Finding Your Online Doctorate in Education (EdD) Program

If you’re an educator considering earning your EdD degree, you might be wondering if you’ll be able to manage school with your other responsibilities. Online EdD programs make it possible. Search online EdD programs, see top colleges, and learn what it takes to apply, enroll, and succeed.

Written By Staff

Last updated

Jul 14, 2022

The doctorate in education (EdD) has become a popular credential for working educators looking advance their careers. EdD programs offer extensive coursework and research opportunities in leadership, curriculum and instruction, policy making, and administration. Online EdD programs have taken the degree even further, giving working educators the flexibility they need to take classes without leaving their full-time jobs.

How do I find the right online EdD program? What’s the difference between an EdD and a PhD in education? How long does it take to earn an online EdD?

You’ll learn the answers to these questions, discover how to identify your academic wants and needs, and find the online EdD programs that meet those wants and needs here. Whether you’re interested in program basics, need help with the application process, or want to see the best or most affordable online EdD programs, we can help.

Best Online EdD Programs for 2021

While the best program for someone else may not be the best program for you, there are some distinct ways you can find your own best EdD online program. Features of programs such as affordability, flexibility, specializations offered, networking opportunities, quality and rigor of study, and more are all program specifics you’ll want to look at when deciding which program matches your goals. We’ve examined online EdD programs throughout the country to find the best, and we spotlight two of those programs here.


Johns Hopkins University

As one of the pioneering online EdD programs in the U.S., Johns Hopkins University helps students thrive in scholarship, professional development, and networking with fellow educational leaders. JHU’s online EdD program is designed for current teachers/educators, requires 54-57 credits for completion, and does not require GRE exam scores to apply.

  • Year-one paperThis paper begins with a problem of practice (POP) and includes both primary and secondary research and sourcing. Students work with an advisor throughout the summer after year one to revise and enhance the paper for submission in August.
  • Year-one self-assessmentThe self-assessment is a paper submitted to advisors that indicates the student’s progress toward year one goals and competencies.
  • Comprehensive examsA pivotal point in the student’s program, this involves an oral examination at the end of year two. Students are required to verbally answer four questions posed by their dissertation advisory committee (DAC). If they pass, students transition to the dissertation portion of the program.
  • Dissertation proposalThe outcome of the student’s first two years in the program. Approval of the proposal by the DAC signals transition to candidacy and actual dissertation work.
  • Applied dissertationStudents research and work on a project related to their chosen POP. Throughout the process, they must begin crafting their introduction, frame the context of their dissertation, and present their outcomes and conclusions.
  • Dissertation defenseAfter rounds of feedback with an advisor, presentation and defense of the dissertation in front of the DAC. If passed, the student can submit the dissertation to the library for publication.

The online EdD at Johns Hopkins offers three specializations for the 2021 cohort:

  • Entrepreneurial Leadership in Education
  • Mind, Brain & Teaching
  • Instructional Design in Online Teaching and Learning.

University of Florida

The University of Florida’s online EdD in curriculum and teaching is an intensive, cohort-based program that takes four years to complete and requires at least 60 credits to be completed. Dissertation credits are included in this amount. Although mostly online, the program does require five on-campus visits: one week during each summer of enrollment, one day for comprehensive exams after year two, and one day for defense of the dissertation. The program culminates with the student’s successful defense of their dissertation in a public forum. Key elements of the program include:


Strong ties between theory and research to actual problems within the student’s context.


Coursework and projects that support the application of research and learning.


Core competence in three areas of expertise: educational theory, pedagogy, and research expertise.

For more information, including credit requirements and tuition and fees, read the University of Florida’s brochure on their online EdD program.

Benefits of the Online EdD Program

Not all online EdDs are the same, but many provide the same core benefits to help their students achieve success. Let’s take a more detailed look at these benefits.


Convenience and flexibility
Because many EdD students take classes while they’re working as teachers, counselors, or administrators, the flexibility of the online option can be critical. For example, some online programs allow you to set your own roadmap to graduation, meaning you can take one, two, or sometimes three courses per quarter, depending on whether you’re a full- or part-time student. Some even give you the chance to submit your coursework with movable or extended deadlines, which is great for students with family commitments.


