Ed.D. Programs Near You
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Ed.D. Programs by Subject
What is a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)?
Though one might assume that a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) involves education in the classic classroom sense, it doesn’t. Leaders and emerging leaders in many different fields—from K-20 education to the military, healthcare, and nonprofits—benefit from the skills acquired from an Ed.D.
- In essence, an Ed.D. is a terminal degree that’s ideal for scholars, teachers, university faculty, and other professionals looking to enhance teaching skills, design policy, and/or promote learning in workplace environments.
- Graduates of an Ed.D. program can expect to have gained knowledge that can be immediately applied to their jobs — from designing and implementing original research to tapping into decision-making rubrics to address real-life problems.
Better yet, some schools offer different concentrations as part of the Ed.D. program. For example, a teacher, principal or dean might opt for a concentration in “Curriculum and Learning”; an education administrator might plump for “Educational Leadership”; and a nursing director, military officer, or business executive might be interested in “Organizational Leadership Studies”.
Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. vs. Ed.S.
There are significant differences between the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and Education Specialist (Ed.S.) credentials. All of them are advanced degrees, and most require a master’s degree to apply to the program. However:
- Ed.S. An Ed.S. typically requires fewer credits than an Ed.D. or Ph.D. — it’s roughly the equivalent of receiving a second master’s degree. It usually does not contain a dissertation.
- Ed.D. The Ed.D. sets itself apart from the Ph.D. by focusing on the practical application of knowledge & research, rather than pure theory. Ed.D. programs will contain a traditional dissertation, Dissertation in Practice (DiP), or capstone project.
- Ph.D. in Education: A Ph.D. in Education may have more of a theoretical slant than an Ed.D., with coursework that applies to professionals in academia or research institutions. Ph.D. in Education programs will include a traditional dissertation.
A Ph.D. in Education and Ed.D. are both research-focused and are—for the most part—considered equivalent degrees. Most institutions simply offer one or the other. That means your choice of program will depend on your career goals.
Pursue an Ed.S. to:
- Create a positive learning environment for students or staff
- Become a school principal, superintendent or dean
- Focus on developing qualifications for a specific job
Pursue an Ed.D. to:
- Teach courses at the university level or become a leader at an educational institution
- Get hands-on leadership skills (for professionals)
- Pursue a broader focus on applied research and practical knowledge
Pursue a Ph.D. to:
- Teach courses at the university level or become a director of institutional research
- Produce system-wide change
- Understand theories of educational practice
- Conduct rigorous and extensive original research
The Ed.D. Admissions Process
An Ed.D. program can be challenging to get into—you’ll need to draw upon all your professional and academic credentials to make it through the admissions process. Programs at well-known schools are highly competitive; even less competitive programs are intended for well-prepared candidates who have already accomplished a great deal academically. Here’s how to make sure you’re one of those candidates.
Typical Ed.D. Admission Requirements
- Master’s Degree: Ed.D. programs generally require students to have earned at least a master’s degree (or an equivalent number of graduate credits). However, the master’s degree does not necessarily need to be in education. If you already hold an Ed.S. degree, you are often eligible for advanced placement.
- Minimum GPA: Where a minimum GPA is specified, an overall 3.0 (B) or higher is generally preferred.
- Work Experience: If you’ve never worked in the field of education before, it may limit your options. Because the Ed.D. is a practical degree intended for mid-career professionals, at least 3 years of relevant work experience is generally required. This is not always the case—Nova Southeastern University’s Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership is a notable exception—but it’s the norm.
- Letters of Recommendation & Personal Essay: You’re going to need at least two letters of recommendation; most programs also require a personal essay (the format of the personal essay varies widely from program to program). Applicants often treat these two requirements as an afterthought. But in highly competitive programs, the identities of the people writing your letters of recommendation, and the content of your personal essay, can be the most important parts of your application.
- GRE Scores Optional: If you hate the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), we have good news: many Ed.D. programs will accept the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) as a substitute for the GRE. Start your research with our convenient list of No GRE Ed.D. programs. You’ll find 77+ schools that do not require the GRE, as well as details on their admissions requirements and available program concentrations.
Ed.D. Admissions Interview
In competitive programs, it is common for the school to conduct an interview with a prospective Ed.D. student prior to accepting an application. This interview is sometimes conducted online.
