Doctor of Education
The Doctor of Education or Doctor in Education degree (Ed.D. or D.Ed.), in Latin, Doctor Educationis, is a research-oriented professional doctorate that prepares the student for academic, administrative, clinical, or research positions in educational, civil, and private organizations.

Differences between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D.

In the United States, both degrees are considered research doctoral degrees on the Survey of Earned Doctorates, which is a survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center
National Opinion Research Center
NORC at the University of Chicago, established in 1941 as the National Opinion Research Center, is one of the largest and most highly respected social research organizations in the United States. Its corporate headquarters are located on the University of Chicago campus...

 at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

, sponsored by six federal agencies, and solicited, under the National Science Foundation Act, from graduating doctoral students at all accredited institutions. Yet although both the Ph.D. and Ed.D. are considered similar in this sense, there are differences between the two in theory and in practice.

In theory, the two degrees are expected to constitute overlapping but distinct categories, where the Ed.D. is a degree that prepares educational practitioners who can solve educational problems using existing knowledge, and the Ph.D. in education is the more theoretical of the two as a traditional social science research degree that prepares students for careers as scholars and academics, often from a particular disciplinary perspective (e.g., sociology of education). In reality, however, distinctions between the two degree programs are generally minimal in both curriculum and dissertation requirements.

Colleges and universities in the United States that offer doctorates in education choose to offer only the Doctor of Education (e.g., Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

), only the Doctor of Philosophy in education (e.g., Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

), or both (e.g., UCLA, University of Oregon
University of Oregon
-Colleges and schools:The University of Oregon is organized into eight schools and colleges—six professional schools and colleges, an Arts and Sciences College and an Honors College.- School of Architecture and Allied Arts :...

, and University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

). The distinction between the Ph.D. and the Ed.D in this last group can take different forms. At the University of Illinois, for example, the Ph.D. in education dissertation requires an original contribution to academic knowledge, whereas the Ed.D. dissertation "is intended to demonstrate the candidate's ability to relate academic knowledge to the problems of professional practice." At Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College, Columbia University is a graduate school of education located in New York City, New York...

 the Ph.D. is designed for students who wish specifically to pursue an academic career, whereas the Ed.D. is designed for broader aims including educational administration and policy work. At the Institute of Education
Institute of Education
The Institute of Education is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom specialised in postgraduate study and research in the field of education and a constituent college of the federal University of London. It is the largest education research body in the United Kingdom, with...

 in London, both the Ed.D. and the Ph.D. are research-oriented, and the difference in designation originates from whether the university departments in the liberal arts and sciences can coordinate particular sub-fields of educational studies (e.g., a Ph.D. in the economics of education or history of education
History of education
The history of education its part of the past and present teaching and learning. Each generation, since the beginning of human existence, has sought to pass on cultural and social values, traditions, morality, religion and skills to the next generation. The passing on of culture is also known as...

 as opposed to an Ed.D. in second language education). Finally, a school of education may offer both degrees where one culminates in a project and the other a dissertation. For example, in St. Louis University's Educational Studies program, the Ed.D. requires "successful completion of a culminating project dealing with a problem in educational practice" and the Ph.D. requires a dissertation and an "oral defense of the dissertation proposal and [of] the final dissertation."

In the United Kingdom, one study comparing the Eng.D., Ed.D. and DBA
Doctor of Business Administration
The degree of Doctor of Business Administration, abbreviated, or and equivalent to , is a research doctorate in business administration. The D.B.A...

 to the Ph.D. found that admissions requirements formally equaled or exceeded those for Ph.D. admission, yet all three degrees involved coursework and research (whereas the Ph.D. only requires research), and the coursework for the Ed.D. was presented specifically as a means of "enhancing general career development." The report claimed that the "orientation of these professional doctorates towards the development of professional practice and the production of professionally relevant knowledge through practitioner research clearly differentiates these programmes from conventional PhDs."

Professional prospects

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the Ed.D. and the Ph.D. in education are both recognized for appointment as a lecturer or professor in a university. It may also be recognized as training for administrative positions in education, such as superintendent of schools, human resource director, or principal.

