Top Doctorates in Education 2021



A doctorate in education is the highest degree level available in the field. Professionals with doctoral degrees in education help instruct new teachers, shape American schooling, and research solutions for current and emerging issues.

As today's teachers and students face problems like COVID-19, lack of access to learning technology, and chronic underfunding, prospective doctoral students can expect to shape educational policy for years to come.

Professionals with doctorates earn the highest salaries in the field of education. As of 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that university professors, college deans, and district superintendents earned median annual salaries of $79,540, $95,410, and $104,690, respectively.

Dozens of schools across the country offer online and on-campus doctoral degrees in education. Start your program search by browsing the following list of options, and continue reading to learn more about the requirements and benefits of earning this degree.

Why Get a Doctorate in Education?

Most education professionals do not pursue doctorates. Instructors and staff working in early childhood education, K-12 schools, and two-year colleges often hold associate, bachelor's, or master's degrees. What inspires people to pursue an even higher degree?

According to BLS data, college professors earn a median salary of $79,540 as of 2019, but a doctorate in education salary can easily garner six-figure salaries.

Terminal degree-holders are regarded as experts in their field. Those with doctorates in education make important contributions to society by teaching the next generation of educators, advocating for instructors and students, and conducting research to influence national, state, and local education policies.

Doctoral degrees attract individuals who want to solve problems and help enact change in American schooling. Another common goal of prospective students is teaching at the college or university level.

Significantly fewer Americans possess doctoral degrees than bachelor's or master's degrees. Coveted tenure-track faculty positions at universities also remain limited, however. In some cases, doctoral graduates find more opportunities outside of academia — working in nonprofit advocacy, curriculum development, government and policy, or by leading corporations serving the education industry.

Terminal degrees may not suit every education professional, but individuals interested in researching and improving the education system may find doctorates extremely rewarding and worthwhile. Key benefits of earning this degree include:

Subject Mastery

A terminal degree, such as a doctorate or Ph.D., demonstrates mastery of a subject. Graduates' breadth and depth of knowledge enable them to significantly impact education practice, policy, and research.

Career Opportunities

An education doctorate opens the door to exclusive job opportunities. Professionals with terminal degrees can pursue faculty positions at four-year universities and top administrative opportunities in K-12 school districts.

Earning Potential

According to BLS data, K-12 teachers earned a median salary of around $60,000 as of 2019. Positions commonly requiring doctorates tend to offer significantly higher pay. College professors earned a median salary of $79,540, and school superintendents earned a median annual salary of $104,690 as of 2019.

2021's Education Doctoral Programs

We compiled the following list of regionally accredited universities offering doctoral programs using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Many of these universities confer multiple educational doctorates. Explore their websites to find the best focus and delivery method for you.

Top Doctorates in Education

American International College

  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Supervision

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Andrews University

  • Ed.D. or Ph.D. in Educational Leadership

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Arizona State University

  • Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation

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Auburn University

  • Administration of Higher Education Ph.D.

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Azusa Pacific University

  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

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Claremont Graduate University

  • Ph.D. in Education

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Columbia University in the City of New York

  • Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Teaching

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Concordia University Texas

  • Doctor of Education

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Concordia University Chicago

  • Leadership Ed.D. With a Specialization in Educational Leadership

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Delta State University

  • Doctor of Education in Professional Studies

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DePaul University

  • Curriculum Studies Ed.D.

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East Tennessee State University

  • Educational Leadership, Ed.D.

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Florida Gulf Coast University

  • Doctor of Education

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Florida State University

  • Doctor of Education or Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education

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George Mason University

  • Education, Ph.D.

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Georgia State University

  • Teaching and Learning, Ph.D.

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Harvard University

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Education

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Hofstra University

  • Ed.D in Educational and Policy Leadership

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Jackson State University

  • Executive Ph.D. in Urban Higher Education

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Education, Ph.D.

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Kennesaw State University

  • Ed.D. Teacher Leadership

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Lesley University

  • Ph.D. in Educational Leadership

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Marshall University

  • Doctor of Education

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Maryville University

  • Doctor of Education - Higher Education Leadership

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Mississippi State University

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership With a Concentration in Higher Education Leadership

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Montana State University

  • Ed.D. in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction

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Nova Southeastern University

  • Doctor of Education

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Oakland University

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Education: Educational Leadership

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Oklahoma State University

  • Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Option in Higher Education

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Oregon State University

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Education

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Purdue University

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies

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Regent University

  • Doctor of Education

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Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

  • Education Doctorate

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Saint Louis University

  • Curriculum and Instruction, Ph.D.

