According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary education administration jobs are projected to grow at a faster-than-average rate until 2026. Education administrators hold many different roles and work in a variety of settings, including secondary and postsecondary institutions, government organizations, and school districts. Many begin their careers as educators, drawing upon their teaching experience to enact positive change within a single school or district. Others lead departments at colleges and universities, where they counsel incoming and prospective students, compile enrollment data for the registrar's office, or provide academic guidance.
In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about online doctoral programs in education administration, including career prospects and common course offerings. Read on to learn more about earning a Ph.D. in higher education administration online.
Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in Education Administration?
An online Ph.D. in higher education administration provides working professionals with career advancement opportunities and greater salary potential. According to data from PayScale, education professionals who hold a doctorate in the field earn more than those with only a master's degree. Earning a doctorate can also expand your employment options. Doctoral degree-holders qualify for many high-level administrative and leadership positions.
Providing flexibility and convenience, online doctoral programs in education administration allow learners to decide how, where, and when they earn their degree. The online format lets working professionals complete coursework while balancing career and personal obligations. Many programs feature self-paced and accelerated courses, eight- and six-week terms, and opportunities to turn work experience into college credit.
As a growing number of individuals choose to pursue graduate degrees, doctorate-holders gain a significant edge in the workforce. While a master's degree generally serves as the minimum educational requirement for most higher education administration positions, job candidates with doctoral degrees stand out among the competition. A doctoral degree signifies that you have mastered advanced concepts and skills, letting potential employers know that you are dedicated to the profession.
What Can I Do with an Online Doctorate in Education Administration?
Doctorate graduates generally pursue advanced positions in their fields. Many professionals with a doctorate in education administration work as deans, curriculum coordinators, and department heads at colleges and universities. Others begin or continue teaching at the postsecondary level, serving as professors in elementary and secondary teacher preparation programs. In addition to teaching and administrative roles, degree-holders may perform original research and scholarly work, sitting on research committees and leading academic initiatives at universities.
Other individuals who complete online doctoral programs in education administration go on to work as consultants for government, nonprofit, and private organizations. They may help to reform an educational organization's administration, providing support in multiple departments within one institution and offering interim leadership. Some education administration professionals remain in elementary and secondary education settings, serving as principals and superintendents for public school systems and private institutions. The table below outlines several career possibilities for students enrolled in online doctoral programs in education administration.
Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal
Median Annual Salary: $94,390
Principals are in charge of maintaining a school's daily operations. They may develop and enforce curriculum standards, observe teachers, and create school budgets.
Median Annual Salary: $63,750
Instructional coordinators design and implement grade- and age-appropriate curricula. They ensure that teaching materials and syllabi meet standards, inform teachers about curriculum changes or updates, and monitor and examine student test results to improve instructional methods.
Postsecondary Education Administrator (Provost or Dean)
Median Annual Salary: $92,360
Postsecondary education administrators develop their school's academic policies, including student conduct guidelines and academic standards. They also play a large role in making tenure decisions and allocating funds.
Median Annual Salary: $150,184
College and university presidents serve as representatives for their institution, interacting with administrative staff members and the larger community. A university president may also be in charge of budgeting and making policy-related decisions.
Median Annual Salary: $116,560
School superintendents oversee county and/or city public school systems. Despite serving as the system head, they answer to a school board. Superintendents are tasked with hiring the principals and administrators for their school district.
Education Administration Doctoral Program Overview
Online doctoral programs in education administration vary between schools, and each institution offers different graduation requirements, course delivery methods, curricula, and concentration options. It is important to define your academic expectations, career goals, and budget before you select a program. Read on to learn more about the different types of doctoral degrees in education administration and their respective outcomes, common curriculum features, and the application process.
