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2023 Best Online PhD Programs for Education

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 7/6/2023
2023 Best Online Doctoral Degrees in Education Badge

An online PhD in education is among the highest level degrees in the field of education. These online graduate programs are heavily research-focused and involve the study of advanced education theories, issues, and policies. PhDs in education are different than a doctorate in education, which explores real-world applications and encourages the development of leadership skills for teachers. PhDs prepare students to become expert researchers, leading to publishing findings that influence policy. Graduates gain employment as university professors, research scholars, and development specialists. 

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2023 Best Online PhD Programs for Education

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 Johns Hopkins University 96 96 $98,861
# 2 #2 Texas Tech University 72 $82,752
# 3 #3 University of West Georgia 69 $81,557
# 4 #4 Columbus State University 59 $77,907
# 5 #5 University of Kentucky 53 $75,863

#1 Johns Hopkins University

  • Salary Score: 96
  • Median Starting Salary: $98,861
  • Locations: Baltimore (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is a private university that hosts an online Doctor of Education. The curriculum features four relevant specialization options: (1) entrepreneurial leadership in education; (2) mind, brain, and teaching; (3) instructional design in online teaching and learning; and (4) technology integration in K-16 education. Graduation requirements state that students must complete 90 credit hours, which can be done in approximately four years on a full-time schedule. JHU's acceptance rate is 8%, with 93% of students graduating with degrees.

Online students at JHU use Canvas to complete their coursework, which is delivered entirely online. The program focuses on research and empirical inquiry, social justice, and systems thinking. Required courses include Foundations of Education and Applied Research and Evaluation. Additional courses vary depending on the chosen specialization. Students are also required to complete a doctoral dossier research project. A three-day, in-person residency is encouraged but optional. Graduates may find employment as superintendents, college presidents, and research directors.

#2 Texas Tech University

  • Salary Score: 72
  • Median Starting Salary: $82,752
  • Locations: Lubbock (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Texas Tech University (TTU) is a public institution with an online Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education requiring 90 credit hours. The completion time for this degree is approximately four years for full-time students. The acceptance rate at TTU is 68%, and the graduation rate is 63%.

At TTU, students use Blackboard as their learning management system, where courses are delivered entirely online using synchronous and asynchronous formats. The core curriculum for this program teaches students the skills needed to develop programs and conduct research, with an additional focus on teacher education and evaluation. Here are a few examples of required courses: Intermediate Educational Statistics, Qualitative Research in Education, and Data Collection Methods and Single Subject Design. Students must also complete a dissertation. Career opportunities include specialist and consultant roles at education agencies, university professors, and university researchers.

TTU offers additional online education PhDs in Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership Policy, and Family and Consumer Science Education.

#3 University of West Georgia

  • Salary Score: 69
  • Median Starting Salary: $81,557
  • Locations: Carrollton (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of West Georgia (UWG) is a public university that offers an online Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration. This online doctorate requires 60 credit hours, which is generally completed in two years while studying full time. UWG accepts 70% of applicants, while 49% of students graduate with degrees.

CourseDen from Desire2Learn is the primary learning platform UWG students use for their coursework, which can be completed 100% online and asynchronously. This online graduate degree teaches students to analyze education issues, policies, and programs and apply critical thinking skills to develop solutions. Among required classes are Organizational Theory, Diversity Issues in Higher Education, and Enrollment Management. Additional credits are put toward a dissertation that features independent scholarly study. Jobs for graduates may be available as school superintendents, education researchers, and education consultants.

#4 Columbus State University

  • Salary Score: 59
  • Median Starting Salary: $77,907
  • Locations: Columbus (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Columbus State University (CSU) is a public institution with an online Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Leadership - Higher Education Administration requiring the completion of 63 credit hours. Typically, students graduate in approximately two years while studying full time. CSU accepts 79% of applicants, with 43% of students graduating.

All online courses at CSU are delivered through the Desire2Learn learning management system. This software allows students to study entirely online through synchronous and asynchronous formats. This core curriculum focuses on identifying, examining, and improving student needs, while the major aims to develop a practical understanding of the many elements that make up higher education — as shown in the course requirements that include Academic Affairs, Higher Education Student Services, and Educational Evaluation. Additionally, online students must complete a dissertation. Students may be hired as administrators in enrollment services, academic affairs, and student affairs.

#5 University of Kentucky

  • Salary Score: 53
  • Median Starting Salary: $75,863
  • Locations: Lexington (KY)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of Kentucky (UK) is a public university offering an online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership Studies, requiring 46 credit hours. Students studying on a full-time schedule can complete this program in four years. The acceptance rate at UK is 94%, and the graduation rate is 65%.

Students at UK use the Canvas learning management system to access their core online courses, which are entirely online. The program is flexible and designed for working education professionals. The curriculum uses research techniques to identify, diagnose, and solve educational problems. Students will identify best practices and create strategies to evoke change at the program level. There are required courses, such as Politics of Educational Leadership, International Perspectives on Educational Reform, and Contemporary School Leadership, as well as a dissertation. Graduates may earn career opportunities as school directors, school district leaders, and deans.

UK also offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Education Sciences - Educational Leadership focused on educational leadership research.

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