An online Ph.D. in education helps education professionals acquire specialized knowledge and advance their careers. Candidates for a Ph.D. in education have inquisitive minds, a taste for innovative problem-solving, and a commitment to thoroughness that serves them well in research projects.
Educators who pursue this degree are often eager to work with college-age students and engage with intellectual colleagues. Due to predicted job growth, change in the higher education sector, and the increasing demand for education as a social justice tool, those pursuing a Ph.D. in education can anticipate promising careers. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job outlook for postsecondary teachers will grow 15% between 2016 to 2026 -- faster than average.
Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in Education?
An online Ph.D. in education opens professional doors for its holder. Studying education at the doctoral level is intellectually satisfying and empowering for those seeking to improve educational systems and practices. This degree helps K-12 teachers and community educators pursue research and high-level teaching careers. For those already teaching at colleges and universities, an education Ph.D. offers job security in a field where most candidates have terminal degrees.
Higher education professionals with education doctorates can help improve the culture and future of colleges and universities. By conducting research, managing educational publications, evaluating and consulting for educational programs, or taking administrative or governmental positions that influence policy, education postdocs help guide the education field in a productive direction.
What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Education?
After earning a Ph.D. in education, you have a variety of career choices. Many postdocs work as professors, researching and teaching for college and university education departments. Sometimes, they find academic positions in other social studies fields, like anthropology or psychology.
Some find jobs at accreditation agencies, working to build quality educational programs and institutions, while others work as writers or editors in academic publishing.
Education graduates who do not enjoy teaching often choose research-focused careers, working for university research centers, government organizations, and nonprofits. For example, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) employs educational researchers to help guide policy decisions and implementation, and organizations like The College Board use educational researchers to analyze testing methods and practices.
Those interested in school administration or community leadership usually opt for an Ed.D. degree, but Ph.D.s in education can also attain these positions or work as educational consultants. Some find jobs at accreditation agencies, working to build quality educational programs and institutions, while others work as writers or editors in academic publishing. Below are a few example professions for education Ph.D. graduates.
Education Ph.D. Program Overview
Online doctorate programs in education appeal to busy professionals who wish to advance their careers by continuing their educations. Curricula vary widely by school, meaning you have a lot of options. Pursuing an online education degree not only provides flexible scheduling that allows professionals to continue working, but also enables candidates to find programs that suit their career goals and interests.
Types of Doctoral Degrees in Education
Although both Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs cover curriculum development and classroom learning, an Ed.D. is a faster track to a career in school administration. Those interested in careers as professors or educational researchers typically opt for a Ph.D. in education, which focuses on using academic research and teaching to influence educational policy. A Ph.D. tends to pursue teaching-oriented careers in academia or research-oriented careers in other sectors, while an Ed.D. uses the degree to transition from educator roles into administrative roles.
Ideal candidates in an Ed.D. program already have educational leadership experience and want to take on leadership and management roles, working with other education professionals to solve practical problems. Ideal education Ph.D. candidates have creative, inquisitive minds, can work independently on a flexible schedule, and care about teaching college students and conducting research that shapes both thinking and practice in higher education.
Ed.D. programs prioritize practical knowledge and administrative solutions to problems in education systems, guiding students through a curricula of applied research projects that involve designing, implementing, and reporting on specific programs in a local educational facility. Education Ph.D. dissertations, on the other hand, are more theoretical and involve independent research, with less guidance from a set class sequence. A Ph.D. in education typically takes 4-5 years -- longer than the average Ed.D. degree, which students often finish in three years.
Application Requirements and Admission Criteria
Most Ph.D. in education program requirements include an education-related master's degree and teaching or educational research experience with a current resume or curriculum vita. Most schools also ask for a minimum graduate GPA -- usually between 3.0-3.5. Recent GRE or MAT scores and two or more recommendation letters are also common requirements. Some programs require additional written submissions, like an academic writing sample or personal statement outlining career goals.
Although curricula differ by school, most online education Ph.D. programs require 60-75 credits, allowing about 10 transfer master's credits, with up to 30 credits of core courses, 15 credits for specialization-related coursework, and 30 credits for the dissertation. To graduate, Ph.D. candidates must complete their coursework, pass annual or comprehensive exams, and write and defend a dissertation.
Core courses cover foundational research methods courses and teaching-related courses, including instructional leadership, educational philosophy, evaluation, curriculum development, and technology. Students also take electives or specialization-track core courses, like adult or community education, special education, and cultural studies and policy. Core research methods courses prepare students to complete dissertation projects that involve in-depth academic research and make original contributions to the field.
Available concentrations vary by program, so applicants should research programs to ensure a curriculum matches their interests. For example, education Ph.D. candidates seeking leadership positions should choose programs that offer specializations in organization theory, finance, ethics, or administration. Below are a few example courses often included in education Ph.D. curricula.
Teaching and Learning Foundations
Organization and Governance in Higher Education
Qualitative Reasoning and Analysis
Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis
Evaluating and Improving Educational Programs, Organizations, and Systems
The level of specialization offered at the doctoral level gives postdocs expertise that can advance them into leadership roles. Education Ph.D. students gain advanced research and analysis skills they can use to identify, understand, and resolve the complex problems facing contemporary education leaders. Graduates can foster supportive learning environments and create legal, ethical policies that improve higher education outcomes in the U.S.
Accreditation for Online Education Doctorate Programs
Education Ph.D. holders who graduate from regionally-accredited institutions have a competitive edge over candidates who attended nationally-accredited programs. Regional accreditation verifies that the institution has met the high educational standards set by the ED. Faculty and libraries at regionally-accredited schools typically boast higher credentials and more resources than their nationally-accredited counterparts.
There are a variety of regional accreditation organizations, including the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the Middle States Commission on Higher Education(MSCHE), and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Most legitimate education Ph.D. online programs also boast programmatic accreditation from the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).