Online Doctorate in Education 2019-2020

Best Online Doctorate

Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their doctorate in education online rather than in a classroom. Web-based studies follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities for graduates. The asynchronous schedule is perfect for students with careers, childcare duties, and other responsibilities that may interfere with campus-based learning.

Learn more about earning a doctorate in education online and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

Accredited Online Ed.D. Programs

Online Doctorate in Education

Generally, students can choose from two types of doctoral degrees. A Ph.D. in education emphasizes research and education theory. This credential is typically aimed at those who plan to pursue careers in academia. This option usually requires at least five to six years of full-time study; most Ph.D. students must write and present a lengthy research paper (known as a dissertation) in order to graduate.

A Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), on the other hand, focuses on practical solutions to various challenges of modern education. The Ed.D. is a popular route among administrators, curriculum designers, and other educators working at the institutional level. The average Ed.D. program takes three years to complete; the dissertation is concentrated in practical solutions, and students must conduct extensive survey research at the institutional level.

SchoolLocationCostEnrolled OnlineDescriptionToggle
Concordia University-Portland Portland, OR Cost:   $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 79% Concordia’s College of Education offers 27 programs for undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral candidates, many of which take place entirely online. In the college’s 110-year history, the university has granted master’s degrees in education to 20,000 students. Doctoral candidates at Concordia choose to earn their degrees online, on-campus, or through a hybrid of both modes. Students who take any portion of the program on-campus enjoy a 3toPh.D. environment, which encourages nurturing minds and bodies in school from preK to the Ph.D. level. Online learners use virtual residencies to pursue the same intensive, collaborative environment that on-campus learners enjoy. The virtual residency follows a cohort model, through which learners attend synchronous meetings with fellow residents. Concordia offers online doctoral programs in education in five specializations: administrative leadership; professional leadership, inquiry, and transformation; higher education; instructional leadership; and transformational leadership. The curriculum takes about three years to complete and includes courses in ethical education, leading organizational change, quantitative research methods, and transformational learning. Degree candidates use their third year to complete dissertations. Applicants must hold a master’s degree from an accredited school, demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA. Concordia requires candidates to submit resumes with references, letters of intent, examples of academic writing at the graduate level, and transcripts. In some cases, the school requests applicant interviews as well. Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Education
Available Concentrations: Administrative leadership; higher education; instructional leadership; professional leadership, inquiry, and transformation; transformational leadership
Tuition: $880/credit
Credit Requirements: 59 credits
Program Length: 3 years Delivery
Format: Online and Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum Contact
Phone: (503) 280-8501
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter
Concordia University-Texas Austin, TX Cost:   $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 69% Concordia University-Texas opened as a high school in 1926 in the outskirts of Austin, Texas. The school became a junior college in 1951 and a four-year institution in 1980. The private Christian university continues to expand its Texas campus, and it now occupies 389 acres in the city’s northwest corner. Students enjoy a student-to-faculty ratio of 12-to-1, plus 50 unique academic majors and NCAA Division III athletics. The school’s online doctorate in education requires learners to complete 61 credits, 24 of which come from core courses. The core curriculum prepares learners for their final semester, in which they must complete their dissertations. In the first semester, students take just two courses, but they typically take three per term thereafter. A this rate, candidates complete their degree in three years. Candidates choose between two specializations: educational administration and curriculum and instruction. The education administration track prepares learners to lead K-12 school districts and includes courses in education law and conflict resolution. Students who want to pursue positions in education policy choose the curriculum and instruction specialization. Applicants must submit transcripts demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA on a master’s degree from an accredited university. Concordia also requires candidates to hold at least five years of experience in classroom teaching, education administration, or leadership. The school does not require GRE scores, but it does accept them. Applicants must submit letters of recommendation, resumes, letters of intent, and samples of scholarly writing. Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Education
Available Concentrations: Educational administration; curriculum and instruction
Tuition: $750/credit
Credit Requirements: 61 credits
