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. An Ed.D. qualifies its holder to teach, but often takes a more entrepreneurial and technical approach to education. View article »

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  • 0:43 Ph.D. in Education Overview
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Video Transcript

Quick Comparison of Ph.D. vs. Ed.D.

The differences between a Ph.D. in Education and an Ed.D. are illustrated by the process used to earn each degree. This article discusses those differences as well as how those differences are reflected in the careers of the individuals who hold the degrees.

A Ph.D. in Education program is generally intended for those who want to do research or teach at the university level, while an Ed.D. is intended for those who are more interested in the administrative side of education. In addition, an Ed.D. program is designed for individuals who have earned a master's degree, worked in administration, and hold a license to teach at a public school.

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 or government agencies or as institutional researchers. Most classes are research-based and may cover the following:

  • Workplace learning
  • Curriculum development
  • Politics of higher education
  • 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's presented and defended to a panel of faculty in order to gain graduation permission.

Doctor of Education Overview

Those seeking an Ed.D. may be interested in the corporate and administrative side of the educational 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
  • 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
  • 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. This is a research project that the student completes over a series of years by consistently building upon former studies and practice. 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.

Although both a Ph.D. in Education and an Ed.D. are doctoral degree programs in education, they're intended for students with different goals and involve differences in prerequisites, coursework, and capstones.

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