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Explore Online EdD Programs with No Dissertation Requirement

Online EdD programs with no dissertation requirement can help you enhance your skills with a practical emphasis on applying them. Discover top programs, common alternatives, and more below.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Angela Myers

Last updated

Feb 28, 2024

As an educator, you go back to school every year and are usually the one welcoming students into a new classroom. If you want to uplevel your career, though, it may be time to become a student again. To take on new challenges at work, a doctorate of education (EdD) online may be your next career move. An EdD prepares education professionals for leadership positions – principal, curriculum director, or superintendent, for example – in K-12 education. Compared to the research-heavy PhD, an EdD is more hands-on and applicable to roles in school districts.

Not all EdDs are created alike, though. Online EdD programs with no dissertation stand out as fast, convenient ways to get your doctorate while working full-time. These programs combine the flexibility of online learning with a more practical project than a dissertation.

To help, everything you need to know about online EdD programs without dissertations is compiled below. Keep reading to learn more about what dissertation alternatives look like, different concentrations available, and the qualities to consider as seen in a few stand-out online EdD programs with no dissertation.

Deep Dive into Online EdD Programs with No Dissertation

Choosing an EdD program is an important yet difficult decision. To make it easier, preliminary research on what marks a program as a cut above the rest is provided in this section. The following three online EdD programs without dissertations stand out in terms of academic rigor, financial aid options, and student support resources. Even if these programs aren’t right for you, their features can guide your search.

NSU Florida

When looking at online EdD programs with no dissertation, consider Nova Southeastern University’s EdD. Unlike a research-heavy PhD or doctorate, this program is for active practitioners. Students learn different educational theories and apply them in real-world settings instead of conducting additional research. Because of this focus, the program cultivates a hands-on leadership style that works well across various K-12 positions. Graduates work in a variety of fields with titles such as curriculum writer, administrator, and principal. Some also work as leaders of organizations, nonprofits, or athletic programs. Since most students work full-time while earning this EdD, the program is completely online, and virtual class sessions are often in the evenings. The school also works with employers to create impactful employer tuition assistance programs. While students can complete a dissertation if they desire, it is optional. Students who don’t complete a dissertation instead work on a strategic capstone project with a community partner.

Rockhurst University

Rockhurst University offers an online EdD designed for working professionals. Unlike other online EdD programs without dissertations, Rockhurst has four concentrations, so the program may suit a larger variety of career interests. Specializations include K-12 education, higher education, healthcare education, and organizational leadership. No matter which option you choose, the program is entirely online. Students of all four concentrations can graduate within two years and complete a capstone project instead of a dissertation. All four concentrations are also cohort-based, so students work together on projects and have ample opportunities to network with each other and alumni from the program. To deepen expertise, students can add graduate certificates that complement their concentration at no extra charge. An EdD at Rockhurst University costs $800 per credit, though the school does offer financial aid options to make the degree more affordable.

The University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi’s EdD program offers a robust education that meets working professionals where they are. It’s designed for those looking to become education administrators, either at the building or district level. That means the program has a heavy emphasis on leadership and applying educational theories in real-world settings. The program consists of live, synchronous class sessions held online at times convenient for most working professionals. Instead of a typical dissertation, students complete a capstone that addresses a real-world issue they are currently facing in their final year. Most students complete this degree in three years, but it is possible to finish it faster or slower, depending on how many credits a student wants to take each se

Understanding the Difference Between Dissertations & Their Alternatives

Before choosing from one of the many online EdD programs without dissertation requirements, it’s important to understand what a dissertation is as well as what alternatives exist. For a better idea, a definition and examples of a dissertation along with the three most common alternatives are given below.

Capstone Project

Virginia Commonwealth University defines a capstone as a “dissertation in practice.” That means an EdD capstone project is just as rigorous as a dissertation but focuses on solutions to a specific real-world problem instead of a theoretical problem. Typically, EdD candidates pair up with a community partner for their capstone project. They spend a semester or two learning about the problem the partner faces and then create a solution to the problem. Capstones take about a year to complete and result in a real-world solution. Sometimes, students also submit a shorter research paper on the subject, such as this capstone paper on the lives of tenure-track mothers.


