What Degree is Right for You?

Which Program is the Best Fit for You?

All of Education Policy Studies' programs are highly ranked, robust, and have a lot to offer.  If you are interested in issues facing colleges and universities, you should check out the Higher Education Program.  Maybe you're more interested in educational theory or the intersection of education and public policy.  If that sounds like you, you should take a look at our Educational Theory and Policy Program.  Are you a current educator looking to earn your Principal Certificate or a current principal looking to earn your Superintendent's Letter of Eligibility?  Or, are you interested in educational decision making, school finance, or how schools are organized?  If you are then you should visit the Educational Leadership Program.   Maybe you want to look at how American education compares to the rest of the world.  If that is more to your interests then you should check out the Comparative and International Education Program.  Are you an undergraduate student or about to be an undergraduate student who wants to work work in education but doesn't want to be a classroom teacher?  If that's you then you should take a look at our Education and Public Policy Major/Minor.

Is a Master's Degree Right for You?

A  Master's Degree is a great way to extend the skills you honed during your undergraduate experience and combine your skills with your experience in the field.  If you are a K-12 teacher who wants to broaden your leadership potential, expand your knowledge about schools, teachers, and student learning, and renew your passion to work on behalf of public education as you meet professional development goals, the Educational Leadership Master's program is for you.  Our program offers degree programs that can be taken online or on campus.  Using the general educational program as a foundation, this emphasis in the School Leadership M.Ed. program is geared towards students who are interested in being school leaders. Embedded in this program is the Pennsylvania principal certification coursework.   The  Teacher Leadership M.Ed. program is geared towards students who are interested in being departmental level leaders and mentors. This emphasis does not lead to principal certification and is created and defined through the interaction of student and adviser.

The M.Ed. in Higher Education program at Penn State offers students excellent, relevant preparation for principled and effective service in numerous areas of college and university life. In an effort to respond well to a variety of student interests and needs, the degree can be pursued in several ways giving students a high degree of flexibility.

The master's degree in Comparative and International Education, conferred on students who have completed a well-balanced, unified, and complete program of study, includes the preparation and acceptance of a high-quality master's thesis or master's paper, depending on the student's graduate major program. The master's degree in CIED is a dual-title degree and is given only to students who are admitted to master's programs at Penn State.


Is a Doctoral Degree Right for You?

A doctoral degree is a good fit for students who want to heavily engage in research and generate new knowledge. In Educational Leadership, we are proud to offer two doctoral degrees: the D.Ed. and the Ph.D.  In general, the D.Ed. emphasizes professional practice in educational leadership (students are generally go on to be Principals and Superintendents), while the Ph.D. emphasizes research and scholarly work (students generally go on to be researchers, college faculty). 

The doctoral programs in Higher Education at Penn State are rated among the best in the country every year.  Not only is this the result of compelling and diverse coursework, but due to the exceptional caliber of the program’s faculty; they are leading scholars in the field (please refer to faculty pages for additional information).  In addition, exemplary doctoral programs have exemplary alumni, and the graduates of Penn State’s doctoral programs are second to none.  Positions of graduates range, for example, from Director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education to a faculty member in the University of Michigan’s Higher Education Program, to Chair of the Educational Leadership Department at Florida State University.  Our graduates are college presidents, top administrators in state-wide coordinating agencies, and vice presidents and deans of colleges and universities.  Others are involved in national foundations and associations.  Additionally, the publication activity of our graduates is noteworthy and extensive, and more than a few are leading scholars in areas of higher education. 

Current students are encouraged to pursue academic work through core and specialized higher education courses, as well as via a minor (or cognate) within other academic fields at Penn State, including policy analysis, marketing, organizational behavior, sociology, educational psychology, women’s studies, and the like.  A majority of doctoral students are also involved directly in extant research efforts being conducted by faculty members on a variety of topics.  All of these connections emerge at the intersection of students’ interests and faculty members’ tutelage, and contribute to a robust and engaging educational experience.

