Many teachers find the idea of continuing their education attractive. It is true that obtaining an advanced degree often equates to better jobs, more opportunities and an array of like-minded colleagues. However, most teachers considering further education will turn to Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees without prior knowledge that there are other options, such as an online Educational Doctorate degree (Ed.D.).
As author John B. Stark points out on his reflection for the Journal of School Administration Research and Development, “While a Ph.D. teaches candidates to become scientists committed to pushing the bounds of their basic knowledge of the world around them, the Ed.D., a degree of practice, focuses on developing candidates who can solve more immediate, real-world problems in their operational world.”
This approach to education that focuses on field-based exercises and more hands-on practice to concrete challenges in the school system makes the Ed.D. so attractive. Ph.D. candidates tend to do more rigorous research in their programs and usually have more research options, some which are even fully funded. While this is a good choice for some, it does come with its share of considerations. Aside from usually requiring that the student relocate and take a longer time to finish, Ph.D. programs tend to focus less on the development of “real world” skills and more on niche research. An Ed.D. program, on the other hand, “is typically a three-year program that focuses on developing practical knowledge and quantitative and qualitative skills required to solve the challenging operational problems typically confronted by a modern K-12 leader,” writes Stark.
Topics covered in Ed.D. programs encompass most areas of management and administration — an extremely positive point, considering that most Ed.D. students hold full-time jobs in the field of education concurrently with their studies. At a school such as Youngstown State University (YSU), Ed.D. students have the flexibility to customize their curriculum and balance their workload with their studies while benefitting from faculty who are active professionals in the educational field. YSU’s program is also very affordable, accredited and aligned with state standards.
Overall, the benefits for graduates of an Ed.D. program are many, including higher-paid jobs; according to PayScale, graduates can expect an average salary of $80,000 annually. Other positive aspects include greater job versatility and stability, as well as expanded networking opportunities. Although the latter might seem like a given, it is especially interesting for people trying to succeed in this career path.
Quoting DeWitt Scott from Inside Higher Ed, “Since most Ed.D. students tend to be working professionals, it can be normal to have a class or cohort of students who all hold significant administrative or professional positions. This gives students an opportunity to learn from each other about what works in the field. It also helps students build relationships and networks with people who may already be major players in their disciplines.”
There are a number of avenues to consider when analyzing higher education options. A Doctorate in Education offers many advantages to those who are serious about studying teaching and administration practices. As Jillian Joyce reflects in her article for Inside Higher Ed, “By engaging in heartfelt dialogue with other teachers about their practices, concerns and aspirations, and by critically examining texts about the experiences of teaching, I have begun to see my role in the classroom — and the purpose of education — through a new lens.”