Choosing a Master’s Program

This is a quick guide for which program might work best for you. It is only intended as a helpful first step in considering options. Prospective students should speak with one of our advisors or contact if they need help deciding which program is best suited to their career goals and interests.

MEd programs offering teaching licensure and endorsements

Licensure programs

Do you want to teach in a classroom or work in an educational space that requires or prefers a teaching license? Master’s students can earn an Illinois Professional Educator License (PEL) in addition to endorsements in these programs:

Programs for licensed teachers who want to specialize or advance in their teaching career

Master’s students who already have a PEL can specialize, add endorsements to their PEL, or advance their skills and knowledge in these programs:

MEd programs for careers in education outside of classroom teaching

These MEd programs do not primarily focus on classroom teaching, but allow students to expand their career options and/or pursue research in education:

Careers include higher education professionals, youth program directors, corporate trainers, school leaders, and research professionals. These programs are also popular with teachers who want to change focus in their work and/or deepen their expertise in a particular educational topic.

What is the difference between Educational Studies and Educational Policy Studies? Or Urban Higher Education and Youth Development?

We get asked a lot about the differences between these master’s programs. Deciding which is best for you will depend on your personal career goals and which courses you want to take.

Choosing Educational Policy Studies (“Ed Policy”) or Educational Studies (“Ed Studies”)

Both of these programs have the same 3 core course (9 semester hours) requirements. Ed Studies offers the most expansive selection of courses, but if you know you want to study educational policy, especially as it relates to topics such as school organization and leadership, or the social foundations of education (including social justice work), Ed Policy will be best tailored to your needs.

Ed Policy (coordinated by faculty in the Department of Educational Policy Studies) has specific course requirements (14 hours) for the Area of Specialization. Students choose between Educational Leadership and School Improvement; Education Policy and Policy Analysis; or Social Justice and Education.

Ed Studies (coordinated by faculty in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction) allows students to take courses in any of the Colleges’ four departments to count towards the Area of Specialization. Ed Studies allows students the flexibility to select courses to earn the ESL/Bilingual endorsement (if they have a teaching license) OR to focus on any assortment of 400-500 level courses that align to their interests and/or aspirations.

Choosing Urban Higher Education (UHE) or Youth Development (YD)

The master’s in Urban Higher Education was created in 2019, but it draws its strengths from two longstanding, award-winning programs at the College: the Ed.D. in Urban Education Leadership and the M.Ed. in Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics & Assessment (MESA). If you want to work in higher education, or you know that higher education is your topic of interest, this is the program for you.

The YD program has over a decade of success in educating students about the health, development and thriving of young people primarily between the ages of 10-24.  The program focuses more on out-of-school spaces and informal learning and development as opposed to classrooms and formal institutions.

YD covers some of the same age-range as UHE, but YD’s focus is on all young people, not only those who have transitioned into higher education. YD focuses more on how institutions and systems impact human development rather than the legal frameworks, policies and procedures that might be addressed in the Ed Policy degree or UHE.

Questions about our master's programs? Contact: