Skip to content
Arkansas State University
866-621-8096 866-621-8096
Arkansas State University

Common Questions: School Superintendent Education Specialist Degree

Common Questions: School Superintendent Education Specialist Degree

Earning an Education Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership focused on Superintendency is often the final step before becoming a superintendent in the public school system — though as an educator, you know that the learning never stops.

If you've been wondering what it takes to get your Education Specialist Degree for school superintendents, follow the links below for the answers to your questions.

What Is an Ed.S. Focused on School Superintendency?

In an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership program focused on district-level administration, you'll build on the skills you gained from your master's education and years of experience in the field. This type of degree prepares educators for the unique role of school superintendent.

District Level Leadership or Administration

The term "superintendency" itself may cause confusion, but the degree is tailored for those interested in becoming school superintendents. The degree may also go by other names such as Ed.S. in District Level Leadership or Administration, School Superintendent Specialist Degree, Ed.S. Educational Leadership: Superintendent, or Ed.S. in Educational Administration Superintendent Preparation. If you run into any uncertainty or need clarification, check the information on the school's website for clarification or contact admissions.

The Arkansas State Ed.S. in Superintedency online program focuses on the public school system and the competencies school leaders need in this environment. It is specifically designed for educators who wish to become district leaders.

What's the Difference Between an Ed.S. and an Ed.D.?

What's the Difference Between an Ed.S. and an Ed.D.?

An Ed.S., or Education Specialist, is a post-master's degree for educators with a specific job in mind. The Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency, was designed for those who wish to pursue a school superintendent position. Students learn a specific set of job skills related to that role. This degree doesn't require a dissertation or thesis, so candidates can finish it in a shorter amount of time than it would take to complete a doctoral program.

An Ed.D., or Doctor of Education, is also a post-master's degree for educators who want to move forward in their careers. Unlike the Ed.S., this degree program often focuses more on research and less on specific job skills. To earn this degree, students must complete an original research project in the form of a dissertation or thesis.

What Will I Learn in a School Superintendent Degree Program?

You will gain the specific skills and knowledge to take on a role as superintendent for a public school district. This program also covers advanced educational competencies that district leaders need.

Dr. Annette R. Hux, Associate Professor at A-State
I want to make sure the educators in the courses continue to be successful in their careers by building on the knowledge they have. The learners will be able to take the project-based learning activities and go out in the field and apply the skill in a productive manner. The candidates will also consider current research, along with the professional judgement and experience of educators.

Which Subjects Will I Study in a School Superintendent Education Specialist Degree Program?

Which Subjects Will I Study in a School Superintendent Education Specialist Degree Program

In an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership Superintendency program, you'll take a variety of courses, covering subjects from financial management to current issues in the American education system.

The A-State Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency, consists of eight classes as well as a supervised field study and internship. These eight courses cover a variety of subjects:

  • School Business Management: This course focuses on the financial aspects of leading a school district. You will learn the systems and procedures for accounting, budget planning, auditing, purchasing, bonding, and other accounting issues as they relate to managing the business of a school district.
  • School District Administration: This course examines effective performance patterns for school district superintendents and takes a deep dive concerning the relationships superintendents build with stakeholders, such as the board of education, school personnel and the local community.
  • School Personnel Administration: Students in this course explore all aspects of personnel management, including professional and ethical responsibilities as well as the selection, retention and promotion practices in a school district. The class also covers salary schedules and benefits.
  • Evaluation Education Program and System: This class teaches students how to analyze and evaluate various programs for schools and the school system as a whole.
  • Contemporary Issues in American Education: Students in this class analyze the important issues that face American education today.
  • Curriculum Theory and Practice: This course covers current curriculum innovations and theories. Students review research on effective schools and how to take curriculum theory into practice.
  • Schooling in a Pluralistic Society: Students in this course learn about facilities, transportation and food service programs for school districts. The course also shows educators how to use data to provide and improve services as well as make decisions regarding these aspects.
  • Management of Operational Systems: This course teaches students ways to help other educators create safe, appropriate and aesthetic learning environments.
Dr. Jackie McBride, Professor at A-State
The biggest challenges for educational leaders is to stay well-informed and up to date regarding the cultural changes and the expectations of parents and the public at large. The cultural changes would include staying abreast of advances in technology and communication, changes in families, as well as school safety issues that are on the hearts and minds of leaders, teachers, parents and students.