Program Length: Up to 6 years Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: 5 years of teaching or educational administration Contact
Phone: (512) 717-0026
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD Cost:   $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 34% Since the university’s first president gave his inaugural speech in 1876, Johns Hopkins has aimed to advance research. The prestigious school represents the nation’s first research university, and it has led the country in development funding since 1979. Johns Hopkins’s school of education includes about 2,600 students, most of whom study at the graduate level. Each year, the school awards 41 Ed.D. diplomas, and many of these professionals graduate from online doctoral programs in education. The university offers specializations in entrepreneurial leadership in education; mind, brain, and teaching; and instructional design in online teaching and learning. Future degree candidates may also specialize in urban leadership or technology integration in education. Johns Hopkins designs the doctoral program for working professionals who can complete the curriculum in 3-5 years. Learners do not attend regular meetings on the Baltimore, Maryland campus. However, some courses require synchronous components, and students complete three-day on-campus residencies in the summer. Qualified applicants have undergraduate and master’s degrees with 3.0 GPAs or higher. They must also send resumes, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. At least one letter should come from a professor who helped in the candidate’s master’s program. Johns Hopkins does not require GRE scores, but the admissions board strongly encourages candidates to submit them. Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Education
Available Concentrations: Entrepreneurial leadership in education; mind, brain, and teaching; instructional design in online teaching and learning
Tuition: $1,422/credit
Credit Requirements: 54 credits
Program Length: 3 years Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum Contact
Phone: (410) 516-4163
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter
Liberty University Lynchburg, VA Cost:   $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 94% Since 1971, this private university has aimed to create Christian leaders in many academic fields. Today, evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. serves as the president of the university. Liberty spans 7,000 acres in Lynchburg, Virginia and serves more than 100,000 students through on-campus and online learning. The school’s online doctorate in education requires degree candidates to complete 60 credits, which typically takes about three years. While learners can graduate without setting foot on campus, they may also opt to take several intensives. These courses allow learners to earn credit on-campus over a weekend or a week. Learners can transfer up to 12 doctoral-level credits toward the program. They must also pass a background check to enroll in upper-level courses. Learners choose between six specializations: educational leadership, special education, curriculum and instruction, curriculum and instruction – secondary, curriculum and instruction – middle grades, and curriculum and instruction – elementary education. Each concentration implements its own curriculum. For example, the online doctorate in education leadership involves courses in educational leadership and public relations, conflict resolution, and advanced learning theory and research. All program options require candidates to complete comprehensive dissertations, and learners can design their curricula to qualify for licensure in their home states. Candidates must hold a master’s degree from an accredited university demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants may also be in the final semester of a master’s program at the time of application. They do not need to submit entrance exam scores, resumes, or essays. Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Education
Available Concentrations: Educational leadership; curriculum and instruction; curriculum and instruction – elementary education; curriculum and instruction – middle grades; curriculum and instruction – secondary; curriculum and instruction – special education
Tuition: $595/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum Contact
Phone: (800) 424-9595
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter
North Greenville University Tigerville, SC Cost:   $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 90% In 1891, the North Greenville Baptist Association set out to establish a new high school in Greenville County, South Carolina. The school added a junior college in 1934 and dropped its high school courses in 1957. Finally, it became North Greenville University in 2006. Today, about 2,500 students attend this private, nonprofit university, affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. NGU’s educational leadership doctoral program online comprises 60 credits and equips learners with skills in applied research, social intelligence, and problem-solving. Degree candidates choose between the K-12 leadership and higher education leadership specializations. Both tracks include core courses in social foundations; today’s student; conflict resolution, mediation, and personnel management; and politics of education. Learners also take two research courses and earn 12 credits in pursuit of their dissertations. All program courses follow a hybrid format and last eight weeks. Learners complete much of their coursework online, but also attend regular meetings on the Tigerville, South Carolina campus. To qualify for this doctorate in educational leadership online, an applicant must hold a master’s degree from an accredited university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Unlike many schools, NGU does not require candidates to possess prior teaching experience. Applicants must submit either GRE scores with writing samples of at least 300 words or MAT scores with writing samples of at least 1,000 words. They should also complete an online or in-person interview with the program director. Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Education
