Education Administration

What Are the Best Online Doctor of Education Programs?

What Are the Best Online Doctor of Education Programs?
The best Doctor of Education program for you will be the one offering concentrations related to your professional aspirations. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry December 11, 2019

You can earn your doctorate in education online without sacrificing quality; more top schools are offering the career-boosting EdD to distance students every year. We've compiled a guide to the best online EdD programs in 2019, listing each degree type, tuition, core courses, elective course options (when available), and features.

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Many leadership roles in K-12 schools, districts, universities, and other educational organizations require (or at least strongly prefer) candidates who hold a doctoral degree. Some of these candidates are PhDs, but most hold a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree. That’s because the PhD is primarily an academic- and research-oriented degree, while the EdD is targeted to working professionals. The EdD is the terminal degree of choice for education leaders and administrators, and for those who want to join their ranks.

There was a time when earning a doctorate required taking time off work and studying on-campus, but those days are dwindling. More colleges and universities today offer online Doctor of Education programs that are flexible enough for working professionals, and more students are pursuing EdDs from their offices and homes.

An online EdD may be the perfect degree for you. The classes may be virtual and office hours may take place in a chat room, but the education you’ll receive in an online program will be every bit as rigorous as the one your on-campus counterparts receive. The degree you earn when you complete your work will be identical as well.

In this article listing the best online doctor of education programs, we’ll cover:

  • Benefits of a doctorate in education
  • Are online doctorate degrees different from traditional programs?
  • How to choose among online EdD programs
  • Ways to get financial aid for an online doctor of education program
  • Best online doctor of education programs

Benefits of a doctorate in education

The biggest benefit of earning an EdD is its capacity to advance in your career in education. If your goal is to transition out of the classroom and into the front office, a doctorate of education can help you do that. With this degree and relevant professional experience, you’ll be qualified to work in any of the following leadership roles:


“I'm Interested in Education Leadership!”

University and Program Name Learn More

Are online doctorate degrees different from traditional programs?

Not usually. At most schools, admission requirements are the same for distance learners and on-campus learners. Programs are regionally accredited and/or nationally accredited regardless of format. Students pursuing online doctorate degrees usually complete the same coursework as traditional doctoral students and may even take classes with the same instructors. Most of the time, they receive the exact same degree.

The most significant difference between online EdD programs and traditional ones is timing. Students in online, hybrid, and traditional doctorate of education programs studying at the same university usually take classes at different times and have different deadlines.

How to choose among online EdD programs

Every online EdD program is different, though you’ll find plenty of overlap in admission requirements, curricula, residency requirements, graduation requirements, and how coursework is delivered. Choosing the best online Doctor of Education program is a matter of considering your circumstances and then finding a program that meets your needs.

For instance, most online EdD programs aren’t 100 percent virtual. They have residency requirements for distance learners that involve visiting campus for days or even weeks. Similarly, most are not entirely asynchronous or self-directed. Many require doctoral students to be “in class” (i.e., in a virtual meeting room with classmates and an instructor) at certain times, often weekly.

Don’t forget to look at admissions requirements when gauging the suitability of online EdD programs. Most Doctor of Education programs require applicants to hold a master’s degree in a related field and to have significant work experience, but some accept students with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree, provided they have a professional background in education.

Finally, make sure that any program you’re considering offers concentrations related to your professional aspirations. In the list below, you’ll see programs offering concentrations like:

  • Counselor education and supervision
  • Diversity and equity in education
  • Entrepreneurial leadership in education
  • Global studies in education
  • Higher education administration
  • Human resource development in education
  • Instructional design in online teaching and learning
  • Instructional leadership
  • Leadership in K-12 education
  • Mind, brain, and teaching
  • Organizational leadership studies
  • Professional leadership, inquiry, and transformation
  • Special education leadership
  • Urban leadership

Ways to get financial aid for an online doctor of education program

Many doctoral students can fund their educations by working for colleges and universities as teaching assistants or research assistants, but distance learners typically can’t fund a doctorate that way. The good news is that students pursuing online doctorate degrees are eligible for financial aid, loans, grants, and scholarships, as long as they are enrolled in an accredited online EdD program.

You should also consider approaching your employer to ask if they are willing to fund part or all of your education. In the worst-case scenario, they say no, and you’re no worse off than you were before asking. On the other hand, they might just say yes.

