Tasked with shaping the minds of future generations, educators and administrators work in a dynamic, rewarding field. Teachers develop curricula and adhere to lesson plans within the classroom; however, educators who are passionate about leading change and reform in the field often pursue a doctoral degree in education (Ed.D.). An Ed.D. is an ideal academic pathway that prepares graduates for roles in school administrations or other leadership roles in higher education, K–12 schools, nonprofit organizations, and government organizations.
Now is a terrific time to pursue a degree in educational leadership, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% increase in elementary, middle school, and high school principal jobs through 2026. The BLS also projects a 10% increase in the number of deans, registrars, and other postsecondary administrators due to rising student enrollment. Additionally, the number of postsecondary teachers is expected to increase by a faster-than-average rate of 15%. This anticipated job growth in education makes pursuing a doctorate in education -- and a career in educational leadership -- more attractive than ever.
Should I Get a Doctorate in Education?
Prospective doctoral students in education have several options to pursue their degree. For some, a traditional brick-and-mortar program is the right choice. On-campus doctoral programs may attract students straight from an undergraduate or graduate program, and those who are confident that their future career requires a doctoral degree. Online programs, on the other hand, are just as rigorous as their on-campus counterparts, but feature the flexibility that working professionals need. The online coursework is typically self-paced and asynchronous, letting students attend to other commitments alongside their education, including child care duties, family responsibilities, or full- or part-time jobs. Perhaps most importantly, earning an online doctoral degree leads to the same credentials and job opportunities as a traditional on-campus program.
Earning a doctorate in education prepares graduates to be effective organizational leaders in the field. Students become expert problem solvers who find practical solutions to the challenges of modern education. Most positions in teaching and administration in education require at least a bachelor's degree, while preference is often given to candidates with an advanced degree such as a master's or doctoral degree. Ed.D. graduates have a competitive edge in a competitive field, and are well-positioned for leadership positions. Furthermore, doctoral programs provide students with several employment resources such as internships, networking events, and job-placement assistance programs
What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Education?
Graduates of an Ed.D. program have many exciting and challenging career paths available. Equipped with strong skills in communication, inquiry, decision-making, and management, graduates are prepared for leadership and administrative roles in a range of contexts. They can work in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary public school and private schools; they may lead postsecondary institutions such as colleges and universities; or they may find positions in corporations, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies. Educational leadership roles are often tasked with budget and financial management, directing hiring and human resources process, or overseeing general operations and policies of a school or organization.
- School Principal
School principals oversee and monitor the operations of elementary, middle, and high schools. They develop educational programming and curriculum, train and hire teachers and staff, manage finances and budget, and enforce disciplinary action. A principal creates a positive learning environment for staff, faculty, and students. Many principals start as teachers, then go on to earn their doctorate in education.
Median Annual Salary: $94,390
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- Training and Development Manager
Training and development managers create professional development programming at schools, organizations, and companies. They develop programs like online learning courses and in-person workshops. They may also create and select curricula, recommend instructional techniques and learning materials, evaluate participants' needs, and assess the effectiveness the programming. It is common for training and development managers to study education, human resources, or business administration.
Median Annual Salary: $108,250
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Postsecondary Education Administrator
Postsecondary administrators such as provosts and deans oversee the academics and faculty at colleges and universities. Administrators work within admissions, student services, student life, the registrar's office, and more, collaborating with senior administrators and other staff to find better ways to support faculty and students. Administrators often begin their careers as professors.
Median Annual Salary: $92,360
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Postsecondary Teachers
Postsecondary teachers -- also known as adjunct and tenured professors -- instruct students at levels beyond high school. They may teach at technical, vocational, and professional schools; junior and community colleges; or universities in both public and private settings. These instructors create curricula, develop learning outcomes, and assess student progress and understanding. Postsecondary teachers also conduct research, publish scholarly articles and books, advise students, and attend conferences.
Median Annual Salary: $76,000
Projected Growth Rate: 15%
- Executive Director and Chief Learning Officers
Executive directors are senior leaders at nonprofit organizations and businesses. Working closely with a board of directors, they make decisions that impact daily operations such as hiring and human resources, finances and budget management, fundraising, policies, and programming. CLOs, meanwhile, are senior-level leaders that focus specifically on training, learning, and development programs for an organization's staff. CLOs advise executive directors on effective coaching and training techniques.
