Is a PhD in Education Worth It?

May 31, 2020

When considering whether a doctorate degree in education is for you, you're likely asking yourself if it is worth it. Though many people can find rewarding and lucrative careers with a master's degree in education, a PhD in education can lead to even more leadership opportunities. Throughout this article, we'll take a look at some of the job options out there for those with PhDs in education.

Job Title Average Salary (2019)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
College Professor (Education) $74,560 11% (all subjects)
School Principal $100,340 4%
Instructional Coordinator $69,180 6%
Chief Learning Officer $193,850 6% (all chief executives)
Training & Development Manager $123,470 8%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

PhD in Education Job Options

As seen from the table above, having a PhD can be quite lucrative. You'll find that you are in upper management or highly skilled positions. In addition, the work you do often affects individuals below you, whether students or employees.

College Professor

Becoming a professor at a post-secondary school is the highest level of teaching you can reach. Many colleges hire adjunct professors with a master's degree; however, the preferred degree is a PhD to be granted tenure. Professors tend to have their degree in the subject they intend to teach, so a math professor will likely have a PhD in math or statistics. In the case of an education PhD, you'll be prepared to train future teachers and curriculum developers. Most colleges teach on a trimester or semester basis. Depending on the college at which you wish to teach, you could have summers off. Though hours may be long during the school year, you'll make up for it in time off. Many colleges provide paid sabbaticals for professors to continue their research or writing, which is where a research degree like a PhD will come in handy.

School Principal

With a PhD, you can work as a principal in any school, public or private, as well as at the elementary, middle, or secondary level. Principals are the face of the school. As a principal, you'll be a liaison between the superintendent, the community, parents, students, and legislators. You'll be in complete control of the school and how it runs, as well as all employees. Here are some of the other tasks you may encounter:

  • Evaluate and observe teachers in the classroom
  • Manage budgets
  • Create training and professional development opportunities
  • Create and observe security protocols
  • Order supplies and equipment for the school
  • Hire and dismiss personnel
  • Discipline students
  • Attend school board and parent meetings
  • Lobby for more school funds

Instructional Coordinator

As an instructional coordinator, your daily tasks will be centered around making sure the curriculum at schools is meeting state regulations and is properly taught. In a way, you'll also be a teacher, but instead, you'll educate the current teachers and new hires to policies, new technologies, and curriculum changes. You may observe teachers in the classroom and then offer alternative teaching techniques that could improve the learning environment for the students. You'll also study school-wide test results to see where the strengths and weaknesses are in the school and suggest implementations to the curriculum.

Chief Learning Officer

A chief learning officer (CLO) can be found in larger businesses where the executive tasks are broken down. You'll typically answer to a chief executive officer (CEO), which is the more commonly known executive. As a CLO, you'll be a top executive to the company you work for, implementing new training and learning systems for the company. Similar to a training and development manager, a CLO is in charge of making sure all of the training for new hires, professional development, new equipment, and new systems are in top form. You may take part in coaching teams for better products, mentoring new employees, or measuring the success of implemented training programs.

Training & Development Manager

Many training and development managers begin their careers as training and development specialists. Once you have climbed the career ladder to become a manager, you'll be in charge of a group of specialists. Climbing the ladder may include expanding your degree to a doctorate. Many organizations use training and development (or learning and development) to educate their employees. This could mean you may find work in many different types of industries, such as business, medicine, education, etc. As a manager, you'll be in charge of finding and developing the educational and training programs needed by employees at that company. This could be a video on sexual harassment, a training program for a new computer program, or a class for a promoted employee.

PhD in Education vs. Ed.D.

Often, we hear of PhD programs, but there are a few areas of study that offer their own degrees; for instance, MDs are medical degrees, and a JD is a Juris Doctorate for law. There are two types of education doctoral programs available that we'll contrast here: a PhD and an EdD.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in in Education

A PhD in education will prepare you for a career in academia or research. PhDs tend to be research-based rather than practical-based. These programs can be completed in as little as two years, but more often take three. During these programs, you'll not only take courses, but you'll find yourself in teaching fellowships and research apprenticeships, putting to practice all you have learned. These programs typically culminate in a dissertation and oral defense of your research.

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Though these two programs may at first seems similar, an EdD focuses on putting into practice all that is learned. You will directly affect the students or teachers under your tutelage. You will also want to make changes in your company or institution. These programs typically take about two to three years to complete. An EdD, similar to a PhD, is a type of degree and often has a specialization in an area. Some of those areas include:

  • Educational leadership
  • Technology integration
  • Urban leadership
  • Instructional design
  • Distance learning
  • Special education
  • Health and physical activity
  • Language and literacy

When looking at whether a PhD in education is right for you, consider where you'll want to be in five years. If your career choice happens to be one that works well with a degree in research, academia, and leadership, then earning a PhD in education could work for you.

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