How can a doctorate in education help increase my salary?

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Education Resources

An administrator at a university

A long-term career in education can deliver rewards, in terms of both salary and opportunities to contribute meaningfully to the direction of learning. Professionals who plan to take their careers along such a path can build on their knowledge and experience by earning doctorates in education, reaffirming their ongoing commitment to the industry and gaining insights that departmental leaders and hiring managers may value.

Today’s online Ed.D. programs are specifically designed to fit in alongside a full-time career. Applicants from a variety of professional backgrounds can enter these degree programs to build the skills that may help them take the next step in the academic world, whether that means seeking a new role or advancing within their present place of employment.

Credentials matter in higher education and related fields

It can be difficult to attain administrative roles related to education and academia. Many community colleges, four-year colleges and universities prefer to hire candidates with more than a bachelor’s degree for higher level leadership roles. Even in cases where undergraduate degrees meet the minimum hiring requirements, advanced diplomas could help applicants stand out against tough competition.

Professionals who want to ensure their longevity and advancement in the education administration field will find they have to distinguish themselves continually among well-educated and highly experienced peers. The courses that lead to an Ed.D. can impart valuable information and skills to help administrators thrive in their day-to-day work, while the degree represents a marker of commitment to the principles and best practices of education.

Whether a professional is most interested in work at a community college, four-year college or university, serving in an educational role in the corporate world or securing a long-term professorship of education, an online Ed.D. program may be an appropriate choice for postsecondary education.

Jobs with a doctorate in education: Salary and hiring projections

Specificity matters when inspecting potential doctorate of education jobs. There are a wide variety of career outcomes that make use of the skills earned in Ed.D. courses, some within higher education and others at corporations eager to implement the latest practices from the world of academia. The hiring prospects and salary ranges possible for these roles will differ, and studying them can help prospective Ed.D. students make informed decisions about their future, both in terms of their postsecondary studies and their long-term job searches.

People wondering if these positions will bring them salary increases and career stability can compare the outlook and conditions in each role with their present employment and determine the best way forward.

In addition to making a straightforward comparison on earning potential, professionals can determine which roles best suit their interests and progress goals within educational administration and related fields. While some Ed.D. students may be excited to work in financial aid roles, for example, others may prefer to work their way toward a dean role or enter a career path that could lead to the C-suite. Others will prefer corporate employee education.

The following are three of the most prominent career types that use the information imparted in Ed.D. programs. Each will attract a different type of candidate, driven by a particular outlook on academic achievement.

Postsecondary education administrators

The many roles under the college administrator umbrella collectively represent some of the most promising outcomes for professionals who want to remain in the education field in the long term. Numerous such positions offer significant room to earn promotions and become an integral part of an educational leadership team.

Higher education staffing needs are driven by their enrollment numbers. Fortunately for job prospects in the academic world, recent years have seen more students entering U.S. higher education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections for the next few years of hiring in postsecondary administration careers reflect this increased demand for support personnel.

The BLS projects a 7% increase in higher-education office roles between 2018 and 2028. The growth for employment in all fields is expected to be 5% over that same period of time. The BLS cites greater student enrollment as the cause for growth and employee demand. The exact rate of expansion may differ across institution types — for instance, publicly funded schools depend upon state budgeting to increase staffing. The general trend, however, favors more enrollees seeking their diplomas.

The nature of administrative roles covers a variety of internal duties. Admissions and financial aid departments will require personnel to perform important calculations regarding their institution’s incoming classes. Student affairs employees will take on advisory and organizational roles regarding the experience of attending colleges and universities. The BLS did note while there is a general upward trend in administrative staffing, some roles — such as deans and provosts — won’t expand in demand, as each college or university tends to only have one of each of these high-ranking professionals.

The expected higher education administration salary range can vary as widely as these professionals’ duties. The vast spread of earning potential is due to the fact that some administrative staff members are at the beginning of their careers, while others are long-tenured fixtures on institutions’ leadership teams, taking on positions such as provost, academic dean or dean of students. The overall median salary for administrators is $94,340, according to the BLS. This promising figure is higher than the median for other management roles outside of academia, which is $90,120.

The BLS noted that the top-earning 10% of administrators make $190,600 a year, showing the significant earning potential for professionals who spend years in educational office roles and advance to positions of leadership. In addition to salary, administrators may earn unique benefits such as the ability to attend courses at their institutions. The BLS noted these office roles tend to have full-time schedules year-round, though some schools do reduce hours when classes are out of session for the summer.

Whether already employed in an administrative department such as a university’s office of student life or hoping to enter such a role, professionals will find the coursework in an Ed.D. program directly relates to the duties facing staff members at educational institutions. From the high-level impact of governmental regulations on administration to the increasing role of technology in education, the subjects covered are potentially instructive to staff members tasked with making high-level decisions that will impact the direction of community colleges, four-year colleges and universities.

Chief learning officers

High-level roles for people who understand the educational field are available today outside of academia. Companies have determined the potential value of teaching their employees new skills and competencies, finding that this internal training can compensate for gaps in workers’ knowledge and help their teams thrive over time. With education becoming a bottom-line priority for corporations, learning departments are high-priority parts of the business landscape.

The same concepts and abilities that make a professional a standout member of an administrative team may help that person thrive within the world of corporate learning and employee development. For example, the proper use of e-learning and related educational technology is relevant in both academic and corporate spaces, as is the nature of modern learner preferences. Companies could benefit from running their developmental teams with the same seriousness as university administration.

The link between educational excellence and corporate learning has been especially strong in recent years due to the rise of e-learning. The Association for Talent Development noted today’s top-performing companies from an employee education perspective have chief education officers who are able to blend digital learning tools with experiential training in key practices. Talent development at these companies means pushing innovation and maintaining high standards of employee knowledge, rather than simply onboarding new hires or providing courses to ensure regulatory compliance.

A professional who takes the top talent development position at an organization has the potential to vastly increase their annual salary. The company may employ the title chief learning officer if it is large enough to have a C-suite position strictly dedicated to this purpose. As of January 2020, PayScale noted that not only do these leaders earn a median of $152,286, but even the bottom 10% of earners make nearly six figures, at $98,000. The responsibility of determining a large company’s talent development strategy is weighty, and these businesses pay accordingly.

PayScale added that organizational development and strategy skills are among the most valuable proficiencies for chief learning officers to possess, in terms of earning a greater salary. These professionals should also be capable at organizational development and team leadership. Being a convincing and effective CLO involves combining strong interpersonal abilities with the knowledge to implement the latest and most effective educational concepts.

Professors of education and other postsecondary teaching roles

Outside of academic administration roles, there is another way to use the knowledge gained in an Ed.D. program: community colleges, four-year colleges and universities need professors of education to teach the next generation of educators the best practices of the academic field.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics places the median salary for professors of education at $64,780. Calculations of professor salaries come with some factors that are unique to the field, and these educators often supplement their primary salaries by holding multiple roles, whether that means teaching on a part-time basis at two or more institutions or taking on other work in addition to their roles as instructors.

A role as a full-time professor of education will typically involve duties outside of presenting lectures and giving out assignments. These instructors will be expected to be available to their students as an informational resource via their office hours, providing guidance to undergraduates and potentially becoming an advisor or consulting on research projects.

The BLS noted a connection that can make an Ed.D. degree especially worthwhile for professors of education: Professors are called on to serve on committees. Whether they parlay their committee roles into high-ranking administrative positions at their respective colleges and universities or maintain these duties side-by-side with a rise through the ranks from assistant to associate professor, there is room for postsecondary educators to contribute to university decision-making and policy.

Becoming adept in the subjects taught in Ed.D. coursework, from contemporary theories of education best practices to effective e-learning and general technology use, can build professors’ proficiency in and out of the classroom. Professors of education will be able to impart these practices to their own students, while instructors in other subjects can integrate the lessons into their teaching styles. Professionals who combine teaching and administration may find the most uses for Ed.D. concepts.

The Ed.D. curriculum and the higher education field

A closer look at the subjects covered in an online Ed.D. program can demonstrate the close relationship between excellence and leadership in higher education administration and these concepts. Whether graduates go on to serve in office roles at educational institutions, take their expertise into the corporate world or return to the classroom as professors, they will potentially find applications for these ideas.

The Ed.D. degree differs from the doctorate of philosophy in education (Ph.D.) due to its greater focus on the practical, day-to-day application of educational concepts. When students graduate with a Ph.D. in education, they may continue in a research capacity, focusing on pedagogy and creating a library of studies that others in the field can reference. Doctoral students, with their focus on instructing and researching, may thrive best in traditional, on-campus settings, as opposed to through an online degree program meant to continue a full-time professional’s development in a current role.

The following are a few of the most important topics covered in the curriculum of the Bradley University online Doctor of Education program. Through 100% online courses taken on their own schedules, students gain up-to-date insights on the ideas driving thought in the educational space today. When it’s time to make an important decision that will shape an institution’s policy and outlook, the information imparted in these sessions can provide guidance.

For instance, The Contemporary Learner is a course focusing on what today’s students in postsecondary institutions are looking for in ideal educational experiences. From administrators in the office of student affairs, seeking to create hospitable campus conditions, to CLOs designing compelling training programs, professionals of many descriptions can appreciate this knowledge of creative practices that engage learners.

In both academia and corporate education, Learning in an Era of Technology is another course designed to reflect the way schooling is practiced today. The presence of the internet, mobile devices and other tech innovations has irrevocably changed how people consume data. Educators who embrace this fact and adjust their practices accordingly may have greater success reaching learners than those who lack such perspective.

The availability of educational opportunities to people of all backgrounds is a concept that prospective administrators should become familiar with. Across multiple departments at any institution of learning, equity is affected by numerous factors, from federal and state policies to the measures implemented by those schools. Ed.D. students will learn about the state of this important issue in Ethical and Political Foundations of Educational Policy, a course dedicated to political leadership and equity across constituencies.

Essential skills and competencies

Students earning Ed.D. degrees aren’t simply picking up technical information on the education field. The process of working with classmates and individually on projects and assignments can impart interpersonal abilities, known as soft skills, which can help graduates thrive in administrative roles as they solve problems and communicate results.

For example, Bradley’s doctoral research requirement incorporates action research methodology. This helps students become deeply involved with a subject of their choice, learning how to incorporate high-concept ideas about the direction of educational leadership today in practical ways. This synthesis between cutting-edge theories and practical applications is a hallmark of the Ed.D. program.

Professors in the Ed.D. courses help students gain the hands-on view they need to make productive contributions in administrative settings. The Bradley University Ed.D. faculty members were chosen because they have practical engagement with the ideas they teach, and can help their students apply those concepts directly to the everyday business of working for an educational institution. Rather than simply using a syllabus, these instructors are able to teach from direct experience and help program participants in similar roles.

Valued members of an administration team are expert communicators and team leaders in addition to having practical information on the relevant concepts in the academic field. When implementing a new policy, it is important to do more than just suggest it — employees must be convincing in their presentations, with both the facts and personal persuasiveness on their side. By learning in a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment focused on practical, real-world issues, Ed.D. graduates can build their interpersonal aptitude.

Ethics-focused courses, some of the cornerstones of the online Ed.D. program, combine information about the moral framework behind today’s academic institutions with takeaways that can guide students in their everyday decision-making as administrators. By pondering the ideas presented in these classes, participants can improve their ability to lead educational programs that meet high standards of accountability and are a credit to their respective institutions. Moral clarity can be as essential to higher education administration as any amount of policy knowledge.

Earn an Ed.D.: Getting started

It’s not difficult to apply for the online Ed.D. Many elements of the program have been designed to be simple and straightforward, opening the learning opportunities to as wide a selection of participants as possible.

In as few as seven semesters, students can graduate with an Ed.D., having completed numerous courses on the contemporary best practices of learning and a capstone research project. All classes are administered 100% online, allowing applicants to keep their present full-time roles while studying, and enter the program regardless of geographic location.

Since the courses in the Ed.D. are designed to be directly relevant to present and prospective administrators, it’s important that these professionals are able to keep accumulating job experience while also adding to their knowledge and expertise through classwork. This combination of an unbroken professional history and faculty-imparted insights may prove useful as graduates polish their resumes seeking promotions, increased responsibilities and salary increases, or as they seek to apply for more prestigious roles at other institutions.

Ed.D. salary outcomes will potentially vary widely depending on the position. From office employees in departments such as student affairs, financial aid and registration to professors and corporate workers, all these varied professionals may improve their own outlooks when they earn a doctorate of education.

Roles that will hire candidates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree may present better opportunities to students who have earned a higher-level credential. When there is intense competition for a position of great responsibility, hiring managers could gravitate toward candidates who have added to their knowledge by pursuing a doctorate.

If you’re ready to begin earning a doctorate of education, or want to learn more about whether this is the right degree for you, check out the program page.

Recommended Readings:

A look at the 4 online Ed.D. foundational courses

Why You Need to Get a Doctorate with a Focus in Higher Education Administration


Bureau of Labor Statistics – Postsecondary Education Administrators Association for Talent Development – The Evolving Role of the Chief Learning Officer

PayScale – Chief Learning Officer

PayScale – Average Professor, Postsecondary / Higher Education Salary

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Postsecondary Teachers