Best Online Doctorate in Education Programs

Aspiring school administrators can earn their doctoral degree through an online education format like many students use today. Read on to explore the online doctorate in education programs ranked as the best by our higher education experts.

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Published on March 22, 2022 · Updated on July 1, 2022

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Students pursuing careers in school administration or training and development should consider earning a doctor of education (Ed.D.). Ed.D. programs teach students best practices in education, covering instructional design, multicultural education, and the science of learning and development.

Education is transforming rapidly. More students are learning online than ever before, and educational technology must continue to evolve to meet students' and teachers' shifting needs. With a growing emphasis on early childhood education, bilingual educators are in increasingly high demand as well.

By earning your Ed.D., you can pursue a career helping students and teachers adapt to the changing educational landscape.

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

Online Ed.D. programs can help education professionals advance their careers as practitioners. Unlike students pursuing their Ph.D. in education, most students earning their Ed.D. do not plan to become researchers.

Ed.D. students should be intellectually curious and eager to apply what they learn in school to practical problems in educational settings.

Many Ed.D. programs allow students to choose a concentration. Some concentrations focus on the cognitive science behind how we learn. Learners who specialize in instructional design or online learning gain expertise in developing online courses. Other concentrations include K-12 leadership, higher education, and social and emotional learning.

Online doctorate in education programs typically entail 45-60 credits. Full-time students who already hold a master's degree in education may earn their Ed.D. in three years. Distance learners can fulfill most academic requirements remotely, but many online programs expect students to complete short, on-campus residencies.

Many Ed.D. programs require students to write and defend a research-based dissertation. Others allow students to complete a more hands-on research project instead. Certain programs ask students to complete dissertations based on field research or their previous experiences as educators.

Best Accredited Online Doctorate in Education Programs

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Online College in Maryland

Johns Hopkins University

School Information
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,638
Out of State | $1,638

Credits to Graduate
90

Johns Hopkins offers a fully online doctorate in education for working professionals who can study part time and graduate in 3-7 years.

Specializations allow students to focus their studies on entrepreneurial leadership in education; urban leadership; mind, brain, and teaching; instructional design in online teaching and learning; and technology integration in K-16 education. Students must complete a three-day residency every summer.

Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited college with a minimum 3.0 GPA. GRE scores are optional. Classes begin every fall.

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Online College in Tennessee

Vanderbilt University

School Information
Location Nashville, Tennessee
Admission Rate 9%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $2,096
Out of State | $2,096

Credits to Graduate
54

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Offered through Vanderbilt's Peabody College, the doctorate in education program suits professionals with at least three years of leadership experience. Degree-seekers focus their studies on leadership and organizational development, data and analytics, or learning and design. 

Students take weekly live classes online, plus three meetings on campus in Nashville, Tennessee. The program culminates with a capstone project.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college and 30 graduate-level courses. The program takes 3-4 years to complete.

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Online College in Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

School Information
Location Champaign, Illinois
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 85%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $490
Out of State | $490

Credits to Graduate
64

U of I features an online doctorate in education that offers 13 concentrations, including bilingual-bicultural education, digital learning, African American studies, and writing studies. Doctoral candidates can earn principal or superintendent endorsements. Courses operate mostly online, with students meeting twice on campus.

The curriculum prepares graduates for careers as college professors, governmental administrators, educational policy analysts, and university administrators. The department accepts new students based on their undergraduate and graduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and statement of purpose.

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Online College in California

Northcentral University

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $976
Out of State | $976

Credits to Graduate
48

NCU's doctorate in education degree allows students to pick from more than 16 specializations, including curriculum and teaching, e-learning, early childhood education, international education, or English language learning. 

The doctorate in education program offers 16 courses. Candidates need a master's degree from an accredited college. Degree-seekers can graduate in less than three years to pursue careers as postsecondary teachers, education administrators, and training and development coordinators.

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Online College in Indiana

Indiana Wesleyan University

School Information
Location Marion, Indiana
Graduation Rate 38%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $595
Out of State | $559

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

IWU offers an online doctorate in education that students can complete within less than two years. The Ed.D. degree does not require any residency hours, and the dissertation research occurs concurrently.

Students complete courses in scholarly research and writing, issues and ethics in education, educational history and law, and learning and change management theories. 

Graduates work in college faculty, educational consulting, and nonprofits. This program only accepts applicants who hold an educational specialist degree or at least 30 doctoral credits.

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Online College in Nevada

Touro University Nevada

School Information
Location Henderson, Nevada
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $625
Out of State | $625

Credits to Graduate
60

Educators can advance their careers with TUN's doctorate in education degree that focuses on education administration and leadership. Students can graduate in three years by studying mostly online with two summer intensive meetings on campus. 

