Education EdD

| 27 July 2023

The data in this blog is for general informational purposes only and information presented was accurate as of the publication date.

PhD vs. EdD in Education: How Do I Choose?

professor teaching a lecture class

Aspiring educators can pursue an advanced degree if they want a more prominent teaching position. If you’re interested in a high-level career in education, you have two doctoral degree options: a Doctor of Education (EdD)or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). 

In this guide, we highlight key differences in curricula, prerequisite requirements, application processes and typical career paths that graduates pursue. Keep reading to determine whether a PhD vs. EdD is a better choice for you.

PhD vs. EdD  

Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD) Doctor of Education (EdD)
Career plan Research and education Leadership and administration
Average education length 4–7 years 3–5 years
Average program cost (tuition over 4 years) $96,800 $98,850
Dissertation? Yes Most times
Possible concentrations ADS
Educational Technology
Higher Education
Counselor Education
Special Education
Teaching and Learning
Curriculum and Instruction
Special Education
Curriculum and Instruction
Instructional Design
Reading and Literacy
Adult Education
Organizational Leadership
Athletic Training Specialization
Executive Leadership Specialization
Nurse Educator Specialization
Teaching and Learning Specialization

While both degrees are at the doctoral level, the focus of each is unique. The main difference between a PhD and EdD is that a PhD is designed for graduates who are seeking careers in education or research-based roles, while an EdD is designed for candidates who want to pursue leadership positions with a real-world focus1.

For example, an EdD career path would be more aligned with becoming a university dean or director of research, while those pursuing a PhD would likely choose a career as a college professor or research scholar2.

The average program lengths also differ. The average time to complete a PhD in education is 4–7 years, whereas an EdD can take 3–5 years to complete. However, the number of years it will take for you to complete either program will depend on if you’re pursuing full-time or part-time schooling. 

Below we’ll review each type of degree in depth, including their education requirements, career options, program costs and job outlook. 

What Is a PhD in Education? 

A PhD in Education is a Doctor of Philosophy degree designed for candidates pursuing a career in research and academia. Most PhD graduates work in a university as a professor, researcher or both. The PhD curriculum is typically more theory-based compared to an EdD degree2.

PhD candidates aim to become thought leaders in the field of education—conducting and publishing research on advanced theoretical topics within their specialization, as well as passing on their knowledge to the next generation of students. PhD graduates put an emphasis on research and devote their career to advancing the body of knowledge available within their field.

Education Requirements 

Earning a PhD in Education is a time-intensive process, but it’s also the highest academic degree within the field. On average, it takes 4–7 years to complete a PhD3.

To obtain a PhD, candidates must hold at least a bachelor’s degree and complete the GRE or an equivalent entrance exam. Depending on the field of study, candidates will then complete either a master’s degree or proceed directly to PhD coursework. During the program, candidates will write a dissertation and defend it before receiving their PhD. 

What Can I Do With a PhD? 

phd careers and average salaries

Most PhD coursework is theoretical, and the degree is a popular choice for those who aspire to become tenured at a university. The most common career options for PhD candidates include:

  1. Professor: A professor, or postsecondary teacher, instructs college- or university-level students on advanced topics. In addition to teaching, many professors conduct research and publish papers on new topics within their field. Professors earned a median salary of $79,640 per year in 20214.
  2. Senior School Administrator: PhD graduates may work at secondary schools in senior administrative roles such as a superintendent. Garnering an average salary of $106,690 in 2022, a role as a secondary school administrator is a popular choice for PhD graduates with a background in working with younger students5.
  3. Chief Learning Officer: PhD graduates who prefer to work in a corporate environment rather than at a university may pursue a career path as a Chief Learning Officer (CLO). Job responsibilities for CLOs include retaining top talent, implementing training and mentorship programs and improving the internal talent available within the company. As of 2021, the median annual salary for a top-level executive was $98,980 per year6.
  4. Medical Science Liaison (MSL): Another option for PhD graduates who want to work outside of academia is a career as a Medical Science Liaison (MSL), whose job responsibilities include building professional relationships with industry leaders in research-related areas. One of the key advantages of becoming an MSL is that it provides more freedom to learn, teach and travel than traditional PhD careers. In 2023, the average salary for an MSL is $147,2837.*

Job Outlook

PhD candidates typically pursue careers in academia, focusing on education or performing research in their field of study. For postsecondary educators and researchers, the projected job growth is 12% between 2021 and 20314. This is due to the expected rise in enrollment at postsecondary institutions such as colleges and universities. 

What Is an EdD?

A Doctor of Education (EdD) is a practice-based professional degree that focuses on research applications and leadership roles. The first EdD degree was granted by Harvard University in 1921. The EdD degree was created to develop seasoned educators to serve as faculty at the university level. EdD candidates are solution-focused, aiming to identify and strategize ways to improve real-world problems8.

Along with core coursework, many EdD programs offer opportunities to specialize in areas such as healthcare education, teaching and learning and executive leadership. While specializations are optional when earning an EdD, they allow you to gain deeper knowledge and expertise in areas aligned with specific career goals.

Education Requirements 

To apply for an EdD program, candidates must hold a master’s degree and meet other requirements specific to each program applied to. Once the candidate is accepted into a program, earning an EdD typically requires 3–5 years of study.

EdD programs often attract students who are simultaneously working professionally in the field. For example, the Doctor of Education program at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) has a flexible online curriculum, allowing students to continue working while completing their degree at a pace that fits their lifestyle.

The EdD program culminates in a dissertation (or dissertation in practice) that allows EdD candidates to tackle real-world problems or contribute original research in their field of study. 

