Why Earn a Doctorate in Education?

doctorate in education researcher working on theory
doctorate in education researcher working on theory

About the Doctorate in Education

Degree Type:

Doctorate, PhD, EdD


Online and Classroom


3 – 5 Years

Total Credits:

Varies, usually 48 – 72

Aid Eligible:

Yes, for accredited programs

Completing a doctorate in education will ensure you of a higher income and the pick of job opportunities in this immense field. The majority of teachers with doctoral degrees work in school leadership and upper education administration, or as researchers or curriculum developers, depending upon the doctorate they choose to earn.

If you’re dedicated to changing the education realm and helping it evolve as the student population becomes more globally-focused, earning a doctorate is your best bet for success.

Doctoral programs require approximately 15 post-master’s classes, an exam and a research-based dissertation. Here’s how to enter the program and begin to administer change for the better.

Admission Requirements for a Doctorate of Education Program

Once you research accredited programs and find your school, you’ll need to meet the criteria set by the school. Each school will have unique and slightly different requirements, and admission is usually granted on a competitive basis, so you’ll need to complete requirements thoroughly and thoughtfully. As a rule, you’ll need to have completed your master’s degree and successfully complete these types of requirements for admission:

Provide a professional resume or CV, pointing out whether you have second language skillsWrite a statement of purpose
Complete the school’s application for entryProvide sealed transcripts from all postsecondary institutions
Submit three letters of recommendationPass the GRE General test
Submit to an in-person interviewHave a minimum GPA of 3.0 for previous graduate work

Depending upon your circumstances, you may also be asked for a statement of support from your employer, or a statement outlining how you expect to meet the demands of the program. If you are asked to provide examples of academic excellence, you will want to focus upon your expertise in areas such as problem-solving, technology proficiency, and critical assessment and analysis in education improvement and policy.

If you have successful professional experience under your belt in a school, your community or in policy leadership, you will want to also bring this to light. In writing or during your interview would be an appropriate time.

Differences Between an EdD and PhD

The two kinds of doctorates available from teacher education schools are the Doctorate in Education degree (EdD) and the Doctor of Philosophy in Education degree (PhD). They are both recognized as equal in academic rigor and standing.

However, the EdD tends to be more project based, while the PhD is more research-based and theoretical in nature. Here are the differences so you can determine which is best for your career goals.

Doctorate in Education (EdD)

If you are a professional practitioner interested in becoming a university professor, superintendent of schools or applied educational researcher, the Doctorate in Education is designed for you. An EdD is likely to be the preferred qualification for many mid-career employees, many of whom will already have master’s degrees but who wish to pursue studies at the doctoral level. A Doctorate in Education is based on research in addition to its application in professional practice.

Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)

If you are interested in an academic research role, such as policy maker, teacher educator at a university or educational theorist, such as a language policy and literacy academic, a PhD in Education may be your degree of choice. Educational PhD programs emphasize the development of educational theory through research that generates new–or reformulates existing–knowledge. PhD in Education degrees are similar to EdD degrees in requirements, but they tend to emphasize more theoretical research.

How Long Do Doctorate in Education Programs Take to Complete?

A Doctorate in Education takes around three years to complete, though for some it may require four or five years. Length of program will largely depend upon your circumstances and whether you choose a traditional or online program. The good news is accredited online doctorate programs are becoming more common, and these fit nicely with students who need to work while they go to school.

Your coursework on average will take approximately two years to complete and you should expect to use the third year to do in-depth research and write your dissertation.

Specializations for Doctorate in Education Programs

If you have an area of education you feel passionate about and feel sure you can make a difference, you’ll want to direct your doctoral studies toward that area. As you might expect, some specializations will align to the research and academia-oriented PhD, while others are more practitioner focused.

Here are some examples of areas in which you may choose to specialize:

Curriculum and InstructionEducational Leadership and Policy
Organizational Research and AssessmentEarly Childhood Leadership and Advocacy
Early Childhood Special EducationEducational Technology
Reading Literacy and AssessmentLearning, Instruction and Innovation
Subject Matter Education (Math, Science, English, etc.)Statistics Education

Typical Curriculum in a Doctorate in Education Program

Your curriculum will differ depending upon the area of specialization you select. Using Curriculum and Instruction as your focus, you might expect your coursework to consist of the following types of classes:

Foundations of Research in Curriculum and InstructionProfessional Development and Teacher Learning
Perspectives in Curriculum, Teaching and Teacher EducationCritical Pedagogy
Foundations of EducationIssues in School Improvement
Online Teaching PedagogyIssues in Teacher Education
Teacher Learning and Socialization in Poverty SchoolsResearch Methodology (courses representing qualitative and quantitative research paradigms)
Dissertation hours: Advanced Research, Dissertation Research, Qualifying ExamsOther courses in areas of specialization, such as Language and Literacy Education, Special Education, Educational technology, etc.

Source: University of Florida, PhD in Curriculum and Instruction

Salary Information for Doctorate in Education Holders

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that unemployment rates are lower, and salaries higher, as degree attainment rises. Here is a look at 2021 data as cited by the BLS:

DegreeMedian Weekly SalaryNational Unemployment Rate
Bachelor’s degree$1,3343.5%
Master’s degree$1,5742.6%

Here are median annual salaries, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics, for education careers that have likely earned a doctorate:

CareerMedian Annual Salary
School Principal$101,320
School Psychologist$81,500
Education Administrator$99,940
University or College Teacher$66,930
Curriculum and Instructional Coordinator$66,490

Most salaries depend upon the location of the job, as cities and metropolitan areas typically pay more than smaller towns; length of time in the field and education attained also are key in how much you’ll earn.

Careers and Job Growth for Doctorate in Education Degree Holders

As you’ve seen, unemployment for those with a doctorate is lower, but how about job growth over the coming years? With the current national average for all careers resting at 5% through 2032, the BLS anticipates a more positive outlook for many careers that require a doctorate in education. Here are job growth statistics for some of the most common professions:

College or university teachers can anticipate a 3.7% job growth rate through 2032, which is faster than average.

Postsecondary education administrators, including researchers, can look forward to a 3.5% job growth in their field, which is faster than average for all professions.

Take the Next Step

If you’ve been postponing the inevitable next step in your education because of other commitments or concerns about paying for school, you can see there’s nothing to hold you back from earning your Doctorate in Education. With financial aid available for accredited programs, and flexible online doctoral degrees able to help you overcome time, work and family commitments and create a school and life balance, everything is working in your favor. Get ready to advance your education, your career, and your life-and get set to make a difference in the education realm today. All you need to do is click to begin researching programs.