Best online doctor of education programs

For each of the EdD programs below, we’ve included a high level of the most relevant information to consider when choosing from among online options: degree type, format, tuition, graduation requirements, core courses, electives, features, and concentrations (when available).

American University

  • Degree: Doctor of Education in Education Policy and Leadership
  • Format: Online, with three on-campus residencies
  • Tuition: $1,812 per credit hour (est. total: $75,920)
  • Graduation requirements: 40 credit hours beyond the master’s
  • Core courses: Education Law & Policy; Collaborative Inquiry Through Systems Thinking; Exercising Conscious Leadership; Education Policy Analysis; Designing Your Problem of Practice; Social Justice & Anti-Racism; Applied Research Methods; Learning Sciences; Building Teams & Growth Culture; Political Navigation; Strategic Resource Management
  • Electives: Overview of Qualitative and Quantitative Research Strategies; Educational Leadership and Organizational Change; Economic Inquiry in Education; Education and Public Policy; Education Law and Policy; Proseminar in Education Policy and Leadership; Education Program and Policy Implementation
  • Concentrations: None listed
  • Features: Curriculum focuses on effecting “positive change in the most vulnerable communities” by creating “equitable and excellent learning environments.” Academic content falls under one or more of four domains: systems change; personal leadership; social justice and anti-racism; policy and research. Program is cohord-based.

Arizona State University – Tempe

  • Degree: Doctor of Education in Leadership and Innovation
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $532 per credit hour
  • Graduation requirements: 60 credit hours beyond the master’s
  • Core courses: Introduction to Doctoral Studies; Dynamic Contexts of Education; Innovation in Teaching and Learning; Leadership for Organizational Change; Systems Change and Leadership; Reading the Research; Strategies for Inquiry; Collaborative Approaches to Data-Informed Decision Making; Mixed Methods of Inquiry; Advanced Quantitative Methods; Advanced Qualitative Methods; Innovations in Disseminating Research; Doctoral Methods Practicum
  • Electives: None listed
  • Concentrations: Special Education
  • Features: Ranked one of the best online degree programs by US News & World Report; the program admits students two times a year in the spring and fall semesters; program culminates in an action research dissertation

Concordia University – Portland

  • Degree: Doctor of Education
  • Format: 100 percent online
  • Tuition: $880 per credit hour
  • Graduation requirements: 59 credit hours over three years
  • Core courses: Scholarly Writing – Identity; The Ethical Educator; Scholarly Writing – Style; Transformational Learning; Scholarly Writing – Analysis; Creativity, Inquiry, and Innovation; Scholarly Writing – Synthesis; Leading Organizational Change; Scholarly Writing – Issue Exploration; Scholarly Writing – Connections; Research Writing – Literature Search; Research Writing – Literature Review; Prospectus Writing – Quantitative; Quantitative Research Methods; Prospectus Writing – Qualitative; Qualitative Research Methods
  • Electives: None listed
  • Concentrations: Administrative Leadership; Higher Education; Instructional Leadership; Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation; Transformational Leadership
  • Features: Scholarships are available; students have access to free textbooks; the program includes an interactive “virtual residency” component; in-depth academic support; program culminates in a dissertation

Johns Hopkins University

  • Degree: Doctor of Education
  • Format: Online with asynchronous and synchronous components, full-time or part-time, with annual three-day summer residencies in late July or early August
  • Tuition: $1,458 per credit
  • Graduation requirements: 48-54 credits (plus a minimum of 36 previously-earned graduate-level credits) over three years
  • Core courses: Multicultural Education; Multiple Perspectives on Learning and Teaching; Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems; Disciplinary Approaches to Education; Research Methods and Systematic Inquiry; Evaluation of Education Policies and Programs
  • Electives: Mind, Brain Science and Learning; Leadership in Educational Organizations; Turnaround Leadership in Schools and Educational Organizations; Power, Politics, and Policy in Education
  • Concentrations: Entrepreneurial Leadership in Education; Mind, Brain & Teaching; Urban Leadership
  • Features: Johns Hopkins University is a member of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate; EdD program scholarships are available; program culminates in a dissertation based on a problem of practice derived from student’s professional experience

Northeastern University

  • Degree: Doctor of Education
  • Format: Online, with student residencies in the first and second years
  • Tuition: $51,700
  • Graduation requirements: 60 credits over three to four years
  • Core courses: Introduction to Action Research and Social Change; Leadership for Social Justice; Collaborative Leadership; Introduction to Research Design; Intermediate Research Design; Advanced Research Design
  • Electives (choices limited by concentration): Curriculum Theory and Practice Over Time: Implications for Educational Leadership; Educational Systems: The Dynamics between Policy, Values, and Practice; Situated Leadership; Education Entrepreneurship; The Power of Experiential Learning; Bringing Experiential Learning, Assessment, and Reflection to Life; The Experiential Learning Leader; Current and Emerging Practice in STEM Education; Thinking and Acting Entrepreneurially; Leading Entrepreneurial Practices in Organizations; Urban Education; Student Engagement in Higher Education; Postsecondary and Institutional Public Policy; Financial Decision Making in Higher Education; The Urban University in the United States; Comparative International/Global Higher Education; International Student Markets; Educating Global Students: Issues and Practices; Contemporary Issues in Community Colleges; Leadership in Higher Education: The College Presidency; Professional Leadership and Communication; Doctoral Seminar in Organizational Leadership and Communication; Organization Theory and Design; Organizational Consulting; Contemporary Models of Sports Leadership; Social Justice in Sports; Legal and Ethical Issues in Sports Leadership
  • Concentrations: Higher Education; Organizational Leadership Studies; Curriculum, Teaching, Learning, and Leadership; Sports Leadership
  • Features: International students can fulfill the residency requirement through online participation; students begin working on their dissertations immediately; scholarships and assistantships are available; program accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education

Texas A & M University – College Station

  • Degree: Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Format: Online plus three campus visits
  • Tuition: Sliding scale depending on credit hours per term; at 8 credits per semester, annual tuition is approximately $10,880 for Texas residents, $18,900 for non-residents
  • Graduation requirements: 64 credit hours over four years
  • Core courses: Qualitative Methods in Curriculum and Instruction; Professional Development Strategies for Teachers; 21st Century Integration of Theory in Educational Settings; Mixed Methods Research in Curriculum and Instruction; Program Evaluation in Curriculum & Instruction; Curriculum Theory; Problem-Based Research Frameworks; Academic Writing for Graduate Students; Student Assessment in the Content Domains; Trends in Data Management and Analysis; Urban Schools and Communities; Grant Writing for Professional Development; Theory of Curriculum and Instruction Research
  • Electives: None listed
  • Concentrations: None listed
  • Features: There opportunities for financial assistance; supportive thematic group membership; students complete individualized internships; program is cohort-based

Texas Tech University

  • Degree: Doctor of Education
  • Format: Online plus one new student orientation session and three summer professional development sessions on campus
  • Tuition: $8,097 per year for Texas residents; $15,693 per year for non-residents
  • Graduation requirements: 60 credit hours over three years
  • Core courses: Funding in Higher Education; The History of Higher Education in the U.S.; Access and Equity in American Higher Education; Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Change; Community College Leadership; The Comprehensive Community College; The Administration of Higher Education; Adult Student Learning; Higher Education Doctoral Seminar; Policy Analysis and Issues in Higher Education; Quantitative Inquiry; Introduction to Educational Statistics; Qualitative Inquiry; Advanced Inquiry (Mixed Methods); Foundations of Mixed Methods Research; Data Supported Decision Making for Improvement in Higher Education; Inquiry Practicum; Program Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
  • Electives: None listed
  • Concentrations: Community College Administration; Higher Education College/University Administration
  • Features: It is the only predominantly online program available within Texas public universities in the program area of higher education; the program is designed for students with professional experience in higher education institutions

University of Arkansas

  • Degree: Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
  • Format: Online plus one mandatory seminar once per semester
  • Tuition: $430.69 per credit hour
  • Graduation requirements: 42 credit hours over three years (96 total credit hours with up to 60 hours of coursework completed towards the master’s and specialist degrees)
  • Core courses: Problems of Practice; Educational Policy & Change; Intro to Qualitative Research; Statistical Literacy for Educational Leaders; Advanced Qualitative Research; Program Evaluation; Topics in Education Research
  • Electives: None listed
  • Concentrations: None listed
  • Features: The program has a distinguished roster of alumni in key leadership positions around the US; scholarships and grants are available