Learn more about the Ed.S. school superindendency online program

Is an Internship or Fieldwork Necessary in a School Superintendent Ed.S. Degree?

Most online Ed.S. Superintendency programs require students to participate in an internship and/or fieldwork because most states have a policy requiring field experience as part of school leader preparation. For example, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas do have field experience requirements, while Mississippi doesn't not. See your state's policy on the Education Commission of the States (ECS) website.

A-State has two courses that pertain to authentic experience as a district-level leader: ELAD 7493 Supervised Internship and ELAD 7473: Field Study.

The supervised internship takes place in an approved administrative supervisory setting. You must get permission from the department chair, and the internship must be set up one semester ahead of time.

Students in the field study course participate in ongoing, hands-on experiences that focus on real-world problems and exercises. During the field study course, students must demonstrate the leadership skills they will need as a district-level administrator as well as develop networks from the local to national level. A-State suggests taking this course on its own.

Most states require internships or field work as part of school leader preparation

How Do I Set Up My Internships/Fieldwork?

To set up your field work for the A-State online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency program, you'll need to start with your academic advisor. They will likely direct you to the appropriate faculty. You'll then need to have your mentor fill out and sign the A-State Mentor Form.

The great thing about the program is that they embed the internship in with the classwork. You are working on internship activities as you are going through the program. The best thing about the program is that it helps you not get behind. As long as you stay on point, keep everything updated and don't get behind, then you really are in a good place when you get to the end of your program.
Stephanie Worthey, online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency graduate

What Are the Admissions Requirements for an Online Ed.S. Program?

Because Ed.S. programs are post-master's degree programs, a master's degree is an obvious admissions requirement. Most schools will also require a certain number of years in a leadership position and teaching experience. Check with the admissions office at any university you may be considering.

At A-State, the requirements for the Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency program are as follows:

  • Online application and $30 application fee
  • Sealed official transcripts from the conferring institutions
  • Valid teaching certificate
  • Three years of teaching experience. (Submit Teaching Experience Verification Form.)
  • One year of building-level administrative experience
  • A bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 3.0 from an accredited school
  • A master's degree from an accredited institution
  • A Mentor Form completed by a superintendent or assistant superintendent who will be your mentor during this program
  • Completed Professional Dispositions Signature Document

Learn more about the Ed.S. school superindendency online program

How Do You Become a School Superintendent?

common requirements to become a superintendent

Though requirements vary from state to state, most require superintendents to have an advanced degree in education and a number of years' experience as a teacher and as a building-level administrator. (A few states allow superintendent candidates without a master's degree, but the candidate's experience will have to compensate for the lack of a graduate degree.)

Some states require a superintendent certificate, and some require a principal certification as well. Superintendents must also pass the superintendent certification exam and complete periodic continuing education. After completing these requirements, you will need to be appointed by the board of education. In some cases, an elected political official can appoint superintendents.

The ECS offers a 50-state comparison of school leadership certification requirements that can help you determine exactly what's needed to become a school leader.

Will I Need a License or Certification to Become a Superintendent?

Most states require district-level administrators to obtain a license before being considered for the role. As mentioned above, the requirements vary from state to state, but the following example will give you a general idea of how to become a superintendent in the state of Arkansas.

Arkansas – District Level Administrator License

Arkansas – District Level Administrator License

Eligibility Requirements Per the Arkansas Department of Education:

  • Possess a current Arkansas Standard Educator's License.
  • Possess a current Arkansas Standard Building Level or Curriculum/Program Administrator License.
  • Be employed in a District Administrator position prior to completion of licensure requirements for District Level Administrator.
  • Have at least 4 years educational experience as specified in the Rules Governing Educator Licensure, and a minimum of one-year Building Level or Curriculum/Program Administrator experience.
  • Enroll, and participate, in a University’s advanced degree or program of study that is reflective of the Current Leadership Standards for District Level Administrator Licensure with a timeline for completion within three years from the first date of employment by any district.

Do I Need to Be a Principal Before You Can Be a Superintendent?

Though experience as a principal is not necessary, it can definitely boost your chances of getting a job as a superintendent.

