Best Online Doctorate in Education Programs of 2021

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September 8, 2021

Edited by Jordan Stewart-Rozema
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Students interested in pursuing a career 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 and cover topics, such as 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 the shifting needs of students and teachers. There is also a growing emphasis on early childhood education, and bilingual educators are in increasingly high demand. By earning your Ed.D., you can pursue a career helping students and teachers adapt to this changing educational landscape.

2021 Accredited Online Doctorate in Education Programs

Ranking compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

Azusa Pacific University View School Profile Azusa, CA

APU offers more than 30 online degrees through the Canvas platform, including a hybrid Ed.D. in higher education leadership. This three-year program may appeal to working professionals, offering a low-residency cohort model that only requires on-campus classes once per month for nine months out of the year and a one-week intensive each June.

The curriculum consists of 51 units and includes required courses like the philosophy of action research, strengths-oriented leadership, and the changing worlds of higher education. Students submit a dissertation proposal at the beginning of their third year and have the option to attend an immersive learning experience in London.

In addition to the admission requirements below, applicants must submit two recommendation letters, a statement of intent, and an academic writing sample. APU is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,127/credit
Credit Requirements: 51 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

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Request more information about this program.

Johns Hopkins University View School Profile Baltimore, MD

The Johns Hopkins School of Education offers 15 online certificates and degrees, including an online doctorate in education. This part-time, scholar-practitioner program is designed for experienced educators who want to improve outcomes in private and public settings. In addition to asynchronous classes, students are required to complete a three-day residency each summer.

Participants must earn a minimum of 90 graduate-level credits, but students with relevant master's degrees can transfer in up to 36 credits toward degree completion. Required classes include research methods and systematic inquiry, multicultural education, and leadership in educational organizations.

Students take additional coursework in one of five specializations. Options include urban leadership; mind, brain, and teaching; technology integration in K-6 education; entrepreneurship in education; and instructional design in online teaching and learning.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Online Doctor of Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,531/credit
Credit Requirements: 48-54 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online with residencies
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Liberty University View School Profile Lynchburg, VA

Liberty powers distance learning with the Canvas platform, offering many online programs. The catalog includes an online doctorate in education that is fully accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Through asynchronous, eight-week classes, practicing educators can earn their doctorate while working full time.

The curriculum covers core topics like curriculum development and quantitative/qualitative research methods. Students personalize their degree plan by choosing a specialization, selecting from options like educational leadership and school administration and supervision.

This flexible online doctorate in education integrates capstone research into the coursework. Liberty also allows applicants to fulfill up to 50% of degree requirements through transfer credits.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Online Doctor of Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $595/credit
Credit Requirements: 54 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Marshall University View School Profile Huntington, WV

Marshall serves over 12,800 students annually, many of whom enroll online. The university offers an online Ed.D. in leadership studies that prepares students for leadership positions in government agencies, community services organizations, international NGOs, and schools and universities.

The curriculum consists of 18 credits of major classes, 18 credits of research and auxiliary training, and nine credits of dissertation work. Required courses include ethical theories, financial models, and qualitative and statistical methods. The dissertation process starts at the beginning of the second year, when students are assigned to research communities consisting of several peers and faculty mentors.

In addition to the admission requirements below, applicants must submit a 750-word goals statement. They also need to complete an electronic interview.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Ed.D. in Leadership Studies
School Status: Public
Tuition: $383/credit
Credit Requirements: 45 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

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Request more information about this program.

North Greenville University View School Profile Tigerville, SC

NGU uses the Blackboard platform to deliver distance learning programs, including a mostly online doctorate in education. In addition to asynchronous and synchronous online classes, participants complete two week-long courses on campus.

Throughout a 60-credit curriculum, students develop the applied research and systems thinking skills needed to work as teacher leaders, curriculum developers, and academic deans. Required courses include advanced leadership ethical studies, politics of education, and organizational development. Students also strengthen their personnel management skills, especially conflict mediation and resolution.

They take additional classes in either a K-12 leadership or higher education leadership concentration. Most courses are delivered through eight-week terms. Applicants must submit three recommendation letters and sit for an interview.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $495/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online with residencies
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Northcentral University View School Profile La Jolla, CA

NCU is a leader in distance learning, offering over 20 online doctoral degrees. Students can enroll in an online doctor of education program, choosing from 16 career-relevant specializations. With fully asynchronous classes and weekly start dates, NCU's program allows working professionals to graduate in 3-7 years.

