How Hard Is a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) Program?

The curriculum, fieldwork, and dissertation requirements make an Ed.D. degree challenging. But how hard is it to get a doctorate in education?
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  • Ed.D. programs take three years and require a master's degree for admission.
  • Doctoral students complete applied research courses and meet fieldwork requirements.
  • Degree candidates typically defend a dissertation or doctoral capstone to graduate.

An Ed.D. degree helps educators land jobs as principals, school superintendents, and college administrators. But how hard is it to get a doctorate in education?

As the highest academic degree, a doctorate challenges learners. An Ed.D. pushes doctoral students to apply research in educational settings, analyze complex data, and strengthen leadership skills. Before applying to doctorate in education programs, ensure you're ready for the rigors of doctoral-level study.

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What Makes an Ed.D. Challenging?

Earning a doctorate is hard in any field. But what makes an Ed.D. challenging? With its unique blend of research and practice, an Ed.D. requires diverse skills. Doctoral students should be prepared for a challenging curriculum, field requirements, and a dissertation.

Curriculum

The doctor of education curriculum prepares graduates for leadership roles in education. As a result, the curriculum covers a range of challenging topics.

During an Ed.D. program, doctoral students strengthen their qualitative and quantitative research skills. They examine education theory and explore applied research.

Field Requirements

Doctoral students in education often complete fieldwork to gain hands-on experience. Learners work with their advisors to choose their fieldwork sites and meet graduation requirements. Depending on the program, students may also complete a practicum or internship.

Dissertation

Most Ed.D. programs require a dissertation. Doctoral candidates typically conduct research through surveys, interviews, case studies, and data analysis.

Some programs use a doctoral capstone project rather than a dissertation. Both options require intensive research and writing.

Doctor of Education Curriculum

What courses do doctoral students take during an Ed.D. program? Ed.D. classes vary depending on the program's focus area.

In an educational leadership specialization, learners take courses on school administration, organizational change, and budgeting. A higher education focus includes courses on postsecondary leadership and college financing.

Other popular concentrations include education technology, curriculum and instruction, and adult education.

Common Ed.D. Classes

  • Academic Cap
    Educational Theory and Research: Enrollees advance their knowledge of educational theory and research methods. The course prepares doctoral candidates to research and write a dissertation.
  • Academic Cap
    Education Policy: Doctoral students analyze policies related to early childhood, K-12, or higher education. The course emphasizes the challenges of implementation and assessment.
  • Academic Cap
    Higher Education Administration: Learners build leadership skills for postsecondary roles, including in student affairs, admissions, and other college departments.
  • Academic Cap
    Organization and School Leadership: Students explore leadership theories and their practical application. Topics may include assessment, organizational change, and group dynamics.
  • Academic Cap
    Instructional Technology: Learners examine the uses of instructional technology in educational settings. The course covers research, implementation, and assessment for educational technology.

Length of an Ed.D. Program

Most Ed.D. programs require three years for full-time students. Part-time learners generally spend four or more years earning their degree.

Some universities offer accelerated Ed.D. programs that take as little as two years to complete. Educators can also earn an Ed.D. online. These programs appeal to working professionals.

Length of an Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. vs. Ed.S. Degree
Education Degree Number of Years
Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) 3 years
Ed.S. 1-2 years
Ph.D. in Education 4-6 years

How Hard Is It to Get an Ed.D. vs. a Ph.D.?

Is it easier to get an Ed.D. than a Ph.D.? The two doctoral degrees emphasize different skills. While an Ed.D. focuses on leadership in educational settings, a Ph.D. emphasizes research and theory. Both doctoral programs challenge learners to build on their master's training.

Some educators find a Ph.D. more challenging than an Ed.D. because Ph.D. programs emphasize quantitative research, policy, and theory more heavily than an Ed.D.

Graduates with a Ph.D. typically pursue academic or research roles, while an Ed.D. leads to professional roles in education.

How to Know When You're Ready for an Ed.D.

Are you ready for an Ed.D. program? If you have a master's degree in education or a related field, plus several years of experience, you meet the admission requirements.

But being ready for a doctoral program requires something extra: You need a clear professional goal, time for coursework, and doctoral-level skills.

5 Tips to Prepare for an Ed.D. Program

  • 1

    Gain Experience: Ed.D. programs typically admit educators with several years of experience. Focus on gaining the kind of experience Ed.D. programs prioritize.

  • 2

    Focus on Skills: An Ed.D. requires both practical and academic strengths. Focus on your leadership skills while also honing your research and theoretical abilities.

  • 3

    Review the Admission Requirements: Start researching programs early to make sure you meet the requirements. Identify gaps in your academic or professional record and focus on those areas.

  • 4

    Schedule Time: Earning a doctorate requires time — and not just the length of the program. You'll need time every week for classes, assignments, and fieldwork.

  • 5

    Talk to Mentors: Your mentors understand your strengths and your career goals. They can help you strengthen your application and give you an honest assessment of your readiness.

If you're considering an Ed.D. program, reach out to professors from your master's program and meet with your supervisor. Network with Ed.D. students and recent graduates. Ask for advice on preparing for an Ed.D. and choosing the right program.

By investing in your academic and professional development, you'll gain valuable skills for an Ed.D. program. The process will also help you make the right decision for your unique circumstances.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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