Advance your career
The EdD helps prepare students for careers in educational administration and leadership. Graduates often move into positions such as public or private school principal, school district superintendent, college dean, and education consultant. Unlike the education PhD, which concentrates mostly on research and college instruction, EdD coursework focuses more on assessing and addressing student needs, creating and fostering relationships with and among teachers, and crafting and implementing policies to drive improved educational outcomes. The foundation of the degree lies in the direct application of research, policies, and improvements at the classroom level.

Types of Online EdD Programs Available

Online EdD programs attract a diverse group of adult learners, from newer elementary school teachers to high school administrators with more than 30 years of classroom experience. This diversity is great for the profession and the students, but it means that a degree program that’s perfect for one student may be less than ideal for another. More colleges and universities understand this challenge and continue to add variety to their online EdD programs, including part-time options, hybrid solutions, or the waiving of certain prerequisites for candidates who haven’t seen an entrance exam in years. Here are three ways today’s schools are hitting this need head on.

Part-time online EdD programs

Some students who earn their EdD online do so part-time. While some colleges expect full-time students to complete their coursework and dissertation within three years, part-time students usually finish within five years, with a maximum of 7seven years for dissertation completion. Make sure you check a part-time EdD’s graduation requirement before enrolling.

  • Best for working educators with full-time classroom or administrative positions and/or students who have multiple non-work and non-school commitments to juggle.

Full-time online EdD programs

Students enrolled full-time are typically expected to complete both their coursework and their dissertation within three years, although some programs may allow you finish your dissertation in five. Students set on graduating quickly may find accelerated programs with a two-year curriculum.

  • Best for students who won’t be working full-time while in school or those who have few responsibilities outside of work and school. Students on a timeline, whether financial or career-wise, may consider this option, too.

Hybrid EdD programs

Hybrid and blended EdD programs combine in-class and online elements. Much of the coursework may be completed or submitted virtually, but students typically meet in-person three to four times per quarter. This facilitates networking among future educational leaders and allows members of the cohort to work on projects together.

  • Best for EdD candidates who thrive on interaction with others but still want some time and place flexibility.

Online EdD programs with no GRE required

A growing number of graduate-level online programs are moving away from test scores. They’re focused on students who have years of experience in their fields already, and this kind of experience isn’t quantified on an entrance exam. Many of today’s online EdD programs don’t require submission of a GRE score, instead looking more closely at degrees already earned, work experience, courses completed, and GPA. If you’re interested in earning your EdD online and taking the GRE just isn’t in the cards, learn more about the schools that offer online EdD programs with no GRE required.

  • Best for educators with years of experience and/or who may not thrive on an entrance exam. Those likely to stand out in other areas of the application process.

Timeline: The Online Doctorate in Education

Most EdD programs consist of 50–60 credits. There are several outliers and exceptions depending on how many classes you take each semester, including whether your program is on semesters or quarters and how many credits you receive for capstone or dissertation work. Some students finish in three years, while many take four or five years to finish. Most programs realize that their students are working professionals with other responsibilities outside of their studies, and thus they give up to seven years to complete the doctorate degree. While your experience may differ, here’s what you can expect to be doing each year in your EdD program.


Students will take two core classes in the fall, two core classes in the spring, one or two classes in the summer, and begin their dissertation work in the summer. Assuming students are on a semester schedule, they will earn three credits for each class, putting them at earning 18 coursework credits in one year. Dissertation work usually receives credit, which could bring your credit count after year one to 21. Keep in mind that credits are calculated differently depending on the school. Classes taken the first year include topics such as research methods and systematic inquiry, contemporary approaches to educational problems, and educational organizational leadership.


Year two students in the online EdD program will continue the trend of taking two classes in the fall and two in the spring, earning them 12 credits in total. There will be a combination of core classes and classes in the specialization taken. Summer will be devoted to dissertation work, though students will continue to do the work required on their dissertations throughout the year. They should have their initial topic research done and be able to submit a draft of their topic and defense of that topic. They typically will also study for and take a comprehensive examination on what they have learned thus far. The dissertation and examination work may be worth another three to six credits.


