The Doctor of Education (EdD) Degree - A Guide |
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The Doctor of Education (EdD) Degree - A Guide

Designed for experienced teachers and educational professionals, the Doctor of Education (or Doctorate in Education) degree combines practice-based work with the opportunity to carry out your own original research.

These programmes differ from a purely academic PhD in Education by focusing on the inter-relationships between pedagogical theory and practice. They provide an ideal qualification for candidates seeking to move into senior leadership or policy roles within education.

This page explains what a Doctor of Education degree involves, including information on course structure, entry requirements, fees and funding. We’ve also explained the difference between an EdD and a conventional PhD.

If you’re already convinced an EdD is right for you, you can start searching for your ideal programme.

The Doctor of Education (EdD) is a specialised, practice-based, professional doctorate in Education. Programmes typically combine a series of taught modules with a period of independent research towards an original doctoral dissertation.

Education Doctorate (EdD)
Type Professional doctorate
Subjects Education
Length 3-5 years (full time) / 5-8 years (part time)
Availability UK, USA & Worldwide

Essentially, this qualification represents the highest degree of education someone can attain in Education. But, whilst an EdD is equivalent to a PhD, and there are several differences between these two qualifications.

In particular, the Doctor of Education isn’t a purely academic degree – and isn’t necessarily designed for ‘fresh’ postgraduates. Instead, applicants for an EdD tend to be experienced professionals looking to advance their careers in specific ways. Programmes are often structured to accommodate this, with flexible part-time, online and distance learning options.

Will an EdD qualify me to teach?

It’s important to note that an Education Doctorate is not a form of initial teacher training (applicants will normally already have experience working in education). If you wish to qualify as a teacher you should consider a PGCE or other postgraduate teaching qualification.

Where can I study an EdD?

The EdD originated in North America and was first offered by US universities in the early twentieth-century. Since then it has become a commonly recognised doctoral-level degree for professionals working in education, leadership and policy.

EdD? DEd? Education Doctorate? Doctor of Education?

You may see some universities referring to these programmes as a ‘Doctor of Education’, ‘Education Doctorate’ or ‘Doctorate in Education’, variously abbreviated to ‘EdD’ or ‘DEd’. Don’t get confused: all are equivalent qualifications.

How much does a Doctorate in Education cost?

Fees for an EdD programme will vary by institution, but will often be slightly higher than for PhDs. UK students can typically expect to pay £2,500-3,000 per year for part-time programmes. Full-time programmes will be more expensive.

There are no general funding systems specifically offered for Education Doctorates. However, you may be able to access other forms of doctoral funding, such as:

  • UK doctoral loans – EdD programmes (and other professional doctorates) will be eligible for the new PhD loans being introduced in 2018-19. These will allow UK students to borrow up to £25,000 towards a doctoral degree.
  • Project funding – Doctor of Education degrees are normally awarded through broad programmes of study. However, some specific projects may be listed with funding. You can search advertised projects here at FindAPhD.
  • University scholarships – Universities may also offer general funding for some students on their doctoral programmes (including EdD courses). The best way to check this is to find an Education Doctorate programme and investigate funding options at that institution.
  • Research Council funding - The UK Research Councils provide studentships for doctoral research. Occasionally, this support may also be available for professional doctorates.
  • Employer sponsorship – An EdD should substantially increase your professional skills and prepare you for more senior roles in education. It’s possible (but by no means guaranteed) that a present or future employer may value this expertise enough to support your qualification.

You should note that Doctorates in Education aren’t normally eligible for teacher training funding (these courses aren’t a qualification pathway for the teaching profession).

Who should study for a Doctorate in Education?

EdD programmes offer advanced training for Education professionals and equip them to carry out original doctoral research, reflecting on (and feeding into) their professional practice.

This means that an EdD may be suitable for you if you have a background in teaching (or a similar role in education) and are:

  • looking to work in new roles related to educational policy (for governments, think-tanks, universities or other bodies)
  • seeking to move into a very senior leadership or management role within a school, college or university (or a network of such organisations)
  • interested in the opportunity to draw on your experience whilst contributing to research in pedagogical theory and / or professional practice in education

These are just representative suggestions and you may have other (equally good) reasons for considering a professional Doctorate in Education. If you aren’t sure whether an EdD is the right degree for you, consider discussing your interest (and objectives) with a prospective tutor or programme administrator

What is the difference between an EdD and a PhD?

