Guide to an Online Doctorate in Education Program


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Earning a doctorate in education online can be an important step for educators seeking leadership skills, pedagogical knowledge, and opportunities for career advancement. The doctor of education demonstrates advanced knowledge of educational leadership and teaching methodologies. An Ed.D. qualifies graduates for positions in education administration, curriculum development, classroom instruction, and education research.

Those who pursue an online doctorate in education include experienced teachers eyeing administrative positions, established school leaders seeking further advancement, and others aspiring to careers as instructional coordinators or researchers.

It is a terrific time to consider an Ed.D. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, school principals earn a median annual salary of $95,310, while postsecondary education administrators earn $94,340 each year. Furthermore, the BLS projects 6% employment growth for instructional coordinators between 2018 and 2028, as postsecondary teacher employment grows 11%.

Covered in this article:

Featured Online Education Doctoral Programs

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

Doctoral programs in education are about as diverse as the schools that offer them. Many online programs require students to select an area of concentration, while others are more general. Some programs expect students to complete supervised fieldwork, and most require students to produce a dissertation.

Although students should check with their prospective schools for specific requirements, Ed.D. online programs usually incorporate coursework related to educational leadership, instruction, and research. A sample of the coursework students in an online education doctoral program may take is listed below.

Curriculum for an Online Doctorate in Education

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Doctorate in Education?

Although lengths of study vary between schools, students in online doctoral programs in education typically complete around 60 credits.

In addition to varying coursework requirements, factors affecting program length include concentration options, research opportunities, licensure possibilities, and field experience components. Most students must also write and defend a dissertation. Programs often reserve the third year of study for this task, but some students require more time to complete it.

Online education doctoral programs may use different formats to deliver their education. A cohort model assigns students to groups, and adheres to a rigid timeline when completing and submitting assignments. Individually paced programs are more flexible, allowing students to complete coursework according to their own calendars. Regardless of scheduling format, most programs require students to complete non-dissertation coursework within a prescribed time period.

Online Ed.D. programs typically expect full-time students to spend three years fulfilling coursework and dissertation requirements.

Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Education Degrees

Before enrolling in an Ed.D. program online, students should consider a school's accreditation status. Accreditation indicates that a school or degree program meets established rigor and quality standards. Many students pursue doctoral education for career advancement purposes, and employers typically look for candidates with an accredited degree.

Two types of accreditation are most common: national accreditation is administered to for-profit and career-based colleges, while regional accreditation is usually a more rigorous evaluation process granted to non-profit schools.

Generally speaking, regional accreditation is more widely respected than national accreditation. There are six regional accreditation bodies in the United States, and each monitors the quality of higher education programs within a specific geographic area. Most academically oriented universities are regionally accredited and do not accept credits from nationally accredited programs.

Students who complete an Ed.D. program online should also choose a program with Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accreditation. CAEP accredits educator preparation programs based on content and pedagogical knowledge; clinical partnerships and practice; and candidate quality, recruitment, and selectivity.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is a federal agency which distributes federal education funds, collects school data, and enforces education statutes. The Council for Higher Accreditation (CHEA) is an association of American colleges and universities. These institutions support educational self-regulation through voluntary accreditation.

While the ED oversees the legal compliance and federal funding of schools, CHEA holds them to high academic quality standards. Both organizations maintain online databases of recognized accrediting agencies and all accredited schools.

Which EdD Concentration is right for me?

Most often in doctoral level work, people want something more specific than a "general" Doctorate of Education (EdD). Here are rankings of some of the more popular options.

Popular Education & Teaching Doctoral Degrees

Counselor Education: Best Online Doctoral Programs
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Find the best online curriculum & instruction doctorate programs to help you master the art and science of designing and implementing curricula that will better engage students. Find the best school for you!

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Find the best, fully accredited online educational administration doctorate programs and see how you can help change a school, and a community, with a EdD or Ph.D. in educational administration online.

Educational Leadership: Best Online Doctoral Programs
Find the best, fully accredited online educational leadership doctorate programs and see how you can help enact change and become a better leader with a EdD or Ph.D. in educational leadership online.

Educational Technology: Best Online Doctoral Programs
Find the best online doctorate in educational technology programs from fully accredited universities. Learn how you can improve the education system with enhanced expertise and knowledges gained from an online doctorate program.

Higher Education: Best Online Doctoral Programs
Reach the highest levels of education with an online doctorate in higher education from a fully accredited online university. Prepare for a career as a principal, dean or other administrator.

