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Master's Programs

Specialized Studies Program

HGSE is dedicated to helping you prepare for an impactful career in education by offering powerful learning experiences and field-based opportunities that will develop critical, professional skills. We are updating our Master’s in Education (Ed.M.) curriculum and structure for academic year 2021-22. The new structure builds on the strengths of our current offerings, and we will continue to support the same range of subjects and roles that are a part of our current degree program. Additionally, the experience will still be one year. Complete the Introduce Yourself form to stay informed about the details of the new Master’s degree program, which will be available in late April.

Do you have an idea for improving education that has never been tried before? Are you an experienced educator, community organizer, social entrepreneur, physician, or musician who wants to explore an entirely new dimension of teaching and learning? The Specialized Studies Program (SSP) is designed for individuals with bold new ideas who are passionate about transforming society through education. 

Specialized Studies is a community of committed educators invested in making a positive impact on the lives of learners at all stages of the life cycle.

Lecturer Eileen McGowan, faculty director

In SSP, there are no required courses or prerequisites. Instead, you will work closely with academic advisers to choose a customized sequence of courses from HGSE and other Harvard graduate schools that will equip you with the skills, knowledge, and experience to make an impact. The many strengths of SSP include:

  • Cohort and Community – SSP students are drawn from a large range of academic and professional backgrounds. They have founded and run schools and nonprofits in the United States and abroad. They are doctors, television producers, outdoor educators,  members of the Armed Forces, professional musicians, school principals, and classroom teachers. What binds them together as a cohort is a shared passion for education and a bold entrepreneurial spirit. SSP students arrive with a clear vision of how this highly customized HGSE education will help them make an even greater impact in their careers and communities.
  • Fieldwork and Internships – You will have the opportunity to take advantage of hands-on, for-credit internships through the Field Experience Program. Internships exist in diverse educational contexts, including schools and alternative educational settings, higher education institutions, NGOs, research organizations and labs, public agencies and nonprofits, museums, private corporations, and technology companies, as well as in other professional settings related to their academic studies.

Curriculum Information

In SSP, you design the curriculum. With an academic advising team, you will choose a custom mix of courses — which can include internships and/or an independent study — that meet your specific academic and professional goals. The only program conditions are that you complete 32 course credits and that at least half of your total courses come from HGSE. Although not a requirement, a course on diversity, equity, and inclusion is strongly encouraged.

Sample SSP study plan

You will complete eight courses (32 credits) in total.

  • 4 courses at HGSE
  • 2 courses at other Harvard garduate schools
  • 1 internship through the Field Experience Program
  • 1 independent study with a faculty adviser

View all courses and information on cross-registration.


Program Faculty

In SSP you have the freedom to design your own course of study in close consultation with knowledgeable SSP advisers. Additionally, you should think of the entire faculty of HGSE and all of Harvard University as your potential mentors. 

Fieldwork & Internships

Where Alumni Work

  • United Nations Foundation
  • Arts of Citizenship – University of Michigan
  • Education Pioneers
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Fulton County Schools
  • Brookwood School
  • The Foundation for Religious Literacy
  • Axiom Learning
  • The Bullis School
  • Institute for Inclusive Security
  • Bamyan Media
  • Boston Learning Center

Alumni & Student Profiles

The directions in which SSP graduates take their self-designed education are boundless. There are SSP alumni working for a nonprofit TV production company that creates reality TV shows to drive social change in Egypt and Afghanistan, owning an architecture firm specializing in the design of children's educational spaces. SSP graduates are using their education to make a real and lasting impact in the lives of kids and adults worldwide.


Emily Ramos

Community Connection: Emily Ramos, SSP'19

The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for Specialized Studies reflects on her time at HGSE and looks toward the future.

Melissa Ferrick

Performing in a New Role

A veteran singer-songwriter goes back to school to find better ways to advocate for students with mental illness and addiction.

Connect with Admissions

More information about our admissions application requirements and instructions, tuition and financial aid, and answers to frequently asked questions is available on our website. If you have additional admissions-related questions, please contact Ernald Furxhi or call 617.495.3414.

Introduce Yourself

Receive tailored admissions information about upcoming programs, events, and opportunities to connect with us.

Connect with Program Staff

If you have remaining program-specific questions, reach out to SSP Administrator Karen Bottari.

Virtual Information Sessions

View the Specialized Studies recorded virtual information session to learn more about the program from faculty, students, and staff.