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How to Become an Educational Specialist

Learn how to become an educational specialist. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career as an educational specialist. View article »

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Educational Specialist?

Educational specialist normally refers to someone with a Specialist in Education degree (EdS), a graduate degree typically beyond the master's degree level. People already working in the education field can earn this degree in order to advance their careers to positions such as principal, curriculum director, or school office administrator. Individuals can also become school psychologists by completing an EdS program but these jobs typically require licensing. Most of these professionals work year round, as opposed to teachers who often have several months of vacation in the summer.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Master's required to enter EdS program
Degree Field Specialist in Education (EdS) with focus in educational leadership, school psychology, counseling, curriculum and instruction, adult education, technical college education, community college education, reading education
Licensure and/or Certification Teacher certification, principal certification, superintendent certification, school psychologist certification (depending on education specialist area)
Experience Three years of teaching and five years of combined work and extracurricular experience
Key Skills Patience, creativity, communication and people skills
Salary (2016)* $58,000 (mean salary for educational specialists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, GlassDoor.com*, Universities with EdS programs

The path to an EdS degree usually involves earning a bachelor's degree, obtaining teacher certification, acquiring work experience and then completing a master's degree program. EdS programs offer a variety of specialization areas so students can tailor their education to their career goals. These may include:

  • Educational leadership
  • School psychology
  • Counseling
  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Adult education
  • Technical college education
  • Community college education
  • Reading education

Education specialists need to be patient, creative, communicate well, and have people skills. In May 2016, GlassDoor.com reported a national average salary of $58,000 for educational specialists.

Steps to Become an Educational Specialist

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

People interested earning their EdS degrees usually begin by obtaining bachelor's degrees in education; majors may be in early childhood, elementary, secondary, or special education. The program can be completed in four years if the student is going full-time, and classes often include educational psychology, classroom management and teaching methods. The majority of programs require a student teaching internship that must be completed to graduate.

Someone who would like to become a school psychologist may only need a bachelor's degree to apply to an EdS program. The major could be in psychology, though some EdS programs only require a certain amount of coursework in psychology.

Step 2: Obtain Teaching Certification

All states require public school teachers to be licensed and most educational specialist programs also require applicants to hold valid state teaching licenses. To obtain a license, commonly called a certification, the individual must have a bachelor's degree and a supervised field experience including classroom teaching. In addition, the student must also pass the state licensing exam, which tests literacy, teaching ability, and subject knowledge. Individual states may have additional requirements. One can contact his or her state board of education for a detailed description of the requirements for teacher certification.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

The majority of educational specialist programs also require applicants to have up to five years of professional and extracurricular experience. Educational leadership EdS programs may request three years of full-time teaching. Furthermore, teaching experience is usually essential to move up to an educational specialist position.

Step 4: Earn a Teaching Master's Degree

A master's degree in education is often required to apply to EdS programs in curriculum development and educational leadership. Teaching experience and a current license are typically necessary to enroll. Students can focus in subject areas like social studies, reading, or science, and field-based learning is incorporated into the curriculum. Programs can generally be completed in two years, full-time; summer courses may be necessary. Graduates may be able to obtain advanced teaching licenses.

Aspiring school psychologists who have completed some relevant master's-level coursework may use this toward EdS requirements. Classes in special education and educational psychology may be applicable.

Step 5: Complete an EdS Program

Common types of EdS programs are curriculum development and instruction, school psychology, and educational administration. Adult education and reading education programs are also available at certain schools. Curriculum development programs may allow students to choose a specialization like elementary education, math education, science education, or bilingual education.

Education leadership and curriculum development programs generally consist of at least 30 credit hours. Coursework may include history of education, education philosophy, educational research, and curriculum evaluation. School psychology programs are often significantly longer, requiring up to 80 credits. Topics of study include psycho-educational assessment, academic intervention, and counseling. Additionally, a thesis, research project or internship is usually required for all programs. EdS programs often prepare graduates for becoming state-certified as principals, superintendents, or school psychologists.

Success Tip:

It can be helpful to join a professional organization such as the National Association of School Psychologists or the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Becoming a member of an organization can provide one with information about career trends and training opportunities. Some schools even host chapters of these professional organizations on campus.

Step 6: Get Licensed

Like teachers, school administrators typically must be licensed if they work at public schools; private schools do not uphold this regulation. School psychologists also must have official credentials, and the National Association of School Psychologists provides information on state-specific requirements.

Step 7: Keeping Up-to-Date with Continuing Education May Advance Your Career

Educational specialists must take professional development and continuing education courses to maintain licensure. These classes can introduce them to new initiatives, curriculums, and standards in their respective academic subjects as well as aiding them in creating a network of professionals in their fields.


To summarize, becoming an educational specialist requires:

  • Earning a bachelor's degree
  • Becoming a certified teacher
  • Gaining work experience
  • Earning graduate degrees
  • Earning additional licensure

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