Online Doctorate in Education Programs

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleDoctoratein Education2017
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‘General education’ is a catchall term for all of the divisions that make up our education system, including teaching, administration, curriculum and instruction, educational technology and special education. College credentials are highly prized within these professions. Most positions in teaching, administration and other education fields require candidates to hold at least a bachelor’s or master’s. As a result, individuals who have earned a doctoral degree are particularly well-positioned to compete for top jobs.

Generally, education students can choose from two different types of doctoral degree. A Ph.D. in education emphasizes research and education theory; this credential is typically aimed at students 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 (or 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.

Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their doctorate in education online, rather than in a classroom. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format are also perfect for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other responsibilities that may interfere with campus-based learning.

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


Online doctorate in education recipients are 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.


Online doctorate programs are designed to be a flexible alternative to 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 ― all at the click of a mouse. Current technology also enables them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone or other 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.


Opportunities for students who obtain an online 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 online doctorate in education degree-holders include head teachers, professors, principals and vice principals, school administrators, curriculum developers and education researchers.

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Rank School Name Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
Indiana University-Bloomington 9% Bloomington, IN

IU continues to blaze new trails in internet-based education, as the school increased its distance offerings by more than 54 percent between 2013 and 2016. The school's online Ed.D in literacy, culture, and language education program targets students with a particular interest in literacy and/or linguistics, using an integrative focus that helps students develop skills applicable to contemporary real-world challenges. All courses are taught by highly renowned and tenured faculty members. IU's program is perfect for working professionals and students looking for a flexible curriculum. Students who have previously completed graduate-level coursework are eligible to transfer up to 18 credits, and internships and practicums are optional but not required. Applicants are permitted to transfer up to 18 credits earned from previous institutions into Indiana's graduate program.

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Johns Hopkins University 28% Baltimore, MD

Based in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins has operated for over 140 years, and is America's oldest research university. During that time, 36 Johns Hopkins faculty members have won Nobel Prizes. Today, the university's well-regarded online learning platform includes more than 45 free classes, which are open to anyone who wishes to enroll.

Johns Hopkins' online Ed.D program covers new and emerging research perspectives. Specifically, the program focuses on how innovative technologies, research science, and the rise of for-profit education have changed the global educational landscape. JHU prepares students for leadership roles as educational practitioners, teaching advanced concepts in evidence-based principles that open doors to both domestic and international career opportunities. Distance learners must complete 30 credits, which are earned through seven classes and extensive research work. Courses cover multicultural education, contemporary approaches to educational problems, technology and creative learning, and much more.

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New Mexico State University-Main Campus 37% Las Cruces, NM

New Mexico State, founded in 1888 and based in Las Cruces, is the state's oldest public college. The university's distance education programs draw from a range of technologies, including advanced web-based virtual classroom platforms and interactive television, to promote student interaction and engagement with faculty.

NMSU's online Ph.D program in curriculum and instruction requires students to take courses in the spring, summer, and fall. Applicants must hold a master's degree in education and have completed graduate-level coursework in curriculum development, multicultural education, technology and pedagogy, and pedagogical research. Applicants are encouraged to apply for even-numbered years. Students take courses in a structured, cohort sequence, and must sign up for two classes in the summer, spring, and fall terms. Distance learners must complete 48 credits to graduate, and each student is required to spend a small amount of time on-campus during summer sessions.

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Nova Southeastern University 54% Fort Lauderdale, FL

Nova Southeastern is a private, nonprofit institution in Fort Lauderdale, FL. One of only 50 universities in the United States with the Carnegie's Community Engagement Classification, NSU is also the largest private, nonprofit, Hispanic-serving school in the United States.

Students can pursue one of two online doctoral programs in education: the doctor of education (Ed.D) degree, and a Ph.D program in educational research and evaluation. The Ed.D program offers several specialization opportunities, including higher education leadership, early childhood education, and elementary and middle-grades STEM education, among others. Students in the educational research and evaluation program can engage in advanced studies in policy development, statistical analysis, research methodologies, and institutional assessment. All online students enjoy full access to the school's electronic library, online research databases, multimedia assignment submission platform, and real-time virtual classrooms.

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Regent University 84% Virginia Beach, VA

Regent's renowned online doctoral programs in education include a variety of Ph.D and Ed.D options. Students can pursue specializations in adult education, distance education, educational psychology, and character education, among others. These programs are delivered in hybrid formats, with varying degrees of in-class attendance requirements; in some cases, students are required to appear on campus in the summer or on weekends. Courses cover . Applicants are required to submit GRE scores along with copies of their unofficial transcripts; in some cases, an over-the-phone interview may become part of the application process. Courses cover distance education practices, how to integrate technology into the curriculum, and providing education from a Christian perspective (founded by Pat Robertson, Regent is an Evangelical school).

