EdD vs. PhD in Education written on a blackboard

If you had trouble deciding whether to earn your Doctor of Education degree, then deciding between a PhD in Education and an EdD degree might really throw you for a loop. However, with a little introspection and some thought about your future, the decision might be easier than you think.

Historically, the PhD in Education has been around much longer than the EdD. In fact, the first PhD in Education was granted at Columbia University in 1893, while the relatively newer Doctor of Education (EdD) degree was first awarded at Harvard University in 1921. The primary differences between the two center around solving problems and creating new research for the field. “The easiest way to think about it is that the EdD degree is for candidates who wish to immediately apply what they have learned. The other, a PhD in Education, is learning for the joy of learning,” said Dr. Stephen Canipe, a faculty expert at Walden University.

There are great similarities in the coursework between the PhD in Education and EdD. To begin, the coursework offered at the beginning of both programs is practically identical. “The curricula for the PhD degree in Education and the EdD degree are both designed to give the candidate a broad background of the topics of interest in a particular area, such as early childhood or special education. It’s a broad-brush approach,” said Dr. Canipe. “As the student continues to matriculate through the program, the depth of the program becomes more apparent, usually toward the end of their specialization.”

When completing their dissertations for the PhD in Education program, candidates must create new research in their field. Generally, the dissertation topic for a PhD degree in Education is based on an area of interest. On the other hand, candidates pursuing a Doctor of Education (EdD) look at a particular problem facing a school or school system and determine a way to address it. When asked his opinion on the dissertation work for both programs, Dr. Canipe said, “Though many would disagree, I believe the EdD program is more difficult. Both programs require researching and gathering data; however, there is an added layer with the EdD degree and that is coming up with a solution to address that problem. It’s a very practical activity.”

Both the Doctor of Education and the PhD in Education have their benefits and your choice between the two should depend on your goals. Many EdD candidates have specific career plans in mind, such as becoming a school superintendent, principal, or curriculum designer. On the other hand, many PhD in Education candidates want to put their theoretical knowledge to use and work with other researchers. Regardless of the program you choose, completing an online Doctoral Program in Education creates a path for you to make a difference in the lives of learners.

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Compare Walden’s Doctoral Education Programs

Walden offers both an EdD and PhD in Education to meet your career goals. View the chart to help you determine which program is right for you.

Dr. Steve Canipe contributed to this article and is a faculty expert at Walden University. Dr. Canipe specializes in educational technology and its integration into the classroom, the importance of teaching 21st-century skills to students, and STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Since 2005, Dr. Canipe has served as the director of master’s programs in science and mathematics and instructional design and technology in The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership. Prior to his current job in doctoral research and quality in The Richard W. Riley College of Education, Dr. Canipe served as the program director of both the EdD and PhD programs.