Online Doctorate in Education 2021

Updated September 15, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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A doctorate in education trains college professors, higher education administrators, and K-12 educational leaders to shape the education field. With a doctorate, educators gain the leadership and research skills required for career advancement and a higher earning potential.

College professors earn a median annual salary of over $79,000 and higher education administrators can make more than $95,000 annually. A doctorate opens doors in these growing fields.

An online education degree appeals to working educators strongalancing their degree with professional responsistrongilities. The online format makes it easier to arrange coursework around the school calendar while also allowing distance learners to choose a top program in another state.

Our list ranks the strongest online doctorate in education programs for 2021. Prospective applicants can use the rankings to identify the right fit for their career goals. This article covers the differences strongetween an Ed.D. and a Ph.D., specialization options, and scholarships for doctoral students in education. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Q. What is the difference between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D. in education?

An Ed.D. emphasizes educational practice, preparing graduates for roles in educational leadership. A Ph.D. emphasizes education research and typically leads to postsecondary jobs.

Q. How long does it take to get your doctorate in education?

Earning an Ed.D. typically takes three years, while a Ph.D. may require 4-5 years. Note that doctoral candidates may need a master's degree first, increasing the timeline.

Q. What can you do with a Ph.D. in education?

The research-focused Ph.D. in education leads to opportunities in academia and research. Graduates apply for tenure-track professor positions and other academic titles requiring a doctorate.

Q. Can you be a professor with a Ed.D.?

Yes, an Ed.D. meets the requirements for some professor positions. However, tenure-track professors typically hold a Ph.D. in education.

Best Online Doctorate in Education 2021

  1. Andrews University

    Berrien Springs, MI

    Founded in 1874 as a Seventh-day Adventist university, Andrews incorporates Christian principles into its programs. The university offers an online doctorate in education. The program uses a team-based approach.

    Andrews offers an Ed.D. and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction. The Ed.D. program appeals to educators and administrators seeking additional training in instructional leadership. The Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction prepares learners for research careers. Each doctoral program requires more than 60 credits and takes about six years to complete.

    Doctoral students explore topics including program evaluation, curriculum design, and assessment methods. While the Ed.D. emphasizes skills for practitioners, the Ph.D. focuses on research. Prospective doctoral students must hold a master's degree. Applicants submit three recommendation letters, a resume, and a statement of purpose. Andrews is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  2. Azusa Pacific University

    Azusa, CA

    APU's online doctoral program in higher education leadership provides a three-year route to an Ed.D. degree. The curriculum teaches leadership skills, research, and teaching. APU's online education program prepares graduates for decision-making roles in higher education.

    The 51-credit doctoral program features a cohort model. Designed for working professionals, the program includes a one-week intensive summer session. Degree-seekers also attend monthly in-person sessions. This low-residency format helps educators and administrators earn their doctorate in education. Learners complete two courses each term. Coursework covers topics including strengths-oriented leadership, action research, and social justice in higher education. The program culminates in a dissertation. 

    Applicants need a master's degree and a minimum 3.0 graduate GPA. Applicants submit two recommendation forms, a resume, a letter of intent, and a writing sample. APU holds regional accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

  3. Johns Hopkins University

    Baltimore, MD

    A private research institution in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins provides online degrees, including an online doctorate in education. The Ed.D. program helps learners become practitioner-scholars who improve educational outcomes through leadership.

    Doctoral students complete 48-54 credits. The curriculum includes foundational courses, research courses, and two electives. Students also choose a specialization area. While completing an applied dissertation, learners examine a problem related to education practice. Doctoral students identify policy changes or interventions to address the problem. Degree-seekers then evaluate the effectiveness of their proposed change.

    Prospective students must hold a master's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants submit a resume, a dispositions survey, and three recommendation letters. Prospective students also submit a personal statement and may sit for an interview. Johns Hopkins is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

  4. Maryville University of Saint Louis

    Saint Louis, MO

    Established as a Catholic institution in 1872, Maryville features a doctor of education in higher education leadership. The online doctorate in education program teaches practical knowledge and leadership theory.

