Online Doctorates in Education 2021



Aspiring education administrators and professors should consider a doctorate in education, the terminal degree in the education field. Education professionals with doctoral degrees are qualified to work as teachers and administrators at all levels in the education field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), provosts and deans are often expected to hold a doctorate in education. These and other postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual wage of $95,410 as of May 2019, and they can expect a 4% growth in jobs from 2019 to 2029 — on pace with the average projected growth rate for all occupations.

Education teachers at the postsecondary level earned an average annual wage of $74,560 as of 2019. Those in the 90th percentile for salary took home around $128,140 per year. All things considered, earning an online doctoral degree in education can lead to careers with high earning potential.

Why Get a Doctorate in Education?

The education field is far-reaching, covering preschool, adult literacy, graduate school, and everything between. A bachelor's degree is the requirement for many teaching positions, but education professionals looking to advance to the highest positions can pursue graduate degrees.

Education teachers at the postsecondary level earned an average annual wage of $74,560 as of 2019.

Education, training, and library occupations are projected to grow by 5% from 2019 to 2029, and professionals in these positions earned a median annual wage of $50,790 as of 2019, according to the BLS. However, advanced positions in the education field — some of which require a doctorate in education — tend to garner much higher wages.

Postsecondary education administrators, for example, often hold doctoral degrees. The lowest 10% of earners in these occupations took home around $55,320 annually as of 2019 — nearly $5,000 more than the median annual wage for all education, training, and library occupations. Those in the 90th percentile, on the other hand, earned annual wages exceeding $194,090.

A doctorate in education offers the following benefits to education professionals looking to advance their careers:

Higher Salaries

Teachers and administrators at the postsecondary level are often expected to hold doctoral degrees. In turn, their wages far exceed typical salaries for lower-level educators and administrators.

Leadership Opportunities

Administrators with doctoral degrees in education qualify for leadership positions in higher education, including chancellors, provosts, and deans.

Specialized Research

Given the research-intensive nature of doctoral degrees, students can become subject matter experts in specialized subfields of education.

2021's Online Doctoral Degrees in Education

This page lists online doctorate in education programs, curated from data that schools submit to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Each school listed holds accreditation from one of the following regional bodies:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Some programs also hold education-specific accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). NCATE transitioned into CAEP in 2013, so NCATE-accredited programs hold the organization's legacy designation.

Explore the list below to begin your search for the ideal doctoral program.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Education

Andrews University

  • Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid

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Azusa Pacific University

  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
  • Accreditation: NCATE, WSCUC
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Doctor of Education
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid

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Maryville University

  • Doctor of Education - Higher Education Leadership
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or hybrid

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Nova Southeastern University

  • Doctor of Education
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid

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Regent University

  • Doctor of Education
  • Accreditation: CAEP, SACSCOC
  • Delivery Format: Online

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Saint Peter's University

  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)

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The University of Memphis

  • Doctorate of Education in Higher and Adult Education
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)

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University of Findlay

  • Doctor of Education
  • Accreditation: CAEP, HLC
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid

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University of Florida

  • Leadership in Educational Administration Doctorate
  • Accreditation: CAEP, SACSCOC
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Doctor of Education
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous)

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University of Mississippi

  • Doctor of Education With an Emphasis in Higher Education
  • Accreditation: NCATE, SACSCOC
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)

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University of North Georgia

  • Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership and Practice
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or hybrid

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University of Northern Colorado

  • Educational Leadership Doctor of Education
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous)

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University of Southern Mississippi

  • Educational Administration Doctorate
  • Accreditation: CAEP, SACSCOC
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous)

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Wilmington University

  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
  • Accreditation: CAEP, MSCHE
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid

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What To Expect From Online Education Doctoral Programs

Students pursuing a doctorate in education (Ed.D.) should gear up for at least two years of study, though part-time learners and those in Ph.D. in education programs may take four years or longer to complete their degrees.

The Ed.D. is a practice-focused degree. This credential often does not require a dissertation, as Ed.D. programs focus on practical applications of education knowledge to real-life situations. Students pursuing a doctorate in education use existing research to propose informed solutions to specific issues in their areas of study. Ph.D. students, on the other hand, aim to contribute new knowledge to the field through their own research.

Education doctoral programs comprise 60-90 credits, sharpening learners' knowledge of curriculum theory, educational systems, and learning and human development. Ed.D. programs usually require 60 credits, while Ph.D. programs usually require 90.

