Is It Worth Getting a Doctorate in Education (EdD)?

Pursuing a doctorate degree can be a significant investment of time, energy and money. For all that it requires, is an EdD worth it?

Education doctorate (EdD) programs are for those passionate about improving institutions through teaching and learning. If you’re interested in leadership roles in educational institutions, government agencies, nonprofits or corporations, an EdD is worth considering.

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 


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


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 


What Is an EdD Degree?

An EdD degree prepares students for leadership roles at administrative levels. The curriculum generally focuses on providing students with the management, critical thinking and problem-solving skills they will need to impact the fields of K-12 and higher education in meaningful ways. The research skills developed and knowledge obtained focus on enabling graduates to fill roles as higher-education faculty members, educational leaders in senior positions, policymakers and specialized researchers. Prerequisites for a doctorate in education typically include graduate work along with some years of teaching or professional experience. EdD programs generally also require candidates to have a master’s degree (or at least a bachelor’s degree) and some may require satisfactory GRE scores.

So what does a Doctor of Education teach you and who gets a doctorate in education? Doctor of Education candidates will study subjects such as strategy development, quantitative research and data collection. Students can also expect to study qualitative and quantitative research methods. Because concentrations, coursework and curriculum delivery vary from institution to institution, it is important to explore the various doctorate in education programs available before you apply to any school. You may find that an online Doctor of Education program is the best fit for you.

4 Reasons to Pursue an Education Doctorate

While the reasons for getting a Doctor of Education can vary greatly, there are a few common ones among EdD candidates. Some of them include:

1. You Want a Leadership Role Within Your Organization

Doctorate of Education programs are designed to prepare students for educational leadership jobs in academic institutions, school districts, government agencies, charitable organizations and in the private sector. While there are EdD recipients who become teaching professors, some may not have academic ambitions. An EdD is a professional degree geared toward teaching students problem-solving skills that will help them meet the challenges that educational leaders face today.

2. You Want to Work in K-12 Schools or as Part of a College or University Administration

Professionals with doctorates in education often work for school systems as principals, vice principals, program directors, academic advisors, superintendents and deans. EdD specializations and concentrations offer students a chance to hone in on areas such as K-12 education, early childhood education, higher education, school leadership and classroom leadership. Because administrators and educators today face growing challenges to improve learning experiences and make their institutions the best they can be for students, earning an EdD may be a worthwhile endeavor for these professionals. That is because these doctoral programs focus on preparing school and district leaders to solve complex problems and initiate innovative solutions.

3. You Like Problem-Solving Modern Technological Challenges in Education

Today’s educators and students are facing ever-changing educational environments, including on the technological front. In the classroom and online, technologies are emerging to help facilitate learning and improve operations. School administrators and education leaders help manage and oversee education technology from the selection of what programs and hardware to invest in to the systems that keep students, faculty and data safe and secure online. Emerging educational technologies have helped modernize the U.S. education system, allowing for a more personalized learning environment for students.

Some graduate schools offer educational technology concentration options in their education doctoral programs. Such programs focus on software and hardware development, implementation and applications to facilitate and enrich the learning experience.

4. You Prefer Practical Applications Over Philosophical Doctoral Coursework

If pondering about abstract concepts is not your preferred learning experience, then a Doctor of Education may be a fit for you. While studies do typically include some critical examination of theoretical constructs, EdD students (unlike their PhD counterparts) are more focused on practical coursework geared toward finding solutions that can be applied in the moment within their organizations. Because practitioner-based EdD coursework and research are emphasized, program instructors have usually spent time working in the fields that they are teaching about.

Benefits of a Doctor of Education

Still wondering to yourself, “Why should I get my EdD?” There are some salient ways in which the degree may benefit you depending on your career goals. For example, an EdD may help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to:

  • Become a leader in your organization or institution. A number of education leadership positions require a master’s degree, but jobs like provosts and deans often may require a Doctorate of Education or PhD.
  • Be a positive agent of change within an educational system or school district. With an EdD, you can develop skills for advancing learning, transforming curriculum and addressing systems that are underperforming, so that students and faculty are better served.
  • Improve your ability to craft strategies that advance organizational change within an industry, corporation, nonprofit, community or other non-educational institution. An EdD with a concentration in organizational leadership focuses on high-level management, culture, learning, communications, systems, strategy and other foundations of organizational change.
  • Improve your earning potential with an EdD degree. There is no guarantee that an EdD will lead to an increase in salary, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that average earnings are generally higher for individuals with an advanced degree than for those whose highest degree is a bachelor’s.

