Skip to content

Considering a PhD in Education? Here’s What You Need to Know


For anyone looking to pursue a career in education in academia or research, a Ph.D. in education is the degree to seek. A doctorate degree in education is a terminal degree in the field, which means it is the highest level degree you can get. So the natural next question is, “What can you do with a Ph.D. in education?

Here, we will share Ph.D. in education jobs, as well as answer all your big questions surrounding a doctorate degree in education.

Source: Unsplash 

What is a Ph.D. in education?

A doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in education is a graduate degree that is well-suited for anyone who wants to focus their career on academics or research. Just like a Ph.D. in education is a terminal degree, so is a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree.

Although it can be confusing when faced with two terminal degrees in the same field, it helps to clarify when we understand what each of their focus is. An EdD in education is more hands-on and practice-oriented, which means that it’s of use to those who want to work in education, for the government, or in a non-profit organization.

A Ph.D. in education is theoretically-focused and more study-based, in comparison. For this reason, it’s best for anyone looking to work in research or academia at the university level.

There are more differences between the two, including:

  • A Ph.D. in education takes four years to complete, while an EdD takes two.
  • A Ph.D. requires doing a dissertation, while an EdD doesn’t.
  • A Ph.D. focuses on developing new research. EdD students, on the other hand, use existing research to guide decisions about issues within their area of study.
  • A Ph.D. requires taking 90 credits, whereas an EdD requires 60.

Why Earn a Ph.D. in Education?

There are many reasons why a Ph.D. in education is valuable and worthy of your effort. Here’s why:

1. It’s one of the most highly respected credentials in education, and as mentioned, it is a terminal degree (which means its the highest level that you can achieve in this field).

2. You’ll use research-based methods to solve problems and identify gaps in your specialization of choice.

Plus, you will have the expertise and credentials to publish in professional journals and/or present your findings at conferences around the world.

3. You’ll be advancing in an area of education in which you’re passionate.

Are you fascinated by childhood development? Or do you have a passion for classroom management? If you have a desire to advance a particular field in education, a Ph.D. is an excellent way to do so.

4. You’ll earn respect in your field and gain personal satisfaction.

Since a Ph.D. in education requires doing a dissertation, that alone is not an easy feat! Accomplishing it will surely give you a rewarding feeling. Plus, being called Doctor isn’t so bad either. Just like any degree, a Ph.D. in education involves a certain skill set. Some learned along the way, and some you may have naturally. These are some skills involved in a Ph.D. in education:

Technical skills:

Analysis and problem-solving, project management and organization, research and information management, and written and oral communication are all important in such a research-based degree.

Soft skills:

Interpersonal and leadership skills, self-management and work habits, concentration, and patience are all important personal skills to have when you’re spending lots of time on one specific topic.

The Doctorate in Education Salaries You Can Expect

Did you know that in America, Ph.D. graduates will earn $1.3 million more than BA holders in their working lifetimes? There are all kinds of career options for Ph.D. education graduates.

Here are some examples of typical careers for Ph.D. in education holders, as well as their average salaries in the US:

  • Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists: $79,820
  • Education Teachers, Postsecondary: $80,560
  • Survey Researchers: $59,870 
  • Sociologists: $86,110
  • Training and Development Specialists: $62,700

Many PhD in education graduates want to become professors. Here’s what the average annual salaries look like around the globe for professors in the top-paying countries (in their equivalent USD):

Denmark: $109,600

Switzerland: $185,000

UK: $110,000

US: $102,400

Finland: $95,000

Canada: $93,000


France: $82,000

There are other career options as well, such as school administrator, superintendent, curriculum coordinator, and principal.

Source: Unsplash 

What are the Requirements?

Considering that a Ph.D. in education is the highest level you can achieve in education, it means that you will already have a bachelor’s under your belt, and in most cases, a master’s degree, as well. In other words, you probably like being a student. There are lots of years of studying that get dedicated to earning a Ph.D. If you plan on doing a doctorate in education, earning a master’s degree in education can be the right first step.

