Question: Are there any online EdD programs that can be completed in 2 years?

Answer: Yes, there are 2-year EdD programs, but they tend to be in the minority, as most EdD programs take at least three years to complete. Due to the rigor and depth of the doctoral coursework and capstone (i.e. dissertation or applied project) typically required of EdD students, even accelerated track EdD programs tend to take a little over two years of full-time study from start to finish (more for students who pursue their EdD part-time). EdD programs that take approximately 24 months to complete tend to fall into the following categories: 1) accelerated, intensive EdD programs with embedded dissertations, 2) All But Dissertation (ABD) EdD completion programs that are designed for students who have completed all of their coursework through a different EdD program, and 3) EdS to EdD programs that waive some or all of the first year’s classes due to students’ past EdS coursework.

For students who wish to earn their EdD as quickly as possible, it is important to keep in mind that the vast majority of EdD programs take at least three years of full-time study to complete. This is due to the fact that it can be difficult to fit all of the requisite research and advanced practitioner coursework into only two years of study. As mentioned above, EdD programs that take two or fewer years to complete generally fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Accelerated EdD programs with embedded dissertations
  2. ABD EdD completion programs
  3. EdS to EdD programs

Each of these program types is explained in-depth below. Students should note that there are a limited number of online EdD programs that do not require a master’s degree for admission; for these programs, it often takes four to five years (or more) to earn an EdD degree. Most doctoral programs, regardless of the field of study, require at least five years of post-baccalaureate training (either through the doctoral program itself, or through a combination of past master’s-level coursework and doctoral coursework).

Accelerated, Intensive EdD Programs with Embedded Dissertations

Accelerated EdD programs with embedded dissertations can take between 24 and 32 months to complete. These programs tend to be intensive and are either offered fully in-person or online with in-person residencies. EdD programs with embedded dissertations incorporate every step of the dissertation completion process into the curriculum itself, so that even when students are completing content coursework and class assignments, they are also completing elements of their dissertation. Students of EdD programs with embedded dissertations finish their dissertation at approximately the same time that they finish their content coursework for their doctoral degree. This differs significantly from traditional EdD programs, where students complete the majority of their EdD coursework before starting their dissertation, generally during the first two years of their program, and then devote the majority of their third year in the program to work on their dissertation.

Prospective students of these programs should note that, while it may be advertised that a program can take as few as 24 months to complete, this time frame generally assumes a full-time course of study, which may not be feasible for all students (especially those who continue to work while pursuing their degree). As a result, talking with an admissions advisor is always the best way to understand what a realistic timeline-to-completion might look like for a particular student.

Examples of accelerated EdD programs with embedded dissertations include but are not limited to:

  • Bradley University’s online EdD in Higher Education Administration is an accelerated program that students can complete in as few as 28 months (seven semesters). This program features five Action Research courses wherein students complete key elements of their dissertation. These Action Research courses are integrated throughout the curriculum, which also includes courses in contemporary learning, educational governance, learning technologies, curricular assessment, financial affairs, and educational policy. Due to the accelerated nature of the program, students are required to take courses year-round, during all three terms of the academic year.
  • Maryville University’s online EdD in Higher Education Leadership, while not technically a two-year EdD program, is nevertheless an accelerated program that can be completed in as few as 32 months, and which features an embedded dissertation. Students take courses that are dedicated to each key component of the dissertation, from the proposal to the research and writing process and preparation for their final dissertation defense. In addition, students take courses in reflective leadership, the college student experience, organizational leadership in higher education, data analytics for education leadership, strategic change management, and fostering an academic community. Students also attend two research residencies during their time in the program.
  • New York University’s EdD in Leadership and Innovation features mostly online courses with two immersive residency experiences, and can be completed in as few as 24 months of full-time study. Students’ culminating research experience is a Capstone, which is equivalent to an action-research dissertation. Students complete a proposal with faculty support at the end of their first year in the program, and then devote much of their second year to structured coursework that guides them through designing their research study, writing up their research process, and recording, analyzing, and defending their final results. In addition to the dedicated Capstone-related courses interspersed throughout the curriculum, students take courses in organizational leadership theory, partnership development, change management, and data analysis and data ethics.
  • University of Pennsylvania’s Executive EdD in Higher Education Management can be completed in as little as two years, with students fulfilling all coursework and dissertation milestones within an intensive, structured environment with high-touch faculty support. Designed for students who are already senior leaders in higher education, this residential program requires students to travel monthly to Philadelphia to take courses on the UPenn campus. Students are also required to attend an immersive international experience in their second year. For the dissertation, students typically select and hone their research question by the end of their first year, and receive support from a faculty committee as they work on their dissertation throughout the subsequent academic year.
  • University of Southern California’s Global Executive Doctor of Education is designed for working professionals who want to gain the leadership skills and research-based insight to spearhead, evaluate, and improve education programs and systems at the local, national, and global levels. This hybrid program, which students can complete in about 25 months, features a combination of online classes and nine on-campus, intensive residencies that range from 1-2 weeks in length. Students take classes in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship; the governance of educational organizations; research for education leadership; education performance and education systems assessment; education policy alternatives; and locating and solving education and performance problems. Students also take research courses that prepare them for their culminating experience, the Dissertation of Practice, wherein they investigate an educational challenge in-field. The Dissertation of Practice is integrated into the curriculum for the program to ensure that students complete their degree in a timely fashion, with robust structure and faculty support.

