EdD vs. PhD Degrees

Should You Get an EdD or a PhD?

If you know you want to work in an educational setting, it can be difficult to know which doctorate degree is right for you. The key question to ask yourself is this: What do you want to do in the academic environment you’ll be working in?

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in academia, a PhD (or a Doctorate of Philosophy) might be for you. This degree is theoretically oriented toward researchers and should enable you to do your own research and exploration in a given field of study.

If you want a more hands-on leadership role, a Doctorate in Education (EdD) might be a better fit for you. This degree is practically oriented toward candidates pursuing leadership roles in education, government agencies and nonprofits. This degree is also designed for candidates in the business world who are responsible for improving organizations through teaching and learning.

Learn more about online EdD degree programs

But there’s more to it. First, check out this table that illustrates some of the key ways that an EdD and a PhD differ in the field of education.

EdD vs. PhD: At a Glance

Degree ComponentsEdDPhD
Average Units/Credits
Time to Complete
2 years
4 years
Common Careers
– School Superintendent
– Curriculum Director
– Researcher
– Educational Policy Maker
– Professor
– Academic Researcher
– Educational Consultant
– Curriculum Coordinator

EdD vs. PhD: What Are They?

Doctorate in Education (EdD) is a terminal degree with a focus on applying research and foundational knowledge to real world organizational, leadership and education issues. EdD programs prepare students for academic, administrative, clinical, professional or research positions in K-12 and higher education, civil service, private organizations or public institutions.

Rather than focusing on developing new research (as with a PhD program), EdD candidates use existing research to inform decisions around specific issues that lead to improved practices within their area(s) of study.

To earn a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) one must accomplish two things: Complete research to master a subject completely and extend the body of knowledge of that subject. Designed for people who plan on a career devoted to research (conducted anywhere from a university setting to a lab), a PhD is a thorough education in a subject as well as the study of how to approach studying it. More specifically, a PhD for educators might focus on the sociology of education, educational leadership and/or policy, childhood learning/cognitive development, or language and literacy, just to name a few specializations.

Rather than a desire to lead or manage organizations directly, PhD students are often more interested in driving change by contributing their knowledge and understanding in some of the following ways: conducting research that reshapes their field of expertise, altering political agendas or simply training the next generation of teachers to approach their craft from a new angle. Learn more about how a PhD can affect your career from teachers like Dr. Laz and Dr. Penny Ferguson.

Doctorate in Education Programs

USC Rossier School of Education's online Doctor of Education (EdD) in Organizational Change and Leadership

Earn an EdD from USC Rossier School of Education; 3.0+ GPA required to apply. Designed for leaders with 6-10 years of experience. Accelerated track available.

  • Master’s not required  
  • Live online classes  
  • Immersive curriculum  
  • Drive innovation across industries 


Earn your Ed.D. in Leadership for Organizations Online from the University of Dayton

Master holders, earn your Ed.D. in Leadership for Organizations online from the University of Dayton in as few as 3 years. 3.0+ GPA required to apply.

  • Live, online classes
  • Complete in 36 months
  • No GRE required
  • Dissertation-in-practice


Earn an Ed.D. from Vanderbilt University's Peabody College

Pursue an Ed.D. online from top-ranked Vanderbilt University Peabody College. Master degree or 30 credit hours of graduate-level study required. Build advanced leadership skills in as few as 3 years. 

  • Become an influential leader in your organization  
  • Part-time or full-time schedules available  
  • Complete your Ed.D. in as little as three years 


EdD vs. PhD: Candidate Profiles

Doctorate in Education: A candidate with proven leadership experience who is looking for the next step in their career would be an ideal candidate for an EdD program. EdD programs prepare candidates to solve problems in a variety of settings including colleges and universities, K–12 schools and systems, private firms and/or nonprofits and government organizations.

This means that EdD holders can become executives in school districts, faculty at the university level, training supervisors in large and small businesses or Chief Learning Officers in large corporations.

Interested in earning a Doctorate of Education while pursuing your career? An online Doctorate of Education may be right for you!

PhD: Anyone who wants to be involved in a more study-based role (e.g., researchers, sociologists, etc.) instead of managing or overseeing others might want to consider a PhD over an EdD. Take someone with an interest in childhood development: A PhD candidate may seek to write papers that inform other educators about how children learn, experiment with new learning technology or change policies about how classrooms are run.

EdD vs. PhD: Coursework and Program Requirements

EdD: Common learing objectives embedded in the curriculum of a doctorate in education are: the application of theory to educational problem solving, training in viewing situations from different perspectives, and developing the ability to identify and eradicate discrimination and advocate for social justice.

In order to earn an EdD, most programs require the completion of 60 units. Some programs will give students credit when they have already earned a master’s degree.

PhD: Coursework for a PhD varies from program to program and is designed to provide candidates with an opportunity to specialize in their field of interest. Classes tend to cover all areas of a subject as well as tools you’ll need to do research and work with data (scientific method, statistics, theory). You’ll also be conducting your own projects, research, experiments and/or dissertation as part of earning your degree.

PhD programs often take 4 to 6 years to complete and require a dissertation or thesis to complete candidacy.

EdD vs. PhD: Job Opportunities


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2017, common job titles and average salaries for EdD graduates include:

  • Education Administrators (Elementary and Secondary School): $97,440
  • Education Administrators (Postsecondary): $107,670
  • Trainers and Development Managers: $117,690
  • Social and Community Service Managers: $70,530
  • Education Administrators (Preschool and Childcare Center/Program): $53,550

PhD: According to the BLS, as of 2017, common job titles and average salaries for this degree might include:

  • Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists: $81,330
  • Education Teachers, Postsecondary: $72,410
  • Sociologists: $86,130
  • Training and Development Specialists: $64,700

Learn more about how to get your teaching jobs.