to a career in student mental health or you’re already working in this field, consider one of our EdS programs specializing in this discipline:

Both offer the instructional excellence, hands-on training, and flexibility you need to advance your career in student mental health—whether you’re an education system veteran or a newcomer to the field. 

Learn more about our education specialist programs, or begin your application today!


  1. Botes, Niki. “FAQ: What Is an Education Specialist (EdS) Degree?” Indeed. May 2, 2023.…. Accessed June 25, 2023.

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