Types of Doctoral Degrees in Education Administration
Individuals pursuing a doctorate in education administration typically earn one of two degree types: a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. While both degrees emphasize research, they focus on different research and purposes. An Ed.D. is ideal for current educators who plan to continue teaching in a classroom or working for a school system. Ed.D. research topics typically address issues within traditional classrooms, school systems, and the communities they serve. Ph.D. programs are intended for prospective academics, postsecondary instructors, and researchers. A Ph.D. curriculum usually prioritizes theory over applied skills.
Most individuals with an Ed.D. take on leadership roles within district and county school systems, while Ph.D. graduates tend to remain in postsecondary settings, serving as college professors, researchers, and department administrators. Both degree options generally take the same amount of time to complete, and both require students to present a formal dissertation.
Application Requirements and Admission Criteria
Most online doctoral programs in education administration require that all applicants possess a master's degree. However, some master's-to-Ph.D. programs admit those with a bachelor's degree. While many programs accept candidates with master's degrees in disciplines unrelated to education, others expect applicants to hold a certain amount of teaching experience. Although most programs do not require applicants to hold a teaching license, candidates may receive the option to earn licensure as they complete their studies.
Accredited online Ph.D. in higher education administration programs typically request applicants' GRE scores, which must be less than five years old. To demonstrate their academic capabilities and adequate GPA, prospective students should also submit official transcripts from every institution they have attended. Finally, many schools expect candidates to provide at least two professional letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose describing their career and academic goals.
Typically, doctoral programs divide coursework into four different sections: core program requirements, research courses, specialization courses, and a dissertation component. Depending on the program, students may work within a cohort, completing each section in a specific order, or they may progress through coursework at their own pace. Every student must fulfill core requirements, regardless of their concentration or specialization. These foundational classes usually include introductory doctoral research studies and a course in educational policy.
As research-oriented degrees, all Ph.D. curricula contain a research and methodology component. In education administration programs, these courses emphasize classroom-based research and scholarship in higher education. Readings and lectures present qualitative and quantitative research methods and how each is used to collect and assess educational data.
While course offerings vary by school, an online Ph.D. in higher education administration usually includes one or more of the following sample courses.
Foundations in Leadership
This course introduces leadership principles in education, emphasizing the discipline's social, philosophical, and historical origins. Readings offer a broad look at leadership strategies in modern school systems.
Education Administration and Law
By examining policy-making processes, candidates gain a thorough understanding of the legislation and policies affecting educational administrators.
Many school administrators must manage their school or school system's finances and budget. This course explores the challenges and ethical implications associated with financial management in educational settings.
Research in Education
This course may be presented in multiple parts, with each detailing a different research methodology. Students explore qualitative and quantitative methods as they learn to develop research studies.
Candidates usually complete a minimum number of dissertation hours during their final year of study. In these sessions, students work closely with an adviser and committee to design, implement, and analyze a research project.
An online Ph.D. in higher education administration can lead to new and exciting employment opportunities. Graduates work as professors at colleges and universities, public school administrators and supervisors, and consultants for school systems and government agencies. Ph.D. programs introduce important research methodologies, curriculum planning and implementation strategies, and leadership techniques. Students who select a specialization or concentration area build expertise in their field of interest, gaining marketable skills through in-depth study.
Emphasizing original research, doctoral programs encourage candidates to explore different data collection and analysis strategies, design education-focused research studies, and present their findings in writing. While students typically focus their inquiries on a topic or challenge in education, they gain broadly applicable writing, critical thinking, and analytical competencies. This versatile skill set allows graduates to conduct ethical and relevant research, serve as effective leaders, and excel in a variety of administrative roles.
Accreditation for Online Education Administration Doctorate Programs
As you search for the best online Ph.D. in higher education administration, pay close attention to each school's accreditation status. The accreditation process ensures that an institution upholds the rigorous standards set forth by independent accrediting organizations. Accreditation helps prospective employers recognize your education's rigor and validity. It can also affect your funding options. Most public, nonprofit universities hold regional accreditation from an agency like the Higher Learning Commission, which covers schools in 19 states. In addition, many doctoral programs in education administration hold programmatic accreditation from agencies, such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.