Top 20 Online Colleges with the Best PhD in Education or EdD

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Online EdD - PhD in Education

Education is one of the most crucial fields. Virtually everyone has benefited from talented educators. Collectively, educators prepare the next generation to accomplish vast and wonderful things. From new scientific discoveries, to job readiness, to emotional well-being and maturity, education is at the heart of making us who we are.

If you’re reading this you likely don’t need to be told just how important education is. Rather, you’re likely already an educator and you’re likely ready to boost your impact. Perhaps you want to take on leadership roles, or enable a move to a new work setting, or drive even better results for your organization. Or perhaps you’re just naturally curious and want to advance knowledge through research in your field.

Luckily all of this is possible with an online doctorate in education. With the explosion of many flexible online degrees, doctorate programs are more readily available than ever.

EdD, PhD, Education, Doctorate

Presently there are three main types of terminal education degrees. Below we’ve chosen exemplary programs of all three types. But in case you need a refresher, the three main types of terminal education degrees include Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) programs, Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs, and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in education programs.

The first two of these program types — Ed.S. and Ed.D. — programs are applied. This often means that they are shorter programs that are not tied to research objectives. In the case of an Ed.S., this degree type may be obtained in as little as 2 years. Ed.S. degrees aren’t truly doctorates, but they’re viewed as more advanced than the master’s level and they are terminal degrees. They generally focus on one type of teaching or leadership position, lending you job-ready skills in a rapid format. Ed.D. degrees are also applied but are doctorates. These degrees typically take two to four years to complete. And while they don’t require a dissertation like research degrees, they often do require a thesis or culminating project. Ed.D. degrees provide educational expertise for those working in a wide variety of educational settings, including public schools, a specific type of teaching position, or other organizations like those in business or health care.

Education Degree, PhD in Education, Doctoral Degree, Doctoral Student

Ph.D. programs in education are research degrees. This means that some of their central aims are to prepare students to teach at university levels (if they so wish). Additionally, Ph.D. programs seek to create an environment where doctoral candidates can perform research and add to the knowledge base of their field. This often takes the form of a dissertation or a several-hundred-page long document of original research. As one might expect, Ph.D.’s take the longest time of any education doctorate degrees to complete.


To compile this ranking, we looked at over 100 fully online doctoral programs in education. As we mentioned above, we considered all terminal education degree programs for entry in this ranking, including Ed.S., Ed.D., and Ph.D. programs.

To narrow down our selection we looked at a wide range of factors and weighted the following the most:

  • Affordability (33.3%): the average out-of-state tuition per credit hour as well as funding opportunities for students in the doctoral program.
  • Prominence and Proof of Concept of Program (33.3%): the size of the graduate education department as well as the percentage of students studying online.
  • Academic Quality and Support in Program (33.3%): this final metric looked at a range of indicators about the quality of the graduate education program, including entrance requirements, class sizes, and research ranks of the department.

1. Sam Houston State University

Score: 288/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $300 || View Profile

Sam Houston State University (SHSU) is a nationally ranked public university located in Huntsville, Texas. SHSU enrolls over 20,000 students and offers a wide range of learning opportunities for both traditional and nontraditional students. Among the many diverse experiences, SHSU offers online learning opportunities- a popular option for individuals returning to school.

To make the process even more straight-forward, the university offers credit for life experience. Carnegie ranks SHSU as a Doctoral Research Institution. SHSU offers some unique online degrees including an online Master’s in Conducting, online Bachelor’s in Sociology, and an online doctoral degree in educational leadership and Administration.

SHSU offers an online Doctor of Education in Developmental Education Administration. This online degree is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. We ranked SHSU for their affordable tuition rates and classroom size.

Doctoral candidates are required to complete 60 credit hours of online material. This interdisciplinary program offers courses in education research, classroom design, assessment, advanced learning theory, and more. This is a rigorous program where all candidates are evaluated for fit after a two-semester trial period. To complete this degree, candidates are required to pass a comprehensive exam and complete a dissertation. If you are looking for an affordable program with a comprehensive curriculum, SHSU may be the right fit.

