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 considered choosing between a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) vs. a Ph.D. in Education. Or, at the very least, you’ve probably wondered what the difference between a Doctorate in Education and a Ph.D. is.

While these are both advanced doctoral programs, choosing one of these degree paths over another can ultimately define the direction in which your career goes.

A Doctorate in Education is a professional degree program for those who want to become leaders. The Ph.D. in Education, on the other hand, is designed for those who wish to continue teaching or who desire to conduct research that will add to the breadth of knowledge surrounding the field of education. And as such, the content of these degree programs is different.

This article will explore these doctoral programs to help you decide which program is right for you and your career goals.

Ed.D. — An Introduction to a Doctorate of Education

What is a Doctorate of Education Degree and Its Purpose?

A Doctorate in Education, or Ed.D., is a terminal degree that prepares students for academic and administrative roles in K-12 and higher education.

A Program for School Leaders

Students in this doctoral program gain the skills and experience they need to become influential leaders, policymakers, and researchers with a focus on education in an increasingly global world.

Graduates of this program use existing research to help improve practices in the field of education and develop new research.

Prerequisites and Qualifications

Every college and university will have different prerequisites and qualifications for students to earn acceptance into their Educational Leadership degree program.

At University of Bridgeport, our Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) degree requirements include the following:

  • 62- and 66-credit options
    • Master’s degree from an accredited institution with a cumulative graduate GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • 42-credit option
    • Certificate of advanced studies, education specialist (Ed.S.), or a sixth-year degree

Additionally, Ed.D. candidates will need the following required materials:

  • Application
  • Official transcripts for the last degree earned
  • Two letters of recommendation
    • One letter from a colleague and one letter from a supervisor
  • Personal statement of five hundred words or more detailing:
    • The reasons for wanting to undertake doctoral studies
    • The most significant personal and professional accomplishments
    • The extent to which your personal and professional responsibilities will allow you to devote the necessary time and effort to the program
    • A detailed description of your potential research topic
  • Writing sample (ex: Master’s thesis, published or submitted journal article, scholarly paper)
  • Resume
  • Official TOEFL scores for non-native English speakers

Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) Curriculum

A Doctorate in Education prepares students to take active leadership careers upon graduation.

Thus, the Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) program curriculum comprises courses in educational leadership, research and analysis, international education, and dissertation.

Students can expect to take hybrid Ed.D. courses such as:

  • Public School Finance
    Workshop in Curriculum Development
  • Constitutional Law
  • Intro to Research
  • Action Research
  • Literature Review
  • Organization Management
  • Education Leadership
  • Urban Leadership
  • Postsecondary Teaching or Leadership Experience
  • Comparative Education
  • Dissertation Proposals

Expected Length of Program

An Ed.D. generally takes between three and four years to be completed. However, with a focus on career advancement and leadership, this degree can be completed more quickly than a Ph.D.

At University of Bridgeport, our students enroll in a hybrid (primarily online) program and earn their degree in as few as three years. Students will complete all their classes online except for two one-week doctoral residences in person during the first two summers of the program.

Throughout these three years, candidates collaborate and communicate with peers worldwide and our expert faculty through online discussion boards and collaborative assignments. In the third year of the Ed.D. program, students dedicate their time to writing and defending their dissertations.

Ed.D. Career Goals and Outcomes

The primary goal for many Doctorate of Education graduates is to become a leader in their school or school district. However, an Ed.D. prepares candidates for various Ed.D. career opportunities, including school leadership. Here are just a few of the jobs that an Ed.D. can prepare you for after graduation:

  • Higher Education Administrator
  • Academic Dean
  • College Professor
  • Researcher
  • Curriculum Specialist
  • Education Consultant
  • Leadership in K-12 educational settings
  • Policymaker
  • A leader of independent/private schools worldwide

Advantages of Earning a Doctorate in Education

Pursuing a Doctorate in Education comes with many benefits. Not only can you serve as a leader in education, but you can also rest assured knowing that these programs are designed with the working teacher in mind.

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 programs require fewer years of study to be completed, allowing working educators to begin their careers as school leaders all the more quickly.

Plus, there are even online Ed.D. programs available for students who require even more flexibility in their doctorate program.


Ready to become a more experienced leader in your organization?

Take the next step in your career and learn more about University of Bridgeport’s online Ed.D. program!


Ph.D. — Introduction to Ph.D. in Education

What is a Ph.D. in Education?

A Ph.D. in Education is typically research-oriented and prepares students for intellectual leadership roles.

An Academic Degree for Researchers and Professors

Graduates with a Ph.D. in Education often pursue careers conducting research, curriculum analysis and development, or educating future teachers.

If interested in leadership roles, Ph.D. graduates are more likely to find positions as college or university administrators than as K-12 administrators.

