EdD vs PhD: Which Education Degree Should You Get?

Written by Amy Isler
Published on February 26, 2023 · Updated on April 1, 2023

EdD vs PhD: Which Education Degree Should You Get?

Written by Amy Isler
Published on February 26, 2023 · Updated on April 1, 2023

Teachers that are looking to use their leadership skills to create change in policy, curriculum, and research can use a doctorate degree to get roles in research, postsecondary schools, and K-12 education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary education jobs are projected to grow 12% between 2020-2030.

However, teachers wanting to earn a high-level degree must choose between a doctor of education (EdD) or a doctor of philosophy in education (PhD) degree. While both are excellent options, the two degrees lead to very different coursework, requirements, and career outcomes.

What Are EdD and PhD In Education Degrees For?

A doctorate degree in education gives people a variety of career paths. The different programs can lead to private and public sector jobs including: 

  • Administrator
  • Professor
  • Researcher
  • Superintendent
  • Policy maker
  • Postsecondary teacher
  • Dean
  • College president
  • Education director

The EdD and PhD are both terminal degrees that make teachers and educators experts in their fields. A good job outlook and growth projections make a doctorate degree worth the time and money. 

Picking Between an EdD or PhD In Education Program

The curriculum and job prospects of an EdD and PhD program are different. You should consider your interests and career goals when deciding which type of degree to obtain.

  • A PhD program is rooted in research and theory and students learn to interpret research.
  • And EdD program is rooted in leadership and application and students are taught how to apply the research to a real-world setting.

The EdD degree is available to professionals who already hold a master’s degree and want to advance their career and receive a boost in income. 

The EdD program prepares students to apply research to real-world settings and to find work in educational leadership. This degree rewards students with the skill set and ability to create change in their professional environment by:

  • Develop the tools to become a better administrator
  • Résumé credibility and expanded career search
  • Learn the latest technology in instructional design
  • Qualify for senior educational leadership positions

The overall goal of getting an EdD degree is to become a good leader and transfer knowledge to an education environment to create positive change. 

Coursework includes a focus on professional leadership, solutions, and solving problems in practice. 

Teachers and administrators are best suited for an EdD. Many programs are geared towards the working professional and are offered online or in a hybrid model. 

Those who complete an EdD degree often choose to work in a K-12 setting or in college administration.

On average, an EdD degree takes three years to complete including a dissertation. This timeframe can be dependent on: 

  • Previous education
  • Online vs. in-person programs
  • Part-time vs. full-time study

Since obtaining an EdD degree is both time-consuming and a financial commitment, finding a program that meets a person’s career goals, work-life balance, and interests is critical.

EdD Career Outcomes And Salaries

Careers in education are growing and the job outlook for this profession is positive. Someone with an EdD degree can expect an increase in income and responsibility. 

A few examples of careers available to people with an EdD degree are highlighted below. 

  • Median Salary: $80,560 
  • Career Outlook: +912% (2020-2030)

Postsecondary teachers instruct students beyond high school. They are typically referred to as faculty or professors and may write books, conduct research, and publish papers. 

  • Median Salary: $97,500 
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

A postsecondary education administrator works in the college setting usually in student services, student affairs, admission, registrar’s office, or oversees faculty, research, and academics.

  • Median Salary: $107,680 
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

Top executives are usually in charge of the organization’s big picture. They create strategies and policies to meet goals. 

  • Median Salary: $98,490 
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

School principals oversee all aspects of the school setting including managing staff, curriculum, and the health and safety of the students. 

Source: BLS

A PhD in education prepares people to critically analyze and interpret research. 

Those that hold a PhD become experts in a given field of education such as teaching practices, inequity in education, and how learning environments shape student outcomes. 

Coursework includes a focus on education, quantitative and qualitative research, and a close collaboration with faculty. 

A PhD dissertation focuses on creating new research in a particular field whereas a dissertation in an EdD program focuses on solving a particular problem found in a school setting. 

People who have a passion for new research and advanced theory along with the desire to become an expert in a particular education field are best suited for a PhD in education. 

Career options for those that hold a PhD in education include:

  • University professor
  • Research scholar
  • Education director
  • Policy researcher

PhD of education students will enjoy using their skill set to shape new research and create best practices that will affect teaching and learning for years to come.

On average, a PhD in education degree takes 4-6 years to complete including an original research dissertation.  

Unlike the EdD degree, the PhD program is a full-time commitment and not well suited for the working professional. Not many schools offer an online PhD in Education program. 

Program timeline may be dependent on:

  • Previous education
  • Student funding 
  • Dissertation complexity

Since obtaining a PhD degree is both time-consuming and a financial commitment, finding a program that meets a person’s career goals, work-life balance, and interests is critical.

