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Working in education is more than just your passion – it’s your calling. You are meant for research and pedagogy – and that means you’re ready to take your own education to the next level: with a doctorate. When it comes to choosing a doctoral degree, there are many types. Here, we look at the differences between the Doctor of Education (EdD)* and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education. What does each degree mean for your future career? Read on to get the full scoop on everything EdD vs. PhD.

What Is an EdD?

An EdD, or Doctor of Education, is a practice-based doctoral degree. This means that your time during an EdD will be spent primarily on coursework, with a smaller research component. An EdD is usually geared toward those who want to pursue a career in education, education administration, or leadership. You’ll take classes in evidence-based learning, theory, and more that help build the foundation for a Doctor of Education.

What Is a PhD in Education?

A PhD in Education, or a Doctor of Philosophy in Education, is a research-based doctorate degree. According to teach.com, this means most of your time during a PhD program will be spent conducting research and writing a dissertation. A PhD in Education is usually geared toward those who want to pursue a career in academia or research. The degree means a focus on understanding and furthering the field of education through research-based activities.

EdD vs. PhD: Which Is Better?

Deciding which degree is right for you comes down to the time you want to commit to the program, your area of research, and what you aim to achieve during and after the degree. Having a solid idea of how you want to shape your career will help you identify the right degree for you. Both programs offer a path to a career in academia or research, but there are some key differences between them.

Here’s a look at the two degrees side-by-side, including career outcomes, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

edd vs phd comparison

What Are the Similarities Between an EdD and a PhD?

Looking at the degrees side-by-side, there are some clear similarities. An EdD and a PhD are both terminal degrees. In other words, they are the highest level of education you can achieve in your field of study. Both degrees take several years to complete, typically 3–4 years for an EdD and 5–7 for a PhD, depending on your area of interest and research. Both an EdD and a PhD require a significant amount of research and writing. To earn either degree, you must complete a dissertation after completing initial coursework, which requires extensive research and a detailed manuscript presenting your research objectives, methods, and results.

What Are the Differences Between an EdD and a PhD?

While there are many similarities between an EdD and a PhD, there are also some key differences. As the BLS points out for an EdD vs PhD, one of the main differences is that an EdD is geared more toward practical application or research, while a PhD is more focused on theoretical research. Another difference is that an EdD can typically be earned in a shorter amount of time than a PhD. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in education administration or leadership, then an EdD might be the right choice for you. 

On the other hand, if you are more interested in conducting research and teaching at the college level, then a PhD in Education might be a better fit. Ultimately, deciding which degree to pursue depends on your specific goals and interests. Both an EdD and a PhD in Education can lead to rewarding careers in education, administration, government, and even leadership.

With either degree, you’ll have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of students and help shape the future of education.

How Much Does an EdD Cost?

Each EdD program varies in cost. The grad school advisor site EdD Programs argues that the two major factors impacting the cost of your degree are the university and how much time you spend in the program. You should expect to pay tuition per course or semester. Private, on-campus universities typically charge more than public and online. Therefore, EdD programs are generally more affordable. 

According to the 2021 data from the Education Data Initiative, which seeks to democratize information like the realistic cost of your education, the average total cost of an EdD is $111,900. Of surveyed doctorate students in education, 47.2% offset the price of their degree with their own resources, such as bank and personal loans. The other 52.8% relied on other financial programs, including grants and assistantships, to pay for their education.

How Much Does a PhD Cost?

The Education Data Initiative finds the average cost of a PhD is $98,800. Of this cost, 39.2% of surveyed PhD students offset the cost of their degree with teaching assistantships. The remaining 60.8% used personal funding such as bank loans and personal resources to cover the PhD cost. 

What’s not included in these numbers? As you budget for your doctoral program, consider other factors affecting your wallet. Costs of living, including housing and food, essential bills, and the opportunity cost of enrolling in an EdD or PhD in Education program will all impact how much you pay in time and money for your degree.

How to Choose Between the Two Degrees

There are many pros and cons of earning an EdD vs. PhD. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of both. While the three little letters at the end of your name will vary, you may be surprised to find that the path to an EdD and PhD are similar in many ways, though the key differences of each will help you decide what’s right for you. With data from the BLS and insights from Teach.com and EdD Programs, the below will help you understand the programs as a whole.

At a Glance: The Pros and Cons of Earning an EdD

The Pros of Earning an EdD

  • May be completed faster than a PhD
  • Average cost is less
  • Focused on practical application
  • Ideal for educational administration or leadership
  • Can lead to a rewarding career in education
  • Opportunity to make a positive impact on student lives
  • Opportunity to help shape the future of education
  • Can be tailored to your specific interests and goals
  • Offers flexibility in terms of coursework and research
  • Gives you the chance to work with experienced educators

The Cons of Earning an EdD

  • Not as widely recognized as a PhD
  • May be less challenging than a PhD
  • Less research-focused than a PhD
  • May not be ideal for those interested in academia or research
  • Can sometimes be more expensive than a PhD
  • Time commitment can be demanding
  • May require relocation
  • May not offer as much job security as a PhD
  • May require working evenings and weekends
  • May be difficult to balance work and family life

At a Glance: The Pros and Cons of Earning a PhD

The Pros of Earning a PhD

  • More widely recognized
  • More challenging
  • More research-focused
  • Ideal for those interested in academia or research
  • Can lead to a rewarding career in education
  • Opportunity to make a positive impact on student lives
  • Get to help shape the future of education
  • Can be tailored to your specific interests and goals
  • Offers opportunities for clinical experience
  • Gives you the chance to work with experienced educators

The Cons of Earning a PhD

  • Takes longer to complete
  • More focused on theoretical research
  • Not ideal for those interested in educational administration or leadership
  • Can sometimes be more expensive
  • Time commitment can be demanding
  • May require relocation
  • May require working evenings and weekends
  • May be difficult to balance work and family life
  • May not be as flexible in terms of coursework and research

Should I Pursue My EdD or PhD Online?

Given the time commitment of a doctorate – both in terms of the hours you can expect to work each week and the number of years the degree requires – choosing to pursue an online PhD or EdD may very well be the right choice for you. 

Imagine this: you have three to seven years of coursework and research, countless nights dedicated to your specialization, thousands of pages to read, and hundreds of pages to write ahead of you. Now add in your busy personal life, possibly family, friends, and job. Now imagine the addition of commuting back and forth to an in-person doctoral program. If the scenario has morphed from the degree of your dreams to a nightmare, you should absolutely consider earning your degree online. Not only will you maintain the same academic rigor in an online EdD or PhD program, you’ll also be able to achieve work-life balance. 

Earn your EdD or PhD in Education online as you work toward your professional goals – and stay sane in the meantime. As online degrees increasingly become the norm, doctoral programs earned online are still considered respected and valuable degrees. Education review site Get Educated writes, “Many people wonder whether online degrees are respected. They wonder if they will be able to make the same living as someone with a traditional degree or if their education is not worth anything. The answer is that an online degree is just as valuable as any other type of degree.”

Overview: Educating Yourself on an EdD Vs PhD

If you are considering pursuing either an EdD or a PhD, it is important to carefully consider your professional ambitions and what you hope to achieve with your degree. Both degrees can open up many doors and lead to exciting career opportunities. Choose the right degree for you based on your specific goals, interests, and budget.

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Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.

*UAGC does not currently offer a Doctor of Education (EdD)

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Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.