Overview of Online Ed.D. Programs
Unlike a Ph.D. in Education that focuses on theory and research, an Ed.D. program concentrates on preparing professionals to devise practical solutions in education. Many programs feature areas of specialization so students can explore the issues that most interest them, such as curriculum and instruction, social justice, or higher education administration. In some programs, newly enrolled doctoral candidates join a small cohort of like-minded education professionals and are encouraged to solve problems through a collaborative, team-based approach.
Ed.D. programs typically require the completion of 42-60 credits. Most online degree programs are structured into three years of part-time study to accommodate the time constraints of working adults. The first two years are often designated for program coursework, leaving the final year for the dissertation or culminating project. However, those looking for the shortest Ed.D. programs may be interested in accelerated online doctoral programs, which are meant to be completed in two years of full-time study. The curriculum for an Ed.D. program may include advanced online courses in educational leadership, creativity, psychology, and instructional design, as well as research methods and data analysis. Graduation requirements may include one or more on-campus residencies, an internship, and successful completion of the final exam.
The curriculum for an Ed.D. program may include advanced online courses in educational leadership, creativity, psychology, and instructional design, as well as research methods and data analysis.
The admissions criteria vary somewhat across Ed.D. programs. In general, applicants must have a master's degree in education or a related field as well as multiple years of work experience as a teacher or administrator. Prospective doctoral candidates are usually asked to submit an application, academic transcripts meeting a minimum GPA requirement, a personal goal statement, a resume, letters of recommendation, and a copy of their teaching credential. Schools may also ask for GRE scores, although a growing number of programs are omitting this requirement. In some cases, students may need to complete one or more prerequisite courses before enrollment in their program.
How Much Does an Ed.D. Program Cost?
Earning a doctorate can be expensive, but enrolling in a distance learning program may reduce the cost. The average annual tuition for the online Ed.D. programs on our list is $6,912, with the cheapest online Ed.D. programs coming in under $5,000 a year. This is a significant savings when compared to the average cost of an Ed.D., which is approximately $37,300 annually. A distance education program may be a more affordable option because many schools offer lower tuition rates for online students, even non-resident online students . Some schools also waive the additional fees for on-campus services, although distance learners may have to pay technology fees. Doctoral candidates may be able to save in other ways as well. Some may qualify for employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs or various types of financial aid.
Are There Fully Funded Online Ed.D. Programs?
Unless an online Ed.D. student lives close enough to work on campus, they are probably ineligible for a fully funded Ed.D. program. A fully funded doctoral program also includes other forms of compensation from the school, such as a combination of tuition, stipends, and health insurance. In exchange for this financial support, doctoral candidates are usually required to work full or part-time on campus as research or teaching assistants.
Financial Aid for Online Ed.D. Degree Programs
Ed.D. candidates may be eligible for financial aid, such as federal, state, and college grants and scholarships, which don't have to be repaid. Candidates may also consider taking out student loans, but they should thoroughly review a loan’s terms beforehand. Private loans often stipulate higher interest rates and stricter repayment plans than federal and state student loans. To apply for financial aid, candidates should begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Representatives from a school's financial aid office are available to answer any questions about aid.
In addition to applying for school-sponsored scholarships and grants that are geared toward graduate students, doctoral candidates may be eligible for privately sponsored scholarships through professional and community service organizations. For example, members of Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society for educators, may qualify for scholarships. The eligibility criteria and awards for these scholarships vary but typically require a separate application from the FAFSA. Some Ed.D. graduates may also qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, depending on their chosen career path.
Accreditation for Online Ed.D. Programs
Accreditation is one of the most important factors prospective doctoral candidates should review before applying to any program. To obtain accreditation, colleges and universities must meet established quality standards for their academic programs, faculty, student services, and other resources, which lends to their credibility. Candidates must be enrolled in an accredited program to qualify for federal financial aid, and a degree from an accredited school may be required for state licensure.
Candidates must be enrolled in an accredited program to qualify for federal financial aid, and a degree from an accredited school may be required for state licensure.