Read More About Doctoral Education Programs

Doctoral Admission Requirements

Prospective Ed.D. students should be prepared for a lengthy application process. Doctorate in education programs typically require candidates to hold a graduate degree — preferably a master's in education. Applicants should also expect to submit the following:

  • GRE scores from within the last five years
  • Letters of recommendation speaking to the applicant's academic and leadership potential
  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Professional or personal statement addressing what the applicant hopes to gain from their doctorate in education
  • Documentation of state certifications, if applicable

Some admissions departments also require applicants to complete an interview. Students hoping to earn a Ph.D. in education may have to meet additional requirements, such as 3-5 years of full-time education experience or prior experience with research or assessment.

Applicants who do not meet the above criteria may still qualify for admission under special circumstances, such as extraordinary academic promise.

Education Degree and Specialization Options

Learners seeking a terminal degree in education choose between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D. depending on their career goals. As mentioned above, Ed.D. programs are typically more practice-based, while Ph.D. programs focus on research. Either doctoral degree in education online requires a significant investment of time and money.

Popular career paths for graduates with an Ed.D. include superintendent, dean, university president, and principal. Ph.D. in education graduates qualify for more research-heavy positions, such as university professor or policy researcher.

Students pursuing a doctorate in education should prepare for 2-3 years of study. Popular Ed.D. concentrations include:

  • Organizational leadership
  • Higher education administration
  • Curriculum and instruction

Ph.D. in education learners, on the other hand, should gear up for 4-6 years of full-time school. These programs often offer specializations in:

  • Educational psychology
  • Early childhood education
  • Literacy
  • Sociocultural and community-based methods

Popular Doctoral Program Courses

Doctorate in education courses usually take a multiperspective approach to common problems in education. Coursework for an education Ph.D., on the other hand, focuses on qualitative and quantitative research methods, equipping learners to conduct their own research. Though the curricula of online doctoral degrees in education vary by school, there are courses common to many programs. See below for examples of some typical classes found in education doctoral programs.

Popular Courses

Principles of Teaching and Learning

Students in this class examine teaching, learning, and assessment, delving into how those practices relate to the teaching profession and schools as social organizations.

Gender, Difference, and Curriculum

Learners in this course delve into how curricula, policies, and practices in education are gendered. These students also explore how gender intersects with culture, race, religion, class, and sexual identity in education spaces.

Integrated Curriculum With Young Children

This course examines how early childhood educators create curricula that respond to children's experiences, interests, and learning habits. Learners focus on methods of inquiry and reputable sources that work well with young children.

Race, Ethnicity, and Inequality in Education

This class explores the race- and ethnicity-based inequalities of the U.S. education system. Students delve into the history of segregation in education and explore how modern schooling practices create and sustain inequality.

The Doctoral Dissertation

The dissertation experience differs for doctoral students depending on whether they pursue an Ed.D. or a Ph.D. in education. Because Ed.D. programs are practice-based, some do not require a dissertation. Others mandate a "dissertation in practice," in which students use research methods learned in their program to tackle real-world problems in education.

Ph.D. in education programs always require a dissertation. Education Ph.D. learners should expect to choose an area of research and meticulously investigate that area from multiple angles. They should also prepare to defend their dissertation at the end of the program.

Ultimately, the dissertation or culminating experience for an Ed.D. should demonstrate a student's readiness to apply what they have learned to their specialization in the real world. For a Ph.D. in education, the dissertation allows students to develop new research in their area of interest.

How Much Will a Doctorate in Education Cost?

According to U.S. News & World Report, the total cost of a doctoral degree in education typically ranges from $20,000 to $79,000. This variation depends on program length, degree type, and whether the school is public or private. Students' home states also play a role, since learners typically enjoy state-subsidized tuition rates if they hold residency in the state where they study.

Students pursuing a doctorate in education (Ed.D.) should gear up for at least two years of study, though part-time learners and those in Ph.D. in education programs may take four years or longer to complete their degrees.

Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs both incur hefty costs, but many offer aid and other options to help learners pay for their education. Most Ed.D. programs allow students to continue working full time while they pursue their degrees, meaning they do not have to sacrifice their income. Online doctorate in education programs are particularly flexible, permitting students to attend lectures and complete coursework from any location.

Ph.D. programs are less flexible but often offer full funding. Fully funded Ph.D. in education programs waive tuition and fees and pay students an annual stipend. In exchange, students in these programs may hold research fellowship or teaching assistantship positions.

Whether you pursue a doctoral degree in education online or in person, see the links below for more details on funding your education.