2. University of the Cumberlands

Score: 278.6/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $315 || View Profile

The University of the Cumberlands is a private comprehensive school located in Williamsburg, Kentucky. The university enrolls over 10,000 students and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of just 17:1. This nationally ranked university ranks highly for their online degree offerings including best online bachelor’s degrees, and best online graduate degrees in education according to U.S. News.

Their largest online school is their online school of education- offering over 20 degrees in the field including online offerings in music education, special education, reading education, curriculum and instruction, and educational leadership. The University of the Cumberlands is a popular option for educators looking for an accessible and affordable route towards an advanced degree in education.

The University of the Cumberlands offers an online Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in educational leadership. We selected this online Ed.D as the curriculum is rigorous the cost is affordable, and the format is flexible. Candidates are required to complete a minimum of 60 credit hours of course material which is broken into three main categories: Leadership Core, Professional Research, and Specialty Area Content.

The specialty area programming really sets this program apart- as candidates have the opportunity to study leadership in a number of fields. The professional research component is 15 credit hours and includes course material in research, statistics, and your dissertation. All of the leadership core courses are wide-ranging including grant writing, leadership theory, higher education in America, and organizational politics. The cost of this program is just $315 per credit hour.

3.Lamar University

Score: 275/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $235 || View Profile

Lamar is a public research university located in Beaumont, Texas. There are approximately 14,500 students enrolled. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredits Lamar to offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctor’s degrees- both professional and scholastic. The institution focuses on in-demand degree offerings including in the fields of business, engineering, counseling, and education.

Lamar aims to accommodate both traditional and non-traditional students and support their success through academic counsel, credit for life experience, and of course, online degrees. In fact, there are an impressive 20 online degrees available to both undergraduate-seeking and advanced degree-seeking candidates. Some of their most prolific online programs are in the fields of psychology, business, and education.

Lamar ranks highly on our list for the best online educational doctorate programs as it provides an affordable program for its students. This course is our least expensive pick- with a price tag of about $235 per credit hour. U.S. News ranks their online graduate education programs 115th. Not only that, but you can earn your Ed.D. in just 8 semesters- a great option for individuals looking to accelerate their learning. This doctoral program in educational leadership requires 60 credit hours for completion.

4.University of Central Missouri

Score: 273/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $340 || View Profile

The University of Central Missouri (UCMO) is a public university located in Warrensburg, Missouri. There are over 12,000 students enrolled, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 18:1. This is a regionally ranked institution and additionally ranks as the 50th best college of veterans, 17th top public school, 63rd best value school, and 62nd in best online graduate education programs.

Originally founded as a Normal School for teachers, UCMO continues to offer comprehensive education degrees in a wide range of specialty areas including music, mathematics, Art, and educational leadership. Over the years, the university has acquired a much larger endowment and now offers degrees in a broad range of fields including business, computer information technology, engineering, health, and the Arts. The university offers dozens of online degrees in a wide range of fields.

Among their online offerings is UCMO’s Education Specialist (Ed.S) degree in Educational Technology. This is a fully-online degree that is extremely flexible. Students will study Statistics for Behavioral Sciences, Research Methods, Educational Technology, and Research Problems in Instructional Technology. The advanced practicum should be completed at the end of this program. This is a hands-on program that teaches you to integrate technology into all areas of education. The cost of this program is just $340 per credit hour.

5.University of North Dakota

Score: 272.3/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $320 || View Profile

The University of North Dakota (UND) is a nationally ranked research university located in Grand Forks, North Dakota. There are over 14,000 students enrolled and degrees are accredited through the Higher Learning Commission. According to U.S. News UND ranks as the 112th top public school in the nation, 36th for best online graduate business programs, and 70th for best online graduate education programs. To support student success, the university offers academic and career counseling, daycare, credit for life experiences, and distance learning opportunities.

UND academic offerings are wide-ranging with the largest in the fields of health, engineering, and education. Students may choose from nearly 50 online programs including their online masters in special education, and an online doctorate of education in teaching and learning.

