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Master's Degree Program

Specialized Studies Program

The program information below is for academic year 2020-2021. This program has enrolled their final cohort. We are 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 encourage you learn more about our reimagined Master's in Education.

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 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 begin the program with a clear vision of how this highly customized HGSE education will help them make an even greater impact in their careers and communities. Additionally, you will develop strong bonds and a supportive learning community through participation in various cohort and community-building, virtual activities hosted by your program, student organizations, and HGSE faculty and staff.
  • Fieldwork and Internships – Internships provide a lot of value to your academic experience while providing you excellent knowledge to build your resume and experiment with jobs to test your interests. While Field Experiences will continue to be an important part of the HGSE learning experience, logistical and other program details are subject to modification for academic year 2020-21.

Curriculum Information

In Specialized Studies, you design the curriculum. With an academic advising team, you will choose a custom mix of courses that meet your specific academic and professional goals. The only program conditions are that you complete eight courses (32 credits) and that at least half of these credits come from HGSE. Many students use the program flexibility to cross-register throughout Harvard and to build an interdisplinary program that is very specific to their individual career objectives. Although not a requirement, a course on diversity, equity, and inclusion is strongly encouraged.

See my.harvard for a complete list of courses. 

Program Faculty

HGSE consists of a faculty of the whole and students can work with and take courses with faculty throughout HGSE and Harvard. 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. 

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.


Kassie Ifante

Shaping Social Change: Kassie Infante, SSP'21

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

Arushi Mittal with the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows

Imagining a Brighter Future: Arushi Mittal, SSP'20

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

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