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Master's Degree Program

Online Master's in Education Leadership

“Skilled leadership is essential to creating opportunity and overcoming the longstanding inequities that create barriers to success. At HGSE, we are committed to helping you meet today’s complex challenges by becoming the type of leader education needs.”

Bridget Long
Dean and Saris Professor of Education and Economics
Harvard Graduate School of Education

Today’s education landscape needs leaders like you — dynamic educators and innovators committed to making sustainable and scalable change for all students by building on your professional experience in preK–12 classrooms and districts; on college campuses; or in philanthropies, nonprofits, policy organizations, and ed-tech initiatives.

That’s why the Harvard Graduate School of Education has launched an online Master's in Education Leadership, a new Ed.M. program specifically designed for working education professionals who bring at least seven years of relevant or transferrable work experience. This new graduate degree will strengthen the invaluable skills you’ve already developed and give you the tools to propel yourself to new leadership opportunities and to even greater impact.

A New Option for Experienced Educators

Our two-year, part-time program consists of a diverse cohort of professionals like you — leaders who are advancing in their careers, and who bring important perspectives grounded in real-world challenges. Our program is conducted almost exclusively online — except for one brief on-campus experience, where you'll meet your cohort in person and build community prior to the start of the first fall semester.

The online Master's in Education Leadership offers a distinctive Harvard experience — including deep engagement and interaction with Harvard faculty and talented peers, as well as a lifelong professional network — within an intentionally designed curriculum and robust opportunities for mentorship and coaching. The program is career-embedded — so you can immediately apply what you are learning, in real time, to the work you are doing on the ground.



Our prescribed curriculum is intentionally designed to meet your professional needs. It is anchored in both foundational knowledge and core competencies in education leadership. You will also complete pathway-specific courses to advance your leadership in preK–12 education or higher education, as well as the Foundations courses. You will also have the opportunity to select courses from a small subset of electives. A minimum of 42 credits are required to graduate with an Ed.M. degree from HGSE.

The main elements of the curriculum are: 

Foundations Courses

Throughout the two-year program, you will participate in Foundations courses in four areas: How People Learn, Leading Change, Evidence, and Equity and Opportunity. In these courses, you’ll build core skills central to the profession of education.

  • The online Ed.M. program commences with How People Learn, which runs online June–July and requires a time commitment of 10-15 hours per week.
  • You’ll take the remaining Foundations courses during the course of the two-year program.

Professional Pathways Courses 

Choose between two Professional Pathway Courses — PreK–12 or Higher Education — that align with the area of practice or the student community in which their work will make an impact. 

  • PreK–12 Pathway: Equips you to do change-making work within the education ecosystem on behalf of students from early childhood to secondary education levels — including in such positions as teacher leader, principal, afterschool director, education agency representative, education nonprofit/philanthropic leader, or education entrepreneur.  
  • Higher Education Pathway: Prepares you as a dynamic, agile leader in a diverse range of postsecondary education settings — including in college and university settings, nonprofit education organizations, state and federal government agencies, and policy organizations and think tanks. Students engage with accomplished leaders in the President-in-Residence program.

On-campus Experience 

Students will convene for a brief on-campus experience the summer before the first fall semester, where you will be immersed in the HGSE community and connect with your cohort, faculty, and advisers.

Elective Coursework

Any remaining credits will be taken via elective coursework.

Note: Though some courses may include comparative and international examples, applicants should expect a focus on leadership within U.S. domestic educational institutions and systems.  

Leadership Core Competencies

To help you manage, lead, and implement change in complex organizations, our curriculum explores the core leadership competencies that you'll need to elevate your skills, knowledge, and expertise, wherever you are in your career. Throughout your coursework, you will strengthen your ability to:

  • Lead change and think strategically 
  • Foster productive organizational conditions 
  • Navigate politics and practice political inclusion
  • Communicate effectively 
  • Cultivate self-development and team professional development skills 
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Program Commitment

Courses combine synchronous meetings and asynchronous work and assignments. Live or synchronous aspects of required courses will occur on weekdays (Monday–Friday) between 6 and 9 p.m. ET. Some elective courses, outside the required curriculum, may be offered at alternative times. On average, this degree requires 12 to 18 hours of work per week, though the weekly commitment will vary by term, courses taken, and students' own work styles. Students can expect to spend approximately three to five hours per week in synchronous online class sessions with faculty members and classmates. The remaining hours will be spent working independently on asynchronous class preparation, in self-scheduled small-group work with other students or working on assignments.

Weekly Time Estimate

To complete the online Ed.M. in Education Leadership, students must complete 42 total credit hours of coursework over the two-year program. While the weekly time commitment varies by term, course, and student work style, the graphic below provides a snapshot of the estimated weekly time commitment students may experience during the fall and spring semesters, when they will typically take 8 credits, the equivalent of two courses.


Includes live, scheduled sessions with faculty members and other students.


Self-paced activities, discussion posts, and other course-related work.


Readings, projects, papers, research, etc.

Total Estimated Weekly Hours

Hours reflect estimates and vary by term, course, and student work style.

Occurs between Monday-Friday, according to a specific schedule.


Asynchronous work and assignments will have clear deadlines or milestones, but students can set their own schedules to complete this work. Note that there may be days or weeks during the semester that are busier than average, requiring more than the estimated time shown.

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Program Co-Chairs

The faculty co-chair for the Higher Education Pathway is Judith McLaughlin. The faculty co-chair for the PreK–12 Pathway is Irvin Scott. View our faculty directory for a full list of HGSE faculty.

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On-Campus Experience

Prior to kicking off your first fall semester, you will participate in an immersive on-campus experience. This will provide the opportunity to not only form deep relationships with your cohort, but also learn together with the faculty and advisers you will spend two years with. The immersive residential experience is a a core component to the two-year degree program that is required of all students in the program.

Over several days, you and your fellow peers will discuss your professional experiences and examine some of the persistent challenges in your organizations. You will immerse yourself in rich exercises and community building, set expectations of what it means to be in a rigorous HGSE degree program, and set intentions for yourself, your cohort, and your course of study.

Tell us about yourself so that we can tailor our communication to best fit your interests and provide you with relevant information about our programs, events, and other opportunities to connect with us.

Admissions Information

Learn more about our admissions application requirements and instructions, tuition and financial aid, recorded webinars, download a brochure, and find answers to frequently asked questions. If you have any additional questions, please contact


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