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Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Programs

An online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program is designed for educators and other professionals who desire to become scholarly practitioners and move into leadership and administration positions in educational settings or within organizations. EdD programs focus on current research and practical skills that can be directly applied to leadership positions in many settings. Graduates of EdD programs can affect positive organizational change, present innovative ideas and practices for improving organizational success, and help teams connect and recognize their unique gifts and contributions.

EdD graduates may work as principals, superintendents, college presidents, chief learning officers, provosts, healthcare administrators, professors, military and government leaders, and non-profit directors. Professional settings may include PreK-12 schools and districts, higher education and student affairs, healthcare organizations, community organizations, government and non-profit organizations, the military, and local/global businesses. Most programs allow for a range of professional backgrounds; however, programs with certain specializations or focus areas may require teaching credentials and/or professional experience in organizational leadership.

What is a Doctor of Education Degree?

A Doctor of Education degree is a terminal degree that prepares educators and other professionals to move into leadership and administrative positions in their industry. EdD programs focus on innovation, diversity, organizational assessment and evaluation, philosophy and ethics, evidence-based research, collaboration, mentoring, supervising, and organizational change. Curricula may include content from researchers, lawmakers, accrediting bodies, educational organizations, and educational history, philosophy, and theory. All EdD programs require students to complete a research-based dissertation or capstone project. While the majority of EdD programs require a dissertation or “dissertation-in-practice,” there are EdD programs that allow students to complete an applied project instead of a traditional, five-chapter doctoral dissertation.

Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Programs

Online Doctor of Education programs are designed for educators and other professionals with work experience in their field who want to move into high-level leadership positions and effect positive organizational change. Many EdD programs are online as applicants tend to be full-time working professionals who continue working while earning their degrees. Doctor of Education programs typically take three to four years to complete depending on the curricular requirements and the number of credits required by each institution. The majority of online EdD programs require a master’s degree for admission; however, a limited number of programs accept students with a bachelor’s degree assuming they have several years of organizational leadership experience.

Online EdD programs deliver course materials, live or recorded lectures, and other components through a learning management system (LMS). Here students may access syllabi, assignments, assessments, discussion boards, case studies, research, digital books, readings, and other course materials. Online programs are ideal for professionals who cannot attend weekly scheduled classes or evening and weekend classes at a local college or university. In addition, many EdD programs offer specialization options, and online programs provide students with additional opportunities to pursue a specialization not offered by a local university.

How Identifies and Classifies Online Doctor of Education Degree Programs

Doctor of Education programs, which may also be referred to as Doctorate of Education programs, are distinct from Ph.D. programs in Education. There are EdD programs designed to prepare graduates for leadership and administrative positions within PreK-12 settings and in higher education, and there are programs that focus on leadership in industry and organizations outside of the educational system. While most EdD programs are offered by Schools/Colleges of Education within larger universities, other departments may offer these programs as well. Program names may include:

  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in K-12 Administration
  • Doctor of Education in Higher Educational Leadership
  • Ed.D. in Community College Leadership
  • Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Ed.D. in Educational Technology
  • Ed.D. in Healthcare Education & Leadership
  • Ed.D. in Kinesiology
  • Ed.D. in Nursing Education
  • Ed.D. in Special Education

Through independent research of education programs, identifies Doctor of Education programs that are offered online. While many EdD programs are offered fully online, prospective students should be aware that some programs may require a minimal number of campus visits throughout the program. Programs that require students to attend more than two campus-based sessions per year are considered hybrid programs and are not currently listed on the site. Also, programs on the site must be offered by regionally accredited, non-profit colleges and universities.

What Students Learn in Online EdD Programs

EdD programs prepare educators and other professionals to lead ethically, professionally, and effectively to bring about positive organizational change and team success. Topics covered may include innovation in organizations; organizational and team assessments and evaluations; team management; educational philosophy, history, and ethics; diversity; research; the future of education; leadership development; financial management; evidence-based research; and organizational change. Focus areas cover a wide range of emphases, including Pre-K-12 administration, global studies in education, higher education leadership, special education, and diversity and equity in education.

Additionally, EdD students conduct qualitative and quantitative research, including interpretation and application to real-world situations and research-based decision-making. Qualitative research in education uses non-numerical data to analyze and solve problems. Data collection occurs through interviews, questionnaires, focus group discussions, case studies, and observation. Research methods include ethnography, grounded theory, and discourse analysis. Quantitative research employs mathematical models and theories to quantify data into objective empirical investigation to test and understand educational issues.

Note: The majority of EdD programs are not designed to prepare students for principality, superintendency, or director of special education licensure in states that require professional certifications for these positions. In most states, a doctoral degree is not required to become a principal or superintendent. Students interested in these certifications should review licensing requirements for their state of residence and determine if a master’s degree, post-master’s graduate certificate, or EdS program will prepare them for licensure.

Common Courses in Online Doctor of Education Programs

The table below provides an overview of coursework that is typical of a Doctor of Education curriculum. The courses and their descriptions are drawn from actual graduate online doctoral programs in education.

