Best Online PhD Degrees in Education: 2016

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Career & Salary Possibilities with a Doctorate in Education

Few understand the importance of learning as well as those in the field of education. That’s what drives some to pursue an online PhD in education, a degree that prepares teachers to move into higher level positions in research, curriculum development and administration. Designed to allow students to continue working in their chosen careers while they pursue an advanced education, the online PhD in education offers the foothold needed to move into positions with better pay and stronger job security.

Timeline of an Online PhD Degree

Applying to Doctorate Programs

Once potential online education PhD programs are narrowed down to a short list of schools, it’s time to start the application process. Given that doctoral programs are designed for those who are serious about reaching the pinnacle of their profession, it’s no surprise that the application process can be lengthy and rigorous. Here are some of the requirements that students might encounter when applying for a PhD education program.

  • Transcripts.

    A record of all education should be sent via official transcripts to the schools of choice. Keep in mind that some schools require a minimum GPA on certain courses, but most will not require the GRE; instead, admission is dependent upon completion of a master’s degree in education or a related field, as well as other criteria such as work experience.

  • Recommendations.

    Students should obtain at least three letters of recommendation from those who are familiar with their work in education; supervisors, work colleagues and former professors are good sources. Some schools may simply ask for a list of references and will contact them directly.

  • Personal essay.

    The essay serves as both a writing sample and a vehicle for students to distinguish themselves among a competitive field. Ideally, the essay should be thought-provoking and honest, focusing on why the student is a good fit for the program and what they intend to contribute to the field upon completion of their degree.

  • Interview.

    Some schools will require an interview with candidates who make their final list. Students might be asked to travel to the school to meet with a committee; distance learners can likely interview via Skype or some other form of video chat.

  • Resume.

    Some programs will only admit those who have already begun work in the field; two years is usually required, though some students might be admitted with less experience. The resume should include both paid work history and volunteer experience, specifically in various areas of the educational system.

Year 1

During the first year of study, students take foundational courses in their chosen concentration, as well as core courses that are typical of any doctoral student in education. Statistics and measurement; research methods; and reviews and analysis of literature and research are common subjects of study. Students also work closely with advisers to begin developing a dissertation topic.

Year 2

The second year’s focus will be on the concentration area, with more targeted classes that will help students refine their dissertation research as they delve into it more deeply. Classes might include topics such as education law, leadership, curriculum development, and politics in education.

Year 3

Most students go through a third year of study, during which they are entirely focused on completing a dissertation that reflects original ideas and research. Once the research and writing is complete, the dissertation must be presented and defended to a graduate committee; the dissertation represents the culmination of the program.

Testing and Graduation Requirements

Completing a doctoral program in education is no small feat; in addition to coursework, students may also have to fulfill further requirements. Some of the most common ones for online PhD in education programs may include:

  • Comprehensive examination.

    Between the completion of required courses and starting on the dissertation in earnest, some schools administer a comprehensive examination that proves a student has gained the knowledge and skills taught in the program. Passing this examination is required in order to advance to the dissertation process.

  • Dissertation.

    As the cornerstone of the entire doctoral degree pursuit, the dissertation is an in-depth research paper that takes at least a year to prepare, and sometimes longer. Upon completion, the dissertation will be presented to a committee whose members ask questions and probe the content of the dissertation; the student is expected to successfully defend any and all points brought up.

  • Graduation application.

    Some schools require students to apply for their degrees once they have completed all requirements. The committee then reviews the student’s dissertation and defense, academic performance, and related criteria before awarding the degree.

Search Online Doctorate Degrees in Education

Students often have an idea of what they want, but don’t always know the best way to find it. The following search tool serves as an aid to select particular factors—such as school type, geographical location and tuition—to find schools that meet the criteria.

Student Population:
School Type:
see map

Routes to Doctorate in Education

There are two paths to earning a doctorate in education: the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and the Doctor of Education (EdD). Though each has stringent academic requirements, and some courses might overlap, their overall goals are distinctly different. Here’s what to expect from each:

PhD in Education

The PhD in education is designed for those who want to assume leadership or administrative positions, as well as those who intend to teach at the postsecondary level or move into research. Studies can delve into such areas as experimental design, educational psychology, instructional technology, curriculum development, and statistical methods. Though students typically spend two years taking courses that pertain to their chosen concentrations, the degree itself can take up to five years to complete when the dissertation is taken into account. Those who graduate from online PhD in education schools might find work with consulting firms, educational testing services, or government research organizations.

EdD in Education

This terminal education degree is aimed at those who intend to take their higher education back into the school system and work hands-on with students and faculty. Concentrations focus on skills and strategies for leadership and administration, assessment goals and procedures, policy development, education strategy, and organizational improvement, among others. Though most students complete the EdD in education within two or three years, it may take longer for those who need more time to complete the dissertation. Graduates tend to work in school systems, moving into positions involving curriculum development, resource management and administration.