Jobs and Salaries for Doctors of Education

Graduates with a Ph.D. or doctorate in education qualify for the most advanced positions in the education field, many of which garner high salaries. Ed.D. graduates best apply their education in administrative roles, such as university provost or dean. Graduates who have earned a Ph.D. in education might pursue more research-heavy positions in policy or academia.

The BLS projects a 5% increase in education, training, and library roles between 2019 and 2029 — slightly higher than the 4% projected growth rate for all occupations. Education administrators should see similar job growth, while policy analysts and postsecondary teachers can also look forward to slightly faster-than-average growth for their occupations.

Higher Education Careers for Doctoral Graduates

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers work at the college and university level. They may focus on academic topics, or they may teach career and technical subjects. These professionals often conduct and publish their own research as well.

  • Required Education: Ph.D., master's degree occasionally accepted
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +9%
  • Median Annual Salary: $79,540

Political Scientist in Educational Services

These political scientists often work as policy analysts in the education sphere. They use surveys, economic data, and election results to evaluate policies and anticipate the potential effects of new policies.

  • Required Education: Doctorate or master's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
  • Median Annual Salary: $79,640

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Professionals in these positions supervise academics, student services, and faculty research at universities and colleges. They may work in admissions departments, departments of student affairs, or registrar's offices. These administrators would particularly benefit from an Ed.D.

  • Required Education: Doctorate or master's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
  • Median Annual Salary: $95,410

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Educators in principal roles oversee daily school activities and all other school operations. Principals are responsible for managing staff, creating productive learning environments, and coordinating curricula. These professionals should have prior teaching experience as well.

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

Explore Education Careers

How To Find the Right Education Program

Choosing a degree is a personal process. Each prospective student must consider their individual interests and priorities, narrowing down their school search according to those factors. That said, certain considerations — such as the following — should matter to most students.

  • School Size

    Larger schools may carry more recognizable brands and wider arrays of study options. Smaller colleges, on the other hand, often offer closer-knit student bodies and more individualized attention from faculty.

  • Cost/Financial Aid

    Private schools tend to cost more than public schools, and out-of-state public schools are usually more expensive than in-state public schools. However, sticker price isn't everything — students should also consider each prospective college's financial aid offerings.

  • Location

    Even learners pursuing an online doctorate in education should consider location, since their school may focus on local trends in education or require occasional campus visits for short residencies.

  • Available Concentrations

    Doctoral students in particular should care about their prospective schools' specialization offerings. Each learner's concentration determines their research focus, impacting their career opportunities after graduation.

  • Alumni Network

    Schools with larger alumni networks offer more opportunities for current students to connect with professionals who might help boost their careers after graduation.

  • Required Admission Materials

    Prospective students should ensure they fulfill all admission requirements before applying, as some schools may require professional certifications or test scores.

Why You Should Get Your Education Ph.D. or Ed.D. Online

As of fall 2018, 35.3% of students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions participated in at least some distance education, and 16.6% enrolled exclusively in distance education courses. Those rates were even higher among postbaccalaureate learners: more than a third enrolled in at least some distance courses, and 31% were enrolled exclusively in distance courses. As online education grows, so too does its reputation; employers now assign the same value to degrees earned online and in person, and in many cases, they cannot distinguish between the two.

Online doctorate in education programs are commonly asynchronous, allowing students to complete their coursework as their schedules permit.

Because Ed.D. programs typically cater to working professionals, these degrees particularly suit online learning formats. Online doctorate in education programs are commonly asynchronous, allowing students to complete their coursework as their schedules permit. They also offer a route for students to earn a doctoral degree without having to change location. Such flexibility lends itself nicely to online education, through which learners are not required to uproot their lives or sacrifice their jobs to further their education.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a doctoral degree in education?

Depending on program format and degree type, it takes 2-6 years to complete a doctorate in education. Ed.D. students can expect to earn their degrees in 2-3 years, while Ph.D. learners often take 4-6 years to complete their programs.

What can I do with a doctorate in education?

A doctorate in education prepares students to work as top-level academic administrators, such as deans or provosts. Likewise, a Ph.D. in education equips learners to work in more research-heavy positions like policy analyst or professor.

What salary can a doctorate in education get you?

Common careers for Ed.D. and Ph.D. graduates garner median annual salaries ranging from around $75,000 to around $95,000. Administrators tend to earn salaries on the higher end of that spectrum.

Is a doctorate in education worth it?

Yes. Professionals who want to teach or hold leadership positions on the postsecondary level would benefit from a doctoral degree. Likewise, students who want to help shape education policy should first obtain a Ph.D.

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

An Ed.D. is more practice-based, using existing research to inform methods of education. A Ph.D. in education focuses on developing new research in the field.

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