What is the difference between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D.?

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A diploma tied with a ribbon

Professionals who want to understand the education world better with an eye on advancement in administration may find an advanced degree is a helpful step. When deciding to pursue studies beyond the master’s degree level, these individuals have a few options. It’s worth comparing doctor of education programs with doctor of philosophy in education offerings to determine which choice best suits an education professional’s interests, goals and focus.

Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. ― differences in philosophy

The split of Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. is mirrored in these degree programs’ approaches to instruction. Inside Higher Education described the difference between Ed.D. and Ph.D. courses in terms of practical, administration-focused work placed against philosophical, research-based studies. While Ed.D. students work on projects that reflect their status as current or prospective leaders, Ph.D. enrollees develop and test theories that may impact the educational world at large.

Candidates for doctorate-level degrees in education can choose paths by deciding how they intend to make a mark on the academic world. Ed.D. recipients may get a chance to enact change within one school or district, using administrative power to improve conditions with what they have learned in their studies. Ph.D. graduates are more likely to posit underlying concepts rather than implementing them. A Ph.D. has the word “philosophy” in the degree name, and that dedication to thought and theory defines the Ph.D. in education.

Intended career paths

Perhaps the most important difference between Ed.D. and Ph.D. studies is the career paths these two degree programs set out for graduates. Despite their shared focus on advanced academic studies, Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs point to distinct futures for graduates.

Individuals who intend to take on senior-level administration positions in a school, college or university may gravitate toward Ed.D. programs. Everything from course concentrations to final projects and study schedules is designed to set prospective leaders up for success. Students earning Ed.D. degrees can receive a detailed overview of current best practices in their levels of administration. Dealing with the ethical decisions, political realities and challenging logistics of educational administration calls for knowledge and experience that individuals who have risen through the teaching ranks may not readily discern. Ed.D. programs impart these facts.

On the other hand, Ph.D. studies may better suit applicants who want to become full-time researchers or instruct others in pedagogy, according to Online PhD Programs. In addition, Ph.D. graduates may spend the years building up a catalog of helpful research for others to build on.

Salary projections

While progress in the academic world is largely defined by an individual’s positive impact on future generations, professionals in the field are likely interested in how their advanced degrees may affect long-term earning power. Doctoral-level studies come after years of work in undergraduate and master’s programs, which makes it reasonable for graduates to expect starting salaries with new degrees to reflect that investment.

The difference between Ed.D. and Ph.D. salaries comes down to the roles students take after graduation. There is large-scale variability, with some recipients of each degree earning more or less than their peers depending on career paths and tenure in given fields.

According to PayScale, the average salary for professionals with a Ph.D. in Education is $72,000. Whether individuals meet or exceed than that figure depends on how far they progress within academic departments. While assistant professors earn an average of $58,430 and professors make $69,137, Ph.D. graduates who make it to executive director status earn an average of $91,176.

In the case of Ed.D. graduates, PayScale showed the average annual salary at $78,000 for all positions. Some of the roles these individuals may take on are similar to the professor jobs that may go to Ph.D. holders, but others are more attuned to the Ed.D.’s administrative focus. For instance, graduates could become academic deans, who earn an average of $91,916. Ed.D. holders who rise through the ranks to become school superintendents make $122,561.

Ideal degree programs

Individuals with master’s degrees who want more training in education can find that experience through a Ph.D. or Ed.D. Each student will make that choice based on professional status, aspirations and topics of greatest interest. When it’s time to apply to a program, applicants can increase chances of career success by finding a top-rated, relevant program, such as the Bradley University online Ed.D.

Taught by experts with up-to-date knowledge of administration, this program can offer necessary expertise for academic professionals with leadership aspirations. Applicants can focus on leadership at the community college and university level. By completing a comprehensive, practical doctoral research requirement, these students gain insights into the way the academic world functions and prepare for career advancement.

Learn more about this program and apply today.


Recommended Readings:

Discover what it takes to work as an academic dean at a college or university

Education in the C-suite: How to become a chief learning officer

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



Inside Higher Education – Ph.D. vs. Ed.D.

Bradley University – Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Program

PayScale – Doctorate (PhD), Education Degree

PayScale – Doctor of Education (EdD) Degree