Available Concentrations: K-12 leadership; higher education leadership
Tuition: $395/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT Contact
Phone: (864) 663-7522
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter
Oakland City University Oakland City, IN Cost:   $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 37% The General Association of General Baptists set out to establish the school that became Oakland City University in 1838. The university now offers convenient, accelerated, and Christ-centered programs on its campus in Oakland City, Indiana and online. Most courses last only 5-8 weeks, allowing learners to finish their degrees more quickly. The university also accepts more transfer credits than most schools. OCU holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The school’s online doctoral programs in education require 90-96 credits depending on how many research credits learners earned in master’s programs. Students can choose specializations in superintendency, curriculum and instruction, and organizational management. Doctoral students move through several phases, including foundational studies, inquiry studies, specialization courses, a culminating experience, and a dissertation. Oakland City University follows a cohort method for this program, in which learners take all courses with no more than 15 of the same classmates each term. In this hybrid program, learners take many courses online but must also complete on-campus residencies. OCU allows degree candidates to transfer up to 33 credits from previous graduate work. Candidates first fill out the school’s online application, which typically takes about 10 minutes to complete. Admissions advisors contact students to provide more details on the process. Applicants then submit all previous college transcripts and a resume demonstrating at least two years of work experience. The school makes admissions decisions within 72 hours of receiving all the appropriate documentation and notifies candidates immediately. Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Education
Available Concentrations: The superintendency; curriculum and instruction; organizational management
Tuition: $480/credit
Credit Requirements: 90-96 credits
Program Length: 3-6 years Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous Admission Requirements
Work Experience: 2 years Contact
Phone: (812) 312-3027
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter
Southeastern University Lakeland, FL Cost:   $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 67% Leaders such as the Alabama District Superintendent founded a Bible school called the Alabama Shield of Faith Institute in 1935. Now called Southeastern University, the school provides many programs outside of Bible study. The institution has changed names and locations many times, but it has always maintained association with the Pentecostal faith. Southeastern University earns regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Students in SEU’s online doctoral programs in education specialize in curriculum and instruction or organizational leadership. Graduates who choose curriculum and instruction work in education administration and policy making. The organizational leadership concentration prepares graduates for more flexible careers in nonprofit management, business, and ministry. Students complete most coursework online, but they must also attend some on-campus seminars in Lakeland, Florida. The school schedules these intensives during school breaks so educators from other areas can attend. The SEU online doctorate in education does not lead to any licensure. Core courses for both specializations include learning and cognition, public policy, program evaluation, and principles of leadership and ethics. Degree candidates also earn nine credits in research methods and 12 in dissertations. Learners earn 18 credits in their desired specialization, which can include courses in instructional design and development for tech-mediated delivery; grant writing, administration, and evaluation; and organizational systems and management. Applicants must hold a master’s degree, three years of full-time work experience in education, and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Their master’s must come from a regionally accredited university. Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Education
Available Concentrations: Curriculum and instruction; organizational leadership
Tuition: $500/credit
Credit Requirements: 54 credits
Program Length: 4 years Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: 3 years Contact
Phone: (866) 858-6290
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter
The University of Findlay Findlay, OH Cost:   $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 36% In 1882, Churches of God General Conference and the city of Findlay, Ohio partnered to establish the University of Findlay. The growing university now offers 90 degree options to more than 3,800 students. About 1,200 of these students enroll in graduate programs, including the school’s four doctoral tracks. UF maintains affiliation with the Churches of God and earns regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. UF’s online doctoral program in education allows learners to attend almost all classes completely online with a few on-campus summer intensives. Students can complete the degree in just three years. Degree candidates who hold Ohio superintendent licensure already fulfill 25% of the curriculum requirements for UF’s program, which helps these learners graduate quickly. Students complete core courses in subjects such as strategic planning and continuous improvement, innovation and information literacy, global dimensions and perspectives on diversity, and writing as a doctoral scholar. They choose between specializations in teaching and superintendent. Learners in the teaching track take courses in collaborative grant writing, mentoring and coaching teachers, and evidence-informed decision-making. Superintendent courses cover subjects such as building, grounds, and facility management; school and community relations; and collective bargaining. Applicants must hold a master’s or doctoral degree from an accredited school, demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA. They should also submit MAT scores of at least 400, two letters of recommendation, and transcripts. Candidates who meet these requirements complete interviews either online or in-person with faculty members from the college of education. Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Education
Available Concentrations: Superintendent; teaching
Tuition: $540/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: MAT Contact
Phone: (800) 472-9502
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter
University of Mary Bismarck, ND Cost:   $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 29% Mary prides itself as one of the most affordable private schools in the United States. The Catholic Benedictine university educates more than 3,800 learners online and at campuses in North Dakota, Minnesota, Peru, Rome, Arizona, Montana, and Kansas. Students enjoy rigorous academic coursework, NCAA Division II sports, and Benedictine values. The school offers four doctorate degrees, including an online doctoral program in education. Mary uses a blended instructional style for this program, which includes online courses and some on-campus meetings in Bismarck, North Dakota. Students begin the program in odd-numbered years and follow an accelerated cohort format. Most degree candidates earn their diplomas in less than three years. Mary splits its curriculum into 15 terms, including courses in leading adult learners, foundations of American education, educational ethics, and school community relations. The curriculum prepares graduates to work in K-12 and higher education organizations. It also allows plenty of room for electives, which lets learners customize their degrees to suit their career goals. Degree candidates complete a dissertation at the end of their program. They must also pass the graduate studies assessment before graduating. Mary uses competitive admissions and opens up applications every other year. The school does not set minimum requirements, but its admissions board considers master’s degree GPAs, GRE scores, and writing samples in the decision process. Applicants also complete faculty interviews. Their master’s degrees must come from accredited universities. Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Education
Available Concentrations: K-12; higher education
Tuition: $650/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE Contact
Phone: (701) 355-8030
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter
University of Michigan-Flint Flint, MI Cost:   $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 33% In 1956, this university set out to serve Flint and the surrounding area with high-quality education opportunities. UM-Flint continues to fulfill this promise through affordable tuition, local industry partnerships, and in-demand degree options. Learners from around the world benefit from UM-Flint’s dedication to excellence through the university’s robust distance education offerings. The school earns regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. UM-Flint’s online doctorate in education takes place mostly online with on-campus meetings one Saturday each month. The monthly meetings allow degree candidates to learn from each other and take part in their school’s vibrant community. Because this program uses small cohorts, learners get to know their classmates and build networks. Students take part-time classes and graduate in as little as three years. Although UM-Flint designs this program for current K-12 professionals, graduates can either stay in K-12 or move to higher education administration. In their first two years, learners take courses in educational policy; school law and equity issues; professional standards and community relations; and school finance, business, and human resources management. After completing their core courses, degree candidates must pass a comprehensive exam. Learners take the final year to complete their dissertations. Applicants must hold an education specialist degree from a regionally accredited university and demonstrate a minimum 3.3 GPA to qualify for admission. They should also hold at least three years of experience in education or a related field. The program director consults faculty to make admissions decisions. Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Education
Credit Requirements: 34 credits
Program Length: 3 years Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.3 minimum
Work Experience: 3 years in education Contact
Phone: (810) 762-3300
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Interview with Deniece Dortch