Both Ph.D. and D.Ed. programs in higher education at Penn State require students to develop strong analytical and critical thinking skills.  Both programs of study engage students in a breadth of relevant theoretical and empirical knowledge, including the contributions of other disciplines/fields to further and more fully understand the complex issues within colleges and universities.  Through coursework, individualized research, collegial networks, and more, Ph.D. and D.Ed. students alike gain a deeper understanding of a particular area of inquiry through thoughtful, rigorous engagement.  In addition, regardless of the doctoral degree that a student pursues, all higher education doctoral students are eligible for university funding.

Is an Online Master's Degree Right for You?

Penn State World Campus is the second largest campus in The Pennsylvania State University system with nearly 20,000 students. Penn State World Campus provides an accessible, quality Penn State education online to address the needs of individuals who seek a higher education beyond the traditional campus experience. Partnering with Penn State's academic units and colleges allows Penn State World Campus to offer more than 150 degree and certificate programs developed and taught by Penn State faculty.

Quality educational leadership is vital to the overall success of an individual school or school system. Strong academic leaders are key to high-performing schools; they help orchestrate school reform, and serve as motivators to fellow teachers and students.  To help you prepare for your new role as an education leader.  

Our higher education master's program is flexible. Many of our students are working professionals and choose to take one course at a time. Since almost all of our courses are offered in every term (fall, spring, and summer), other students choose to take two courses each term and complete their degree in five terms (a little over a year and a half) . This program offers students a broad introduction to careers, policies, administration, history, organization, and evaluation of postsecondary education programs and activities. A higher education master's is useful for entry-level professionals in a variety of administrative areas, those aspiring to become mid-level administrators of college and university offices, as well as practitioners in a variety of administrative functions desiring further professional development and career enhancement.

Is a Certification Right for You?

If you are looking to further your career without diving too deep in academia, a certification program might be for you.  

Our Principal Certification Program is aligned with the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership standards (PIL), as well as the standards of CAEP (Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation) formerly known as the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Penn State's World Campus Graduate Certificate for Principalship site provides more information. The program has three important features: a standardized Principal Certification Program is offered so that all students receive a consistent, high quality, and uniform program, the specific designated courses cover all national and PIL (Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership) standards with all course assignments and student results aligned with these standards, a student management system using an electronic portfolio (Taskstream) is utilized to allow all students to maintain a record of their progress through the Principal Certification program. This provides documentary evidence of student proficiency in all related standard elements, an evaluation of student progress, and an evaluation of program outcomes.

Our program preparing students for the Letter of Eligibility for the Superintendent/Assistant Superintendent/ Intermediate Unit Director has been evaluated by NCATE/ELCC and is in compliance with their current requirements as well as all requirements by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The Letter of Eligibility program is offered only at University Park.

Not Sure What Degree You Want?

Figuring out what type of degree you want can be a difficult choice and it takes a lot of reflection and thought before you can decide.  But there are a few things you can think about as you make your decision.  If you are looking to expand your skill set, we recommend one of our masters programs.  If you are looking to advance in your education career, we recommend one of our certification programs.  If you are looking to start or further your academic career, we recommend you take a look at our highly ranked doctoral programs.  If you are looking to combine your educational interests with the law or compare the U.S. system to the world we recommend you take a look at our duel degree programs in CIED or a joint Ph.D/J.D. program.

What Are Your Interests?

Deciding if you want to earn your Master's Degree or Doctorate can be a hard decision and many of us don't know where to start.  Sometimes, the best place to start is to identify what you are interested in and start your journey from there.  Here is a list of topics you can study and work on with us.  While this list is large, it is not exhaustive, and if you don't see your interest here please let us know by contacting Education Leadership, Education Theory and Policy, or Higher Education programs and we can see which faculty member would align with what you're interested in.

Are you interested in: