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Ph.D. Vs. Ed.D. Programs: What's the Difference?

A Ph.D. is often the terminal degree--the highest level of education--that can be achieved in a field of study. For any subject, a Ph.D.-holder is qualified to pursue a career teaching their expertise at the university level. So what's the difference between a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)? Read below to learn more.

Ph.D. in Education: Overview

The Ph.D. in Education is earned through a research degree program designed for individuals whose career goals include teaching and conducting research at the university level. Graduates may also work as researchers for nonprofit organizations, government agencies or institutional researchers. Most classes are research-based; they may cover workplace learning, curriculum development, politics of higher education and statistical methods.

Students may also be required to choose a specialization within the education field. They must then complete a dissertation in their area of study in order to graduate. The dissertation is written under the supervision of an advisor, often a university professor. It is presented and defended to a panel of faculty in order to gain graduation permissions.

Doctor of Education: Overview

An Ed.D. qualifies its holder to teach, but often takes a more entrepreneurial and technical approach to education. Those seeking an Ed.D. may be interested in the corporate and administrative side of the education field. These professionals often focus on creating curricula and improving education systems within a given school district or at a specific private school or university.

The program combines many elements of higher learning instruction. Among these are skills development, research, problem-solving and theory. Candidates for this program are often required to have already received their master's degree and have worked in school administration, which also assumes the candidate has worked as a teacher in some capacity (the path to school administration varies by state). Courses may include organizational theory, finance, governance, workplace learning, organizational studies and the history of higher education.

In addition to completing coursework, all students are likely required to participate in summer project workshops and submit a culmination project. While being enrolled in a doctoral degree program is not required to participate in such workshops, the culmination project complements the flow of the program in that it is a research project that the student completes over a series of years by consistently building upon former studies and practice.

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