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Best Online PhD Programs in Education

Online PhD programs in education provide pathways for specialization that prepare students for careers in academic leadership and social research. Learn more about the top-rated schools for these degrees as well as concentration areas, program costs, job prospects, and professional resources.

Top Schools for Online PhD Programs in Education

The best online institutions for earning PhD degrees in education offer a selection of concentration options, affordable tuition, prestigious accreditation and support services to help doctoral students achieve their academic goals.

1. Regent University

Location In-State Tuition & Fees
Virginia Beach, VA $16,179

Regent University's online learning platform offers more than 130 areas of study including a 75-credit, research-intensive PhD degree in education. The doctorate program features 12 options for concentration in areas like higher education, educational technology, character education, K-12 school leadership, educational psychology, and Christian education leadership. Regent University is a Christian liberal arts institution with accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); its education programs are accredited by the Commission of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

2. Texas Tech University

Location In-State Tuition & Fees
Lubbock, TX $8,015

Texas Tech University provides online programs through their eLearning platform, with courses taught by the same faculty who handle on-campus courses. The university offers online PhD programs in education with specializations in special education, educational leadership, family and consumer science education, and curriculum and instruction. The school is accredited by SACSCOC and is hailed as one of the top disability-friendly and military-friendly online institutions in the country.

3. Concordia University-Chicago

Location In-State Tuition & Fees
River Forest, IL $9,180

Concordia University-Chicago is a Christian liberal arts institution with about 4,300 students. Their online PhD programs in education include specializations in teacher leadership, early childhood education, curriculum and instruction, education technology, and higher education. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and its education department is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Concordia has a student-faculty ratio of 11:1 in their graduate programs and a roster of global online faculty that includes instructors from the United States and from other countries.

4. University of North Dakota

Location In-State Tuition & Fees
Grand Forks, ND $9,697

The University of North Dakota offers a 90-credit online PhD program in teaching and leadership with several concentration tracks including instructional coaching, school reform and public policy, curriculum and learning, and STEM education. The school provides 24/7 online tutoring, tech support, a digital library, and other support services to its online population of over 6,700 students. Proctoring services for online exams are also available through ProctorU at no additional cost. The university is fully accredited by the HLC.

5. University of Kentucky

Location In-State Tuition & Fees
Lexington, KY $13,052

The University of Kentucky features over 40 online degrees including a 46-credit PhD program in educational sciences with an educational leadership studies specialization. Online students have access to various services including e-tutoring and writing consultations, academic coaching, library services, software downloads, and mental health resources. A disability resource center is also available for students with disability who need certain accommodations for their online classes. The university has received accreditation from SACSCOC.

Rank School Name Location In-State Tuition & Fees
6 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS $11,069
7 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA $11,336
8University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, NE $7,588
9 Grambling State University Grambling, LA $7,168
10 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX $9,812
11 Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI $27,324
12 University of Florida Gainesville, FL $12,737
13 Oregon State University Corvallis, OR $14,331
14 Illinois State University Normal, IL $9,509
15 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL $20,620
16 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN $8,550
17 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA $12,552
18 University of Northern Colorado Greeley, CO $12,444
19 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, IN $10,564
20 Endicott College Beverly, MA $12,191
21 University of Mississippi University, MS $8,660
22 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX $7,791
23 University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI $8,341
24 East Carolina University Greenville, NC $7,485
25 Clemson University Clemson, SC $10,602
26 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI $13,804
27 University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD $6,835
28 Baker University Baldwin City, KS $10,368
29 Creighton University Omaha, NE $17,376
30 Appalachian State University Boone, NC $7,961
31 West Virginia University Morgantown, WV $9,990
32 Rowan University Glassboro, NJ $16,360
33 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL $18,126
34 New Mexico State University-Main Campus Las Cruces, NM $5,427
35 University of North Carolina Wilmington Wilmington, NC $7,367
36 University of South Carolina-Columbia Columbia, SC $14,050
37 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA $9,068
38 University of Toledo Toledo, OH $15,427
39 Harding University Searcy, AR $18,260
40 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY $10,570
41 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN $7,616
42 University of New England Biddeford, ME $20,525
43 East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN $10,315
44 University of Memphis Memphis, TN $10,697
45 Texas A & M University-Kingsville Kingsville, TX $5,369
46 DePaul University Chicago, IL $19,422
47 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL $10,780
48 University of Massachusetts-Lowell Lowell, MA $15,060
49 Union University Jackson, TN $8,220
50 Northwest Nazarene University Nampa, ID $10,320

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online PhD Programs in Education

Online PhD programs in education provide intensive training in advanced research methodologies as well as academic leadership and advocacy. These graduate programs offer opportunities for specialization, but applicants typically have to meet stringent eligibility requirements.