For more information about EdD programs with embedded dissertations, including sample classes, please refer to our FAQ: What is an embedded dissertation in EdD programs?

Note: Most EdD programs are designed for working professionals with experience in educational and/or student leadership; therefore, “Executive” programs in educational leadership at the doctoral level are not as common as they are in other subjects, such as master’s level Business Administration programs. Moreover, Executive EdD programs may have similar coursework to other, more traditional EdD programs, especially those in organizational leadership. Finally, programs that are labeled as Executive EdD programs may still be designed to be completed in three years or longer, depending on a program’s curriculum and format.

ABD (All But Dissertation) EdD Completion Programs

ABD EdD completion programs are specifically geared towards students who have completed most or all of their EdD content coursework through another program, but who struggled to complete their dissertation to the point that they have delayed conferral of their degree. ABD programs can often take fewer than two years to complete, but this is due to the fact that students transfer much of their previous EdD course credits to the ABD program, and the coursework students do take within the ABD program is primarily dissertation-focused (with perhaps only a few prerequisite and/or content courses that students take to further hone their area of study).

Both campus-based and online ABD EdD completion programs exist, with online ABD EdD programs being the most convenient option for students who wish to continue working while finishing their doctoral degree. Several examples of All But Dissertation EdD programs are included below:

  • Gwynedd Mercy University’s online ABD Doctoral Degree Completion program is designed to take no more than 18 months to complete. Students of this program take dedicated Dissertation Advisement courses, during which they meet with a faculty advisor who helps them through each stage of the dissertation process. Students also take a course on educational research and educational leadership ethics and policies, and three classes in one of the following concentrations: Leadership in PreK-12 Schools and School Districts, Leadership in Higher Education, Leadership in Special Education, and Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. While the program can be completed primarily online, students are required to attend one weekend residency in-person.
  • Manhattanville College’s EdD in Educational Leadership, Dissertation Completion Pathway is available in both on-campus and online formats, and can be completed in two or fewer academic years, depending on how many course credits students can transfer from their previous EdD program. Students of the on-campus program join existing cohorts for select classes in areas such as research study design, qualitative and quantitative research methods, writing and literature review support, and intensive dissertation writing. Students of the online program take a set curriculum of courses that include a literature review seminar, a research refresher course, a dedicated dissertation seminar, a proposal writing and strong academic writing seminar, and 9-11 credits of dissertation work under the supervision of their dissertation chair. The online program features once-weekly synchronous classes.
  • Bay Path University’s online EdD ABD Completion program with a Specialization in Higher Education Leadership and Organizational Studies features dedicated Dissertation Seminars, a Dissertation Advisement course, and several ABD Dissertation in Practice Community Seminars, all of which give students multilayered support and feedback on their dissertation. This program can be completed in five academic terms, or a little less than two years of study. Students also take courses in action research, visionary leadership, organizational change and development, organizational capacity building, transformational leadership in higher education, and entrepreneurial thinking and practices in higher education. There is also an optional Immersive Weekend experience that students can attend in-person to meet with faculty and peers.
  • Alverno College’s online EdD ABD Completion program can be completed in two years of study, and includes several Dissertation Advisory courses that students take in conjunction with courses in responsive leadership and research within educational contexts. Students also take three courses from Alverno College’s EdD’s Teaching and Learning in Higher Education concentration specifically, which includes classes in diversity and inclusion, instructional efficacy, instructional design, and higher education curriculum development and evaluation.