Although requirements differ based on specialization, all students take foundational courses like effective communication and leadership for improvement. Electives cover topics like e-learning, sport and athletic management, global training and development, nursing education, and learning analytics.

Online students have the opportunity to engage with their professors in a one-on-one setting and take advantage of mentoring opportunities. Up to nine qualifying credits from a regionally accredited institution may be transferred into a doctoral program at NCU.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Online Doctor of Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $976/credit
Credit Requirements: 48-54 credits
Program Length: 31-45 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Request more information about this program.

Northeastern University View School Profile Boston, MA

A renowned research institution, Northeastern offers more than 200 graduate certificates and degrees. Its catalog includes an online doctorate in education that lets students customize their curriculum by choosing one of three concentration options. Learners can focus on higher education; organizational leadership studies; or curriculum, teaching, learning, and leadership.

Required classes include advanced research design and collaborative leadership. Unlike comparable degrees, Northeastern's program allows students to begin dissertation research as soon as they enroll, pairing them with a faculty advisor who guides them through the entire process. Distance learners are required to attend a two-day residency each year in Boston, Charlotte, or Seattle.

Applicants need at least three years of relevant work experience. They must submit a current resume and three recommendation letters.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $53,800/program
Credit Requirements: 51 credits
Program Length: 3-4 years
Format: Online with residencies
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Nova Southeastern University View School Profile Fort Lauderdale, FL

NSU's Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice delivers 10 graduate degrees, including an online doctorate in education. This program lets students personalize their degree plan through eight concentration options.

All learners take core classes like the nature of knowing and methods of research inquiry. They take additional classes in their specialization areas, such as reading education, higher educational leadership, human services administration, and instructional technology and distance education.

Students develop practical skills and network with peers and professors by attending at least one summer institute. In lieu of a dissertation, they can complete a strategic research project that tackles a pertinent organizational problem in their industry. Distance learners receive one-on-one guidance from an academic advisor throughout their time at NSU.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,420/credit
Credit Requirements: 55 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online with residency
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Touro University Nevada View School Profile Henderson, NV

Touro Nevada delivers certificates and degrees across six specialty areas through its College of Health and Human Services. Options include an online doctorate in education designed for education and healthcare professionals.

The curriculum covers topics like education policy and planning, organizational management and culture, and community engagement and relations. While students can complete the majority of their coursework remotely, they must travel to the Henderson campus for two week-long residencies. Learners begin dissertation work as soon as they start the program, receiving support from faculty and peers.

Admission requirements include a regionally accredited master's degree, a personal essay, and a resume or CV. Applicants must also submit three recommendation letters, one of which must come from an academic source.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $625/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online with residencies
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Findlay View School Profile Findlay, OH

Founded in 1882, Findlay was later among the first universities in the region to provide distance learning. Today, the school offers 12 online programs, including an online doctorate in education. Students can fulfill the majority of their degree requirements asynchronously but must attend a three-day summer institute on campus to discuss their dissertation research.

The curriculum includes core classes like innovation and information theory, global dimensions and perspectives on diversity, and strategic planning and continuous improvement. Students also delve into policy and data analysis. They fulfill remaining course requirements with electives chosen from either a teaching track or a superintendent track.

Applicants must submit two recommendation letters and sit for a faculty interview. Findlay is a member of the Carnegie Project on the Educational Doctorate — a consortium of institutions dedicated to redesigning the doctorate in education.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Online Doctor of Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $540/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online with residency
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign View School Profile Champaign, IL

Illinois serves over 51,000 students each year, many of whom enroll online. The university offers an online doctor of education in education policy, organization, and leadership that includes 13 concentrations. Options include social sciences and education policy, learning design and leadership, human resource development, and African American studies.

The degree plan includes required classes in education law, leading school improvement, and the political and cultural context of education. Students who choose the learning design and leadership concentration develop the skills needed to evaluate academic programs and technology. All learners must satisfy a residency requirement during their first four semesters.

