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Ph.D. or Ed.D.? Discover the Difference and Which is Right for Your Career Goals

You’re ready to pursue the next steps in your education career, but are unsure if you should pursue the Doctorate in Philosophy in Education (Ph.D.) or the Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.).

Understanding the differences between the Ph.D. and Ed.D. will help you make the best decision to benefit your career goals in the field of education. Read on to learn more about what these two options have to offer.

Program Ph.D. in Education Ed.D.
Degree Objectives Prepares students for research and teaching in higher education  Trains educational professionals for leadership roles where research is applied to real-world settings
Estimated Time Commitment  3-5 years (full time)

5-7 years (part time)

3+ years (part time) 
Curriculum Focuses on qualitative and quantitative research methods and research theories  Focuses on finding research-based solutions to problems of practice
Residency No Residency Required  Residency Required
Capstone Dissertation Dissertation in practice 
Career Options University faculty, research scholar or policy researcher  Superintendent, principal, K-12 administrator or education nonprofit leader 

What is a Ph.D. in Education?

A Ph.D. in education is intended for those seeking a career in higher education and research at the university level, however this path also opens opportunities in educational leadership positions. It can last between three to seven years depending on the individual’s objectives and choice of full time or part time. 

Students who choose to attend this program hope to master a specific subject. They interpret existing theories, conduct their research and identify other opportunities. They strive to enact change within their field and add their findings to existing literature, hoping to inspire others. Students will be required to complete a traditional dissertation, researching a specific topic in education. This degree might not be the best fit if you want to build a career in an administrative or educational leadership role.  

What is an Ed.D. in Education?

An Ed.D. is best suited for individuals who seek careers in educational leadership. This program will train you to interpret research and then apply it to real-world settings. As a part time program, it will take three or more years to complete. 

Those who pursue an Ed.D. in education will study critical theory and implement it in several outlets such as private or public K-12 institutions, nonprofits, healthcare and government organizations. Their intended goal is to conquer specific problems in their work and promote positive change through qualitative research: collecting data, hypothesizing and developing strategies. Students will be required to complete a dissertation of practice, an untraditional scholarly doctoral dissertation that has a productive impact following its publication.   

Final Thoughts 

While many Ed.D. candidates plan to work in leadership and administration, those who choose a Ph.D. in education will use their theoretical skills to conduct impactful research. If you’re excited about the opportunity to help shape the future of education, the Ph.D. is your best academic path. 


Belana Beeck

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