Median Annual Salary: $104,700
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
Best States for Professors
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 1.5 million professors teach in the United States. The majority of these professors, more than 63%, work in public colleges and universities.
Each of the states on our list offers a variety of opportunities for professors. Across the country, professors teach at large research universities, small liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and technical colleges. These institutions offer many opportunities for professors. While some states boast a high number of research institutions, others compete with smaller institutions that offer lower student-to-faculty ratios.
Most professors hold a Ph.D. or the terminal degree in their field. Because of their extensive training, professors often earn salaries above the national average. Some states report professor salaries much higher than the average for the profession, which our list takes into consideration. Below is a ranking of the best states for professors.
Our ranking methodology considers factors such as salary and employment numbers, job concentration, and opportunities at each state's institutions. Our list also considers cost of living, U.S. News & World Report rankings, and the number of higher learning institutions to determine the best states for professors. Salary and employment information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while information on the state's public university systems comes from the states.
California professors earn among the highest salaries in the country, and the state boasts one of the strongest public university systems, earning California the top spot on our best states for professors list. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in 2017 that four of the top five paying public universities for full professors were University of California schools. These institutions employ nearly 3,000 full professors, and at UCLA, the top ranking school, full professors earned $184,500 on average.
The UC system, which employs over 21,000 faculty members, includes some of the best universities in the country. In 2018, U.S. News & World Report ranked five UC campuses in the top 10 public universities, including UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, and UC Davis. In addition to the UC system, California is home to hundreds of other colleges and universities, including top schools, like Stanford, and a large network of community colleges, making it the best state for professors.
With a massive public community college and college system in SUNY and CUNY, as well as numerous private colleges and universities, New York offers more job openings for professors than almost any state. The state ranks at the top of the list for the most four-year degree granting institutions, with over 130. The SUNY system employs over 33,000 professors, with just under 20,000 working at the university level and 13,500 working in the state's community colleges.
New York's plentiful positions for professors are matched by above-average salaries. The state's 3,050 computer science professors earn an average salary of over $100,000, while the 3,300 law professors working in New York earn over $140,000. English professors earn slightly less, with an average of just under $90,000, but New York employs more professors of English and literature than any other state, at 7,740 faculty members. New York also boasts more Ivy League universities than any other state, with Columbia and Cornell.
Home to the University of Virginia, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson, Virginia ranks as one of the best states for professors. For the past 20 years, UVA has ranked within the top three for U.S. News & World Report's ranking of public universities, and the institution matches its reputation with above-average salaries. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that UVA pays its full professors an average salary of nearly $160,000 a year, making it the sixth best-paying public university in the country.
In addition to UVA and the College of William and Mary, Virginia employs professors at several dozen other four-year universities and liberal arts colleges. In several specializations, Virginia ranks among the top employers, with a high concentration of computer science professors and the highest average salary for economics professors in a nonmetropolitan area.
Texas boasts some of the highest employment numbers for professors. The 14-institution University of Texas system employs 21,000 professors. Texas is also home to two of the largest universities in the country, the University of Texas–Austin and Texas A&M. With high employment numbers and a cost of living slightly lower than the national average, many professors find Texas as one of the best states to work in.
The nearly 1,000 economics professors in the state earn an average salary of over $105,000. Texas also employs more history professors than any other state, with over 2,100. In some areas of the state, professors earn among the highest salaries in their field. For instance, economics professors in nonmetropolitan North Texas earn nearly $95,000 a year, making them among the highest-paid economics professors in nonmetropolitan areas.
With many public and private higher learning institutions, Ohio is one of the best states for professors. Ohio's public higher education system includes 14 universities and 23 community colleges. The system's flagship school, Ohio State University, educates over 43,000 undergrads a year, making it one of the largest universities in the country. The Five Colleges of Ohio, comprised of some of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, provide a job board for professors to identify employment opportunities.
Ohio matches its high number of higher education institutions with a low cost of living. Ohio employs more law professors than almost any other state, and the almost 900 law professors in Ohio earn an average salary of nearly $125,000. The state's low cost of living means that Ohio professor salaries go far.
With over 100 four-year colleges and universities, Pennsylvania offers multiple employment opportunities for professors. Employing 4,700 professors, Pennsylvania's state system of higher education is one of the top employers in the state. Professors benefit from the state system's increase in retirement contributions between the 2010/2011 and 2016/2017 academic years. During that time, contributions more than doubled.
