Are you an educator looking to advance your knowledge and career? By choosing to learn further you’re showing your dedication to making a significant contribution to the education system. Plus, you can add this degree title before or after your name to let others know of your expertise in education.

When you decide to advance your career with a doctoral-level degree in education, you have two options to choose from, EdD or PhD. But which degree should you pick and what exactly is the difference between the two? Read on and we’ll help you understand the distinctions so that you can make an informed decision.

There are a few differences between an EdD and a PhD that are important for you to know. This information will help you make an informed decision while choosing your program. So that you can select a program that best fits your interests and career goals. 

Here’s a quick way to think of the difference: A PhD in Education is a research-based doctoral degree that focuses on research, while an EdD is a practice-based doctoral degree that focuses on the application of research. 

As per the data from the National Centre for Education Statistics (2018-19 and 2019-20), out of all students who completed their doctoral degree in education, 33% of graduates went on to pursue careers in management or administration, 40.2% of the students joined the teaching profession, whereas 12.8% went on to pursue careers in research and development.

If you are drawn toward leadership and administration roles, then an EdD degree may be a good choice to consider. EdD programs place a strong emphasis on practical, hands-on experience and the application of educational theory in real-world educational settings. This degree will prepare you for roles like school administrator, educational policymaker, or as leader in an educational organization.

An EdD curriculum typically includes core education courses that cover foundational topics in education, including educational theory, curriculum development, and educational psychology. These courses establish a broad understanding of the field.

The curriculum will combine research aspects as well but will mainly focus on leadership and administration.

In the EdD program, there are many specialization tracks, some of the most common specialization tracks include Curriculum and Instruction; Educational Leadership; and Higher Education Administration, Early Childhood Education, Special Education, and Education Technology among others. The area of specialization you choose will define your career path to a large extent.

You will be expected to complete a research-based dissertation or capstone project and gain practical experience through internships. This program prepares graduates for leadership roles in education.

Earning an EdD (Doctor of Education) opens up various career opportunities in education, leadership, research, and policy. The best career option for you will depend on your interests, skills, and career goals. Here are some potential career paths to consider after completing your EdD. 

  1. Education Administrator:

As an EdD graduate, you may go on to assume a position as a principal, superintendent, or dean in K-12 schools, colleges, or universities. You will be responsible for managing educational institutions, implementing policies, and fostering a positive learning environment.

  1. Higher Education Leadership: 

If you’re interested in higher education, you can become a university president, provost, or dean. These roles involve overseeing academic programs, research initiatives, and administrative functions at colleges and universities.

  1. Curriculum and Instruction Specialist: 

As an Ed.D. graduate, you may also get the opportunity to work as a curriculum developer, instructional coordinator, or educational consultant. Here you will help design effective curricula and improve teaching methods.

  1. Research and Policy Analysis: 

Ed.D. holders also work in research organizations, think tanks, or government agencies, where you would conduct educational research, analyze systems, and influence educational practices and policies.

A PhD is a research-based degree. A large part of your degree program will involve researching and writing your dissertation. You will add to the existing knowledge base in the education field through your research and dissertation. Careers after a PhD are usually centered around academia or research. 

A PhD in Education is a research-intensive degree that includes coursework combining core courses in research methods, statistics, educational psychology, curriculum and instruction, and teaching and learning. In addition to coursework, you will have to complete a dissertation and you may also have to appear for a comprehensive examination which is often held in most institutions. 

As with other advanced degrees in education, the area of specialization of the PhD defines the career path to a large extent. There are many specializations in education, each with its own focus. Some common specializations include teaching and learning, educational psychology, curriculum and instruction, and educational technology, among others. 

Job Options with a PhD in Education

You and many of your PhD peers may go on to join research fields and become research scholars or join academia and become professors at colleges or universities 

Another great option is becoming a policy researcher or analyst at a governmental agency consulting firm, or research organization. Your options are endless! Your career may also be influenced by your chosen specialization. Some common job options include:

  1. College professor: 

A PhD in Education is the minimum requirement for most college teaching positions. As a college professor, you will teach courses in your area of specialization and conduct research.

  1. Educational researcher: 

Educational researchers conduct research on a variety of topics related to education, such as teaching methods, learning styles, and educational policy. They publish their research in academic journals and present their findings at conferences.

  1. Policy analyst: 

Policy analysts study and evaluate educational policies. They provide advice to policymakers on how to improve education systems.

  1. Curriculum developer: 

Curriculum developers create and revise curriculum materials for schools and other educational organizations. They work with teachers and administrators to ensure that the curriculum meets the needs of students.

Admission requirements for a Doctor of Education (EdD) and a PhD in Education can vary from one university to another, but there are common elements and standards that most programs adhere to. Here are the typical admission requirements for both types of doctoral programs in education:

  1. Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree: 

You will generally need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution to apply for a doctoral program in education. Some programs may require a master’s degree in education or a related field, while others may accept students with only a bachelor’s degree.

  1. Documents: 

You will have to submit your academic transcripts, CV, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, and GRE scores, however, GRE scores are optional and may or may not be required depending on the institution.

