Online PhD in K-12 Studies in Education

An online PhD in K-12 studies in education does not substitute for a teacher certification program or fulfill teaching licensure requirements, but instead stresses the philosophical, historical, and sociological origins and theories of education in the abstract. Typically these programs take between four and six years to complete, the major components being two years of coursework, a comprehensive General Exam, and a doctoral dissertation.

The coursework focuses mostly on the intellectual foundations of education, the ideological frameworks that have historically, and currently, buttress educational doctrine, policy, and administration, with an emphasis on conducting research designed to examine current processes, while never forgetting previous standards, to improve and implement them. Following the coursework, students will be tested over all the information they learned with General Exams, usually in the form of a demanding single essay question that asks students to synthesize disparate theories and leverage them for a cohesive thesis.

Continuing on, students will propose their dissertation topics to a committee, and begin researching. The dissertation, when finished, will represent hundreds of hours of original research, and will usually run between 250 and 300 pages. Before they receive their degrees, students must also defend their dissertation in front of their committees, at which point the degree will be conferred and, often, the dissertation published.

About Online PhD Programs in K-12 Studies in Education

K-12 education is currently considered a priority in this country. An online PhD in K-12 studies in education is intended for students interested advancing teaching methods, developing curricula, educating other educators, or pursuing a career in education administration. Accredited online doctorate programs in K-12 studies in education are especially attractive for K-12 teachers or administrators interested in career advancement or leadership positions. For those currently employed, an online PhD K-12 studies in education enables the student to both hold down a job and pursue an advanced degree.

Online PhD K-12 studies in education programs typically include four to five years of study before completion. Top online doctoral programs in K-12 studies in education generally require students to pass challenging written and/or oral exams and produce a doctoral dissertation. The best online K-12 studies in education PhD programs are rigorous and demanding.

Fundamentally, online doctoral programs in K-12 studies in education emphasize current learning theories as well as the latest technological advances. Specialized knowledge in teaching and leadership are some of the most desired qualifications for education professionals today. There are many different options for specialization available for a student pursuing an online K-12 studies in education doctorate. Some of the possible concentrations available in online PhD programs in K-12 Studies in education are education administration, leadership, or the study of different learning styles. Coursework for online doctoral degrees in K-12 studies in education often includes: (course titles and descriptions from Capella University's course catalog)

Year One:

  • Leading Innovation. Learners are introduced to discipline-specific topics and begin to put into practice the academic developmental and behavioral competencies they are expected to master during their degree program. In particular, learners examine change, behavior, and leadership theories, principles, and case studies in order to gain an understanding of educational change processes and their associated impacts on the practice of education.
  • Educational Research Method. This course is an exploration of the quantitative and qualitative research methodologies often used in education research. Learners analyze and evaluate the characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses of specific quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and designs and examine strategies for designing specific, appropriate, and feasible research questions.
  • Advanced Qualitative Research Methods . This course focuses on the major qualitative research designs and their applications to educational research. Learners study the research questions, purposes, characteristics, and methods of different qualitative traditions; examine qualitative data collection and analysis techniques; and explore the use of software in qualitative data analysis. Learners also focus on developing the ability to frame problems and issues as research topics and identify effective approaches to reporting research results.

Year Two:

  • Advanced Action Research for Teacher-Leaders . Learners in this course examine advanced action research associated with classroom and school improvement. Learners focus on developing the skills needed to define and resolve problems that create barriers to student learning and engage in individual and collaborative research to improve student learning outcomes.
  • Statistics for Educational Research I . Learners in this course apply statistical analyses appropriate to different research contexts using SPSS, a statistical software package. Learners examine statistical concepts, including descriptive statistics, normal distribution, sampling probability, and sampling distribution and demonstrate different hypothesis testing techniques.
  • The Historical and Social Foundations of Education . In this course, learners study the historical and social foundations of education to gain an awareness of and context for its evolving practice. Learners explore the ways educational institutions have emerged and developed, particularly in relation to societal functions and expectations.