The online Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Teaching and Learning aims to prepare tomorrow’s leaders in education. The course is taught online though does require 4-7 meetings at weekends each semester. The program is rigorous and requires 3-5 years to complete. We like the flexibility afforded through this program including two areas of specialization either higher education or teacher education.

The cost is $320 per credit hour and the program requires 96 credit hours to complete. Throughout the course, students may study a History of Higher Education, Assessment, Adult Learning, Technology in Higher Education, and more. Though not the most accelerated offering, we selected this program for the comprehensive curriculum, flexibility, and affordable tuition.

6.Pittsburg State University

Score: 272/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $441 || View Profile

Pittsburg State University is a public comprehensive university located in Pittsburg, Kansas. There are 6,907 students enrolled, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 18:1. All academic offerings are fully accredited through the Higher Learning Commission. Pittsburg State ranks highly for their online graduate education degrees. According to U.S. News the university ranks 25th.

To support student success Pittsburg State offers credit for life experiences as well as academic and career counseling. Their academic offerings are vast, to say the least including programming in the liberal arts, physical sciences, visual and performing arts, and even mechanics. By enrollment their largest academic field is education. Pittsburg State offers dozens of education-related degrees both on campus and online including an online master’s in physical education and coaching and the online masters in educational leadership and administration.

Pittsburg State’s online Educational Specialist degree is a great option for any individual who is looking to fast-track their way into a position of leadership. The program focuses on advanced studies in leadership and may be completed in as little as 2 years. Though the credit hour cost is higher the tuition is actually low as this online degree requires just 36 credit hours to complete.

This program does meet the endorsement required for district superintendent. All program material is fully accredited by the Kansas State Department of Education. Upon completion, individuals may either initiate their career in educational leadership or further their studies with a doctoral of educational leadership.

7.Georgia Southern University

Score: 271/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $410 || View Profile

Georgia Southern University is a public research university located in Statesboro, Georgia. The university enrolls over 20,000 students and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 21:1. The Southern Association of College and Schools accredits Georgia Southern University to award bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees as well as professional certifications. Georgia Southern is nationally ranked and their online graduate education programs rank 62nd according to U.S. News.

When it comes to academics, Georgia Southern offers myriad of degree offerings in particular in the fields of business, visual and Performing Arts, and education. To accommodate the 21st-century learner, the university offers nearly 30 online learning opportunities including an online Bachelor’s in RN, online Master’s in Special Education Administration, and online masters in applied economics.

Georgia Southern offers a number of online Education Specialist degrees including in the fields of instructional technology, reading education, elementary education, middle grades education, secondary education, and special education. Georgia Southern’s flexible fully online offerings and affordable tuition rate have helped to earn its spot in this ranking. The cost is just $410 per semester hour and requires approximately 33 semester hours for completion. If you are looking for a direct route toward advancement in the field of education, an online educational specialist degree from Georgia Southern may be a great fit.

8. Arizona State University

Score: 266/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $585 || View Profile

Arizona State University (ASU) is leading the way in innovative learning, particularly with online education. This flagship institution enrolls over 50,000 students at its main campus in Tempe and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees as well as professional certifications. U.S. News ranks Arizona State as the 115th best school in the nation, 76th best college for veterans, and 36th for best online graduate education programs.

It ranks as the number one most innovative school. Carnegie classifies ASU as an R:1 university with the highest research activity. The university’s academic offerings are huge- with courses in everything from anthropology to astrophysics. ASU online offers an even wider scope for academic opportunity- addressing the needs of today’s learners.

ASU offers an online Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Leadership and Innovation. This is a cohort-based program offered either online or in person. The right candidate is an individual who is already working in a leadership role and is looking to deepen their understanding. Students are encouraged to reflect on either PreK-12 education, higher education, or reimagined change leadership.

The degree is 90 credit hours and is divided into the following components: required core, research, advanced professional studies, directed field-based study, participation in Leader Scholar Communities, and a dissertation. Leader Scholar Communities are formed in the 2nd year and consist of a concise cohort of 5-7 students and a faculty member. Students receive a lot of personalized attention in this rigorous and academically excellent program. The cost per credit hour is $585.

