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.  

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

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

Fall Deadline July 1
Spring Deadline December 1
Summer Deadline April 1
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/requirements/#english-proficiency).
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

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 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 restrictions 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

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


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 (https://registrar.wisc.edu/course-guide/).
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements The Graduate School requires that students maintain a graduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) for all graduate courses (excluding research) to receive a degree. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations A practicum experience requiring 150 contact hours for an initial administrator license and an additional 75 hours for each additional administrative license. Practicums are completed under the guidance of department faculty.
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
ELPA 702
Introduction to Educational Leadership
Category II15
ELPA 832
Resource Allocation for Equity and Social Justice
ELPA 846
The School Superintendency
ELPA 860
Organizational Theory and Behavior in Education
ELPA 870
The Politics of Education
ELPA 875
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:
ELPA 890
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 Resources

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

Faculty: Professor Anjalé (AJ) Welton (chair); Professors Conrad, Eckes, Halverson, Kelley, Miller, Wang, Winkle-Wagner; Associate Professors Burt, Hillman; Assistant Professors Grooms, Henry, McQuillan, Saldana, Yu; Clinical Professors Crim, Li, Sramek, Salzman, Soffa-Jimenez