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.
Recommended Online Programs
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:
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
- Ed.D. or Ph.D. in Educational Leadership
Arizona State University
- Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation
- Administration of Higher Education Ph.D.
Azusa Pacific University
Claremont Graduate University
Columbia University in the City of New York
- Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Teaching
Concordia University Texas
Concordia University Chicago
- Leadership Ed.D. With a Specialization in Educational Leadership
Delta State University
- Doctor of Education in Professional Studies
- Curriculum Studies Ed.D.
East Tennessee State University
Florida Gulf Coast University
Florida State University
- Doctor of Education or Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education
George Mason University
- Education, Ph.D.
Georgia State University
- Teaching and Learning, Ph.D.
- Ed.D in Educational and Policy Leadership
Jackson State University
- Executive Ph.D. in Urban Higher Education
Johns Hopkins University
- Education, Ph.D.
Kennesaw State University
- Ed.D. Teacher Leadership
- Ph.D. in Educational Leadership
- Doctor of Education - Higher Education Leadership
Mississippi State University
- Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership With a Concentration in Higher Education Leadership
Montana State University
- Ed.D. in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction
Nova Southeastern University
- Doctor of Philosophy in Education: Educational Leadership
Oklahoma State University
- Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Option in Higher Education
Oregon State University
- Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
- Education Doctorate
Saint Louis University
- Curriculum and Instruction, Ph.D.
Saint Peter's University
- Doctor of Education: Educational Leadership (Higher Education)
San Diego State University
- Ed.D. in Educational Leadership With PreK-12 Specialization
San Francisco State University
Southwest Baptist University
- Doctorate in Education
The Ohio State University
- Doctor of Education in Educational Studies
University of Memphis
- Doctorate of Education in Higher and Adult Education: Higher Education Concentration
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Alabama
University of Alabama at Birmingham
University of Arizona
- Higher Education (Ph.D.)
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Riverside
University of California, San Diego
University of California, Santa Barbara
- Doctor of Philosophy, Education
University of Central Florida
University of Delaware
University of Findlay
University of Florida
- Higher Education Ph.D.
University of Georgia
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa
University of Idaho
- Education, Ed.D.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, Ed.D.
University of Iowa
- Ph.D. in Educational Leadership
University of Maine
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Boston
- Higher Education Ed.D./Ph.D.
University of Massachusetts Lowell
- Leadership in Education Ph.D.
University of Michigan
- Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education
University of Michigan-Dearborn
- Doctorate in Education
University of Michigan-Flint
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
- Ph.D. in OLDP, Education Policy and Leadership
University of Mississippi
- Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Doctor of Education in Education
University of Missouri St. Louis
- Doctor of Philosophy in Education, Emphasis in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- Doctor of Education - Executive Educational Leadership
University of Nevada, Reno
- Ph.D. in Education: Educational Leadership
University of North Georgia
- Higher Education Leadership and Practice (Ed.D.)
University of North Texas
- Doctorate of Education or Doctorate in Philosophy in Educational Leadership
University of Northern Colorado
- Educational Studies Ed.D.
University of Northern Iowa
University of Pennsylvania
- Higher Education, Ed.D.
University of Pittsburgh
University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College
University of Rochester
- Ed.D. in Educational Administration
University of South Carolina
- Teaching and Learning, Ph.D.
University of Southern Mississippi
- Education (Educational Administration P-12) Ed.D.
University of the Incarnate Word
- Doctor of Philosophy With a Concentration in Student Services and Higher Education Administration
University of the Pacific
- Ed.D, Leadership & Innovation
University of Utah
- Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration
University of Virginia
- Ph.D. in Education - Higher Ed
University of Washington
- P-12 EdPOL Ph.D.
University of Wyoming
- Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration
Virginia Commonwealth University
- Ed.D. in Leadership
Washington State University
Washington University in St. Louis
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:
Curriculum and Assessment
Issues and Trends in Learning Technologies
Governance and Politics of Education
Research Theory, Design, and Methods
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.