Online EdD Degree Guide: Specializations and Salaries

Many dedicated educators find themselves wanting more from their careers than what a bachelor’s degree offers them. An online doctor of education degree promises far-reaching opportunities to take on leadership positions in educational organizations. 

A doctoral degree grants its holder additional credibility and authority to take on challenges in school districts, government, and private and non-profit organizations. Not only does this advanced degree open the door to more professional options, but it can also significantly boost earning potential. Salaries for administrative and management positions and careers outside of education could command even higher amounts.

What is an Online EdD?

Doctoral degrees were once limited to those who were able to be physically present in a traditional classroom setting. This meant sacrificing a significant amount of time away from family and personal responsibilities, and often foregoing earning income. All that has changed with the growing availability and popularity of online doctoral programs. 

Though once viewed with skepticism, online education is now offered at the nation’s most respected academic institutions. Employers feel the same; according to the Society for Human Resources Management, 79 percent of organizations indicated that they’d hired a job applicant with an online degree in the previous year. 

Graduates holding online doctoral degrees from accredited programs are regarded with the same respect as those who have attended traditional brick-and-mortar programs. Online Programs consist of the same curriculum, core classes, and requirements as those offered in traditional settings, but have the added benefit of flexibility in their schedule, lower tuition, and the ability to continue working while pursuing their degrees. 

What Can I Do with a Doctor of Education Degree?

Educators who want to continue their teaching practice at a higher level find that a doctor of education degree will help them achieve their goals. With an EdD, you can take on leadership positions that allow you to be a real changemaker within 

  • K-12 schools
  • Institutes of higher learning
  • Government agencies
  • Private organizations
  • Non-profit organizations
  • The military

The education provided prepares you to conduct research and apply it in ways that improve and transform.

Online EdD Salaries

The range of salaries and careers available to those with a doctor of education degree vary. For those who choose to remain in a school-based environment as an education administrator, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the mean annual wage as $92,150, while those who move into training and development for private companies earn a median salary of $113,350. 

According to Payscale.com, those who take on policy-making roles such as those of a Chief Learning Officer can expect to earn an average salary of $154,949.

Online EdD Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who earn an online EdDhave achieved this level of education and expertise can anticipate a competitive job market, with the job outlook for elementary, middle and high school principals and postsecondary education administrators anticipated to grow at approximately 4% and the job outlook for instructional coordinators expected to grow at approximately 6%.

Though projections do not guarantee a future job or job growth and they vary based on which of the several career paths available to those with an online doctor of education degree, they can be helpful when deciding whether it is worthwhile to pursue a degree that may take several years to complete. 

Online EdD Career Paths

Choosing a career in education represents a commitment to improving the lives and circumstances of students. An online EdD degree extends the career options available, preparing them for positions as leaders and policymakers. Here are a few of the professions that an EdD degree leads to, along with annual median salary and projected job growth:

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)About the Position
Postsecondary Education Administrators$95,4104%These leaders make decisions and lead operations in colleges and universities, providing oversight of faculty, students, admissions and academic standards, and more.
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals$96,4004%Principals are the leaders of the schools in which they serve. They are the last word on all student and faculty activities and serve as the school’s face to the community. Principals are responsible for all aspects of site operations, including curriculum and school standards, budget, security, counseling, and personnel issues.
Postsecondary Teachers$79,5409%These are educators at the college and university level. They operate with a significant level of autonomy, creating their own curriculum and grading criteria.
Instructional Coordinators$66,2906%Responsible for the development and implementation of instructional material, as well as for assessing whether the program is effective or needs to be revised.
Source: BLS

Earning an Online EdD

Though online educational programs afford students a greater degree of freedom and flexibility, accredited programs have the same demanding criteria and standards. Earning an online EdD takes at least three years, and the program requires completion of approximately 60 credit hours  along with research and a dissertation. Even fully online programs often require students to attend some in-person classes and workshops, often scheduled for weekends two or three times per year. 

EdD vs PhD in Education

Once on the path to an advanced education degree, you’ll likely be forced to choose either an EdD or PhD program. Both are high-level degrees that offer high-quality education that qualifies graduates for a range of career opportunities, but there are differences between the two. 

While a doctor of education (EdD) is a professional degree that leans towards the practice of teaching, a doctor of philosophy (PhD) in Education is oriented towards research and teaching at the post-secondary level. PhD graduates focus on generating new knowledge while EdD graduates act on that knowledge, applying it for the betterment of their organization, institution, or community. 

