What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Education?
Consider earning a doctorate in education in order to qualify for educational leadership positions in PreK-12 schools & districts, university administration, and non-academic fields.
- Purpose: The Ed.D. is a practice-based degree, which means it’s focused on real-world applications of learning & research. You’ll be expected to tackle current educational challenges, explore ways to create change, and implement innovative solutions.
- Benefits: Some leaders earn the Ed.D. in order to apply for certain job titles; others are interested in potential salary benefits. But you can also use a doctorate to deepen your knowledge of the field, network with educational peers, and become a more thoughtful leader.
Note: If you want to become a tenured faculty member in academia, a Ph.D. in Education may be a better bet.
State-Specific Ed.D. Career & Salary Advice
Looking for localized advice? In each one of our Ed.D. state guides, you’ll find a comprehensive career section. This contains a discussion of:
- Employment hotspots for PreK-20 educational leaders in your state
- State salary reports & resources (e.g. public school salary databases)
- Local educational leadership job boards (e.g. openings for district-level and school-level administrators)
Top Ed.D. Job Titles
PreK-12 Ed.D. Careers
- District-Level Educational Leader
- Director of Education
- Instructional Coordinator
- Curriculum Specialist
Higher Education Ed.D. Careers
- University/College President
- Director of Education
- University Administrator
- Adjunct Professor
Non-Academic Ed.D. Careers
- Public Policy Analyst
- Education Lobbyist
- Education Consultant
- Education Researcher
- Teaching Coach
- Director of a Research Center
- C.E.O. of an Educational Organization or Company
Note: This is just a sample of Ed.D. job opportunities! For more ideas, check out the careers section in your chosen Ed.D. specialty/subject (e.g. Educational Technology, Early Childhood Education, Counseling & Psychology, Higher Education, etc.). And if you’re interested in college-level teaching, check out our guide to becoming a professor.
Salary Benefits of Earning a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Degree
Ed.D. Salaries: What to Know
Salaries for Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) graduates are heavily reliant on circumstances:
- Top-level educational leadership positions like Superintendent, Director of Education, or University President will usually require a doctorate. These kinds of jobs tend to pay graduates well.
- But the Ed.D. is often an “optional” degree in the field of education—many employers are happy to consider candidates with an M.Ed. or Ed.S. and appropriate certification/licensure.
So you’ll need to do some digging to find out whether the doctorate in education will actually lead to a salary bump in your field. Wage numbers will also depend on your location (e.g. city vs. rural), job title, and day-to-day leadership responsibilities.
Ed.D. Salary Data
For Ed.D. salary data, have a look at these resources from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). We particularly love the employment & wage maps—regions with the highest annual mean wages are shaded in dark blue.
- Education Administrators, Kindergarten through Secondary
- Education Administrators, Postsecondary
- Education Administrators, All Other
- Instructional Coordinators
- Training & Development Managers
You may wish to compare these educational leadership salary numbers with:
- Payscale’s cumulative data for Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Degree Salaries. Payscale also allows you to view salary data by job title (e.g. Elementary School Principal vs. School Superintendent vs. Higher Education Administration).
- The AASA’s Superintendents Salary and Benefits Survey, which is published with a summary of major findings in the AASA’s Research Papers section.
State-Specific Ed.D. Salary Data
Interested in state-specific data? Use the BLS’s section on State Occupational Employment & Wage Estimates.
- Choose your state.
- Select your job category. Educational administrator & specialist jobs (e.g. School Psychologist) can be found under “Management Occupations.”
- Find your job title. Beside each entry, BLS provides data on mean hourly wages and annual mean wages.
If you’re in PreK-12 realms, you can also explore salary schedules for your district (e.g. Salary Schedules for LACOE Employees) and possibly your state (e.g. North Carolina Department of Public Instruction: Compensation for Public School Employees). In addition, our Ed.D. state guides have lots of local salary advice.
Ed.D. vs. Master of Education (M.Ed.) Salary
M.Ed. Salary Data
An M.Ed. or a relevant master’s degree is usually the baseline qualification for educational leadership positions at the school level (e.g. Principal, Instructional Coordinator, Curriculum Developer, etc.). Employers will also be interested in your work experience and any necessary licenses or certifications.