Pennsylvania also employs more professors than many other states. The state boasts 4,300 English professors and 1,160 history professors, ranking it fourth among all states in the number of professors in those fields. The state's nearly 800 computer science professors earn above-average salaries of over $110,000 a year. With a slightly below average cost of living, Pennsylvania professor salaries go far.
Combining many higher learning institutions with a history of excellence, Massachusetts appeals to professors looking for jobs in New England. Over 30 colleges and universities call the greater Boston area home, making it one of the best cities for higher education.
Massachusetts also boasts a high concentration of jobs in higher education, with a higher concentration of English professors than any other state, except Vermont and New York. Massachusetts also reports a high concentration of law professors and history professors. In those three fields, Massachusetts colleges and universities employ more than 4,600 professors.
Massachusetts particularly appeals to professors seeking positions at private universities. Of the state's 80 colleges and universities, only about a dozen receive public funding. The state's most famous private school, Harvard, dates back to the 17th century, making it the oldest college in the country.
Rhode Island may be one of the smallest states in size and population, but it has above-average salary and employment opportunities, which makes it one of the best states for professors. The state's English professors earn an average salary of over $90,000, which is only topped by Washington, D.C. and California. Rhode Island tops the salary list for computer science professors, who earn an average salary of nearly $135,000.
The state offers diverse options for professors, as noted by U.S. News & World Report. In addition to Brown University, Rhode Island's Ivy League school, the state boasts mid-sized universities, liberal arts colleges, and an art school. Many of those schools call Providence home. While Providence ranks as the third-largest city in New England, the state's cost of living remains in line with the national average, meaning faculty salaries go further than in neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Two of Illinois' universities, the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, ranked among the top 10 schools by U.S. News & World Report. Both universities also appeared on the Chronicle of Higher Education list of best-paying institutions for full professors. The U of Chicago ranked third among private universities with an average professor salary of over $225,000, and Northwestern ranked 11th with a $193,000 average salary.
Illinois pays high salaries for business professors, with the state's 3,500 professors averaging nearly $120,000 a year. The state's economics professors also earn above-average salaries, making nearly $138,000 a year on average. With its cost of living and housing exactly in line with the national average, Illinois professors benefit from high salaries in an affordable state.
Many of the best colleges in Minnesota are found in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The state boasts a large public higher education system under the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities systems, which are among the largest employers in Minnesota. The state stands out for its liberal arts schools, including Carleton College, Macalester College, and St. Olaf College. At these institutions, faculty members benefit from low student-to-faculty ratios. Carleton, for example, reports a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
The Twin Cities ranks as one of the top metropolitan areas employing many disciplines. The area employs more economics professors than most other metropolitan areas. Minnesota's rural areas also show strong employment numbers and above-average salaries, with English professors in rural southeast Minnesota receiving higher salaries than in any nonmetropolitan area except for northwest Iowa.
Home to Yale University, among the most prestigious schools in the country, Connecticut offers a variety of opportunities for professors. The state may be small, but it boasts a major research university in the University of Connecticut. UConn employs over 2,000 professors, making it an important source of academic jobs in the state. Connecticut also counts prestigious liberal arts colleges among its higher education institutions, including Wesleyan University.
Salaries for Connecticut professors exceed the national average, with several institutions offering among the highest salaries in the country. UConn ranks as #11 on the Chronicle of Higher Education's list for full professor salaries at doctoral public schools, and Yale ranks in the top 10 for private institutions. The state also boasts the highest personal income in the nation, but the cost of living remains higher than average and housing prices are the 10th-most expensive.
In Washington state, the strong public university system earns it a spot on the best states for professors list. The Seattle metropolitan area, home to over half of all Washingtonians, boasts the University of Washington. UW ranks in the top 20 for public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report, and it is the top ranking Pacific Northwest university on the national university ranking. In addition to the UW, public universities across Washington employ thousands of professors.
Washington professors earn above-average salaries, according to the BLS. Engineering professors, forestry and conservation science professors, and law professors earn average salaries above $100,000. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks UW-Bothell and UW-Tacoma among the highest-paying public master's-granting institutions, with an average full professor salary of over $115,000 a year. The state's opportunities combined with its salaries make Washington a strong state for professors.
