Online Doctorate of Education (EdD) Programs


About OnlineEdDPrograms.com: OnlineEdDPrograms.com is a comprehensive and unbiased online resource for individuals interested in earning a Doctor of Education (EdD) and advancing their career in education administration or organizational leadership. We provide a variety of extensively researched content, including career guides detailing the different professional roles typically available to EdD graduates, and FAQs covering topics such as eligibility requirements for EdD programs, application considerations, and navigating one’s career post-graduation. Our site also features the only comprehensive list of accredited, non-profit online EdD programs available on the internet.

Advantages of Online EdD Programs

For students interested in earning their EdD, there are pros and cons to pursuing the degree online. The relative importance of each of these factors will vary by student, and students should consider each of these factors when deciding whether to pursue their degree online or on campus. Pros of attending a program online include:

  • Increased flexibility to complete coursework and attend lectures anywhere that a student has an internet connection, as opposed to commuting to classes on a weekly basis
  • Access to graduate education for students who do not live in commuting distance to a university that offers an EdD program, as well as for those who do not want to relocate to attend a program
  • The opportunity to pursue additional specializations that are not offered by local programs
  • The ability to review course materials as many times as needed with recorded lectures

While online education provides several advantages compared to traditional campus-based learning, online programs are not for everyone. Online degrees require more self-motivation to keep up with course assignments and readings. Students who desire face-to-face interactions, require more immediate feedback to questions, and/or value impromptu discussions may also prefer a campus-based program.

Students who need the flexibility of an online program but who desire a more traditional classroom setting should explore online programs that include campus visits as part of the curriculum and/or programs that utilize synchronous instruction. See below for more information on both of these structural elements of online programs.

Note: OnlineEdDPrograms.com categorizes programs by the number of campus visits they require students to attend. At this time, programs that require three or fewer campus visits per year are classified as online programs. Programs that require more than three campus visits per year are classified as hybrid or campus programs and are not currently included on the site.

Types of Doctor of Education Programs: Organizational vs Educational Leadership

While many online EdD programs offer different specializations within education, such as educational leadership, curriculum and instruction, or higher education administration, there are also programs that focus more broadly on organizational leadership. These programs are designed to prepare students for leadership roles in private companies, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and other settings, including within schools, school systems, and institutions of higher education, where organizational change and optimization is needed. There are also EdD programs that offer specializations in areas such as human resources, workforce and talent development, and even healthcare administration.

For students who wish to pursue leadership opportunities in education, there are online EdD programs in a variety of specializations that allow students to focus their doctorate on specific educational settings. Students can pursue programs that offer defined specializations or emphasize curricula in special education, K-12 leadership, adult learning, curriculum and instruction, post-secondary/higher education, early childhood education, e-learning and educational technology, instructional design, and more. There are also programs that offer coursework in niche specializations like nursing or Christian education leadership.

While the majority of online EdD programs are offered through Schools or Colleges of Education, some programs may be offered through other departments, including Colleges of Professional Studies, Schools of Nursing, and Schools of Health Professions or Human Services. OnlineEdDPrograms.com strongly advises prospective students to review programs thoroughly before applying to ensure the curriculum meets their personal and professional goals.

For more information on EdD specializations, check out our Online EdD Programs Specializations page which includes the most common specializations offered by colleges and universities.

Note: Some schools offer EdD programs in counseling, counselor education, and educational psychology. At this time, EdD programs in counseling and psychology are not included on the site.

The Benefits of Earning an EdD Degree

The EdD degree prepares individuals to assume leadership positions in a variety of education-related and non-education settings in both the public and the private sector. Examples include K-12 schools, colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, childcare centers, and human resources departments. EdD graduates can work as university or college deans, secondary school principals, school district superintendents, teachers, education researchers, or leaders in education non-profit organizations and government agencies. In many cases, students of EdD programs already work in education administration, leadership, or program development, and would like to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to take on more responsibility in their current role, or advance to a different role within their field.

