Educators play a central role in every society, no matter the level of education. Educators form a link in the minds and personalities of their students between the cultural, religious, artistic, and scientific heritage of the past and the important issues of the present with an eye to preparing pathways toward shaping a better future.

Because of growth in education knowledge and theory, the increasing sense of the importance of diversity, and changing social dynamics, the field of education is exciting and challenging. Out in front of the field, providing new developments and techniques, are educational leaders. Often holding a doctorate of education, these leaders work in administrative and/or developmental and research areas within the field of education.

In order to prepare for the challenges of a career in education leadership, administrators and developers pursue either an EdD or Ph.D. in Education. These doctoral programs in education serve as the primary path educational leaders must take in order to work as educational leaders in government-based positions, private schools, primary and secondary education, and colleges and universities.

In terms of what doctorates in education are available, the Doctor of Education Degree (EdD), as well as the Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD), are the primary terminal degrees in the field of education. Education, however, has many facets. One may look at the educational doctorate in terms of research, post-secondary teaching, or academic work, which would fit more with a PhD. Or, one may be more inclined toward clinical, professional or administrative educational roles.

These could be in private or public venues or organizations. However difficult the decision for future study may be just on these terms, the choices keep going. Education branches out into numerous (hopefully not countless) areas of study. This article explores the various options within options among education doctoral degree programs and offers a brief description of each.

Is Getting a Doctorate in Education a Good Idea?

Now is a great time to work in educational leadership. The need and demand for trained educational leaders and administrators are growing. Doctorate in education programs are divided into the EdD or the Ph.D. For those with a doctoral degree in education, over the next eight years, an eight percent increase is predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statics in educational leadership jobs in the levels of K-12.

Over the same period of time, an impressive fifteen percent increase in the number of jobs in educational leadership is forecast in post-secondary education administration.

Common Doctorate in Education Admission Requirements

Admission to an online EdD or Ph.D. in Education program is a milestone, marking your journey to educational leadership. However, the application process can be competitive, so it’s good to have a clear idea of what you’re hoping to specialize in and what the requirements are for admission to a top online doctorate of education degree program. Knowing what you are aiming for and what online EdD and Ph.D. programs are looking for will help give you an edge in the admissions process. Here are some of the most common admissions requirements for EdD and Ph.D. in Education programs:

  • Master’s Degree from an accredited college or university;
  • Often programs will require professional experience and/or licensure;
  • Usually, a minimum GPA (for graduate work) of 3.0 will be required;
  • Completed application;
  • Transcripts;
  • Test scores (e.g., GRE);
  • Letters of recommendation

Common Areas of Concentration in Doctor of Education Degree Programs

Education reaches into virtually every area of personal and social life and affects all fields of human activity. For this reason, general advanced education and professional experience can be greatly enhanced in the fields of educational leadership through specific concentrations designed to fit specific needs. Although there are many others, here are some common concentrations one will find in most doctorate of education programs:

  • Culture, Communities, and Education
  • Educational Policy, Leadership, and Instruction
  • Higher Education
  • Human Development and Education
  • Policy Analysis in Education

While there will be a common core of courses that every doctorate of education student will take with the rest of their class, the specific career goals and particular talents and interests of each student will determine what specialized doctoral degree in education concentrations that student takes.

What’s a Doctor of Education Degree Going to Cost?

Earning a doctoral degree in education can be pricey. However, there is a wide price range in EdD and Ph.D. studies. Several considerations should be kept in mind calculating program costs:

  • Tuition: $20,000-$80,000 per year
  • Books and Materials
  • Scholarships, discounts, grants, and other money-saving options
  • In-state vs. out-of-state tuition: often, in-state tuition will be $10,000-$20,000 less per year than out-of-state graduate tuition

Obviously, tuition is the major cost in any online EdD of Ph.D. of Education. State and/or public universities will often have lower tuition than their private university counterparts, while private universities and colleges will often emphasize reputation, class size, specialized focus, and scholarly output by faculty. Clearly, comparisons between public and private degree programs will be highly subjective, and not every point of comparison will follow general trends.

How Long Will a Doctorate in Education Take?

An EdD will typically take three to four years to complete. Two years will be given to coursework and an additional one to two years to research and write a dissertation. The dissertation, while an original piece of scholarship, will focus on application.

The Ph.D. in Education will commonly take between five and seven years to complete. The number of courses in a Ph.D. program will be similar to what is required in an EdD program. The extra time involved in the Ph.D. in Education usually comes as a result of the more theoretical focus of dissertation research and composition.