What Jobs Can You Pursue with a Doctorate in Education?

There are many types of Doctorate of Education careers to consider. Some are found in educational institutions and others in government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private businesses. Some common career paths include:

  • School Superintendent
  • School Principal (elementary, middle school, or high school)
  • Curriculum Director
  • Instructional Coordinator
  • Chief Learning Officer
  • Education Administrator (College or University President, Dean, Provost, Registrar)
  • Training and Development Manager
  • Human Resources Director
  • Nonprofit Director
  • Education Technology Specialist
  • Education Lobbyist (also Policy Maker)

But can you teach at a university with an EdD? Yes, you can. While PhD recipients commonly teach at the college and university level, there are professors who hold EdDs as well. Both the PhD and EdD programs require rigorous research, but since the PhD tends to have a greater focus in this area, it is generally a preferred choice for those looking to teach.

Financial Return on Investment of an EdD Program

The ROI for an education doctorate depends on many variables, such as the type and size of institution, years of experience and geographic location. As mentioned, it is never a given that a doctorate will result in higher wages. However, a U.S. Census study featured in an Urban Institute report [PDF, 2.1 MB] examined the average earnings of individuals aged 35-44 years old holding various levels of degrees in 2015 and found that they were significantly higher for individuals with an advanced degree than for those whose highest degree is a bachelor’s. The average earnings for those with master’s degrees were 23% higher than those with bachelor’s degrees, and the average earnings premium for doctoral degree recipients was 63% higher than those with bachelor’s degrees.

How Much Could a Doctorate Increase Your Salary on Average?

Salary expectations with a Doctor of Education can be hard to determine for specific jobs, but the salary outlook for EdD careers in general appears to be steady. While the BLS does not record EdD holders’ salary data separate from non-EdD holders, one common occupation for those known to enroll in doctor of education programs is the postsecondary education administrator. For that job, the highest 10% earned more than $199,400, while the median annual salary was $97,500. Below is a sample of top 10% earners vs median annual salaries for other common EdD jobs for comparison.

The median annual salaries above are derived from the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook as of December 2, 2020.

Is an EdD Degree Worth It: FAQs

When trying to decide whether to get an EdD degree or not, candidates often have questions about the programs they are considering applying to. Some frequently asked questions are below.

Is a PhD More Prestigious than an EdD?

Both degrees are prestigious achievements for postgraduate students in education. The more important question to ask when deciding between PhD vs EdD degrees is really which degree best fits your interests and career goals. PhD programs are geared to prepare graduates for careers in academia while EdD programs are designed to prepare graduates for leadership roles in school administrations, academic institutions and in related fields. Before you decide which doctorate program is right for you, learn more about the differences between EdD vs PhD programs.

Do You Need a Master’s to Get an EdD Degree?

There may be some EdD programs that do not require you to first get your master’s degree. However, in most cases, prerequisites for a doctorate in education include a master’s degree from an accredited college or university, some years of classroom teaching and/or relevant leadership work and a minimum GPA.

Requirements and coursework will vary from program to program. You will need to contact individual schools to find out what specific doctorate of education program requirements they have.

How Many Years Is a Doctoral Degree in Education?

Once you have decided that an EdD is for you, you might be wondering, “How long does it take to obtain a Doctor of Education?” Generally speaking, it takes students about three to four years to earn a doctorate of education. Some curricula are weekend-based to accommodate working professionals. Online EdD programs can sometimes be completed in as little as 32 months and provide flexibility for busy working students. Often, school years are divided into summer, fall and spring semesters.

What Are Alternatives to an Education Doctorate?

A Doctor of Education is just one advanced degree choice. If you’re more interested in teaching degrees, a PhD in education might be a better fit, or perhaps a master’s degree. There are programs specialized for individuals who want to pursue roles like school counselor, ESL teacher and school social worker. And you can also find programs that are available online. Additional degrees you can explore include:
Master of Teaching (MAT)
Master of Arts in Teaching – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Master’s in Education (MEd)
Master’s in Library Science (MLS)
Master’s in School Counseling
Master’s in Social Work (MSW)

So is it worth getting a doctorate in education? Ultimately, the answer is based on your personal and professional goals, situation and interests. An EdD may benefit those who want to become leaders in education and who are dedicated to improving and elevating educational outcomes and experiences.

Last Updated April 2021