Online PhD in Education

Educating the next generation of citizens, thinkers, and innovators is one of society’s most important tasks. For those who love education but want to expand their reach beyond a single classroom, an online PhD in Education may be a great fit. Online doctoral programs in education prepare students for careers as educational theorists and researchers, policy makers, professors, administrators, and teachers. Students who pursue online doctoral degrees in education learn the history, theory, policy, and practice of education and use this knowledge to effect positive change from the smallest rural classroom to the political halls of Washington. Online PhD degrees in education take an average of four years to complete. During those four years, students will take coursework in areas such as human development, social change, theories of learning, and curriculum. Once students complete the coursework, they take an exam known as a comprehensive examination, which tests their knowledge over what they have learned from their classes. After they pass the comprehensive examination, students propose, develop and defend dissertations, which are thorough research projects related to the field of education. The result of all of this hard work is an online doctorate in education and the acquisition of the skills needed to bring about change in the educational system.

About Online PhD Programs in Education

Whereas campus-based PhD programs provide coursework in a physical classroom, online PhD programs utilize digital resources and the internet to instruct students. Research is usually completed from a student's home or local library, without the need to visit the university campus and without the use of laboratories. However, many online doctoral programs in education do require students to visit the physical campus a couple of times throughout their doctorate education. These residential symposiums give students the opportunity to network with fellow students and professors. Dissertation research may also require some travel. In order to research specific school programs or the effect of certain curriculum designs, students may need to visit school campuses to interview staff or conduct studies. In these instances, professors will work with their students to determine the best approach to research. Though these factors make online PhDs in education more hybrid in design than purely online degrees, the accessibility of an online curriculum does provide a sense of flexibility for students that have careers or other obligations that prevent them from attending daily classes. And despite the online component, the coursework of these programs is very similar to the coursework provided by campus-based programs, as exemplified by Walden's general studies in education curriculum, which is explored below.

Year One:

  • Principles of Social Change. An examination of the theories behind education, this course prepares PhD students to be positive leaders with a commitment to positive social change.
  • Development of the Scholar-Practitioner. This is a foundational course that prepares students for the online education PhD program and the expectations and responsibilities of enrolled doctoral students.
  • Social Change in Education.This course helps students develop the skills and abilities that will allow them to bring about positive social change in classrooms and other areas of education.

Year Two:

  • The Learner Across the Lifespan. Education PhD online students will explore the theories behind human development and how student growth and change affect the learning process and student achievement.
  • Learning and Instruction. In order to support educational success, leaders must have a thorough understanding of curriculum design and effective instruction. This course encourages PhD students to acquire a deep understanding of curricula, as well as the theories and politics behind its development.
  • Assessment and Accountability in Education. This course instructs PhD students on the methods of determining the accountability of the assessments that measure learning and student achievement.

Year Three:

  • Leadership in a Global Society. Academic leaders must understand the society challenges behind education, and how both local and global influences affect educational systems. This course prepares students to tackle such challenges by providing grounding in leadership theory.
  • Educational Organizations and Contexts. By exploring systems thinking and organizational theory, students will learn to support educational structures as complex systems that are affected by change and societal demands.
  • Innovation and Change in Education. The initiation and management of change is challenging; in this course, students will build upon the theories learned in previous classes in order to form a full understanding of the impact of innovation in education.

Year Four:

  • Research Sequence. Online PhD education students will take coursework that prepares them for the thorough research that their dissertations will entail.

After students complete their coursework, they take a comprehensive examination that reviews everything that they have learned, such as the theories behind social change and organization structure, the affect of politics and societal demands on educational policy, and curriculum design. Once students pass the comprehensive examination, they move on to work on their dissertations, which are thorough research projects on a subject relevant to contemporary educational practice and leadership. Past dissertations within the field of education include Passionate Teacher/Virtuous Teaching: Exploring the Relationship Between Teacher Passion, Teacher Calling, and Character Education by Laurie Ann Jones and The Impact of Providing Two Years of Pre-kindergarten on Academic Performance and Cost Benefits in the San Antonio Independent School District by Tambrey Johnson Ozuna. As education is a field that is constantly changing to meet new demands and incorporate new innovations, there are always emerging topics for online education doctorate students to research.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Education

Education doctorate degrees online are an excellent choice for individuals that want to positively impact education on a wider spectrum than the single classroom. Individuals that are self-motivated with an interest in curriculum, educational leadership, and the role of change on the educational process could benefit from obtaining an education PhD from a top online program. For those individuals that do not enjoy learning about educational policies and procedures, a different PhD program may be a better choice. Online degrees are a very viable alternative to classroom-based PhD programs, as they can be completed at a student's own pace, in the comfort of his or her own home. However, it's important for students to keep in mind that the best online education PhD programs require students to attend residential symposiums to keep in touch with fellow students and professors. For students that have careers or other daily obligations, this factor may impede their ability to participate in the programs. However, for those who can afford the time off, receiving an online education is an excellent way to gain exposure and experience with the technology that is increasingly being utilized as an instructional tool in classrooms.

Application & Admission Requirements

Online education PhD applicants usually come from a strong background in education. Many are former or current teachers, administrators, or even trainers within the business field. Admission departments will review resumes and curricula vitae, which makes experience an important application component. Most online doctoral programs in education require applicants to have completed a Masters degree within the field of education, such as in curriculum and instruction or teaching, prior to enrollment. Accredited programs typically require applicants to have maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average during their graduate programs, and will request students to submit transcripts as part of the application process. Some programs request students to submit a statement of purpose, also called a statement of program goals or a personal statement, as an example of motivation and academic writing skills. A few programs also request to see GRE scores, though there are some that do not require their submission for admission.

Career Options & Job Market

An online PhD in education prepares graduates to assume leadership over educational institutions and organizations alike, as the doctoral education coursework focuses not only on educational methods and curriculum design, but also on organizational structures, systems theory, and the theories behind social change. As a result of such a comprehensive education, online PhD education students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to fill many positions both inside and outside education. Graduates can become education administers, such as principals or vice principals, a position that averages $89,990 annually with an excellent job outlook, or superintendents, which are considered the chief executives of school districts and therefore average a high annual salary. Graduates from online PhD programs in education can also secure positions in human resources, applying what they know about the learning process to the training and development of the workforce. An online doctorate in education is therefore very versatile and can set a strong foundation for a career in many fields.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Education is a costly venture, no matter what medium students use to take their coursework. Living, as we are, in a time where every penny counts, it's important to know what to expect from the tuition of online doctorate degrees in education. Capella charges $487 per credit hour for its educational leadership program. Another option is Argosy university, which charges $827 per credit hour for its teaching and learning specialization. It is important for applicants to keep in mind that most courses are three to four credit hours, which multiplies the cost of tuition. Also, the cost per credit hour does not include extraneous fees such as books or the cost of the residency symposiums that most education PhD programs online require. With all of the associated costs that students incur, applying for financial aid is an important step in the application process. Below is a list of fellowship and grant opportunities for education PhD students.

Essential Advice

  • Enhance your resume by participating in diverse education opportunities, such as teaching, attending conferences, and developing curriculum.
  • Join a professional association to get access to educational publications and professional development opportunities.
  • Don't worry about getting an education PhD right after you graduate from college. It's important to establish a career and get some relevant educational experience prior to applying to online doctorate programs in education.
  • Talk to current and former students to get more information on what you should expect from online PhD programs in education.