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, the effect on a future career will depend on the area of study. An ESRC-funded report found that there appeared to be little impact of the development of professional knowledge on employment culture for Ed.D. participants, though there was "frequently considerable impact for the individuals themselves," and many of the Ed.D. students were employed in the public sector.

The Ed.D. is generally presented as an opportunity to prepare for academic, administrative or specialised positions in education, favourably placing the graduates for promotion and leadership responsibilities, or high-level professional positions in a range of locations in the broad Education industry. In the U.K. and Ireland both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. are recognised for the purposes of appointment as a lecturer or professor in universities.


When research universities were established in the late 19th century in the United States, they primarily awarded doctorates in the sciences and later the arts. By the early 20th century, these universities began to offer doctoral degrees in the social sciences, which included education. From the very beginning there were divisions between those universities that offered an Ed.D. and a Ph.D. in education.

The first Ph.D. in education was granted at Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College, Columbia University is a graduate school of education located in New York City, New York...

 in 1893. The first Ed.D. degree was introduced in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in 1920. The Ed.D. was added by Teachers College
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College, Columbia University is a graduate school of education located in New York City, New York...

 in 1934.

Not long after the creation of doctorates in education, some scholars considered whether doctoral studies should be for professional training, as well as for the preparation of researchers. In light of the controversy, many institutions opted to offer the Ed.D. as the exclusive doctorate within their schools of education, including Harvard University, where "in general, a Ph.D. degree tends to focus more on research and an Ed.D. tends to focus more on practice."

In the United Kingdom, the Ph.D. in education was introduced in the 1920s. The first Ed.D. was awarded in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1992, at the University of Bristol
University of Bristol
The University of Bristol is a public research university located in Bristol, United Kingdom. One of the so-called "red brick" universities, it received its Royal Charter in 1909, although its predecessor institution, University College, Bristol, had been in existence since 1876.The University is...

. Six years later, 29 British universities were offering Ed.D. programs.

United States

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the Ed.D. tends to be granted by the school of education
School of education
In the United States and Canada, a school of education is a division within a university that is devoted to scholarship in the field of education, which is an interdisciplinary branch of the social sciences encompassing sociology, psychology, linguistics, economics, political science, public...

 of universities and is a terminal degree in education. A typical doctorate of education in the United States usually requires several years of course work as a doctoral student achieving generally 15 courses beyond a masters degree, a comprehensive exam, and at its conclusion a dissertation. The dissertation presents the doctoral candidate's research and findings and is submitted for defense to the candidate's dissertation committee (including an advisor/first, second, and third reader and usually limited to five - although varies by institution). Majors within the Ed.D. may include: counseling, curriculum and instruction/curriculum and teaching, educational administration, educational leadership, education policy, educational psychology, educational technology, higher education, or language/linguistics.


In the Latin American docta, to get into a Ph.D. program of Education, candidates are required to have a Licentiate or Master's degree in Education.


In Australia entry requirements for the Ed.D. are similar to the Ph.D. except that the former requires a number of the years professional experience in education or academic life.


In Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, the Ed.D. tends to be granted by faculties of education at universities and is a terminal degree in education. Much like the United States and Great Britain, some universities offer the Ed.D. (Simon Fraser University
Simon Fraser University
Simon Fraser University is a Canadian public research university in British Columbia with its main campus on Burnaby Mountain in Burnaby, and satellite campuses in Vancouver and Surrey. The main campus in Burnaby, located from downtown Vancouver, was established in 1965 and has more than 34,000...

), others offer a Ph.D. in education (McGill University
McGill University
Mohammed Fathy is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university...

, Queen's University
Queen's University
Queen's University, , is a public research university located in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Founded on 16 October 1841, the university pre-dates the founding of Canada by 26 years. Queen's holds more more than of land throughout Ontario as well as Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, England...

, University of British Columbia
University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia is a public research university. UBC’s two main campuses are situated in Vancouver and in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley...

), and yet others offer both (University of Toronto
University of Toronto
The University of Toronto is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, situated on the grounds that surround Queen's Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada...

