What Is an EdD? Understanding the Doctorate of Education ProgramWhat Is an EdD? Understanding the Doctorate of Education ProgramWhat Is an EdD? Understanding the Doctorate of Education Program

Higher education institutions comprise many different departments, each with their own focus, goals, and needs. Professionals who hold a Doctor of Education (EdD) have the option to move into various leadership roles in each of these different departments. They can work in admissions, as an academic dean, or as an academic officer, to name a few. Those with EdD degrees should have a passion for higher education and want to hold positions in which they deal with the daily challenges and administrative duties of higher education.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of an EdD degree, how to earn one, what career options are open to those who have one, and what makes it unique.

EdD Benefits

Professionals looking to earn a doctorate and pursue a career in higher education administration are a perfect fit for an EdD program. An EdD is practice-based. It allows students to research their areas of interest and also leverage the results of their research to influence the decision-making process of an institution or organization.

Pursuing an EdD means a student will focus on identifying problems and developing strategies that can help clarify or even solve those problems. As such, an EdD program prepares students with skills in conducting qualitative research, collecting data, conducting interviews, making observations, and participating in focus groups.

It’s also valuable to note that for professionals interested in putting an advanced degree to work in as little time as possible, an EdD takes less time to earn than a PhD. On average, a PhD takes five to six years to complete, with some studies showing that students regularly take as many as eight years. On the other hand, earning an EdD generally takes between three and four years.

EdD Curriculum and Instruction

EdD students usually take courses covering a wide range of topics designed to prepare them for a career in higher education administration. They’ll learn about the workings of the academic community, including the student experience and the competitive nature of academia. They’ll learn about gathering and analyzing data and implementing strategic change in an institution.

Because graduates will be pursuing administrative careers, a course in leadership in higher education is required. This course will provide a general overview of many aspects of leadership roles, including theories, the concept of a multiple frames approach, strategic planning, and different decision-making processes and models.

EdD graduates enter a field in constant evolution. Future academic leaders must be prepared to understand, manage, and implement new ideas to evolve with the industry. Therefore, students will take a course in strategic change and innovation as part of their requirements. This course focuses on change models, barriers and resistance to change, and innovation and how that looks for the future of higher education.

EdD Careers

An EdD degree helps to prepare graduates for a range of professions in the higher learning sphere. EdD graduates learn leadership and decision-making competencies. These skills, coupled with their research and doctoral study experience, make them ideal candidates for college administration positions, such as chief academic officer (CAO) and academic dean.

CAOs are responsible for providing direction to an institution’s faculty and staff, monitoring programs, and ensuring adherence to rules and regulations. They create curricula and academic programs and are often involved in creating and implementing budgets and financial plans. CAOs ensure that their institutions are creating the best-possible environment for students, faculty, and staff.

Their hefty responsibility is reflected in a generous salary. In 2017, a CAO’s average annual salary was around $138,000, according to PayScale. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) predicts the profession will continue to grow steadily over the next decade.

Academic deans are responsible for managing all aspects of their respective departments, including hiring, firing, and providing budgetary oversight. Academic deans work closely with professors and other faculty members to create plans of action, execute those plans, and evaluate the results. They’re responsible for setting department and performance standards and ensuring that faculty and staff meet those standards.

According to the BLS, academic deans earned a median annual salary of $94,340 in 2018.

EdD vs. PhD in Education

An EdD is a terminal degree. It’s unique in that it’s, generally speaking, a practice-based degree rather than a research-based degree. EdD students tend to be experienced education professionals who are interested in expanding and advancing their careers in a specific direction. An EdD program is often structured to be flexible and part time to accommodate the lifestyles of already working professionals.

Professionals who plan to devote their careers mostly to research pursue the better-known PhD. The EdD better suits the needs of individuals who want to take on leadership roles in their areas of focus.

In choosing between a PhD and an EdD, it’s helpful to explore your career aims. Do you want to spend your time researching new methods and developing theoretical models focused on topics ranging from equity in education to environmental impacts on student outcomes? Or are you inclined to transform the research into solutions that can drive change in real-world academic settings and improve the lives of students?

The EdD program entails coursework that aims to prepare students with the essential knowledge to deliver practical solutions to help address some of the most critical challenges in education. Graduates can serve in leadership roles by developing the skills needed to work in higher education as teacher educators; academic advisers; or administrators, such as department deans and even college presidents.

If an EdD degree sounds as if it could be right for you, you may want to check out Maryville University’s online Doctor of Education program.

Now that you know what a doctorate in education is all about, take the next step to learn more about potential careers you can pursue with an EdD degree.

Recommended Reading

Tips on Landing the Job in Higher Education Administration

Trends in Higher Education

3 Solutions to Challenges in Higher Education


College Recruiter, “5 Career Trajectories for Graduates Who Earn Doctoral Degrees in Education”

Inside Higher Ed, “Ph.D. vs. Ed.D.”

Learn.org, Doctor of Education: Salary and Career Facts

Maryville University, Online Doctor of Education – Higher Education Leadership

PayScale, Average Chief Academic Officer Salary

Teach.com, EdD vs. PhD Degrees

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Education Administrators

Be Brave

Bring us your ambition and we’ll guide you along a personalized path to a quality education that’s designed to change your life.