9. Ball State University

Score: 265/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $603 || View Profile

Ball State University is a public nationally ranked university located in Muncie, Indiana. There are over 20,000 students enrolled and all programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. According to U.S. News Ball State ranks as the 171st best school in the nation, 91st top public school, and 36th best school for online graduate education.

Over the years, Ball State has invested heavily in honing their online academic programming and consistently offers online programming that rivals other schools brick and mortar programs. You will find the same rigor online as you would expect on campus. Carnegie ranks Ball State as an R:1 university with the highest research activity. In addition to high-quality online education programming, Ball State offers degrees in architecture, international business, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Music, Astronomy and so much more.

Ball State has a few online offerings for online doctorates and online education specialist programs. Students may choose to study their online Doctorate of Education in Adult and Community Education, Doctor of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision, Doctorate of Education with an Emphasis in Special Education, Doctorate of Education in Education and Community Leadership, and an Education Specialist degree in School Superintendency.

Most programs are offered online or through a hybrid approach. The EdS requires about 60 credits for completion where the Ed.D. requires 90. The cost of programming is $603 per credit hour.

10.Concordia University Portland

Score: 264/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $477 || View Profile

Concordia University-Portland (CU Portland) is a private Lutheran comprehensive university located in Portland, Oregon. There are just 5,125 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 17:1. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredits CU Portland to offers Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctor’s degrees in a wide range of fields.

At CU Portland, the academic focus is on high-need and in-demand fields like business and education. Their education department is by far the largest and includes degree offerings in technical teacher education, special education, elementary education, early childhood education, higher education and so much more.

We selected CU Portland for the high number of Education Doctorates (Ed.D) available. In fact, students may select from five online Ed.Ds including their EdD in Administrative Leadership, EdD in Higher Education, EdD in Instructional Leadership, EdDin Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation, and their EdD in Transformational Leadership.

The programs are accelerated and may be completed in as little as 3 years. The first two years consist of core and concentration course while the third year is all about your dissertation. Not only is this program flexible, but also affordable- costing students just $477 per credit hour.

11. Texas Tech University

Score: 263.6/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $300 || View Profile

Texas Tech University (TTU) is a nationally ranked research university with the main campus in Lubbock, Texas. TTU has an enrollment of close to 40,000 students, with about one-quarter of those students studying at graduate levels. The university is a state university and the flagship institution of the Texas Tech University System. This large system has an endowment of over $1billion. This translates into a vast range of programs, student support services, and research opportunities at the graduate levels.

In recent years TTU has met the criteria for being designated a Hispanic Serving Institution, with over one-quarter of the student body identifying as Hispanic in ethnicity. The 1,000 acres+ campus is built in the Spanish Renaissance style and has been lauded as one of the most attractive campuses in the nation. In recent years, research expenditures have set records for the institution year-after-year, and annual doctoral graduates have topped 300 a year.

Texas Tech University’s fully online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Higher Education is the only primarily online Ed.D. degree in the university system. Though all coursework for the program may be completed online, an orientation and three summer development sessions must be attended in person throughout the program. This program places highly in our ranking due to metrics in affordability, the size of the program, and the reputation of the graduate education department at the university. Coursework for the program is split into two tracks: a specialization in community college administration, and a specialization in college and university administration.

Uniquely, both tracks are competency-based educational programs, centered around candidates’ abilities to ensure critical competencies in higher education administration. As one of the few doctoral degrees in education both offered fully online and centered in higher education in our ranking, for the right candidate this program should go right to the top of their list.

12. University of West Georgia

Score: 262/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $312 || View Profile

The University of West Georgia (UWG) is a public, mid-sized comprehensive university with a main campus located in Carrolton, Georgia (about 45 miles west of Atlanta). UWG has an enrollment of close to 14,000 students and offers degrees at the bachelor’s through doctoral university. Though not a particularly large state university, UWG is known for research and is classified as an R3 research university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. A particularly unique department at the university is in psychology. This program is one of only two in the United States to offer a focus on transpersonal and humanistic psychology.

The University of West Georgia is unique in our ranking of online doctorates in education in that they offer a number of fully online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs. Currently, four such programs are on offer: an Ed.D. in higher education administration, an Ed.D. in nursing education, an Ed.D. in professional counseling and supervision, and an Ed.D. in school improvement. A number of educational specialist degrees are also available fully online.

