What is an Ed.D. in Adult Education?
An Ed.D. in Adult Education is designed to help decision-makers facilitate the development of adult learners and promote lifelong learning in organizations & institutions. Graduates assume leadership roles in education, business, non-profits, healthcare, and more.
You might wish to pursue a doctorate in adult education or learning in order to:
- Learn how to design, implement, and evaluate professional development programs for adult populations
- Execute organizational changes that lead to better adult learning and motivation
- Be exposed to new developments in teaching & learning, curriculum & instructional design, adult & workforce development, and the like
- Take your experience of teaching adult learners to a leadership level
- Qualify for management and directorial positions in your chosen field
Types of Doctorate in Adult Education Programs
Ed.D. in Adult Education or Adult Learning & Leadership
These two degrees in our listings are pretty much the same. Both the Ed.D. in Adult Education and the Ed.D. in Adult Learning are designed to prepare students to assume leadership positions in various sectors. For example, the curriculum might:
- Address the relationship of adult learning to organizational and management issues
- Cover lifelong learning that takes place outside of a traditional classroom
- Include doctoral work in program planning and organizational interventions
Ed.D. in Higher & Adult Education
In our listings, you’ll also discover combo doctorates in Adult and Higher Education. Follow the curriculum links to learn how these doctorates are organized.
- Some universities have combined the two fields into a doctorate that covers both adult & lifelong learning and the skills needed for leaders at technical colleges, community colleges, and 4-year colleges and universities.
- In contrast, some schools offer adult education and higher education as independent concentrations.
If this is an area of interest, you might also want to check out our listings of Ed.D. in Higher Education Programs.
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership: Adult Education
Alternatively, you could consider an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Adult Education. We talk a lot more about the structure of this degree in our guide to Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Programs. Concentrations can range from 4 courses to half of the program, so it pays to examine the curriculum page carefully.
Ph.D. vs. Ed.D. in Adult Education
In broad terms, an Ed.D. in Adult Education is a practice-focused degree that’s designed to prepare you for leadership roles. Ed.D. programs often concentrate on applied research & theory and real-world concerns (e.g. program development). A Ph.D. in Adult Education will help equip you for high-level research or a university teaching position in adult education.
But you’ll find a lot of leeway in the job market. When we looked at postings for Assistant Professors in Adult Education, many universities were simply looking for a doctorate in adult education, higher education, educational leadership, or a closely related field. This could be a Ph.D. or Ed.D. Employers will be much more interested in your previous job experience!
Earning an Ed.D. in Adult Education
Adult Education Prerequisites
- Master’s Degree: Schools will want to see a master’s degree from an regionally accredited institution. The major isn’t usually specified.
- Minimum GPA: GPA requirements will vary. The standard minimum for Ed.D. programs is 3.0, but prestigious Colleges of Education may have a higher threshold (e.g. 3.25-3.5).
- Work Experience: Universities may or may not specify work experience in the admissions section, but they’ll almost always be considering it. The standard is 3+ years of relevant professional experience or its equivalent.
- Additional Requirements: Ed.D. programs sometimes require GRE or MAT scores—it varies from school to school. You may also be asked to provide a personal statement, résumé, academic writing sample, and 2-4 letters of recommendation.
Adult Education Coursework
Coursework will depend on the degree—a doctorate that’s devoted to adult education or adult learning will have a different feel to an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. Having said that, every Ed.D. program will cover the same bases: core foundation coursework, specialization coursework, advanced research courses, and a dissertation or the equivalent.
A standard curriculum for an Ed.D. in Adult Education might include courses such as:
- Foundations of Adult Education
- Adult Learning Theory and Professional Practice
- Designing Adult Learning Experiences
- Program Planning & Evaluation in Adult Education
- Organization and Administration of Adult Education
- Leading in Adult Learning Settings and Contexts
- Multicultural Curriculum Programming
Some doctoral programs will allow you to choose from a range of electives. You can use them to prepare for your chosen career path.
Adult Education Internship & Fieldwork
Occasionally, you’ll come across education doctorates that include on-the-ground mentorship and training. For instance, students in Kansas State University’s Hybrid Ed.D. in Adult Learning and Leadership are required to complete a 6-credit internship in adult education. This work involves field experiences in the development of programs in cooperating agencies.
Adult Education Dissertation or Capstone Project
All Ed.D. programs will culminate in a traditional 5-chapter dissertation, a Dissertation in Practice (DiP), or a capstone project. We talk more about the differences between these options in our guide to No Dissertation Ed.D. Programs.