The pattern of two class in the fall and two classes in the spring continues in year three, but core classes have been completed and classes taken this year will be in the students’ specialization and elective categories. By the end, students will have taken 4 electives and four specializations along with the core courses. Dissertation work will continue to dominate much of a student’s time. If they are finishing the program in three years, students will have begun writing the dissertation during this time and be ready to present and defend it sometime during or after the summer of the third year.

Year 4 to 7

For students who have opted to pursue the online EdD at a slower pace, there are a few options on how they may choose to space out their work. For example, they may take only one class per semester while pushing to get the dissertation done, or they may take as many classes per year as the students who finish in three years, but will opt to take up to seven years to finish the dissertation. It’s not unusual for graduate students to have completed all coursework and then take longer to finish and defend the dissertation.

Learning Outcomes for the Online EdD

EdD programs online vary in course offerings and graduation requirements, but they all have specific learning goals that students must demonstrate mastery of in order to graduate. Learning outcomes form the foundation of any educational program. Learning outcomes are the mission statement of the EdD program and should be clearly stated by whatever EdD program you choose.  Here’s an example of the learning outcomes you should expect to take away from your doctorate program in education.


Analyze and critique educational research and practice
Students should be versed in topic identification, sourcing, collecting primary and secondary research materials, and constructing a logical thesis. They should be able to identify the connections between research, policy, and practice in education.


Students are ready and able to provide leadership in their professional education practice through action and should have the ability to integrate diverse opinions, ideas, and beliefs.


Student should exhibit a high level of oral and written communication among diverse audiences including students, parents, faculty members, administrators, community members, and public officials. Graduates should be comfortable with contributing to the public discourse and advocating for educational improvements, while also being able to listen and synthesize information.


Applied quantitative methods to research
Students can leverage existing social science and/or social psychological data to inform their own education-focused research. Graduates are comfortable with statistical data and analyses and using them to solve problems in a leadership environment.


Implement policy
Apply stringent methodology to study and intervene when necessary on educational problems and implement policy changes within their own educational communities.

Online EdD Specialization: Find Where You Can Make an Impact

When considering a specialization track in your EdD online program here are some questions to keep in mind:


What about education and teaching gets you up in the morning? Working with teachers one-on-one? Creating a classroom environment to maximize student engagement and academic success? Maybe it’s improving standardized testing to ensure all students are assessed fairly? Whatever your passion may be, keep it firmly in mind when selecting your track.


Is there a part of education that you shy away from, either consciously or unconsciously? Maybe policy making just isn’t your cup of tea. Assessing what you don’t want to study can be just as critical as nailing down what you do.


Is your school or district looking to expand? Does the district constantly struggle with budgeting and funding? Take a hard look at where the real challenges lie around you; that could also be where the opportunities lie.

The following specializations are some of the most popular EdD concentrations across the country. Use them as a starting point for further research as you narrow down and find your ideal online EdD program.   

  • Leadership/Administration:A leadership/administration concentration covers the gamut of educational management including educational law and leadership trends, budgeting & finance, and conflict management. Students may also have the option to specialize even further. Some programs give you the opportunity to focus on leadership in different educational settings, such as becoming a superintendent in an urban district or a dean at the university level.
  • Curriculum and instruction:A curriculum & instruction concentration attracts practicing educators who want to learn and apply practical changes to their classrooms or schools. Students often bring challenges from their own educational environments and use what they learn in the program to solve them. This can be in the form of a dissertation or clinical experiences.
  • Culture and community:This specialization is for educators and future administrators interested in equality and social justice in education. Issues covered include globalization, gender, class, race, LGBTQIA, linguistic diversity, and community relations. Coursework and projects may focus on creating change in one or more of these areas, taking research and theory and creating practical methods for integrating findings into a district, school, or classroom setting.
  • Higher education:This specialization attracts students who wish to affect change in a college setting as a provost or dean. Leading in a college environment requires in-depth knowledge of multiple educational areas, including general administration, higher education systems, financing/budgeting, research methods, student affairs, community building, and law.