, University of Alberta
University of Alberta
The University of Alberta is a public research university located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Founded in 1908 by Alexander Cameron Rutherford, the first premier of Alberta and Henry Marshall Tory, its first president, it is widely recognized as one of the best universities in Canada...

, University of Calgary
University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a public research university located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Founded in 1966 the U of C is composed of 14 faculties and more than 85 research institutes and centres.More than 25,000 undergraduate and 5,500 graduate students are currently...



In Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, the National Institute of Education
National Institute of Education
The is an institute of the , Singapore.NIE, Singapore, provides all levels of teacher education, from programmes to for in-service teachers and executive for Principals, Departmental Heads and other school leaders. NIE also administers postgraduate programmes that lead to the award of in...

 (Nanyang Technological University), is the sole university that awards the Ed.D. degree. The Ed.D. programme has the rigour and expectations of a PhD, but with a professional focus.

South Africa

In South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, following a convention of using Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 in academic designations, the doctorate in education is called Doctor Educationis (D.Ed.) and, like other doctoral degrees in that country, it is entirely a research-based qualification.

United Kingdom and Ireland

In the United Kingdom, the Ed.D. differs from a Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 (Ph.D.) in Education in that it allows the study of a greater variety of education-related subjects in the first stages of study, focusing on a single topic only at the end. However, both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. are research based degrees demanding the same level of academic rigor.. A typical Ph.D. in the United Kingdom usually requires the submission of an approximately 80,000 word thesis; the entire study period would be spent researching the topic and writing the thesis. For an Ed.D., a student might be required to research various topics in the first two years, preparing a 5,000-6,000-word report for each. The last two years would be spent on the thesis, which might be 45,000-50,000 words working out at about the same amount of words overall as a PhD. A key difference between the two forms of doctorate is that the Ph.D. student tends to work alone while the Ed.D. student will initially be part of a learning community although increasingly Ph.D. students are now required to take courses on research methods similar to those taken by EdD students.

In Ireland Ed.D. programs have only recently been introduced and they tend to follow the UK model of initial research modules followed by longer research papers and thesis.

Research by Scott, Lunt, Browne and Thorne (2002) has found that the difference between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D. can be somewhat overstated as students of both tend to follow similar courses of study and to research similar topics.

Suggested reforms

Numerous scholars have suggested future reforms for both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. in education. This is due, in part, because, as Lee S. Shulman, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, puts it: the lack of distinction between the Ed.D and the Ph.D has meant the Ed.D. has come to be seen as little more than "Ph.D.-lite," and the Ph.D. in education has likewise suffered. Moreover, it has resulted in "the danger that we achieve rigorous preparation neither for practice nor for research." In response to this, Shulman et al. argued for a new doctorate for the professional practice of education, which would be for principals, superintendents, policy coordinators, curriculum specialists, teacher educators, program evaluators, etc; and the distinction between the Ph.D. in education and the Ed.D. would be analogous to the Ph.D. in biomedicine and the M.D.
This new degree might be called the Professional Practice Doctorate (P.P.D.), or it might retain the old name of Ed.D. but be severed from old associations.

Arthur Levine argued that the current Ed.D. should be re-tooled into a new professional master's degree, parallel in many ways to the MBA.

David Imig described reforms to the Ed.D. as including more collaborative work involving the analysis of data collected by others. Rather than generating their own data and hypothesis-testing, as Ph.D. students would, a group of Ed.D. students would analyze a specific pool of data from a number of different angles, each writing an individual dissertation on a specific aspect of the data which, when pooled together with the other dissertations, would combine to offer a comprehensive solution to a real-world problem.

Notable people with Ed.D. degrees

  • Michael Apple
    Michael Apple
    Michael W. Apple is a leading critical educational theorist, recognized for numerous books and scholarly interests, which center on education and power, cultural politics, curriculum theory and research, critical teaching, and the development of democratic schools.He is currently the , at the...

     - leading critical educational theorist, writer, and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Bill Ayers
    Bill Ayers
    William Charles "Bill" Ayers is an American elementary education theorist and a former leader in the movement that opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He is known for his 1960s activism as well as his current work in education reform, curriculum, and instruction...

