Are you looking to take your teaching career to the next level with an education doctorate? If you are, then you’re about to begin an academic journey that is not only highly rewarding but also the highest level of academic learning possible.

In this guide, we will explore the various aspects of pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), and Educational Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) in education and teaching, helping you make an informed decision and navigate your path toward educational excellence. 

Whether you’re driven by a passion for research, a desire to lead in educational institutions, or a commitment to improving teaching practices, this guide will provide you with valuable insights and answers to common questions about doctoral education in the field of education and teaching.

  1. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education: 

If you’re considering a Ph.D. in Education, it’s important to know that this research-focused doctoral degree is designed for individuals who have a strong interest in advanced research and scholarship in the field of education. PhD programs in education typically involve coursework in educational theory, research methods, and statistics, all of which will help you build a solid foundation for your research endeavors. 

The core of a PhD program is the dissertation, a substantial research project that allows you to make an original contribution to the field. As you progress through your PhD journey, you’ll likely find that many graduates of these programs pursue careers in academia, conducting research, publishing scholarly articles, and teaching at the university level.

Additionally, opportunities in research organizations, think tanks, or government agencies may be appealing to you, given your expertise in educational research.

  1. Doctor of Education (Ed.D.): 

An Ed.D. might be a good choice if you’re looking to prepare yourself for leadership roles in education. While research is still a part of Ed.D. programs, they tend to focus more on the practical applications of educational theory and research in educational settings.

You’ll find that coursework in Ed.D. programs often includes topics like organizational leadership, curriculum development, and educational policy, which will equip you with the skills needed for leadership positions. 

As you graduate from Ed.D. programs, you’ll likely be well-suited for roles in K-12 schools, higher education institutions, or educational administration. Positions such as principal, superintendent, or director of educational programs may be of particular interest to you, given your desire to exercise leadership and management skills in the educational field.

  1. Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) Degree: 

The Ed.S. degree could be the right fit for you if you’re an educator looking to enhance your skills and qualifications for specialized roles within the field of education.

Ed.S. programs cater to individuals like you by offering coursework tailored to your chosen specialization, whether it’s in school counseling, educational leadership, or curriculum and instruction. In addition to coursework, some programs require students to complete a practicum or internship. This provides you with valuable real-world experience in your chosen field.

As you graduate with an Ed.S., you’ll be well-prepared for specialized roles like school counseling, curriculum coordination, or educational leadership within school districts, aligning perfectly with your aspirations to make a meaningful impact in these specialized areas of education.

When you consider these advanced degrees, it’s crucial to research specific programs and institutions to ensure they align with your goals and interests within the field of education and teaching. Factors to consider include whether you aspire to be a researcher, an educational leader, or a specialized practitioner, as well as your preference for a more research-oriented or practical, hands-on approach to education and teaching.

The curriculum for Ph.D., Ed.D., and Ed.S. programs in education can vary significantly depending on the university or college offering the program and the specific area of focus or specialization within education. The following is an overview of what each degree program typically entails:

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in Education

  1. Core Research Courses: Ph.D. programs in education typically include a series of core research courses that cover research methodologies, data analysis, and statistics. These courses provide the foundational knowledge and skills required for conducting rigorous educational research.
  1. Specialization Courses: Ph.D. students choose a specialization within education, such as educational psychology, curriculum and instruction, or educational policy. The curriculum includes advanced courses related to their chosen field of study.
  1. Comprehensive Examinations: Ph.D. candidates often must pass comprehensive examinations in their chosen area of specialization to demonstrate their mastery of the field’s key concepts and theories.
  1. Dissertation Research: A significant portion of a Ph.D. program is dedicated to conducting original research and writing a dissertation. This involves designing and executing a research project that contributes new knowledge to the field.
  1. Teaching Experience: In many Ph.D. programs, students gain teaching experience by serving as teaching assistants or instructors, helping them prepare for future roles in academia.

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

  1. Leadership and Management Courses: Ed.D. programs typically include coursework in educational leadership and management. Students learn about organizational dynamics, leadership theory, and educational policy.
  1. Research Methods: While Ed.D. programs are more practice-oriented, they still include research methods courses to prepare students for applied research and data analysis.
  1. Practicum or Internship: Ed.D. programs often require a practicum or internship component, allowing students to gain practical experience in educational settings relevant to their career goals.
  1. Specialization Courses: Similar to Ph.D. programs, Ed.D. students select a specialization within education and take courses tailored to their chosen area, such as higher education administration or K-12 leadership.
  1. Applied Research Project or Dissertation: Ed.D. students typically complete a research project or dissertation focused on addressing a specific problem or issue in education. The research is applied and directly relevant to improving educational practice.

