Doctoral Programs in Education: Degree Overviews

Doctoral degree programs in education are beneficial to individuals seeking opportunities in educational research and theory. Candidates have a choice of earning a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Education (Ed.D.).

Essential Information

There are many different options for doctoral study in education, including your choice of degree. A doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in education program focuses on education theory and research. Doctor of education (Ed.D.) programs focus on applying theory and research in the field. There are many ways to narrow one's focus within these two degrees. Common specializations include curriculum and instruction, special education, and educational leadership. Entrance into these programs require a master's degree in a related field and work experience in education. A dissertation or research project is required for graduation. Programs may also require candidates to participate in a field project and an internship. Some schools offer online programs.

Doctoral Programs in Education

Doctoral programs in education train students to become leaders and administrators, as well as researchers in the field of education.

Doctoral students may choose from a number of specializations to focus their coursework and research. To complete the program, students write a dissertation on the results of their research and then present it in an oral defense. Some programs also require internships that involve candidates apprenticing for a college professor.

Courses in a doctoral program may include:

  • Evaluation of programs and curriculum
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Ethical issues in educational research
  • Education in social and cultural context

Popular Career Options

Graduates of Ed.D. or Ph.D. programs are generally looking to advance to a leadership position and might go into policy development, advocacy, teaching, or administration. Careers options include:

  • Researchers
  • Principals
  • Teachers at the postsecondary level
  • Educational leaders or administrators
  • Educational diagnostician

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Many graduates of doctoral programs in education go into administrative positions at educational institutions. Employment at the elementary and secondary school level for principals is expected to grow 6% between 2014-2024 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, and the median salary was $90,410 per year in 2015. The BLS also estimates that employment in postsecondary education administration will grow by 9% during 2014-2024, and had a median salary of $88,580 per year in 2015.

Doctoral degree programs in education provide students with additional career options in higher education. These programs allow graduates to master managerial and administrative skills that will help them qualify for roles as principals, researchers, college professors, university administrators and other key positions in academia.

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