While educational specialist degrees are not doctoral degrees, they are post-masters-level degrees and terminal. The Ed.D. programs at UWG place highly in our ranking due to affordability as well as the reputation of the graduate college of education within the university. All four Ed.D. degrees require 60 semester credit hours of coursework as well as dissertations from doctoral candidates.

13. Valdosta State University

Score: 261.7/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $385 || View Profile

Valdosta State University (VSU) is a public member of the University of Georgia system located in south Georgia in the city of Valdosta. This mid-sized university was originally founded as a school of education, and now boasts over 11,000 students studying a wide range of topics. Courses are available at the bachelor’s through doctoral levels of study through five colleges: arts and sciences, business, education, arts, and nursing.

Quality of academic support and instruction measures at the university are strong including retention rate (69%), undergraduate graduation rate (37%), and the student-to-faculty ratio (20:1). Valdosta is centrally located in south-central Georgia, just several hours from Orlando, Macon, Atlanta, and Jacksonville.

A variety of fully online doctoral (or terminal) academic programs in education are offered by Valdosta State. These include a handful of Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs as well as a range of educational specialist (Ed.S.) programs. While Ed.S. programs are not doctoral degrees, they are terminal and viewed as post-masters in their degree level.

The Ed.D. programs on offer fully online from the school include Curriculum and Instruction: Learning and Development, and an Ed.D. in educational leadership. Furthermore, the Curriculum and Instruction program offers a number of elective pathways that can lead to specialization as well as certifications. The Ed.D. programs offered by VSU are placed highly in our ranking due to affordability, the popularity of the graduate program of education (program enrollment size), as well as the academic reputation of the graduate school of education. Additionally, VSU has a wide variety of online degrees which they have honed over a number of years of offering such, and are well regarded nationally within online education.

14. Concordia University at St. Paul

Score: 261.3/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $395 || View Profile

Concordia University (Saint Paul) is an affiliate of the nine-member Concordia University system that oversees in-person and online education across the United States. All Concordia University locations in the United States are affiliated with the religious denomination of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. The Saint Paul location is over 120 years old and has an enrollment of slightly over 5,000 students.

With a smaller student body, courses are often small affording a great deal of support to each student from professors. This couples well with the university’s reputation as a liberal arts institution producing well-rounded and analytical thinkers. Additionally, the university offers graduate degrees in a select number of fields including education. In recent years, the university has made a name for itself by jumping into online education, and as a whole, the Concordia University System is one of the more popular online degree options among private, religiously-affiliated universities.

The Saint Paul location of Concordia University offers a fully online Doctor of Educational Leadership degree both in-person and online. The degree is known for flexible components including accelerated 7-week courses and just one hour synchronous (live) courses weekly. These elements endear the program to graduates that are often working while attending the program.

Close to one-fifth of students attending Concordia University are attending the graduate department of education, making it perhaps the most popular of all degree types at the university. We have placed Concordia University’s program highly in our ranking due to affordability (especially for a private school) as well as the reputation for academic quality and support among the university’s graduate school of education.

15. University of Illinois

Score: 261/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $416 || View Profile

The University of Illinois (UI) is a nationally ranked research university that is the flagship member of the University of Illinois University System. UI is an R1 (very high research activity) university and holds designations as a space-grant, sea-grant, and land-grant university. These designations attest to the wide range of research funding and opportunities presented at the university. As one may expect, a wide range of programs at the bachelors through doctoral level are present for the university’s nearly 50,000 students.

Many years UI is placed among to the top 15 public universities in the nation. In recent years, the university has also made a name for itself as a provider of online degrees. A few years back, UI rolled out its first online master’s degrees in a partnership with Silicon Valley online education firm Coursera. Since then the university has rolled out a wide range of online education options connecting students worldwide with UI’s world-class student body and faculty.

