Ed.D. Programs Near You
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Ed.D. Programs by Subject
What is a Doctor of Education Degree?
Though one might assume that a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) involves education in the classic classroom sense, leaders and emerging leaders in many different fields benefit from the skills acquired from an Ed.D. Northeastern University, for instance, notes that its students come from many fields, such as criminal justice, nonprofit administration and healthcare. In essence, an Ed.D. is a terminal degree ideal for scholars, teachers, university faculty and other professionals looking to enhance teaching skills, design policy and/or promote learning in workplace environments.
Students coming out 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.
Some schools offer different concentrations as part of the Ed.D. program. For example, a teacher, principal or dean might go into a curriculum and learning concentration, whereas a director of nursing, military officer or business executive might find an organizational leadership studies concentration more useful. The latter concentration is specifically designed for leaders working outside the field of education and focuses on how to motivate others and use new technologies to drive innovation.
A Brief History of the Ed.D.
The first doctoral degree was granted by Yale in 1861. By the 1900s, more than 50 schools had doctoral programs. Shortly after, universities began establishing schools of education and Harvard awarded the first Ed.D. in the US in 1921. In the 1930s, the Ed.D. became the second-most popular doctoral degree choice after chemistry. Now, almost a century after it was first introduced, the doctoral degree in education still holds strong, being the third most popular in 2014-15, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Thanks to advances in distance education (including hybrid learning), working professionals can confidently pursue an Ed.D. without having to give up their jobs. This more flexible learning environment is a game changer.
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 are advanced degrees, and most require a master’s degree to apply to the program. However, the Ed.S. typically requires fewer credits than an Ed.D. — the equivalent of receiving a second master’s degree. An Ed.S. typically does not require a dissertation, while a Ph.D. most always does. The Ed.D. can go either way depending on the school and program.
The Ed.D. sets itself apart from the Ph.D. because it generally focuses on the practical application of knowledge, rather than theory. However, the 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. Although an Ed.S. may be appropriate in certain circumstances, it isn’t on the same level as the Ph.D. or Ed.D.
The following list briefly explains the major differences between the three.
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 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 Doctor of Education Degree: What to Expect
An Ed.D. has multiple components. The first component is all the things you’ve done before; you’ll need to draw upon all those professional and academic experiences to get through the admissions process. After that, the work isn’t done. You’ll tackle coursework, internships and a dissertation. Below, we explain what to expect at every step.
The Ed.D. Admissions Process
An Ed.D. program isn’t necessarily easy to get into. Some programs are competitive, and 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
If all you have is a bachelor’s degree, you’re probably not ready. Ed.D. programs generally require students to have earned at least a master’s degree (or an equivalent number of graduate credits), though the master’s degree need not necessarily be in education. If you already hold an Ed.S. degree, that typically makes you eligible for advanced placement. Where a minimum GPA is specified, an overall 3.0 (B) or higher is generally preferred.
If you’ve never worked in the field of education before, that can 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.
You’re going to need at least two letters of recommendation, and most programs also require a personal essay (though the format of the personal essay varies widely from program to program). Applicants often treat these two requirements as an afterthought, and in most programs they are. 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.
If you hate the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), 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.
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 program you’re applying for is especially competitive, speaking to students and alumni to get a sense of what might be expected from you is wise.
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, where 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 less than 1,000 words.
International Student Requirements
In addition to addressing any relevant student visa requirements, international students who have not already demonstrated English fluency through other means must generally make 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
As you’ve figured out by now, 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’s in Education degree, and some don’t.
- Some schools require prior work experience in the field (typically 3 years or more), and some don’t.
- Some schools require a high minimum GPA (typically 3.0, sometimes 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 focus in on the specific program that interests you and make sure you’re doing everything it asks you to do.
Ed.D. Admissions Checklist
Now that we’ve discussed everything, here’s a simple checklist of what students should prepare 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 resumé 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.
Doctor of Education Coursework
Classes for the Doctor of Education degree vary widely by school, which is why it is important to do thorough research before applying. There are some common classes that most programs have (with variations in name), such as:
- Qualitative and Quantitative Research
- Writing for Research
- Doctoral Seminar or Capstone
- Dissertation, Doctoral Writing Assessment or “Consulting Project”
Outside of those few common denominators, school and specialization will alter the coursework quite a bit. Some schools offer only one specialization; others offer ten. Here are a few examples:
Drexel University has an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in Management, with nine specializations, the common courses being:
- Creative Strategies for Educational Leaders
- Educational Leadership and Change
- Transformative Leadership: Finding One’s Source
Mississippi College’s Doctor of Education has an emphasis in Educational Leadership with 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 maintains ten specializations. The common courses between them are:
- Leading the Future of Education
- Research Theory, Design and Methods
- Tools for Doctoral Research Success
Some of the concentrations or specializations may include the following. Please note that 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
Ed.D. Internships and Earning Real-World Experience
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 the classroom.
For some programs, like the one at East Tennessee State University, this is a 150-hour requirement. It establishes this as a “class” to be enrolled in; 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 might be a better placement for an organizational leadership studies specialist. This is yet one more area for students to look into when researching degree programs.
Doctor of Education Dissertation
Finding Doctor of Education programs without dissertation requirements is rarer than finding those that do require it, although it can be done. Some programs, like Nebraska Methodist College offer a doctoral capstone project instead, which is intended to showcase what students have learned in the course of their studies. The format of a capstone can vary (for example, a multimedia project rather than a written report), and although there may be some type of presentation that accompanies it, there is generally no defense exam to complete at the end, like with a dissertation.
Programs that require dissertations generally have classes specifically to assist students with each of the steps required to write one. A typical class would cover how to come up with a topic, the structure required, and how to conduct effective research. Indiana University’s School of Education has a thorough example of the guidelines for a typical dissertation here.
After the dissertation is written, the next step is defending the thesis. Typically, a committee will read the student’s dissertation, and on a set date the 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 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!
Although programs can be found without dissertations or even capstone projects, the question is: Does this benefit or hurt the student? Avoiding a dissertation might be a shorter and less time-consuming approach to earning a degree, but it also might not be quite as respected or rewarding. It’s important for students to fully assess their own goals and what they plan to accomplish with an advanced degree to judge which path is best.
If you think a no dissertation program is right for you then take a look at our guide to Ed.D. programs without dissertation requirements. Most will require an alternative, such as a capstone project, but this list is a great place to begin your research.
How to Choose an Ed.D. Program
We’re lucky to live in a time of so much choice…or are we? Combing through the many Ed.D. programs out there can be overwhelming. Here is a list of things to consider when choosing a program. Put them in order 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 resume at the top of the pile for many positions. But not every position. 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. Outside of them, however, the Ed.D. may be extraneous.
Do you need an Ed.D.?
Only 14 percent of school administrators hold a doctoral degree, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures from 2015-16 (with postsecondary administrators likely making up much of that number). So, the short answer is no — they’re not necessary in order to get a job. However, salaries for elementary and secondary school administrators vary widely; the top 10 percent make more than $140,000, while the bottom 10 percent 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 Ed.D. takes two 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?
- 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 — time and length of the commitment 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
The Future of Ed.D. Programs
When it comes to the future of Ed.D. programs, the underlying question is whether or not Ph.Ds will become the terminal degree of choice in the education field. Ed.D. programs might not pack the same punch as Ph.Ds in terms of perceived prestige, but they continue to serve an important role in terminal degree studies. The practical application of the Ed.D. is the hallmark of the program. Whereas Ph.D. programs have a strong theoretical research component, champions of the Ed.D. degree 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.