Deniece Dortch

Deniece Dortch

Faculty Member and Administrator in Higher Education

Deniece Dortch has a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in education and is happy to share her expertise as both faculty member and administrator in higher education. She has years of experience both advising and coaching students and prospective students about the graduate school process and welcomes the opportunity to share her story.

Why did you choose to earn a doctorate in education? Was this a field you were always interested in?

I chose to get a doctorate because I originally wanted to be a chief diversity officer. I had a master’s degree and several years of experience as an academic practitioner and felt that a doctorate would not only advance my career but also place me in a position where I could begin to make institutional and systemic change.

Why did you choose to earn a general doctorate as opposed to a more specialized degree (e.g., a doctorate in educational administration or learning and instruction)?

I chose to obtain a Ph.D. as opposed to an Ed.D. because I wanted to understand and learn more about research. Further, the training that you receive when obtaining a Ph.D. prepares you to become a faculty member, while other degrees usually don’t. There are a few exceptions, such as an Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. Unfortunately, there is still an ongoing debate as to the value of a Ph.D. versus an Ed.D., with many folks favoring Ph.D.s due to their levels of rigor, research intensity beyond the writing of a dissertation, practice with teaching, drafting of literature reviews, policy memos, etc.

What was the job search like after completing your degree? Did you feel fully prepared when making the transition from student to professional?

The job search can be challenging for anyone who is on the job market. As I mentioned earlier, I was an administrator first who then became a scholar. I call myself a scholar-practitioner. Because of this, when I applied for administrative positions, other administrators had a hard time categorizing me and my CV. They would say things like, “You have so much research experience, I can see you being a researcher, a faculty member, or an administrator. Why do you want to be an administrator?” For me, I take that as a compliment. I want there to be clear distinctions on my CV that indicate that yes, I be in any one of these career fields. Being a scholar has made me a better practitioner, and because I am a practitioner, I am a better scholar. Having a Ph.D. helped me do that. When I was applying for jobs as a faculty member, I didn’t really get that question, but employers appreciated and welcomed my practical experience in the field, which has helped me to secure positions over the years.

What are some of the challenges you face in your work on a day-to-day basis?

As a faculty member who is also a woman of color, I am presumed incompetent when I walk into a room even if I was asked to be there. This challenge is a result of systemic racism and is no different than for any other young-looking person of color who teaches in spaces where students are not accustomed to people of color leading their classrooms. Further, my research largely addresses academic violence and the ways that institutions can combat it. This is a challenge for many to wrap their heads around, despite all of the research that exists recognizing how racial violence, racial trauma, gaslighting, and racial battle fatigue impact students of color and faculty of color in ways that hinder their progress and success within academia.

How did your experience as a faculty member inform your experience as an administrator in higher education (or vice-versa)?

When I was an administrator, students treated me very differently; they considered my time to be their time. I would often find them in my office without an appointment, and they came to me much more often (several times a day) with their problems and issues. When I was an administrator, I think I had fewer boundaries.

Now, as a faculty member, I have required that students in my classes come and see me during office hours as part of their grade. While they are in my office, they are allowed to discuss whatever they want (television shows, what they did over the weekend, class assignments, etc.). By doing this, I believe that it humanizes me to students in a way that just being in front of them in class does not, and students are less likely to ask for help when it is too late for me to give it.

What advice would you give to students who are considering a doctoral degree in education?

For all students considering a doctorate, I would tell them to make sure that you are able to give it the time and attention it needs. Make sure that you NEED to get a doctorate to do the work that you want to do. I am all for life-long learning and cultivating an inquiry-driven learner, but getting a doctorate is expensive and time-consuming. The process challenges who you are and what contribution you are going to make to your field.

Choose an institution, a program, and faculty who are going to support YOU and your process. Also, choose a program that is going to adequately fund you. Sometimes, the schools with the best funding are in places that you might find to be undesirable. Are you willing to live in that place 4-6 years? And yes, location does matter. Think about your own need for community and belonging.

Lastly, ask the faculty at the prospective institutions about the types of jobs that students have been able to secure upon graduating. Make sure that you put yourself in a position where that institution is able to supply you with the types of opportunities that you will need to compete with those folks who are going to be in your field when you are finished. Does everyone have teaching experience? Have they all been on research teams? Have they published prior to graduating? Have they secured grant funding? How often are students publishing on their own or with their advisors? Are they funded to travel to conferences to present their work? What types of jobs do students have while going to school? Is it a program where you can maintain full-time employment? Many students who leave their professional positions to become full-time students lose years of professional experience to then become graduate students or research assistants doing similar work for pennies on the dollar while completing their degrees. Is this something that you are willing to do for the next 4-6 years? I keep saying 4-6 years, but in truth, the national average is eight years to complete a doctorate. If you are wondering, I finished mine in three years. Sound impressive? It isn’t when you add the years it took for me to obtain two master’s degrees.

Meet More of our Experts

Frequently Asked Questions

Will an Online Doctorate in Education Program Help Develop the Skills I Need to Advance My Career?