There are several key differences between an Education Doctorate and a more general PhD in Education:

  • A PhD is an academic doctorate, earned through independent research; an EdD is a professional doctorate, combining taught modules with a smaller-scale research component.
  • A PhD is studied largely independently; most EdD programmes are cohort-based, with students proceeding through the taught part of the course together.
  • A PhD is a postgraduate degree, studied after a Bachelors or Masters; an EdD often requires additional professional experience as well as previous academic qualifications.

It’s important to recognise that both the PhD and the EdD can be worthwhile qualifications for experienced teachers looking to develop their careers. However, they do so in different ways.

Whereas a teacher might pursue a PhD in order to advance their specialist subject knowledge (and perhaps move into research and teaching within higher education) an EdD is more useful for someone looking to work in educational policy or leadership.

Looking for a PhD in Education?

Prefer to focus on research, rather than practice-based work? Academic doctorates in Education are also available. Why not take a look?

What are the entry requirements for a Doctorate in Education?

The admissions criteria for EdD degrees will be set by individual programmes, but are likely to include some or all of the following:

  • A Masters degree. This doesn’t necessarily need to be in Education, but relevance to your professional practice and / or research interests may help support your application.
  • Evidence of your ability to carry out research. This could be based on your Masters dissertation, or other work. A research proposal may also be required as part of your application.
  • Relevant professional experience. Most programmes require between three and five years work in teaching, or other areas of education.

Exact requirements will vary by programme and some flexibility may be allowed to otherwise promising applicants.

If, for example, you do not hold a Masters degree, you may be admitted on the basis of your professional experience and suitability for academic research. Alternatively, some programmes may not require professional experience for candidates whose focus is on policy rather than practice-based work.

You should be able to check any specific details by contacting the course tutor or administrator for the programme you are interested in – they’ll be happy to chat to prospective applicants.

Applying for an EdD without professional experience

Most candidates for an EdD will have worked in education, but some programmes will consider applicants with a more academic background. If so, an appropriately specialised Masters degree, such as an MEd (Master of Education) may be required.

What are the language requirements?

Language requirements for an EdD will be broadly the same as those for a PhD. If you’re studying abroad in a second language you’ll need to demonstrate that you are able to complete an academic degree in it. A previous course of study in that language will normally provide satisfactory evidence. Alternatively, you may need to submit a language test score. Most English-language programmes will accept an IELTs or TOEFL test.

What is the application process for a Doctorate in Education?

You should normally apply directly to universities for admission to their Education Doctorate programmes (because the EdD is not a teacher-training qualification, admission to courses is not centrally managed).

However, it’s a good idea to contact a prospective supervisor before you apply. Some universities will make this a formal requirement, but it’s a good idea to do so in any case: discussing your application in advance will ensure the course is a good fit for you and that your research ideas are appropriate.

General application requirements

As with other professional doctorate degrees, successfully applying for an EdD will require you to demonstrate both a strong track record and promising research ideas. This will usually involve:

  • Evidence of academic qualifications. You may need to supply a transcript of your Masters degree and / or extracts from your dissertation (demonstrating your research experience).
  • Evidence of professional experience. This should be reflected on your CV and in your personal statement.
  • Academic references. These should support your suitability for doctoral research.

The EdD research proposal

Though it differs from a PhD, the EdD is still a doctoral degree, involving independent research towards an original thesis. Most programmes will therefore ask you to submit a research proposal as part of your application.

You should check the guidelines for your programme, but an EdD proposal will normally cover:

  • The topic you would like to research (its objectives and potential value)
  • The methods you expect to use to collect and analyse qualitative or quantitative data
  • The fit between this project and the programme you are applying to (including the research interests and expertise of potential supervisors)
  • The link between your research ideas and your academic or professional experience (confirming your suitability for this project)

However, you may find that your proposal doesn’t need to be extensive as it would for an academic PhD: whereas a PhD proposal is normally around 3,000 words, an EdD proposal may only need to be 1-2,000.