     - American elementary education theorist, activist, and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Jill Biden
    Jill Biden
    Jill Tracy Biden is an American educator and, as the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, is the Second Lady of the United States....

     - the wife of the Vice-President of the United States, Joe Biden
    Joe Biden
    Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr. is the 47th and current Vice President of the United States, serving under President Barack Obama...

  • Bill Cosby
    Bill Cosby
    William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr. is an American comedian, actor, author, television producer, educator, musician and activist. A veteran stand-up performer, he got his start at various clubs, then landed a starring role in the 1960s action show, I Spy. He later starred in his own series, the...

     - American entertainer, educator, and activist
  • Linda Darling-Hammond
    Linda Darling-Hammond
    Linda Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at the Stanford University School of Education, where she launched the , the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute, and the . Darling-Hammond is author or editor of more than a dozen books and more than 300 articles on...

     - writer, researcher, education adviser to Barack Obama
    Barack Obama
    Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

    , and professor at Stanford University
  • Lisa Delpit
    Lisa Delpit
    Lisa D. Delpit is an American educationalist and author. She is also an Eminent Scholar and Executive Director of the Center for Urban Educational Excellence at in Miami, Florida and Felton G...

     - American educator, author, and professor at Florida International University.
  • Sonia Nieto
    Sonia Nieto
    Sonia Nieto is Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy and Culture at the School of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. With experience teaching students at all levels and from many socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, Nieto is one of the leading authors and teachers in the field of...

     - leading author and teacher in the field of multiculturalism
    Multiculturalism is the appreciation, acceptance or promotion of multiple cultures, applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, usually at the organizational level, e.g...

  • Thomas Payzant - former superintendent of Boston Public Schools, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Education, and professor at Harvard University
  • Neil Postman
    Neil Postman
    Neil Postman was an American author, media theorist and cultural critic, who is best known by the general public for his 1985 book about television, Amusing Ourselves to Death. For more than forty years, he was associated with New York University...

     - American author, media theorist and cultural critic
  • Jonas Soltis - Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Betty Shabazz
    Betty Shabazz
    Betty Shabazz , born Betty Dean Sanders and also known as Betty X, was an American educator and civil rights advocate. She was the wife of Malcolm X....

     - American educator and civil rights advocate and wife of Malcolm X
    Malcolm X
    Malcolm X , born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its...

  • Ruth "Dr. Ruth" Westheimer
    Ruth Westheimer
    Ruth Westheimer is an American sex therapist, media personality, and author. Best known as Dr. Ruth, the New York Times described her as a "Sorbonne-trained psychologist who became a kind of cultural icon in the 1980s...

     - American sex therapist, media personality, and author

See also

  • School of Education
    School of education
    In the United States and Canada, a school of education is a division within a university that is devoted to scholarship in the field of education, which is an interdisciplinary branch of the social sciences encompassing sociology, psychology, linguistics, economics, political science, public...

  • Certified teacher
    Certified teacher
    A certified teacher is a teacher who has earned credentials from an authoritative source, such as the government, a higher education institution or a private source. These certifications allow teachers to teach in schools which require authorization in general, as well as allowing educators to...

  • Bachelor of Education
    Bachelor of Education
    A Bachelor of Education is an undergraduate academic degree which qualifies the graduate as a teacher in schools.-North America:...

  • Master of Arts in Teaching
    Master of Arts in Teaching
    The Master of Arts in Teaching degree is generally a pre-service degree that usually requires a minimum of 30 semester hours beyond the Bachelor's degree. While the program often requires education classes in order to meet state licensure requirements, it emphasizes advanced course work in a...

  • Master of Education
    Master of Education
    The Master of Education is a postgraduate academic master's degree awarded by universities in a large number of countries. This degree in education often includes the following majors: curriculum and instruction, counseling, and administration. It is often conferred for educators advancing in...

     (M.Ed., Ed.M.)
  • Educational Specialist
    Educational Specialist
    The Education Specialist, also referred to as Educational Specialist, Specialist in Education, or Ed.S., is an advanced academic degree in the U.S...

    (Ed.S, or Specialist in Education)
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