What is an Ed.D. Degree?

Choosing a Grad School Degree

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If you're looking into graduate school programs, you are probably inundated with seeing a ton of acronyms. In the educational field, you may have seen the Ed.D. degree referenced. What is an Ed.D. degree? How is it different -- or is it at all -- from that of earning a Ph.D. in education? Is one degree better than the other? How can you tell which graduate degree to pursue?

The Ed.D. is a doctoral degree in education. Similar to the Ph.D., doctor of philosophy that is awarded in all disciplines, the Ed.D. entails several years of study and the completion of doctoral (and sometimes master's) comprehensive exams as well as a dissertation. Although students of education may seek either the Ph.D. or Ed.D., the Ed.D. is thought to be a specialized degree in education, entailing applied and professional training comparable to that of the Juris Doctor, or J.D. degree, which is for the legal field.

How To Use an Ed.D. Degree

Students who choose to pursue an Ed.D. degree can do so for careers in counseling, curriculum development, teaching, school administration, education policy, technology, higher education, or human resources leadership. Upon earning this degree, a person could be a professor or lecturer at a university. Graduates can also pursue work as a school principal or superintendent.

Ed.D. vs. Ph.D.: Which One is Better?

There has been some debate regarding which degree is better. The Ph.D. is more theoretical and research-based, so it prepares people for careers in the academic arena. The Ed.D., on the other hand, prepares students for careers that solve educational problems. Differences between the two are actually quite minimal. One assessment found that "Ph.D. dissertations contained more multivariate statistics, had wider generalizability and were more prevalent in certain areas of concentration," while "Ed.D. dissertations contained more survey research and were most prevalent in educational administration research." 

A New Ed.D. On the Way?

The degree itself is still at the center of many controversies.  Some people in America say that the programs need to be reformed. They have suggested creating a new doctorate degree for practicing education for people who wish to become for principals, superintendents, policy coordinators, curriculum specialists, teacher educators, program evaluators, and the like. Then the Ph.D. would be more focused on academia, research, and theory in general.

Some experts and scholars say that the difference between the Ed.D. and Ph.D. would then be similar to the difference between having a Ph.D. in biomedicine and becoming a practicing doctor or M.D. One suggestion for the new name of the reformed degree could be known as the Professional Practice Doctorate (P.P.D.), or it might retain the old name of Ed.D. but be more focused on this distinction.

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Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "What is an Ed.D. Degree?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-an-edd-1686069. Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2020, August 27). What is an Ed.D. Degree? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-edd-1686069 Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "What is an Ed.D. Degree?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-edd-1686069 (accessed June 1, 2023).