Regent is a research-oriented, military-friendly higher learning institution that promotes a Christian worldview. Distance learners can access the school's extensive periodicals catalog and research databases, which are supported by the Regent C.A.R.E.S. program. Students can access tech support services 24/7.

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Texas A & M University-College Station 5% College Station, TX

Founded in 1876, Texas A&M is the state's oldest university, and the school is located approximately 90 miles northwest of Houston, in College Station. Texas A&M offers an online Ed.D in curriculum and instruction, which prepares students for careers in public and private K-12 education. The program covers curriculum development, institutional assessment, organizational management, and teacher preparation. Online courses are taught asynchronously, and are primarily delivered through Moodle. Prospective students must have a master's degree and at least five years of teaching experience. Applicants must also submit at least three letters of recommendation. Courses are offered entirely online, and the school will help all distance learners find internships. Graduates will be ready to help schools and districts implement a new curriculum, foster supportive parent and community involvement, and help teachers improve at their craft.

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Texas Tech University 36% Lubbock, TX

Texas Tech is one of the state's largest schools, and the only college in Texas with a fully accredited law school, medical school, and general university on a single campus. The school's online Ed.D program in higher education offers concentrations in community college and higher education administration, both of which are taught in a blended format. Most coursework can be completed online, but students are required to participate in an annual week-long intensive session held on campus during the summer. Students can access online course materials through the TTU Worldwide eLearning platform, which is ADA-compliant and includes student tutorials and full troubleshooting support. Prerequisites for this online doctoral program in education include a bachelor's degree, master's degree, and at least three years of full-time teaching experience in a higher education institution or federal agency.

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University of North Dakota 34% Grand Forks, ND

Beyond a diverse student body that includes students from all 50 states and more than 60 countries, UND also has a reputation for delivering a robust education at an affordable price. On average, students can attend UND for $4,000 less per year than at comparable four-year public universities, making the school an excellent option for budget-conscious students.

UND's online-hybrid Ph.D in higher education program is taught in a hybrid format. The on-campus portion of the program is located in Bismarck, not at the main campus in Grand Forks. As the oldest and largest college in North Dakota, UND attracts world-class instructors who are heavily involved in the school's online learning network. UND's online doctoral program in education includes four to seven in-class sessions per semester, held on weekends, allowing students to further develop their skills in student assessment and evaluation, institutional analysis, and the business side of higher education. All courses are taught in an asynchronous format.

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University of North Texas 32% Denton, TX

The University of North Texas offers more than 220 degree programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. UNT's Ph.D in learning technologies is an innovative program with both in-class and online delivery options. Distance learners take classes in a cohort structure that immerses students in the rapidly growing world of educational technologies. Through the program, students will master advanced concepts in the application of technology-driven pedagogical tools. Graduates often pursue careers as teachers or professors, as well as instructional designers and distance education managers; many find work as professors in higher education institutions. UNT's extensive digital resources include a comprehensive tutoring program, giving students full access to research support through audio-video channels and virtual whiteboards.

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3 to 4 years
Program Costs
$10,000 – $25,000
Popular Minors and Dual Areas of Study
Student Affairs, Curriculum and Instruction, Organizational Leadership, K-12 Leadership, Assessment and Policy Studies in Education, International Education, Preschool Leadership
Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

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 1.2% in January 2017.

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 (2014-24) for some of the most common career pathways in the education field.

Occupation Projected Job Growth (2014-24) Change in Number of Jobs (2014-24)
Elementary, Middle and High School Principals 6% +14,000
Instructional Coordinators 7% +10,500
High School Teachers 6% +55,900
Postsecondary Teachers 13% +177,000
Postsecondary Education Administrators 9% +15,200

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

As the table indicates, these five occupations alone are expected to grow by more than 270,000 new jobs between 2014 and 2024.

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.

Occupation Median 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 $72,316 $77,515 $82,411 $89,000
High School Principal $50,894 $81,361 $86,673 $92,455
Curriculum Developer $41,312 $60,444 $69,292 $78,619
Head Teacher $39,068 $43,156 $49,026 $55,331
Special Education Teacher (Secondary) $42,174 $48,584 $52,045 $62,261

Source: PayScale

Of the five occupations listed on the table, the average rate of career growth was 37% between the entry-level and late-career stages. Curriculum developers experienced the highest growth: a 54.5% increase after 20 years on the job. Special education teachers placed second with 47.6% growth, followed by head teachers with 41.6% 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.

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.

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

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.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)
Accountants and Auditors $67,190 11% (+142,000 jobs)
Management Analysts $83,120 14% (+103,400 jobs)
Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate $51,860 8% (+6,800 jobs)
Budget Analysts $71,590 3% (+1,500 jobs)

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 established for education leadership professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, 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 non-union 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: Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2016, the NASSP is today represented by principals, assistant principals and other middle/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.

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 widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


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