College Advice Blog

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Jun 20, 2012

Looking at a Doctorate in Education? Here's What To Know!


Are you a classroom teacher who wants to improve your teaching techniques? Or perhaps you want to move into an administrative position, like principal or superintendent. Or maybe you aren’t working in education at all, but you want to improve your leadership skills.

In today’s competitive job market, holding an advanced degree gives you a competitive edge over other applications. And in some cases, such as school administration, holding a doctorate is actually a requirement for landing a position.

Choosing to pursue a doctoral degree is a major undertaking, and not a decision to be made lightly. However, if you are considering a program that leads to a doctorate in education, read on to find out some of the important considerations that can influence your decision.

 

Ed.D or Ph.D?

The first step to earning a post-graduate degree in education is to decide which type of doctoral degree to pursue. Education is a unique subject area in that it offers two types of advanced degree: a doctor of philosophy, or Ph.D, in Education, and a Doctor of Education, or Ed.D.

The distinction between the two degrees is subtle, and generally comes down to the way that those seeking the advanced degree perform their research. A Ph.D. generally performs research to discover new ways of approaching problems, while an Ed.D student generally applies existing research and methodologies to solve problems. However, these distinctions are subtle at best, and many employers treat the two degrees as one and the same. In fact, which degree you earn largely depends on where you study. Some universities only offer a Ph.D program, while others only offer an Ed.D program, but the programs offer remarkably similar coursework and guidelines.

However, in theory, the two programs should be vastly different, and which one you choose should be determined by your ultimate goals. Carefully examine the course requirements and program goals of each program you are considering. Some Ed.D programs emphasize practical applications that teachers can use in classrooms, while other Ed.D programs are more along the lines of a traditional Ph.D, with an emphasis on theory and research. In either case, doctoral students complete dissertations and present their research at conferences throughout their academic careers. No matter which type of degree is pursued, however, students graduate ready to lead in a variety of environments.

 

Getting In

Once you decide which type of advanced degree to pursue, it’s time to begin applying to programs. All doctoral programs require students to hold a master’s degree – usually in a related subject – from an accredited college or university, and many also have minimum GPA requirements. Some programs also require applicants to have several years of work experience before applying for a doctorate.
Admission to doctoral programs is competitive, and applicants who have relevant publications and research experiences have an advantage over those who do not. Many programs also require prospective students to complete an in-person interview prior to admission, and submit recommendations.

 

What to Expect

Most doctoral programs take three to five years to complete. During that time, students take courses related to their area of specialization, research methods, and planning for the dissertation. Some programs also include an internship component, and require attendance at relevant conferences, participation in lectures or other activities.

The vast majority of time is spent researching and preparing for the dissertation, however. Most students choose a dissertation topic during the first year of study, and use that topic to guide their research and activities throughout the rest of their academic career. Dissertations are generally original research projects in which students develop new theories and solutions to problems—in other words, they aren’t your average research project. At the end of the process, students are expected to defend their dissertations in front of a dissertation committee or panel.

Opting to go for a doctorate is not inexpensive –  some programs carry a price tag of up to $50,000 or more – but earning the distinction can improve your career options and earning power. Take time to examine all of your options, and find the program that fits you and your goals, and enjoy the process of expanding your mind and the overall body of educational knowledge.

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About the Author
This article was written by Justin Davis who is currently pursuing his masters in public health.  Justin expects to have his degree by next year.


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