What Can I Do With an EdD? 

edd careers and average salaries

An EdD is a valuable degree in any number of fields, such as higher education, healthcare, government and nonprofit organizations. Some common EdD career paths include:

  1. Healthcare Educator: Some EdD programs focus on pedagogical strategies within specialized areas of expertise. For example, USAHS’ EdD program trains educators within the health sciences field. Graduates train the next generation of healthcare practitioners in nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, athletic training and other areas, or they may teach and serve as mentors in healthcare administration. Teaching settings include universities, nursing schools, healthcare organizations and more. In 2021, the median pay for a health education specialist was $48,8609
  2. Provost: A provost is typically a senior-level administrator at a college or university who functions as the school’s chief academic officer. Provosts help develop institutional goals and strategies, determine fund allocation, and assist with the school’s daily operations. In 2021, the median pay for a postsecondary education administrator, such as a provost, was $96,910 per year10.
  3. Dean: A dean is an upper-level university administrator who oversees several related departments or an entire college within the university. Deans may also work in operations-related positions, including dean of student affairs or dean of admissions. The median pay for postsecondary education administrators (including deans) in 2021 was $96,910 per year10.
  4. Top-Level Executive: An EdD degree can prepare candidates for executive roles such as a CLO or Chief Academic Officer (CAO) within an educational institution or a business with an educational component. In these positions, an executive can create strategies to solve business problems and help their organization develop and meet goals for business development. As of 2021, the median pay for a top-level executive was $98,980 per year6.
  5. Curriculum Designer: Curriculum designers develop educational programs and instructional materials—in print or online—for schools, organizations and companies. They can also help teachers and trainers implement the curriculum and evaluate learning outcomes. The median pay in 2021 for curriculum designers was $63,74011

Job Outlook

An EdD is a degree for experienced educators who want to further their knowledge to improve the education system in its entirety. Although most EdD graduates hold jobs in the education sector, other opportunities include leadership roles in business, government and nonprofit organizations12

Postsecondary education administrators have a projected growth of 7% from 2021 to 2031, which is as fast as the national average for all occupations10.

PhD vs. EdD: 5 Factors To Consider

is a phd or edd right for me flowchart

Here are some important factors to consider when determining whether an EdD or a PhD is right for you.

 1. Career Goals  

First, think about your career goals. If you’re interested in educating future students and publishing theory-based research, you might consider pursuing a PhD in Education. If you are more interested in applying research to real-world foundational and institutional issues, an EdD may be a better choice. 

2. Day-to-Day Work

Consider what your day-to-day work would consist of as a graduate of each degree program. With a PhD, you would likely teach classes and work with graduate students to perform research. An EdD degree may lead to a career more focused on creating educational policy and developing leadership in educational institutions.

3. Types of Coursework

Completing a degree at the doctoral level is rigorous regardless of whether you choose an EdD or PhD. In PhD programs, coursework typically centers on conducting qualitative and quantitative research culminating in a dissertation. By contrast, EdD coursework focuses on leadership and education, treating research as a component rather than the main focus of the degree.

4. Online Programs 

If you’re already working as an educator or aren’t able to commute, online programs give you the flexibility to complete an EdD or PhD at home and at your own pace. 

Programs such as USAHS’ Doctor of Education are delivered almost completely online, with optional on-campus immersions where you can engage in discussions, presentations and Q&A sessions face-to-face with professors, guest speakers and fellow students.

5. Specialization Options 

If you want to specialize within your degree, do some research to determine which EdD or PhD programs have options to concentrate on the area you’re interested in. While concentrations differ at each university, EdD and PhD programs have certain staples. PhD concentrations include areas such as educational psychology and special education, while popular EdD concentrations include educational leadership and teaching.

Both an EdD and PhD in Education offer excellent career options. Regardless of the decision you make, it’s essential to choose the career path that is right for you and best aligns with your career goals. 

Take the Next Step With Your Education

Interested in pursuing higher education in health sciences? USAHS offers an EdD degree that allows you to specialize in healthcare education, like Nurse Educator, Teaching and Learning, Athletic Training and Executive Leadership. It’s an online program that also offers optional immersions. 

Contact an enrollment advisor when you’re ready to apply to a one-of-a-kind program. 

The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers an online EdD program designed for working clinicians and healthcare educators, with optional on-campus immersions. Specializations include Nurse Educator, Athletic Training, Teaching and Learning, and Executive Leadership. Complete coursework when and where you want and earn your advanced degree while keeping your work and life in balance.

*The information provided on this website is based on self-reported data and is intended for general informational purposes only. PayScale is a limited data source that relies on voluntary submissions from individuals and employers.

Please be aware that the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of the data may vary due to its voluntary nature and limited scope. While efforts are made to maintain the data’s accuracy, we cannot guarantee its absolute correctness or currency.


  1. University of The People, “What Is An Ed.D. And Why Is It Important For Your Future?,” University of The People, last modified July 2022, 
  2. School of Education Online Programs, “EdD vs. PhD in Education: Why Choose an EdD?,”SOEOnline, last modified October 2022, 
  3. Coursera, “How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD?,” Coursera, last modified June 2023, 
  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Postsecondary Teachers,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified October 2022, 
  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “May 2022 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified Modified April 2023, 
  6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Top Executives,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified September 2022, 
  7. Payscale, “Average Medical Science Liason Salary,” PayScale, last modified 2023, 
  8. Harvard Graduate School of Education, “Doctor of Education Leadership,” Harvard Graduate School of Education, 
  9. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified October 2022, 
  10. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Postsecondary Education Administrators,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified October 2022, 
  11. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Instructional Coordinators,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified October 2022,
  12. Graduate Programs Staff, “8 Careers You Can Pursue with a Doctorate in Education,” Northeastern University Graduate Programs, last modified September 2019,


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