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Saint Peter's University

  • Doctor of Education: Educational Leadership (Higher Education)

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San Diego State University

  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership With PreK-12 Specialization

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San Francisco State University

  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

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Southwest Baptist University

  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

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Stanford University

  • Doctorate in Education

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Temple University

  • Education Ph.D.

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The Ohio State University

  • Doctor of Education in Educational Studies

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University of Memphis

  • Doctorate of Education in Higher and Adult Education: Higher Education Concentration

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Education Ph.D.

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University of Alabama

  • Educational Leadership, Ed.D.

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University of Alabama at Birmingham

  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

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University of Arizona

  • Higher Education (Ph.D.)

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University of California, Berkeley

  • Ph.D. in Education

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University of California, Los Angeles

  • Educational Leadership, Ed.D.

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University of California, Riverside

  • Ph.D. in Education

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University of California, San Diego

  • Ph.D. in Education

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University of California, Santa Barbara

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Education

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University of Central Florida

  • Education Ph.D.

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University of Delaware

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Education

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University of Findlay

  • Doctor of Education

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University of Florida

  • Higher Education Ph.D.

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University of Georgia

  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

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University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Education

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University of Idaho

  • Education, Ed.D.

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, Ed.D.

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University of Iowa

  • Ph.D. in Educational Leadership

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University of Maine

  • Ph.D. in Education

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University of Massachusetts Amherst

  • Ph.D. in Education

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University of Massachusetts Boston

  • Higher Education Ed.D./Ph.D.

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University of Massachusetts Lowell

  • Leadership in Education Ph.D.

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University of Michigan

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education

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University of Michigan-Dearborn

  • Doctorate in Education

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University of Michigan-Flint

  • Doctor of Education

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities

  • Ph.D. in OLDP, Education Policy and Leadership

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University of Mississippi

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Doctor of Education in Education

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University of Missouri St. Louis

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Education, Emphasis in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

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University of Nevada, Las Vegas

  • Doctor of Education - Executive Educational Leadership

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University of Nevada, Reno

  • Ph.D. in Education: Educational Leadership

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University of North Georgia

  • Higher Education Leadership and Practice (Ed.D.)

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University of North Texas

  • Doctorate of Education or Doctorate in Philosophy in Educational Leadership

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University of Northern Colorado

  • Educational Studies Ed.D.

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University of Northern Iowa

  • Doctor of Education

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University of Pennsylvania

  • Higher Education, Ed.D.

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University of Pittsburgh

  • Doctor of Education

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University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College

  • Ph.D. in Education

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University of Rochester

  • Ed.D. in Educational Administration

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University of South Carolina

  • Teaching and Learning, Ph.D.

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University of Southern Mississippi

  • Education (Educational Administration P-12) Ed.D.

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University of the Incarnate Word

  • Doctor of Philosophy With a Concentration in Student Services and Higher Education Administration

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University of the Pacific

  • Ed.D, Leadership & Innovation

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University of Utah

  • Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration

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University of Virginia

  • Ph.D. in Education - Higher Ed

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University of Washington

  • P-12 EdPOL Ph.D.

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University of Wyoming

  • Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration

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Virginia Commonwealth University

  • Ed.D. in Leadership

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Washington State University

  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

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Washington University in St. Louis

  • Ph.D. in Education

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Wilmington University

  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

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What To Expect From Education Doctoral Programs

Students pursuing doctoral degrees in education can expect to take 60-90 credits of coursework, depending on the type of degree. Doctor of education (Ed.D.) programs typically take around three years to complete, while Ph.D. programs require an investment of approximately five years.

Universities readily offer doctoral and Ph.D. programs in on-campus, online, and hybrid formats, all with flexible schedules designed to meet the needs of working educators and school administrators. If you choose to study online, prepare to travel to campus a few times throughout the program to attend mandatory residencies or workshops.

Ph.D. programs primarily focus on theoretical study, while Ed.D. programs offer a more practical curriculum. Both degrees allow students to choose concentration options to align with their research interests and career goals. A terminal degree in education culminates with a dissertation or research project.

Read More About Doctoral Education Programs

Doctoral Admission Requirements

Before applying to a doctorate or Ph.D. in education, learners must meet a few basic eligibility requirements. Each candidate must possess several years of relevant work experience and a master's degree (or be in their final semester of master's study).

Graduate schools require applicants to submit official or unofficial transcripts, typically demonstrating a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. Most doctorate in education programs ask for GRE or GMAT scores, but some programs waive this requirement.

