Online Ph.D. in Education Administration

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A Ph.D. in education administration can help teachers and administrators reach higher positions within their schools and districts. The degree prepares students to handle academic affairs and student development, along with the financial, legislative, and ethical intricacies of complex school systems.

Graduates of online doctoral programs in higher education administration often pursue positions such as department chair or school dean, while others secure professorships in education or school administration. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary education administrators earn a median annual salary of $92,360.

Reasons to Pursue an Online Ph.D. in Education Administration

The main differences between a master's and a Ph.D. in education administration involve the administrative level the degree qualifies graduates to enter and the amount of leadership responsibilities graduates can hold. Master's degree holders can pursue entry- or mid-level administrative positions at colleges and universities. Professionals with a master's can work in the finance department or in student curriculum counseling.

A Ph.D. trains students to become a school dean or president, a department chair, or a professor of education administration. The level of responsibility these positions involve requires leadership and communication skills and an understanding of administrative bodies. Deans and presidents often hire new faculty, arbitrate disputes between students and professors, and conduct analyses of workflow and student success. Students who plan to teach or research school systems as a professor of education administration need a Ph.D.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Education Administration?

Professionals with an online Ph.D. in higher education administration can pursue a variety of careers. Ph.D. holders often become university deans or chief academic officers who oversee schools and departments. Graduates may also address issues in a school's infrastructure through directorships in school development, admissions, student affairs, or continuing education. For example, a director of student admissions gauges how many students a school can accept based on revenue numbers, capacity, and degree specializations.

Department professorships in education and administration allow Ph.D. holders to help train future deans, directors, and administrators. A doctorate in education administration also qualifies holders to impact their local community as a K-12 school principal, superintendent, or educational legislator.

Career Subfields Within Education Administration

Junior Colleges: State, local, and private
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools: State, local, and private

Source: BLS

Common Career Paths and Salaries

Professionals with an online Ph.D. in higher education administration can pursue a variety of career opportunities in administration and education. The list below includes common career paths for graduates, the key responsibilities of each profession, and current salary expectations.

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

These administrators oversee K-12 schools to ensure they meet state and national standards. Principals manage staff, advise teachers, and discipline students.

Academic Dean

Deans work with faculty and staff at colleges and universities. Academic deans hire new faculty, oversee budgets and enrollment, and review academic standards.

Curriculum Director

Curriculum directors adjust curricula based on enrollment data and student success rates. These directors ensure that schools meet state standards.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Administrators in admissions, student affairs, or the registrar's office make key decisions regarding student life and school admissions. These professionals develop administrative policies, participate in faculty employment, and manage budgets.

College or University President

The president of a college or university oversees financial and budgetary decisions, consults with executives and staff, appoints department heads, and makes administrative decisions for the postsecondary institution.

Salary Progression

Salaries vary depending on the professional's location and educational qualifications. Average entry-level salaries in the field range from about $60,000 for a curriculum developer to $90,000 for an academic dean.

Large, public institutions generally offer higher salaries than small colleges or universities because of increased performance pressures and public obligations. High-level administrators, such as presidents, deans, and principals, typically earn the highest salaries. While private schools are not legally bound to divulge salary information, all public schools report salaries annually.

Education Administration Ph.D. Program Requirements and Outcomes

Though application requirements vary by school, most online doctoral programs in higher education administration require transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Many programs require applicants to have at least five years of documented professional experience in education or administration. Most Ph.D. programs include 60-90 credits, which full-time students typically complete in 4-6 years.

Most schools offer the degree in a hybrid or fully online format to accommodate the schedules of working professionals. Other than in-person application interviews, few programs require on-campus components. Coursework emphasizes research abilities, communication and teaching skills, and policy and budget analysis. Doctoral programs culminate in a dissertation, where candidates demonstrate their independent research and critical analysis skills.

Common Courses

  • College Student Development Theory

    This course provides foundational knowledge for students planning to pursue positions in college administration, including roles in curriculum departments and student affairs. Learners prepare to set strategic goals and to communicate with students at all levels. The course examines methods of student support and how to identify at-risk personal and academic behaviors.

  • Higher Education Law

    This course covers the legal, institutional, and political stressors on the modern education system. Students learn about the federal and state requirements imposed on colleges and university systems. Learners also investigate the ethical foundations of student protection services and gain a deeper understanding of modern law disputes shaping education.

  • Contemporary Issues in Education Administration

    In this course, students discuss the cultural, social, political, and temporal stressors shaping modern education administration. Learners typically approach administrative issues from the perspective of a department leader or manager.

  • Research Seminar in Statistical Analysis

    Students in this research seminar gain skills in statistical data acquisition, analysis, and interpretation. This course prepares students to conduct independent dissertation research and trains learners to lead institutional development and progress.

  • Advanced Leadership Theory

    This course prepares learners to work with students in multiple age groups, from diverse backgrounds. Learners prepare to improve educational environments, increase communication and transparency, and lead underrepresented student and faculty communities.

Other Requirements

Internship

Students earning a Ph.D. in higher education administration online must typically complete an internship. Internships generally comprise 100-150 hours supervised by an administrative professional. Interns showcase their leadership skills and work with students, professors, and staff in a public or private institution.

Qualifying Exams

After completing coursework and an internship, Ph.D. candidates sit for qualifying exams. The length, number, and type of exams vary by school, but most exams require detailed written responses and an oral defense before a committee of professors.

Dissertation Research and Composition

The successful completion of exams qualifies candidates to conduct independent research for a dissertation. Learners should choose a dissertation topic relevant to their career goals. For example, individuals who plan to work in school finance may explore statistical case studies of department costs.

Dissertation Defense

A committee of professors and administrative professionals reviews and accepts dissertations. After submitting written work and research, candidates orally defend their findings. Professors inform candidates of any issues with their work and mandate changes. Ph.D. candidates must make satisfactory changes prior to graduation.

Skills and Competencies

Students earning a doctorate in education administration gain skills relevant to their future careers. Learners typically gain the skills and competencies below during administration training and independent research.

  • Communication and Interpersonal Relations

    Administrators oversee communities of professionals and students. These professionals need strong communication and interpersonal skills to help others work effectively.

  • Leadership and Management

    Roles in education administration include a significant amount of managerial responsibility. Professionals need skills in effective and empathetic leadership and management.

  • Critical Analysis

    Professionals in education administration must often break apart arguments, identify evidence, and construct unique interpretations.

  • Teaching

    Professors of education administration need strong teaching skills. Students in Ph.D. programs learn to communicate effectively and explain complex scenarios clearly and concisely.

  • Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis

    Students learn to decipher trends and anomalies through quantitative and qualitative analysis. Learners compile and interpret complex data sets.

  • Composition

    Education administrators need clear composition skills to write briefs, mandates, public service announcements, and research reports.

Education Administration Licensure

Professionals need different types of licensure depending on their professional level and the type of school at which they work. Most colleges and universities require administrators to hold a Ph.D. from an accredited school. Accreditation demonstrates the value of a candidate's education, including foundational training.

Similarly, a degree from an accredited institution is more important than licensure for postsecondary administrators. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is the primary accrediting body for educational programs. Students should look for programs with CAEP accreditation and should ensure any prospective school holds national or regional accreditation.

Administrative and teaching positions in K-12 schools require certification or licensure; these requirements vary by state. The Education Commission of the States provides a review of licensure requirements by state. Students should research schools in the area in which they plan to teach to understand certification and licensure requirements.

Education Administration Professional Organizations

Students and professionals in education administration benefit from professional connections. Members of professional organizations can meet others in the field and build professional networks. Many of these associations offer educational opportunities, annual conferences, and publications.

Members stay updated on the latest issues in education, including legislative proposals, student advocacy, and shifting demographic needs. Members may have opportunities to present research or advocate for their community at annual meetings. Many professional organizations provide career resources, such as job boards.

Below are some well-known national associations for educational administrators and professors. Students should also research local organizations.

  • American Association of School Administrators

    Often called the School Superintendents Association, AASA is an international association with more than 13,000 members. AASA is an advocacy group dedicated to improving the quality of education for all students. The organization also provides outreach opportunities.

  • Association of Deans and Directors of University Colleges and Undergraduate Studies

    Composed of deans, presidents, department directors, and administrators, this association works to improve student engagement and success. The organization also provides academic support services and a career center.

  • Association of International Education Administrators

    AIEA comprises an international network of administrators. The organization addresses issues relevant to the expanding international community. Members receive access to networking opportunities and a subscription to the Journal of Studies in International Education.

  • National Association of Secondary School Principals

    NASSP provides national meetings, offers publications on advocacy and policy changes, and cultivates a nationwide community of school principals. The organization also provides resources to help schools initiate innovative programs and funding for independent research.

  • Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities

    Founded in 1986, HACU is a consortium of colleges and professionals that supports Hispanic students. HACU members promote advocacy initiatives and present and network at conferences.