Most Ed.D. in Adult Education programs have stuck to the dissertation or DiP. But there are exceptions. Capella’s Online Ed.D. in Adult Education contains a capstone doctoral project that will challenge you to address a real-world problem in your field.
Online Ed.D. in Adult Education Programs
Are Ed.D. Programs in Adult Education Offered Online?
Yes! You’ll discover a number of online doctorates in our program database. We’ve flagged them all with an “Offered Online” marker. There are online doctorates from public & state universities, private universities, and for-profit universities (e.g. Walden and Capella). For-profit options are CAEP-accredited, but you’ll need to decide if you feel comfortable with having that name on your résumé.
Do Online Ed.D. in Adult Education Programs Contain Residencies?
Sometimes. Our listings contain 100% online offerings (e.g. University of Memphis’s Online EdD in Higher and Adult Education and Frostburg State University’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership – Adult and Professional Learning Facilitation) and education doctorates that have face-to-face components & campus intensives (e.g. Regent, Valdosta, Kansas State, etc.).
Note: If you’re in any doubt about in-person commitments, ask the Ed.D. program coordinator for clarification.
Adult Education Careers
Ed.D. in Adult Education Jobs
The field of adult education/learning encompasses a huge range of sectors. Graduates end up working in colleges & universities, national & international corporations, military arms, HR departments, workforce development settings, government agencies, prisons, hospitals, and more.
For example, an Ed.D. in Adult Education can prepare you for a job as a:
- Educational Program Director
- Health Services Administrator
- Community Organization Director
- Non-Profit Director
- Human Resources Administrator
- Corporate Trainer
- Workplace Educator
- Adult Education Instructor
- Adult Education Curriculum Developer
- Adult Education Consultant
- Continuing Education Professional
- Higher Education Administrator
- Student Affairs Administrator
- Academic Advisor
- Assistant Professor of Adult Education
Ed.D. in Adult Education Salary
Because adult education covers a huge range of jobs, it can be hard to find a central source of salary data. Most salary sites provide statistics for adult education instructors, but an Ed.D. is designed to prep you for mid- and high-level leadership roles.
For a baseline estimate, choose your job title and compare numbers on different salary sites (e.g. Glassdoor, Indeed, Salary.com, Payscale, etc.). Keep in mind that salary estimates will vary depending on location and cost of living.
Is an Ed.D. in Adult Education Worth it?
If you have a specific career path in mind, that an Ed.D. in Adult Education may be well-worth the investment. It’s not a standard requirement for positions outside of the university sector, but it’s certainly going to catch an employer’s eye. And it will qualify you for high-level teaching positions.
The trick is finding a doctoral program that’s free of fluff. We always recommend you talk to recent alumni to get a sense of applicability and rigor. You might also want to chat about your education plans with members of relevant organizations (see below). They’ll be in a position to advise you on the pros & cons of doctoral work.
Adult Education Resources and Organizations
- Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD): AHRD is a global organization that focuses on the Human Resource Development (HRD) scholarly community of academics and reflective practitioners.
- Adult Education Research Conference (AERC): AERC is an annual North American conference that provides a forum for adult education researchers to share their experiences and the results of their studies with students, other researchers, and global practitioners.
- Adult Higher Education Alliance (AHEA): AHEA is committed to helping institutions of higher education develop and sustain learning environments and programs suitable for adults.
- American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE): AAACE is dedicated to expanding opportunities for adult growth and development; unifying adult educators; fostering the development and dissemination of theory, research, information, and best practices; promoting identity and standards for the profession; and advocating relevant public policy and social change initiatives.
- Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE): ANTSHE is a worldwide partnership of students, academic professionals, institutions, and organizations who encourage and coordinate support, education, and advocacy for the adult learning community.
- Association for Talent Development (ATD): Formerly known as ASTD, ATD is a global organization of workplace learning and development professionals. Members work in organizations of all sizes, including government. They also serve as independent consultants and suppliers.
- Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE): COABE serves adult education and literacy practitioners by providing leadership, communication, professional development, and advocacy to advance quality services for all adult learners.
- International Council for Adult Education (ICAE): ICAE is a global network with a specific mandate to advocate for youth and adult learning and education (ALE) as a universal human right.
- Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM): SHRM is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. It represents 285,000+ members in over 165 countries, serving the needs of HR professionals and advancing the interests of the HR profession.