Other common admission materials include a current resume or CV, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a professional or academic writing sample. Some schools require interviews to discuss candidates' prior experience, future goals, and interest in the program. Application fees for graduate study vary among institutions, often ranging from $50-$140.

Education Degree and Specialization Options

An education professional interested in earning a terminal degree can enroll in either an Ed.D. or a Ph.D. program. These degrees offer similar prestige with some key differences in academics and focus.

Doctor of Education

  • Applied, professional degree focused on enhancing practical skills along with research abilities
  • Requires approximately 60 credits
  • May require a dissertation
  • Ideal for education professionals looking to advance into school administration positions or education-focused careers in the government, nonprofit, and corporate sectors

Doctor of Philosophy

  • Theoretical and study-based, with a focus on developing scholarly research abilities
  • Requires up to 90 credits
  • Requires a dissertation
  • Ideal for education professionals looking to teach at the university level, publish in academic journals, and contribute to a larger body of knowledge

Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs offer concentrations to accommodate various interests and career goals. Common options include curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, education policy studies, and educational technology.

Popular Doctoral Program Courses

Doctoral and Ph.D. in education programs offer diverse curriculum plans, largely dependent on the specialization a learner decides to pursue. While all degree candidates take common classes in research methods to prepare for the dissertation process, core and elective courses vary among programs.

Common doctoral-level courses include:

Popular Courses

Curriculum and Assessment

This course encourages candidates to explore curriculum development, instruction, and assessment. Depending on program focus, coursework may center on K-12 or college teaching. Common topics include current curriculum trends, selection of texts and materials, grading procedures, and approaches to student evaluation.

Issues and Trends in Learning Technologies

Enrollees examine how technology affects the teaching and learning processes, emphasizing communication, collaboration, engagement, and problem-solving. Coursework also discusses current learning technology trends and methods of integrating technology and digital media into the K-12 classroom.

Governance and Politics of Education

This course helps students develop an understanding of how federal, state, and local policies shape the education profession. Coursework explores governance structures, political power, and impacts on the school-level decision-making process. Class discussions center on contemporary research and the role of education administrators in politics.

Research Theory, Design, and Methods

Essential for doctoral students in any discipline, this course provides degree candidates with the knowledge and skills required to design and conduct research. Common topics include different types of research designs, data collection methods, and the interpretation and application of research. Learners may also discuss the ethical and social implications of research.

The Doctoral Dissertation

A dissertation marks the final requirement of a doctoral student's education. The time it takes to complete a dissertation varies among enrollees, but most individuals spend at least a year working on this major project.

Before a candidate can begin researching and writing, they must submit a formal proposal detailing the topic of their choice, the questions they hope to answer, and their chosen research methodology. Dissertation topics can cover nearly any subject, such as higher education laws, K-12 administration issues, or how technology affects young learners.

After approval, the student begins researching, gathering data, and writing to produce a scholarly work that contributes original ideas to the field of education. Candidates then present their dissertations and defend their findings to a committee.

Not every education doctorate requires a dissertation. Some programs, often those resulting in an Ed.D. rather than a Ph.D., offer project-based options instead.

How Much Will a Doctorate in Education Cost?

According to U.S. News & World Report, a doctoral degree in education costs around $375-$1,230 per credit. Requiring approximately 54-64 credits to graduate, students can expect to pay anywhere from $20,000-$79,000 in tuition. Your state residency and whether you enroll at a public or private institution can significantly affect your total tuition costs.

Many universities charge higher tuition for out-of-state students, although some online programs offer flat rates for all learners, regardless of location. Similarly, while private schools charge more than public schools, they do not charge more based on residency. Other costs include books, supplies, travel (for required residencies), and any applicable facility or technology fees.

Doctoral students can reduce out-of-pocket costs by pursuing scholarships and grants. Assistantships and fellowships also provide significant funding, but they require employment or research commitments and can be extremely competitive. Explore your funding options through the links below.

Jobs and Salaries for Doctors of Education

Earning a doctoral degree in education allows teaching professionals to pursue advanced leadership careers in K-12 and postsecondary environments. Opportunities also abound within the greater education industry in nonprofit, corporate, and research endeavors.

A terminal degree significantly increases earning potential. According to BLS data, college professors earn a median salary of $79,540 as of 2019, but a doctorate in education salary can easily garner six-figure salaries. Top-paying occupations include K-12 principals, superintendents, and university provosts.

