EdD vs. PhD in Education: Comparing Degrees and Career Paths

EdD vs. PhD in Education: Comparing Degrees and Career Paths

Pursuing an advanced degree in education offers many rewards, including higher lifetime earning potential and the ability to make a larger impact in your field. There are several options for those interested in doctoral-level education degrees, and each has unique applications. This article will cover some of the differences between an EdD vs. PhD. 

Comparison Overview of the EdD and PhD in Education Degrees

The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of some of the key differences between a Doctor of Education (EdD) and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in education.

Career opportunities
Leads to jobs in education, as well as organizational and professional leadership
Leads to jobs in research, teaching, and academia
Many industries
Nonprofit, government, private and public companies, education institutions
Universities, schools
Research and practice
Research only
Student Experience
Typically three years, multiple modalities, dissertation in practice
Typically four to six years, full-time, research-intensive dissertation

What Is an EdD Degree and Who Should Consider It?

Before you decide between an EdD vs. PhD, it’s important to understand the meaning of an EdD.

A Doctor of Education, or EdD, is an advanced degree that prepares leaders to become more effective organizational changemakers. This degree path is well suited for seasoned educational leaders and executives in a variety of fields who are looking to build out their skill set to solve challenges within their organizations. EdD graduates apply their skills to solve real world problems and initiate policy within a variety of industries and fields.

The degree is designed to prepare individuals to enact positive change in governments, corporations, nonprofits, and school systems. Common EdD specializations include organizational change, leadership, administration, and workplace learning. 

The Doctor of Education in Learning and Organizational Change Online delivered by the Baylor University School of Education uses core theories of education to teach students to effectively manage change. Unlike some EdD programs, this program focuses on individuals seeking career growth in a diverse set of fields and workplaces outside of K–12 and educational institutions. 

Graduates of this program go on to work in fields like diversity, equity, and inclusion, leading organizational change initiatives in a variety of settings including public and private companies, nonprofits, government, and military organizations.

The Doctor of Education in Learning and Organizational Change Online delivered by the School of Education at Baylor University uses core theories of education to teach students to effectively manage change.

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Career Options With an EdD 

Listed below are some potential career paths you may be able to pursue after earning an EdD, depending on your focus:

Executive leadership: Individuals working in these positions manage processes, policies, and people, developing and executing on strategy to meet organizational goals. There are a wide variety of executive leadership positions and therefore a wide variety of salaries depending on the organization and role. For example, the median annual salary for a chief executive in 2021 was $179,520. Comparatively, general and operations managers earned a median yearly salary of $98,980 in 2021.

Human resources managers: Tasked with ensuring that the administrative functions of an organization run smoothly, these individuals facilitate recruitment and hiring, oversee benefits programs, and manage employee relations, among other duties. In 2021, the median annual salary for a human resources manager was $126,230.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) officers: Across the globe, organizations are making a greater commitment to DEI efforts (PDF, 425 KB), yet many individuals still see diversity as a barrier to their upward mobility at their workplaces. DEI officers perform a wide range of duties, including working to advocate for underrepresented talent by addressing bias in hiring practices and performance management and holding leadership accountable for meeting DEI benchmarks. 

Postsecondary administrators: These individuals supervise student services, academics, and faculty research at postsecondary institutions. With an expected 8 percent growth in employment from 2020 to 2030, postsecondary administrators earned a median annual salary of $96,910 in 2021

K–12 school system administrators: Similar to K–12 principals and superintendents, these individuals manage the budget, staffing, and academic programs of elementary, middle, and high schools. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), K–12 principals made a median annual salary of $98,420 in 2021. Job growth is projected to increase by 8 percent from 2020 to 2030. Although Baylor’s online program is not focused on K–12 school settings, the university offers the Baylor Doctor of Education (EdD) in K–12 Educational Leadership for those interested in this career path. 

What Is a PhD in Education and Who Should Consider It?

A Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD, is a terminal degree that sets students up for jobs that are heavily focused on research. These types of programs encourage students to develop their research and decision-making skills. This education pathway is usually best suited for individuals who are looking for teaching roles or research careers in academia.

If you decide to pursue a PhD in the education field, you may be able to choose from a variety of specializations, including sociology, literacy and language, higher education, and learning sciences. Some PhD programs take a deep dive into specific issues within the education field, such as racial disparities in education or how to support young learners with disabilities.

Career Options With a PhD

Below are just a few of the career opportunities that may be a good fit for someone with a PhD in education.