Wisconsin boasts one of the best public universities in the country with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. UW-Madison ranks among the top 20 public universities on the U.S. News & World Report's list. The public university system includes multiple large research universities, and it employs over 39,000 faculty and staff members across the state. These publicly funded universities represent one of the state's largest employers.
Many Wisconsin professors benefit from competitive salaries and the state's low cost of living. According to the BLS, the state's 1,280 business professors earn just under $100,000 a year on average. The 1,870 art, drama, and music professors in Wisconsin bring home an average salary of over $73,000 a year. Professor salaries go far in Wisconsin thanks to the state's cost of living, which remains lower than the national average.
Maryland offers many employment opportunities for professors, with high salaries in several fields. The state's flagship public institution, the University of Maryland, employs over 4,600 faculty members, making it the largest employer in the state for professors. Maryland also hosts the United States Naval Academy and Johns Hopkins University, which are both considered prestigious institutions.
In some fields, such as computer science, Maryland ranks among the top-paying states in the country. The 780 computer science professors in the state earn an average salary of over $108,000 a year. The BLS reports that many professors earn average salaries of over $100,000, including business, engineering, and economics professors. While the state's cost of living ranks above the national average, high salaries compensate professors in Maryland.
While North Carolina professors do not earn the highest salaries in the country, the state's many institutions of higher learning offer ample opportunities for professors. The state boasts the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Duke University, along with many other colleges and universities, especially in the state's research triangle.
Many North Carolina professors earn average salaries in the $70,000-$90,000 range, according to the BLS. Professors of sociology, geography, and history fall into this range, with English professors earning a slightly lower salary of $64,000. The highest paid professors can earn salaries that rank among the top in the nation. The Chronicle of Higher Education places UNC-Chapel Hill in the top 15 for full professor salaries at public, doctoral-granting institutions. The over 500 full professors at the institution earn an average of nearly $150,000 a year.
New Jersey's many colleges and universities, including Princeton and Rutgers, offer multiple opportunities for professors. The state boasts a mix of research universities and liberal arts colleges, appealing to professors with different interests and career goals. Princeton employs more than 1,250 professors, with a low student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1. It also ranks as the best university in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that full professors at Princeton earn over $200,000 a year, on average.
Professors in New Jersey benefit from the state's high salaries, according to the BLS. In the sciences, biology professors and physics professors earn over $100,000 a year, and many humanities professors earn salaries around $90,000. These salaries do not go as far in New Jersey as in other states; only New York and Hawaii report a higher cost of living.
With over 250,000 college students in Atlanta, the state of Georgia offers many opportunities for professors. Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia call the state home, each ranking in the top 50 for national universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. In addition to large research universities, professors work at the state's mid-sized colleges, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges.
For certain fields, Georgia provides some of the highest salaries in the country. The state's 330 agricultural sciences professors earn an average of $114,000 a year, ranking second in the nation behind Pennsylvania. Georgia also ranks at the top for law professor salaries, at nearly $172,000 a year. In other fields, professors earn lower salaries. Georgia's English professors, for example, earn around $67,000 a year, while art, drama, and music professors earn $63,700.
Iowa's low cost of living and diverse colleges and universities make it an appealing state for professors. The Corn State boasts the oldest land-grant university in the country, Iowa State University, and a strong agricultural education focus. The state's nearly 300 agricultural science professors earn an average salary of over $93,000 a year. While the state does not rank among the highest salaries for most fields, Iowa economics, physics, and engineering professors earn salaries in the six figures.
Iowa State employs 6,000 full-time faculty and staff members, with many more who work part time, and the University of Iowa employs nearly 1,500 tenured and tenure-track professors. The state also counts many liberal arts colleges among its draws for professors, including Grinnell College. With a cost of living below the national average, Iowa offers lucrative opportunities for professors.
With some of the largest universities in the country, Florida offers many opportunities for professors. Both the University of Florida and Florida State University enroll over 30,000 students, and the University of Florida employs nearly 5,000 professors. In addition to large research universities, the state's public system includes the New College, an honor school, and a wide network of community colleges.