Required courses cover perspectives and current issues in education, ethics and law, policy and planning, finance and business administration, and community engagement and relations.

The program offers one start date every year. Candidates must have a master's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. They need to submit three letters of recommendation, a personal essay, transcripts, and a resume.

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Online College in Texas

Baylor University

School Information
Location Waco, Texas
Admission Rate 45%
Graduation Rate 78%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,785
Out of State | $1,785

Credits to Graduate
54

Baylor's fully online doctorate in education, which focuses on learning and organizational change, allows working professionals to graduate in three years. Degree-seekers explore the psychology of learning, educational evaluation, instructional design, trends in leadership, and organizational change in technological society. The program culminates with research methods and capstone experiences.  

Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores. Application requirements include a resume, official transcripts, three letters or recommendation, a personal statement, and a video interview. New cohorts start in January, May, and August.

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Online College in Ohio

University of Dayton

School Information
Location Dayton, Ohio
Admission Rate 72%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,390
Out of State | $1,390

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

UD's doctorate of education offers mostly online courses and two immersions at the Dayton, Ohio campus. The curriculum comprises hands-on practical experiences, collaboration, social justice, and research. 

Students take weekly live classes and interact with classmates in online breakout rooms. Instruction covers organizational theory, ethics in education leadership, law and public policy, finance, leadership theory, and intercultural proficiency. Degree-seekers can graduate in three years.

Graduates secure careers as public policy leaders, health services executives, and postsecondary education administrators.

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Online College in Florida

Nova Southeastern University

School Information
Location Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 58%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,460
Out of State | $1,460

Credits to Graduate
55

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

NSU's online doctorate in education degree appeals to current superintendents, principals, and lead teachers through eight concentrations. Ed.D. candidates can specialize in curriculum and teaching, educational leadership, higher education leadership, or human services administration. 

Students graduate within three years. The program covers organizational behavior and human development, change management, critical thinking for decision-making, and emerging theories of organizational leadership. NSU's admissions office accepts applications on a rolling basis.

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Online College in California

Azusa Pacific University

School Information
Location Azusa, California
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 68%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,140
Out of State | $1,140

Credits to Graduate
51

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

APU features a residency doctorate in education — with a learning experience in London — that suits working professionals in student affairs. While overseas, students can network with international faculty.

This program offers mostly online courses with in-person classes held at the Azusa, California campus for one week every June and a monthly in-person session for nine months. The curriculum combines spirituality of leadership, campus ecology, and law and policy. Cohorts, which include 15-20 students, graduate within three years. 

Applicants must hold a master's degree with at least a 3.5 GPA. GRE scores are optional.

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Online College in West Virginia

Marshall University

School Information
Location Huntington, West Virginia
Admission Rate 87%
Graduation Rate 49%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,100
Out of State | $420

Credits to Graduate
45

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

MU offers an Ed.D. in leadership studies with courses that cover the principles of leadership, organizational analysis, financial models in leadership, and advanced research. Students must complete nine credits for their dissertation research. Graduates can find leadership positions in schools, universities, and nonprofits. 

Faculty admits students based on their work experiences, career goals, GPAs, and GRE or MAT scores. Doctorate in education candidates also must complete an online interview. Admitted students begin in the fall.

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Online College in Ohio

The University of Findlay

School Information
Location Findlay, Ohio
Admission Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 65%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 33% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $490-$540
Out of State | $490-$540

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Findlay's online doctorate in education prepares students to become superintendents or teachers by offering two concentrations. The superintendent and teaching concentrations require 15 additional credits to gain practical skills in collective bargaining, grant writing, and networking. 

Students complete courses mostly online, except for the three-day summer institute. They can graduate within three years. Findlay also offers students the chance to present their research at the Mid-Western Educational Research Association.

Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited college with a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE or MAT scores, and supplemental materials. The College of Education faculty also requires in-person or virtual interviews.

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Online College in Virginia

Marymount University

School Information
Location Arlington, Virginia
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 58%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,140
Out of State | $1,140

Credits to Graduate
48

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Marymount's fully online doctorate in education program prepares students for higher education faculty positions in three years. The curriculum covers theory and practice, ethical leadership and social justice, and transformative leadership. Students must complete their degree in five years. 

Eligible applicants need a master's degree in education from an accredited college, with a minimum 2.75 GPA. Applicants also need three years of work experience, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and a virtual interview. The program does not require GRE scores.

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Online College in Mississippi

University of Southern Mississippi

School Information
Location Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Admission Rate 97%
Graduation Rate 49%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 70% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $510
Out of State | $510

Credits to Graduate
54

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Southern Miss's doctorate in education emphasizes practical experiences with a capstone project. Over three years, students complete courses in public school finance, school law, administrative approaches to technology, and advanced instructional supervision. Classes are held weekly in the evenings. 

