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Department of Education Jobs: Working in Central Offices

February 14, 2023

Championing crucial issues, stopping discrimination, opening up equal access—the US Department of Education sets national education policy and establishes the framework for federal financial aid to students. 

For education leaders—including those with advanced degrees like a Master of Education (MEd) in Education Policy and Leadership or a Doctor of Education (EdD) in Education Policy and Leadership—central office positions at the Department of Education offer opportunities to help shape policy, curriculum, and student services at the district, organizational, state, or federal level.

This long-established federal agency’s responsibilities include:

  • Establishing federal financial aid policies
  • Collecting data, leading education research, and sharing findings
  • Identifying and highlighting key issues and concerns related to education
  • Enforcing regulations and laws prohibiting discrimination

Jobs at the Department of Education focus on creating and leading education policy and can offer professionals with the right education and expertise rewarding ways to shape education’s future.

Department of Education Jobs 

From enforcing civil rights to supporting students with disabilities, US Department of Education jobs tackle many areas of emphasis. Each offers opportunities to serve the nation’s students, with the following offices taking on different programs and activities:

  • Office of the Secretary
  • Office of the Deputy Secretary
  • Office of the Undersecretary

Following are the main tasks of each office.

Office of the Secretary

The Office of the Secretary guides the overall direction of the agency, with the secretary serving as an advisor to the US president on federal education policies and programs. The professionals supporting the Office of the Secretary take on the following areas of responsibility.

Office for Civil Rights

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR)’s function is to advise the education secretary on civil rights matters. Jobs in this office have duties that support:

  • Administering policies and regulations that prohibit discrimination
  • Investigating civil rights concerns and enforcing compliance
  • Researching civil rights issues, such as school attendance and discipline
  • Presenting the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), reporting on information collected

Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development

The Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development (OPEPD) guides the development, implementation, and evaluation of education department policies. Among the responsibilities of professionals in this office are:

  • Managing the department’s policy committee
  • Analyzing and developing policy and legislative proposals
  • Evaluating programs and issues such as school finance, early learning, and financial aid
  • Educating government officials and the public about departmental policies
  • Ensuring that grants awarded align with departmental objectives

Institute of Education Sciences

The department’s Institute of Education Sciences leads research and compiles education statistics. Duties of job roles in this office focus on:

  • Leading surveys and research to determine the impact of the department’s programs
  • Sharing information about best practices with educators
  • Collecting and analyzing data about education in the United States and abroad
  • Conducting and sponsoring research related to students with disabilities
  • Assisting with evaluating the implementation of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs

The responsibilities of professionals in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs (OLCA) center on guiding the legislative activities of the Department of Education. These professionals assist members of the US Congress in their consideration of education issues, focusing on efforts such as:

  • Coordinating presentations and testimony about education policy and programs before Congress
  • Informing congressional action related to education appropriations, programs, and organization
  • Building support for educational efforts among members of Congress

Office of the Deputy Secretary

Many Department of Education job roles fall under the Office of the Deputy Secretary. The deputy secretary supports the work of the education secretary. These roles strive to improve the performance of the Department of Education, focusing on both public and nonpublic education. The education policy- and leadership-focused areas of this office include the following.

Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) supports elementary and high school students and educators. It manages grants and programs, including:

  • Education Department grantee and state relations
  • Education for students experiencing homelessness
  • Charter schools
  • School choice
  • Migrant education
  • American Indian education
  • Teacher education
  • Emergency relief

Office of English Language Acquisition

The Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) provides guidance on education for English learners. Its programs support students who speak a variety of languages and represent many cultures. Jobs in this office have the following responsibilities:

  • Developing and implementing policies that support the education of students with limited English-language proficiency
  • Supporting local and state efforts to provide high-quality education to these students
  • Providing guidance and support for higher education institutions educating teachers of students with limited English-language proficiency
  • Establishing a resource for knowledge on best practices in this area, for use by the department and the education community 

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) directs and recommends policies for educating students with disabilities. The duties of professionals in this area focus on:

  • Conducting research regarding education for those with disabilities and in need of rehabilitative services
  • Developing special educational programs 
  • Expanding the knowledge of the education community and the public about innovations in educating students with disabilities
  • Providing guidance on the services, programs, and laws that affect students with disabilities

Office of the Undersecretary

Another office supporting the education secretary is the Office of the Undersecretary. Professionals in these Department of Education job roles coordinate policies and programs for vocational and adult education and for postsecondary education and financial aid. Education leadership and policy jobs in this office include the following.

Office of Postsecondary Education

To help direct the education department’s postsecondary education efforts, professionals in this office develop policies and lead programs that:

  • Provide financial assistance to support postsecondary students and institutions
  • Attract disadvantaged students to postsecondary education and encourage their success
  • Promote the study of foreign languages and participation in international and exchange programs

Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) supports adult education and literacy, technical education, and community colleges. The OCTAE professional’s work includes:

  • Assisting state education agencies in adult education programming
  • Leading national efforts to improve the quality of adult, career, and technical education
  • Administering funding programs under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
  • Encouraging support for community colleges
  • Sharing information about community colleges with educators, students, families, and employers
  • Developing programs that assist students in completing certificate or degree programs

Federal Student Aid

Jobs in the US Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office are responsible for overseeing and administering postsecondary education federal financial aid programs, including grants, loans, and work-study assistance.

FSA professionals shoulder tasks related to:

  • Delivering financial aid programs
  • Providing financial aid training to institutions
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of financial aid programs
  • Determining institutions’ financial aid program needs and developing solutions

Set the Course for Education Nationwide 

Education leaders can shape the education of students in their district, organization, state, or nation. Department of Education professionals work to establish an educational path for all students on a national level by promoting civil rights, ensuring equitable access, and elevating educational quality. 

If you’re ready to pursue central office roles with the US Department of Education, discover how you can elevate your education leadership and policy expertise at American University. The online MEd in Education Policy and Leadership and online EdD in Education Policy and Leadership programs at American University aim to equip graduates with the skills and knowledge to make a wide-ranging impact in the education field.

Emphasizing key areas—social justice, policy, research—these dynamic postgraduate degree programs help ensure graduates have the tools to create, implement, and evaluate educational activities on a broad scale. Discover how American University’s online MEd in Education Policy and Leadership and online EdD in Education Policy and Leadership programs can help you set the course for our nation’s future generation of students.