Education Administration

Benefits of Earning a Doctorate in Education in Washington, DC

Benefits of Earning a Doctorate in Education in Washington, DC
While we generally don't associate education with high salaries, a doctoral degree can qualify you for some lucrative positions—especially in a city like Washington, DC. Image from Unsplash
Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella October 7, 2020

Well-respected universities, along with abundant research and policymaking opportunities, make Washington, DC, a top choice for anyone pursuing a doctorate in education.

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If you’re looking for a doctoral degree in education that can take you beyond traditional school leadership career opportunities, consider starting your search in the District of Columbia. DC is home to government agencies like the United States Department of Education and the National Education Administration and countless nonprofits and think tanks as well as a school district of nearly 50,000 students.

A quick Google search reveals hundreds of education research positions in the DC area and numerous opportunities to work in policy and legislation. Earning an education doctorate in Washington, DC, prepares you for opportunities in academics, research, policy, governance, education publishing, and many other areas. No other place in the country offers such a concentration of opportunities to work in education.

While we generally don’t associate education with high salaries, a doctoral degree can qualify you for some lucrative positions—especially in a city like Washington, DC. For example, the average superintendent earns a salary of more than $100,000. DC area superintendents earn more; their annual median salary is over $180,000.

This article discusses all aspects of earning a doctorate in education in Washington DC by addressing the following questions:

  • What is a doctorate in education?
  • How is a doctorate in education different from a master’s?
  • Why earn a doctorate in education from a Washington, DC, school?
  • Which Washington DC schools have Doctor of Education programs?
  • Does it cost more to earn a doctorate in education in Washington, DC?

What is a doctorate in education?

A Doctorate in Education (EdD) is one of three terminal degrees in the education field—the others being a PhD in Education and Education Specialist (EdS), which is not a doctorate. Though there is some overlap between the doctorates, the EdD is a professional degree while the PhD is a research degree. Each leads to unique career paths.

Those who complete an EdD typically become education leaders, e.g., school principals or superintendents. PhDs usually conduct research and/or become education professors. Students in both degrees complete research, policy, and even budgeting courses. EdD programs focus more on application; PhD programs, on theory.

Part-time students typically complete an EdD in approximately three years, often while continuing to work full-time. A PhD more commonly takes between four and six years of full-time commitment; first in coursework, then in research.


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How is a doctorate in education different from a master’s?

A master’s degree, as its name indicates, confers mastery in a field. It typically follows undergraduate study in the field or in a related field. Full-time graduate students typically earn a master’s in two years or less.

Most doctoral programs require applicants to hold a master’s in a related field. Some do not, but, of these programs, many require doctoral candidates to complete master’s-level courses before commencing doctoral study. Admissions requirements for most graduate programs also include professional experience.

Both a Master of Education (MEd) and an EdD can lead to education administrator roles, such as school principal. The EdD is the more advanced, more prestigious degree and accordingly typically results in better job placements and with higher salaries.

Why earn a doctorate in education from a Washington, DC, school?

Attending an EdD or PhD program at a Washington, DC, school is especially useful for those who want to work in education policy. DC is where the jobs are, so studying here is geographically advantageous. In addition, many area schools partner with education policy organizations for internship or research opportunities. Studying in DC offers opportunities not available anywhere else in the United States.

Which Washington DC schools have Doctor of Education programs?

American University

School of Education

American University offers a 40-credit online EdD in Education Policy and Leadership. The program’s goal is to prepare students for leadership roles in teaching, legislative, and organizational capacities. The degree can be completed in less than three years, though part of the admissions requirements is an “approved master’s degree,” which means you’ll need a few years of study in the bank.

There are four pillars to AU’s program that help inform every student’s coursework, dissertation, and professional opportunities. They are:

  • Systems change
  • Personal leadership
  • Social justice and anti-racism
  • Policy and research

Catholic University of America

Founded by bishops in the 1800s, the Catholic University of America offers an education program focused on preparing graduates for leadership roles in Catholic learning institutions.

A research institution, Catholic University does not offer an EdD. Instead, its PhD in Catholic Education Leadership and Policy Studies is “designed to respond to the nationwide need to prepare future Catholic educational leaders.” Admissions requirements include a master’s degree in educational leadership (or a related subject), Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores, and letters of recommendation.

Students can choose from one of four research areas:

  • Catholic education
  • Governance and community relations
  • Policy in education
  • Educational administration

George Washington University

Graduate School of Education and Human Development

GWU’s education school has been offering education degrees since the early 1900s. In 1994, the education school was renamed the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, with a consequent focus on graduate programs.

George Washington University offers one of the most diverse sets of degree programs of all the DC-based schools, including five doctorate in education options (plus another one in school counseling), and six relevant PhDs. The EdD paths are:

  • Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration
  • Doctorate in Higher Education Administration
  • Doctorate in Human and Organizational Learning
  • Doctorate in Special Education

These degrees prepare graduates for a broad spectrum of potential career paths, including becoming a principal or superintendent (educational leadership) or policymaker (special education). The human and organizational learning degree is interdisciplinary and accepts students of all backgrounds. GWU doctoral students qualify for several financial aid opportunities—including merit scholarships and endowments—that help bring down the degree’s cost.

Howard University

School of Education

Howard offers two doctoral programs in education (a PhD and an EdD) and ranks in the top 100 on US News and World Report‘s list of best education graduate schools. This HBCU prides itself on its diverse faculty and student body.

The Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) Doctor of Education prepares community-minded superintendents or other senior leaders. The program “aims at producing individuals who have knowledge and skill in all phases of the organization and management of educational institutions, especially school systems.”

The 72-credit hour, PhD in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies (HELPS) “is designed to prepare the next generation of educational leaders for the staffing, administration, and management positions for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).”

Does it cost more to earn a doctorate in education in Washington, DC?

The cost to attend a DC school is comparable to other universities nationwide. American University charges $1,812 per credit hour for its EdD, and George Washington charges $1,765. For comparison’s sake: Fordham University in New York charges $1,471 per credit, and Boston University asks $1,777 per credit (for part time students).

You may find an easier time paying for a PhD. It isn’t out of the question for well-funded institutions to cover a candidate’s full-tuition.

Among DC schools, the Catholic University of America offers stipends or research funding to qualifying students. Howard has seven different funding opportunities, including scholarships, fellowships, and research grants for qualifying students. Paying for education is no small feat, but more financing opportunities become available as you advance.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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