For the Arkansas State Ed.S. program for superintendents, you will need experience as a building-level administrator — usually in a principal or assistant principal role.

Can I Keep My Current Job While I Earn My Superintendent Ed.S. Online?

continue working while earning an Ed.S. degree online

Online degree programs were created with working professionals in mind, so yes, you can earn your school superintendent specialist degree without leaving your current job. Because the program is online with no set class times, you can study when you want, wherever you have access to the internet.

Will Employers Care That I Earned My Ed.S. Online?

Most organizations, from publicly traded corporations to independent school districts, do not care if their applicants earned their degrees online or on campus, as long as those degrees are from accredited institutions. In fact, nothing on your degree will indicate whether you earned your degree online or on campus.

What Jobs Are Available for Graduates of an Ed.S. in Educational Administration Superintendent Preparation Program?

The Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency, was developed specifically for educators who want to become superintendents. But the degree will also help you on your way to that goal. Educational leaders with this type of degree often become assistant superintendents as they make their way toward the top job. This specialization also works for consulting careers as well as other administrative positions within a school district.

Stephanie Worthey, online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency graduate
I think the specialization will open up those [job] opportunities for me. Plus, it gave me some good real-life projects to work on. For the most part, it really was the district-level information that was applicable, which was great because I hadn't had much experience with that prior to this program.

How Much Do Superintendents Make?

School superintendent salaries often reach well into six figures in larger districts. The district leader is a role with many responsibilities, and the salary reflects the requirements and duties of a high-ranking school administrator.

Average school superintendent salary is $165,000

Below are a few of the school superintendent salaries available through the Arkansas Democrat Gazette's website for the 2017 fiscal year:

  • Sheridan School District = $161,927
  • Jonesboro School District = $154,369
  • Watson Chapel School District = $143,853
  • Stuttgart School District = $144,121
  • Dewitt School District $121,715
  • Star City School District = $120,000

An AASA School Superintendents Association survey of superintendents across the country for the 2017-18 school year shows a median salary of $165,000 for those leading a district with student enrollment of 2,500-9,999. The report also shows a median salary of $127,525 for assistant or associate superintendents in the same-sized district. data from January 2019 shows the following for average school superintendent annual salary by state:

  • Missouri - $152,507
  • South Carolina - $147,299
  • Arkansas - $143,762
  • Tennessee - $143,709
  • Mississippi - $139,510

What Is the Career Outlook for Superintendents?

projected job growth for school superintendents

Of course there are only as many school superintendent jobs as there are school districts, and the National Center for Education Statistics shows that there was a decline in the total number of standard public school districts each year between 2001 and 2011. However, more recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists "education administrators, elementary and secondary school" as one of the fastest growing jobs that requires a graduate degree.

According to Burning Glass Technologies, there have been 1,925 job postings for school administrators (including superintendents) in the past year for the five states listed above, as of February 2019. The projected job growth, also according to Burning Glass, is 8.5 percent.

Where Are A-State Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency Students From?

Educators from across the U.S. take part in A-State's online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency program. Available in 48 states, this program currently has nearly 600 students enrolled from 32 states. The states with the most A-State Ed.S. candidates are as follows:

  1. Arkansas
  2. Mississippi
  3. Tennessee
  4. Missouri
  5. South Carolina

How Much Does It Cost to Earn an Ed.S. Educational Leadership: Superintendent Degree?

average cost of an online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership is $18,800

The average cost of an online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership in 2018, according to, was approximately $18,800. The article indicates the highest tuition is approximately $47,000 and the lowest is $7,995. These numbers represent in-state tuition.

The tuition for A-State's online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency, is $9,930, or $331 per credit hour.

Is Tuition the Same for In-state and Out-of-state Online Ed.S. Students?

Out of state tuition

Due to the nature of online learning, out-of-state students often pay the same price as in-state students. However, you should always confirm with each school you're considering because some do still charge a higher tuition rate for out-of-state students.

Tuition for the online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency program at A-State is the same for Arkansas residents and non-residents alike. In fact, the tuition for all online degree programs at A-State is the same for in-state and out-of-state students. (All fees are included in the total tuition.)

Do Online Degree Programs Accept Transfer Credits?