In most cases, the purpose of the interview is more to check in with the student — verifying the person’s identity and identifying any obvious red flags — rather than a decisive part of the process. But if the Ed.D. program you’re applying for is especially competitive, we recommend you speak to students and alumni to get a sense of what might be expected.
Ed.D. Admissions Essay
Some schools also require an admissions essay, though the format can vary. The Maryville Ed.D.’s personal statement essay is fairly complex, requiring both a detailed autobiography and a short dissertation proposal, whereas Northern Arizona University merely asks you to provide a writing sample where you summarize an article in your own words. But whether the required admissions essay is simple or complex, it’s likely to be short.
International Student Requirements
In addition to addressing any relevant student visa requirements, international students who have not already demonstrated English fluency must generally earn a good score on the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam.
How Ed.D. Admission Requirements Differ Between Schools
There is no single Ed.D. admissions process. All worthwhile Ed.D. programs will require you to fill out an application and send official transcripts, but beyond that admissions requirements differ from program to program:
- Some schools require a Master in Education and some don’t.
- Some schools require prior work experience in the field (e.g. 3 years or more) and some don’t.
- Some schools require a high minimum GPA (e.g. 3.0-3.5) and some don’t.
- Some schools require you to take the GRE and some don’t.
- Some schools require an admissions interview and some don’t.
- Some schools require an admissions essay and some don’t.
Since there are no universally accepted admission requirements, it’s wise to make a shortlist of programs and go from there.
Ed.D. Admissions Checklist
Here’s a simple checklist of what Ed.D. applicants should have in hand before starting the application process. Be sure to check with the specific school for admission requirements.
- Relevant contact information for every university you’ve attended in the past, so that you can have official transcripts sent.
- A résumé that shows the necessary work experience.
- Money for the application fee(s), which typically ranges from free to $100.
- Your GRE, MAT, and/or GMAT score information, if required.
- Your TOEFL and/or IELTS score information, if required.
- Two authorities in the field who are willing to write you letters of recommendation.
- A general idea of what you might write in an admissions essay, if required to do so.
The Doctor of Education: What to Expect
During the course of the Ed.D., you’ll typically be expected to tackle doctoral coursework, internships, and a research-based dissertation, DiP, or capstone project.
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Coursework
Classes for the Doctor of Education vary widely by school, which is why we suggest you take a close look at the curriculum before applying. Standard coursework for all Ed.D. programs will include:
- Qualitative and Quantitative Research
- Writing for Research
- Doctoral Seminar or Capstone
- Dissertation, Doctoral Writing Assessment or “Consulting Project”
Outside of those common denominators, schools will alter the coursework quite a bit. Here are a few examples:
Drexel University has an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in Management with nine specializations and a set of core courses such as:
- Creative Strategies for Educational Leaders
- Educational Leadership and Change
- Transformative Leadership: Finding One’s Source
Mississippi College’s Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership contains courses such as:
- Comparative Philosophies of Education
- Curriculum Planning and School Improvement
- Instructional Supervision
- Intermediate and Advanced Statistics
University of Southern California (USC) offers a Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership with classes like:
- Analyzing Organizational Change and Its Effectiveness
- Education Performance Problems
- Framing Educational Leadership in a Global Context
- Understanding the Fundamentals of Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Walden University’s Doctor of Education contains ten specializations. The common courses between them are:
- Leading the Future of Education
- Research Theory, Design and Methods
- Tools for Doctoral Research Success
Some schools offer only one Ed.D. specialization/concentration; others offer ten. We’ve assembled some common titles. This is by no means an exhaustive list—there are more specializations than one could imagine!
- Adult Education
- Athletic Administration
- Curriculum Studies
- Curriculum, Teaching, Leadership and Learning
- Early Childhood Education
- Educational Leadership and School Change
- Global Executive
- Higher Education Administration
- Human Resource Development
- Information Technology
- Literacy Education
- Organizational Leadership Studies
- Urban and Multicultural Education
Many Ed.D. programs require that students complete a focused internship. This allows students to combine theory with practical knowledge in a supervised environment. Internships create a situation for students to learn from other professionals, become more effective leaders, and apply the skills they have learned in their coursework.
- For some programs, like the one at East Tennessee State University, this is a 150-hour requirement. Students pay for the credit hours, while the university assists in setting up an appropriate internship. All internships are planned and completed under the guidance of a faculty member.
- Other internship requirements are more demanding. Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, for example, requires three different internships of 100 hours each.