Postsecondary teachers and professors: College and university professors instruct students on a variety of topics and may also conduct research. According to the BLS, job growth for postsecondary teachers is expected to increase 12 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. The median income for these professionals in 2021 was $79,640 per year. 

Sociologists and academic researchers: Sociology is a research-driven field that often involves working with educators and administrators to solve problems. In 2021, the median annual salary for sociologists was $92,910.

Training and development specialists: These individuals plan and implement programs that enhance the knowledge of their employees. Job growth for training and development specialists is projected to be 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than other fields. The median annual salary for this career path was $62,700 in 2020.

5 Steps to Help You Choose Between the EdD and PhD Degrees

The steps below can help you weigh the pros and cons of an EdD vs. PhD, based on your desired career, your availability to attend classes, your learning style, and what motivates you.

1. Consider Your Desired Career Path

Determining the right education pathway for you depends on what type of career you are interested in. It’s helpful to consider where you are currently in your education and what your future goals are.

PhD in education programs allow you to conduct research that contributes new insights to your field. Comparatively, EdD programs are practitioner focused and enable you to apply your research findings within organizations across a variety of industries. If you’re interested in continuing to grow your leadership trajectory after graduation, an EdD may be right for you — but if you want to primarily focus on research, a PhD may be a better fit.

2. Find Out What Motivates You

What’s more motivating to you: becoming an expert or becoming a leader? A PhD in education helps you move the needle on issues in the field of education that may be under-researched. With this type of degree, you have the opportunity to push boundaries and make significant contributions to your field — but these contributions will be focused on research more than application. An EdD, on the other hand, sets you up for leadership roles in which your research will be applied to solve organizational problems.

3. Compare Coursework

Coursework for an EdD and PhD may cover similar foundational topics in learning, but these degree programs start to differ as your education progresses. Both degrees require a dissertation; however, the EdD may allow you to complete a dissertation based on the real-world application of your studies whereas your dissertation for a PhD may be more theoretical. For example, Baylor University’s EdD online program requires students to develop a Problem of Practice (POP) dissertation. While a PhD dissertation traditionally focuses on contributing to disciplinary knowledge, the Problem of Practice aims to apply disciplinary knowledge to create change in a specific, localized organization within students’ immediate spheres of influence.

Be sure to review the course descriptions for any degree programs you are interested in, as this is a great way to become familiar with the types of topics you will study in the program.

4. Consider How Much Time You Want to Commit

Another difference between an EdD vs. PhD is their time requirements. A PhD usually takes around four to six years to complete. In addition, many of these programs do not allow students to work full time during their studies. EdD programs, on the other hand, have course sequences that may be completed in about three years, and students can often work alongside their program.

Keep in mind that online programs add flexibility for those who want to continue working while pursuing their doctoral degree.

5. Find a School That Suits You

Once you’ve made your choice regarding what type of degree you’d like to pursue, it’s important to find the right school for you. While researching schools, read their mission statements, explore their curricula, and learn about their past students. Baylor University’s EdD online program, for example, has a focus on learning and organizational change. This program centers on community and impact. It helps leaders develop skills to drive change across communities and organizations. With any school, take some time to review their admissions requirements and ensure that you meet the qualifications for their EdD or PhD program.


How much can you earn with a doctorate in education?

Whether pursuing an administrative position, a teaching position, or a career helping develop curriculum, a doctoral degree in education gives you the opportunity to increase your earning potential. If you decide to become a postsecondary administrator, you may earn closer to $96,910 per year.

Are there any online EdD programs?

There are numerous online EdD programs available. For example, Baylor University offers a Doctor of Education in Learning and Organizational Change Online for remote learners. The coursework for this program is offered 100 percent online, allowing you the flexibility to study on your own time. Online education can be beneficial to professional doctoral students because an online format allows them to remain embedded in the professional context that they seek to influence.

Is a residency required for EdD programs?

Residencies are required for some EdD programs. For more details, be sure to review the program’s course descriptions. At Baylor University, there are two on-campus immersion experiences required with the coursework. These immersions are held on Baylor University’s campus in Waco, Texas, and are designed to provide hands-on learning and workshops with your classmates.

Do EdD programs require a dissertation?

Most doctoral programs require a dissertation, but the specific requirements will vary from school to school. At Baylor University, the Problem of Practice (PoP) dissertation aims to apply disciplinary knowledge to create change in a specific, localized organization.

Can I work while attending an EdD program?

Many EdD programs allow students to work while pursuing their degree. Baylor University allows students to work during the program and will even help students apply their PoP dissertations to their immediate sphere of influence at their jobs.

Citation for this content: Baylor’s EdD online in Learning and Organizational Change.