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The Specialist degree in the Commonwealth of Independent States
The specialist degree (Russian: специалист) was the only first degree in the former Soviet Union, was traditionally inherited from the Engineering education of Russian empire, and currently is being phased out by the bakalavr's (Bachelor's) - magistr's (Master's) degrees.
In the early 1990s bakalavr (Bachelor's) and magistr (Master's) degrees were introduced in all the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, except in Turkmenistan. However, the specialist degree remains the most often granted degree in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Ukraine to this day. The specialist degrees in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were renamed to diplom degrees. Actually there are some similarities between the specialist degree in the CIS and the German Diplom degree. According to Russian federal educational legislation, the specialist degree requires at least five years of full-time study (whereas Bachelor's and Master's degrees require at least four and two years respectively).
The following are the most important specialist degrees in the CIS:
- specialist-ekonomist - first degree in economy or management (including engineering management)
- specialist-inzhener - the engineer's degree in the CIS
- specialist-uchitel - the first degree for teachers
- specialist-vrach this degree type includes the respective degrees of physicians, dentists and veterinarians in the CIS.
- specialist iskusstva - the first degree in arts
- specialist-yurist - the first degree in law
The Specialist degree in the English-speaking world
The Specialist degree is found in some programs of education or psychology and is awarded for study beyond the Master's degree but below the doctorate, (i.e., Ph.D., D.Ed. or Th.D.). Available degrees include:
- Ed.S. or Sp.Ed. – Specialist of Education
- SSP – Specialist of School Psychology
- Psy.S. – Specialist of Psychology
- Sp.A. – Specialist in Arts (offered by Eastern Michigan University)
- S.C.C.T. – Specialist in Community College Teaching (offered by Arkansas State University)
- S.L.I.S. – Specialist in Library and Information Science (offered by the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington).
Schooling usually, but not always, involves one to three years of coursework and practica, followed by a one year internship, or practical field work. Depending on the program offering the degree, a Master's degree can be conferred during the process once its requirements are met, or the program may require an already completed Master's.
An Ed.S. program typically requires about 60‒70 semester hours beyond a Bachelor's degree, or about 30 hours beyond a Master's (making it approximately the same workload as a second Master's in terms of credits, but often the coursework is at the upper graduate, doctoral level). Therefore, in terms of coursework credits, it corresponds to an "all but dissertation" (ABD) status. However, according to the U.S. Department of Education's International Affairs Office's leaflet, entitled, "Structure of the U.S. Education System: Intermediate Graduate Qualifications," (Feb 2008), the Ed.S., as a degree, is equivalent to the D.Min. or Psy.D./D.Psy.
Ed.S. programs lead to professional degrees in the application of advanced educational theory but do not typically place an emphasis on conducting original research such as in Ed.D./D.Ed. or Ph.D. programs.
School Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction are two of the most common areas where a specialist degree is found. In the field of school psychology, the degree is typically an Ed.S. or SSP. Despite being virtually identical in scope and function, the Ed.S. and SSP both exist within the field of school psychology because training programs can be offered within the departments of psychology or education. They simply designate the type of program from which the degree originated. As another alternative, some programs within psychology departments have begun offering a Psy.S. degree instead of an SSP.
A specialist degree is not to be confused with a specialist program, which in certain universities, refers to an undergraduate program that is more specialized than a major, typically requiring more credits and usually a fourth-year thesis project.
In many fields outside of education, the postgraduate certificate fills the same need as a Specialist degree. In the field of Engineering, the Engineer's degree is a post-master's degree, offered at a modest number of US universities (but including some prestigious ones such as Stanford and Caltech), which is relatively analogous to the Specialist degree.