One of the most frequently asked questions from aspiring doctoral students is, "What is the difference between a Ph.D. program and a practitioner-based doctoral program like a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)?"

Knowing the differences between these two doctoral degrees will help prospective students make the best educational decision for their career goals. If a student is interested in higher education academics or scholarly research, a Ph.D. program will likely be the right fit. Those who are interested in executive management, administration, or consulting should consider a practitioner-based program.

Here are the objectives of both types of doctoral programs in education:

Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Ph.D.)

  • 3 - 5 years in length
  • Usually higher credits than practitioner-based doctoral programs
  • Traditional 5 Chapter Dissertation
  • Trained to explain why things happen in an organization
  • Main focus is on theory
  • Independent Research that focuses on new theory
  • Suited for students whose ultimate goal is to work in academia (teaching, training, research)

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

  • 3 years in length
  • Usually fewer credits than Ph.D. programs
  • Non-traditional Dissertation project required
  • Trained to explain how things can be improved
  • Main focus in on practice
  • A practitioner-based degree, with research based on application of theory
  • Suited for students whose ultimate goal is to work in management or administration (school system or business setting)

Learn more about our 100% online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) and Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership (Ph.D.) programs.