Applicants who do not have a master's degree must submit GRE scores. Admissions also requires candidates to submit resumes, letters of interest, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. Graduates become principals, assistant principals, curriculum coordinators, and superintendents.

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Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Best Online Doctorate in Higher Education Programs Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Programs Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Programs

Admission Requirements for a Doctorate in Education

Admission requirements vary by school and program. Given their professional focus, Ed.D. programs often have more work-related requirements than Ph.D. programs in education. Ed.D. programs may call for classroom or administrative experience in a secondary school.

At minimum, most programs require a relevant master's degree in education. Online doctoral programs in education usually maintain the same admission requirements as their on-campus counterparts. Below, we explore specific materials that most programs require.

Application

Most graduate programs do not use application systems like the Common App or Coalition App. Instead, graduate applicants must fill out individual applications through each prospective school's website. These forms usually collect basic personal information like name, address, and prior schools attended.

Test Scores

Fewer and fewer schools are requiring standardized test scores. Some doctoral programs in education may ask applicants to submit GRE scores. This requirement is more common among Ph.D. programs, which often involve a more theoretical and academic focus. Ed.D. programs focus more on practice. However, many Ed.D. programs still mandate GRE scores.

Letters of Recommendation

Most Ed.D. programs require 2-3 letters of recommendation. For practice-focused Ed.D. programs, these letters should come from former principals, assistant principals, or team leads. In some cases, you can ask former college professors to write recommendation letters. Make sure to ask for these letters several months in advance to give your references enough time to write.

Resume and Work Experience

Many Ed.D. programs focus on practice, for which reason many schools require students to have professional experience teaching or education administration experience. Even if schools do not call for work experience, most programs ask applicants to submit a resume.

Essays

Most Ed.D. programs ask prospective students to submit an essay in the form of a statement of purpose or letter of intent. Some schools may also call for a statement of educational philosophy to make sure students are a good fit for the program. These essays are usually relatively short.

Official Transcripts

All prospective students must submit official transcripts, no matter what type of program they are applying for. These documents show that applicants can succeed academically while pursuing a terminal degree. Some students may be able to earn transfer credit for life or professional experience.

How Do I Choose an Education Doctorate Online Program?

Cost

According to a Franklin College study, most doctorate in education programs cost $21,000-$55,000. This translates to $350-$775 per credit. The true cost of a program includes costs like room and board, activity fees, and transportation. Online students often avoid many of these fees, which may result in significant savings overall.

Program Format

Do you need the structure of live, scheduled online courses? Or would you prefer flexibility to complete assignments around your own schedule? This distinction of synchronous vs. asynchronous course format is among the main factors to consider when choosing an online program. Practicing teachers pursuing doctorates in education may prefer part-time programs that fit around your work schedule.

Location

You might think location does not matter when choosing an online program. However, even if you enroll online, your program may require on-campus attendance for certain events or courses. Most online doctorate in education programs include a field experience or practicum requirement. If you live near campus, your school may help you find an approved site.

Accreditation

Accreditation is a third-party process that evaluates schools and individual programs. Accreditation is often necessary for learners to qualify for federal financial aid or transfer credits if necessary. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation focuses on education and accredits many of the field's best doctoral programs in the field.

Student Support

Student support can mean the difference between an excellent online learning experience and a disappointing program. Before enrolling, check to see if your chosen program offers mentorships, networking opportunities, internship placements, and alumni connections.

Courses In an Education Doctorate Program

Ed.D. programs entail core courses and specialization courses. Core courses may include educational ethics and issues and trends in education. Specialized courses may cover early childhood education, instructional design, special education, and diversity and equity in education.

Programs requiring a dissertation may also offer classes on dissertation research and writing.

Students who complete a research project instead of a dissertation may be asked to identify a problem in education, review existing literature on the issue, and propose a potential solution.

Research Methods and Systematic Inquiry

This course introduces students to quantitative, qualitative, and mixed research methods. Students learn to collect, manage, and analyze data. This course may involve field research.

Multicultural Education

In this course, learners study the role of ethnic and linguistic diversity in U.S. society and education. They develop an understanding of multiculturalism and learn to address social, cultural, and linguistic differences in the classroom.

Collaborative Leadership

Through the study of collaborative leadership, students learn to work together to affect social change. Students develop a deeper appreciation of the importance of incorporating diverse perspectives in their work.

Global and Historical Perspectives in Higher Education

In this course, students gain a cross-cultural understanding of the history of teaching and learning. Readings and discussions address teaching methods, learning assessment, and the purpose of education. Students discover how views on these subjects have changed over time and vary across cultures.

