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Online Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Programs in Education: Degree Options

Research online education doctoral degree programs. Find out what you can learn in these courses and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

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Essential Information

While distance learning master's degree programs in education are more common, there are online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in education available as well. Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree programs are also available in distance learning formats. While some programs are offered fully online, others are offered in a hybrid format that includes an on-campus residency requirement for certain coursework.

In order to apply to a Ph.D. or Ed.D. program, prospective students must have a master's degree. Both of these programs prepare graduates for careers as educational administrators.

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Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Some online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in education include specializations in such areas as curriculum and teaching, higher education leadership, athletic administration and early childhood education. Ph.D. programs in education are designed for teaching professionals who aspire to leadership positions.

These distance learning programs typically take a minimum of three years to complete. Although online Ph.D. programs in education contain classes in organization, leadership and administration, much of the programs' emphasis is on the students' dissertations.

Information and Requirements

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Education degree programs can often be completed entirely online with no residency requirements. However, there are some education Ph.D. programs that implement weekend or other occasional on-campus periods of instruction. Although distance learning Ph.D. programs in education lack the day-to-day interaction between students and their professors, some online programs offer faculty mentorship to fill this void. Students also communicate with instructors and peers through online discussion forums, webinars and e-mail.

Distance learning education Ph.D. programs typically use Blackboard or some other virtual classroom software. Students are required to have an e-mail account, high-speed Internet access and up-to-date computer hardware and software. Most schools recommend students have Adobe Acrobat Reader and Flash Player, Microsoft Word and a multimedia player.

Common Coursework

Ph.D. distance learning programs in education are research intensive. Classes depend upon the specialty of study.

Diversity in Education

This online course trains doctoral candidates to relate to students of various ages, mental abilities and physical strengths. Course participants learn to prepare educational programs to meet the needs of diverse student groups.

School Organization

Students enrolled in this distance learning course are taught how schools are set up. By learning about schools' human resources, schedules and programs, students explore ways to improve educational systems.

Curriculum and Instruction

This online education course emphasizes instructional requirements, trends, issues and standards. Students seek ways to update curricula and to integrate technological advances into the classroom.

Special Education

Students enrolled in a distance learning special education course are trained to evaluate exceptional and learning disabled students. This course emphasizes testing, assessment and instruction.

Ethics in Leadership

This online education course focuses on the process of making decisions that have moral consequences. Students gain a better understanding of how to address ethical concerns through various types of communication.


Career Information

Students who earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Education typically obtain positions in education administration. In order to become a school principal, a graduate must pass a licensure exam administered by the state in which he or she wishes to work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), elementary and secondary school administrators earned a median annual wage of $90,410 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). This same report listed a median annual wage of $88,580 for postsecondary education administrators as of May 2015.

Online doctoral studies in education can lead to either a Ph.D. or Ed.D. in the field. These programs include independent dissertation research and advanced coursework in school management that prepares graduates for administrative positions when they graduate.

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