- Principal Salaries: For ballpark salary figures, take a look at Payscale’s Master of Education (M.Ed.) Salaries. It includes numbers for leadership positions such as Assistant Principal and Elementary School Principal.
- Teacher Leadership Salaries: If you’re a teacher, check out the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) Teacher Contract Database. It contains salary data on 145+ of the largest school districts in all 50 states. 88% of these districts offer additional pay to teachers who have a master’s degree.
Potential Ed.D. Salary Increases
A doctorate in education may lead to an increase in salary for educational leaders—it depends on the job, choice of degree subject, and your location. For example:
- A graduate with an Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction and limited work experience may have to compete with seasoned M.Ed. candidates for the same jobs & salaries.
- But a doctoral graduate with an Executive Ed.D. in Higher Education will be able to demand a hefty salary from hiring committees.
In the PreK-12 realm, salary policies can vary from district to district. However, a number of places will reward you for the Ed.D. For instance, in North Carolina, a doctorate and advanced certification are often required for the highest pay levels for public school employees. Check with your local district.
Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. vs. Ed.S. Salary
Ed.S. Salary Data
We explore the ins & outs of the Education Specialist degree in our guide to Ed.S. vs. Ed.D. Programs.
- The Ed.S. is often set up to help students achieve specific leadership certifications & licenses (e.g. Principal, Superintendent, School Psychologist, etc.).
- With these qualifications in hand, you’ll often be able to earn similar salary numbers to an Ed.D. graduate.
- However, name recognition can vary from region to region. In some areas, the Ed.D. may have more “clout” than an Ed.S.
Payscale has a section on Education Specialist Salaries, but it’s pretty broad. You’ll have more luck if you look at district & state salary schedules. For example, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction: Compensation for Public School Employees contains a category for Advanced (Sixth Year) candidates.
Ph.D. in Education Salary Data
If you’re in any doubt about which degree to pick, check out our guide to Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. in Education Programs. You’ll notice that most Ph.D. graduates end up in academia or high-level research positions. So you can’t really compare Ed.D. and Ph.D. salaries—it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
The BLS provides detailed wage data on Education Teachers, Postsecondary. Mean wages tend to be best in New England, California and nearby states, the DC area, and a few states in the south. Keep in mind that the cost of living in many of those areas can also be high.
Other useful sources of higher education salaries include:
- Higher Ed: CUPA-HR Salary Data
- AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey
- Chronicle of Higher Education Salary Data
Is a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Worth the Investment?
- Cost-Benefit Analysis: The cost of a doctorate in education should be weighed with potential salary increases and opportunities for promotion. If an Ed.D. can help you qualify for your dream position, then it’s an obvious pick. But you may find that a master’s degree will work just fine.
- Perception in Your Field: For example, a Ph.D. in Education is the standard requirement for academic positions—if you’re applying to be an Assistant Professor of Education, you’ll have to fight pretty hard to prove to a hiring committee that your Ed.D. and work experiences are equal in weight. In contrast, an educational company may prefer Ed.D. candidates.
- PreK-12 Considerations: If school districts have to compensate doctoral employees at the highest pay scale, an Ed.D. can sometimes be a discouragement to hiring committees. They don’t want to pay you more. This is a tricky topic, so chat to district peers about the possible downsides of a doctorate.
- Licensure & Certifications: For some jobs, the degree will take a back seat to other qualifications. For instance, if you wish to become a School Psychologist, employers may be more interested in your state license and NCSP credential than whether you chose an Ed.S. or Ed.D.
- Quality of the Doctorate: The Ed.D. is a bit of an upstart in the doctoral world, so it doesn’t always command the same respect as a Ph.D. When employers look at the Ed.D. listing on your résumé, they’ll also be considering name recognition and the quality of the College of Education. Check out our Rankings section for ideas on the best Ed.D. programs in the country.
- Job Outlook: Are top-level educational leadership jobs available in your area? What degrees do successful job applicants have? Are big-scale changes taking place (e.g. higher education institutions closing)? Can you pivot from one field into another? Ask yourself the hard questions before applying.
- Real-World Input: The best advice we can give you is to talk to mentors, peers, and recent Ed.S., Ed.D. & Ph.D. in Education graduates before you make a decision. They will give you honest perspectives about their experiences. They may even be able to help you avoid financial pitfalls.