This is partly because the research component of an Education Doctorate is less extensive than it would be for a PhD, but it’s also due to the way an EdD works. Instead of being specifically defined in advance, your research plans will probably be refined by the modules you study (rather like a Masters dissertation).

Writing a good research proposal

The principles of good proposal writing apply equally to all types of doctorate. Learn more with our guide.

What’s it like to study for a Doctorate in Education?

The EdD works in a similar way to other professional doctorates, but some features of are more specific. For example, your programme may involve substantial practice-based work, within schools, colleges or other educational organisations.

How long is a Doctor of Education degree?

The length of an EdD depends on the study intensity of the programme. Full-time courses usually take between 3-5 years to complete. However, part-time study is generally more common, with most of these courses taking between 5-8 years (some Doctor of Education programmes only offer a part-time option).

How will my programme be organised?

Most EdD programmes have two distinct phases:

During the first part of your degree you will complete a series of modules or other organised training. Some of these will explore different topics in pedagogical theory and practice. Others will focus on research skills.

After completing a sufficient number of modules, you will progress to the second part of your programme. This will involve independent research towards your doctoral thesis, usually undertaken with the guidance and support of a designated supervisor.

What will I study?

Each Doctor of Education programme will feature its own selection of modules – this is part of what makes individual degrees unique. However, you can generally expect to cover topics such as:

  • Pedagogical theory – This could involve thinking about the cognitive and development science underpinning education processes and / or the effectiveness and principles of different professional practices. Some programmes may specialise in issues related to different learning environments or levels of education (primary, secondary, tertiary, etc).
  • Educational policy – This is likely to mean considering the broader administration and design of educational systems, within organisations or by governments. Again, opportunities may exist to specialise in different key policy areas (school systems, higher education, adult education, etc).
  • Data collection and analysis – Your programme will probably involve some training in assembling qualitative and quantitative data sets and reflecting on your findings. This will be useful during some coursework, but will be especially important during your doctoral research project.
  • Research methods – Most programmes will also feature specific training in wider skills, processes and methodologies for professional research in Education. This could involve learning about key issues such as project design, management and ethics.

Bear in mind that this is only a representative selection. The specific modules offered at actual universities will reflect their interests and expertise. Some EdD programmes may also have a more specific focus, perhaps focussing on particular areas such as educational leadership, higher education policy or other topics.

What’s it like to research an EdD thesis?

The EdD is a doctoral degree and, as such, it normally concludes with an original research project and thesis. Here you will select a specific area of inquiry and investigate it with the support of a supervisor.

Your thesis will be a significant piece of work, but it won’t be as extensive as it would for an academic PhD and you won’t spend as much time researching it.

A PhD research project normally takes at least three years of full-time research to complete and results in a thesis of around 80-100,000 words. An EdD research project, on the other hand, normally only runs for the final year or two of a full-time Education Doctorate (or the part-time equivalent) and produces a thesis of between 40,000 and 60,000 words (the exact length will be determined by the balance of taught and research components on your programme).

In addition, whereas a PhD thesis is normally based entirely on original academic research, an EdD thesis may also reflect on practice-based exercises, such as real-world projects and case studies.

EdD without a thesis?

Normally, an EdD requires a thesis (it’s a doctorate, after all). However, some programmes will allow students to complete a selection of modules and exit with a PGDip, MEd or other taught postgraduate qualification.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment of a Doctor of Education degree varies depends on the specific stage of your programme:

  • During the first part of the degree your modules will normally be assessed using coursework essays (of between 3,000 and 5,000 words). Practical exercises and research training may also be monitored through written progress reports.
  • During the second part of the degree you will focus on producing your doctoral thesis. This will normally be assessed using a formal viva voce (oral examination) process, much like a traditional PhD.

Doctor of Education programmes aren’t normally graded (you will simply earn the degree and the title ‘Dr’) but you will need to make satisfactory progress on your modules to proceed to the research stage. Failure to pass your EdD viva may require you to correct and resubmit your research, or, in extreme cases, exit the programme with a non-doctoral degree (this is rare).

Search for an EdD

Ready to start looking at available EdD degrees? You can view current projects or programmes now.

Last updated - 12/08/2017

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