EdD vs EdS: Which Education Degree Should You Get?

Ready to advance your educational career with an advanced degree, but not sure which one to complete? If you’re planning to go back to school for a Doctor of Education (EdD) or an Education Specialist (EdS) degree, it pays to know all the facts before starting your journey. 

Both degrees can help qualify you for a great-paying career in the growing education sector, but there are significant differences between the two degree types. We’ll break down the differences between an EdD and EdS so you can make a well-informed decision to launch your educational career!  

What Are EdD and EdS Degrees For?

EdD and EdS degrees are both completed after your master’s degree. An EdD focuses more on preparing students for advanced leadership positions versus teaching roles. EdD grads may qualify to work in either K-12 or post-secondary settings in leadership roles like a college Dean of Admissions. 

In comparison, an EdS provides teachers with additional training in a specialized subject. EdS holders often choose to remain as teachers, but they have the potential to work as K-12 principals or superintendents, as well. 

Picking Between an EdD or EdS Program

There are many things to consider when making a decision about which degree to complete. Each has different length requirements, which equates to different tuition costs. Perhaps more importantly for most applicants, each prepares you for a different range of potential career options! 

What Is An EdD?

When talking about EdD versus EdS, another unavoidable comparison often arises—EdS versus PhD! An EdD is best for teachers wanting to take on leadership roles while a PhD prepares students for research and teaching roles. EdD candidates should expect up to 60 credits of coursework, with an emphasis on practice. Keep in mind, an EdD is a terminal degree, meaning it’s the highest academic level attainable in the field. 

Who Should Get An EdD?

Ideal candidates for an EdD are those who want a practical doctorate that leads to a wide range of top positions beyond the classroom. From K-12 district superintendent or program director to university roles such as Dean of Admissions, Student Affairs Director (and so on up the ladder), an EdD is your ticket to endless opportunities!

How Long Does An EdD Take?

Requiring around 60 credits, an EdD takes twice as long to complete compared to an EdS. How long depends on many variables, such as whether you can attend full-time or part-time and whether credits can be transferred. In some cases, students might need to knock out prerequisite coursework to be eligible to apply, and that can add length to the timeline. 

A full-time student generally finishes an EdD in roughly three years while a part-time student may take between four to seven years. Taking classes online may help speed things up since online courses don’t require physical attendance obstacles. The heavier the course load, the sooner it’ll be over! 

EdD Career Outcomes And Salaries

What sort of jobs and salaries can you expect if you finish an EdD? Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular outcomes.

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)About the Position
Postsecondary TeacherMedian $79,540
Range $40,480 – $174,960+
9%These roles typically teach subjects at the college/university level, but may also teach at professional trade schools. 
Postsecondary Education AdministratorMedian $95,410
Range $55,320 – $194,090+
4%These roles oversee various college programs, such as student services or academic affairs, among others.
Top ExecutiveMedian$184,460 
Range $62,290 – $208,000+
4%These high-level positions are responsible for organizational policies and strategies that facilitate broad-based goal achievement. 
Source: BLS

What Is An EdS?

An EdS is far more specialized than an EdD and focused on a specific topic. This degree empowers teachers to excel in their current position or apply to take on administrative or leadership responsibilities, generally within the K-12 environment. An EdS is not a terminal degree or a doctorate. 

Who Should Get An EdS?

Ideal candidates are teachers, counselors, or specialists who are passionate about their area of work and want to become subject matter experts. Graduates may qualify to work as principals or even at the superintendent level. However, there are additional state licensure requirements to consider.  

How Long Does It Take to Get An EdS Take?

Requiring around 30 credit hours, an EdS is similar to doing a second master’s. An EdS takes roughly half the time as an EdD (and one-third of the time as a PhD). Students able to attend full-time can finish in 1-2 years, and going part-time might double that, depending on the course load.

Other variables include whether or not there are any transfer credits, or required prerequisite coursework to qualify for the program. Attending classes online can expedite things since it cuts out the need to show up in-person, which is a barrier for many working teachers or parents.

EdS Degree Career Outcomes And Salaries

As previously mentioned, an EdS qualifies graduates for different types of jobs than an EdD. There is occasional overlap, but by and large these very different degrees put graduates on different career trajectories. A few popular career outcomes for EdS holders are listed below. 

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)About the Position
Elementary, Middle, and High School PrincipalMedian $96,400 
Range $63,070 – $148,630+
4%Principals lead and manage school staff and daily operations while ensuring a safe, secure environment conducive to learning. 
High School TeacherMedian $61,660
Range $40,540 – $99,660+
4%High school teachers create and teach lessons for students to gain appropriate knowledge and skills for post-graduate careers or college endeavors.  
Special Education TeacherMedian $61,030
Range$40,730 – $98,530+
3%These teachers adapt suitable lessons to teach students who face educational challenges created by various types of disabilities. 
School CounselorMedian$57,040
Range $34,380 – $96,090+
8%Counselors help students assess and develop skills necessary to succeed academically, socially, and in future careers.
Source: BLS

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

As we can see, the main differences between a Doctor of Education versus an Education Specialist degree are:

  • EdD – is a terminal doctoral degree
  • EdS – is not terminal and can be built upon; it’s not a doctoral degree
  • EdD – up to 60 credits hours; takes 3-7 years (depending on full- or part-time enrollment)
  • EdS – around 30 credits; takes 1-4 years (depending on full- or part-time enrollment)
  • EdD – may require brief residency
  • EdS – no residency requirement
  • EdD – qualifies grads for higher-level positions, including university-level
  • EdS – perfect for teachers who want to specialize or work in K-12 leadership roles

Which path you should take depends on your unique interests, long-term career goals, and factors such as time and tuition (an EdD may cost nearly twice as much since it requires twice as many credits). 

