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Best Online EdD Program in Higher Education

Online EdD programs in higher education administration give you the practical skills and technical credentials to take your career to the next level. Keep reading to learn more.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Ellery Weil

Last updated

Feb 27, 2024

Most people’s understanding of a career in education begins and ends with teaching. But higher education professionals know that teaching is only one facet of this diverse and ever-evolving field.

If you’ve been working in higher education, you know that the industry needs leaders — from department heads and upper-level administrators to policy makers — and that earning a Doctorate in Education (EdD) is a great way to become one. Unlike PhD programs, EdD programs are professional doctorates that lead to careers in practical roles in educational leadership rather than academia or research. And they’re becoming increasingly popular among prominent practitioners in the field, including First Lady Jill Biden.

If you’re ready to join them by enrolling in one of the many available EdD programs in higher education administration, your ideal school may be closer than you think — online EdD programs in higher education allow you to save money and hassle by studying from home, rather than relocating to campus with all the costs and inconvenience that may entail. Depending on course structure, they can also be a flexible way to study while you work. Keep reading to get the inside scoop on top programs, common courses, career paths, and more.

Inside Look at Online EdD Programs in Higher Education

As you begin your search for online EdD programs in higher education, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. While deciding which one is the right fit for you is a personal decision, there are a few high-quality programs you can explore to get a feel for what you may be looking for. Here are some examples to get you started:

Saint Peter’s University

At Saint Peter’s University, students can enroll in a fully-online EdD program that can be completed in as few as three and a half years. This program is designed for mid-career professionals working in higher education or a related field who are looking to advance to upper-level positions. As such, students are afforded a significant amount of flexibility with their online coursework, which is intended to make it feasible for them to continue to work full-time as they study.

Saint Peter’s prides itself on its diverse student body and affordable tuition — tuition is less than $1,000 per credit before financial aid.

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University is one of only a handful of institutions in the state that offers a predominantly online EdD program. As a student, you can choose between the school’s two tracks in this 60-credit online EdD in higher education administration– one focused on community college administration, and one focused on four-year college and/or university administration. Both allow you to complete most of your degree online, with only one in-person orientation, and three professional development summer sessions.

Courses for the EdD program are offered in a cohort model, with applications opening once per year for an autumn start date. The degree is designed to be completed over three years, including work and professional development over summers. You may transfer up to 30 credits from another program.

University of North Georgia

Unlike many EdD programs in higher education administration, the EdD in Higher Education Leadership and Practice (HELP) at the University of North Georgia emphasizes its cross-disciplinary nature, meaning you will study not only higher education practice, but also education theory, and the impact of education policy on higher education more broadly. This 60-credit online program is designed for working professionals, with asynchronous classes for enhanced flexibility and no GRE score required to apply. There are also professional development opportunities, including conferences and networking opportunities, available during your time in the program.

Cohorts begin once a year, during the autumn, with a set application deadline. As a state university, the University of North Georgia offers tuition assistance programs for Georgia residents, but research assistantships are also available for online EdD HELP students (funding permitting) regardless of residency status.

Common Courses in Higher Education Administration Programs

Once you’ve enrolled in an online EdD program in higher education administration, you’ll have the chance to enroll in elective classes in areas that interest you, in addition to the courses required to complete your program. To give you a better idea of what to expect, take a look at a few of the courses you’re likely to encounter during your degree:

Funding in Higher Education

Running an institution of higher education is a major financial endeavor — higher education administrators need to consider departmental budgets, funding for student support services, and more. This course will walk you through the financial aspects of higher education, and how to approach them on the job.

Globalization and Higher Education

The world is getting smaller and more connected – and that includes the world of higher education. This course will explore how globalization impacts higher education, from the opportunities and challenges it presents to the steps educators must take to prepare students to enter a global job market.

History of Higher Education

Higher education has been around in one form or another for centuries, with some of the oldest universities having been founded over a thousand years ago. While online EdD programs in higher education are relatively new, they’re part of that legacy – one you’ll study in this class. Learn the origins and evolution of higher education, from early universities through modern EdD programs in higher education administration.

Leadership and Administration in Student Affairs

As a future leader in higher education, this course will prepare you for one of your most critical responsibilities: caring for your students. This course will teach you how to be a proactive leader to the student body.