The Impact of a PhD on Salary & Career Potential

Those who choose to pursue the PhD in education often do so in order to advance in their career; upper-level positions typically come with more responsibility, better job security and higher pay. By choosing a concentration that plays to their interests and strengths, students can enhance their ability to make the most of the degree in their professional life. The following are the most common concentrations found in PhD in education programs, as well as jobs they might lead to:

Concentrations
Language and Literacy

Those who want to influence policy, move into research, and design innovative curricula can benefit from this concentration, which typically includes classes in instruction, literacy theory, and language and literary development. Students also examine the variety of problems that can arise from cultural, social or linguistic factors.

Career:
Educational Counselor or Psychologist
Educational Counselor or Psychologist

These licensed psychologists or counselors focus on the mental health and well-being of those under their care; in a school setting, this typically involves working closely not only with students, but also their parents, teachers and administrators.

Principal or Superintendent
Principal or Superintendent

These leaders might run an individual school, as in the case of a principal, or oversee an entire school system, as with a superintendent. They might also serve as liaisons to government educational agencies or state boards of education.

Postsecondary Educator
Postsecondary Educator

These instructors work at the college level; although they might teach in any subject, most who earn a PhD in education tend to teach other educators.

Learning and Technology

As the world becomes more technologically advanced, so does education. This concentration focuses on topics such as data analysis, modeling, learning theory, problem solving and cognitive psychology, so that students have the foundation necessary to create online learning environments, design digital materials, and work to find other technological applications.

Career:
Training Consultant
Training Consultant

These consultants work with teachers and other educational professionals to analyze pertinent research and present the best options in areas such as curriculum design and instructional technologies.

Postsecondary Administrator
Postsecondary Administrator

Working in a variety of positions in university or college systems, these administrators might be deans or provosts, financial aid counselors or student advisers.

Education Technology Specialist
Education Technology Specialist

These individuals work with K-12 school districts, colleges and universities to ensure their technology is up to par and that students and teachers know how to use it; they also evaluate schools or programs to determine if upgrades or changes are needed.

Postsecondary Educator
Postsecondary Educator

These instructors work at the college level; although they might teach in any subject, most who earn a PhD in education tend to teach other educators.

Special Education

This concentration prepares students to work with special education pupils in K-12 schools, offering training in the proper delivery of lessons, behavioral analysis, early intervention, learning disabilities, socioeconomic challenges, and more. Graduates of the special education concentration are prepared to work with children facing a wide variety of emotional, mental and physical disabilities or challenges.

Career:
Educational Counselor or Psychologist
Educational Counselor or Psychologist

These licensed psychologists or counselors focus on the mental health and well-being of those under their care; in a school setting, this typically involves working closely not only with students, but also their parents, teachers and administrators.

K-12 Administrator
K-12 Administrator

These administrators work with school districts, state and government agencies, and private educational establishments, often in positions where they shape curriculum development, influence public policy, and promote professional development.

K-12 Educator
K-12 Educator

From the youngest children to those who are about to embark on college life, these educators might use their advanced degrees to work with troubled youth or special education students, or to serve as school supervisors.

Education Leadership

This concentration covers all aspects of leadership as they pertain to the world of education, and might include courses in strategic planning, logistics, operations, change management, teacher recruitment, organizational leadership, and team building. The concentration can be further honed to focus on either K-12 leadership or postsecondary administration.

Career:
Postsecondary Administrator
Postsecondary Administrator

Working in a variety of positions in university or college systems, these administrators might be deans or provosts, financial aid counselors or student advisers.

Principal or Superintendent
Principal or Superintendent

These leaders might run an individual school, as in the case of a principal, or oversee an entire school system, as with a superintendent. They might also serve as liaisons to government educational agencies or state boards of education.

K-12 Administrator
K-12 Administrator

These administrators work with school districts, state and government agencies, and private educational establishments, often in positions where they shape curriculum development, influence public policy, and promote professional development.

Educational Psychology (or Community Counseling)

This concentration educates students on the theoretical and methodological skills used in research, including courses in the cognitive science of teaching, child development, educational assessments, and evidence-based decision making. Students who intend to work as psychologists must be licensed, and should pursue that goal during their degree studies.

Career:
Healthcare Educator
Healthcare Educator

With a strong emphasis on public health and policy, these educators might work in private or governmental agencies as researchers, consultants or administrators. They guide instructional development with an underlying goal of health promotion and education.

Educational Counselor or Psychologist
Educational Counselor or Psychologist

These licensed psychologists or counselors focus on the mental health and well-being of those under their care; in a school setting, this typically involves working closely not only with students, but also their parents, teachers and administrators.