Online doctorate in education recipients is armed with the skills and knowledge to enact meaningful changes in today’s schools and classrooms. The Ph.D. track will introduce students to the most popular theories and philosophies guiding today’s education system, while the Ed.D. will examine ways to solve current problems using established, best-practice strategies and resources.

Will an Online Doctorate in Education Work with My Schedule?

Online doctorate programs are designed to be a flexible alternative to a brick-and-mortar education. Students are able to access course lectures and readings, submit assignments, participate in online discussions with their fellow students, take exams, and communicate with their professor online. Current technology also enables them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or another device with Wi-Fi capabilities. For added convenience, online students can often arrange practicum courses and other onsite requirements at locations within a reasonable distance of their current residence.

What Jobs Can I Get with My Doctorate in Education?

Opportunities for students who obtain a doctorate in education will largely depend on their degree type. Those with a Ph.D. in education will be qualified for jobs in academic research and education theory and are often employed by postsecondary institutions. Job availability for students with an Ed.D. will largely depend on their area of specialization. Popular specialization choices at the Ed.D. level include educational administration, curriculum and instruction, and special education. Common job titles for a doctorate in education degree-holders include headteachers, professors, principals and vice-principals, school administrators, curriculum developers, and education researchers.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Education Program?

While programs vary, students in online Ed.D. programs can expect to earn their degree in three to four years, depending on whether they pursue the degree on a full-time or part-time basis. Applicants should examine each program carefully to ensure they meet admission guidelines and that the curriculum offers the skills and competencies necessary for career advancement in their state. The following breaks down what learners can expect as they pursue an online doctorate in education.

Timeline3-4 years
Program Costs$10,000 – $25,000
Popular Minors and Dual Areas of StudyStudent affairs, curriculum and instruction, organizational leadership, k-12 leadership, assessment and policy studies in education, international education, preschool leadership
AccreditationCouncil for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

Admission Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Education

Most doctorate in education programs, regardless of whether they’re online or on campus, require that applicants hold a master’s in education with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some schools allow applicants with a master’s degree in another field to complete a certain number of additional master-level courses to meet the requirements of an M.Ed. Applicants should also submit acceptable scores on a standardized test, most notably the GRE or MAT. Some programs require that applicants have at least three years of experience in education, which may include areas such as teaching, administration, instructional design, or direct services. Even if the school does not require education work experience, admission committees often take such experience into consideration as they evaluate each application.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Doctorate in Education

As learners decide which specific education path, the concentrations offered should serve as a key factor for students who plan to specialize in a particular area. The specializations may address education focus areas such as school leadership, curriculum planning, or research. The following three concentrations are offered by many programs.

Higher Education Administration

This concentration prepares administrators for leadership roles at postsecondary institutions. The curriculum focuses on topics such as program evaluation, governance in higher education, higher education law, and postsecondary student populations.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Academic dean, director of development, dean of students, director of student affairs, director of admissions

Special Education

This concentration prepares educators to provide evidence-based education and services to students with disabilities and those at risk. The curriculum focuses on topics such as learners and learning, designing interventions, and measuring outcomes.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: School administrator of special education services, school principal, special education supervisor, teacher educators at postsecondary institutions, teacher leaders on school faculty

Organizational Change and Leadership

The curriculum for this concentration focuses on topics such as motivating others, instructional design, assessment and evaluation, and research design and data analysis.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Higher education administrator, professor, CEO, nonprofit executive director, planning director

Sample Courses for an Online Doctorate in Education

Inquiry Methods

This course prepares learners to engage in inquiry through intensive research that requires the collection and analysis of data to solve complex problems in education. It also builds students’ research skills in preparation for the dissertation process. The course paves the way for roles as researchers and practitioner-scholars.

Curriculum and Instruction

This course trains educators able to develop curriculum informed by best practices and research, with a specialized focus in areas like elementary, secondary, or special education. Learners assume roles such as curriculum specialists, instructional supervisors, or school administrators.