University of Florida – Online

  • Degree: EdD in Curriculum & Instruction with a specialization in Teachers, Schools, and Society
  • Format: Online plus several required on-campus, face-to-face experiences (e.g., week-long summer institutes and single-day oral exams)
  • Tuition and fees: $528.33 per credit hour for Florida residents; $631.86 per credit for non-resident students plus distance learning fees
  • Graduation requirements: 60 credit hours at minimum (plus 30 applicable credit hours from a relevant master’s degree program) over four years
  • Core courses: Perspectives in CTTE; Professional Development and Teacher Learning; Teacher Leadership for School Change; Education & American Culture; Critical Pedagogy; Teacher Learning and Socialization in Poverty Schools; Issues in School Reform; Foundations of Research in Curriculum and Instruction; Qualitative Research in Curriculum, Teaching, and Teacher Education; Quantitative Methods for Evaluation in Educational Environments; Conceptualizing Research in Curriculum and Instruction; Advanced Research
  • Electives: None listed
  • Concentrations: None listed
  • Features: The program is cohort-based with participants working together as a community; students work in their own educational contexts to solve real-world problems and gain hands-on experience

University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign

  • Degree: Doctor of Education
  • Format: 100 percent online
  • Tuition: $482 per credit hour
  • Graduation requirements: 64 credit hours completed within seven years of registering
  • Core courses: None listed
  • Electives: None listed
  • Concentrations: Diversity and Equity in Education; Global Studies in Education; Human Resource Development; Learning Design and Leadership
  • Features: Admission in both fall and spring; each student is assigned an academic advisor; courses take the form of online video synchronous sessions that meet once per week

University of Pittsburgh

  • Degree: Doctor of Education
  • Format: Hybrid online with monthly on-campus classes and one weeklong on-campus experience
  • Tuition: $947 per credit for Pennsylvania residents; $1,630 per credit for non-resident students
  • Graduation requirements: 60 credits over three years (plus 30 credits of qualified coursework from a master’s program)
  • Core courses: Framing, Identifying, and Investigating Problems of Practice; Becoming Leader Scholar Practitioner; Leadership in Groups and Organizations; Contexts of Education; Policy as a Lever for Change
  • Electives: None listed
  • Concentrations: Education Leadership; Health and Physical Activity; Higher Education Management; Out-of-School Learning; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM); Social and Comparative Analysis in Education; Special Education; Urban Education
  • Features: Most coursework is completed online with classes on campus once a month on Saturdays; this degree is highly customizable with many ‘Area of Concentration Course’ options; the School of Education is ranked #35 in U.S. News & World Report for the Best Graduate Schools in Education; Pitt is ranked in the top cluster of public research universities

University of Southern California

  • Degree: EdD in Educational Leadership
  • Format: Online plus a mandatory two-day immersion at the USC University Park Campus
  • Tuition: $1,928 per credit hour plus fees
  • Graduation requirements: 43 credit hours over three years
  • Core courses: Foundations of Urban Education; Foundations in Leadership in Education; Foundations in Learning; Power, Diversity and Equity; Resourcing Schools for Equity and Excellence; Leadership Enactment; Leading for Instructional Improvement; Education Policy and Politics; Leadership for Principals; Leadership for Superintendents; Communicating as Leaders
  • Electives: None listed
  • Concentrations: K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings
  • Features: Students learn in a real-time virtual classroom environment; several forms of financial aid are available; scholarships are available

Vanderbilt University

  • Degree: Doctor of Education in Leadership and Learning in Organizations
  • Format: Online, with three on-campus residencies
  • Tuition: $104,652 (not including fees)
  • Graduation requirements: 54 credits over three to four years (plus 30 transfer credit hours from an accepted master’s degree program)
  • Core courses: Leadership Theory and Practice; Learning In Organizations; Organizational Theory and Behavior; Responsible Leadership: Conceptualizing the Ethics of Leadership for a Democratic Context; Leading Diverse Organizations; Public Policy and Administration; Economics of Human Resources; Psychological Perspectives on Learning; Learning and Design in Context; Designing for Learning in Communities; Research Design; Strategy and Analytics; Applied Statistics; Data Science; Program Evaluation
  • Electives: None listed
  • Concentrations: None listed
  • Features: No GRE required to apply; live online courses with face-to-face interactions via webcam

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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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