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EdD vs. the PhD in Education: Everything You Need to Know

By Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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Reviewed by Cari Shultz

Cari Schultz is an Educational Review Board Advisor at Scholarships360, where she reviews content featured on the site. For over 20 years, Cari has worked in college admissions (Baldwin Wallace University, The Ohio State University, University of Kentucky) and as a college counselor (Columbus School for Girls).

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Posted: June 1st, 2023
EdD vs. the PhD in Education: Everything You Need to Know

Are you passionate about being a part of the future of education? Well, in the world of education, two prestigious degrees stand out: the EdD and PhD in Education. Learn more about the EdD and PhD in Education degrees and the difference between the two below! 


A Doctor of Education degree, known as an EdD, is a doctoral degree that is focused on professional practice in the field of education. An EdD is designed for students pursuing leadership roles in administration and policy within the education field. This degree emphasizes the practical application of knowledge in educational settings. 

An EdD is designed to prepare individuals for leadership roles such as: 

  • School administration
  • Educational policy development
  • Curriculum design
  • Instructional leadership

Also see: Top education scholarships

PhD in education

A PhD, or a “Doctor of Philosophy” in Education, is a doctoral degree that focuses on advanced research in the field of education. It is the highest academic degree that an individual can earn within the field of education. 

A PhD in Education is ideal for students who want to conduct research. With a PhD in Education, a student will become an expert on a particular topic or range of topics within the field of education. Their focused research puts them in the position to make sound decisions on how practitioners should approach or implement education. 

A PhD in education is designed to prepare individuals for leadership roles such as: 

  • Professors
  • Researchers
  • Policymakers
  • Administrators
  • Consultants in educational institutions

Read more: Top fully funded PhD programs

EdD vs PhD chart

Doctor of Education (EdD)Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Length of programTypically 3-5 yearsTypically 4-7 years
Focus areasPrepare leaders in education with a focus on leadership, administration and policyResearch and scholarship in education with a docs on a wide range of educational topics
Research emphasisApplied research, practical applicationsOriginal research, theoretical contributions
IndustriesMany industriesMainly academia
Potential careersLeadership, administration, policy Professor, researcher, policy analyst, consultant

Pros and cons of earning an EdD 

Less time than a PhDNot as widely recognized as a PhD
Average cost for an EdD degree is lessMay be less challenging than a PhD
Focuses on practical applicationLess research-focused than a PhD
Offers flexibility in terms of courseworkMay not offer as much job security

Pros and cons of earning a PhD in Education

More widely recognizedTakes longer to complete than an EdD
Offers opportunities for clinical experienceCan be more expensive
Focuses on researchTime commitment can be demanding
Can be tailored to your specific goals and interestsNot ideal for those interested in educational administration

Tips for choosing between EdD and PhD in education

Time commitment

EdD and PhD in Education programs are significant investments in time. Therefore, it is important to understand the amount of time each degree requires to determine which is better suited  for your career goals. An EdD program will take around 3 to 5 years to complete, while a PhD in Education will typically require around 4 to 7 years to complete. 

Career goals

There are many different careers you can choose from with EdD and PhD degrees. However, the careers that are available with each degree differ slightly. EdD programs prepare students for administration roles within education. PhD in Education programs make students desirable candidates for a range of research-oriented positions. Therefore, it’s important to review what career options there are so you can choose the best course of action for your goals. 

Careers with an EdD in Education

  • Superintendent
  • Dean
  • University president
  • Principal
  • Development manager
  • Curriculum development

Careers with a PhD in Education

  • University professor
  • Research scholar
  • Education director
  • Policy researcher


EdD and PhD programs both typically require a dissertation. However, the EdD program may allow you to complete a dissertation based on a real-world application while a PhD dissertation may be more theoretical. In addition, EdD coursework will typically be more application based while PhD coursework is more research oriented. 

Review the course description for any degree programs you are interested in order to become familiar with the topics you will study in your respective program. 

Online availability

It’s no surprise that online schools provide a more flexible schedule for students. Therefore, if online school is something you desire, you are more likely to find online opportunities for an EdD program rather than a PhD program. 

Read more: Top scholarships for online students

Daily life

To help you choose between an EdD and a PhD in Education, it may be helpful to picture your daily life and routines in each of these programs. An EdD program focuses on the application of research, which means most of your time will be spent using your knowledge to solve challenges in the education field. In contrast, a PhD program is more research-heavy meaning that a majority of your time will be spent researching methodologies in education. 

Taking the next step

Now that you have a better understanding of what an EdD is, what a PhD in education is, and what the difference between them is, you are probably wondering what now? Regardless of which degree you want to pursue, earning your doctorate can pay off no matter what. 

Therefore, truly evaluate your current situation, career goals, and time commitment to determine if the EdD or PhD path is the right one for you. Ultimately, it is your decision, and you should choose the option that most aligns with your personal goals. 

Now that you have picked which direction you want to go in, research universities and colleges that offer your desired degree program! Be sure to research their values and coursework to ensure it is a good fit for you. Don’t forget, Scholarships360 is here for you to help you find the right scholarships to help you fund your graduate education

Also see: Scholarships360 free scholarship search tool

Frequently asked questions about  EdD vs PhD degrees

Are there any online EdD programs?

Yes! There are numerous online EdD programs that allow doctoral students to complete their degrees 100% online. This online format allows you more flexibility in your schedule than an in-person EdD program.

Which degree is better for students aspiring to become educational administrators?

An EdD degree is often the better fit for someone who wants to become an educational administrator. This is because an EdD program focuses on practical knowledge such as educational policy, management and strategic decision-making.

How long does it take to complete an EdD degree compared to a PhD in Education?

An EdD program takes around three to five years to complete, while a PhD in Education program typically takes around four to seven years to complete.

Are there any prerequisites that differ between the two programs?

Admission requirements and prerequisites can vary between institutions and specific degree programs. However, usually both EdD and PhD programs require a master’s degree in a related field. In addition, EdD programs typically prioritize professional experience in education while PhD programs often prioritize research experience.

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