How Long Does IT Take To Get A Doctorate in Education?

Aug 13, 2018

A doctoral degree in education is a terminal degree in many fields, and the length of time it takes to complete depends on several factors. There are several educational paths you can take to earn this degree.

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  • 0:00 Ed.D. Overview
  • 0:38 Graduation Requirements
  • 1:40 Curriculum
  • 2:20 Admission Requirements
  • 2:43 Executive Program

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Ed.D. Overview

When deciding if you want to pursue an Ed.D., it is helpful to consider program length, graduation requirements, curriculum, and admission requirements. Executive-level programs are also available.

A Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) can take approximately three years to complete. Candidates need to hold a master's degree in education to meet program entrance requirements. Students may elect to take the courses for the degree program online, or they can go to a brick-and-mortar campus full time.

Graduation Requirements

Over the course of the three-year Ed.D. program, students may be expected to maintain a 3.0 grade point average (GPA), and they may not be eligible for the degree if they do not meet this GPA requirement. Students must also complete a comprehensive exam after completing a certain number of credits. Residency requirements must be met, which can mean maintaining full-time status for two consecutive semesters or three consecutive summer sessions. After successfully completing a candidacy project, students become eligible for the Ed.D. and can move on to the next phase of the program.

Students must complete a dissertation to earn the Ed.D., and in order to do so they are required to submit original work that has to be approved by the doctoral committee. Dissertations require a lot of writing and can take considerable time to complete. Students are advised to check with school doctoral committees regarding time limits for dissertation proposal and completion.


Doctoral degrees are based on research and typically require one year of coursework. This amounts to roughly 60-90 credit hours of total study, during which time the student develops a dissertation proposal. Courses may cover topics such as:

  • Learning and human development
  • Leadership theory
  • Curriculum theory
  • Educational systems
  • Education entrepreneurship

First-year studies include traditional coursework, while the second year is more devoted to research. However, students may continue to take courses while conducting research and up until completion of the program at the end of three years.

Admission Requirements

Prior to enrollment in an Ed.D. program, individuals must earn a bachelor's and master's degree. Applicants may be required to have at least a 3.0 GPA for both programs. Other application materials include:

  • Official transcripts
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement

Executive Program

An executive doctoral program in higher education management is designed to put the student on a fast track to receive the degree. Executive programs are designed to be completed in roughly two years, including coursework and a dissertation. It is a cohort program, meaning that all students admitted into the program follow the same program track. In general, individuals are already expected to have significant professional experience prior to enrollment. Often, these programs are available in online formats or with flexible scheduling options so that individuals can enroll with no interruptions to their careers. Students in the online executive programs may need to travel to the college to satisfy training requirements.

Ed.D. programs give highly educated and experienced education professionals the chance to conduct advanced studies and research in the field. These programs typically take three years, though fast-track executive programs may only take two years.

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