Graduate Programs in Education Assessment: Degree Options

Oct 12, 2019

Essential Information

Programs in the education assessment field are offered at the graduate certificate, master's and doctoral level. Generally programs will require students to possess a bachelor's degree and have completed courses in statistics and education. Some programs are available online.

In an educational assessment graduate certificate program, students learn about designing and evaluating standardized tests for kindergarten to high school. Coursework in this program usually includes courses in test design theory and student learning types. A master's degree program in educational assessment is often offered to those who have experience in teaching. This type of program will focus on the research skills needed to design a test. At the doctoral degree level, educational assessment is incorporated into educational psychology programs. Specializations are sometimes available, in the areas of educational measurement, statistics, and research. An educational psychology doctoral degree will allow students to prepare for research-based careers in the field. Curriculum in the program has an overall focus on evaluation and research, with internships often required, as well as the completion of a dissertation and successful scores on exams.

Graduate Certificate in Educational Assessment

Post-baccalaureate certificate programs in educational assessment teach educators to design and evaluate standardized tests to administer to students, particularly those in kindergarten through high school. Participants learn to create assessments that measure learning, motivation and information retention. Programs sometimes offer practical classroom experience.

Applicants need to hold a bachelor's degree to qualify for admission. Some programs admit students who haven't completed previous coursework in education or statistics, but knowing about these subjects can be an advantage.

The coursework in certificate programs emphasizes topics in statistics, teaching theory and school administration. Most programs include around 18 credit hours of instruction. The following is a limited list of typical courses:

  • Educational assessment design theory
  • Student learning analysis
  • School program assessment
  • Student testing programs
  • Balanced assessment

Master's Degree in Educational Assessment

A limited number of schools offer Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) programs in fields related to educational assessment (such as educational evaluation) that emphasize the research and analytical skills needed to design, administer and score educational tests. Students learn about assessing intelligence, career aptitude, motivation and achievement. Programs also cover the qualitative and quantitative methods used to analyze assessment data and advise educators and students of the results.

Incoming students often need to have at least two years of experience working as certified teachers. Applicants also need strong analytical and mathematical skills.

The classes in M.A. and M.S. programs teach educators the theoretical ideas used to create, administer and analyze written exams, essay topics and other types of assessments. Students also learn research and statistical skills. The subjects below are usually covered:

  • Qualitative educational research
  • Quantitative educational research
  • Educational software
  • Learning disability assessment
  • Gifted and talented assessment

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology

Ph.D. programs train candidates to evaluate students' learning abilities and behavior, and they also introduce the idea of educational accountability; this concept involves an in-depth assessment of the academic programs themselves, as well as the efficacy of instruction.

These programs are often combined with master's-level programs in educational psychology, and students earn their M.A. or M.S. en route to attaining their Ph.D. A bachelor's degree in a psychology or education topic is typically required for enrollment.

Doctoral degree candidates take courses, conduct original research, participate in school internships, sit for comprehensive exams and write a dissertation on their area of interest within educational assessment; for example, a candidate might study and write about the best evaluation practices for gifted students in math. Course topics often include the following:

  • Neuropsychology
  • Summative educational evaluation
  • Item response theory
  • Nonparametric statistics
  • Differentiated instruction

Popular Career Options

Most people who earn either a graduate certificate or master's degree in educational assessment work in primary or secondary schools, but graduates can work independently or in school districts. Listed below are some popular career options:

  • High school principal
  • Special education teacher
  • Assessment consultant

Employment Outlook

Most positions obtained by graduates of Ph.D. programs in educational psychology are research-focused, with potential job titles including educational research director and standardized test developer. Academia is another possibility; graduates might find jobs as university or college professors in a school's education or psychology department. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for postsecondary education teachers was $64,780 in 2018. In that same year, those teaching psychology at the postsecondary level earned a median salary of $76,710 (

Certification and Continuing Education Information

People working as public school administrators or teachers need to meet state certification requirements. Teachers generally need to earn at least a bachelor's degree, complete a supervised internship and pass a written competency exam. Administrators must also pass an exam and complete an internship, but they are typically required to hold at least a master's degree.

Some schools offer doctoral degree programs in educational leadership that include courses in educational assessment. Students usually don't have the option to specialize in the field, but they can learn the basic theories behind measuring students' intelligence, aptitude and motivation. Another option is a Ph.D. program in educational psychology, which may offer a specialized track relevant to educational assessment.

Whether students choose to pursue a graduate certificate, master's degree, or doctoral degree in the field of education assessment, they can expect their programs to be research oriented. Graduates often find careers as administrators or teachers.

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