Accreditation of Online EdD Programs

Accreditation offers assurance to students that the schools and programs they are attending meets stringent standards for curriculum, learning outcomes, student services, faculty quality, transparency, and financial health. Accreditation also shows potential employers that the institution where you received your degree offers a rigorous course of study in your degree area. Accreditation can also enable you to transfer credits and have them recognized from one accredited program to another, and institutions must be accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its students to be eligible to receive federal financial aid.

It’s important to ensure that your chosen school has received accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. You can look up any schools you’re considering attending on the department’s website to see if they have received regional accreditation.

Another type of accreditation is professional program accreditation. While regional accreditation ensures the school you’re attending adheres to rigorous standards, professional accreditation shows that the program you’re attending adheres to the standards of the profession you’re studying. One such accreditation for education programs, including the EdD, is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). You can check with CAEP to see if your EdD program is accredited.

Applying to an Online EdD Program

Although many online EdD programs have a core set of prerequisites and application requirements, variation does exist. For example, colleges that cater to a more experienced student body may put less emphasis on standardize tests. In contrast, schools or programs with a focus on statistical analysis in education may look for students with a strong quantitative score on the GRE. Let’s take a look at a few common program requirements and how they could impact your online EdD journey.

  • A master’s degree in a relevant field.Most online EdD programs require the candidate to have earned a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher. Others may go further and require applicants to have a 3.0 in all upper-division coursework, as well.
  • GRE scores.As with a graduate degree, some online EdDs don’t require submission of a GRE score. This can depend on the type of program and the students it tends to attract. However, standard programs look for applicants with GRE scores within the following ranges (with tougher schools and programs on the higher end):
    • Verbal: 140 – 150
    • Quantitative: 140 – 150
    • Writing: 3 – 4
  • Official transcripts.Sealed transcripts from both your undergraduate and graduate institutions. There’s a fee for processing these from the school, usually $25.
  • Letters of recommendation.Although you can get letters of recommendation or reference from anyone who can attest to your knowledge, skills, drive, etc., a strong letter from a leader in the education field can go a long way. Think about principals, superintendents, and other administrative faculty. And if you don’t know anyone in those positions, start networking now.
  • Problem or practice statement.Many online EdDs want to know that you can perform a quality research project, one that involves quantitative data and aims to solve a practical issue in education. This gives an admissions committee confidence that you can complete a dissertation at the highest level.

Tuition for the Online EdD

One of the most important questions you’ll ask yourself before deciding on an online EdD program will be: can I afford it? Any degree program at the graduate level, whether on campus or online, comes with a set of costs that applicants need to be understand fully. To help you decide if an online EdD makes sense financially, here’s a breakdown of the tuition and fees you’ll encounter, along with several ways you can drive down the price of your degree with scholarships, grants, financial aid, and loan forgiveness specifically for educators.

Tuition rates can vary across online EdDs, ranging from the low hundreds per credit hour to nearly $2,000.

SchoolCost per CreditTotal CreditsSubtotal
University of Illinois-Champagne$47364$30,272
Concordia University$64459$37,996
Northeastern University$82960$49,740
Drexel University Online$1,26561$77,165
Baylor University$1,71661$104,676
USC-Rossier Online$1,86360$111,780

Note: You have a number of options when it comes to paying for your online EdD including federal student loans, private loans, scholarships, employer assistance, and more. If you have your bachelor’s or master’s already, you’re likely familiar with the application and repayment processes. To learn about funding opportunities specific to the EdD, please visit our guides to financial aid & scholarships. And if you’re looking to save the most on tuition and rely less on financial aid, consider a school that made our list of most affordable online EdD programs.

Salaries for the Online Doctorate in Education

Earning the EdD is a requirement to move into leadership careers in education, including school superintendent or principal. reports those holding a master’s degree in education make an average of around $58,000 across the nation, but those with an EdD can see an increase of average salary to around $78,000. There’s no doubt pursuing a EdD in education offers the potential for much higher pay. PayScale reports the following salaries for professionals who have earned the doctorate in education:

Job TitleMedian Earnings90th Percentile Earnings
Academic Dean$92,000$160,000
Elementary School Principal$84,000$121,000
Instructional Designer$63,000$86,000