What Is a Doctor of Education (EdD)?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

A doctorate in education prepares you to teach students from kindergarten through college. Find out if this degree track is right for you.

[Featured] A Doctor of Education student in a yellow jacket carries her laptop across a university campus.

An EdD or Doctor of Education is a terminal degree awarded after completing a dissertation on educational theory and practice. This degree may be right for you if you're passionate about education and learning theory or have goals to be a school administrator or education policy change maker at the local or national level. 

With this degree, you can hone your leadership skills and build your curriculum and learning theory knowledge. Graduates who earn an EdD serve in a variety of roles in public and private organizations, including schools, businesses, and nonprofit groups.

What exactly is a doctor of education?

An EdD degree is a professional post-masters degree designed for those pursuing careers as leaders in education. Through coursework, you'll increase your knowledge of learning theory, curriculum development, and public policy to apply to your work in different organizations. This degree is a terminal degree, which allows you to apply for jobs as a full-time college or university professor.

What is the structure of an EdD?

Ed.D. programs typically follow a cohort model with in-person, online, or hybrid courses. You may take all your core classes with the same group of students admitted during the same term. This structure allows students to build relationships with their classmates and faculty to facilitate discussion and enhance their learning with people from different backgrounds.

As a doctoral student, you can expect to take core classes and courses related to your selected concentration. In addition, many doctoral programs require field research, a residency or internship, or a dissertation. Some may expect you to complete all three. 

What is the focus of a Doctor of Education degree?

The focus of a Doctor of Education degree is building the knowledge and skills you need to become a leader or strategist in schools. Students in EdD programs study a variety of educational and leadership styles, education policy, and organizational change. They put into practice existing research in the field of education and learning to improve practices and support teachers and students.

Doctor of Education concentrations

Many schools ask you to choose an area of concentration for your EdD degree. This specialization allows you to customize your learning path or explore an area of interest within the field. For example, if your goal is to work as a school principal, you will likely choose a concentration in educational leadership. Alternatively, you may opt for a concentration in urban education if your plans include working in a city school. 

The following list includes some typical concentrations for an EdD program:

  • Curriculum and instruction: Prepare for roles as a curriculum specialist, program director, or content area specialist.

  • Education leadership: Gain knowledge and skills to be a school principal, chief learning officer, superintendent, or policy maker.

  • Instructional design: Learn how to apply curriculum theory to educational programs in ways that meet the needs of all learners so you can work as a curriculum specialist or program evaluator.

  • Learning design: Learn how to enhance learning environments and support teachers using instructional design tools.

  • Multicultural education: Focus on the needs of diverse learners to prepare for a career in public schools, government, and community agencies, or consulting firms.

  • Special education: Develop the knowledge and skills you need to oversee programs designed for special needs students.

  • Urban education: Prepare to work in school leadership, community outreach, and learning programs intended for students in urban areas.

Doctor of Education admissions requirements

The admission requirements for a doctorate of education program include an application, transcripts, letters of recommendation, curriculum vitae, and an interview. These requirements may vary between schools. For example, some schools may expect you to earn a minimum score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), while others may waive the requirement. 

Other requirements, like completing the graduate school application or having a master's degree from an accredited school, are standard expectations. Here's a closer look at the different documents you may need to submit:

  • Application: Most schools have the application available online. 

  • Curriculum vitae (CV) or resume: A CV and resume include details like your work history, educational background, and skills. CVs tend to be longer and more detailed than resumes, with information about your publications, awards, professional association memberships, and more that may be relevant to your work as a doctoral student.

  • GRE score report: You may need to send a copy of your GRE score report to the school. When you take the GRE, you can choose up to four schools to receive your scores. After test day, you can order score reports for an additional fee. 

  • Letters of recommendation: Ask people who can speak to your communication skills, work ethic, and capabilities to write letters of recommendation on your behalf.

