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PhD in School Administration: Online and Campus-Based Programs

Explore your doctoral options in the educational administration field, including both Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs. Learn about the differences between these two degrees and the degree of school administration. Find out how online doctoral programs work in this field, and review the career benefits to earning a doctorate. Get info on the typical salary for school administrators.

What Is the Difference Between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D.?

Most colleges consider a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) to be designed for someone who wants to work in an administrative capacity, usually in a K-12 environment. You might pursue this degree if you want to be a principal or upper-level administrator.

The Ph.D. historically has been designed for people who are more interested in research or in teaching at the college level. Many Ph.D. programs include classes in quantitative or qualitative research methods. With a Ph.D. program, you usually have to prepare and defend a dissertation that would require you to be on campus. Some Ph.D. programs also include the stipulation that you have to pass comprehensive exams.

Degree OptionsDoctor of Education and Doctor of Philosophy degrees available
Specializations AvailableK-12 administration, post-secondary or higher education administration
Online AvailabilitySome courses can be taken online, but most programs require on-campus attendance for seminars and cohort group meetings
Median Salary (2018)$95,310 (for elementary and secondary school administrators)*
Job Outlook (2016-26)8% growth (for all elementary and secondary school administrators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Why Can't I Find Programs in School Administration?

School administration used to be the name given to this kind of program. Most schools now have changed to use the terms educational administration or educational leadership; however, you can still find some programs specifically in school administration. Some programs have specializations within the degree program for people who want to become K-12 administrators. Others have specializations in post-secondary or higher education administration.

Can I Get a Ph.D. in Educational Administration Online?

There are a few online programs available at the doctoral level. However, most online programs do require you to attend classes or seminars on the weekends or in the summer. In addition, one of the common trends at many schools is to establish a cohort program where you do all of the classes within the same group of students. The idea is that this kind of program helps you to establish effective networking. Those programs are more likely to require you to be in physical attendance at some point.

There are many hybrid programs, however, that will let you take much of your required coursework online. You then would meet with your cohort group on a weekend or for two weeks in the summer. You also need to know that online Ed.D. programs are more common than online Ph.D. programs. Most educational graduate degree programs are specifically tailored for people who are currently working in the field. You might have trouble getting admitted into a doctoral program if you do not have some experience.

Will Having a Ph.D. Help Me Get a Job?

It depends on what you want to do. If you are a schoolteacher in a K-12 school and you want to become a principal or move into administration, a master's degree may be required. Most schools at this level do not have principals who hold a Ph.D. For this kind of job, if you have a doctorate, it's more likely to be the Ed.D., since it is generally tailored for people who want to be school administrators.

Earning a doctoral degree can increase your income potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2018, elementary and secondary school administrators earned a median annual median salary of $95,310; whereas, elementary school teachers earned $58,230 and middle school teachers earned $58,600 (www.bls.gov).