EdD vs PhD: What’s the Difference?


If you’re thinking about getting a doctorate degree in education, you have a couple of options to choose from: an EdD or a PhD.

You may be wondering: What does EdD stand for? And what does PhD stand for? EdD means “Doctor of Education,” and PhD stands for “Doctor of Philosophy.” Although it might seem that a PhD doesn’t deal with education, a PhD is the most advanced degree for a wide range of subjects, not unlike how a Bachelor of Arts can permit specialization in fields other than art. Let’s explore what these programs have in common, how they differ, and how you can decide which is the right fit for you.

Similarities Between EdD Degree and PhD Degree Programs

PhDs and EdDs are terminal degrees, meaning they are the highest degrees awarded in the field. Both doctoral programs in education earn you the title of Doctor and allow you to become an expert in your field. They may qualify you for new professional opportunities, which can lead to a higher yearly salary. For example, both EdD and PhD graduates can expect to earn somewhere between $60,000 and $80,000 a year.

You can expect both programs to provide rigorous coursework and discussion opportunities with classmates. There is also some overlap between the types of jobs that an EdD and a PhD hold; for example, professor at the college level tend to hold PhDs, but some will hold EdDs.

Differences Between EdD Degree and PhD Degree Programs

Although both EdD and PhD are doctorate programs that will advance your education career, their focus is different.

Like other specialized doctoral programs, an EdD is more practice-oriented. While these programs require research, they emphasize internships and on-site experience, focusing on the application of educational ideas in running schools and colleges. This type of program is best suited for people who want to be a school principal or equivalent administrative leader in either K-12 or higher education.

On the other hand, a PhD in Education focuses more on developing theories of educational practice or educational policies. Depending on the specialization, PhDs in Education might research topics like cognitive development, educational leadership strategies, or the sociology of education. A PhD is most likely the right choice for those wishing to research and study how current educational practices could be improved.

EdDs and PhDs also differ in the time commitment and funding availability. EdDs usually require 60 hours of coursework and can often be completed in two years, whereas PhDs require 90 hours and at least four years. However, there is usually more funding for PhD programs available, so PhD students are generally able to dedicate more focused attention to their studies. On the other hand, many EdD students work full-time jobs to support their families while getting their education.

EdD vs. PhD: Which Should You Choose?

Let’s review some of the key differences between EdDs and PhDs:

  • EdDs are typically 60 credits; PhDs are typically 90 credits.
  • EdDs emphasize practice; PhDs emphasize research.
  • EdDs have less funding availability. PhDs have more funding and are more likely to permit full-time study.

If you’re still unsure about which program to choose, the best thing you can do is to ask current EdD and PhD students about their experiences. Oftentimes, hearing a firsthand account will give you the clarity you need to take the next step in your education. By researching your options and talking with students, you’re well placed to choose the program best suited to your professional goals.