Year Three:

  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Educational Process . The focus of this course is on higher education program evaluation. Learners analyze various program evaluation models used to assess the effectiveness of college and university education programs. Learners also design appropriate and effective program evaluation models and use them to conduct an evaluation of a simulated program.
  • The Politics of P–12 Education . This course provides learners with a theoretical foundation of education policy and presents the basic analytical categories of political science as they apply to education. Topics include the influence of federal, state, and local governments in school policy making; school and community relations; privatization and choice; decentralization; school finance; desegregation; affirmative action; bilingual education; technology; and teacher empowerment.
  • Advanced Learning Theory and Instructional Practice . In this course, learners study advanced learning theory and research associated with cognition, emotion, and the brain; and examine their effects on instructional practice. Learners implement strategies for recognizing learning differences among students, including giftedness, and meeting student needs through differentiated instruction.

Year Four:

  • Educational Philosophy and Change . Learners in this course examine the philosophical foundations, ideologies, and theories that have influenced the development of education philosophy and practices in the U.S. Learners examine, articulate, clarify, and refine their basic assumptions and beliefs underlying their personal educational philosophy and practice.
  • The Future of Educational Institutions: Topics and Trends . Based on an examination of the formative ideas that have shaped educational institutions, learners in this course explore both the theory and practice of changing educational institutions to meet future needs. An understanding of the philosophy of education in the U.S. as well as knowledge of institutional change is necessary in this course.
  • Inquiry-Based Curriculum and Resources for Elementary Science Teachers . Learners in this course explore the many facets of inquiry in elementary science education, the relationship of inquiry and content standards, and the collaborative nature of science, math, and technology.

General Exams follow coursework just as they would in a traditional program, succeeded by dissertation work, which again follows the same structure for online PhD programs in K-12 studies in education as campus-based programs—beginning with topic proposal, and predominately research and composition after that until completion and defense—and normally takes two to four years to complete. Dissertation research is expected to be thorough and highly original.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in K-12 Studies in Education

An online doctorate in K-12 studies in education will be of particular value to students seeking a career in educational administration. With a focus on the development, theory, and sociology of education, a PhD in K-12 studies in education will provide graduates with a holistic understanding of the education system and the challenges implicit in it, as well as the research skills to generate possible solutions. However, as mentioned above, a PhD in K-12 studies in education is not equivalent to the formal training and education a K-12 teacher needs in order to be qualified to teach. The degree can add substance to a teacher's credentials, though she may be better served pursuing a degree in her specific field of study rather than studying educational systems, unless she wishes to rise to an administrative position.

Some employers may be disdainful of an online PhD in K-12 studies in education, but there is still a prejudice against online education in the professional world, and graduates may meet some resistance no matter their field of study. Nevertheless, a PhD in K-12 studies in education is a powerful professional asset, whether taken online or not.

Application&Admission Requirements

A PhD requires discipline and time, thus the student must be focused and committed to obtain an online PhD in K-12 studies in education. Online PhD K-12 studies in education students also must have strong critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and interpersonal abilities. The online doctoral programs in K-12 studies in education will help the student enhance and refine these skills and also allow students to expand their knowledge of K-12 educational theories. Candidates for online PhD degrees in K-12 studies in education should generally have a master’s degree in education, educational leadership, or special education.

In addition to the experiential requirements for admission, online universities also require applicants to submit an application, which serves as student's profile, as well as supporting documents, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, test scores (usually the GRE or GMAT), and a statement of purpose, explaining the student's reasons for applying to graduate school.

Most students pursuing K-12 studies in education doctorate degrees online have prior experience as either K-12 teachers or administrators.

Career Options&Job Market

A student graduating from accredited K-12 studies in education PhD programs online can consider many different careers. Graduates may pursue careers at K-12 schools or at colleges or universities that offer teacher education. Some popular options for graduates with an online doctorate in K-12 studies in education are:

  • Primary or Secondary School Teacher – While many graduates in K-12 studies in education PhD online already have experience as K-12 teachers, online doctorate degrees in K-12 studies in education will enhance their abilities and boost their prospects for advancement. Median wages for primary and secondary school teachers range from 47,100 to $51,180.
  • Primary or Secondary School Administrator – School Administrators provide day-to-day guidance and set educational goals and methods. Elementary and secondary school administrators generally earn between $ 68,360 and $102,830 yearly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts excellent job opportunities for Education Administrators.
  • Instructional Coordinator – Instructional Coordinators develop curricula, implement new classroom technologies and help to train teachers. Favorable job opportunities are predicted for instructional coordinators by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Instructional coordinator salaries are generally between $42,070 and $75,000.
  • Education Consultant – An educational consultant works independently to assist organizations with educational planning. Annual salaries generally range from $45,834 to $85,731
  • Professor – Graduates with a PhD will have the option of going into academia. Education professors work to train the new generation of teachers. Mean annual salary for education professors is $62,300.