  1. Writing Sample: 

Many programs request a writing sample that demonstrates your ability to engage in scholarly writing and research.

  1. Research Proposal (PhD programs): 

If you are applying for a PhD in Education, you may be required to submit a detailed research proposal outlining your research interests and potential dissertation topics.

  1. Work Experience (EdD programs): 

Some EdD programs may require applicants to have a certain amount of professional work experience in education or related fields.

It’s important to note that each university may have specific admission requirements and criteria, so it’s crucial to check the program’s website and contact their admissions office for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Additionally, the competitiveness of admissions can vary widely, so consider applying to a range of programs to increase your chances of acceptance.

Aspect EdD in EducationPhD in Education
Focus area EdD emphasizes the practical application of educational theory to address real-world issues within educational institutions.PhD in Education focuses on conducting original research to contribute to the academic knowledge base in the field of education.
Time to complete EdD typically takes 3-4 years to completePhD typically takes 5-7 years to complete
Job ProspectsAn EdD can lead to a variety of careers in education, such as school superintendent, principal, or educational consultant. A PhD can lead to careers in educational research, teaching, or policy analysis. 
Program Flexibility EdD is designed with working professionals in mind, offering part-time and online program options for greater flexibility.PhD in Education usually requires a full-time commitment due to the research-intensive nature of the program.
Note *Note that crossover is possible, there is flexibility for individuals to move between these different career paths, even if their degree is traditionally aligned with one specific area.

Ultimately, the best degree for you will depend on your individual goals and career aspirations. If you are interested in a research-oriented career or a leadership role, then a PhD in Education may be a better option for you. If you are interested in a more practitioner-oriented career, then an EdD may be a better option for you.

The right choice between an EdD and a PhD depends on what’s right for you based on your interests and career goals. Here are 5 steps to help you choose between the EdD and PhD degrees in education:

  1. Identify your career goals

What do you want to do after you graduate? Do you want to be a college professor? A school administrator? An educational researcher? Once you know your goals, you can start to narrow down your options.

  1. Consider your research interests

If you are interested in conducting research, then a PhD in Education may be a better choice for you. 

  1. Think about your timeline

How long are you willing to be in school? An EdD typically takes 3-5 years to complete, while a PhD in Education typically takes 4-7 years to complete.

  1. Talk to people in the field

Talk to other educators, professors, and researchers to get their insights on the different degrees. They can help you understand the different career paths and the different requirements of each degree.

  1. Visit different programs

Once you have narrowed down your options, visit different programs to get a feel for the different schools and the different faculty. This will help you make the best decision for you.

Ultimately, the best way to choose between an EdD and a PhD in Education is to carefully consider your individual goals, career aspirations, and preferences.

There are many major changes happening in the education field right now, for example the debates around the introduction of AI. It is necessary for you, as an educator, to keep up with the trends in learning and teaching and a degree can update your knowledge while advancing your career. Your expertise in the education field will give you an advantage as you navigate through these uncertain times in the best way possible both for you and the students you serve. 

As education becomes more complex and diverse, there is a growing demand for educators with advanced degrees who can address the evolving needs of students and institutions. A doctoral degree in education equips you with the knowledge and skills to lead educational initiatives, develop innovative curricula, and shape policy decisions.

Pursuing an EdD or PhD is your route to becoming a leader in education. The best choice between the two depends on the degree best suited to your individual preferences and goals. Both degrees lead to rewarding careers in terms of job opportunities, contribution to the field, and salary. An EdD or PhD allows you to become expert in the field of education and make significant contributions. This academic journey can prove to be a rewarding one, both personally and professionally.

Is an EdD higher than a PhD?

Both EdD and PhD are terminal degrees, meaning they are the highest level of education one can achieve in their respective fields. Neither is inherently “higher” than the other, but because the PhD is often more rigorous and takes longer, it does get a bit more respect in some circles. However, the EdD is sometimes the preferred degree for more applied or administrative roles.

Is an EdD as good as a PhD?

The value of an EdD. versus a PhD depends on your career goals and the field you are in. EdD programs typically focus on practical applications of knowledge in education and leadership, while PhD programs tend to emphasize research and theory. If your career aspirations align with research and academia, a PhD may be more suitable. However, if you want to work in educational leadership or administration, an EdD could be a better fit.

Is a PhD more rigorous than an EdD?

PhD programs tend to be more research-focused and often require a significant amount of original research culminating in a dissertation. They are typically considered more academically rigorous and demanding in terms of research methodology and theory. EdD programs, on the other hand, tend to emphasize the application of knowledge and may include coursework and projects related to practical leadership and education issues. The rigor of each program can also vary by institution.

Is an EdD called a doctor?

Yes, individuals who hold an EdD (Doctor of Education) degree are typically addressed as “Doctor.” Just like those with a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), EdD holders have earned a doctoral-level degree, and it is customary to use the title “Doctor” as a sign of respect and recognition of their academic achievement. It is also common practice in academic circles to add the degree abbreviation after your name, i.e. Jennifer Smith, EdD.