After the Doctorate in Education Program: Qualifications and Careers


Licensures are important in the field of educational leadership and administration. In fact, all fifty states have licensure requirements for education leaders and administrators. A good doctorate of education program (especially the EdD) can prepare its graduates to pass licensing exams in the following areas:

  • Principal Licensure
  • Superintendent Licensure
  • School Business Administrator Licensure

Careers Paths and Salaries for Doctorates in Education

Doctor of Education (EdD)

  • School Principal ($70,000-$123,000 per year)
  • Education Administrator (primary, elementary, and secondary) ($88,390 per year)
  • Education Administrator (post-secondary)
  • Instructional Coordinator ($34,000-$91,700 per year)
  • Superintendent ($61,100-$121,000 per year)
  • Adult Education ($45,000-65,300 per year)
  • Director of Online Learning ($36,000-$135,000 per year)
  • Education Advising and/or Counseling ($44,200-$55,500 per year)

Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)

  • Researcher ($65,000 average per year)
  • Professor ($65,000 average per year)
  • Research and Education Director ($65,300-$121,000 per year)
  • Training and Management ($76,000 average per year)
  • School Administrator or Superintendent ($121,000 average per year)
  • Academic Dean ($111,000-$162,000 per year)
  • College/University President ($82,000-$500,00 per year)

Choosing the Right Doctor of Education Program: EdD or Ph.D.?

The Doctor of Education degree program (EdD) is a doctoral degree in Education that focuses on administrative, professional, or academic ability and skill training. EdD programs are different than education Ph.D. programs. They are less oriented around original research and exclusively academic pursuits and focus more on either the administrative or professional side of education, of which there are many specializations of study.

The Ph.D. in Education is more focused on research and bringing new ideas to the practice and policy of education. Rather than a professional degree, it is a more academic degree. One may pursue a Ph.D. in Education, usually emphasizing a certain area of study or concentration while still gleaning information from an interdisciplinary educational field.

Doctor of Education (EdD) Concentrations

Almost all of the degrees and specializations explored in this article are offered on campus or in an online EdD program. The best EdD programs offer a number of specializations. These will be based upon a common core EdD foundation enhanced by focused training and practice in specialized areas of educational leadership.

EdD: Curriculum and Instruction

The general Curriculum and Instruction EdD prepares students for jobs within the field of education specifically geared toward curriculum and methods of instruction. Graduates working in the field of curriculum and instruction will work toward creating improvements in effective teaching in schools and colleges. Students in this program can expect to learn how to research effectively, design curriculum, gain classroom management methods and resources, as well as explore the most advanced theories of education.

Specializations explored within the EdD in Curriculum and Instruction include the study of curriculums designed for private and public school systems of all grade levels. They also include the study and production of curriculum for teachers and special education. These specializations make the holder of the doctorate an expert who has the skill necessary to enter the highest levels of employment in his or her field.

  • Elementary Education
    • The EdD in Curriculum and Instruction – Elementary Education specifically explores classroom, behavior, and individual methods and theories of education for the elementary years of childhood learning. Careers in this field include:
      • Elementary educator
      • School administrator
      • Professor or researcher
  • Middle-Grades Education
    • If one is interested in specializing in education curriculum for the middle years between elementary and secondary education, the Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction – Middle-Grades Education is the degree to pursue. This degree program offers graduates the opportunity to gain instruction and expertise in the middle school level of teaching, managing classroom situations, and developing content for middle school curriculum. Jobs in this field include:
      • Middle school principal
      • School administrator
      • Specialist in education
  • Secondary Education
    • This education doctoral specialization moves into the higher levels of education. Various theories of education, technology, research, and leadership are some of the subjects studied in this degree program. Careers include:
      • Professor or researcher
      • High school or secondary school teacher
      • Education Specialist
  • Special Education
    • Students in the Special Education EdD specialization will learn how to design a curriculum that effectively meets the needs of gifted students. In order to do this, EdD students become specialists in evaluating students’ ability levels, as well as evaluating and researching special education theory. Jobs in this field include:
      • Gifted or special education teacher
      • Professor or researcher
  • Teachers, Schools, and Society
    • The Curriculum EdD with an emphasis on Teachers, Schools and Society is not as research-intensive as others. It is a more practical degree for professionals who wish to further their ability to draw on others’ research. It is designed to assist leaders in education to practically solve leadership challenges from the research and theory that they are taught to analyze and apply. Classes in this degree program usually include areas of study such as:
      • Poverty in schools
      • Leadership for change in schools
      • Learning within one’s culture

EdD: Christian Leadership/Ministry Leadership

The EdD in Christian Leadership/Ministry Leadership is an education degree that assists students in increasing their skills in leadership, as well as learning how to have a more dynamic ministry. The training in this program is approached from a Christian perspective. Graduates are equipped to work at the highest levels of ministry in mainly private or nonprofit organizations or Christian academics. Jobs available may include Director of a ministry, Professor of theology or Executive of a nonprofit.