In addition to earning accreditation for the entire institution, schools can also seek accreditation for individual degree programs. The approved accrediting agency for Ed.D. programs is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, which encourages schools to conduct ongoing evidence-based analyses of their programs. Programmatic accreditation assures that the curriculum design reflects the most current theories and practices. Some programs may also be members of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate, where participating schools collaborate to enhance and improve the quality of their Ed.D. programs.
What Can You Do With an Online Doctorate in Education?
Graduates of online Ed.D. programs can choose to follow a number of different career paths. Some aim for high-level school administration positions in K-12 education, while others opt for teaching or administrative roles in college education. A few move into the business sector, lending their instructional expertise to organizations with strong professional development programs.
Some of the occupations below only require a master's degree for entry-level positions, but a doctoral degree may make job candidates more attractive because of their advanced education and leadership training.
Annual Median Salary: $98,490
Job Outlook: 8%
Elementary, middle, and high school principals perform an array of managerial functions, including planning activities and schedules, managing teachers, monitoring finances, interacting with parents and students, and preparing reports to the school district. Principals usually need multiple years of teaching experience and are often required to obtain state-issued licenses to work in public schools. The BLS states that the median annual salary for principals is $98,490, and it projects an 8% increase in demand for professionals through 2030.
Annual Median Salary: $80,560
Job Outlook: 12%
Postsecondary teachers create lesson plans, provide information to students, and assess students' progress as part of their college-level instructional responsibilities. They may also have administrative duties, conduct research, and write scholarly works. The median annual salary for postsecondary teachers is $80,560, but the range varies from $63,560-$116,430 depending on the subject area. The BLS predicts a 12% growth in job openings through the end of the decade.
Annual Median Salary: $97,500
Job Outlook: 8%
Postsecondary education administrator is a title that can refer to academic deans, provosts, registrars, and other high-level education professionals who oversee the operation of academic, student service, and research departments at colleges and universities. Deans and provosts typically need a doctoral degree along with years of administrative experience to qualify for these positions. Postsecondary administrators earn a median annual income of $97,500, and openings are projected to expand by 8% through the decade.
Annual Median Salary: $107,680
Job Outlook: 8%
College presidents or chancellors oversee the operation of an entire school as chief executive officers. They set policies and procedures, form strategic alliances and partnerships, finalize the budget, participate in managing the faculty and other staff, and report to the school's board of directors. Many schools require candidates to have at least 10 years of administrative experience. The BLS views this role as similar to all other top executives, who earn a median annual salary of $107,680, and it projects an 8% increase in job openings through 2030.
Annual Median Salary: $66,970
Job Outlook: 10%
Instructional coordinators develop and implement school curricula, ensuring that programs meet local, state, and federal regulations. They also work closely with teachers to provide additional support and make recommendations on teaching materials and techniques. In some states' public schools, instructional coordinators may be required to have a teaching license. The median annual wage for this position is $66,970, and the BLS is expecting a 10% increase in job growth over the decade.
Is an Online Doctorate in Education Worth It?
Earning a doctorate in education means investing more time, money, and effort beyond what you've already devoted to earning your bachelor's and master's degrees. Most likely, you have personal circumstances, such as financial and family obligations, that need to be factored in as well. You must decide whether an online doctoral degree in education will help you fulfill your goals, but the following pros and cons may help you make that choice:
A doctoral degree may lead to a higher salary. Several high-level occupations in education do not require an Ed.D., but you might earn more if you have one. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median weekly salary for master's degree holders is $1,497, while the median for doctoral degree holders is $1,883, a difference of 20%.
Online education allows you to choose the best program for your needs. By considering an affordable online Ed.D. program, you can choose from a wider selection of offerings with different concentrations, formats, and graduation requirements. You can enroll in the program that best fits your career goals and budget without having to change jobs or relocate.
Some occupations in the education field may require you to work unusual hours. If you decide to become a K-12 principal, college teacher, or some other type of administrator, you may need to work some evenings and weekends to accommodate your students' schedules or attend school events.
Online programs require self-discipline. Because of the relatively unstructured nature of online programs, you'll have to create your own schedule for your coursework and manage your time effectively.