Another important thing to know is that almost all Ph.D. candidates have background experience in research. So if education is your field of interest, getting a Ph.D. will mean coming to the table with previous research experience from your undergraduate (and potentially graduate) degrees.

Every institution may differ on their prerequisites for enrolling in their Ph.D. in education program. Be sure to consult directly with your school of choice to find out what they are.

Where Can I Earn My Ph.D. in Education?

There are many schools that offer Ph.D. in education programs. Just like most subjects, there are going to be online/on-campus options as well as throughout the world. Some are even fully funded.

Online programs

University of the People has a Master’s in Education (M.Ed) degree. This could be a great choice for those of you who may be aiming for a Ph.D. in education but only have a BA. The next step is getting that MA. So, why not choose a tuition-free program?

Liberty University, Walden University, University of Colorado, and the University of Nebraska are just a few popular universities that offer a Ph.D. in Education. Here’s a look at some of the most affordable online Ph.D. programs.

Studying in Europe

Studying in Europe can be both exciting and low-cost. Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Finland offer free doctorate tuition for university students, regardless of their nationality! France offers low-cost Ph.D. tuition fees. If you want to see some specific schools in these countries, look at this list.

Fully-funded Programs

Fully-funded sounds wonderful, and it is! But, it doesn’t mean there are no costs associated. Fully-funded actually means that your tuition is covered, but you’ll still have to cover costs for textbooks and supplies, living expenses, and other fees.  no cost. That said, it’s still an awesome option. One condition: it has to be on campus. Why? Because you need to pay with your time — by teaching and performing research.

University of Michigan School of Education, Vanderbilt Peabody College, and Steinhardt School at NYU all offer tuition-free on-campus Ph.D. in education programs.

Online vs On-campus

You might be wondering what it’s like to get your Ph.D. online, as compared to on-campus institutions. Like all degrees, there are advantages and disadvantages to earning your degree entirely online. In regards to a Ph.D. in education, you will need to consider a few things.

Online Ph.D. programs are best suited to students who work better solo. They are also great for those who have worked in the field for some time and want to advance in their area of study. And, of course, it’s the best option for those who work and are raising families. On the other hand, you aren’t in the presence of peers and professors that can be a valuable resource in the research-driven program of a Ph.D.

Earning a Ph.D. on-campus has its pros and cons, too.. While they’re generally more expensive than online programs, on-campus Ph.D. programs allow you to communicate face-to-face with your professors, supervisors, and other students.

What You Can Expect to Study in a Ph.D. in Education

Completing a Ph.D. means doing your dissertation, or research thesis. Naturally, it is going to be based on the field of study that you are most interested in. You can specialize in a certain area. Some common specialization options for a Ph.D. in education are:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Special Education
  • Adult Education
  • Teacher Leadership
  • Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • Educational Psychology
  • Leadership

Aside from the research involved in planning and executing your thesis, you will also have professional development activities and coursework relevant to your area of study. They’re designed to help give you the skills needed to succeed in your research and your future career in education.

While the curriculum is going to vary according to your specialization, there are some general core courses that most PhDs in education involve. You will likely take the following: group psychology, leadership, learning models, ethics, education and globalization, and analytics courses as part of your curriculum.

Is a Ph.D. in Education for Me?

If you choose to study for a Ph.D. in education, chances are you’re passionate about teaching and learning, and everything in between. Even if you’re not looking to stand in front of a lecture hall and teach, you may wish to improve upon the field of education as a whole through research and other means. With a Ph.D. in Education, you open the door to that possibility and many more.

How you choose to earn your degree is up to you. Whether you conclude upon enrolling online or on-campus, prepare yourself for lots of reading, writing, researching, and communicating. Whatever you chose, we’re sure you’ll give it your best shot. Here’s to reaching the top in the field of education!