Jobs and Salaries for Doctors of Education

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers with doctorates in education instruct college and university enrollees in subjects related to teaching, like curriculum planning, student assessment, and leadership. At the university level, faculty members may also publish scholarly papers and books. Professors need to maintain current knowledge of their field, develop course syllabi, work closely with students, and supervise graduate assistants.

  • Required Education: Doctoral degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +9%
  • Median Annual Salary: $79,540

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators ensure the smooth operation of colleges and universities by overseeing departmental activities in student services, academics, and faculty research. Provosts and deans typically need a Ph.D. Provosts aid college presidents in the development of academic policies, budget management, faculty appointment. Deans oversee and coordinate individual schools within a university system, like the school of education.

  • Required Education: Ph.D. often required for provosts and deans
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
  • Median Annual Salary: $95,410

Elementary, Middle School, or High School Principal

Principals oversee all operations and activities at K-12 schools. Responsibilities vary by school and district size, but common tasks include developing and implementing curriculum standards, counseling and disciplining students, and organizing professional development programs for staff. Most principal positions require master's degrees. A doctorate in education can increase hiring potential and salary expectations, with opportunities to advance to superintendent.

  • Required Education: At least a master's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
  • Median Annual Salary: $96,400

Top Executive

Superintendents oversee academics, spending, facilities, and hiring throughout their school districts. However, not every individual with an Ed.D. or Ph.D. pursues a career within a K-12 or postsecondary school system. Some graduates use their knowledge, skills, and experience to lead corporate businesses and nonprofit organizations. These entities provide services focused on improving education institutions, developing academic curricula, and influencing standards and policies.

  • Required Education: At least a bachelor's, though master's degrees are common
  • Average Annual Salary: $118,980

Explore Education Careers

How To Find the Right Education Doctorate

Deciding to pursue a doctorate in education requires a significant investment of time, money, and effort. Your program selection process deserves a commensurate amount of care and consideration. Some factors to keep in mind include:

  • Accreditation

    As the most important item on this list, accreditation ensures that your institution and degree meet minimum third-party standards. Look for schools with regional or national accreditation from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

  • Faculty Credentials

    Before you apply to a program, become familiar with the department's faculty through publications and award information. Choose a program with experts you want to learn from.

  • Available Concentrations

    Doctorate and Ph.D. in education programs commonly offer concentrations in areas like special education, higher education, and policy. Seek out institutions with options that fit your career goals.

  • Prestige

    Prestige does not always guarantee a better education, but it can provide employer name recognition, access to a top alumni network, and a sense of personal pride.

  • Location

    Even if you pursue an education doctorate online, you may need to travel to campus several times throughout the program for residencies and workshops.

Should You Get Your Ph.D. in Education Online?

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows online education continuing to grow in popularity, especially among postbaccalaureate students. In fall 2018, nearly 40% of enrollees pursuing master's, doctoral, or professional degrees took at least one course through distance education. Over 30% of respondents studied exclusively through remote means.

Because many degree candidates attend school while maintaining full-time teaching jobs, an education doctorate translates particularly well to the online learning experience. Online students can access course material and complete assignments at their convenience, without needing to travel to campus.

To help determine whether the online experience is right for you, consider the following factors:

  • Technology Requirements: Do you have reliable access to high-speed internet, a computer, and any necessary software?
  • Learning Environment: Does your home offer a quiet, distraction-free environment? If not, where else can you study?
  • Remote Communication: Do you feel comfortable communicating with peers and instructors virtually rather than in person?

For the right student, an online doctoral degree in education offers the most flexible pathway to a terminal degree and its associated career growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a doctorate in education?

Advanced degrees require a significant time commitment. A doctorate in education takes approximately three years of full-time study to complete. A Ph.D. in education may take five years or more to complete.

Can I teach with a doctoral degree?

Yes. A doctorate in education prepares graduates for college-level teaching careers. Other options include administration and leadership positions in K-12 districts.

What does it take to get a Ph.D. in education?

To earn a Ph.D. in education, students need to complete 60-90 credits, comprising core coursework, research, and a dissertation and defense. An online Ph.D. often requires in-person residencies.

Is a doctorate in education worth it?

Many professionals find doctoral degrees in education a worthwhile pursuit. These degrees diversify career opportunities, increase salary potential, and allow graduates to make significant, real-world impacts on the education sector.

What's the difference between an Ed.D and a Ph.D. in education?

An Ed.D. is a professional degree aimed at individuals who want to pursue positions in educational leadership. A Ph.D. in education prepares graduates for careers in research and higher education.

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