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2023 Most Affordable Online Doctorates in Education

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 3/7/2023
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High-level expertise in instructional delivery and educational policy is vital to educators and school administrators seeking advanced leadership roles. An online Doctoral in Education can help would-be superintendents, provosts, and policymakers develop these highly sought-after skills. These online programs provide convenience so you can continue working and balancing life's numerous responsibilities while completing your education. 

We've identified and ranked our list by tuition so you can receive a quality education and achieve your goals without breaking the bank. However, if you remain undecided about your path, we also identify the best online colleges for doctoral degrees for inspiration. View our methodology for details about rankings or learn more about us

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Locations Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 California Coast University Santa Ana (CA) $4,693
# 2 #2 University of North Georgia Dahlonega (GA) $4,750
# 3 #3 Columbus State University Columbus (GA) $5,418
# 4 #4 Youngstown State University Youngstown (OH) $5,577
# 5 #5 Kennesaw State University Kennesaw (GA) $5,745
# 6 #6 Oklahoma State University - Main Campus Stillwater (OK) $5,824
# 7 #7 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg (KY) $5,867
# 8 #8 Arkansas State University Jonesboro (AR) $5,958
# 9 #9 University of Arkansas Fayetteville (AR) $6,028
# 10 #10 Bowling Green State University - Main Campus Bowling Green (OH) $6,142
Annual Tuition: $4,693
Annual Tuition: $4,693
Annual Tuition: $4,693

California Coast University (CCU) is a private, for-profit institution offering an online Doctor of Education in Educational Administration for students with a minimum of three to five years of professional experience working in an educated-related position and a master's degree in education for those who are interested in career advancement. Courses are self-paced, and students can start at any time. Graduating requires completing 66 credit hours (13 courses), a comprehensive exam, a doctoral dissertation, and oral defense.

Online students access CCU's proprietary student portal to view their schedules and course requirements and download course materials. Online doctoral students in the educational administration program take classes such as History of Education, Philosophical Foundations of Education, Learning Theory, and Analysis of Current Issues in Education. CCU also offers an online Doctor of Education in Educational Psychology and Organizational Leadership.

  • School Accreditation: DEAC
Annual Tuition: $4,750
Annual Tuition: $4,750
Annual Tuition: $4,750

The University of North Georgia (UNG) is a public institution offering an online Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership and Practice (HELP) committed to educational equity, theory and policy integration, and scholarly community cultivation. Full-time students may complete this 60-credit program in three years if they maintain a full schedule. Cohorts begin each fall semester. This online EdD program is approved by the Board of Regents and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

UNG uses Brightspace to deliver its asynchronous online course content and instruction. Online higher education leadership and practice cohorts complete classes such as Leadership and Administration in Student Affairs, Leadership Theory and Research, Social Justice Issues and Policies in Higher Education, and Ethics and Law in Higher Education Administration. Students must also complete a doctoral dissertation and oral defense to graduate.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1190
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,138
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 311
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
Annual Tuition: $5,418
Annual Tuition: $5,418
Annual Tuition: $5,418

Columbus State University (CSU) is a public institution offering an online Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Leadership - Higher Education Administration to help students develop high-level expertise in school improvement, professional learning, and educational research. This College of Education and Health Professions (COEHP) program at CSU is 100% online and requires completing 63 credit hours.

CSU delivers its online curriculum via its proprietary CougarVIEW learning management system. Higher Education Administration distance learners participate in courses such as The Two Year College, Educational Evaluation, Finance and Administrative Affairs, and Enrollment Services and Management. A dissertation and defense are also required in order to graduate. CSU's coursework helps prepare students for advanced roles — such as educational researchers, provosts, principals, superintendents, and chief academic officers.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Average SATs: 860 -1100
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 674
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 786
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Youngstown State University

Youngstown (OH)
Annual Tuition: $5,577
Annual Tuition: $5,577
Annual Tuition: $5,577

Youngstown State University (YSU) is a public institution offering an online Doctor of Education - Educational Leadership. This program aligns with the National Educational Leadership Preparation (NELP) and Ohio's state standards. Graduating requires completing 60 credit hours, which students may finish in as few as 32 months if they are attending at a full-time pace. Similarly, distance learners may be interested in YSU's online Doctor of Education - Educational Leadership with Superintendent Licensure.

YSU's distance learners complete their education via the Blackboard learning management system. Those enrolled in the Educational Leadership program take courses such as Educational Politics and Policymaking in the U.S., Building Organizational Culture and Community Partnerships, and Learning Processes and the Instructional Leader. To graduate, online students must also complete a clinical experience, dissertation, and oral defense. Overall, the curriculum helps prepare students for elevated roles in universities, school districts, and nonprofits.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1180
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 516
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 287
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
Annual Tuition: $5,745
Annual Tuition: $5,745
Annual Tuition: $5,745

Kennesaw State University (KSU) is a public institution offering an online Doctor of Education in Instructional Technology in a Certification Track for educators who are not currently certified in instructional technology and an Advanced Track for students who already hold or aspire to hold technology leadership positions at the school, district, or state level. This 100% online program requires 66 credit hours to graduate, and it generally takes full-time students around three years. KSU also offers an online Doctor of Education in Secondary and Middle Grades Education.

KSU delivers its online coursework and instruction via Brightspace. Online instructional technology doctoral students take classes such as Digital Tools for Learning, Digital Citizenship in Schools, Technology Leadership and Strategic Planning, and Managing Data Systems in Schools and Districts, depending on the student's chosen track. They also complete a dissertation to graduate.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,315
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,792
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Ed.D. Degrees

What’s the Difference Between an Ed.D. And a Ph.D.?

Although they are both doctoral education degrees, the focus and curriculum of an Ed.D. and a Ph.D. in Education are distinctly different. An Ed.D. is designed for those who want to assume leadership positions in educational settings, so programs focus on teaching students how to identify high-level problems in this field and develop practical solutions to implement. The Ph.D. in Education, by contrast, is designed for those who intend to conduct original research and contribute to the body of literature on education, possibly while they teach at the college level. Courses in these programs concentrate on the use of various methods to gather and analyze data.

Is an Ed.D. Prestigious?

Yes, an Ed.D. is largely considered a prestigious degree. According to the most recent census statistics, only about 3.5% of Americans have earned doctoral or professional degrees, so anyone with a doctorate is part of a highly educated, elite group. However, Dr. Vaughn A. Calhoun, Assistant Vice President and Dean of the Center for Academic Success at Seton Hall University, notes that some view an Ed.D. as less prestigious than a Ph.D. in Education because earning an Ed.D. does not require that a dissertation include original educational research.

Can I Get an Ed.D. Online?

Yes, you can get an Ed.D. online. Many options are available, and our list features a range of affordable online Ed.D. programs.

Can You Get an Online Ed.D. Without a Dissertation?

Yes, some online Ed.D. programs do not require a dissertation, but nearly all programs require a culminating project that involves research and writing, often called a capstone project or thesis. These projects are different from typical Ph.D. dissertations because they don't require original research, but students must investigate existing literature and data. Ed.D. candidates generally begin by identifying a specific problem in education — often drawn from their personal work experience. Then, students formulate a solution and develop a plan for implementation. At the end of their programs, they usually present and defend their culminating project in front of a review panel.

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.

Interested in learning about other popular doctoral programs? Explore the 25 most affordable schools for online doctoral degrees.

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.

For college affordability tips, students can check out our resources about paying for a college degree.

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.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation both provide searchable databases of recognized schools and accrediting agencies.

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.

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

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.

Postsecondary Teachers

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.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

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.

College Presidents or Chancellors

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.

Instructional coordinators

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:

Potential Benefits

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.

Potential Drawbacks

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.

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