Education Specialist in Educational Leadership

Program Objectives

The Education Specialist Degree (EdS) is a practitioner’s degree for graduate students who have earned their Master's degree.  Many states require this degree for Superintendent Licensure, however, Montana does not. This degree is particularly valuable for students who see themselves as school system leaders in medium sized to larger school systems. Admission into the Educational Leadership program is required.

Program Flow

The purpose of the EdS Degree is to provide skills and knowledge required for District Superintendent and central office leadership. In addition to improving skill and knowledge, it is the goal of the program to create strong networks among students to support effective practices.  To that end, classes are generally offered in a blended format which combines face-to-face delivery and distance delivery. An appropriate balance of theory and practice is a strong consideration in planning for the content of the classes. Typically, the Superintendent Core (EDLD 620, EDLD 645, EDLD 650, EDLD 655) is offered every summer beginning online in mid-May and on campus for two weeks in June.

Program of Study

Specialist Core24
Leadership and Organizational Theory
The School Superintendent
Supervision & Instructional Leadership
Personnel and Collective Bargaining in MT
MT Finance & Facilities
MT Legal & Policy Studies
Education Policy & Politics
and elective courses appropriate to area of specialization with the approval of Graduate Advisor
Field Experience3
Field Experience in Educational Leadership (Field Experience may be waived based on experience and goals)
Professional Paper3
Professional Paper & Project
Total Credits30


Candidates will have a three member committee. Candidates should work closely with their committee chair to prepare and submit a program of study immediately upon admission to the program. The chair and one other member must be from the Educational Leadership faculty. The third committee member must have academic credentials in the area of the student's program of study and be approved by the Head of the Department of Education and Dean of The Graduate School.


The student should carefully select his/her chair after thorough conversations with the approved Educational Leadership faculty members. The chair will serve as the student's primary advisor. The committee, as a whole, is subject to the approval of the Head of the Department of Education. Chairs and members of a student's committee are subject to change. In addition, revision to the program of study can be made during the course of study with the chair's approval.

Comprehensive Examination/Professional Paper

The EdS student will develop a professional paper as his/her summative experience. The professional paper will address a specific issue and contextualized problem of practice using appropriate theory and research-based best practices. Specifically the professional paper will: 1) frame the problem; 2) review pertinent research literature; 3) identify appropriate methods used to demonstrate the extent of the problem and the efficacy of the solution employed; and 4) provide recommendations grounded in research to solve the problem.

Mode of Course Delivery

Doctoral level courses in Educational Leadership are offered in a blended format with required face to face meetings as well as online work.  

Additional Education Specialist Requirements

The Education Specialist degree must meet the minimum requirements under the For Doctoral Students section on found in the departmental website with the following two exceptions: 1) no dissertation is required, and 2) courses over seven years old may not be included on the graduate program of study.

Additional requirements for the EdS degree are available through the Department of Education. All EdS degree candidates are expected to be familiar with both departmental and The Graduate School's requirements. Credits earned during a master's program may not be used toward the EdS program of study. 

While many courses for the Education Specialist degree are the same as those for the EdD and PhD degrees, it must be clearly understood that admission to one program does not imply admission to the other. EdS students must formally apply to the EdD or PhD program as well as be in good standing with The Graduate School, and not failed the doctoral comprehensive exam.

Contact Information

Dr. Jason Cummins, Assistant Professor and Program Leader

Dr. Bill Ruff, Professor 
406-994-4182 Email:

Application Process for the EdS in Educational Leadership

*Prior to applying to the Educational Leadership program, applicants must hold a Montana Class III Admin License or equivalent, with experience as a principal.

Applicants are required to complete the online application and submit the following documentation via the Graduate School Online Application System

  1. Completed Graduate School Application
  2. Academic Transcripts: Applicants must provide official transcripts verifying all Bachelors degree and Masters degree coursework (as well as confirmation of bachelor’s and master's degree earned) from the applicant's certifying university. Unofficial transcripts may be uploaded during the application process. Official electronic transcripts may be emailed directly from the Institution to or  Transcripts may also be mailed to the Department of Education Graduate Programs Office, 215 Reid Hall, PO Box 172880, Montana State University, 59717. Transcripts from a degree awarded through MSU do not need to be provided. NOTE: We require an undergraduate and graduate GPA of at least 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale). Transcripts will be evaluated for rigor and academic fit. 
  3. Personal Essay/Self-Nomination Letter: The self-nomination letter should be 2 pages, double-spaced, and focus on the following
    1. Your development and growth as an educator, including professional development;
    2. Your contributions to the school and district;
    3. Your development as a leader. Specific examples are needed that clarify how you have grown as a leader and your leadership activities; and
    4. Your specific goals, and why the EdS would be of benefit to you/your school.
  4. Resume/Curriculum Vitae
  5. Three (3) letters of recommendation: Candidates must meet the following criteria for one of the three letters of recommendation
    1. At least one of the three letters must be from the candidate's PRESENT direct supervisor. That means a school district administrator who (a) is currently administratively certified by Montana Office of Public Instruction or other equivalent state agency; AND (b) currently acts as direct supervisor for the candidate, and has done so for a minimum period of one semester. If for any reason you cannot secure a letter from your present supervisor, then:
    2. At least one of the letters of recommendation must be from a PREVIOUS direct supervisor. That means a school district administrator who is (a) currently certified by the Montana Office of Public Instruction or other equivalent state agency; AND (b) has, at some point preceding the date of this application, acted as direct supervisor for the candidate for a minimum period of one semester. Any applicant who does not have a letter from a present direct supervisor must indicate in the self-nomination letter the specific reason(s) why they were unable to secure a letter of recommendation from their present supervisor.
  6. For International Applicants ONLY: Please visit the Graduate School International Application Process website for application submission information. 

Application Deadlines

Below is the deadline by which all application materials for the Education Specialist Programs in Educational Leadership must be submitted via the online application system. In order for a graduate degree application to be reviewed for admission, all required application documents must be submitted prior to the department's posted deadline. Applications received after the deadline may be reviewed for acceptance on a case-by-case basis.

  • Fall Semester:  April 1st
  • Summer Semester:  April 1st

* An early review deadline of February 1st has been set for those applicants wanting to be considered for Graduate Assistantships. Applications must be complete for an early review. A student must be accepted to an education program before requesting a Department of Education Graduate Assistantship.  Graduate Assistantships require students to work on campus 19 hours per week.  For further information regarding teaching assistantships visit webpage:

Admission Process

Complete applications will be reviewed by the Graduate Admissions Committee. Once a decision has been made the application will be forwarded to The Graduate School for final administrative processing.  Please note that the application review process will begin at the close of the application deadline and not before.

Contact Information

Graduate Program Assistant
PO Box 172880, Reid Hall 215
Department of Education, Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717-2880 
Phone: 406-994-6786 Email: