Faculties of education typically offer several different types of degrees.  For instance:

  • Bachelor’s of education
  • Master of education
  • Master of arts in education
  • Master of arts in teaching
  • Doctorate of education
  • Doctorate of philosophy in education

Doctoral students pursuing a doctorate of education and doctorate of philosophy in education sometimes share common research interests, but the degrees are characterized by different expectations and outcomes. A doctorate of philosophy in education is designed for people who wish to carry out educational research, and teach at the university level. For this reason, the degree’s expectations more or less follow those of any other doctoral level program in the arts. By contrast, a doctorate of education, or EdD, is designed to prepare people for leadership roles in education. For this reason, EdDs are usually pursued by individuals who ultimately wish to apply their expertise in a school setting.

Degree Requirements for a Doctorate of Education

In most cases, incoming EdD candidates already hold a bachelor of arts or bachelor of education and master of arts or master of education. Typically, they have written the GRE or GMAT and achieved above average verbal and quantitative scores (notably, for candidates interested in policy or measurement research, quantitative scores may be given equal or higher weight by admissions committees). Finally, in the case of EdD programs, it is usually assumed that incoming candidates have substantial experience working as teachers and administrators, usually in a public school environment.

Once accepted to an EdD program, candidates should be prepared to complete additional graduate coursework in education. In most programs, they are also expected to study for, and successfully write and defend, one or more field exams in their chosen area of specialization. With few exceptions, they are expected to write and defend a dissertation.

Because EdD programs train people to assume leadership roles in education, coursework may include courses in educational policy or quantitative or qualitative research, as well as courses more often found in business programs (courses on topics such as change management or change leadership). Dissertation topics tend to focus on policy issues or offer detailed case studies of specific educational initiatives.

Since EdD candidates tend to be older than the average graduate student, and many already hold full-time positions as teachers or school principals, EdD programs sometimes provide candidates with the option of pursuing their doctoral studies on a part-time basis, or in a flexible format (courses may be offered in the evenings, on weekends, or as intensive coursework in the summer months when most teachers and principals are not working). In some cases, EdD programs expect candidates to complete fewer courses than PhD candidates, or conversely, they require EdD candidates to complete more courses, but to complete a capstone project rather than a dissertation.

Areas of Specialization

The American Educational Research Association (AERA), the largest and most important academic society for educational researchers in the US, is divided into twelve major scholarly and scientific areas. Historically, researchers with EdDs, and those pursuing EdDs have been most highly concentrated in five AERA areas:

  1. Administration and leadership
  2. Measurement
  3. Research
  4. Assessment and evaluation
  5. Politics and educational policy

But, EdDs are by no means confined to these areas, nor are PhDs excluded from them. In recent years, there are been a growing debate in the education field about whether or not the distinction between a EdD and PhD in education, is valid or even necessary. In 2012, for example, Harvard Graduate School of Education announced that it was phasing out its EdD program, but maintaining a recently established doctorate in educational leadership program.

While the distinction between the EdD and PhD in education is often difficult to define, the Harvard School of Education believes that their new EdLD is not only distinct from its PhD in focus and expectations, but carries a degree of rigor on par with applied programs in other fields, such as law and business.

Careers Outlook for a Doctorate of Education

People with EdDs typically end up acquiring full-time leadership positions in the school system. Many EdDs obtain work as vice-principals, principals, school superintendents, or educational consultants. Other EdDs go on to work for government or non-governmental organizations where educational researchers are in demand, such as the US Department of Education, The College Board or Common Core Standards Initiative. EdDs who have specialized in higher education often assume leadership roles within colleges and universities, such as assistant dean, associate dean or associate provost positions.

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