What To Look For In Educational Doctoral Degree Programs

Online vs. On-Campus Learning

In recent times, the number of “non-traditional” students attending courses online has started to outstrip the number of “traditional” on-campus learners. That is why major universities have developed online and hybrid programs for several of their popular program offerings, including EdD and EdS degrees. 

Online attendance is vastly more convenient for many students. There is no barrier to access, other than the need for a laptop and internet connection. There’s no commute, no scrabble to find parking, no walking half a mile from a parking lot to a building across campus in the heat or cold. 

The other significant benefit to online courses is, of course, the sheer flexibility of your time. Instead required class attendance at a specific hour, you can log in and study at your convenience. That’s perfect for working students, parents, or those with other commitments. 

That said, there are certainly pros to on-campus attendance. Many subjects are easier to learn in a hands-on, practical environment. Plus, every learner is different, and some find it hard to stay focused without a rigid schedule and the physical presence of a teacher lecturing in front of them. Of course, one of the biggest draws of in-person attendance is the face-to-face social component, which technology simply cannot replicate. 

Note: Many EdD programs require some type of residency, so students can feel a stronger sense of community and access to peers and faculty. Read all program details carefully to ensure you’ll be able to meet applicable residency requirements, some of which may be as brief as a few days or weeks.  

Accreditation

Accreditation is a voluntary process that schools go through, during which an authorized external agency assesses the institution or its programs for quality assurance purposes. There are several regional agencies around the nation that perform these functions for schools that desire it. 

Even though schools aren’t required to go through accreditation, most do because it gives them a comprehensive and objective review that holds significant value to the schools if they pass. 

Accreditation is a seal of approval, a confirmation to potential students and stakeholders that an institution has met or exceeded appropriate educational standards. Schools can still operate without institutional and programmatic accreditation, but they may be ineligible for certain types of state or federal funding. In addition, many schools won’t accept transfer credits from a non-accredited institution. 

As noted by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, programmatic accreditation is specifically for “specialized and professional programs in a range of fields and disciplines within institutions.” EdD and EdS students should ensure that both their school and their specific program are accredited by applicable agencies. 

The six national agencies authorized by the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to accredit schools are: 

  • The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • The New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
  • The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • The Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

A college’s school of education typically obtains relevant program accreditation from the State Department of Education, in addition to accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). 

Applying To Education Doctoral Programs

To apply to an EdD or EdS graduate program, you generally need to have your master’s degree completed already, though there may be rare individual exceptions depending on the school and applicant. Programs also often require a teaching certification and a certain amount of professional teaching experience. 

As with any grad program, expect a minimum GPA requirement, which varies from program to program. Simply meeting the minimum GPA requirement is no guarantee of admittance; most programs have limited openings, so you’ll need a competitive GPA, especially during years where there are a high number of applicants. 

Some programs require Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Miller Analogy Test (MAT) scores. As with GPAs, there may be a minimum score requirement listed, but the actual score needed to be a competitive applicant is a moving target. Note, some schools may waive or not require these standardized test scores.

Admission Requirements For EdD and EdS Programs

Every school has its own unique program requirements, but the below are standard admission requirements for EdD and EdS program candidates:

  • Master’s degree – Some schools might allow for applicants who only hold a bachelor’s but who can take sufficient prerequisite courses
  • Official transcripts 
  • Minimum GPA – The minimum GPA to qualify varies by grad school and program but is often 3.0. Remember, the minimum is not always competitive enough to be accepted
  • Statement of purpose – Review the program’s specific guidelines for what they want to see on this document
  • Resume/CV – Carefully review the program’s specific requirements for any work experience needed

Other common requirements may include:

  • Teaching certification  
  • Writing samples 
  • GRE or MAT scores (online programs may not require GRE/MAT scores; other programs may waive based on a high GPA or work history)

FAQ

Is a PhD more prestigious than an EdD?

A PhD takes longer to complete and qualifies holders for different roles. It is not a matter of prestige; it is simply a different degree for people with different goals. Generally speaking, a PhD in Education focuses more on academic research, while an EdD may be considered a more practical degree designed for leaders who work in a broad spectrum of positions. 

What is a doctorate degree in education?

A Doctor of Education (EdD) is a terminal professional degree focused not only on qualitative research but also on practical application to affect positive organizational change. Residency is a requirement for this degree type. 

How many years is a doctoral degree?

A Doctor of Education requires 60 credit hours in general, which can take up to three years with full-time program attendance or from 4-7 years for part-time. 

Is a doctoral degree in education worth it?

The value of a Doctor of Education (EdD) depends entirely on what you choose to do with the degree. It will help qualify grads for a number of high-paying, high-impact positions within the upper echelon of several organizational types.

Matt Cates

Matt is a retired Air Force veteran and former courtesy faculty at Oregon State University's AFROTC department. As a freelance copywriter and content creator, he's written for over 250+ companies around the world. Matt specializes in career and higher education topics, with the aim of helping students find the best college programs for their career goals.