Doctorate in Education Program Guide

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By Heather Mullinix

Published on August 19, 2021

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Teachers work hard to instill a love of learning in their students and encourage them to pursue lifelong learning. Many teachers take this lesson to heart, continuing their education beyond a bachelor's degree.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 8.7% of public school teachers in the U.S. hold an education specialist or doctorate in education. Georgia leads the country, with 23.6% of its teachers holding an Ed.S. or doctorate.

A doctorate in education requires years of work and research in education policy and practice. The Ed.D. offers a professional practice approach to educational research, where a Ph.D. degree may focus on emerging research and educational theory. Leadership, instructional excellence, and data analysis skills allow teachers to excel in classroom and administrative positions.

Administrative positions often require at least a master's degree, with many teachers opting to earn a doctorate in education. This degree also allows teachers to pursue careers in higher education or education-focused roles in the private sector.

Should I Get a Doctorate in Education?

Earning a doctorate in education requires a significant investment of time and money. Thanks to the growth of online doctorate in education programs, many teachers can pursue their educational goals while continuing to work.

However, the degree still requires three or more years to complete. Students may take 1-2 classes while they work during the school year and participate in intensive summer sessions to maintain their momentum toward their degree.

Thanks to the growth of online doctorate in education programs, many teachers can pursue their educational goals while continuing to work.

School systems may provide teachers with a stipend or higher salary schedules based on their degree. However, many states have moved away from this model, focusing instead on performance-based pay for teachers. Depending on your content area and career goals, the skills gained through a doctorate in education may help you achieve better student outcomes.

Your degree may also allow you to earn an advanced teacher license, administrative license, or national certification. These credentials also help advance your career and meet your goals. Licensure requirements vary by state and may include an exam.

What Can I Expect from a Doctorate in Education Program?

A doctorate in education focuses on practical skills essential to high-quality instruction and student success. Degree-seekers learn to evaluate educational research and apply processes and procedures in a professional setting. An Ed.D. is a practice-focused degree. A Ph.D. in education focuses on new research and expanding understanding of educational methods.

An online doctorate in education often includes courses in qualitative and quantitative research, educational statistics, and leadership. Learners also complete a dissertation on a topic developed with their advisory committee. Programs may use a cohort model, with students moving through coursework together, or allow students to progress at their own pace.

Degree-seekers can often tailor their studies and research to an area of interest, such as early literacy or educational policy.

Concentrations

Higher Education Leadership
Designed for postsecondary administrators, this concentration focuses on the needs of older learners and the challenges facing higher education institutions. Leadership skills allow these administrators to evaluate policies and processes to implement culture change in their schools.
Organizational Development
Administrators help ensure each teacher and staff member has the tools and training necessary for success. Organizational development helps administrators take a thorough and critical look at their operation and implement policies and procedures to change school culture.
Learning and Design
Individual students may learn differently than their peers. This concentration looks at how students learn and how to design lessons that meet their needs. This track also helps instructional designers develop high-quality online learning modules.
Leadership and Decision-Making
This concentration focuses on STEM instruction to help teachers inspire students in the classroom. The curriculum also incorporates art and reading. Teachers learn how to bring these subjects together across the curriculum to allow students to build STEM skills and critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
Data and Analytics
Schools measure student success in various ways, including performance on assessments and standardized tests. This concentration helps teachers and administrators delve into available data, pinpointing areas where students need more instruction or intervention.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs

How to Choose a Doctoral Program in Education

You may find the number of schools offering doctoral programs in education overwhelming. When choosing the right doctorate in education, consider the cost, time, coursework, and academic reputation.

If you plan to take online classes, check to see if classes require being online at specific times and if the school requires any on-campus attendance. Consider your long-term career goals and if the available concentrations can help you meet those goals. If you plan to seek an additional teaching or administrative license, ensure the school's curriculum meets your state's requirements.

Programmatic Accreditation for Doctoral Programs in Education

In addition to verifying a school's regional accreditation, students should ensure that their prospective school of education holds accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Many states require students to graduate from a CAEP-accredited program for licensure.

Accreditation serves as a voluntary third-party review of a program's resources, instructional effectiveness, and student success. CAEP ensures schools meet rigorous standards that include a thorough review of the curriculum and student outcomes and an in-depth site visit.

Find the top online doctorate in education programs.

How to Get Into a Doctoral Program in Education

You must hold a master's degree in an education-related subject before applying to a doctoral program in education. Schools review your transcripts, educational research, and writing ability. Many schools also require an interview with faculty and a review of professional and academic references.

Because an Ed.D. focuses on the practical application of educational research, many programs also look for applicants with teaching experience. Many programs require at least three years of classroom experience.

Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions

What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Education?

A doctorate in education prepares you for multiple roles in the field. Many graduates seek administrative positions in school systems as principals and instructional coordinators. Depending on your state's requirements, you can also seek licensure as a school guidance counselor.

Other graduates look for education careers outside of K-12 schools. Professionals with a doctorate in education can teach prospective educators at the bachelor's or master's level. Administrators within higher education also benefit from the leadership skills developed in Ed.D. programs.

This degree also offers opportunities outside the classroom and the principal's office. Corporations need training and development managers to help develop their workforce. Professionals with expertise in curriculum design may also find opportunities with educational publishers and online learning providers. Graduates can also impact educational policy initiatives through a career in public policy.

Popular Career Paths

How Much Money Can I Make With a Doctorate in Education?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), education, training, and library occupations pay a median annual salary of $52,380. The careers you can find with a doctorate in education pay substantially higher wages. Principals earned a median salary of $98,490 in 2020, while postsecondary administrators made a median salary of $97,500. Training and development managers earned a median salary of $115,640.

Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Education Prepares For

Administrator License
Many states require that teachers earn an administrative license before they can work as assistant principals. Each state's department of education administers this educator license. To earn this license, candidates must demonstrate leadership skills, be able to use data to make decisions, and have experience designing and implementing curriculum strategies.
National Board Certification
This voluntary credential recognizes teachers who demonstrate excellence in their profession. Teachers can pursue certification in their area of instruction, with assessments in content knowledge and differentiated instruction.
School Counselor
Most states require that school counselors hold a master's degree in counseling. Some states may also require a practicum or a set number of hours working under the supervision of a licensed school counselor.
Literacy Specialist
As schools work to improve student literacy, they need professionals who understand best practices for teaching students to read. While requirements vary by state, all candidates must complete advanced study in literacy instruction and assessment.

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Education Programs

Is education a good career? true

Many professionals find teaching a rewarding career in which they play a vital role in student development and academic progress. The BLS projects education, training, and library occupations to grow by 5% from 2019 to 2029 thanks to increased student enrollment.

How much does it cost to get a doctorate in education? true

Colleges and universities charged an average graduate tuition of $19,310 per year in 2018-2019. That figure dropped to $12,170 per year for public schools and as high as $27,780 for private nonprofit institutions.

Is a doctorate in education worth it? true

A doctorate in education can help you achieve your professional and academic goals. Compare the time and cost of earning a doctorate in education with the potential increase in salary and job opportunities.

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

Most doctoral programs in education take at least three years to complete. Programs generally require 45-66 credits.

Are educators in high demand? true

The BLS projects 5% job growth for education, training, and library occupations between 2019 and 2029. However, public schools and state and federal education agencies may face budget constraints that could lead to school consolidation, limiting job growth.

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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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