A wide range of fully online doctoral degrees in education are available through UI. Presently the following doctoral-level degrees are available: bilingual and English as a second language education, diversity and equity in education, diversity and equity in education with a focus on human resources, foundations of e-learning in higher education, global studies in education, an Ed.D. in human resources, a learning design and leadership program, a program in new learning methods, and a technology specialist program.

Most Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs at the university require 64 semester credit hours for graduation, as well as the writing of a thesis. While some Ed.D. programs are research doctorates, Ed.D. programs at the University of Illinois are largely applied, with a thesis as an applied substitute for the more substantial and research-based dissertation. We’ve placed the University of Illinois’ doctoral offerings in education highly in our ranking due to the academic prestige and support of this institution’s prominent education department.

16. University of Arkansas

Score: 258/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $420 || View Profile

The University of Arkansas is a public university that is the flagship university of the University of Arkansas System. This high research activity university holds designations as a land-grant and space-grant institution. Degrees are offered from the bachelor’s through doctoral levels of study, with a great number of research opportunities at the graduate levels of study. Currently close to 30,000 students are enrolled at the university.

Though the university is a large state institution, many courses are small with a student-to-faculty ratio of 18 to 1. This leads to good student outcomes and support within courses. This support is exemplified in the quality student outcome measures for the university including a first-year retention rate of 82% and an undergraduate graduation rate of 62%. Particularly highly regarded programs at the university include top-ranked English Literature, Business Administration, Marketing, Corporate Strategy, Architecture, and Creative Writing programs.

A number of doctoral-level education degrees are available fully online through the University of Arkansas. Current online programs include Doctor of Education (Ed.D) programs in adult and lifelong learning, educational leadership, and human resource and workforce development education. Degree requirements range from 42-92 credit hours for completion of programs, so make sure to check with individual programs to ensure they meet your requirements. Additionally, some online doctoral programs are part-time while others are full time.

All three online doctoral education degrees from UA placed in our ranking due to affordability as well as a highly ranked graduate education department at the university. The University of Arkansas is well-regarded and holds national name recognition for educators. Coupled with affordable and flexible coursework, it’s a great choice for a university through which to pursue your doctorate in education degree.

17. Indiana University–Bloomington

Score: 255.3/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $510 || View Profile

Indiana University at Bloomington is a public research university and the flagship institution of the Indiana University System. Over 46,000 students are enrolled at IU Bloomington, comprising almost half of all enrollees in the entire university system. A perennial top 50 public university, IU Bloomington boasts a wide range of world-renowned faculty. Faculty includes 9 Nobel Laureates, the winners of 6 Academy Awards, the winners of 49 Grammies, and the winners of 20 Pulitzer Prizes.

A wide range of academic programs are commonly ranked within the top 25 in the nation. Top-ranked academic programs include chemistry, math, environmental policy and management, programming languages, nuclear physics, and sociology. The Kelley School of Business is particularly well regarded and noted as the #1 producer of Fortune 500 company CEOs of any public university. Despite its large size, IU Bloomington boasts small class sizes and quality student outcome measures including graduation and retention rates.

Indiana University Bloomington presently offers one online doctoral-level degree in education. This Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree is focused on instructional systems technology, and places highly in our ranking due to the academic prestige and quality of the university’s graduate education school. The course of study requires 60 hours of study and can help prepare graduates for a wide range of careers including e-learning developer, designer of instruction, corporate training positions, educational content developer, teaching positions, research, or professorships.

There are a variety of fellowship opportunities for students of the program, even though it offers primarily online delivery. The current price per credit hour (for out-of-state students) for the program is $510.

18. University of South Dakota

Score: 253.6/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $444 || View Profile

The University of South Dakota is a public research university and the oldest university in the state of South Dakota. With a current enrollment of close to 10,000 students, the university is mid-sized, though offers a full range of bachelor’s through doctoral-level degree programs.

Educational support and outcome measures at the university are strong and include a 16 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio. Additionally, the undergraduate retention rate at the university is 72%, while the first-time college attendee graduation rate is 55%. Traditionally these metrics point to quality support measures not only for undergraduate students but across the university.

Additional accolades of the university include being ranked as one of the top “high school counselor’s choice” universities in the nation, as well as a nationally ranked business school.