Having an online doctorate in K-12 studies in education can help secure employment and increase one’s salary in this competitive job market. Whether you want to advance your career in K-12 teaching or administrating, or if you wish to help prepare future K-12, you will be well served by getting an online K-12 studies in education PhD.

Where to Find Information

  • AASA The American Association of School Administrators is an educational advocacy organization that seeks the highest possible quality education for all public schools, and develops and supports leaders in the field.
  • NASPA The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators is a professional association at the fore of student affairs administration, which strives to serve the "whole student" by improving learning environments, conditions, and policies.
  • AIEA The Association of International Education Administrators focuses on bettering international educational administration and programming, and connects a worldwide network of professionals in the field.
  • NSBA The National School Boards Association is a nonprofit organization that acts on behalf of, and advocates for change in state associations of school boards across the US, working in close cooperation with federal agencies and other national organizations.

How to Get Funding

Generally there are two types of funding available to students pursuing online PhD K-12 studies in education programs: scholarships and grants. Scholarships are usually need- or merit-based, and can be highly competitive. Grants can take a number of forms depending on the source of the funds—the two most common are government grants, given to students with demonstrated financial need and outstanding educational history, and research grants, awarded after a proposal has been submitted to a government department, a corporation, a business, or sometimes an individual, promising to research a submitted topic and return with data and conclusions about it.

Tuition costs for one semester or quarter vary from school to school, but to give a preliminary picture of what total expenses for an online doctorate in K-12 studies in education will be, here are the tuition prices of two online universities: 1) Capella University—$4,485 per quarter, with a limit of three courses per semester (except dissertation quarters, which are $4,062), and 2) Northcentral University—$2,200 per course. That puts total cost for Capella University somewhere between $43,644 and $51,768, and around $22,000 for Northcentral University.

Funds for an online doctorate in K-12 studies in education can be found in the following places, but do not consider this an exhaustive list—there are many more opportunities for funding online and elsewhere:

  • PhD&EdS Grant. Capella University offers a $1,600 tuition grants to PhD and Ed.S students applying to the program before a set date. Applicants are selected based on academic excellence and demonstrated financial need.
  • Robert C. Ford Scholarship. Capella University offers several scholarships to incoming students on the basis of academic and professional merit, as well as financial need. One such scholarship is the Robert C. Ford Scholarship, which awards $16,000 cumulatively to a student with an exceptional academic and professional history, as well as demonstrated financial need.
  • FAFSA. The Federal government disperses billions of dollars into the education system every year to fund students seeking secondary and post-secondary education. They offer scholarships, grants, and loans to any eligible student that fills out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Essential Advice

  • Consider waiting to pursue the K-12 studies in education PhD until you have developed a substantial work history in the education field. A PhD is an excellent way to advance your career once you have been established, but without work experience, may be less potent than graduates might expect. During the hiatus from school (after receiving a master's) students can enter into the education field and explore what an occupation in education is actually like, and in this way determine whether investing more money and time into deepening their education is worth doing. Furthermore, students' success in a PhD program, as well as later success in finding a new job, will be more likely and secure with previous work experience.
  • Remember that often times graduates of K-12 studies in education PhD programs do not transition to the professional teaching world at all, but instead go into full-time research at academic institutions. The PhD is heavily research-based, and not centered as much in the operational or practical dimensions of education. If your end goal is simply to teach, the PhD may not serve you as well as you might hope.
  • Speaking of research — always fully research any online PhD program you are considering. Not all online programs are created equal; the best programs will be accredited by a regional accrediting institution, and many of the top programs have other national distinctions and legitimate features (such as residencies) that other, less credible programs will not.