  • Sealed transcripts: A transcript is an official document from the schools you attended that lists the courses you took, grades you earned, and your grade point average and degree. Some schools accept unofficial transcripts when you apply and expect you to provide official transcripts (sent directly from the schools) after you've been accepted to a program.

  • Statement of purpose: Your statement of purpose is a writing sample that allows you to share your skills and interests and why you want to attend graduate school and post-graduation plans.

EdD vs. PhD in education: Understanding the differences

The primary difference between an EdD and PhD is the curriculum. EdD programs tend to emphasize topics relevant to teachers and administrators working in K-12 schools and higher education. Students working toward an EdD take practical courses in public school finance, school law, organization management, and curriculum development. Many students working on this degree can continue working full-time, often in a school.

A PhD program helps prepare people to work in research and teaching roles, usually in higher education. The coursework in these programs may emphasize theory through topics like qualitative analysis, research literature and skills, education policy, and experimental design. Many college professors have this degree, and they often put to use what they learn when they research and write scholarly papers.


How long does it take to earn a Doctor of Education degree?

You can earn a Doctor of Education degree in three to four years. However, some people complete the degree in two years, and others need up to seven years to meet all the requirements. Accelerated programs with embedded dissertations are available but tend to require a significant time commitment. Working full-time or choosing a program that requires an extensive capstone project or dissertation can extend the time it takes to earn the degree.

EdD tuition

The average cost of earning an EdD can range between $47,500 and $111,900. [1] These figures may not include school fees, housing, and meals. You may pay more or less to earn your degree depending on several factors, including where you live, how long it will take to complete the degree requirements, scholarships, and more.

Doctor of Education jobs: What can you do with an EdD?

You can work in private or public education and the corporate world with an EdD. People with this degree tend to pursue leadership roles within organizations. They may work as trainers, executives, consultants, and policymakers–positions that allow them to practice their knowledge of learning, data analysis, assessment, and mentoring. The following list is not comprehensive, but it does give you an idea of Doctor of Educator salary ranges and the types of jobs you may be able to attain.

*All salary data represents the median annual salary in the United States according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2021).

1. College or university professor

Salary: $79,640

As a college or university professor, you design curriculum and lessons within your academic specialty. You also may write books or publish scholarly articles to boost your academic reputation. Many professors mentor students or work in a related field. For example, a psychology professor may also have a private counseling practice. 

2. Corporate executive

Salary: $98,980

As a top executive for a corporation, you establish goals, policies, and procedures for your organization. Your specific duties will vary depending on the organization's size and industry. With a Doctor of Education degree, you could work as a chief learning officer who helps employees grow within their roles and develop their skills.

3. Instructional coordinator

Salary: $63,740

As an instructional coordinator, you develop and evaluate the effectiveness of curriculum and teaching strategies used in school districts. In this role, you are a curriculum specialist who observes teachers, analyzes student data, and interacts with stakeholders. You also may be responsible for training teachers to use learning standards and effective teaching methods in the classroom.

4. Postsecondary education administrator

Salary: $96,910

As a postsecondary education administrator, you work in the administration of a college or university. Your specific duties depend on your title and the school where you work. You may help develop academic policies, appoint faculty members, schedule courses, plan commencement ceremonies, and advise students.

5. School district administrator

Salary: $98,980

As a school district administrator, you are the school district's top executive overseeing its general operations. Your job may include creating and reviewing budgets, setting goals and monitoring progress toward them, and building relationships with stakeholders such as parents, students, and community members.

6. School principal

Salary: $98,420

As a school principal, you are responsible for the operations of an elementary, middle, or high school. Your role includes managing staff, school activities, and budgets and establishing and maintaining a safe learning environment for students. School principals work in public and private schools and typically work year-round.

Ready to start your journey? Take the next step.

Explore whether a career in education is a good fit for you by taking a course like New Learning: Principles and Patterns of Pedagogy from the University of Illinois.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.