What Can You Do With an Education Degree?

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Earning a doctorate in education (Ed.D) can open a range of opportunities for graduates. Along with the immediate benefits of continuing education — acquiring an in-depth understanding of how educational policies can impact social justice or researching cutting-edge intervention strategies to make education more equitable — an Ed.D. degree can lead to influential roles in higher education leadership.

When considering what you can do with an education degree, keep in mind higher education institutions are large-scale employers and their hiring needs include more than just faculty. The administrative and support roles within these institutions may be ideal career paths for education degree graduates. These departments and those who work in them have the task of designing programs and policies that dictate the student experience.

An education degree can help candidates seeking jobs in higher education prepare to deal with its unique conditions. Academia is a field governed by public sector policies, with trends and patterns that don’t perfectly match any other profession. Taking on a role at a college or university may be easier for someone who has taken related graduate-level courses.

Education Degree Jobs on the Rise

Fortunately for those seeking roles in the field of education, academic institutions plan to hire at steady rates over the next several years.

Administrative roles in postsecondary education are projected to grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Continued growth in student enrollment at postsecondary institutions is a key factor driving the demand for administrators: More undergraduates needing academic services means a greater need for support staff.

The BLS notes not every higher education role is predicted to grow at the same pace. Some jobs within colleges and universities, such as provosts and deans, are limited by nature. Other jobs in education, including registrars and admission staff, stand to grow as colleges and universities boost the scale of these departments to cope with more student intake.

According to the BLS, most of these non-faculty employees work year-round, even during the summer recess. Some of the roles do experience reduced hours when classes are not in session, however, depending on the institution’s policies.

Where Do Higher Education Professionals Work?

Employment at public colleges and universities is governed by public sector budgets, according to the BLS. When local and state governments have budget surpluses, they can step up educational hiring, while deficits may limit it. Private schools are less tied to government funding, and their financial health will change on a case-by-case basis.

When comparing administrative hiring at four-year colleges, universities, and professional schools (public and private) versus junior colleges, the BLS reports the former employs 79% of professionals and the latter 13%.

Some employees will start in entry-level positions and work their way up to leadership roles, while others may come from other academic sector jobs. The BLS notes admission and student affairs are among the teams that tend to hire some applicants who don’t have a professional background in education.

While there are many job opportunities for Ed.D. graduates in higher education, they aren’t the only examples of what you can do with an education degree. Positions at government agencies dealing directly with school policy may be a good fit for individuals with this knowledge base. Graduates of Ed.D. programs can also seek third-party consulting roles.

Careers in Higher Education

Since an Ed.D. program covers numerous topic areas within the general scope of education, it can pave the way to many different career paths at higher education institutions. These distinct professions call for specific skills and interests, and institutions benefit when dedicated and knowledgeable experts staff these roles.

The following are just a few of the most promising careers in higher education for Ed.D. graduates. Each one of these career options provides a path for advancement and the potential to influence important decisions. These jobs will test employees’ interpersonal skills, such as creative problem-solving and communication, alongside their knowledge of the present academic climate.

Director of Career Services

The career services department at a college or university is responsible for helping faculty, alumni, and current students find employment. Career services professionals develop strong connections with employers and help create impactful programs for students. Some of these career services jobs include counselor, coordinator, and assistant director, all serving a department director.

The promise of valuable job opportunities after graduation, or even internship chances while still in school, can attract prospective students to an institution. The career services department is a major contributor to a college’s or university’s reputation and image. Career services professionals set up networking between students and alumni, create workshops, perform assessments, and coach current enrollees and graduates.

Salaries can vary within a typical career services department. Career counselors, an entry-level role, earned a median annual salary of around $47,200 as of May 2022, according to Payscale. Meanwhile, directors of career services earned approximately $62,500 during the same period. Employees who rise through the ranks can go from assisting students on a case-by-case basis to setting policies that affect their institutions at a high level.

Academic Dean, Provost, or Chief Academic Officer

An academic dean is in charge of an entire college or school, overseeing strategic decisions. A university containing specialized schools for law, medicine, or other areas may have a dean for each of these courses of study. Academic deans must ensure that the programs at their schools are up to the standards laid down by regulators and accreditation authorities.

The next level of authority above academic deans goes to provosts, also known as chief academic officers, who directly assist and advise institutions’ presidents. A provost’s impact on an institution’s policies can be significant. These leaders are tasked with inspecting budgets, giving input on hiring faculty or granting tenure, and directing research programs.

In terms of what you can do with an education degree, academic dean is among the most senior roles. The career path that leads to a role as provost or academic dean is not clearly laid out. People appointed to these positions will have likely put in long years of service in education.

The median annual salary for an academic dean was approximately $93,000 as of May 2022, according to Payscale. The professionals who become deans, provosts, and chief academic officers earn their higher salaries by providing an essential connection between various departments. Part of their job requires collaborating with other administrative leaders to provide a direction for the institution as a whole.

Dean of Students

While the academic dean makes decisions about the strategic direction of a school, the dean of students is directly involved in crafting the student experience and ensuring every enrollee has a chance to succeed in a nurturing learning environment. At larger institutions, the dean of students will work closely with an assistant.

Professionals who want to become a dean of students can take on other responsibilities within the student affairs department. Some of these positions are based on providing academic advice and guidance, while others are targeted at separate elements of the educational experience, like extracurricular programs and housing. When parents or guardians have comments or concerns, they deal with the student affairs department.

At some smaller colleges, athletics may be part of the student affairs team’s purview, while at larger institutions, it is its own department. In all cases, the programs that assist students in their day-to-day life are created, assessed, and maintained by the student affairs department, overseen by the dean of students. As with career services, student affairs professionals have a great degree of control over the experience of attending a particular institution.