Teacher Leadership

This course prepares educators who can create well-aligned curriculum, instruction, and assessments; develop plans for professional development; use data to improve student performance; and lead teachers within their schools or districts. Educators receive training for administrative careers such as principalships.

Educational Leadership

Learners engage in coursework and field-based experiences that connect theory with practice to develop highly competent school leaders able to transform schools and foster student success. The course prepares educators for administrative careers such as principalships and central office personnel.

Education Research and Design

Students engage in a critical examination of education research as they learn to apply quantitative and qualitative theories, methods, and data analysis in their own research design projects. Educators acquire skills necessary to develop and evaluate educational programs at the school and district levels.

Skills and Competencies Gained in an Online Doctorate in Education Program

  • Research: Through coursework and the dissertation process required at the doctoral level, students engage in intensive research that hones their research methodology and prepares them for roles as researchers, faculty, and practitioner-scholars.
  • Leadership: Students acquire the leadership skills necessary for careers as highly skilled teachers and administrators able to deal with the unique challenges facing all levels of education.
  • Evidence-based Practice: Through their exposure to the latest research and subject matter experts, learners acquire knowledge of best practices that inform the development of solutions to enhance student learning and leadership skills for educational organizations.
  • Instructional Technology Integration: Some online doctorate in education programs offer a major in instructional technology that teaches learners to integrate technology in instructional design and learning assessments in school districts, colleges, or businesses.
  • Written and Oral Communication: Students gain advanced written communication skills to organize and communicate complex data and concepts in a dissertation, which they will need to orally defend in front of a committee.

Additional Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Education

In addition to the dissertation component, many programs require that learners complete a capstone project that synthesizes what they have learned in the program and applies it to real-world contexts. During an internship or practicum, faculty may also require learners to apply concepts and best practices learned in the classroom in their own place of employment. Many doctoral programs do not require this component; instead, they mandate residencies or intensives that may include an orientation at the beginning of the program to introduce learners to their peers and faculty.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Ph.D. in Education Online?

Most online Ed.D. programs require at least 48 credits for graduation, though requirements vary depending on the program. Students completing the degree on a full-time basis can expect to do so in 3.5 years, while those enrolled part-time can do so in five or six. As students begin to develop their list of doctoral programs in education, they should consider whether programs require cohort or self-paced learning.

Students in a cohort begin and complete the program together, leaving very little room for scheduling flexibility. Alternatively, self-paced programs offer more flexibility, as students can take classes and complete assignments within a given timeframe. Students must also complete a dissertation in addition to the program’s curriculum. The dissertation involves many levels, including choosing a research topic, participating in a mentorship with a faculty chair and dissertation committee, and completing research and data analysis.

Licenses and Certifications for Education Students

Many learners pursuing online Ed.D. programs in higher education already hold teacher or administrator certification. In almost all states, educators must pass a standardized test for teacher or administrator certification, and the requirements vary from state to state. Most certifications require at least a baccalaureate degree, certain coursework, the Praxis series or similar tests, and student teaching. Many teachers pursue the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification, which stands as the most respected K-12 professional certification. The NBPTS certification enhances an educators’ job prospects by showing that they meet high standards of practice and effectiveness in the classroom.

Accreditation for Online Education Doctoral Degrees

Accreditation is a critical factor prospective students should consider as they review a list of the nation’s best online Ed.D. programs. Colleges hold either national or regional accreditation, which is acquired through a rigorous process that involves site visits and a review process from accrediting agencies. Institutional accreditation ensures schools and their programs maintain high academic standards and meet established accountability expectations. Regional accreditation serves as the gold standard, conferred by agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission, New England Commission of Higher Education, and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Many of the doctoral programs in education may also hold programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Accreditation not only ensures high standards, it factors in practical matters such as the transferability of credits from the master’s degree. Accredited programs generally do not accept credits from programs without accreditation. Furthermore, financing the degree may pose a challenge since students can only access federal loans and grants if they plan to attend accredited colleges. The issue of accreditation remains so important that even accrediting agencies must withstand scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Students can find a list of accredited schools and online Ed.D. programs on the ED website and CHEA websites.