Postsecondary Educator
Postsecondary Educator

These instructors work at the college level; although they might teach in any subject, most who earn a PhD in education tend to teach other educators.

Potential Salary Increases with a Doctoral Degree

Those who earn an online PhD in education are prepared to move into positions with greater responsibility, often enjoying the increased compensation that comes with advanced knowledge and skills. These careers are common among those who have earned their PhD in education:

Career Lower 10% Median Salary Upper 10%
Training Consultant $31,980 $57,340 $97,660
Postsecondary Administrator $50,240 $88,390 $174,000
Instructional Coordinator $35,700 $61,550 $95,590
Educational Counselor $31,960 $53,370 $86,610
K-12 Administrator $59,250 $89,540 $129,300

Additional Resources & Links

Whether currently enrolled in an online computer science PhD program or already working in the field, those with an interest in computer science can benefit from the following resources.

  • American Educational Research Association.

    Those dedicated to research in the educational sphere can find information and current news on on legislation, advocacy and advancement here.

  • American School Counselor Association.

    This organization provides information to counselors, parents and the public.

  • Association of American Educators.

    This organization for education professionals offers a long list of benefits for educators, including state chapters and partners and professional resources.

  • Council for Exceptional Children.

    An excellent resource for those who work with children in special education, this organization offers professional development tips, resources and webinars.

  • National Education Association.

    The NEA focuses on bolstering public schools and the teachers who work there, offering tools, ideas, grants, events and more.

  • The School Superintendent’s Association.

    Dedicated to those in positions of educational leadership, this comprehensive website offers information on policy and advocacy, opportunities for leadership and professional development, publications, and a cultural exchange.

Best Online PhD in Education Degrees

Aspiring leaders in the world of education know that for some positions, a higher degree is required. But weeding through the numerous possible schools can be daunting, and choosing the right one often proves to be a time-consuming task. That’s where a solid rankings system can help. Our ranking of the Best Online PhD in Education Degrees for 2016 is designed to help prospective students find a school that fits their needs, without the hassle of searching through hundreds of possibilities.

Want to see how we chose these schools? Check out our methodology here .

RANK COLLEGE SCORE TEACHER/STUDENT RATIO COST GRADUATION RATE
1 Appalachian State University 100.00 16:1 70%
2 University of Florida 99.25 21:1 88%
3 Allen College 98.50 9:1 75%
4 Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus 97.25 17:1 86%
5 Andrews University 96.25 9:1 59%
6 Hampton University 96.00 9:1 66%
6 University of Southern California 96.00 9:1 91%
8 Clemson University 95.75 16:1 82%
9 Texas A & M University-Commerce 95.25 18:1 52%
9 Texas A & M University-College Station 95.25 20:1 79%
11 Lehigh University 95.00 10:1 87%
12 University of North Carolina at Greensboro 94.75 17:1 56%
13 Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale 94.25 12:1 55%
14 University of Nebraska-Lincoln 94.00 21:1 67%
14 University of Arkansas 94.00 19:1 62%
16 Colorado State University-Fort Collins 93.75 16:1 65%
17 Creighton University 93.50 11:1 78%
18 University of Northern Colorado 93.25 17:1 46%
19 Rowan University 93.00 17:1 67%
20 Edgewood College 92.75 11:1 62%
20 Drexel University 92.75 10:1 67%
22 Oregon State University 92.50 19:1 63%
22 Union Institute & University 92.50 8:1 25%
24 Harding University 92.00 16:1 63%
25 The University of Montana 91.50 18:1 48%
26 Morgan State University 91.25 14:1 32%
27 University of Memphis 91.00 14:1 44%
28 University of North Florida 90.75 20:1 55%
28 Texas Tech University 90.75 22:1 59%
30 Eastern Kentucky University 90.50 15:1 42%
31 Concordia University-Chicago 89.75 17:1 58%
31 University of St Francis 89.75 11:1 56%
33 University of North Dakota 89.50 19:1 55%
33 Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College 89.50 22:1 67%
33 Governors State University 89.50 10:1 N/A
36 Arkansas State University-Main Campus 89.25 17:1 39%
37 Nova Southeastern University 89.00 16:1 46%
37 DePaul University 89.00 17:1 71%
39 East Tennessee State University 88.75 18:1 43%
40 The University of Alabama 88.50 21:1 66%
40 University of New England 88.50 13:1 57%
42 Kennesaw State University 88.00 21:1 43%
42 Benedictine University 88.00 13:1 51%
42 Gardner-Webb University 88.00 13:1 54%
45 Wilmington University 87.25 14:1 35%
46 University of the Cumberlands 84.75 16:1 36%
47 Southwestern College 84.00 28:1 19%
47 Indiana State University 84.00 20:1 40%
49 Liberty University 83.75 18:1 50%
50 Lamar University 83.25 22:1 33%