Courses in Online EdD Programs

Every doctor of education program is different. Each is a reflection of both its subject area and specialty as well as the philosophy of its faculty and administration. Still, there are some core courses that shape educator effectiveness and drive innovative approaches to learning, and are therefore likely to be included in every curriculum. Some potential courses include:

  • Curriculum Development and Evaluation – Examines the history of educational curriculum creation, the political and cultural impacts that need to be considered, and the use of data for evaluation in planning and management.
  • Legal Trends in Educational Policy – Addresses the diverse legal and political factors that play a role in school management, providing students with an understanding of what has previously shaped educational policy. Provides understanding of the roles of local government, stakeholders, and community engagement in public school policy and administration.
  • Issues in Special Education – Examines the many issues that educators need to consider in crafting a special education program, including over-and under-representation, intervention, testing, teacher shortages, adult outcomes and transitions, gifted education, teaming, funding, policy and law.
  • Educational Research Design and Measurement – Provides basic competencies in understanding and evaluating educational research as well as planning and conducting original research, including methodologies, research design, sample selection, experimental research and data analysis. 

How Long Does an Online EdD Program Take to Finish?

Before committing to an online EdD program, it’s a good idea to understand how long it will take to complete the program. Most EdD programs will require three years, though there are multiple factors that can play a role including:

  • How many credits a student carries from previous graduate studies
  • Whether an online program offers classes synchronously or asynchronously
  • Whether a student studies full time or part-time
  • Whether an accelerated program is available

Skills Learned in an Online EdD Program

Graduates of online EdD programs leave their programs armed with enhanced knowledge of educational theory as well as essential leadership skills and practical teaching tools. 

  • They gain better understanding of student outcomes and how a curriculum can reflect and guide student skills. 
  • They learn to recognize and identify where change is needed and the steps required to implement large-scale educational transformation
  • They gain greater familiarity with the many tools available to support both teachers and students
  • They learn the importance of fostering strong relationships with students, teachers, parents and the community through communication, emotional intelligence, and empathetic outreach.
  • They learn to use and research to measure progress and apply it to increase success.

Choosing an Online Doctorate in Education

Selecting the online EdD program that best fits you requires evaluating both the programs themselves and your own needs and interests. Schools vary based on reputation, cost, accreditation, class schedule, and quality of faculty, as well as on whether they offer general EdD programs or any of the many specializations available. Doctoral candidates should invest as much effort in identifying their own priorities and career goals as in comparing the distinctive elements offered by each program.

Online EdD Degree Specializations

The study of education encompasses a wide range of subjects, and while many online EdD programs touch on areas of interest and provide a broad base of knowledge, others focus on specific areas. Graduates with EdD degrees in these concentrations are able to move forward as authorities within their chosen specialization. Available concentrations include:

  • Design of Learning Environment – Teaches graduates to apply the science of instructional design to create a learning environment most conducive to student and organizational success.
  • Educational Leadership – Helps graduates become more effective leaders and change agents with the ability to apply research and improved management and organizational skills to effect positive transformation.
  • Special Education – Teaches graduates evidence-based practice for students with disabilities, preparing them to become administrators and specialists of special education services, to teach special educators at the university level, to guide gen ed teachers in the needs of special ed students, and to become leaders in allied service agencies and organizations. 
  • Educational Technology – Graduates are instructed in leveraging new and emerging technologies to facilitate learning and development in both the workplace and in educational settings. They are prepared to analyze and assess how enhanced technology can be developed and implemented into a learning environment.
  • Higher Education Administration – Graduates are instructed in inspiring and facilitating change in educational organizations through increased understanding of management organization and processes, research, program evaluation, and data-based decision analysis.
  • Adult Learning – Graduates attain understanding in the relationship of adult learning to organizational and leadership issues as well as social and cultural issues. Focus is on developing the skills needed to enable, lead, assess and plan strategically for adult learning inside and outside of the classroom, in educational settings and in the workplace. 

Online vs. On Campus Education Programs

As technologies improve and student communities continue to evolve, more and more schools offer EdD programs online. Some programs are entirely online while others combine in-person and online education into hybrid programs. 

Schools also offer either synchronous courses, taught in real-time with live engagement with faculty and other students or asynchronous courses with pre-recorded modules that students can access at their own convenience.

Online programs were once rumored to offer a diminished level of rigor and quality, but employers and peers recognize that lectures do not need to be delivered in campus buildings to be effective. Students can engage just as meaningfully — and sometimes more so — when their coursework is taught online. 

Should I Complete Courses Online?

Because most online EdD programs are taught by the same faculty as their in-person counterparts, students picking between online and in-person courses have the freedom of choosing based entirely on their own learning styles and preferences. While studying online offers significant cost savings, flexibility, and the ability to continue working, many students prefer direct engagement with a learning cohort and one-on-one time with advisors and faculty. Different students have different needs, and the decision should be based entirely on what is best for you.

How Long do Online Courses Take to Complete?

The amount of time that it takes to complete an online EdD course depends entirely upon the program, but most follow a typical semester schedule. Some variability may exist between programs that offer their courses synchronously versus asynchronously, in a hybrid format, or in an accelerated and self-directed way, moving ahead if they wish on their own schedule.