Employment Outlook for Doctor of Education Graduates

Job Placement: Doctorate of Education

Due to their high level of education, doctoral degree-holders typically enjoy very strong job outlook. According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, individuals in the U.S. with a doctorate enjoyed an unemployment rate of 1.8% in August 2018.

In addition to strong employment rates, jobs in professional education are expected to grow by a significant margin in the years to come. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the following table features job growth projections (2016-2026) for some of the most common career pathways in the education field.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

As the table indicates, these five occupations alone are expected to grow by more than 32,000 new jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Earning a Living

Salary expectations for employees with a doctorate in education will largely depend on their specific job title, as well as other factors like school size, city/state of employment, and degree specialization. The table below looks at career salary growth projections for five popular career paths among doctorate in education degree holders.

OccupationMedian Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years)Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years)Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Elementary School Principal$39,000$44,000$50,000$56,000
High School Principal$78,000$82,000$87,000$93,000
Curriculum Developer$52,000$61,000$69,000$86,000
Head Teacher$33,000$35,000$41,000$47,000
Special Education Teacher (Secondary)$42,000$48,000$53,000$63,000

Source: PayScale

Of the five occupations listed on the table, the average rate of career growth was 43% between the entry-level and late-career stages. Curriculum developers experienced the highest growth: a 65% increase after 20 years on the job. Special education teachers placed second with 50% growth, followed by elementary school teachers with 43% growth.

Career Opportunities

Depending on their specialization and degree type, students who earn a doctorate in education may find work at the elementary, secondary, or postsecondary level. Four potential career paths for these candidates are highlighted below.

K-12 Principal

Principals manage the day-to-day operations at elementary, middle, and high schools across the country; they are found at both public and private institutions. Their duties include administrative management, budgeting and finance, student discipline, teacher evaluation, and curriculum approval. They also work closely with superintendents and other district-level officials. Many principals begin their careers as teachers and advance in title after earning a graduate degree; all 50 states and the District of Columbia require principals to be licensed.

Median Annual Salary: $94,390
Projected Growth Rate: 8% (+19,800 jobs)

Postsecondary Administrator

Postsecondary administrator is an umbrella term that applies to a wide range of teachers, faculty members, and other personnel at colleges and universities. Individual job titles include deans, registrars, student administrators, admissions officers, and faculty researchers. A Ph.D., Ed.D., or other doctoral credential is usually required for all of these positions.

Median Annual Salary: $92,360
Projected Growth Rate: 10% (+18,200 jobs)

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators develop, evaluate, and implement standardized curricula at all grade levels. They work with teachers to ensure students are actively learning and engaged with their study materials and performing up to par with state standards. In some states, instructional coordinators must be licensed.

Median Annual Salary: $63,750
Projected Growth Rate: 11% (+17,200 jobs)

Postsecondary Teachers

Commonly referred to as professors, postsecondary teachers lead courses at two- and four-year colleges and universities. Depending on the subject they teach, professors may specialize in classroom lectures or focus more on small-group studies and hands-on instruction. A doctoral degree is often required for postsecondary teaching positions.

Median Annual Salary: $76,000
Projected Growth Rate: 15% (+197,800)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different educational approaches is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below, you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations for educational leadership professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online training, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  •   The National Educational Association Working to improve public education from preschool to graduate-level studies, the NEA provides resources on current regulations, strategies for securing financial support, and tools for creating high-quality lesson plans. Membership opportunities are available for working employees, retired professionals, and students.  
  •   The Association of American Educators This nonunion organization seeks to create tools and resources that increase student achievement and positive classroom outcomes. The AAE currently represents more than three million members at different grade levels in all 50 states.  
  •   National Association of Secondary School Principals The NASSP is represented by principals, assistant principals, and other middle and high school administrative personnel in 35 different countries. The organization hosts networking functions, offers continuing education programs, and gives members the opportunity to become advocates in different key areas of secondary school administration.  

Financing Your Online Doctorate of Education

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


Our list of scholarships and grants specifically aimed at education majors includes 43 individual rewards totaling more than $170,000 in financial aid. Browse our database to learn more about accessing free money to pay for your online teaching master’s degree.


Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.


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