PhD In Education Career Outcomes And Salaries

As with EdD careers, careers for PhD graduates are projected to see significant job growth. Someone with a PhD degree can expect an increase in income and responsibility. 

While EdD professionals seek to obtain roles as superintendents, deans, principals, and other education administrative positions, PhD professionals seek roles as professors, scholars, and researchers. 

  • Median Salary: $80,560 
  • Career Outlook: +12% (2020-2030)

Postsecondary professors instruct students beyond high school. They may also be referred to as faculty. Professors often write books, conduct research, and publish papers.

  • Median Salary: $97,500 
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

Postsecondary education administrators who hold a PhD may oversee faculty research, or work in student affairs, attendance, and academics.

  • Median Salary: $59,870 
  • Career Outlook: +4% (2020-2030)

Survey researchers conduct qualitative research and analyze the data for trends that can influence education policy and help shape education decisions and plans.

Source: BLS

Doctor Of Education (EdD) vs Educational Specialist (EdS)

Another option for career advancement in education is the educational specialist (EdS). An EdS is a postgraduate degree for those that already have a master’s degree, but don’t want to pursue a doctorate. This program is designed for the working professional who wants to add to their skill set but in half the time it takes to complete an EdD program. 

The EdS is a graduate certificate that does not require a dissertation or capstone project to complete and is geared towards those that work in the K-12 setting. However, this option is not designed for people who want to work in higher education or organizational leadership.

What To Look For In Educational Doctoral Degree Programs

When comparing different EdD and PhD programs, you should also consider factors outside of career outcomes such as online flexibility and accreditation. 

Online vs. On-Campus Learning

While most PhD programs are full-time and conducted in person, online EdD programs are becoming more abundant, and many schools offer the option to complete the degree on a part-time or full-time basis to accommodate busy schedules and the working professional. The biggest benefits of online learning include:

  • Flexibility and self-paced learning
  • Better time management
  • Improved virtual and communication and collaboration
  • No commute
  • Faster graduation times
  • Ability to work from anywhere


Accreditation is critical for any educational institute. It certifies that the school and its curriculum meet the appropriate standards and qualifications outlined by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education accreditation. 

Choosing a school that is accredited is extremely important and it gives degrees credibility and validity and will be valued by employers. 

Many programs and departments within a school may have a separate accreditation called programmatic accreditation. This accreditation elevates the credibility of the program and shows that the department has designed a program that meets a standard of excellence. 

Programmatic accreditation also ensures that students will receive the appropriate training and knowledge to be successful in their given fields. 

Applying To Education Doctoral Programs

Admissions requirements for education doctoral programs depend on the type of school, degree, and program modality desired. A master’s degree, letters of recommendation, GRE score, work experience, and prior grades are a few examples of typical education doctoral application requirements.

Admission Requirements For EdD and PhD Programs

Admission requirements for an EdD program typically include:

  • A minimum grade point average of 3.0 in the last 60 units of upper-division courses taken
  • Passing GRE score
  • Three academic or professional letters of recommendation
  • A statement of purpose
  • Essay on an assigned topic
  • Master’s or specialist degree in education 
  • Three years practical experience
  • Currently employed as a full-time educator
  • Application fee

Admission requirements for a PhD program typically include:

  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume/CV
  • Three letters of recommendation 
  • College and university transcripts
  • Passing GRE score
  • Application fee

EdD vs PhD in Education FAQ

  • Is a PhD more prestigious than an EdD?
    • One degree is not considered “better” than the other. Both the PhD and EdD pathways end in a terminal doctorate degree and both programs are designed for different career goals and interests.
  • What is a doctorate degree in education?
    • An EdD is a terminal doctorate degree that is designed for the working educational professional (teacher or administrator) who wants to advance their career and apply research in a real-life setting.
  • How many years is a doctoral degree?
    • An EdD program is typically three years in length, while a PhD program typically takes four to six years to complete. 
  • Is a doctoral degree in education worth it?
    • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that doctoral degrees in education are a growing profession that offers both rewarding and healthy salaries for those who pursue them.


  1. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
  2. https://rossier.usc.edu/phd-vs-edd-in-education-nine-expert-tips-to-help-you-choose-with-infographic/
  3. https://www.franklin.edu/blog/is-a-doctorate-in-education-worth-it
  4. https://www.eddprograms.org/resources/is-an-edd-worth-it/
  5. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/postsecondary-education-administrators.htm
  6. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm
  7. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm
  8. https://www.waldenu.edu/programs/education/resource/how-to-tell-if-i-want-an-edd-or-a-phd-in-education
  9. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/survey-researchers.htm
  10. https://www.onlineeddprograms.com/faqs/edd-vs-eds-degree
  11. https://education.ufl.edu/curriculum-teaching/edd/admissions-requirements/
  12. https://ed.stanford.edu/admissions/application-reqs/phd