Ed.S. (Educational Specialist) Degree

  1. Specialized Courses: Ed.S. programs are highly specialized, focusing on specific roles within education, such as school counseling, educational administration, or curriculum development. The curriculum includes courses directly related to the chosen specialization.
  1. Practicum or Internship: Ed.S. programs often require a practicum or internship where students gain practical experience in their chosen field. This hands-on experience is a significant component of the curriculum.
  1. Advanced Coursework: Students take advanced coursework related to their specialization, which may cover topics like counseling techniques, school leadership, or curriculum design.
  1. Professional Development: Ed.S. programs emphasize professional development and practical skills relevant to the chosen educational role.

Remember to research individual programs to understand their specific course requirements and offerings. Additionally, students may have the flexibility to tailor their coursework to align with their career goals within the broader categories outlined above.

Here are some general admission requirements for doctoral programs in education:

  1. Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution is typically required for admission.
  1. Transcripts: Applicants must provide official transcripts from all previous colleges and universities attended, demonstrating strong academic performance.
  1. Letters of Recommendation: Most programs request 2-3 letters of recommendation from individuals who can speak to the applicant’s qualifications for doctoral study and potential for success.
  1. Statement of Purpose: A statement of purpose or personal statement outlining career goals, research interests, and reasons for pursuing the program is commonly required.
  1. Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV): A current resume or CV detailing educational and professional experiences.
  1. GRE Scores: While some programs may require GRE scores, many have been moving away from this requirement. Verify with individual institutions.
  1. Prerequisite Master’s Degree (Ph.D.): For Ph.D. programs, a master’s degree is often preferred, especially if the applicant does not have significant research experience at the bachelor’s level.
  1. Practicum or Internship Experience (Ed.D. and Ed.S.): Programs in educational leadership or counseling may require or strongly prefer applicants to have relevant practicum or internship experience.

The requirements can vary depending on the school and the specialization. Therefore it’s important to check the admission guidelines for each program you’re interested in.

Pursuing a Ph.D., Ed.D., or Ed.S. in education can offer a range of benefits, both personally and professionally. Here are some of the key advantages of each degree:

PhD in Education

  1. Research Expertise: Ph.D. programs provide in-depth training in research methodologies and data analysis, making graduates experts in educational research.
  1. Contribution to Knowledge: Ph.D. candidates conduct original research that contributes to the body of knowledge in education, allowing them to influence and shape the field.
  1. Academic Careers: Ph.D. graduates are well-prepared for careers in academia, where they can teach, mentor students, and conduct research at universities and colleges.
  1. Policy and Advocacy: Ph.D. holders often work in policy analysis and advocacy, influencing educational policies and practices on a broader scale.
  1. Leadership Roles: Ph.D. graduates may assume leadership roles in research institutions, think tanks, and educational organizations, where they can shape educational agendas and initiatives.


  1. Leadership Preparation: Ed.D. programs are designed to prepare individuals for leadership roles in education, including positions in K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and educational administration.
  1. Applied Research: Ed.D. programs emphasize the application of research to solve practical problems in education, making graduates effective in addressing real-world challenges.
  1. Career Advancement: Ed.D. graduates often experience career advancement, with opportunities to become school principals, superintendents, college deans, or leaders in educational organizations.
  1. Practical Expertise: Ed.D. programs equip students with practical skills in areas like educational leadership, policy analysis, and organizational management.
  1. Impact on Education: Ed.D. holders can directly impact the quality of education in their institutions and communities by implementing evidence-based practices and innovative solutions.


  1. Specialization: Ed.S. programs offer specialized training in areas such as school counseling, curriculum and instruction, or educational leadership, allowing graduates to become experts in their chosen field.
  1. Practical Skills: Ed.S. students gain practical skills and hands-on experience through coursework and internships, making them well-prepared for specific roles within education.
  1. Career Enhancement: Ed.S. degrees can lead to career advancement and increased earning potential for educators seeking specialized roles.
  1. Student Support: Ed.S. graduates in roles like school counseling can provide crucial support to student’s academic, social, and emotional well-being.
  1. Impact at the School Level: Ed.S. degree holders often make a direct impact within their schools or educational institutions, improving the learning environment and student outcomes.

In summary, pursuing a PhD, Ed.D., or Ed.S. in education can lead to diverse career opportunities, increased expertise, and the ability to make a significant impact in the field of education.