Arkansas State accepts transfer credits

Many online degree programs accept some credit hours from other universities, though they usually only accept credits from accredited schools. Check with the specific school for more information.

A-State accepts up to nine graduate hours from other schools (or A-State itself). You must have completed these courses within six years of your graduation date. Before credit is awarded, the director of the program must evaluate them. Please complete the Graduate Transfer Credit Evaluation Form to begin the process.

Is Financial Aid Available to Online Education Specialist Students?

Online Ed.S. students are eligible for scholarships and grants

Online Ed.S. students are eligible for scholarships from a multitude of sources, including the university, businesses, charitable organizations, school districts and more. Most scholarships are awarded based on need and merit, and they do not need to be paid back.

Grants are also available, and these funds also do not need to be paid back.

Federal student loans are also an option. Private loans are another option for qualified borrowers. Both types of loans need to be paid back with interest.

To start the process for financial aid, go to the Federal Student Aid website and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA).

For more information on financial aid and scholarships go to You can also call 866-881-3168 or email [email protected].

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Ed.S. Online?

Education Specialist degrees consist of anywhere from 30 to 65 credit hours and can take anywhere from just over a year up to two years or beyond. Of course, the time it takes you to complete any degree depends on how many classes you take per term and if you take any time off along the way.

The Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency online program at A-State requires 30 credit hours and students can complete the program in as few as 18 months.

 Laura Hunt, online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency graduate
It took 18 months to finish. It went by really, really quickly — and then you've got your degree. You have to push and you have to do it. You take two classes a semester, but they're not on top of each other. You can do anything for five or seven weeks. You are not going to class once a week for a whole semester, so that was a nice part of it.

How Many Hours Will I Need to Study Each Week in an Online Ed.S. Program?

Most sources will suggest that students start with three hours of study per credit hour, so nine hours a week for a three-hour class. Of course, this is really more of an estimate — a good place to start. Depending on the level of difficulty and experience with the subject matter, students may need more or less time.

Students need to be prepared to spend a minimum of 6 hours per week in a course. Over the course, that would amount to 42 hours. Additional time, in my courses, is expected to be spent on field-based internship activities.
 Dr. Joe Nichols, A-State Professor

Is There Assistance for Military Members and Veterans?

Arkansas State University offers a number of services for active duty military, their families and veterans. We'll guide you through the application process as well as assist you with any financial aid queries you may have.

Military services at A-State can help with the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill, as well as other programs.

Military services at A-State can help with the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill, as well as other programs

Not only does A-State provide a number of supports for the military, but online education in general is perfect for active duty military members. Because you don't have to go to campus, it doesn't matter where in the world you're stationed or how often you're deployed. And if your situation changes, you can temporarily halt your studies with no penalties.

A-State is also proud to support military spouses. You may not even know where to begin when it comes to receiving spousal benefits, but don't worry — we do and we will help you.

Arkansas State was ranked as one of the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report in 2017.

No matter if you're a veteran, active duty or military family member, contact one of our enrollment specialists today at 800-342-9647 or by email.

Is Accreditation Important for an Ed.S. Degree?

A-State's education programs are accredited by CAEP

Accreditation for online programs is just as important as it is for traditional programs, if not more so. Employers prefer candidates with degrees from accredited institutions, and many universities will not accept students with credentials from unaccredited schools.

A-State's education programs are accredited by CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation) and the university is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Are Online Education Specialist Programs Easier Than On-Campus Programs?

Online programs should be just as rigorous as their on-campus counterparts. The assignments are generally the same, as are the discussions and exams. The only difference is the method of delivery.

So, though online programs are just as challenging, they are much more flexible and convenient.

 Curt Barger, online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency graduate, 2018
It was an adjustment for me, because I had never taken an online course. However, it was something that I caught onto easily with the support I received from Arkansas State. The program that they use was easy to understand for somebody who had never taken an online course. As I got better at it and back in the groove, I was able to be more efficient.

What Equipment Will I Need for an Online Ed.S. Program?

access coursework online

To participate in most online degree programs, you'll need a modern computer — nothing fancy or expensive. The software that comes standard with your computer should encompass everything you need. You can even access some of your coursework via smartphone or tablet. You'll also need a high-speed internet connection.

What Tech Skills Will I Need for an Online School Superintendent Specialist Program?