The University of South Dakota offers a fully online Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in educational leadership and administration that we’ve chosen for this year’s ranking. While educational specialist degrees technically are not doctoral degrees, they are perceived as a post-masters-level degree and are terminal.

These applied degrees help students to take doctoral level coursework and apply it even quicker in their work lives and are not as research heavy as Ed.D. or Ph.D. programs. We’ve ranked this program in our top 20 due to its affordability as well as the academic reputation of the graduate school of education at the University of South Dakota.

19. National University

Score: 250.6/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $416 || View Profile

National University (NU) is a private, nonprofit university with a main campus in La Jolla, California. Additionally, NU has campuses throughout the state of California, one in Nevada, and a robust online degree offering list. Enrollment in the university is currently close to 25,000 students, with a large number of these students online.

National University has credentialed more teachers than any other university in the state of California, making it one of the largest credentialing universities of teachers in the nation. Degree programs are offered at the bachelor’s through doctoral level at NU, and in a wide variety of (mostly applied) fields. Despite the size of the school, student-to-faculty ratios are relatively low at 19 to 1. Other support and academic quality measures are also high quality, including retention and graduation rates.

National University places in our ranking for a particularly unique offering in their fully online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in organizational innovation. One interesting aspect of this program is that it applies educational best practices to settings that include traditional educational settings as well as other types of organizations (businesses, non-profits, government).

This program places in our ranking due to affordability, the size of National University’s online graduate education program, and the academic reputation of the graduate education wing of the university. All students in the program must successfully defend their culminating project to proceed to graduation.

20. University of South Carolina

Score: 247/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $552 || View Profile

The University of South Carolina (USC) is a public research university with the main campus located in Columbia, South Carolina. The current enrollment at the flagship campus of the University of South Carolina System is currently close to 35,000, comprising a majority of the system-wide enrollment. Degree offerings are available in a diverse range of fields from the bachelor’s through doctoral levels.

The university has a number of noteworthy programs, including the nation’s top-ranked undergraduate and graduate international business programs. Additionally, programs in psychology, public health, criminology, health care management, and engineering are some of the top-ranked in the nation. Student support measures and outcomes are both also top notch and include a low student-to-faculty ratio (meaning small classes), a high retention rate, and a high graduation rate.

For our ranking, we’ve chosen to include the University of South Carolina’s fully online doctor of education (Ed.D.) in curriculum and instruction: curriculum studies program. This program may be completed in as short a period as 36 months, and places in our ranking due to affordability as well as the research and academic prestige of the graduate education program.

We should note that not all Ed.D. programs are research doctorates, but USC’s is. This means that a primary aim of the program is to prepare students to potentially teach at university levels, as well as to conduct original research that will further their field of study. Additionally, students must complete a dissertation — or a several-hundred-page research document — before graduation.

Online Doctorate in Education FAQs

Education PhD, Doctorate DegreeDo Teachers with a PhD Get Paid More?

This is a question we regularly get here at OnlineCollegePlan. Teachers in public schools — which are a majority of teachers in America — typically get paid more for each advanced degree they gain. While the largest difference between public school teacher pay are based on the location and subject taught, nearly every public school district in America provide pay grades based on experience and education level. This means that — assuming you’re staying in the same position — you will make slightly more for each year you teach. Additionally, for every more advanced degree related to education that you gain, you will get a salary boost.

Cost of PhD in Education, doctoral degree in Education

We should note here that this pay boost is not just limited to Ph.D. in education programs. The two main types of doctoral degrees for education are the doctor of education (Ed.D.) and the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in education degrees. Both confer a pay boost in virtually every public school district. Additionally, educational specialist (Ed.S.) degrees often confer the same benefit. Ed.S. degrees, while technically not doctoral programs are considered post-masters level programs and terminal degrees.

For public school teachers, the average pay boost per year is several thousand dollars per advanced degree received.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Doctorate in Education?

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If you are wondering how much it costs to get your doctorate in education, you are not alone. This is a common question with a few components to consider: length, cost per credit hour, and loss to your personal income.