Course TitleCourse Description
Leadership and Leader DevelopmentAn extensive overview of leadership theories, theoretical models, definitions, contexts, and factors affecting leadership and change; examines organizational, group, and team leadership; includes practical assignments and discussions.
Quantitative Reasoning and AnalysisStudents are taught how to develop core knowledge and skills for designing and executing doctoral quantitative research; exploration of classical statistical tests, the logic of inference, and implications of social change.
Leadership in Higher EducationA general overview of higher education leadership, including strategic planning, decision-making models, and theory; the multiple frames approach is explored, including structural, political, symbolic, and human resource frames in leadership.
Performance and AccountabilityAn exploration of the role of assessment and data in leadership decision-making, accreditation, and financial management in light of internal and external performance and accountability measures.
Building a Culture of Continuous ImprovementExamines continuous improvement in light of organizational development, leadership, change theory, and evaluation; covers organizational culture, social justice, ethics, and professionalism in creating a culture of continuous improvement.
Curriculum and InstructionA reflective analysis of PreK-12 school curriculum, including societal, technological, humanistic, and academic concepts.
Fundamentals of ResearchExplores the theory and philosophy of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods modes of action research; covers research paradigms, the roles of stakeholders, and translation of theory into practice; hands-on practice includes data collection, creating research questions and hypotheses, and examining ethical implications of educational research.
Innovation in Teaching and LearningAn examination of the development and psychological processes of human motivation, cognition, and performance; specifically applied to diverse English-language learners and adult professional development.
Comparative EducationA study of international education focusing on global education practices and their implications for the changing educational landscape.
Advanced Research DesignAllows EdD students to explore their problem of practice in depth through expanded quantitative or qualitative data collection and review, as well as use analytical research tools to interpret data, reveal insights into their problem of practice, and inform future research.

Admissions to Online Doctor of Education Programs

While admissions requirements for online EdD programs vary, students must have a bachelor’s degree, and most programs require a master’s degree. In addition, some programs are designed for and require an EdS degree for admission. Finally, there are All But Dissertation (ABD) EdD programs that only accept students who have ABD status. Most EdD programs require a minimum undergraduate and graduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

While there are EdD programs that specifically require several years of professional work experience and EdD programs that do not require work experience, these programs are designed for working professionals who are interested in becoming scholarly practitioners in their place of employment. Therefore, applicants tend to have several years of work experience even if it is not required for admission. EdD applications may also require an online application; application fee; official bachelor’s and master’s transcripts; a goal statement, essay, or personal statement; a professional resume or CV; two to three recommendations, online interview, GRE test scores, and a writing sample.

Online Doctor of Education Format Options

Online EdD programs may provide flexibility to working professionals who must balance full-time work with doctoral degree requirements and other obligations. Outlined below are structural and instructional formats that students should consider as they explore online EdD programs. These formats include online instructional methods, enrollment options, and required campus visits.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: Online EdD programs are more likely to incorporate synchronous instruction with live, real-time classes that utilize video conferencing software. This includes live lectures, peer/faculty discussions, question and answer sessions, and time for breakout rooms for small group discussion. While these sessions are typically required, they are often scheduled in the evening or on weekends so that working students can attend. For students who have to miss a discussion session or lecture due to professional obligations, these sessions are often recorded so that students can view at a later time.

There are also EdD programs that mainly use asynchronous instruction (e.g., lectures and discussions that do not take place in real-time), that do not have any or have very few required synchronous sessions. For these programs, students review course materials on their own schedule, routinely participate in online discussion forums, and complete assignments by set due dates. While instructors may hold synchronous sessions for those who can attend, for programs that mainly use asynchronous instruction, these sessions are typically not required and are also recorded for students who could not attend. If a live session is required, students typically know well in advance so that they can schedule accordingly.

Synchronous instruction is ideal for students who can attend live sessions and prefer a more structured learning environment resembling a traditional on-campus program. Asynchronous instruction is ideal for students who really need flexibility in terms of when they work on their courses; however, it is best suited for students who are highly organized and self-motivated to keep up with course requirements. Prospective students should carefully evaluate whether synchronous or asynchronous instruction would better fit their personality, learning style, and time constraints.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time Enrollment: Most EdD programs are designed for working professionals who continue to work full-time while pursuing their degree. Therefore, while students may be enrolled on a full-time or part-time basis, the distinction is not as significant as it is for undergraduate and master’s degree programs. Most EdD programs can be completed in three to four years, although students who have difficulty completing their dissertation may also take longer than four years. There are also a limited number of programs that can be completed in two years that have an embedded dissertation model.

Students who are focused on earning their degree in three years should look for a program that embeds dissertation work into courses as opposed to programs that have students complete two years of coursework before starting their dissertation research. There are online EdD programs that are structured so that students can graduate in three years.

Note: Students who intend to apply for financial aid while earning their degree should consult with their programs of interest to determine if they must be enrolled in a specific number of credits each term in order to be eligible for financial aid.

Campus Visits: Doctor of Education programs may include campus visits, commonly weekend or one-week sessions during summers. Through campus visits or residencies, professionals meet fellow students, which can be especially helpful in cohort programs, and spend time refining their skills, gaining hands-on experience, and participating in personal growth opportunities. These sessions may also be scheduled at specific points in a program, for example, an initial orientation, at the beginning of dissertation work, and/or for students to defend their dissertation.

There are online EdD programs that can be completed entirely online for students who would prefer not to have to attend on-campus sessions. does not currently include online EdD programs that require more than two campus visits per year.

Directory of Online Ed.D. Programs

School NameProgram
Arizona State University Online Doctor of Education Leadership & Innovation
Arkansas State University Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership Online
Baylor University Online Doctor of Education (EdD ) in Learning and Organizational Change
Fordham University Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Marymount University Online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Organizational Innovation
Northeastern University Online Doctor of Education
Regent University Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Texas A&M University Online Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction
University of Arizona Online Doctorate of Education - Educational Leadership
University of Dayton Online Doctor of Education (EdD) in Leadership for Organizations
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Online Doctor of Education (EdD)
University of New England Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
University of the Cumberlands Online Ed.D. - Doctor of Educational Leadership