Applicants must submit a 500-word personal statement, three reference letters, and a resume or CV. They are also strongly encouraged to provide a scholarly writing sample.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Education in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership
School Status: Public
Tuition: $490/credit
Credit Requirements: 64 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online with residencies
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Mary View School Profile Bismarck, ND

Mary offers over 50 remote and evening programs, including an online doctor of education in educational leadership and administration. Throughout a 60-credit curriculum, students develop the management and research skills needed to work as superintendents, academic deans, college professors, and directors of curriculum and instruction

Students take core classes like educational ethics, community relations, and leading adult learners. They personalize the degree plan with open electives and advanced courses in either a K-12 track or higher education track. Distance learners gain practical experience by attending two summer residencies on campus and completing an internship.

Mary's online doctorate in education uses a cohort model that accepts new students every two years. Applicants must sit for an interview with faculty and take a proctored writing exam.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $730/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online with residencies
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Southern Mississippi View School Profile Hattiesburg, MS

USM uses the Canvas platform to provide more than 25 graduate programs for distance learners, including an online doctorate in educational administration with no dissertation requirement. The curriculum covers core topics like public school finance, administrative approaches to technology, and advanced instructional supervision.

The program culminates in a capstone research project during which learners tackle a problem they have encountered in the workplace. Graduates are prepared to advance into positions as academic program directors, superintendents, curriculum developers, and school principals.

Admission requirements include an educator license, three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and at least three years of classroom teaching experience. New students are admitted into this program once a year in the fall.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Online Educational Administration Doctorate
School Status: Public
Tuition: $494/credit
Credit Requirements: 54 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: Minimum 3.0-3.5, depending on previous level of education
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

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

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

Online Ed.D. programs can help education professionals advance in their careers as practitioners. Unlike students pursuing their Ph.D. in education, most students earning their Ed.D. do not plan to become researchers. Individuals working toward their education doctorate should be intellectually curious and eager to apply what they learn in school to solve practical problems in educational settings.

Many Ed.D. programs allow students to choose a concentration. For example, some programs let students focus on the cognitive science behind how we learn. Students concentrating in instructional design and online learning gain expertise in developing online courses. Other concentrations include K-12 leadership, higher education, and social and emotional learning.

Students working toward their education doctorate should be intellectually curious and eager to apply what they learn in school to solve real-world problems in educational settings.

Online doctorate in education programs typically require students to complete 45-60 credits. Full-time students who already hold a master's degree in education can often earn their Ed.D. in three years. Individuals earning their educational doctorate online can fulfill most academic requirements remotely; however, many online programs expect students to complete a short on-campus residency.

Many Ed.D. programs require students to write and defend a research-based dissertation. Other programs afford students the option of completing a more hands-on research project instead. Some programs ask that students complete a dissertation based on field research or their previous experiences as educators.

Admission Requirements for Online Doctorate in Education Programs

Most online Ed.D. programs in education require applicants to submit a resume, letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, and a statement of purpose or graduate application essay. Some programs ask students to identify a specific problem in education they wish to investigate during their studies. Admission committees may also ask graduate applicants to submit GRE scores, though not all programs require them.

Because of their emphasis on educational practice, most online Ed.D. programs expect applicants to have some teaching or education administration experience before enrolling. Many also prefer or require that students hold a master's degree; however, some programs may allow students to earn their master's degree en route to the Ed.D.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Doctorate in Education Program?

Ed.D. programs often offer both core required courses and courses specific to students' chosen specialization. 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.

While some programs require students to write a dissertation, others offer students the option of completing a research project based on fieldwork instead. In their research project, students may be asked to identify a problem in education, review the existing literature on the issue, and determine a potential course of action for addressing it.

Research Methods and Systematic Inquiry

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

Multicultural Education

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

Collaborative Leadership

Through the study of collaborative leadership, students learn how 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 ideas about teaching and learning. Readings and discussions address teaching methods, learning assessment, and education's purpose. 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.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Education?

Earning your Ed.D. can prepare you for a career as a teacher or administrator in higher education. The degree can also qualify you for high-level administrative roles in K-12 education, such as principal or superintendent. Some graduates of Ed.D. programs become training and development managers or instructional coordinators.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for elementary, middle, and high school principals could grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030. This is on par with the average job growth rate across industries. Principals earned a median income of $98,490 in 2020.

