students exploring the difference between phd and edd

Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. in Education: What is the Difference?

If you’re considering advancing your career in education, you’ve likely weighed the choice between a Doctorate vs. a Ph.D. in Education. Or, at the very least, you’ve probably wondered what the difference between a Ph.D. and an Ed.D. is. While these are both doctoral programs, choosing one of these degree paths over another can ultimately define the direction in which your career goes.

Where the Ed.D. is a professional degree program meant for those who want to become leaders in their field, the Ph.D. is designed for those who want to continue teaching or who desire to conduct research that will add to the breadth of knowledge surrounding the field of education. The content of these degree programs is similarly different. In the event that choosing between an Ed.D. vs Ph.D. is proving difficult, here is a breakdown of these two doctoral programs.

Ed.D.: A Program for School Leaders

A Doctorate in Education, or Ed.D., is a terminal degree that focuses on preparing students for academic and administrative roles in K-12 and higher education. Graduates of this program use existing research to help improve practices in the field of education, in addition to developing new research.

An Ed.D. prepares students to take active leadership careers upon graduation. As such, the curriculum of Ed.D. programs often reflects topics for administrative roles. Some classes that Ed.D. students can expect to take include:

  • Public School Finance
  • Curriculum Development
  • School Law
  • Action Research
  • Organization Management
  • Education Leadership
  • Urban Leadership
  • Postsecondary Teaching

Length of Program
An Ed.D. typically requires between three and four years to be completed. With a focus on career advancement and leadership, this degree can be completed more quickly than a Ph.D.

Career Outcomes
The primary goal of many Ed.D. graduates is to become a leader in their school or school district. However, an Ed.D. prepares students for a wide variety of career paths, including school leadership. Here are just a few of the jobs that an Ed.D. can prepare you for after graduation:

  • Postsecondary Education Administrator
  • School Principal
  • Elementary and Secondary School Education Administrator
  • Executive
  • Provost
  • Admissions Director
  • Chief Academic Officer
  • Academic Dean
  • Educational Advisor
  • Curriculum Specialist

A Flexible Option for Working Professionals
A benefit of pursuing an Ed.D. is that, in many cases, an Ed.D. program is designed with working teachers in mind. As such, many Ed.D. programs offer asynchronous learning options or the ability to take a lower course load while still being considered a “full-time” student. Additionally, some Ed.D. programs require fewer years of study in order to be completed, allowing working educators to begin their careers as school leaders all the more quickly. There are also online Ed.D. programs available for students who require even more flexibility in their doctorate program.

Ph.D.: An Academic Degree for Researchers and Professors

A Ph.D. in Education is typically research-oriented and prepares students for roles as intellectual leaders in education. Graduates with a Ph.D. in Education may pursue careers conducting research, curriculum analysis and development, or educating future teachers. If they’re interested in leadership roles, Ph.D. graduates are more likely to find positions as college or university administrators than as K-12 administrators.

Ph.D. programs emphasize the development of strong foundational knowledge in theory. As with an Ed.D. program, a Ph.D. in Education also focuses on research and analysis topics. Some courses that students in Ph.D. programs (as well as Ed.D. programs) may encounter include:

  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Experimental Design
  • Research Skills
  • Research Literature
  • Education Policy
  • Human Development

Additionally, students will be expected to pass a cumulative exam and to submit a dissertation before earning their Ph.D. in Education.

As noted above, both Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs cover a variety of research topics, in efforts to prepare students for upper-level careers in the field of education. In fact, there is a lot of overlap between the Ed.D. and Ph.D. in Education curriculums. Both types of programs promote skills in research and analysis. However, Ed.D. courses go beyond these topics, also covering educational leadership, international education, and dissertation preparation, as well. This prepares students for a variety of career outcomes.

Length of Program
Unlike an Ed.D., the Ph.D. can last anywhere between four and six years. A student may sometimes take even longer to complete their research and dissertation. As such, a Ph.D. is not typically the best program for professionals who wish to continue working while pursuing their doctorate.

Career Outcomes
While a Ph.D. certainly offers graduates exciting job opportunities, unlike the Ed.D., the Ph.D. is heavily geared towards preparing graduates for a career in academia. Some career opportunities that Ph.D. graduates can look forward to include:

  • University Professor
  • College President
  • Researcher

The Perfect Choice for the Academically Inclined
A Ph.D. in Education is largely earned based on intensive, individual research that will eventually be used to create a dissertation. A Ph.D. fellow might focus on a specific approach to studying education. For example, they might focus on educational policy and how it impacts children. For a student who is highly motivated to add knowledge to the field of Education, the Ph.D. is an excellent choice.

A Doctor of Education prepares students for leadership roles in PreK-12 or in higher education. Whether working in school or district administration appeals to you, or you’re interested in working to develop curriculum or educational policy, an Ed.D. is the right choice for those who want to take an active role in educational leadership.

Ready to begin your career as an education leader? Learn more about University of Bridgeport’s Ed.D. program, here!