Home Difference Between Ed.D and Ph.D. in Education

What is the Difference Between Ed.D. and Ph.D. in Education?

Reviewed by Jon Konen, District Superintendent

Are you looking to further your education in the field of education but can’t decide what type of program to choose? Look no further for the answers to your questions. After obtaining your Master’s Degree in Education, you have a couple of different choices if you choose to continue to a doctoral degree; a Ph.D. in Education or an Ed.D..

Knowing the key differences between these two Doctoral degrees in Education can help you decide which path is best for you. While both degrees focus on higher learning in the field of education, each has different curriculum requirements, different foci and can lead to different types of jobs after graduation.

Should I Get a Doctorate in Education? What are the Differences in Ed.D. and Ph.D. Curriculum?

pen and paper with phd in teaching writtenThe most important difference to point out between a Ph.D. in Education and an Ed.D. is the focus of curriculum in each program. While both degrees focus on a higher level of education beyond a master’s degree, the Ph.D. is typically used by educators who want to continue teaching. The Ph.D. in Education program focuses on furthering your knowledge as an educator and conducting research that enhances the profession and educational system as a whole.

In both Doctoral programs, courses can cover curriculum development and ways to improve learning in the classroom. As your coursework progresses, Ph.D. in Education programs generally require work that is conducted outside of the traditional classroom, whereas Ed.D. programs generally only require in-classroom work. If you are working towards your Ed.D., you will likely study curriculum geared towards solving problems in the educational system as an administrator or trainer and much of the focus will be on the application of your knowledge base to systems of learning.

There are a few curriculum differences in the two courses of study. While both degrees require a set number of hours and a cumulative project, often projects for Ed. D. programs consist of workshops and research in the community, such as implementing a program in a classroom and reporting the findings. Meanwhile, since the goal of a Ph. D. in education is to continue teaching and researching, generally, teaching-related internships and research are required along with a dissertation to obtain your degree.

Difference in Career Choices Between Ed.D. and Ph.D. Degree Holders

Knowing the difference between a Ph. D. in education and an Ed. D. is important in deciding which path in education you would most enjoy. Both a Ph. D. in education and an Ed. D. are intended to extend a teacher’s knowledge and practice in education, but have difference in where the knowledge is extended. You can typically specialize in both Doctorate in Education programs, depending upon the segment of the population or area of educational study you plan to use your degree in.

Common specialization tracks for both degree types can include:

If you choose to pursue the Ed.D. route, you may also choose to specialize in different leadership tracts such as Administrative Leadership, Higher Education Leadership, Reading and Literacy Leadership or College Teaching and Learning. The Ph.D. in education specialties you can choose from include Educational Technology or Global and Comparative Education.

What Can I Do With A Ph.D In Education?

If you work towards your Ph.D. in education, you will usually look to seek employment as a college professor, so you should want to teach and conduct research at the collegiate level. On the other hand, if you work towards your Ed.D., you will likely seek a position in administration or as a community or district-wide leader, implementing goals to improve schools or curriculum in your area.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary teachers in 2020 made a median salary of $80,790 per year, with postsecondary education administrators bringing home an average of $97,500 per year.

Both degrees require research in your intended field as well as the defense of a dissertation before your peers. With either doctorate degree you could work toward becoming the next school board executive, education researcher, or policy maker. If you find yourself asking what can you do with a Ph.D. in Education, you only need to use your own imagination and drive for success to find the answer.

Taking the time to research your options for study thoroughly is an important first step when it comes to choosing a doctoral program in education. We suggest requesting education Ph.D. program details from each of the schools you are interested in to begin. Once you review the different specialty tracts available at each school, along with curriculum and cost information, you should be well prepared to decide which Doctorate in Education programs you’d like to apply to.

How Do I Move Towards a Decision Between the Two?

Both of the doctoral degrees in education discussed above are worthy pursuits that can lead to significant professional advancement. In the end, it all makes a real differences in countless lives, both for the educators that hold them and the students they teach. What you will be able to do with this kind of advanced education will have you looking back on your career with tremendous pride. The bottom line is, whichever of the doctoral degrees in education you choose, you really can’t go wrong.

It basically comes down to a few factors, many of which are going to be unique to your individual career goals. Let’s take a look at some of those factors to help you decide between these pathways.

Time Investment

While the difference between these two doctoral degrees in education may seem significant as you prepare to embark on one of these programs, the reality of the situation is that over the course of a career or a lifetime, this difference isn’t that pronounced.

You should generally expect your PhD in Education to take between 4 and 6 years depending on a few factors that will play out after you get started. An EdD in Education will usually require approximately 3 years.

Is 1-3 years a major difference to you? It could be, but in our opinion time investment should not really be the deciding factor, since you’ll be doing the work that either your EdD or PhD in Education allows you to do for a whole lot longer than a few years.

How You Like to Learn

Do you consider yourself more of an academic, or do you prefer to learn in more of a real-world, hands-on manner? That’s an important question to answer for yourself if you’re trying to decide between an EdD and a PhD in Education. There is a significant differences between the two degrees in this regard that will influence your decision to move towards one degree or another.

Specifically, your PhD in Education will largely be based on intensive, individual research that’s geared towards your dissertation. You’ll be spending most of your time in the library, whether virtually or the old fashioned way by showing up in-person. However, an EdD in Education involves more of a practical application of what you’re learning. And to a great extent, this will  influence how you do the work you do when you finish one of these degree programs.

Yes, a PhD in Education likely means you’ll be teaching at a high level, but part of almost any university-level teaching position involves research. A person with an EdD in Education will be working more on the management side of things, interacting with people on a daily basis.

Now that you know more about the curriculum, careers and earning potential for education Ph.D. and Ed.D. graduates, you’re ready to educate others!

Regardless of which degree you decide to pursue, you’ve come to the right place. Education Degree is your resource for all things related to working in the field of education. As you’ll see, you can research everything from continuing your education to deciding on a career path, and that’s invaluable for someone who has already decided to dedicate their lives to helping others advance themselves. We wish you the best regardless of which degree you pursue or where.

(Salary data reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2020 for postsecondary teachers and administrators. Figures represent national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Information accessed April 2021.)