Prerequisites and Admission Requirements

To qualify for a PhD program in education, prospective students must have a master's degree from an accredited college or university. Some programs may require a graduate degree in education or a related discipline. GPA and GRE scores are also common factors for admission. Highly selective programs may set minimum GRE scores, which often must be from a test taken within the last five years, and a GPA of 3.0 to 3.5. Applicants whose first language is not English must also provide English proficiency scores from tests such as IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Other common requirements include professional or academic recommendations, writing samples, a resume, and a personal statement.


Prospective students can choose from a variety of specializations, depending on their academic interests and professional goals. These are the more common areas of study offered in online PhD programs in education.

Curriculum and Instruction

This specialization focuses on curriculum development, implementation, and evaluation. It also tackles issues and problems in teacher education as well as initiatives and best practices that can be employed to improve the teaching and learning process. Some programs may provide specific tracks within this concentration such as STEM education and diversity and literacy studies.

Special Education

This concentration provides training in research, teaching methods, program design and evaluation, and public policy and advocacy within the context of special education. Graduates are expected to become competent, ethical leaders and advocates for the educational welfare of exceptional students.

Early Childhood Education

This concentration focuses on theories of child development and learning, design and implementation of early childhood education programs, and constructive approaches to developing an appropriate early childhood curriculum. It also looks into challenges in public and private education programs, and effective strategies for enhancing teaching practice and leadership.

Higher Education

Candidates specializing in higher education are expected to develop competency in policies, organizational practices, and issues involved in public and private colleges and universities. They will study business principles, learning strategies, and emerging trends that can improve the performance of post-secondary institutions.

Educational Leadership

The educational leadership specialization trains students in policy-making and implementation, organizational leadership, and advocacy. Courses will examine how political, economic, and sociological factors can affect education policy and reform initiatives.

Educational Technology

This specialization tackles how technological resources can be used to improve the teaching and learning process. Students are expected to gain expertise in instructional design, technology-enhanced pedagogical tools, and planning and implementation of technology programs.

Practical Requirements

While students can complete most of their courses and research work online, some specializations include internships and practical experiences as part the curriculum. Students in early childhood education and special education tracks usually need to complete certain hours of supervised fieldwork in relevant facilities. Teacher leadership and educational leadership concentrations also typically require practicums and internships before candidates can proceed with their research and dissertation.

Program Length

The curriculum requirements of online PhD in education programs can vary widely, from 45 to 90 credit hours, depending on the school and specialization. Most programs can be completed in 5-6 years, although some institutions provide pathways that allow full-time students to earn their degree in 3-4 years.

Common Courses in Online PhD Programs in Education

Online PhD courses can be taken in either synchronous or asynchronous formats. Programs that are delivered as a cohort will most likely have classes that students must attend at a designated schedule. Cohort programs may also require students to start their coursework at a specific semester. Other programs can have a more flexible arrangement, allowing students to start at any term and access study modules on their own time. The following are some of the common courses in an online PhD in Education.

Philosophy of Scientific Knowledge

The course focuses on topics and concepts underpinning scientific research such as standards applied in evaluating theories, the link between theory and observations, how the researcher's ethics affects knowledge generation, and how data gathering and analysis methods can shape research results.

Leadership Theories and Practice

The course explores different leadership theories and how they can be applied in real-world organizational settings. Students will examine an organization's leadership vision, policies, and professional operations. The course can also be tailored according to a specific concentration, e.g., leadership strategies in early childhood education, higher education, or curriculum and instruction.

Organizational Change

This course looks into change theory and how it can be applied to change processes and innovation in small and large organizations. It also examines effective leadership strategies for ensuring seamless transitions and sustainability in operations amidst organizational changes.

