The Educational Specialist Certificate Program is a 60-credit program.  In most cases, someone entering the program already holds a master's degree in educational leadership. Coursework completed in a master's program in educational leadership is typically accepted toward the 60-credit requirement. At a minimum, 24 of the 60 credits must be completed at UW–Madison.  

The Educational Specialist Certificate Program is most often completed by someone seeking a superintendent license.  In Wisconsin, to be eligible for a superintendent license, you must either be in a Ph.D. program and have completed preliminary exams (dissertation proposal) or hold an educational specialist certificate.  

Admission to the department is based, in part, on the following criteria: undergraduate GPA in the last 60 hours of undergraduate work, GPA on 9 or more graduate credits,  three letters of recommendation from persons who are qualified to judge the applicant's academic and professional competence, resume, transcripts, and a "reasons for study" essay.

The GRE is not required for admission to the Educational Specialist Certificate program.

The Educational Specialist Certificate is most often completed to earn superintendent certification/licensure.

For information regarding admissions criteria, deadlines and the application process, see Admissions on the department website.

Graduate School Admissions

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic degree programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet requirements of both the program(s) and the Graduate School. Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.  

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and processes related to funding.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 60 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 24 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (30 credits out of 60 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations Contact the program for information on required assessments and examinations.
Language Requirements Contact the program for information on any language requirements.

Required COURSES

The following minimal requirements will satisfy the Educational Specialist Certificate in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis. 

Category I3
Introduction to Educational Leadership
Category II15
Staff Personnel Systems in Education
The School Superintendency
Organizational Theory and Behavior in Education
The Politics of Education
Theory and Practice of Educational Planning
Category III30
At least ten (10) additional courses including at least thirty (30) graduate credits selected from any courses in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis. (A maximum of three (3) graduate credits of ELPA 990 or ELPA 999 may be included in the 30 credits.) Students seeking Superintendent Certification need to incorporate required coursework into Category III. In addition to Category II course work, Superintendent Certification requires:
Special Topics Seminar in Educational Leadership (Topic: Resource Allocation for Equity and Social Justice)
Public School Law
Applied Research in Educational Administration
Research Methods and Statistics Courses6
At least two (2) courses including six (6) graduate credits of research courses distributed as follows:
1. An introductory statistics course which includes descriptive statistics, central tendency, probability, inference, and variance.
2. The research requirement for the Educational Specialist Certificate shall be satisfied by completing ELPA 824.
Supporting Courses6
At least two (2) courses including six (6) graduate credits of supporting coursework in teaching and learning (typically one course in curriculum and instruction and one additional course). Additional courses in teaching and learning are recommended.
Total Credits60

Program Approval

The Education Specialist Certificate Program plan (as well as any subsequent amendments and changes) must be submitted and approved by the department as soon as is practicable following admission to the program.

Specialist Paper

The department has established the following criteria as guidelines for the specialist paper:

  • The specialist paper should be derived from a current, practical problem which is researchable and limited in scope.
  • The specialist paper should have the approval, cooperation, or collaboration of the governing board or administration of an educational institution when appropriate.
  • The specialist paper should utilize applied, market, or policy research.
  • The specialist paper should result in recommendations for action.
  • The design and methodology for the specialist paper will be developed by the student and major professor and reviewed and approved by a three-person faculty committee which will also conduct the oral examination on the completed specialist paper.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

The Graduate Program Handbook is the repository for all of the program's policies and requirements.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 36 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned five years or more prior to admission to the certificate is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the certificate.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison special student.  If necessary to meet the Graduate School minimum graduate credits requirements for the degree, special student coursework may need to be converted to graduate credits.   Once converted, students are assessed the difference in tuition between special and graduate tuition.  Coursework earned five years or more prior to admission to the certificate is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies. An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor.

To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.


15 credits

Time Constraints

The Educational Specialist Certificate Program must be completed within seven (7) years from the date of admission to the program. Failure to complete the program in 7 years will result in the student being declared "inactive." Students declared "inactive" will be ineligible to take the final oral examination and receive the certificate until a new graduate program has been approved by the department and any new or different program or examination requirements then in effect have been met.

Students declared "inactive" for three (3) years may be dropped from the specialist program. Students who have been dropped must seek readmission to a specific degree program in the department and meet all existing admission, program, and examination requirements. 

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.


Funding is not offered along with offers for admission.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Faculty: Professor Jerlando Jackson (chair); Professors Borman, Conrad, Diamond, Halverson, Kelley, Mead, Miller, Underwood, Wang, Winkle-Wagner; Associate Professor Hillman; Assistant Professors Burt, Goff, McQuillan; Clinical Professor Crim; Faculty Associate King