The BLS also projects 8% job growth for postsecondary education administrators between 2020 and 2030. These professionals made a median annual salary of $97,500 in 2020.

The BLS projects 11% job growth for training and development managers, who earned a median salary of $115,640 in 2020. Instructional coordinators made a median annual salary of $66,970 that year.

See how a doctorate in education can advance your career. Learn more about education careers.

Training and Development Manager

Training and development managers create curricula for educational institutions and private companies with employee training programs. They may oversee the work of instructional designers, who develop courses. Training and development managers update training programs, track learning outcomes, and evaluate instructor performance.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators include deans, provosts, and registrars. Provosts, also called chief academic officers, assist in hiring decisions, develop educational policies, and oversee budgets. Registrars manage registration and class schedules, maintain academic records, and help plan graduation ceremonies.

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers instruct classes at colleges and universities. They also advise students, conduct research, and write academic articles and books. Postsecondary educators typically perform service work, such as sitting on departmental committees. Although most postsecondary educators who teach at four-year institutions hold a Ph.D., graduates with an Ed.D. may also be strong applicants for these positions.

Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal

Elementary, middle, and high school principals supervise the day-to-day operations of a school. They are responsible for developing curricula and maintaining academic standards. They also manage school activities for students and staff. Principals evaluate teacher performance, manage school budgets, and prepare reports on students' academic performance.

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators work in K-12 education, higher education, professional schools, and state and local governments. They oversee school curricula and establish teaching standards. Instructional coordinators also develop teaching materials and work with educators to assess their effectiveness.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Education Programs

What can I do with a doctorate in education?

By earning your doctorate in education, you may qualify for high-level positions in K-12 and postsecondary administration. These roles include principal of a K-12 school, school superintendent, and university provost. Professionals with an Ed.D. degree can also pursue careers as training and development managers or instructional coordinators.

What is the best online college for a doctorate in education?

The best online college for you depends on your career aspirations, learning preferences, and budget. When considering Ed.D. programs online, choose a school that is accredited. Accredited institutions must meet a high standard of academic rigor. Also, consider choosing a program that allows you to specialize in a subject you hope to focus on in your career.

What is the difference between an Ed.D and a Ph.D. in education?

A doctorate in education, or Ed.D., is an advanced degree for educational practitioners. Professionals who want to advance in their careers as administrators, training and development managers, or instructional coordinators may benefit from earning their Ed.D. A doctor of philosophy, or Ph.D., is an advanced research degree. Those seeking a career in academia may wish to pursue their Ph.D. in education.

How long does it take to get an online education Ph.D.?

Because Ph.D. programs have extensive research and writing requirements, they can take several years to complete. In 2017, the median amount of time it took for students at U.S. institutions to earn their Ph.D. was 5.8 years. However, this timeline varies across disciplines. Students entering an Ed.D. program with a master's degree usually graduate in three years.

Is it worth getting a Ph.D. in education?

Earning your Ph.D. in education can be worth it if you want to pursue an academic career. Some academic hiring committees may prefer to hire an applicant with a Ph.D. over a candidate with an Ed.D. However, if you want to be a principal, superintendent, or college administrator, earning an Ed.D. may be a better choice.

How much does it cost to get an Ed.D or Education Ph.D.?

According to Franklin College, many students pay $21,000-$55,000 in tuition to earn their Ed.D. Some Ph.D. programs cost an average of $30,000 a year. The best education Ph.D. programs often provide students with graduate stipends, teaching opportunities, and research fellowships to offset the cost of the degree. Some online Ed.D. programs offer graduate scholarships and other forms of funding.

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

As of September 2021, PayScale reports that the average annual salary for a professional with an Ed.D. is $79,000. According to the BLS, postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual wage of $97,500 in 2020. Principals earned a median annual salary of $98,490 in 2020, while instructional coordinators made a median of $66,970 that year.

Learn about scholarships and financial aid available for students pursuing a degree in education. Follow our five simple steps for how to prepare for graduate school and get tips on the best ways to start off the semester smoothly. Attending graduate school allows you to conduct research and gain critical skills for your career. Learn about the pros and cons of earning a graduate degree.

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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