For more information on EdD programs for ABD students, please read our detailed FAQ: Are there Online EdD Programs with an All But Dissertation (ABD) Option?

Educational Specialist (EdS) Degree to EdD Programs

EdS to EdD programs often take less time to complete compared to traditional EdD programs due to the fact that students who gain admission into these programs have advanced coursework from their EdS degree that they can transfer to their EdD. While there are EdD programs that specifically require an EdS for admission, it is possible that students who have earned an EdS may be able to transfer credits earned in their EdS program to an EdD program, even if the EdD program does not have a dedicated EdS to EdD track. EdS graduates should confirm with their programs of interest to see if any of the credits they earned are eligible to transfer towards an EdD degree, thereby shortening the time it will take to earn their EdD degree.

As with accelerated EdD programs and ABD EdD completion programs, there are both on-campus and online EdS to EdD programs. For students who are interested in maximizing program flexibility so that they can continue to work while they earn their degree, online EdS to EdD programs can be the most suitable option.

Examples of EdS to EdD programs include but are not limited to:

  • Northwest Nazarene University’s EdS to EdD in Educational Leadership program enables students with a qualifying EdS degree to transfer most or all of their EdS course credits to their doctoral degree. This program, which can be completed online in as few as 26 months, focuses on preparing students for leadership in K-12 education settings, with courses in advanced qualitative and quantitative research, data analysis, change management, and policy influence and development. Students are also required to attend a two-week residency during which they complete and present their dissertation proposal, and also attend classes in professional and ethical leadership.
  • William Carey University’s online EdS to EdD in P-12 Educational Leadership program allows students with a qualifying EdS degree to transfer all of their course credits from that degree to their doctoral program, thereby waiving 30 of the 63 credit hours required for the EdD program (however, students of the EdS to EdD track must complete three prerequisite classes in APA writing, data analysis for program improvement, and inquiry and assessment research). As a result, students with an eligible EdS degree can complete their EdD in as few as six academic terms, or two years of study. This EdS to EdD program features a 15-credit Advanced Leadership Core that trains students in instructional design and evaluation, education data analysis, fostering a positive and inclusive learning culture, school and community advocacy, and conflict mediation.

For more information about EdS to EdD programs, please refer to our FAQ: Are there any online EdS to EdD degree programs?

Online EdD Programs

Students who are interested in earning their doctorate in education as quickly as possible should note that, while it may be possible to earn an EdD in two years or less, doing so is often a major time commitment, and one that may be disruptive to their existing work and personal life. Though time to completion is an important consideration for educators who are eager to step into a greater leadership role, maintaining a balance between work, life, and school is also crucial in order to gain the most from one’s education.

Moreover, most EdD programs are designed such that students can apply what they are learning directly to their current jobs; therefore, taking more time to complete their degree may allow students to better apply what they are learning to improving educational outcomes in their current place of employment. For all of these reasons, it can be more advantageous to pursue one’s EdD more gradually, and to opt for a program that maximizes time saved on a day-to-day basis by scheduling classes with working professionals in mind, and employing online learning technologies so that students do not need to relocate or commute in order to access quality course content and interact with faculty.

As mentioned previously, many two-year EdD programs, including EdD programs with embedded dissertations, ABD EdD completion programs, and EdS to EdD programs, have online or distance learning options. For students who want to opt for the most efficient route to earning their EdD, these programs can be a strong option. To learn more about online EdD programs, including EdD specialization options, important admissions considerations, the learning technologies these programs typically employ, and sample curricula and courses, please feel free to browse our Directory of online EdD programs, and visit our Resources page for a wealth of featured articles, guides, and FAQs.