Completing an EdD degree may help students obtain advanced jobs in fields that are experiencing steady growth. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), education administrators for elementary and secondary schools, such as elementary and high school principals and school district superintendents, made a median annual salary of $94,390 in 2017, while their expected job growth rate is the same as the national average (bls.gov). Post-secondary education administrators, which include college deans, presidents, and chancellors, made a median annual salary of $92,360 in 2017. (Note: Salaries are highly dependent on geography, position, and educational and work experience, and national average growth rate estimates can vary year over year.) Earning an EdD may help individuals interested in becoming leaders in education or other fields gain the knowledge and skills necessary to increase their job opportunities and salary potential.

Unlike the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education, the EdD is generally regarded as an inherently practical degree, with courses that apply directly to one’s professional responsibilities post-graduation. In contrast, PhD programs tend to focus on theories of education and learning, as well as research in these areas. The average time it takes to complete an EdD program is typically three years if a student is enrolled full time, while a PhD can take five years or more.

Note: Licensure for teachers and principals typically does not require a Doctor of Education degree and, therefore, EdD programs may not prepare students for licensure. Consequently, students interested in earning licensure as a principal should contact their state’s board of education for the most up-to-date information on licensing requirements.

Overview of Online Doctorate of Education Programs

Online EdD programs are typically comprised of a combination of core coursework in the foundations of education or organizational leadership, and concentration coursework in a student’s desired field of practice post-graduation. Depending on the program and the number of course credits they complete each term, students generally take between 3 to 5 years to earn their EdD. The number of course credits required to complete an EdD program varies somewhat by school, but is typically between 40 and 70 credits total of post-master’s study.

For more information on the typical course requirements including core, specialization and elective courses, check out our resource on the Structure of Online EdD Programs.

Dissertation Requirements

Most online EdD programs require students to complete a doctoral research project, which gives students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in qualitative and/or quantitative research and its application to educational programming. For their dissertation, students generally explore an issue or problem in education or organizational leadership, depending on their focus, and investigate ways to resolve this problem. During their research, students receive support from a program faculty member. Programs requiring a dissertation generally have students complete dissertation-focused classes that provide additional structure and guidance. These courses are typically in seminar format, and/or entail one-on-one work between a student and his or her research mentor. Dissertation classes may cover topics such as submitting a strong research proposal, designing and conducting a research study, writing about and discussing research findings with peers, and the process of academic publication and dissemination of research findings for application to professional practice.

The EdD dissertation is a valuable way for students to learn about applied research in the areas of education assessment and improvement. Programs vary in terms of how they require students to structure their dissertations, when students are expected to begin their research project, and if and when they are required to publish their research in an academic journal. Prospective students should also note that some programs allow students to take an intensive research-themed course in place of completing the dissertation, which teaches students the best practices for conducting research studies, evaluating findings, and applying results to practice in professional settings.

How to Select an Online EdD Program

Options abound for students who are interested in earning their doctorate in education online. As noted above, online EdD programs are available in a wide variety of concentrations, such as Education Administration, Organizational Leadership, and Education Technology and E-Learning. When determining which EdD programs work best for their goals, students should research the types of careers that interest them and the knowledge, skills, and experience that such careers require. They can then find EdD specializations that offer the courses, research opportunities, and training that give them the requisite skills and expertise to pursue their desired job.

While most online EdD programs require students to complete a dissertation in order to graduate, there are some programs that allow students to waive this requirement if they take courses that cover topics in education research and its application to professional practice. Prospective students should also decide whether a full-time orpart-time course of study would work better for them, and consider the fact that some online EdD programs require students to visit a physical campus once or more during their enrollment. One’s current professional and personal obligations, geographical location, and desired degree completion date are also important factors to consider when deciding what program to select, and whether to enroll full-time or part-time.

Finally, most online programs use one of two types of instruction methods: synchronous or asynchronous. While both methods provide students flexibility compared to campus-based programs, they differ in structure which can be important for students who are not able to be online at set times during the week. The following sections explore each of these program variations (e.g., residency requirements, curriculum options, and instruction methods) in more detail so that students can better understand their options when researching online EdD programs.

Residency and Internship Requirements

As with dissertations, some but not all online EdD programs require students to attend one or more on-campus residencies, and/or participate in an internship where they apply the advanced concepts they have learned in class to work in professional environments. On-campus residencies, sometimes known as intensives, typically entail visits to the school campus to participate in in-person lectures and discussions, hands-on learning activities, and networking events. Some programs also start with an on-campus orientation that typically takes place during the summer and is designed to introduce students to the school and the program.