Special Education: Best Online Doctoral Programs
Find the best, fully accredited online Ph.D. in special education programs, and learn how you can impact the education system for all students, especially those with special needs.

Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Education Graduates

Doctorate in Education Careers

Earning a doctorate in education online qualifies educators to advance in many careers. Some graduates focus on educational leadership and become school or college administrators, while others apply their investigative skills to positions in education research. Some Ed.D. holders design and implement curricula as instructional coordinators, while others reenter the classroom at the postsecondary level.

Students completing an online doctoral program in education may consider employment in one of the positions listed below.

  1. Education survey researcher: These professionals design and conduct education research interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups. They may collect employment and salary data or inquire about people's opinions, preferences, and beliefs. Researchers conduct surveys in person, online, over the phone, and by mail. They address sampling problems, analyze data, and summarize findings for publication. Education survey researchers usually hold graduate credentials.

    Median Annual Salary: $57,700
    Projected Growth Rate: 1%

  2. Instructional coordinator: These coordinators oversee the development and application of school curricula and teaching standards. They analyze student test results, recommend educational materials, mentor teachers, and develop curriculum implementation procedures. They may suggest changes to teaching techniques or provide educational technology training. Instructional coordinators must typically hold a graduate degree.

    Median Annual Salary: $64,450
    Projected Growth Rate: 6%

  3. Postsecondary education teacher: These instructors teach undergraduate and graduate students about education theories and practices. They develop course outlines, plan and deliver lessons, assess student progress, advise students, and stay apprised of education research, changes, and trends. Many conduct and publish research, while others teach exclusively. Most hold a doctorate.

    Median Annual Salary: $78,470
    Projected Growth Rate: 11%

  4. Elementary, middle, or high school principal: These administrators manage school operations. They schedule classes, implement standards, counsel students, and evaluate teachers. They assess achievement data and discuss student progress with parents and teachers. They manage resources and establish security procedures. Schools typically require principals to hold a graduate education degree.

    Median Annual Salary: $95,310
    Projected Growth Rate: 4%

  5. Postsecondary education administrator: These leaders oversee various operations within postsecondary institutions. Admissions officers filter prospective students, while registrars maintain student records. Student affairs officers oversee non academic programming, while provosts help college presidents make decisions regarding academic policies, faculty appointments, and budget management. Postsecondary administrators typically need a master's or doctoral degree.

    Median Annual Salary: $94,340
    Projected Growth Rate: 7%

Doctorate in Education Salary

Factors affecting the earning potential of postsecondary education administrators include education level, professional experience, geographic location, and employer type. The table below contains salary data for postsecondary education administrators in the industries with the highest employment levels for the occupation.

Administrators in colleges, universities, and professional schools receive the best compensation on average. Junior colleges pay slightly more than elementary and secondary schools, while technical and other schools offer the lowest mean annual salary.

Postsecondary Education Administrator Salaries by Employer Type

Employer Type Mean Annual Salary
Colleges, universities, and professional schools $114,360
Junior colleges $98,020
Elementary and secondary schools $101,230
Technical and trade schools $91,480

Source: BLS

Education Professional Organizations

Professional organizations can be a valuable resource for students and graduates of online Ed.D. programs. These organizations connect instructional coordinators, school administrators, and education researchers to opportunities for professional networking and political advocacy. Other member benefits include training resources, annual conferences, career assistance, and research publications. Some organizations also offer product discounts, insurance benefits, and legal services.

Doctorate in education online students may benefit from joining one of the organizations listed below.

Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Education

Students who enroll in an online Ed.D. program should begin researching financial aid options as soon as possible. Many schools provide aid to students who demonstrate academic merit or financial need, and some institutions even have program-specific scholarships. Students working on a doctor of education online may also find funding from professional associations, community programs, and private foundations.

Many degree seekers qualify to receive need-based grants or low-interest loans from the government. Before enrolling in an online education doctoral program, students should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine their eligibility for federal financial assistance.

Degree-seeking teachers occasionally receive employer-sponsored tuition assistance or reimbursement. Because employing highly qualified educators benefits schools, some set aside funds specifically for those pursuing graduate credentials.

Students who complete an online Ed.D. program may also participate in the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. This government initiative offers student loan forgiveness to qualifying educators who teach in low-income schools or educational service agencies. Depending on their financial and employment situations, graduates who work in the public sector may choose to participate in the similar Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program instead.

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