    Students in the online doctoral program take courses while completing a dissertation. Faculty members mentor learners, and the program uses a cohort learning model. Degree-seekers can earn the Ed.D. in 32 months.

    Learners in the online education program develop data-analysis, governance, and leadership skills. Degree-seekers explore innovative technologies, research methods, and change-oriented approaches.

    Prospective doctoral students must hold a master's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants need at least three years of professional experience in higher education. Students can also qualify through professional leadership experience. Applicants submit a resume, a personal essay, and two recommendation letters. Maryville is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. Nova Southeastern University

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    NSU features on-campus and online programs, including an online doctor of education. The program features many online concentrations and a flexible learning format. Educators and administrators can pursue the degree to advance professionally.

    Ed.D. students explore educational leadership and reading education. Coursework also covers instructional technology and distance education. The online education program offers concentrations in curriculum and teaching, human services administration, and special education. 

    Designed for practitioners, the Ed.D. program uses a hands-on approach. Rather than a traditional dissertation, doctoral students complete a strategic research project. While completing the project, learners investigate a problem in education and propose a solution. NSU also offers an applied dissertation option.

    Students can complete the Ed.D. program in three years. NSU holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  6. Regent University

    Virginia Beach, VA

    Regent offers flexible online programs in more than 150 fields. Regent's online doctorate in education program focuses on organizational leadership skills. The practice-oriented curriculum follows a cohort model. Learners complete accelerated, eight-week courses.

    The online education program offers several concentration options. Doctoral students can specialize in adult education, advanced educational leadership, or special education. Additional Ed.D. concentrations include higher education and educational technology.

    Incoming doctoral students with an educational specialist degree can enter the Ed.D. program with advanced standing. Applicants complete a questionnaire and submit unofficial transcripts. Regent is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  7. Saint Peter's University

    Jersey City, NJ

    Saint Peter's is a Jesuit college founded in 1872. The school offers online degrees, including a doctor of education program with a focus on higher education leadership. The program helps mid-career college administrators move into leadership roles.

    Doctoral students explore operational challenges in higher education. They also develop strategic decision-making skills. The curriculum explores enrollment management, assessment, and administrative policy. Learners also examine course delivery, student life, and financial aid issues. Students in the 48-credit Ed.D. program research and write a dissertation.

    Prospective students need a master's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants submit three recommendation letters, an essay, a resume, and a writing sample. Select applicants complete an interview. Saint Peter's is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  8. The University of Findlay

    Findlay, OH

    Founded in 1882 as a Christian institution, Findlay features an online doctorate in education. The Ed.D. program helps teachers and administrators become effective communicators and researchers.

    Full-time students can earn the Ed.D. degree in three years. Learners study policy analysis and continuous improvement planning. They also study performance management practices. Elective topics include collective bargaining, innovative leadership, and collaborative grant writing.

    Doctoral students begin work on their dissertation during the first year. Findlay offers dissertation support throughout the program. Prospective students must hold a master's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants submit MAT scores and two recommendation letters. They also complete an interview. Findlay is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  9. University of Florida

    Gainesville, FL



    A public university, UF has a 2,000-acre campus in Gainesville. Learners can pursue UF's leadership in educational administration doctorate online. The program blends research and practice.

    Doctoral students complete coursework online. They attend weekend meetings on campus up to twice per semester. The program admits 15-20 students each year. Learners complete coursework in cohorts.

    Students attend class part time and earn the degree in four years. Applicants need a master's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Application materials include GRE scores, a resume, and a scholarly paper. UF recommends that applicants submit annual teacher evaluations. Some applicants sit for an interview. UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  10. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Champaign, IL



    Illinois delivers online degrees, including an Ed.D in education policy, organization, and leadership. The online education program trains students for roles as academics, adult educators, and educational policy analysts. Graduates can also become higher education and government administrators.

    Doctoral students can concentrate in diversity and equity, educational administration, or higher education. They can also concentrate in human resource development or learning design. Concentration coursework explores topics such as learning assessment and diversity in higher education. Students also learn about educational technology.

    Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA. Application materials include a personal statement, resume, and three recommendation letters. Illinois holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

What Are the Goals of an Education Degree?

A doctorate in education prepares graduates for the most advanced roles in the field: education professors, higher education administrators, and superintendents. An Ed.D. degree emphasizes educational leadership and practical training. A Ph.D. focuses on research and academic roles.

Education doctoral degree students take courses in their specialty area and prepare a dissertation under their doctoral committee's supervision. The coursework requirements cover topics such as education research and educational leadership. Classes also discuss higher education administration and educational evaluation. The degree trains graduates for leading education roles.

Why Get an Education Degree?

An online education degree offers several personal and professional benefits. The flexible, accessible format advances degree-seekers' careers and increases their earning potential.

An online education degree prioritizes flexistrongility. The learning format particularly appeals to working educators seeking a degree to advance their careers.
Doctoral programs in education offer several specializations, including higher education leadership, special education, educational technology, and educational administration. These tracks prepare students for focused careers after graduation.
Career Advancement
Several career paths require or strongenefit from a doctorate, including academic positions such as professor or higher education administrator. A doctorate increases educators' career options.
Increased Earning Potential
A doctorate often translates into higher salaries. According to PayScale, a doctor of education earns nearly $79,000 annually on average, and educators with a master's degree make around $59,000 annually.
Working educators strongenefit from the accessistrongility of an online education doctorate. Instead of relocating for a top-ranked program, educators can attend online.

What Are the Requirements for an Education Degree?

Gaining admission to an online education doctoral program takes several steps. Most programs require a master's in education before applying. Applicants submit transcripts showing their academic history and GPA. Universities may require standardized test scores such as the GRE. Prospective students might need recommendation letters, a resume or portfolio showing professional education experience, and a statement of purpose. Some programs conduct interviews as well.

During the program, doctoral students complete coursework, examination, and dissertation requirements to earn their online education degree.

Professional Organizations for Education Students

Professional organizations help education doctoral students expand their professional networks and prepare for the workforce. Many organizations offer focused tools for students, including resources on educational leadership and career development. Members stay current with access to publications and connect with other educators through virtual events and conferences.

  • The largest U.S. education association, NEA represents three million educators. With affiliate organizations and local chapters, NEA connects educators nationwide. The association provides a resource listrongrary on education and professional development tools, including leadership development resources. NEA also hosts conferences and events.
  • A professional association for school administrators, AASA offers career information for students and prospective administrators. The association hosts a superintendent certification program, collastrongorative learning tools, and educator leadership resources. Memstrongers strongenefit from focused toolkits, AASA stronglogs, and access to the association's journals and newsletters.
  • AERA dates strongack to 1916. Dedicated to advancing education knowledge, the association represents scholars and students in all education research areas. AERA encourages practical research applications. Memstrongers can attend events and meetings, read education research and AERA pustronglications, or use the association's professional advancement resources.

Scholarships for Education Students

Doctoral students in education qualify for several scholarship opportunities. Many professional associations offer scholarships that help degree-seekers cover tuition costs and other expenses. Applicants should research opportunities strongased on their career goals, current position, and school.

AASA Educational Administration Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The scholarship supports graduate students pursuing a degree in school administration and planning to work as superintendents. Applicants sustrongmit a recommendation letter, two endorsement letters, and responses to application questions on their career goals. AASA awards five graduate scholarships each year.

Amount: Varies

A. Harry Passow Classroom Teacher Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The National Association for Gifted Children awards the scholarship to teachers pursuing a graduate degree, including a doctorate in education. Applicants sustrongmit a nomination letter, two recommendation letters, and evidence of acceptance into a graduate program. Applicants also provide information astrongout their course of study.

Amount: Varies

Inspire Our Future Scholarship

Who Can Apply: offers the scholarship to any college student pursuing a degree in education, including at the doctoral level. Currently enrolled applicants at accredited institutions must hold a 3.5 GPA and sustrongmit a 500-700 word response to the application essay question.

Amount: $500

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Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

See All Posts is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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