EdD: Counseling

The EdD in Counseling or Counseling and Mental Health prepares students to gain leadership positions in the counseling profession as an educator or faculty members. Some schools offer a Mental Health option that includes more classes but also a license in mental health counseling. Some EdD counseling programs offer internships in health clinics, hospitals, drug or alcohol treatment facilities, or higher education settings. Working with people of various ages or specific ages is also usually an option of focus in this field.

  • Community Care and Counseling: Marriage and Family
    • The Doctor of Education in Marriage and Family Counseling gives counselors special training in counseling married couples and family members. Subjects studied include trauma, the development of family, and current issues within marriage counseling theory are mastered.
  • Community Care and Counseling: Traumatology
    • The EdD in Counseling focused on Traumatology zeros in on how best to help those who have faced trauma through events ranging from early trauma to natural disasters and their effect on communities. Jobs in the field specifically include:
      • Outpatient Therapist
      • Trauma counselor
  • Community Care and Counseling: Pastoral Counseling
    • Subjects studied within an EdD in Counseling – Pastoral Counseling involves ethics, growth, and development of both counselor and others, as well as crisis management. Those who graduate with this degree can effectively work in the field of ministry as a counselor or therapist.
  • Counselor Education and Supervision
    • The EdD in Counselor Education and Supervision is designed for professional counselors that are either licensed or license-eligible. The degree specialization is for those who wish to advance their practice knowledge and credentials, supervise clinics, counsel educators and learn leadership skills. Careers include:
      • Social Worker
      • Church Counselor

EdD: Educational Leadership

The Educational Leadership EdD is another doctoral geared toward working professionals. The emphases of the degree are general in that they include a broad scope of educational leadership ranging from Pre-K to post-secondary and career. Specializations in the degree program are usually pursued.

  • Administration or Organizational Leadership
    • The EdD in Educational Leadership with an emphasis on Administration Leadership is for those working as administrators. The degree helps them to better impact their organization or workplace. Subjects covered are how to innovatively correct problems and make decisions that will show executive leadership qualities.
  • Educational Leadership and Policy
    • Equipping graduates to work at policy centers and in executive leadership, the EdD in Educational Leadership and Policy takes professionals deeper into the surrounding network of ethics and social responsibility. These are approached through recognizing issues, developing and examining theory and turning findings into practice.
  • Global Education Leadership
    • This EdD program in Global Education Leadership is for those who are specifically interested in how leadership affects the global educational environment. The Global Executive draws from solutions around the world to solve local as well as global educational issues. Graduates go on into these careers among others:
      • Faculty member
      • Consultant
      • Chief operating officer
  • Community College Leadership
    • Those who already hold or are interested in entering positions of leadership within a community college may be interested in furthering their education with the EdD in Community College Leadership. Emphases in different programs may vary from technological classes and studies to the specific concerns of the contemporary community college.
  • Higher Education Leadership
    • The Higher Education Leadership EdD usually covers subjects such as the history of higher education, evaluation of the educational, and political climate, ethics, intrinsic and extrinsic higher education structures, and planning strategically for the future. Careers this degree specifically relates to are:
      • Academic Dean
      • Financial Director
  • Instructional Leadership
    • The Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership gives professional educators skills in evaluating and developing curricula as well as instruction and technology. Classes usually contain the following concepts:
      • Current trends in education
      • Literacy evaluation
      • Development both professionally and in leadership qualities
  • Transformational Leadership Curriculum and Instruction
    • Transformational Leadership Curriculum and Instruction as a specialization in the EdD are for those who easily can see the big picture. Not only do they work with changes within education but also with people and organizations which are changing to meet current educational demands. Graduates of this degree program usually work in careers such as:
      • Military personnel
      • Medical educators
      • Business leaders
  • Educational Leadership – Special Education
    • The Doctor of Education in Special Education concentrates on topics such as equality, ethics, global educational policy and the neuroscience of learning, program supervision and behavior analysis. This EdD prepares graduates to work in special education as administrators, teachers, professors, and researchers.
  • Interdisciplinary Leadership
    • Students of an EdD in Interdisciplinary Leadership are looking to become experts in what it takes to be a leader in multiple types of organizations. Students in this program study subjects like leadership styles, applied ethics and organizational theory. Graduates go on to careers as school educators or administrators, chief executives or marketing and sales leaders among others.