Prerequisites and Qualifications

Admission requirements, prerequisites, and qualifications for Ph.D. in Education programs will vary depending on the institution. For example, while many programs require a master’s degree in a related field, others might only require a bachelor’s degree.

That said, typical requirements for Ph.D. in Education programs include the following:

  • Qualifying GRE or GMAT scores
  • Postsecondary transcripts
  • Statement of purpose
  • Writing sample
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation

Students should be aware that nearly all Ph.D. candidates have prior experience in research. Therefore, coming to the table with previous research experience from their undergraduate and graduate studies can help set students apart from other applicants.

Ultimately, research the Ph.D. programs you are interested in to ensure you meet all the admission prerequisites and requirements.

Ph.D. in Education Curriculum

Ph.D. programs focus on the development of strong foundational knowledge in theory. And like a Doctorate in Education program, a Ph.D. in Education will focus on research and analysis topics.

Coursework involves qualitative and quantitative research and is marked by close collaboration with faculty. Students might also learn how to publish their research in academic journals, present research findings at educational conferences, and secure grant funding as future faculty.

A Ph.D. in Education typically consists of ninety credits. Some courses that students in Ph.D. programs may take include:

  • Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Educational Research
  • Design Research in Education
  • Educational Policy Analysis
  • Foundations of Teaching and Learning
  • Professional Seminar in Administration
  • Dissertation Proposal Seminar

Additionally, students must pass a cumulative exam and submit a dissertation before earning their Ph.D. in Education.

Both Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs have similar curriculums. They both cover various research topics to provide students with the skills in research and analysis needed for upper-level careers in education.

However, Ed.D. courses go beyond these research topics by covering educational leadership, international education, and dissertation preparation. This prepares students for a variety of career outcomes.

Length of Program

Unlike an Ed.D., the Ph.D. can last between four and six years. And 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.

Ph.D. in Education Career Goals and Outcomes

While a Ph.D. certainly offers graduates exciting job opportunities, it 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
  • Sociologists
  • Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists
  • Training and development specialists

Reasons to Pursue a Ph.D. in Education

For students who are highly motivated to add knowledge to the field of education, the Ph.D. is an excellent choice. It is primarily earned based on intensive, individual research that will eventually be used to create their dissertation.

For example, a Ph.D. fellow might make their dissertation about a specific approach to studying education by focusing on educational policy and how it impacts children.

Additionally, students in Ph.D. in Education programs are often passionate about teaching, learning, and improving education as a whole through research. If you enjoy reading, writing, researching, and communicating, a Ph.D. is the right choice.

Ed.D vs. Ph.D. — What’s the Difference?

Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. in Education Key Differences

Despite the Doctorate in Education and Ph.D. in Education being advanced doctoral degrees and having some curriculum overlap, their outcomes and career goals differ.

Let’s review the key differences between these two programs:

  • Doctorate in Education
    • Average credits: sixty
    • Time to complete: three to four years
    • Focus: practical application of research


  • Ph.D. in Education
    • Average credits: ninety
    • Time to complete: five to seven years
    • Focus: Original research and academic scholarship
    • Career outcomes: professor, academic researcher, educational consultant

Career Path Direction

Deciding which degree is right for you will largely depend on the above factors and what you hope to achieve during and after the degree.

If you want a career in administration, policymaking, leadership, and higher education, you should enroll in a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) program. Graduates have careers as school superintendents, curriculum directors, and educational policymakers.

On the other hand, students interested in teaching at the collegiate level or careers in research, consulting, and government should enroll in a Ph.D. in Education program. They will then be qualified to pursue jobs as professors, academic researchers, and educational consultants.

Skill Set Emphasis

Candidates in Doctorate in Education programs have proven leadership experience and the ability to recognize the problems facing districts or business organizations. They then use their education and training to create and manage education curriculums, help implement effective learning strategies, and measure the effectiveness of what’s being taught and how.

Conversely, Ph.D. in Education candidates prefer to use theoretical and study-based approaches to learning to add their unique findings to the existing field of education. Candidates should be proficient writers and speakers as they focus on being published in well-respected journals and presenting at national conferences.

Program Format and Completion Length

Most colleges and universities offer Ed.D. programs in flexible part-time and online options so that students can continue to work and pursue this advanced degree. However, these programs typically take between three to four years to complete.

Ph.D. in Education programs are primarily in-person, and it is challenging for candidates to work and attend class full-time. They typically take between five to seven years to complete.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

No matter which advanced doctoral degree you choose, both will further your education career and expand your abilities to influence how students learn.

If you want to impact what students learn directly, consider a Ph.D. in Education. However, a Doctorate in Education is the right choice if you want to pursue leadership roles in PreK-12 or higher education and have even more career opportunities.

Take the next step in your career as an education leader by applying to University of Bridgeport’s Ed.D. program today!