Aug 09, 2023
The EdD (Doctor of Education) has become a sought-after qualification for educators who wish to progress in their careers. EdD programs provide a comprehensive curriculum and research opportunities in areas such as leadership, curriculum and instruction, policy-making, and administration. Online EdD programs have made this degree even more accessible, enabling working educators to take courses without disrupting their full-time jobs due to the added flexibility.
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?
This guide will provide answers to common questions about online EdD programs, assist in identifying individual academic wants and needs, and guide individuals to online EdD programs that align with their interests. Whether seeking information about program fundamentals, guidance with the application process, or recommendations for the top online EdD programs, we are here to assist.
Best Online EdD Programs for 2023
Although the ideal online EdD program may vary from person to person, there are certain factors to consider when searching for the best program that meets your individual needs. Key program features to evaluate include affordability, flexibility, offered specializations, networking opportunities, quality and rigor of coursework, and more. Careful consideration of these program specifics can help you determine which online EdD program aligns with your career goals.
We’ve used these and other important factors to create a list of the best online EdD programs for 2023. Learn more about our top-ranked programs below, and see if one has what you’re looking for in your education doctorate.
American International College offers a doctorate of education program that specializes in mental health counseling and is designed for those with a master's in psychology or social work. Applicants with master's degrees in related fields may also be considered. While this is an EdD doctorate education program, the curriculum pulls coursework from psychology and social work as well. All courses are online, though they are offered in a live format. Students must also complete an in-person placement experience at a local school near them. Depending on the circumstance, this might be able to be completed online, but this depends on the placement site, not American International College. Applicants also need to answer essay and short answer questions and submit three letters of recommendation to be considered.
Doctorate of Education in Mental Health Counseling
- Credits: 66
- Length: 3 years
- Cost: $830/credit
- Mode: Online
- Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
George Washington University offers a doctorate of educational leadership and administration program that focuses on K-12 leadership. It's designed for students who already have their teaching license and previous education coursework. Classes cover topics such as education leadership theory, education planning, and education statistics. The curriculum also includes general research courses. The 48 credit hours can be taken online, on-campus, or through a hybrid of both delivery formats. If students choose to take online classes, all sessions are live and require in-class participation. Students also complete a dissertation, which can be completed online in many cases. To graduate, students need to successfully defend their thesis and pass a comprehensive exam determined by the university.
Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Adminstration
- Credits: 48
- Length: 2-4 years
- Cost: $1,485/credit
- Mode: Online
- Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
The University of Wisconsin's La Crosse campus offers a rigorous doctorate of education. Since the three year program focuses on student affairs administration and leadership, it is an ideal program for anyone interested in student affairs or a related area of higher education administration. All coursework is completed online, making it possible to complete the degree and never step foot on campus. Students also complete a dissertation, which they start in the second year. To graduate, students must defend this dissertation. All dissertation meetings with a faculty supervisor can take place online. To make the program more affordable, all students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of state residency. Successful applicants should have a master's degree in the field and three years of work experience.
Doctorate of Education
- Credits: 54
- Length: 3 years
- Cost: $700/credit
- Mode: Online
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
West Virginia University hosts a rigorous and flexible doctorate of education specializing in higher education administration. To apply, students should have the minimum of a master's degree in higher education or a related field. The degree is designed for those who have an understanding of higher education and would like to become an expert in that area. The curriculum consists of higher education and research coursework. The latter culminates in a research project. Students also complete electives in a specialization of interest, such as college access or curriculum design. To make the degree more flexible, students can choose to complete this degree 100% online or in a hybrid format. Even in the fully online format, there is an internship component which often happens in person.
EdD in Higher Education Administration
- Credits: 72
- Length: 3 years
- Cost: $673/credit
- Mode: Hybrid or Fully Online
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
For students looking for an EdD program with a religious perspective, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offers an affordable option. The program curriculum consists of three parts: advanced education seminars, core doctorate seminars, and a dissertation. The core seminars are in topics such as Christian leadership. While students don't have to follow the Christian faith, this program may make more sense for applicants who are aligned with the Baptist church's teachings. Verified members of the Baptist faith are given priority consideration during the application process and a tuition discount. Students can choose to complete all coursework and their dissertation online or have a blend of online and on-campus learning. No matter which option they choose, students usually graduate within four years. To apply, applicants should have a bachelor's or master's in education and some experience in the field.
Doctor of Education (EdD)
- Credits: 40
- Length: 4 years
- Cost: $370
- Mode: Hybrid or Online
- Accreditation: Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation
Online EdD Program Spotlight
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
Flexibility is a crucial consideration for many EdD students, who often take courses while working in teaching, counseling, or administrative positions. Online programs offer a convenient option for working professionals, allowing them to set their own roadmap to graduation. Some online programs permit students to take one, two, or occasionally three courses per quarter, depending on their full-time or part-time status. Certain programs also offer moveable or extended deadlines for coursework, accommodating students with family responsibilities.
Advance your career
The EdD program is designed to equip students with the skills needed for careers in educational administration and leadership. Graduates often pursue roles as public or private school principals, school district superintendents, college deans, or education consultants. While the education PhD emphasizes research and college instruction, EdD coursework centers on evaluating and meeting student needs, building and strengthening relationships among teachers, and developing and executing policies to enhance educational outcomes. The program is built on the direct application of research, policies, and improvements at the classroom level, providing a practical foundation for graduates.
Types of Online EdD Programs Available
Online EdD programs attract a diverse range of adult learners, ranging from newly qualified elementary school teachers to high school administrators with decades of classroom experience. This diversity benefits both the profession and the students, but it also means that a program that suits one student may not be ideal for another. Recognizing this challenge, more colleges and universities are expanding their online EdD program offerings to include part-time options, hybrid solutions, or exemption of certain prerequisites for candidates who have not taken an entrance exam in years. This variety accommodates the unique needs of individual students, making the program more accessible and adaptable. Here are three ways today’s schools are hitting this need head on.
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.
Learning Outcomes for the Online EdD
Online EdD programs may differ in their course offerings and graduation requirements, but they all share specific learning objectives that students must achieve in order to graduate. Learning outcomes serve as the cornerstone of any educational program and should be clearly stated by the EdD program you choose. These learning outcomes represent the program’s mission statement and outline the knowledge, skills, and abilities that students must master to earn their degree. 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.
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:
Do you find fulfillment in working with teachers one-on-one to improve their performance? Do you have a passion for creating classroom environments that maximize student engagement and academic success? Or perhaps your interest lies in improving standardized testing to ensure that all students are assessed equitably? Whatever drives your enthusiasm, be sure to consider it carefully when selecting an EdD track. Focusing on your passion can provide direction and purpose to your academic journey, ultimately leading to greater personal and professional satisfaction.
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.
Accreditation of Online EdD Programs
Accreditation provides students with assurance that the schools and programs they attend meet rigorous standards for curriculum, learning outcomes, student services, faculty quality, transparency, and financial stability. Accreditation also demonstrates to potential employers that the institution where you earned your degree provides a robust course of study in your degree area. Additionally, accreditation enables students 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 their students to be eligible for 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
While many online EdD programs have similar prerequisites and application requirements, there may be variation between programs. Some colleges that primarily serve a more experienced student population may place less emphasis on standardized test scores. In contrast, 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.
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.
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.
Looking for inexpensive options that don’t compromise on quality? Check out our list of the 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. Payscale.com 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: