Doctorate in Education Administration Online

A doctorate in education administration delves into the best practices and theoretical concepts at the forefront of education research. It provides experiential learning opportunities, offers opportunities to specialize further in a specific research area, and fulfills requirements needed to obtain licensure or certification. Many universities offer education administration doctoral programs completely online to accommodate working professionals and students with families.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), education administrators at the secondary and postsecondary levels make competitive salaries. The BLS also projects job opportunities in these fields to grow by 8-10% from 2016 to 2026 -- faster than the national average growth rate for all occupations. Pursuing a doctorate in education administration can elevate your career and qualify you for leadership positions at educational institutions, government agencies, nonprofits, and companies.

Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in Education Administration?

Earning an online doctorate in education administration can enhance an individual's current knowledge and skills, provide experiential learning experience and networking opportunities, lead to executive-level positions and traditional academic research positions, and present a viable avenue for a career change. Applicants to doctoral programs typically have some background or experience in education, and these programs build on existing foundations to further develop expertise in education administration.

Advanced degrees allow students to gain qualifications and interpersonal connections for higher-level positions. Although many education administration positions require only a master’s degree, some postsecondary administrative positions -- such as provost or college dean -- require a Ph.D. or Ed.D. Individuals aspiring to coordinate college programs or government education programs can benefit from the specialized knowledge and experience a doctorate in education administration provides.

If you are passionate about education and enjoy coordinating programs and activities, a doctorate in education administration might align with your personal interests and professional goals.

Online education administration doctoral programs can also allow individuals with different but related backgrounds to transition into the field. For example, professionals with experience in corporate project management who wish to enter the education sector may choose to pursue a doctorate in education administration to facilitate a career shift. The internship experiences and residency training embedded into doctorate curricula allow professionals to gain hands-on work experience and a deeper understanding of the industry before entering the job market.

Additionally, the duration and intensity of doctoral programs foster lasting mentor-mentee and colleague relationships. If you are passionate about education and enjoy coordinating programs and activities, a doctorate in education administration might align with your personal interests and professional goals.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Education Administration?

Graduates from online education administration doctoral programs qualify for a variety of jobs at educational institutions, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporations. However, most graduates pursue careers as education administrators at the secondary, district-wide, or postsecondary levels. For instance, college deans, provosts, and university presidents must generally hold a doctorate in education administration.

Aside from generalized executive-level positions, education administrators can find work in specialized sectors at universities, such as in admissions departments, registrar’s offices, financial aid offices, and student life offices. Graduates with a Ph.D. qualify to teach and conduct research as full-time professors or pursue careers in K-12 education administration.

Principals and district superintendents typically need to hold master’s degrees, but doctoral degrees may elevate candidates' qualifications and increase their earning potential. Many graduates also choose to work in private schools, magnet schools, or boarding schools.

Graduates with a Ph.D. qualify to teach and conduct research as full-time professors or pursue careers in K-12 education administration.

Outside of the traditional education administration career pathway, a plethora of applied options also exist for graduates with a doctorate in education administration. The combination of business skills and knowledge related to educational programs students gain through this degree track can be useful in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and industry. Government agencies, such as the Department of Education, are responsible for proposing education policies, implementing legislation and regulations, and administering federal- or state-level student grants and loans.

Students can also find jobs as chief academic officers or education program managers. Other government agencies unrelated to education may hire education and research specialists. For instance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services employs health education and research integrity officers.

Finally, students may choose to apply their degrees to positions with for-profit corporations. Corporations often require onboard training for all new hires. Graduates with prior educational program experience may fit well in training and development manager positions.

Academic Dean

Academic deans typically work in colleges or universities, overseeing particular programs or departments. They recruit and hire new faculty, manage department budgets, establish academic standards, design mechanisms to ensure those standards are met, and facilitate other programming efforts. Academic deans must generally hold master’s degrees in education, although a Ph.D. may be preferred. They should hold additional administrative experience, as well.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators work in colleges and universities, managing aspects of university operations like admissions, student life, and graduate programs. Admissions directors must review students' applications to decide how many individuals to admit each year and analyze data about admissions. Education administrators typically need at least a master’s degree and relevant work experience.

School Principals

Principals work in elementary, middle, or high schools providing oversight of school operations and activities. They design and coordinate curricula, manage staff, counsel and discipline students, collect and analyze data on student score reports, manage the school budget, and otherwise foster a safe and productive learning environment. Principals are typically required to hold at least a master’s degree in education or leadership, as well as some prior teaching experience.

Government Education Programs Manager

An education program manager working for the government coordinates and implements federal- or state-level education initiatives. They develop programs, work with project staff to implement them, and analyze the outcomes of programming to make improvements. Government program managers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, but most employers prefer graduate-level degrees. These professionals should also have some project management experience.

Training and Development Manager

Training and development managers coordinate programs and activities designed to enhance employees' knowledge and skills. These professionals analyze an organization’s overall goals and develop training programs for staff aligned with those goals.