Programs that have residency requirements vary in how many on-campus intensives they require, and when these intensives are held during the academic year. For example, some programs ask that students attend a one-week residency session during the summer term, while others ask students to attend a weekend-long campus session twice a year. Prospective online EdD students should note that they are generally expected to cover the costs of travel and lodging for these residencies, and that these costs should be factored into their overall budget when deciding between programs. OnlineEdDPrograms.com classifies an EdD program as online if it requires three or fewer campus visits per year. Programs that require more than three campus visits per year are classified as hybrid programs and are not included on the site.

In addition to or in place of a residency requirement, some online EdD programs require students to complete an internship or practicum at a local school or organization. During these practicums, students typically observe professionals in their specific area of education or leadership, and apply the concepts they have learned to actual work under the supervision of a mentor. EdD practicum requirements vary from program to program. For example, some programs only require students to take one practicum class, while others may require two or more. Students generally need to complete prerequisites prior to starting their practicums. In addition, the practicum placement process for students can also vary, with some schools finding sites and supervisors for students, while others ask students to make their own internship arrangements and seek approval from their program’s practicum department.

Full-Time versus Part-Time Online EdD Programs

Many EdD programs offer students the option to pursue a part-time course of study, with the knowledge that most EdD students are already professionals in education administration or leadership who would like to continue working as they complete their degree. When deciding between full-time and part-time courses of study, students should weigh the benefits of completing their program sooner, versus having a greater course load and managing professional and school responsibilities.

Most EdD programs are designed to be completed in three years, which would be considered full-time enrollment. Programs that offer part-time options typically take four to five years to complete.

One important consideration for students is whether or not a program uses a cohort model, where students enter and proceed through the program together in a group. The cohort model has several advantages in that students are more likely to form bonds as they take courses and complete assignments together throughout the program. This leads to the development of a professional network, which students can utilize during the program and after they graduate. The cohort model also typically uses a set schedule of courses, so students do not need to worry about which classes they need to enroll in and when in order to graduate on time. One disadvantage of the cohort model is that courses may only be offered during specific terms, and if students need to miss a term, they may have to wait an entire year for the courses to be offered again. This is especially true for programs that only admit students once per year.

Instruction Methods in Online EdD Programs: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction

There are two main types of instruction methods for online EdD programs: synchronous and asynchronous. While all online programs include asynchronous elements (e.g., readings, assignments, discussion forums that students can access whenever they have time), some programs utilize real-time or synchronous instruction, where students attend live lectures. Conversely, there are programs that mainly use asynchronous instruction, which may incorporate a limited number of synchronous sessions, and others that only use asynchronous instruction (e.g., no required live sessions). Programs that only use asynchronous instruction often offer live office hours where students can chat with instructors, but these sessions are not typically required.

For a more detailed description of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, including the benefits and potential drawbacks of each type of instruction, check out our Structure of Online EdD Programs page.

Overview of Admission Requirements for Online EdD Programs

All EdD programs require applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited academic institution. The majority of EdD programs also require students to possess a master’s degree in an education-related field, although EdD programs in Organizational Leadership may accept other types of degrees. Programs do exist that will accept students who have work and leadership experience in lieu of a master’s degree; however, these programs typically require more credits to graduate and are not as common as master’s to EdD programs.

The accrediting agencies for students’ undergraduate and graduate institutions must be recognized by either the U.S. Department of Education or an internationally recognized organization (for international applicants). Candidates for online EdD programs generally must submit the following along with their application:

  • Transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate coursework
  • A resume describing all relevant professional work in the areas of education administration, teaching, education leadership, and/or research
  • A personal statement
  • Two or more letters of recommendation

Some EdD programs may also require:

  • GRE scores or other standardized test scores
  • A master’s thesis or graduate-level term paper

It is important for EdD program applicants to note that admissions requirements vary from program to program, and can also change over time for a given school. For the most up-to-date information regarding admissions requirements for a particular program, students should consult the office of admissions at that school. Check out our resource on Admissions Requirements for Online EdD Programs for more information.