In some fields, Florida ranks among the highest-paying states. Florida agricultural science professors earn the fourth-highest average salary of any state, according to the BLS, at around $107,000 a year. In other areas, Florida lags behind. The state employs nearly as many English professors as the top five states in the field, but pay lags significantly behind the top states at under $70,000 a year. The state's many opportunities, scenic beaches, and cost of living make Florida a top state for professors.
Delaware appeals to professors looking for a flagship public research institution or a smaller college. The University of Delaware, which ranks among the best public institutions in the country, dates back to the 1740s. The state also attracts professors to work at Delaware State University, Wilmington University, and community colleges.
Delaware professors earn salaries around the national average and enjoy an average cost of living. According to the BLS, Delaware's computer science and psychology professors earn over $90,000 a year on average. English professors earn around $70,000 on average, while history professors make just under $80,000. The University of Delaware places on the Chronicle of Higher Education list for highest salaries at public doctoral institutions, with full professors earning nearly $145,000 on average.
Home to large research universities and prestigious liberal arts colleges, Indiana offers many opportunities for professors in a state with a low cost of living. The state's two largest universities, Purdue University and Indiana University-Bloomington, employ thousands of professors. At IU, over 20,000 faculty and staff help students earn degrees. Indiana also boasts the University of Notre Dame, DePauw University, and Goshen College, offering diverse employment opportunities for professors.
Indiana professors earn salaries above the state's average personal income, according to the BLS. The 2,000 art, drama, and music professors in the state earn just under $70,000 a year on average, while biology professors earn over $97,000 on average. Indiana reports a below-average cost of living and some of the least expensive housing prices in the country, making it a good state for professors.
New Hampshire professors benefit from the variety of colleges and universities in the state, which pay above-average salaries. Home to Dartmouth College, an Ivy League institution, and the University of New Hampshire, the state's flagship public university, New Hampshire professors in certain fields rank among the best-paid in the country. The state's economics professors, for example, average over $146,000 a year, making them better paid than economics professors from any other state except for Rhode Island. New Hampshire's art, drama, and music professors also rank in the top five for salary, earning $91,000 a year.
While several fields in New Hampshire offer high salaries, the state employs relatively few professors. Fewer than 200 professors teach mathematics, history, and economics in the state, for example. The state's cost of living also sits higher than the national average. Still, New Hampshire offers lucrative positions in a scenic environment for professors.
Michigan offers many opportunities for professors and high salaries in several fields. Between its two largest universities, Michigan employs well over 10,000 professors. At the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, over 7,000 professors educate students, while Michigan State University employs over 5,500 faculty and academic staff. In addition to its important public universities, Michigan professors also work at the state's mid-sized universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges.
According to the BLS, Michigan professors earn competitive salaries, with several fields offering average salaries of over $100,000 a year, including business, engineering, and agricultural sciences. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks the University of Michigan as the third highest-paying public doctoral-granting institution for full professors. The institution's 1,150 full professors earn an average of nearly $163,000 a year. By comparison, the state's art, drama, music, and English professors earn lower salaries of around $65,000.
The second smallest state by population offers multiple opportunities for professors at its many colleges and universities. The state's only research university, the University of Vermont, employs nearly 1,700 professors. Vermont professors also work at the state's prestigious liberal arts schools, including Middlebury College, Bennington College, and St. Michael's College. With so few professors, the state's reported salaries to the BLS contain some notable gaps. For example, Vermont reports employing 190 mathematics professors but does not include an average salary.
In some areas, Vermont offers a high concentration of professors. The state employs more art, music, and drama professors, for example, than any other state except for Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Their salaries, however, lag behind the national average at just under $73,000 a year. Vermont tops the list for the highest concentration of English professors but does not report the average salary.
Professors who love basketball find a welcome home in Kentucky. The state's two largest universities, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, challenge each other every year in a rivalry dating back decades. The state also hosts private schools including liberal arts colleges, like Centre College and Transylvania University. While salaries in Kentucky are lower than the national average, the state's low cost of living, including some of the lowest housing prices in the country, place Kentucky on the list of the best states for professors.
According to the BLS, none of the professorial fields in Kentucky offer wages above $100,000. However, some fields offer competitive salaries. The state's political science teachers, for example, earn average salaries of over $91,000. The state also employs 50 home economics professors, who earn an average annual wage of nearly $78,000.
