Online PhD in Post-secondary and Adult Education

Those who pursue an online PhD in post secondary education will graduate with full mastery and understanding of the craft of scholarship and research. Candidates will become familiar with major theories of adult learning and will learn to address the needs of students from various cultures, communities and environments. Ph.D. candidates will also learn how to evaluate programs and curricula and will develop skills in the best practices of post secondary education. Those who successfully complete the Ph.D. program will be prepared to acquire instructional and/or leadership positions in a variety of post secondary education settings such as adult education, distance education, and continuing higher education. This program benefits learners by providing them with the leadership and research skills necessary to steer academic institutions, conduct scholarly research, and obtain teaching positions at the post secondary level.

Ph.D. programs in post secondary education generally consist of four areas of study including core courses, specialization courses, electives, and dissertation units. Although each Ph.D. programs will have set course requirements, the amount of time spent working toward the degree will vary among individuals. Generally, the time spent working on a Ph.D. will depend on the amount of time and research required to publish an original research project that establishes a student as an authority in his field.

About Online PhD Programs in Post secondary and Adult Education

Using Capella University as an example, it is easy to see the appeal of an online PhD program in post secondary education. Accredited online universities like Capella offer a variety of classes that cater to different areas of interest and specialization within the field of higher education. This particular example, however, demonstrates the flexibility of online classes paired with the instrumental networking of face-to-face interaction. Candidates who study with Capella University are required to participate in three 4-day weekend residencies that coincide with milestones of the Ph.D. program.

Year One:

  • Foundations of Theory and Practice: As a foundational course for learners in higher education, this course promotes scholarly inquiry, research, critical thinking, and communication within the context of each student's specialization.
  • Educational Research Methods: This course explores both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies often used in educational research. Learners will analyze and evaluate methodologies and designs with the end goal of forming a strategy for designing their own research questions.
  • Introduction to Qualitative Research: In this course, learners explore several qualitative research designs and gain hands-on experience by conducting their own research.

Year Two:

  • Critical Thinking in Adult Education: Learners examine models and best practices of thinking and acting critically in adult education. Additionally, learners explore evaluation and conflict-resolution tactics to negotiate and facilitate reconciliation between conflicted parties and/or ideologies.
  • Higher Education Curriculum: Learners examine the impact of various design models on instructional frameworks and strategies. Learners analyze curricula that use face-to-face, online, and hybrid instructional platforms and develop curricula that meet diverse student needs.
  • Faculty Leadership: This course is designed to teach students how to build effective relationships with other faculty members while leading ethically and assessing leadership based on theory, data, and observation.

During the first quarter of study, students will develop a prospectus, proposal, and application for his or her dissertation. After receiving approval from the Review Board, the student will collect and analyze data to finalize the dissertation. During the final quarter of the Ph.D. program, students prepare their dissertations for final review which generally concludes with an oral defense.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Post secondary and Adult Education

A PhD in post secondary education is incredibly valuable to those who are pursuing careers such as faculty members, researchers, government employees, policy scholars or institutional researchers. However, higher education is a large umbrella topic, and there are many different specializations that prepare students for a wide variety of careers within academia. It is important to understand that pursuing a PhD in post secondary and adult education is simply one specialization of many. Students should carefully research careers of interest before choosing a Ph.D. program.

It is also important to note the difference between pursuing a Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) and an Ed.D. (doctor of education). While there are distinct commonalities between the two different degrees, the requirements and objectives of the two programs are clearly different. For those who wish to pursue researched-based careers, the Ph.D. is the appropriate path. For those who currently hold a high-level position within the education system, an Ed.D. may be more suitable. An Ed.D. is designed to integrate entrepreneurial and professional leadership to higher education, while a Ph.D. is focused on promoting scholarly research.

Application & Admission Requirements

A master's degree in education or a related field is required for a student to be considered as a potential candidate for a Ph.D. program in post secondary education. A history of academic excellence and/or professional experience, a statement of purpose, and recent GRE scores are other common requirements for Ph.D. candidates. Because some specialization programs require specific professional experience to gain admittance, it is important to research the admission guidelines for each program you consider. Some programs may require a formal interview process to screen eligible applicants, but it is always advisable to discuss your career plans with a faculty member before applying to a Ph.D. program.

Career Options & Job Market

The most common career path for those who hold a PhD in post secondary education is that of a faculty member. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a college instructor is $62,050 per year, and the job market is expected to grow at an average of 17% until the year 2020. However, a PhD in post secondary education opens the door for a variety of career options such as policy analyst, government employee, or institutional researcher.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Financing your Ph.D. could be as simple as finding a fully-funded program. However, there are also living expenses to consider. Candidates can choose from a variety of funding options to pay tuition, fees, and living expenses during the course of their studies. Loans, grants, scholarships, fellowships and work-study programs are all standard options for Ph.D. candidates. In order to apply for need-based government assistance, students will need to be apply for the FASFA, using their personal information and their university's numerical code.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan: This aid program offers students low-interest loans while they pursue their graduate studies. The maximum loan available is $12,000 per academic year, and the current interest rate is 6.80%.
  • Federal Perkins Loan: The Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest loan that is awarded based on need. The average amount provided by a Perkins Loan is $3,500 per academic year. The loan is granted with a fixed interest rate of 5.0%.
  • <ahref=””>Campus-Based Aid. Many colleges offer financial aid through campus-based scholarships, grants or work-study programs. However, a university's financial aid office should be up-to-date on any government-funded programs as well.

Essential Advice

  • Pursuing a PhD in Post secondary Education is an enormous time commitment. In fact, it takes years of experience and preparation to even be eligible for admittance into these highly selective programs. Before committing to this degree path, it is important to review all of the admission guidelines. It is also advisable to discuss your commitment with a faculty member to determine whether you can feasibly invest the required amount of time into your studies.
  • In addition to rigorous admission guidelines, the application process for a Ph.D. program is demanding and lengthy. You may be required to participate in interviews, and you may even be asked to select a specialization or thesis proposal early on. Candidates who prepare far in advance will find themselves more prepared for the “tough questions” posed by the Admissions Board.
  • The financial cost and the time commitment of a Ph.D. program can far outweigh a potential salary increase, especially if debt is incurred for the entirety of the program. Each student should exhaust all avenues for funding before taking out student loans. Even Ph.D. programs that are fully funded may not provide any surplus income to cover the basic necessities of life. However, there are a variety of grants, scholarships, and work-study programs of which students can take advantage.
  • Before determining a dissertation topic or specialization, students should research the job market in the post secondary field. It is also wise to seek the advice of a faculty member or mentor who can offer insight to the future of the job market. Although passion is important, students must also be pragmatic about the career opportunities that will await them after graduation.