Policy Analysis and Issues in Higher Education

Higher education is strongly impacted by government policy – particularly, but not exclusively, in the case of state schools. This course will provide you with the foundations of education policy, and how they impact higher education at the community college, undergraduate, and graduate levels.

Research Inquiry

As a terminal degree, your EdD program will almost certainly include a research project requirement. This portion of your degree will require you to formulate an original research question, design a method of inquiry, conduct your research, and then write and possibly defend your results to professors in the field.

Career Paths and Pay for Graduates of EdD in Higher Ed Programs

Once you’ve completed your EdD, you’ll be qualified for a variety of different careers, at both higher education institutions and in related fields. Here are a few of the roles you may be interested in pursuing after graduating with your EdD in higher education administration:

Chief Student Affairs Officer

Student affairs is a major department that handles everything from financial aid to student accommodation, to recreation and extracurricular activities. After completing your EdD, you’ll be qualified for a role as a Chief Student Affairs Officer, a managerial position overseeing one of these aspects of student affairs and ensuring its successful implementation.

Average National Pay: $45,745

Dean of Students

Similar to the role of a school principal in a K-12 setting, in higher education the Dean of Students is the head of all things related to student experience. Unlike student affairs officers, the Dean of Students may also function as a direct representative and point-of-contact to the students themselves on a personal level, making a background in educational theory especially useful.

Average National Pay: $70,082

Education Administrator

One of the most obvious and well-known career paths for graduates of EdD programs in higher education administration is that of an education administrator. In a higher education setting, education administrators can oversee all aspects of the institution’s functioning, with roles available centering around academics, finances, faculty research, and more. Given the diverse and complex roles of a college or university, administrators are in high demand, and can be very well-compensated.

Average National Pay: $99,940

Policy Maker

While many policy makers have backgrounds in political science, an EdD can qualify you to work in education policy at the local, state, or even federal government level. Having hands-on education experience and an understanding of the theory and historical context of education can help you implement effective higher education policy that positively impacts thousands of students.

Average National Pay: $128,020

Your FAQs, Answered

Choosing your doctoral program is not something you should do lightly, so it’s understandable if you still have a few questions. To help clear up any remaining confusion or concerns, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from prospective EdD students.

Are EdD programs in higher education accredited and by whom?

High quality EdD programs are accredited. This accreditation guarantees the quality of your program and lends legitimacy to the degree you earn through it — it is vital that you attend an accredited EdD program. EdD programs can earn accreditation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Are there fully funded EdD programs online?

There are a variety of different ways to pay for your online EdD in higher education. Although fully funded EdD programs are rare, the most affordable online EdD programs offer generous financial aid packages based either on demonstrated need, or academic merit. If your program doesn’t offer these opportunities, look into private scholarship opportunities and research assistantships to help fund your studies.

Can I be a university professor with an EdD in higher education?

Typically, university professors hold a PhD, rather than an EdD. An EdD is meant to prepare you for a career working in the education sector, rather than conducting research in academia — as is the typical role of a professor. However, it is possible to teach college courses with an EdD, particularly at the community college level.

Can I get a Doctor of Education online without a dissertation?

As a terminal degree, your EdD program will almost certainly require some form of original research project in order to graduate. However, some programs do offer students the opportunity to conduct an applied research project in lieu of a traditional dissertation; these dissertation-free EdD programs can be a good option for students who are reluctant to conduct the exhaustive, highly theoretical research a dissertation typically entails.

How much does an online EdD cost?

The prices of online EdD programs in higher education can vary significantly, but generally range from $21,000 to $55,000. You’ll have to look not only at cost-per-credit, but your eligibility for in-state tuition, and any additional fees or necessary equipment. You should also look into financial aid opportunities to find the true cost of your program. Attending a part-time doctoral program can also help you keep costs down.

Which is better, an EdD or a PhD?

Both an EdD and a PhD are legitimate doctorates, so there is no answer to which is better, only which is better for you. PhDs are typically geared toward those looking to pursue careers in research or academia, while EdDs, like MDs, are a professional doctorate meant for people who want to continue working in the field at top levels.