The median annual salary for a dean of students was approximately $63,700 as of May 2022, according to Payscale.

Director of Admission

Admission departments are among the groups most likely to grow and expand as overall student enrollment in higher education increases. Institutions will need staff members who can assess applicant performance, conduct interviews, and determine the standards for selecting the incoming class. Admission and enrollment personnel are also in charge of events such as campus tours.

The Balance, a website that provides financial advice, specifies entry-level roles like admission counselor and representative can lead to more prestigious positions, such as associate director, director, and vice president of enrollment management. People seeking entry into academia from other fields may find valuable opportunities in enrollment, since these teams consist of many employees with varying levels of seniority. The teams may grow as overall student populations rise.

PayScale reports admission directors earned a median annual salary of about $70,500 as of May 2022.

Director of Financial Services

Higher education institutions face complex financial requirements. For business and financial services teams, understanding these needs and creating policies to meet them are key responsibilities. The director of financial services oversees these tasks. Transaction oversight and record keeping are among these professionals’ duties, which blend strategic priorities from the corporate world with education’s regulatory environment.

In addition to performing everyday financial duties, such as selecting vendors and setting contract terms, business departments have to analyze financial data and be prepared to conduct audits when there are irregularities or problems with the numbers. Many roles fall under the general financial category, including accountant, controller, treasurer, payroll professional, and several levels of assistant leading up to the director.

From managing donations to creating internal budget request processes, financial responsibilities in academia cover a number of scenarios. Directors of financial services earned a median annual salary of approximately $73,300 per year as of January 2022, according to Payscale.

Professor of Higher Education

While most of the roles using the knowledge from Ed.D. programs are on the administrative and support side, some professors may also benefit from the Ed.D.’s up-to-date overview of higher education practices. Most notably, professors who teach classes in postsecondary instruction can use the knowledge of academia’s unique regulatory, administrative, and organizational concepts in their own curriculum planning.

These professors are tasked with giving lectures, performing research, and helping their students build their knowledge, all while growing their teaching careers. Education students may perform intensive research on the way to preparing and defending their theses, and professors play an active part in assisting with this process.

The hiring of professors is handled somewhat differently from other staff members, especially academics who secure roles on the tenure track. Once these instructors earn tenure, they take on established and secure roles within their departments with the freedom to choose their own research subjects and immunity to firing without cause.

The median annual salary of a professor of higher education was approximately $80,500 as of January 2022, per Payscale, although exact figures can vary widely based on the institution and length of service.

Ed.D. Curriculum

The coursework students complete while earning an Ed.D. is designed with the modern academic world in mind, encompassing the many responsibilities professionals take on within higher education institutions. In Bradley University’s online Ed.D. program, experienced faculty members with deep connections to college and university leadership oversee these classes. Through lectures and question-and-answer sessions, participants can take advantage of these instructors’ knowledge.

Courses such as Financial Affairs in Higher Education and Student and Academic Affairs are aimed at imparting information that will be useful in particular school administration roles. Students will learn from up-to-date examples illustrating many important and unique aspects of leading a department at a community college, four-year college, or university. Other classes, such as The Contemporary Learner and Learning in an Era of Technology, apply across all academic roles, preparing graduates for the way the educational experience has changed over time.

This curriculum can assist students seeking to become not just administrative professionals in higher education, but also successful and impactful contributors with a high career ceiling.

What Skills Do Ed.D. Students Develop?

The key to standing out in a crowded and accomplished field of candidates often involves building a résumé that demonstrates both unimpeachable academic credentials and an impressive work history. Degree programs that can coexist with professional work represent potential paths to such a diversified resume.

Students who study for an online Ed.D. can keep their full-time jobs while taking courses on their own schedules, using asynchronous digital learning tools to view lectures and file assignments. Once they have their doctorates, Ed.D. graduates can use these credentials to distinguish themselves from fellow applicants. The BLS notes the minimum educational requirements for administrative positions vary, with some roles open to people with master’s degrees or higher.

In addition to requiring years of educational experience and a relevant degree, hiring managers tend to value candidates who have the soft skills and personal abilities to succeed in the highly interactive world of educational administration. This means keen organization skills, along with problem-solving, communications, and technological aptitude. Through degree elements such as an internship, Ed.D. graduates can build useful soft skills, along with the technical skills they learn in classes.

Take Your Step Toward a Career in Education Leadership

Studying education at the graduate level provides an opportunity to become familiar with the latest practices powering the diverse and vibrant world of academia. When considering what you can do with an education degree, the possibilities continue to expand. Graduates with a doctorate in education step into their careers with the tools and skills to lead in a wide range of higher education roles, including finance, instruction, and student support services. Professionals with an Ed.D. have opportunities to shape higher education for the better, increasing equity and improving access to transformative learning experiences.

Bradley University’s online Doctor of Education program prepares doctoral students to confront real-world injustices in schools and classroom settings. Students can earn their degree flexibly online in as few as seven semesters — giving them the credentials they need to succeed in higher education without spending half a decade in graduate school.

To find out more about the top education degree jobs and how Ed.D. courses relate to these roles, check out the program page.


Recommended Readings

Ph.D. vs. Ed.D.: Key Differences

How to Become a College Dean

Online Doctor of Education Program: Admissions Made Easy


Sources:Payscale, Average Admissions Director (College/University) Salary

Payscale, Average Academic Dean Salary

Payscale, Average Career Counselor Salary

Payscale, Average Dean of Students Salary

Payscale, Average Director, Career Services Salary

PaysScale, Average Director of Financial Services Salary

Payscale, Average Professor of Education Salary

The Balance Careers, “Best Jobs in Higher Education Administration”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Education Administrators