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EdD vs PhD: What’s the difference?

The doctorate represents the educational pinnacle of any professional’s career. Aspiring leaders and change agents in education show their mastery of important skills when completing doctorates. A few terminal degree options are available for those seeking to elevate their teams and improve their workplaces.

Educational professionals typically choose between Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees for career advancement. The choice between an Ed.D. or Ph.D. degree hinges on the professional’s long-term goals. Ed.D. programs emphasize problem-solving and leadership within practice settings, while Ph.D. programs concentrate on academic research.

Learning to Lead in an Ed.D. Program

The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) notes that Ed.D. programs “prepare educators for the application of appropriate and specific practices, the generation of new knowledge, and for the stewardship of the profession.” These goals are achieved by teaching advanced leadership and research skills. An Ed.D. degree demonstrates the holder’s commitment to dynamic leadership informed by the latest research.

The Ed.D.’s focus on leadership and administration means its value extends beyond current educators. Ed.D. candidates are often non-profit administrators, business executives, and government agency employees. A focus on responsible stewardship and socially responsible management means the Ed.D. translates well to different work settings.

There are in-person and online versions of this doctorate with many requiring full-time studies. Well-qualified applicants demonstrate completion of master’s degrees and years of professional experience. Ed.D. students can complete their coursework and dissertations in two to three years of study.

Mastering Research in a Ph.D. Program

A Ph.D. in education - like a Ph.D. in most disciplines - prepares the graduate for academic track careers. Ph.D. programs heavily emphasize student research about pedagogy and education theory rather than more immediate leadership needs. This doctoral path may require the following steps in addition to the completion of a dissertation:

  • Completion of general and specialized comprehensive exams
  • Participation in regular presentations and discussions of ongoing research
  • Teaching undergraduate discussion groups and lectures

Ph.D. programs take longer to complete than Ed.D. programs with enrollment ranging from four to six years. The research-intensive focus of Ph.D. degrees means that most programs require full-time study. Typical admissions requirements for Ph.D. programs in education include master’s degrees in related fields and GRE or GMAT scores.

Career Paths for Ed.D. and Ph.D. Graduates

The differences between Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs mean distinct career paths for degree holders. Ed.D. graduates are prepared for administrative roles in education, business, and non-profit organizations. Professionals with Ph.D.s on their resumes are best positioned for careers in higher education.

Ed.D. Careers

K-12 teachers and university employees often complete Ed.D. degrees for improved career mobility. Ed.D. graduates pursue positions as school principals and district superintendents after years of classroom experience. The Ed.D. also helps university department managers build skills necessary for administrative roles including:

  • Admissions director
  • Dean of an academic department
  • Institutional research director
  • Provost
  • Registrar

Ed.D. programs may be popular among educators but they aren’t the only ones seeking this degree. Human resources and training professionals learn how to be change agents for better workplaces during Ed.D. courses. Aspiring non-profit and public sector leaders identify methods for ensuring equitable and accessible services in Ed.D. programs.

Ph.D. Careers

Ph.D. candidates spend much of their time on education theory and research skills because their programs hope to produce faculty members. Teaching and research fellowships under the mentoring of faculty members foster future professors. In time, Ph.D. holders can move through the job titles including lecturer, assistant or associate professor, and professor.

Professionals more interested in research than teaching college courses can find roles outside of the classroom. They may work as researchers for policy think tanks, government agencies, and university institutes. A Ph.D. and experience within these organizations can lead to promotions into leadership roles.

Benefits of Doctorate vs. Ph.D. in Education

Benefits of Doctorate vs. Ph.D. in Education

A professional’s career goals and schedule factor into whether they should complete a Ph.D. or Ed.D. in Education. We’ve seen what is required for each degree and how long they take to complete. There are a few benefits of each doctoral path worth considering as you research degree options.

Ph.D. programs typically cover some or all of students’ degree costs in exchange for teaching and research services. The lengthy period of study provides opportunities for Ph.D. candidates to dig deep into their areas of research. The Ph.D. path is ideal for education experts who want to teach future educators in university settings.

Ed.D. programs keep tuition costs low through online or hybrid learning and shorter timelines to graduation. Students collaborate with professors on real-world applications of education leadership based on diverse professional experiences. An Ed.D. from a leading university like American International College (AIC) can open doors to career opportunities in education and beyond.

Join the Next Generation of Leaders with an Ed.D. from AIC

AIC’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Administration teaches professionals about transformative leadership. There aren’t on-campus residency or in-person learning requirements for this innovative program. Ed.D. candidates learn how to turn their research into real-world solutions in just over two years of full-time study.

Experienced faculty integrate social awareness, community impact, and critical thinking into every course. Students select from three specializations - Teaching and Learning, Educational Leadership, and Higher Education - in shaping their learning experience. Every Ed.D. candidate completes four dissertation courses spaced throughout their time at AIC. They also learn important skills in the following core courses:

  • Educational Research Methods
  • Ethics in Education Practice
  • Individual Research Design
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quantitative Research
  • Social and Cultural Influences

The value of an AIC Ed.D. is magnified by the College’s reputation for academic excellence. U.S. News & World Report placed AIC in its Best National Universities rankings for 2023-2024. AIC has maintained accreditation by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) since 1933.

Learn more about how AIC’s online Ed.D. program can unlock leadership role in education, non-profit, and business leadership.

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