How to Choose a Doctorate in Education Program
There are several factors to consider as you search for the right Ed.D. program. Of course, having clarity around your academic needs and interests are primary; you should ensure the programs you apply for can adequately prepare you for your intended career. From there, decide how much you expect to juggle personal and professional commitments while pursuing doctoral studies, and whether attending full- or part-time is the best fit.
You may also need to decide if earning your degree through a traditional, on-campus degree is a good fit for your style and pace of learning; an online degree may be more suitable if you are a working professional or have family responsibilities, or simply need more flexibility in your schedule. Moreover, the self-paced and asynchronous elements of web-based doctorate in education online programs require a high degree of self-motivation and self-discipline. Regardless of your choice, note that both online and on-campus programs feature the same rigorous curricula and lead to the same credentials and job opportunities.
Another factor to consider is the time it will take to complete your degree. Most doctoral programs in education are between 54 and 64 credits, which includes research and a dissertation and takes approximately three years to complete on a full-time basis. Students who study part time may take up to five years to earn their doctorate degree. As you think about your specific career ambitions, consider the different concentrations and/or areas of emphasis available at a school. Popular Ed.D. specializations include curriculum and instruction, educational administration, and special education. Many Ed.D. programs also combine hands-on learning experiences with traditional coursework, so learn about any in-person requirements that are required. Some programs mandate that doctoral candidates complete face-to-face residencies, while other schools simply encourage students to participate.
What's the Difference Between a Ph.D. and Ed.D.?
If you are considering a leadership role within education, an Ed.D. is the right step. However, the specific types of jobs you may be qualified for depends on the type of doctoral degree you complete. In other words, an Ed.D. should not be confused with a Ph.D.
There are some key differences between these two educational tracks. A Ph.D. is an advanced doctoral degree with an emphasis on research methodology and the theories and philosophies within education. This type of program typically takes five to seven years to complete, and includes writing and presenting a dissertation. Graduates of Ph.D. programs traditionally pursue careers in academia.
An Ed.D., on the other hand, is an advanced doctoral degree that addresses the organizational, leadership, and educational challenges of modern education. This degree emphasizes problem solving, best-practice strategies, and practical solutions. Graduates of Ed.D. programs usually take on leadership and administrative roles at the institutional level.
Programmatic Accreditation for Doctorate in Education Programs
The accreditation process is an extensive review of a programs or school. Accreditation demonstrates an educational institution's ability to meet rigorous standards and commit to continual academic improvement. Attending an accredited school is important for many reasons, and a school's accreditation may impact unforseen components of a degree. For example, you will only be eligible for federal financial aid if you attend a nationally or regionally accredited school.
If you want to transfer your credits, you will likely only be able to do so if you earned them from an accredited college or program. U.S. colleges and universities may receive regional accreditation status from one of six accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. When looking into accreditation status, consider choosing programs that are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission, or the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
Doctorate in Education Program Admissions
Applying to a doctorate in education program is an exciting step, and there are several factors to consider. For example, decide how many schools to which you'd like to apply. Ed.D. admissions are competitive, and the best way to increase your chances of getting accepted into a program is to apply to a variety of schools. As a general rule, you may want to find roughly ten programs that match your academic goals and interests, and then apply to as many as possible. It is a good idea to start researching schools as early as one year in advance of application submission due dates. Talk with students, professors, and admissions counselors at each school that interests you. You will likely find a top choice among your list, but it is a good idea to have a few backup schools that you will still be happy to attend if your first choice does not work out.
- Degree: Education doctoral applicants must hold a master's degree from a regionally accredited college or university. The degree does not necessarily need to be in a related field, however it should include a minimum of 30 semester hours of advanced coursework.
- Professional Experience: Most Ed.D. programs expect applicants to have three to five years of professional experience in education. Education doctoral candidates are most often practicing educators or administrators with established careers in the field.
- Minimum GPA: Many schools hold doctoral applicants to very high academic standards, including a minimum GPA of 3.0; however, stricter programs may require a minimum of 3.5. Some schools substitute high standardized test scores for GPA requirements.
- License: There are no specific licensure requirements to enroll in a doctorate of education program; however, since most applicants are practicing teachers, they typically hold educator licensure in the state where they work.
- Application: An application typically requires you to create an online account, fill out information about your background, and submit a personal statement and resume. The online college application is found on a school's website.