Accreditation

An online EdD degree requires a tremendous amount of dedication, so being able to assure future employers of the quality of the degree they’ve attained is critical. That’s why when applying to programs, consideration should only be given to programs that are accredited. Accreditation is a confirmation that an educational program has met the criteria demanded by the regional agencies that the Department of Education has entrusted with their review. These accrediting agencies include:

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

Applying to Online EdD Degree Programs

Doctoral programs receive applications from candidates who are highly motivated, and each has limited space available. It is important that you pay close attention to the various deadlines and unique requirements detailed in each program’s admissions. 

Admission Requirements for Online EdD Programs

Once you have identified the online EdD degree programs that you’re interested in, it’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet that details each required element and submission deadlines so you can carefully track your progress and ensure that you have met all requirements. Though each program sets its own criteria for assessing applicants, some common components include:

  • Completed application form and submission of all associated fees
  • Transcripts and a master’s degree in an education related field of study. Most doctoral-level programs will require a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Official scores from the standardized Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Most doctoral-level programs require that applicants score a 155.
  • Professional resume and several years of professional teaching experience.
  • Letters of reference 
  • Personal statement expressing goals and demonstrating writing ability
  • Personal interview

Paying for an Online Education Doctoral Degree

Even with online programs generally charging lower tuition than in-person doctoral programs, the task of paying for an online education doctoral degree can be daunting. Fortunately, choosing a web-based degree lets students keep working to self-fund at least some of the costs of the program. 

Additionally, many workplaces offer tuition reimbursement as part of their benefits package, including school districts which encourage employees to seek professional advancement within the education industry. Candidates can also apply for federal financial aid by filling out the FAFSA and apply for scholarships, grants, and fellowships offered by non-profit organizations, corporations, and the institution to which they are applying.

How Much Does an Online EdD Cost?

Tuition continues to play an important role when selecting a school and program. There are numerous factors that impact how much a program costs, including 

  • Public vs private school
  • In-state vs out-of-state tuition
  • Reputation
  • Educational level of the program’s faculty

Online programs generally cost less than those administered in person, and you also avoid spending on additional expenses such as commuting and room and board. 

Data reported as part of the 2012 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study showed that published tuition and fees for 21 percent of graduate students in professional practice degree programs were below $10,000 and $30,000 or higher for thirty percent of students. With the program taking approximately three years to complete, candidates should assume that their total tuition will cost anywhere from $30,000 to $90,000.

Scholarships for Online EdD Students

Even the most economically priced online doctoral degree could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, candidates for these programs can find countless scholarships, with some specifically reserved for those pursuing their studies online or in education.  Scholarship and grant options include:

  • NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship – Offered through the National Academy of Education, thirty five of these $27,500 fellowships are available each year to anyone who has proposed a research dissertation on how to improve education standards in the U.S. Applicants must be candidates for a doctoral program at a U.S. university.
  • Gates Millennium Foundation – Available as a full scholarship that can be applied for doctoral studies, the GMF’s ideal recipient is hoping to pursue education as a career. It is available to students who are ethnic minorities within the U.S. and either a citizen, permanent resident or American national.
  • Federal TEACH Grant – Federal grants and scholarships available to graduate and post-baccalaureate programs associated with teaching. It is valued at up to $4,000 per year, is only available for those attending certain programs, and requires a commitment to teach in deprived schools or a high needs field for at least four of the eight years after receiving the grant.
  • AASA Education Administration Scholarship – Aimed at assisting graduate degree students who wish to hold an administration role in a school or college, the award is valued at $2,500 per applicant. 

Online EdD Career Resources

Candidates for admission to online EdD programs can access additional resources from the following professional organizations:

  • American Federation of Teachers – The American Federation of Teachers is the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union. Its members include educators at all levels and in numerous industries. 
  • Association of American Educators – The AAE is a national, non-union, non-partisan professional educators’ association dedicated to advancing the profession through personal growth, professional development, teacher advocacy and protection.
  • Association of Leadership Educators – The ALE is an organization of educators who teach leadership in a variety of fields and contexts – both formal and nonformal as well as for profit and nonprofit.
  • National Education Association – The NEA is a labor union that represents public school teachers and support personnel, faculty and staff at post-secondary institutions, retired educators, and those seeking education as teachers.
  • School Superintendents Association – Formerly known as the American Association of School Administrators, the AASA is the top professional organization for educational leaders across the United States.

FAQ

How much does it cost to get an EdD?

Doctoral degree costs vary widely depending upon variables including whether an institution is public or private, online or in-person. Assuming an average annual cost per credit of a doctoral degree is between $350 and $775, bringing the total cost for 60-to-66 credits to between $21,000 and $55,000, plus expenses.

Do you call an EdD a doctor?

The honorific of “doctor” is appropriate based upon the individual’s achieved level of education but is also a matter of personal preference. 

Is a PhD higher than an EdD?

Both the PhD and the EdD are terminal degrees in education. The difference between the two lies in whether they have pursued a degree designed for educational leadership and practice (EdD) or geared towards research and academia (PhD).

How do I apply for an EdD?

After identifying the programs that interest you the most, complete their application, taking care to gather all required documents required for consideration and submit them in time for the program’s published deadlines. 

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