A dissertation is a culminating work that outlines a specific thesis and the evidence to support that thesis. Typically, this project is completed throughout a PhD program, though many programs offer a semester or two at the end where students devote all their time to their dissertations. Unlike the three alternatives, a dissertation is written for a technical audience and is defended in front of a panel of professors. For a better idea of what a finished dissertation looks like, check out this dissertation on how literature spreads happiness and healing in a classroom.

Dissertation of Practice

While a dissertation of practice often takes the final form of an in-depth research paper that is defended in front of a dissertation committee, it has a different focus than a traditional dissertation. The latter explores theoretical problems while a dissertation of practice covers one specific, real-world problem. Typically, dissertation of practice projects take two to five semesters to complete and culminate in a formal dissertation as well as a paper that can be published in a relevant academic journal. For a better idea of what a dissertation of practice can look like, explore this published project that covers how culture impacts students with food insecurities.

Scholarly Delivery

Like a dissertation, preparing a scholarly delivery requires robust research skills and a serious time commitment. Unlike a dissertation, scholarly delivery focuses on finding solutions to a local problem. After finding practical solutions to the problem, a scholarly delivery then explores the theory behind the solutions. Typically, a scholarly delivery is shorter than a dissertation with most falling between twenty to forty pages in length. They can also take many different forms, including a curriculum, research paper, case study, or community action program. West Texas A&M University outlines one possible format for a scholarly delivery.

EdD Concentrations That Can Be Completed Without Dissertations

To choose the right doctoral program, you need to decide what specific area interests you most and will benefit your career. Since an EdD cultivates expertise, students choose only one specific area of education, called a concentration, to explore. Not every EdD concentration can be completed without a dissertation, but the following four often can.

Educational Leadership

One of the most common reasons people get an EdD is to move into leadership positions. If this is your final goal, an EdD program with a concentration in educational leadership may be a great option. This specialization explores different leadership theories and offers ample opportunities to apply classroom knowledge to real-world settings. Since there is such a big emphasis on application, educational leadership EdDs often include a capstone project or other dissertation alternative that allows students to hone their leadership skills.

Featured Program: West Texas A&M University

Educational Practice

Those who want to shape educational policy and curriculum may consider EdD programs with a concentration in educational practice. Typically, educational practice EdDs focus on how educational theory can be applied to administrative or curriculum workflows. These programs also offer a final project where students can apply theory to the real world instead of to a dissertation. Since this is a great option for working professionals, many students also complete these degrees on a part-time basis and focus their final project on their place of employment.

Featured Program: University of Missouri-St. Louis

Learning Design

Designing lessons that accommodate many teaching and learning styles is a challenge. Fortunately, EdD candidates who concentrate on learning design are equipped to handle this challenge. Since the program focuses heavily on how learning theory applies to real-world settings, most students complete capstone projects or dissertation alternatives where they can apply theory to the classroom.

Featured ProgramUniversity of South Carolina

Special Education

Many states are facing a special education teacher shortage, creating a need for qualified leaders who can reform this area of education. In an EdD concentrated on special education, you learn how to work with students with mental and physical disabilities and how to create school-wide policies or curriculum changes to benefit this population. Since the focus is on the application of theory, many special education EdDs feature a capstone project with a real-world partner instead of a traditional dissertation.

Featured Program: Liberty University

Benefits of Enrolling in an Online EdD with No Dissertation Requirement

Not having to complete a dissertation may be benefit enough for some students, but it isn’t the only advantage of completing an online EdD without a dissertation. These programs also offer more flexibility, opportunities to apply knowledge in real-world settings, and a streamlined program structure.

Flexibility for Working Professionals

In EdD programs without dissertations, research can focus on issues encountered in your real, professional life. This makes these programs directly applicable to students’ careers. These projects can also be springboards to spearhead larger projects at work or to be considered for upcoming promotions.

Practical Application of Knowledge

PhDs in education and EdDs that require a dissertation focus on the theory behind education. Often, students in these programs become expert researchers but focus less on how to apply that knowledge to schools. In contrast, EdDs without dissertations offer plenty of opportunities to apply knowledge to real-world settings.

Streamlined Structure

Unlike a dissertation, capstone courses can be taken alongside other courses. This makes it easier to graduate faster and have a more streamlined education. Often no dissertation EdDs offer other benefits to streamline the learning process. These include online learning, no GRE requirements, and a more affordable degree.