- Transcripts: Applicants must submit official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended to apply for an advanced degree. Paper transcripts in sealed envelopes or digital PDF versions can be mailed or emailed directly to the school's graduate admissions office.
- Letters of Recommendation: Applicants usually submit one to three letters of recommendation from professors, managers, or supervisors. The letters address why you are a promising doctoral candidate.
- Test Scores: Not all schools look at standardized test scores; however, some schools want to see the results of the GRE. There could be a minimum combined verbal and quantitative combined score requirement, but it depends on the school in which you are applying.
- Application Fee: Application fees can be anywhere between $40–$70. Fees are sometimes waived for alumni, employees, service members, veterans, and military spouses. Some schools waive an upfront application fee, and then reassess the fee during enrollment.
What Else Can I Expect From a Doctorate in Education Program?
Ed.D. programs prepare educational leaders and practitioners; however, different schools offer different specializations and areas of emphasis. The details of your doctorate in education -- including the concentrations, specializations, internship, residencies, plans of study, and specific coursework -- depend on the program in which you enroll. Carefully research your school's coursework requirements to ensure you are fully prepared.
Concentrations Offered for a Doctorate in Education
|Higher Education||An Ed.D. in higher education focuses on postsecondary institutions, colleges, and universities. Students in this concentration conduct research and analyze challenges related to higher education administration. Topics include trends in higher education, education finance, educational law, instructional leadership, adult learning, and student development.||Leadership or administrator position in colleges or universities, academic dean or provost, college president, college professor|
|Special Education||An Ed.D. in special education develops the skills to successfully teach students with unique talents and mental, physical, behavioral, and learning disabilities. Students in this concentration discuss ethical practice, policies, program development, student assessment, and technology as they relate to improving instruction in the special education classroom.||Special education instructor; gifted student instructor; school administrator; leadership or administration position in school districts, colleges, or universities; college professor|
|Curriculum and Instruction||An Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction builds on the foundation of classroom teaching. Students in this concentration discuss innovation and research surrounding the design of strong curriculum and professional development programming at the elementary, middle, secondary, or postsecondary level.||Leadership or administrator position in school districts, colleges, or universities; education specialist; curriculum specialist; instructional supervisor; college professor|
|Educational or Organizational Administration and Leadership||An Ed.D. in educational leadership combines classroom theory and real-world application to prepare graduates to be competent, effective, and influential administrators. Within this concentration, doctoral candidates may focus on early childhood, higher education, community settings, or other educational environments.||Leadership or administrator position in school districts, colleges, or universities; education specialist; curriculum specialist; instructional supervisor; college professor|
|Educational Technology||An Ed.D. in educational technology develops innovative ways of using technology to enhance student learning environments. Students in this concentration learn to think critically and identify emerging technology and future trends to make strong decisions related to nurturing a digitally equipped classroom.||Education technology specialist; instructional supervisor; leadership or administrator position school districts, colleges, or universities; college professor|
Courses in a Doctorate in Education Program
All Ed.D. programs prepare graduates for leadership roles; however, your specific doctoral coursework may vary depending on the program and concentration you pursue and the school in which you enroll. A few sample courses are listed below.
- Diverse Learners
Courses in diverse learners explore academic, cultural, socioeconomic, and emotional diversity. In this course, doctoral students learn to value diversity and apply strategies to enhance learning environments. Topics include special education, English as a second language, equitable access to high-quality learning, and differentiated instruction.
- Leadership Theory and Research
Leadership courses introduce students to the concepts, definitions, and analyses of educational leadership. Topics cover contemporary theories, research methodologies, emerging perspectives, and the future of educational leadership. Students also gain an understanding of the different leadership processes, such as group, organizational, individual, and dyadic.
- Educational Systems
This course covers the dynamics, nature, and implementation of politics, legislation, and practice within the educational system. Doctoral candidates analyze leadership strategies within micro and macro systems and structures, and organizations within public and private classrooms, schools, and districts. The curriculum emphasizes educators as change agents and instructional innovators.
- Social Change, Justice, and Educational Equity
Coursework in social change and justice examines oppression and justice within education. Doctoral candidates explore and analyze contemporary educational research and connect issues in social justice to problems in education. Topics include pedagogical strategies, independent and collaborative learning, the climate for social change, the use of service learning, and learner-centered curriculum models.