Typically, online programs are built for students who do not have a high level of technical expertise. If you can search the internet, check email and use apps like Facebook, you shouldn't have a problem completing your coursework.

Technical support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Phone: 866-881-3168

Email: [email protected]

For Blackboard

Phone: 870-972-2012

Email: [email protected]

Do Online Students Have Access to the Library?

At A-State, online students have access to the library and library services 24/7

Almost every school that offers online programs also offers access to the library via the internet.

At A-State, online students have access to the library and library services 24/7.

You'll have access to hundreds of research databases, and research assistance is available via chat. If students need a book or article that the library doesn't have, students can request texts through the interlibrary loan program.

Arkansas State offers video tutorials to help navigate the library system.

Librarians are available by appointment if students need assistance with research. Students can set up virtual appointments with Skype.

Are Course Materials and Textbooks Available Online?

Course materials — lectures, syllabi, study guides, etc. — are available online for online degree programs. Even some text books are available on the internet, though some classes in some programs require students to use hard-copy textbooks.

Can I Attend Graduation?

One of the great things about earning a degree online from an established university with a brick-and-mortar campus is that you're able to attend a commencement ceremony. You can also take this opportunity to meet your professors and classmates in person.

At Arkansas State University, we are proud of our graduates and look forward to seeing you and your families on graduation day.

Stephanie Worthey, online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency graduate
Graduation was a reward to myself for hanging in there and surviving everything. It really was fun. It was a celebration of success. I set a goal for myself, and I accomplished it.

Will I Have Access to My Instructors?

Prospective online students may worry that they won't have the same access to their professors that they would in an on-campus program. Put those worries aside. Schools with online programs make contacting your instructors as easy as opening your laptop or picking up your phone.

At A-State, our instructors pride themselves on being available to our students. Whether you prefer email, phone calls, text or chat, your professors are there. Virtual face-to-face meetings are also an option in many cases. Instructors usually return calls, emails, etc. within 24 hours, if not sooner.

I check email constantly and that is my preferred method of communications. If called or emailed by students, I do my best to respond within 24 hours, except on weekends. I keep virtual office hours and I have regular office hours. I will schedule ZOOM or phone meetings by appointment.
 Dr. Joe Nichols, A-State Professor

Will I Be Able to Network With My Classmates?

Prospective online students are sometimes concerned that they won't be able to get to know the other students in their classes, but this is not the case. You will be in almost constant contact with your cohort, as you post and respond on discussion boards, and participate in group work. Some students say they actually interact more online than they would have in a traditional classroom setting. Students can take their time responding to the discussion boards, so the anxiety of an instant, in-class response is no longer an issue. And because the discussions take place 24/7 instead of just a few hours a week, you may find yourself communicating with your fellow students almost daily.

 Laura Hunt, online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency graduate
When I began the online classes, without seeing people, without seeing the instructors, I wasn't really sure how that would go, but everything was pretty self-explanatory. The assignments were laid out really well. Through Blackboard, we interacted with classmates. In many classes, we worked with our classmates to do projects together — we were required to work with them. We weren't just alone.

When Can I Start the Online Ed.S. Educational Leadership, Superintendency Program at A-State?

A-State offers three different start dates for the Ed.S. Superintendency program: spring, summer and fall. For specific dates, see A-State's calendar page.

Learn more about our Online Ed.S. Educational Leadership, Superintendency program


Chron: Job Qualifications for the Superintendent of a School

Education Commission of the States:
50-State Comparison: What are the initial school leader certification requirements?
50-State Comparison: Does state policy require field experience as part of school leader preparation programs?

National Center for Education Statistics: Number of public school districts and public and private elementary and secondary schools: Selected years, 1869-70 through 2010-11

Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Right2Know

AASA The School Superintendents Association: 2017-18 AASA Superintendent Salary & Benefits Study
School Superintendent in Arkansas
School Superintendent in Mississippi
School Superintendent in Tennessee
School Superintendent in South Carolina
School Superintendent in Missouri

BLS: Projections of occupational employment, 2014–24

Burning Glass Technologies: Labor Insight. 2019.

ZipRecruiter: Average Salary of School Superintendent Jobs

Arkansas Department of Education: Standard License Application – District Level Administrator