Career Options in Education and Teaching

After pursuing a PhD, Ed.D., or Ed.S. in education, you’ll have a range of career options available to you, depending on your specific degree, specialization, and career goals. Here are some common career paths associated with each of these degrees:

Career Options After Earning a PhD in Education

  1. University Professor: PhD graduates often become university professors, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in education and conducting research in their areas of expertise.
  1. Researcher: PhD holders are well-equipped to work in research institutions, think-tanks, and educational research organizations, where they can conduct research on educational policies, practices, and trends.
  1. Educational Consultant: PhD graduates can work as educational consultants, advising schools, districts, and educational organizations on issues related to curriculum development, assessment, and program evaluation.
  1. Policy Analyst: PhD holders often pursue careers in educational policy analysis, working for government agencies, advocacy groups, or think tanks to influence education policies at local, state, or national levels.
  1. Educational Administrator: Some PhD graduates take on leadership roles as educational administrators, such as school principals, superintendents, or deans in higher education institutions.
  1. Curriculum Developer: PhD holders specializing in curriculum and instruction can work as curriculum developers, designing innovative educational materials and programs.
  1. Educational Researcher: PhD graduates can work as educational researchers, conducting studies that inform educational practices, policies, and reforms.

Career Options After Earning an Ed.D. Degree

  1. School Superintendent: Ed.D. graduates often become school district superintendents, overseeing the administration of K-12 school systems.
  1. College Administrator: Ed.D. holders can take on leadership roles in colleges and universities, such as deans, provosts, or university administrators.
  1. Higher Education Leadership: Ed.D. graduates may work in higher education leadership positions, including roles in student affairs, enrollment management, and academic affairs.
  1. Education Policy Advocate: Ed.D. holders can work as advocates for educational policy change, influencing policy decisions at various levels of government.
  1. Educational Consultant: Ed.D. graduates can provide consulting services to educational institutions, advising on leadership, organizational management, and improvement strategies.
  1. Principal or School Administrator: Ed.D. graduates often serve as school principals, assistant principals, or other administrative roles within K-12 schools.

Career Options After Earning an Ed.S. Degree

  1. School Counselor: Ed.S. graduates specializing in counseling can work as school counselors, providing academic, career, and personal counseling to students.
  1. Curriculum Coordinator: Ed.S. holders specializing in curriculum and instruction can become curriculum coordinators or specialists, working on curriculum development and improvement.
  1. Educational Leadership: Ed.S. graduates can pursue leadership roles in education, such as educational leadership positions within K-12 schools or higher education institutions.
  1. Instructional Coordinator: Ed.S. degree holders can work as instructional coordinators, helping teachers improve their instructional methods and materials.
  1. Special Education Director: Those with an Ed.S. in special education can become directors of special education programs, overseeing services for students with disabilities.
  1. Education Program Evaluator: Ed.S. graduates can work as program evaluators, assessing the effectiveness of educational programs and interventions.
  1. Education Specialist: Ed.S. degree holders can serve as education specialists in various roles within educational institutions, providing expertise in their chosen field of specialization.

Note: Specific career options available to you may vary based on your specialization, experience, and geographic location. Additionally, the education field is diverse, offering opportunities in both public and private sectors, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and more. 

Your choice between pursuing a PhD, Ed.D., or Ed.S. in education should be based on your career goals and personal interests.

If you are committed to pushing the boundaries of educational theory and aspire to academic or research roles, a Ph.D. may be the right choice for you. On the other hand, the Ed.D. program is tailored for those who want to apply research knowledge to leadership positions within the education field. If you’re looking to gain specialized practical skills in areas such as counseling or curriculum development, an Ed.S. program might be the ideal fit.

To make the best decision, reflect on your passion for research, your career objectives, and your desire for practical expertise. It’s also valuable to seek guidance from mentors and industry professionals who can help align your choice with your unique educational aspirations.

By carefully considering these factors, you can select the education degree that will best serve your long-term goals and professional development.

Can I work while pursuing a PhD, Ed.D., or Ed.S.?

Many students in Ed.D. and Ed.S. programs work full-time while pursuing their degrees. PhD programs may offer teaching or research assistantships that provide financial support.

Do I need to choose a specialization or concentration within these programs?

Some programs allow you to choose a specialization or concentration, while others have a more general curriculum. It depends on the institution and the program’s focus.

How can I fund my PhD, Ed.D., or Ed.S. education?

Funding options may include scholarships, assistantships, grants, and student loans. Additionally, some employers offer tuition assistance for employees pursuing advanced degrees.