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High-level positions in education should open over the next few years as baby boomers continue to retire. Among the many job openings are positions for principals, many of whom earn more than $94,000 per year. To become a principal, you generally need five years of classroom experience and an advanced degree, such as a doctorate in education. In this article, learn more about advanced online teaching degrees, program selection, and possible careers.

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Online Doctorate in Online Teaching Programs

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Online Doctorate in Online Teaching Degree Program Ranking Guidelines: We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

The Best Online Doctorate in Online Teaching Degree Programs

Pepperdine University View School Profile Malibu, CA Pepperdine is regionally accredited from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

A private, nonprofit university with approximately 8,000 students located in Malibu, California, Pepperdine's online teaching degree fosters exploration of advanced computer-based learning technologies. Distance learners are prepared for careers in K-12 and post-secondary educational environments and specialized positions at museums and libraries.

This 51-credit program typically takes full-time students around four years to complete. For this hybrid degree, learners must attend some courses in person at the Malibu or West Los Angeles campus. To apply, students should provide transcripts from all previously attended colleges and universities, GRE scores, a writing sample, and a personal statement. Applicants must also hold a master's degree. Prospective students who pass the first round of admissions will undergo a personal interview with Pepperdine faculty members.

University of Florida View School Profile Gainesville, FL UF is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

UF is a public research university in Gainesville with a student body of over 55,000. It offers a hybrid cohort learning program for those seeking a doctorate in education. This online teaching degree emphasizes educational technology and specializes in training professionals who conduct research related to technology in educational environments. Of the 54 required credit hours, there are only three on-campus obligations: one two-day orientation and two four-day summer sessions at the end of the first and second years. Distance learners work through coursework with their cohort for the first two years, then prepare for qualifying exams at the end of year two.

Upon graduation, students are ready for full-time work in K-12, post-secondary, online, and nonprofit instructional positions. Applicants must submit GRE scores, a statement of purpose, a writing sample, and letters of recommendation.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign View School Profile Champaign, IL U of I is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission.

U of I is a public research university that features an online education program in learning design and leadership. This doctorate in education helps educators create new and engaging learning environments with new media technologies. U of I's education faculty challenges distance learners to be innovative and progressive with a 64-credit curriculum. All doctoral students must complete a dissertation. Online students may also pursue doctoral education degrees in diversity and equity in education, global studies in education, and human resource development through U of I.

Applicants must submit a personal statement, resume, GRE scores, letters of reference, and official transcripts. Prospective students must have a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

University of Wyoming View School Profile Laramie, WY UW is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission. The education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

UW in Laramie prepares the future leaders of K-12 educational leadership with its doctor of education degree. This online teaching degree positions online learners to take the Wyoming state board superintendent's endorsement upon completion of 26 core credit hours and a required internship. In total, doctoral students must complete 77-80 credits for graduation. During the final six credits, students write a dissertation. Full-time students can expect to spend four years completing degree requirements.

Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA in their master's program plus GRE scores of 147 or higher in verbal and quantitative, and 4.0 in analytical writing. Prospective students should also have a minimum of two years of K-12 administrative experience and a record of leadership at the district level. Applicants must also submit strong letters of recommendation along with a letter of application and a current resume.

Boise State University View School Profile Boise, ID BSU is regionally accredited from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Established in 1932 with a student body of over 24,000, BSU's doctorate in educational technology focuses on the use of current and emerging technologies in K-12 educational settings. This online teaching degree boasts curriculum in online teaching and learning, technology integration, educational technology leadership, software development and mobile platforms, and educational games and simulations. In addition to 66 core credits, all doctoral students complete an education specialist final project with written and multimedia components. Applications must include a cover letter, resume, writing sample, transcripts, GRE scores, and contact information for three people who can provide letters of recommendation.

Nova Southeastern University View School Profile Fort Lauderdale, FL NSU is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The College of Education at Nova Southeastern University is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, NSU is a private, nonprofit university with over 21,000 students. The doctorate degree in education with a concentration in instructional technology is a 54-credit online program which requires only one visit to campus. The degree is designed for current practicing professionals with backgrounds in teaching or administration. Since all doctoral students must produce a dissertation as the culminating project, they receive instruction in qualitative and quantitative research methods. Doctoral students typically complete all course credits and the dissertation in three years. The on-campus requirement takes place at the Fort Lauderdale campus, is one week long, and can be completed during any summer semester. Applicants must have a master's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a GRE or MAT score.

University of West Florida View School Profile Pensacola, FL UWF is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The online education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Among 18 fully online graduate degree programs, UWF in Pensacola offers a doctorate in education with a specialization in instructional design and technology. The 66-credit program readies students for leadership roles in education, implementation of innovative instruction techniques for learning environments, and conducting applied research studies. Within this specialization are two concentrations: performance technology and distance learning. The former concentration is for online learners investigating how instructional technology can improve educational programs, while the latter targets online doctoral students developing expertise in the theoretical constructs and best practices in the design, implementation, and evaluation of distance learning. Prospective students must already have a master's degree with a minimum 3.5 GPA and recent GRE or MAT scores.