Internships may differ by concentration. For example, an internship at a multinational corporation might be arranged for a global executive specialization, whereas a nonprofit internship might be arranged for organizational leadership studies. This is yet one more area for students to look into when researching degree programs.
Ed.D. Dissertation, Dissertation in Practice (DiP) or Capstone
All Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs will contain a large, research-based project. Some programs opt for a traditional dissertation along the lines of a Ph.D. Other Ed.D. programs, like the one at Nebraska Methodist College, contain a Dissertation in Practice (DiP) or capstone project. We go into more detail about programs with DiPs and capstone projects in our page on No Dissertation Ed.D. Programs.
- Ed.D. programs that require a traditional dissertation include classes to assist students with each of the steps required to write one (e.g. how to come up with a dissertation topic, how to structure the dissertation, and how to conduct effective research).
- After the dissertation is planned, proposed, and written, the final step is defending it. Typically, an Ed.D. committee will read the student’s dissertation, and—on a set date—faculty members will ask questions of the student to ensure they fully understand the focus area of their dissertation.
- Questions will be open-ended so that Ed.D. students must think critically about their work. The thought of defending a thesis can be stressful, but students are given months to prepare. And committees generally want students to succeed, not fail!
DiP or Capstone Project
If you’re interested in alternatives to this route, take a look at our guide to Ed.D. programs without traditional dissertation requirements. DiPs & capstone projects have some of the same hallmarks as a dissertation—crafting a proposal, conducting extensive research, and defending one’s findings—but there are a few significant differences. It’s important to know about them before you make a decision, since it will affect how you rate the effectiveness of the degree.
How to Choose an Ed.D. Program
Combing through the many Ed.D. programs out there can be overwhelming. Here is a list of things to consider when choosing a doctorate in education. Rank them according to your values and priorities.
- Choice of specializations/concentrations that align with educational and career goals
- Whether the program is 100% online, campus-based, or a hybrid
- Internship requirements
- Dissertation or capstone project requirements
- Required coursework – do the classes look interesting and relevant?
- Institutional reputation, including accreditation
- Department and program reputation, including programmatic accreditation
- Faculty quality – does their experience look relevant to what you need/want to learn?
- Program length
- Total cost, including potential student loans, weighed against the potential salary bump of having an Ed.D.
Questions to Consider Before Committing to an Ed.D.
Why Do You Want to Earn a Doctorate?
An Ed.D. can put your résumé at the top of the pile for many positions. But not every position. Do a little market research before making a commitment. Ed.D. holders tend to become school administrators, college administrators, college-level teachers, and instructional coordinators. If you’re considering one of these roles, it’s doubtful you’ll regret the knowledge gained from this degree.
Do You Need an Ed.D.?
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures from 2015-16, only 14% of school administrators held a doctoral degree, with postsecondary administrators likely making up much of that number.
So, the short answer is no—an Ed.D. is not necessary in order to snag a job in K-20 leadership. However, salaries for elementary and secondary school administrators vary widely; the top 10% make more than $140,000, while the bottom 10% earn less than $60,000. The gap is even more pronounced for postsecondary administrators. An Ed.D. may help you secure a stronger salary.
Should You Study Part- or Full-Time?
If life circumstances allow a full class load, then full-time study is ideal. An accelerated Ed.D. takes 2+ years. That’s short enough to avoid feeling too much of a sting from lost income, yet long enough to take advantage of more internship opportunities and on-campus networking. However, while part-time students may only have time to get the work done (and little else), most will likely walk away with less student debt, which may be worth it even if the program takes longer.
What Are the Pros and Cons of an Ed.D.?
- Advancement possibilities in your career
- New learning can revive a passion for your industry
- Opportunity to become a scholar and researcher in your field
- Earn the title of “Doctor”
- Opportunity costs—the time and length of the degree means potentially forgoing other useful ways to spend those years
- May be expensive in terms of both program cost and lost income due to reducing work hours
- Balancing family/work commitments can be challenging
Ph.D. in Education or an Ed.D.?
Ed.D. programs might not pack the same punch as Ph.D.s in terms of “perceived” prestige, but they serve an important role in terminal degree studies and they’re well-recognized by employers.
The practical application of the Ed.D. is the hallmark of the program. Whereas Ph.D. programs have a strong theoretical research component, Ed.D. programs stress the importance of real-life function and application. If the practical takes precedence over the philosophical, choosing an Ed.D. is a no-brainer.