Education Administration Ph.D. Program Overview

There are two types of doctoral degrees that students can earn in education administration: a doctorate of philosophy (Ph.D.) and a doctorate of education (Ed.D.). Students should select the program that best fits their career goals and aspirations. Each type of doctorate and individual program features different curricula, admission criteria, and program outcomes. Read on for a general overview of what to expect from an online doctorate in education administration program.

Types of Doctoral Degrees in Education Administration

Ph.D. and Ed.D. tracks both focus on research, but the type and purpose of that research differs. Students who earn a Ph.D. in education administration online generally focus more on teaching and research for professionals who wish to continue teaching. On the other hand, Ed.D. programs concentrate on the application of educational knowledge and solving problems that face existing systems of learning.

Required internships and practica also focus on different aspects of education administration. Ph.D. practicum experiences focus on teaching and research, such as working as a teaching assistant in courses on educational leadership. Alternatively, Ed.D. internships involve working in a management capacity with an educational organization. Both degrees require research in a specialized field and the defense of a dissertation before advisors and colleagues.

Generally speaking, Ed.D. programs serve professionals who want to become education administrators and managers, while Ph.D. programs train students to conduct research and teach others about education administration topics. However, many Ph.D. graduates may also choose a life outside of academia, pursuing careers as education administrators.

Ed.D. programs are typically shorter in length than Ph.D. programs. An Ed.D. in education administration typically takes 3-5 years to complete, while a Ph.D. usually takes 4-6 years.

Application Requirements and Admission Criteria

To gain admission into an online doctoral program in education administration, applicants must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, though many programs require a master’s. Students may also need to submit GRE scores and additional application materials, such as letters of recommendation, a statement of research interest, and a resume.

Some doctoral programs allow students to matriculate immediately out of their undergraduate program and obtain a master’s along the way, while others require a terminal master’s in a related field, such as a master’s in education or an education specialist degree. Letters of recommendation should come from faculty or professional supervisors who can vouch for the candidate’s educational background, work ethic, and/or career goals. They should also speak to a student's ability to successfully complete a doctoral program.

Each program may also implement minimum GPA requirements and/or GRE score criteria.


The curricula of most doctoral programs are divided into general education requirements, core education administration courses, specialization or elective courses, and capstone or dissertation courses.

Doctoral program committees typically consist of 4-6 faculty members. These committees help students design programs of study suited to their educational and professional goals. They also supervise research activities and dissertation projects and administer comprehensive or qualifying exams. Some programs offer concentration areas, as well, in subjects such as childhood education, adult education and training, and special education.

After completing their coursework, students progress into independent research or experiential learning phases consisting of practicum experiences, capstone projects, and/or apprenticeships and residencies. Some Ed.D. programs integrate paid residency experiences into the curriculum, providing students with professional mentoring, hands-on experience with school systems or nonprofit organizations, and networking opportunities in the education sector.

Similarly, Ph.D. programs often offer teaching assistantships or research opportunities related to education administration.

Specific curricula and courses vary from program to program, but most follow the same general structure. See below for five example courses students may encounter during an online doctoral program in education administration.

Theories of Educational Leadership

This course introduces students to educational and organizational leadership theories. It also explores how to apply these theories to develop school personnel, community, and instructional innovation and curricular change within educational systems.

Historical Perspectives of Higher Education

This course presents students with an overview of the history of higher education in the United States. Learners study past problems in education and how historical factors may still present challenges in education today.

College Teaching

This course presents sociological, psychological, and cultural perspectives on college students' learning challenges and experiences. It requires learners to analyze and discuss methods for enhancing success among college students.

Educational Leadership and Public Relations

This course introduces students to communication practices and the mechanics of developing relationships to enhance support for educational activities.

College and University Administration

This course works to deepen students' understanding of higher education and its organizational structure and contemporary challenges. Students also explore the management of admissions, athletics, academics, and student life.

Program Outcomes

After obtaining a Ph.D. or Ed.D. in education administration online, students should be able to synthesize theory and best practices to develop curricula and instructional materials. They should also understand how to apply knowledge of educational systems to manage organizational development and think critically to solve contemporary challenges in education, such as addressing the achievement gap and opportunity disparities.

For Ph.D. graduates who decide to continue in academia, the research and pedagogical skills developed through teaching assistantships and dissertation projects should help them find work as professors and independent scholars. Ed.D. graduates who pursue positions as administrators and managers in educational institutions can apply the same research competencies to oversee university or school operations, media communications, and the coordination of staff onboarding and training.

A doctoral degree in education administration can also prepare candidates to sit for a variety of licensing and certification exams.

Accreditation for Online Education Administration Doctoral Programs

Accreditation verifies to students that an institution's quality of education meets standards established by accrediting bodies and the federal government. At the institutional level, schools can hold regional or national accreditation. Seven regional accrediting bodies operate in the United States, each responsible for a specific geographic region comprising a cluster of states. Regional accreditation is generally more prestigious and standardized than national accreditation.

Aside from institutional accreditation, some education programs also obtain programmatic accreditation. Organizations that might oversee education administration programs include the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the Accreditation Council for Collegiate Business Schools and Programs.

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