Research in Instructional Design and Technology

This course introduces students to current research on curriculum development, teaching, instructional technology, and distance learning. Students develop a richer appreciation of the importance of scientific research for improving education.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree Financial Aid Guide for Graduate Students Scholarships for Education Majors The Student's Guide to Financial Aid and the FAFSA

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate Degree in Education?

Career Outlook

Graduates with an online doctorate education qualify for careers that will see high demand from 2020-2030. Since these graduates hold terminal degrees, they can compete for the highest-paying, most in-demand careers in their fields.

Ed.D. degree-holders qualify for supervisory and managerial roles in secondary and postsecondary education and corporate development. In most cases, these graduates can expect to earn salaries approaching six figures. Careers may include principal, professor, administrator, instructional coordinator, and training and development manager.

See where a doctorate in education can take you. Learn more about education careers.

Continuing Education

A doctorate in education is the field's terminal degree. As such, most degree-holders do not pursue additional formal education in the field. However, continuing education is important in education. Principals and administrators should attend seminars and workshops to stay current on the latest pedagogical trends.

Degree-holders may choose to complete a master's degree in a related or adjacent field such as curriculum development or instructional coordination.

Careers for a Doctorate in Education Graduate

Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal

Many practicing teachers pursue a doctorate in education so they can become principals or assistant principals. These professionals are the top executives in their schools, supervising daily operations, handing budgets, interacting with parents, and administering discipline. School principals may need to earn certification as well.

Median Annual Salary: $98,490

Postsecondary Teacher

Ph.D. in education graduates often pursue careers in academia. Since an Ed.D. is a terminal degree, these degree-holders can pursue careers as professors as well. These educators work in community colleges and four-year schools. They teach courses, mentor students, and perform their own original research.

Median Annual Salary: $80,560

Postsecondary Education Administrator

These professionals work at community colleges and four-year universities. They supervise departments and manage student services, research, and academics. These positions usually require a master's degree, so a doctorate provides a competitive advantage. Most positions also call for significant work experience in academia.

Median Annual Salary: $97,500

Training and Development Manager

Doctoral degree-holders in education don't always pursue careers in secondary or postsecondary schools. They can also find work providing skill development programs for corporations and businesses. These professionals may work as freelancers, consultants, or for specific organizations.

Median Annual Salary: $115,640

Instructional Coordinator

Typically working in middle and high schools or for entire school districts, these professionals create curricula and implement educational standards. They may also visit individual classrooms and help coach teachers. These positions usually require at least a master's degree and several years of classroom teaching experience.

Median Annual Salary: $66,970

Education Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Education Programs

Is a doctorate in education worth it? true

Yes. Any degree's value is somewhat subjective, but an online doctorate in education can lead to education roles with the highest salaries and most responsibilities. The field's terminal degree, a doctorate in education demonstrates an unmatched commitment to your craft.

Degree-holders can pursue jobs with above-average salaries in secondary and postsecondary schools and corporate environments. For example, training and development managers earn a median annual salary of $115,640. Postsecondary education administrators earn a median annual salary of $97,500.

What can I do with a doctorate in education? true

Potential job titles for graduates with a doctorate in education include postsecondary teacher, postsecondary educational administrator, principal, instructional coordinator, and training and development manager. Degree-holders qualify to pursue nearly any leadership position at a secondary or postsecondary school.

Job outlook projections are strong for doctorate in education degree-holders. The BLS projects slightly above-average growth for advanced education careers from 2020-2030.

How long does it take to get a doctorate in education online? true

Most online doctorate in education programs take 3-7 years to complete. Most programs require students to complete 45-60 credits. Completion times depend on several factors, including course load, capstone project, and dissertation requirements. Part-time students may need closer to seven years to finish their degrees.

Many Ed.D. programs require students to write and defend research-based dissertations or complete hands-on research projects to culminate their degrees.

How much money can I make with a doctorate in education?

Salary potential depends on several factors including location, employer, and experience. Most doctoral degree-holders in education can expect to earn salaries approaching six figures. According to the BLS, elementary, middle, and high school principals earned a median annual salary of $98,490 as of May 2020.

Other job options for degree-holders include postsecondary teacher, which garners a median annual salary of $80,560. Instructional coordinators earn a median annual salary of $66,970.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a doctorate in education?

According to the BLS, the highest-paying job for those with a doctorate in education is training and development manager. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $115,640 as of May 2020. Within the education field, principals with many years of experience, tenured professionals, and experienced postsecondary administrators can also earn salaries that approach this number.

As of 2020, the top-earning 10% of principals and postsecondary administrators made over $152,500 and $199,400 per year, respectively. Public school principals generally earn more than their private school counterparts. Administrators at four-year colleges and universities usually earn more than those at junior or community colleges.

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