EdD: International Education

An International Education EdD brings students deeper into the study of global development, international educational transfer, and theories of comparative education. The program gives students tools to research vital contemporary issues, such as being accountable in the educational world as well as cooperating globally. Graduates go on to become experts and leaders in the global education field.

Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Ph.D.) Concentrations

Or, like the PhDs listed below, one’s educational concentration can be more focused throughout the entire Ph.D. program. Studies emphasized in a general Ph.D. in Education are more interdisciplinary and can include educational topics as broad as mathematics, humanities, social science, and medicine. However, concentrations may hone in on such topics as language, literacy, and culture or mathematics education, science, or agricultural education, depending on one’s interests. As off-shoots of the Ph.D. in Education, the degrees below explore different facets of research looking at the field of education.

PhD: Counselor Education and Supervision

The Counselor Education and Supervision Ph.D. is similar to the EdD in Counselor Education and Supervision. However, as a research degree, the Ph.D. will delve deeper into research techniques and develop new and cutting-edge theories that will expand the field of information available in mental health research. One’s occupations coming out of this Ph.D. would likely be oriented more toward research, teaching, and mentoring rather than professional practice, though both are an option.

PhD: Curriculum and Instruction

An EdD in Curriculum and Instruction looks to problem solve by applying past and current theories to present situations. A PhD in Curriculum and Instruction emphasizes topics like the ideas in education, predictive design and analysis and advanced ideas in curriculum theory. As PhD research is highly concentrated, students likely will, through the program, develop a topic of research that is both innovative and specific.

Ph.D.: Educational Counseling

A Ph.D. in Educational Counseling is more likely to begin and end in academia. Learning the theories, interpreting data and expanding research in the field of educational counseling will culminate in a dissertation focused on a specific area in educational counseling. This could be an age group, a level of education or a specific theory that requires new data and analysis.

Subjects studied in this degree program are ethics, theory, research, counseling advocacy and analysis of behavioral data, among others. Those who graduate with a PhD in Educational Counseling will work in professorial positions or as educators for those in professorial positions. They may also work in mental health centers, government agencies or as counseling practitioners.

Ph.D.: Literacy, Culture and Language Education

A Ph.D. in Literacy, Culture and Language Education equips graduates to build a career as a top literacy and language educator. Building upon a base of knowledge, students in this Ph.D. integrate literacy, culture and language and how best to communicate their knowledge to others. The Ph.D. in Literacy, Culture and Language is research-based, giving students a chance to make new discoveries in their field.

Ph.D.: Educational Leadership

The Ph.D. in Educational Leadership brings students more deeply into the theories and research that have affected the leaders in education. Research is conducted on subjects such as teacher incentives, evaluating principals and educators, parent involvement, zoning, coaching and the effects of competition, among others. Students study and research the economic and history of education in order to understand better how to advance in their field and in the educational world.

Ph.D.: Instructional Design and Technology

Instructional Design and Technology is an area of education that is growing quickly. From higher education to government organizations, those with PhDs in the field will find themselves at the top of the instructional design wave of the future. Subjects studied and researched in this Ph.D. program include human performance technology, distance education and instructional message design. Graduates of the Ph.D. program will be equipped to pursue careers such as:

  • Instructional Designers and Technologists
  • Distance Learning Coordinators

Ph.D.: Organizational Leadership

The Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership is geared toward the organizational side of executive leadership. Students study strategic change management, interpersonal dynamics and research strategies, as well as other subjects. Graduates go on into executive roles in for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

Ph.D.: Special Education

Distinct from the EdD in Special Education, the Ph.D. in Special Education goes to the roots of what makes special education effective. Researching practices, history, theories, and programs of study, students with a Ph.D. in Special Education will bring their own unique thoughts and work to expand the field of knowledge. Highly specialized experts, and graduates can work in advisory or educational roles or as professors and researchers.

Is an EdD as good as a Ph.D.?

No, an EdD is not as good as an Ed; however, it may be well-suited for your needs as an educator. An EdD is a Doctor of Education, which is typically focused on educational research, policy, and practice.

At the same time, a Ph.D. is a more general doctoral degree, which can be in any field. A Ph.D. is generally more respected than an EdD and is seen as a higher level of academic achievement.