Doctorate of Education or Ed.D. for aspiring administrators

By Woodrow Aames

The nation's school teachers, college professors and education administrators carry the responsibility of preparing the next generation of Americans to take their places in business, family and the community. Education administrators must understand the ever-changing landscape of learning, foster a powerful curriculum, and lead their school districts and faculty to success. Online Doctorate of Education degree programs are designed to prepare graduate students to rise to the challenge.

About education doctorate programs online

Online doctorate programs are tailored for education professionals--teachers, principals, curriculum developers or special education teachers--seeking to scale the summit of their professions. Many candidates already hold a master's degree in education, teaching or a related field. Doctoral degrees include the Doctorate in Education, or Ed.D., and the Doctor of Philosophy in Education, or Ph.D.

Online doctoral degrees vary in focus, as in these examples:

  • The online Ed.D. targets professionals who want to advance as superintendents, department of education administrators and policy makers.
  • The online Ph.D. in Education is built for educators aspiring to teaching or research at a higher learning institution.

Depending on the college or university, in addition to previous education degree work, students may be required to hold administrative or classroom experience.

Doctorate of Education coursework

The length of time it takes to earn an online doctorate in education varies based on the school, on previous graduate coursework and prerequisites. Typically, programs take between four and six years. Students can expect to pass an exam and defend a completed research-based dissertation.

Depending on career focus and degree, candidates take graduate courses in education statistics, student affairs, psychology, curriculum development, management, finance and budget, policy, ethics and education law, and community relations. Classes also focus on integrating emerging technology into the classroom, research methodology, and advanced work in specialties including ethnic and linguistic education or learning disabilities.

Post-degree requirements may also vary by state and institution. Most states require principals to be licensed education administrators and to pursue ongoing education to retain their credentials. All states require special education teachers and administrators to hold and maintain licenses. Private school administrators may be exempt from state licensing requirements. For post-graduates that choose to remain in elementary and secondary classrooms, states may also require teachers to pass The Praxis II tests in subject assessments, principles of learning and teaching and teaching foundations.

Some professionals prefer to focus on an education specialty doctorate, such as the Ph.D. in Urban Education. Coursework for this degree would center on administration of urban school districts, assessments in arts and sciences, and studies in ethnic, economic, political and social issues.

Career options with Doctorate of Education

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the following career paths for education administrators and professional degree holders, along with 2010 median annual earnings:

  • Education administrators for preschool and child care, $42,960
  • Education administrators for elementary and secondary school, $86,970
  • Education administrators at the postsecondary level, $83,710
  • Education teachers at the postsecondary level, $59,140
  • Special Education teachers in secondary school, $54,810

The BLS expects employment of education administrators to rise by 8 percent from 2008 to 2018. Jobs for special education teachers are expected to grow by 17 percent, while openings for college or university faculty members or researchers in education are slated to increase by 15 percent.

Four notable Americans with doctoral degrees in education

  1. Bill Cosby. Actor and comedian Cosby earned his Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts in 1976. Cosby, who is also an activist, musician and producer, wrote his dissertation on how to integrate visual media from his cartoon series "Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids" into the elementary school curriculum.
  2. Dr. Ruth. Another surprising education doctorate holder, Ruth Westheimer made a celebrity career out of her work as a television psycho-sexual therapist. Prior to fame, she earned a Ph.D. in Education from Columbia University.
  3. Jill Biden. The wife of Vice-President Joe Biden, Jill earned her Doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware in 2007. She continues to focus on education issues.
  4. Linda Darling-Hammond. Formerly the White House Advisory Panel's Resource Group for the National Education Goals, Darling-Hammond serves as the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University. She earned an Ed.D. in Urban Education, with Highest Distinction, from Temple University in 1978.

School administration can be a daunting task, given the ever-increasing costs of education, the need to develop a curriculum that serves the entire student population, and the demands of mentoring faculty and staff in a district or individual school. Today's online education doctoral programs offer guidance, skills development in emerging technology and research opportunities so candidates can blossom as educators and leaders.

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