Old Dominion University View School Profile Norfolk, VA ODU is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

ODU is a public research institution with over 25,000 students. Located in Norfolk, Virginia, this online teaching program allows distance learners to focus on instructional design and technology. This 60-credit Ph.D. in education prepares students for in-demand, technology-driven careers at college and universities, public and private learning organizations, and in the military. Degree candidates focus on instructional design techniques, human performance technology, and distance education. All classes include cognitive theory, research, and practical application components. Online students can also earn a modeling and simulation certificate at ODU by completing four additional courses.

Prospective students should have a master's degree in a related educational or technology field. Applications require official transcripts, a cover letter, three references, and official GRE scores. Students pursuing this online teaching degree must maintain a 3.25 GPA or higher in all major courses.

Regent University View School Profile Virginia Beach, VA Regent is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The educational leadership program is accredited by the Commission of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Regent is a private Christian university in Virginia Beach. Its doctoral program in educational leadership with a concentration in technology and online learning readies degree seekers for teaching and leadership careers in K-12 programs, higher education, and corporate settings. To graduate from this online education degree, students complete 75-77 credit hours. During the final semester of coursework, degree seekers must take the departmental examination to advance to candidacy. Online learners then conduct original research and write a dissertation that demonstrates technical competence in the field and strong research skills. Applications should include a resume, official transcripts, and GRE scores.

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Choosing an Online Teaching Program

First, decide whether you want to pursue a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. Most Ph.D. candidates plan to teach in higher education, improving their own students' teaching skills and performing research on teaching best practices. Ed.D. graduates generally aspire to work as administrators, improving the educational system at the local, state, or national levels. An Ed.D. student may develop a policy change for her school or district and use the results as her dissertation's foundation.

Once you decide which degree works for you, investigate online teaching degrees that offer concentrations fitting your academic interests and postgraduate career plans. Most program concentrations emphasize educational leadership, research, and the overlap between education and public policy. Some programs boast unique concentrations such as international education. If a Ph.D. or Ed.D. program lacks concentrations, it may still allow you to tailor your education through independent study, research projects, or the dissertation. If you have a question about a program's courses or concentrations, contact that department to learn more.

What Else Can I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Online Teaching Program?

Your educational experience depends on the course and concentration offerings at the university you attend. For this reason, invest time researching the courses and concentrations offered by the online programs on your shortlist. In the next two sections, learn more about popular concentrations and courses offered by the nation's best online programs.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Doctoral Degree in Online Teaching

Curriculum for an Online Doctoral Degree in Online Teaching

  • Introduction to Doctoral Studies:
    In this course, students hone the academic skills required to excel in doctoral programs. In a teaching degree online program, a classroom activity might include analyzing a dissertation's strengths and weaknesses. All doctoral students take this or a similar course when they begin their programs.
  • Research Design:
    Doctoral students often take one to two research design courses before they begin the dissertation process. Students analyze different research methods and practice fundamentals such as writing a thesis, crafting a research plan, and creating an outline.
  • Social Justice in Education:
    This course appeals to students who want to correct racial and socioeconomic injustices many students face during their education. Students analyze the history of social justice in the classroom along with the issues standing in the way of equitable education for all students.
  • Higher Education and the Law:
    This course provides future postsecondary administrators knowledge of legal topics that affect higher education, such as campus safety reform and sexual harassment.
  • Contemporary Leadership Models:
    In this course, students learn how to reform an organization's leadership structure. To discover effective solutions, students analyze reform efforts from around the country and around the world. Students who excel in this course often work as advisors at colleges, universities, or school districts.
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Careers with a Doctorate in Online Teaching

  1. Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal:
    Principals at the elementary, middle, and high school levels implement new policies, evaluate teachers' performance, and act as their schools' spokespersons. Many schools and districts require that principals possess a doctorate; these employees often benefit from an automatic salary increase.
    • Median Annual Salary: $94,390
    • Projected Growth Rate: 8%
  2. Postsecondary Teacher:
    Postsecondary teachers who possess online teaching degrees educate the next generation of teachers. Job duties include creating curricula, writing academic papers, and presenting research findings at conferences. Although some postsecondary teaching positions may require only a master's degree, tenure-track positions, cater exclusively to applicants with an Ed.D. or a Ph.D.
    • Median Annual Salary: $76,000
    • Projected Growth Rate: 15%
  3. Postsecondary Education Administrator:
    Postsecondary education administrators work at colleges and universities, overseeing the work performed by a single academic department. Administrators who possess doctorates in teaching typically administer their schools' education departments. On the job, their responsibilities closely resemble those performed by principals. These administration positions typically require candidates to hold a doctorate and complete at least five years of teaching at the postsecondary level.
    • Median Annual Salary: $92,360
    • Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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