Research-Based Decision Making

The course analyzes how research methodologies and statistical components can be employed in decision making. It focuses specifically on utilizing the research process and data to improve educational policy.

Policy Analysis

A course on policy analysis tackles policy-making in the education sector at the national and state levels as well as in local and institutional settings. It aims to deepen understanding of the various factors and competing forces that can influence the process of crafting education policies.

Research Methods

PhD candidates should expect to take courses on research methods, which often include research theories, advanced research design, data collection, quantitative and qualitative analysis, mixed methods research, and ethical standards. The courses are intended to provide training on how to design and implement a doctoral-level study.


A course on statistical methods examines advanced concepts such as linear models, factorial designs, multivariate analysis, and data management. It also covers use of statistical software packages and basic syntax for custom reports.

Cost of Online PhD Programs in Education

Online doctorate in education programs usually charge per-credit rates ranging from $375 to $1,230. Some public schools set a higher rate for non-state residents, while others maintain a flat rate for online courses regardless of residency.

Miscellaneous Fees and Other Expenses

Aside from tuition, online students typically pay for other charges associated with online learning such as technology fees, distance learning fees, and proctoring fees. For online programs that require residency, internship, and other in-person attendance, students must also be prepared to spend on transportation, housing, and other related costs. A stable internet connection and a personal computer are, of course, necessary expenses for online education.

Job Options, Salary, and Career Outlook for PhD in Education Graduates

A doctorate program in education prepares students for leadership roles in academic institutions, government agencies, nonprofits, and private organizations. They can also work as professors, researchers, and social scientists. The following are some of the likely career paths for PhD in education graduates.

Postsecondary Teacher

College instructors and professors are responsible for teaching courses in their area of study, designing course outlines and lesson plans, and evaluating students' performance and providing guidance on their academic track. Tenured professors often devote more time on their research while part-time instructors are expected to focus on teaching.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators are tasked with managing academic programs, student affairs, and faculty assignments at colleges and universities. They may work as academic deans, registrars, admissions officers, and student services managers.

School Principal

School principals supervise the overall operations and activities in elementary, middle, and high schools. Their primary duties include setting class schedules, overseeing curriculum standards, appraising teachers' performance, managing the budget and supplies, and implementing disciplinary measures.

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators are responsible for designing, implementing, and evaluating curriculums and teaching strategies. They also administer training for teachers particularly on more effective instructional techniques, new curriculum content, or the latest technological tools.

Occupations Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Postsecondary Teacher $78,470 11%
Postsecondary Education Administrator $94,340 7%
School Principal $95,310 4%
Instructional Coordinator $64,450 6%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Accreditation of Online PhD in Education Programs

Accreditation is an extensive assessment process that colleges and universities go through to certify that their academic programs and services meet certain standards.

Institutional Accreditation

An academic institution may either be nationally or regionally accredited. National accreditation is often given to for-profit schools that offer technical or vocational training. Regional accreditation is granted to public and not-for-profit colleges and universities. Students may only qualify for federal financial aid if they attend a regionally or nationally accredited school. Institutional accreditation also impacts credit transfer; course credits earned in non-accredited colleges are not accepted in accredited schools.

Programmatic Accreditation

Programmatic accreditation is specifically for academic programs and departments. A school may hold either regional or national accreditation and also hold programmatic accreditation for its particular program offerings. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is the accrediting agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation for the evaluation of undergraduate and graduate education programs.

Professional Organizations for Academic Professionals

Academic professionals can expand their network and avail of career enhancement resources through these organizations.


AASA, the School Superintendents Association, provides certification and leadership development programs, legal assistance, advocacy resources, networking opportunities, and other means of professional support to its members. The group is comprised of more than 13,000 education leaders including school administrators, superintendents, and professors.


The American Association of University Administrators is an organization for department chairs, deans, university presidents and other high-level management officials in U.S. colleges and universities. Membership benefits include professional development programs, leadership seminars, and knowledge-sharing visits.


ASCD is an international organization of more than 113,000 educators including teachers, principals, and superintendents from over 129 countries. Members can have access to exclusive webinars and career development tools as well as discounts for school and office supplies, travel, and insurance products.