The length of the program is generally indicated in the number of credit hours. There is a wide range of Ed.D programs- some requiring just 60 credit hours to complete while other requiring nearly 100.

Next, find the approximate cost per credit hour and do a quick calculation. If the program costs $400 per credit hour and requires just 60 credit hours to complete, the total cost for the tuition only calculates out to $24,000. We recommend adding in the cost for books, and other fees which can add anywhere from $200- $2000 to the cost of your degree. If a program requires more than 60-credit hours to complete, naturally the cost will go up.

But the cost of your time is also valuable. Many people will have to reduce their work to part-time or reduce time spent with their families during these years doing an EdD. While time spent with family is not monetary, it is certainly a valuable component to consider before entering into a doctoral program. To factor in the cost of a pay cut, total up your required spending and surplus with your current pay. Do you have enough surplus to study right now? If not, are you going to be able to work full time while tackling the rigorous demands of a Ph.D.? Sometimes starting with these questions in mind is actually the true first step when considering how much it costs to get an online doctorate in education.

What is the Difference Between an Ed.D and Ph.D. in Education?

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While both an Ed.D. and Ph.D. in Education are advanced degrees in the field, there are a couple of differences to consider when looking for the right programs for you.

One distinct difference may be made when examining the curriculum. Ed.D. programs tend to focus on educational leadership and policy, while Ph.D. in Education focus on deepening your practice as a teacher. Additionally, Ph.D. programs are research doctorates, requiring a dissertation. Some Ed.D. programs require a dissertation, though they are often more applied.

Another distinct difference is that in the career path. Many individuals with a Ph.D. in education become college professors or innovators in K-12 education whereas individuals with an Ed.D. typically become leaders and administrators.

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While working on your Ph.D. you may be required to take your research into other areas of focus- like into disciplines like early childhood development, neuroscience, or sociology. Ed.D. programs may have a focus there as well but typically target individuals who are looking to innovate as leaders in their field whether as a superintendent or a mover and shaker in Washington D.C.

If you are wondering which option to pick based on salary, you may want to consider an Ed.D. According to the BLS, educational administrators make on average over $90,000 per year while educators make about $70,000 annually.

Both programs may include areas of focus such as curriculum and instruction, higher education, adult learning, special education and of course, leadership.

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Education?

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A Ph.D. in Education leads to a number of career opportunities. Typically, individuals with a Ph.D. in education work in a post-secondary educational setting, as high school counselors, and even in some cases education administrators.

As individuals who complete a Ph.D. in Education conduct a fair amount of research, it is common for that individual to teach education in a higher education setting. Professors of Education typically work with college students, design curricula appropriate for on-campus and online education, while furthering their research interests in the field.

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Though not everyone who seeks a Ph.D. in Education wishes to enter into higher education. Many individuals seeking a Ph.D. in Education are looking to deepen their practice as educators in the Pre-K- 12 educational setting. The school setting will often determine the nature of your job. A Ph.D. in education can lead to a leadership role with additional job responsibilities that typically come with a pay raise.

In short, individuals with a Ph.D. in education continue to educate and more often than not become the “thought leaders” in the field of education.

How Many Credits is a Doctorate in Education?

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Doctorate in Education or (Ed.Ds) typically require about 60 credit hours of course material with some exception. You will occasionally find programs that require upwards to 100 credit hours for completion. This will depend on the nature of the program.

Comprehensive degree offerings that require closer to 90 or 100 credit hours typically include course material in leadership, assessment, research, advanced theories of learning, specialization course material, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Some of these programs are longer as the curriculum includes interdisciplinary course material in business management or educational policy. These longer programs typically require about 5-7 years to complete.

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The programs that require just 60 credit hours may not have specialization courses and hone their programming to focus their attention primarily on leadership, innovation in leadership, grant writing and gathering resources in schools or superintendency. These shorter programs require about 3-5 years to complete.

So to sum up, if you are focusing on a professional doctorate, such as an Ed.D., you are likely to only need to fulfill 60 credit hours. If your doctorate requires a more heavy research component and some interdisciplinary work, such that you may find in either an Ed.D. or a Ph.D., you are likely looking at something close to 90 or 100 credit hours.

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