- Thesis Proposal, Data Collection, Analysis, and Presentation
No doctoral program in education would be complete without coursework that helps students propose, prepare, and present their final thesis projects and dissertations. These courses support the thesis proposal, submission, and presentation of a project in which doctoral candidates refine their data collection skills, engage in data analysis, edit proposals, expand literature reviews, and construct presentation strategies.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Education?
Most Ed.D. programs are between 54 and 64 credit hours, which includes 14-16 doctoral seminars in core courses, specialization coursework, and an internship or residency. The final 12-15 credits are reserved for research and dissertation work. The specific plan of study varies according to the school and program you choose, while the length of time it takes to complete depends whether you attend full- or part-time.
The average Ed.D. program takes three years of full-time study to complete, including two years of coursework and one year of research and dissertation. Individuals who study on a part-time basis may complete their programs in five to seven years. One way to speed up the time it takes to complete the program is to transfer some previously earned credits. Some programs allow doctoral candidates to apply a portion of their master's degree credits towards their doctoral degrees, which shortens the overall time in the program.
How Much Is a Doctorate in Education?
The cost of a doctorate in education is an important consideration. Higher education can be expensive and usually requires more than just tuition payments. Students should take into account the cost of books and other learning material, the cost of housing, and commuting or parking expenses if you are regularly visiting campus. You should also consider in-state versus out-of-state tuition rates. Most colleges and universities charge a higher tuition rate to out-of-state students; however, some exceptions are made for online students.
While online learners may pay in-state tuition, distance learners may have to pay extra technology fees. Earning a doctorate in education degree can cost between $350 to $1,200 per credit, so total tuition may land between $20,000 and $80,000. Some schools charge per course -- rather than per credit -- and those costs may range from $1,000 to $4,500 per course. Financial aid -- such as loans, grants, and scholarships -- is available to doctoral students, and usually a mix of all three will be required to pay for your degree. Keep in mind that some schools do not offer financial aid to students who enroll in fewer than 6 credits at a time, or take an exceptionally long time to complete their program.
Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Education Prepares For
- Principal Licensure
In most states, public school principals must be licensed or certified by a state agency or government. Most states require at least three years of teaching experience and a minimum of a master's degree, while some states mandate a doctorate in education. While an Ed.D. prepares you to pass a licensure exam, specific licensure and/or certification requirements vary from state to state.
- Superintendent Licensure
Some states have specific licenses for district-level administrative officer positions like superintendents, assistant superintendents, and directors. This credential demonstrates a strong educational leadership background, the ability to supervise school operations, and to develop and communicate district-wide goals, policies, budgets, and long-term plans to the board of education. Specific licensure and/or certification requirements vary from state to state.
- School Business Administrator Licensure
Some schools have a specific licensure for school business administrators, also known as chief financial officers of a school district. This certificate/licensure authorizes a professional to make decisions regarding financial accounting and reporting, budget planning, insurance, and risk administration. Specific licensure and/or certification requirements vary from state to state.
Resources for Doctorate in Education Students
The U.S. Department of Education offers many resources for graduate students, including information on financial aid such as student loans, scholarships, and grants, as well as lists of accredited schools and programs.
The mission of Teach to Lead is to expand teacher leadership to improve student outcomes. The program develops educational leaders by providing several helpful resources such as professional collaborations, leaderships labs, and grants.
AACTE is the leading association of university-based teacher education preparation programs. AACTE supports the Innovation Exchange, a unique initiative that offers educators progressive programming in pedagogy, workforce development, research, and more.
UCEA is a membership organization of higher education institutions, deans, departmental heads, and faculty. The organization develops school leadership preparation programs and enhances the practice of educational leadership by disseminating high-quality research.
Established in 1994, AAE is a national nonprofit organization of professional educators that focuses on student achievement. AAE members benefit from professional resources, scholarships, and liability insurance.
Professional Organizations in Education
Professional education organizations offer current students, graduates, and leadership professionals a great deal of support in their careers. Associations foster a sense of collegiality across the field of education. Collaborating and working together within a professional organization enables school leaders and administrators to develop a collective voice and advocate for better teaching and learning environments for their teachers and students. Members of professional organizations benefit from access to members-only events and conferences, networking opportunities, professional development and continuing education programs, annual conferences, employment resources, career services, job boards, and special publications and journals.