How Teachers Can Advance Their Careers with a Doctorate in Education

  (Updated June 28, 2022)
Dr. Lamont Moore
Dr. Lamont Moore
Director of Testing, Accountability, Gifted Education, and Title III; Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Gardner-Webb University, NC

Good teachers tell students to be lifetime learners. Great teachers inspire students to be lifetime learners by modeling it for them. Teachers seeking to be lifelong learners and advance their careers should definitely pursue a doctorate degree in education. It is the highest degree that teachers can achieve, develops valuable skills, and creates many career opportunities.

Doctoral Programs in Education: Valuable Skills

The field of education offers two terminal degrees and it is important to understand the differences between the two.


The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Education is a theoretically-focused degree that is designed to prepare graduates for research and teaching roles. They focus primarily on contributing to the body of research in the field. No residency is required for this degree and it primarily applies to academia.


The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) is a more hands-on and practice-oriented degree that is designed to prepare graduates to work in education, government agencies, businesses, or non-profit organizations. This degree focuses on how research is applied to educational practices and requires a residency. Because of its nature, it is applicable to multiple industries.

Regardless of the degree type teachers choose to pursue, they both provide essentially the same technical and soft skills to graduates.

Technical skills include:

  • Effective written/oral communication
  • Project management
  • Organization
  • Data analysis
  • Problem-solving
  • Research management

Soft skills include:

  • Leadership
  • Patience
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Tenacity
  • Self-management
  • Commitment

Additional Job Opportunities

After acquiring advanced degrees, teachers immediately become eligible to apply for a wider range of job opportunities. For positions with crucial responsibilities, many employers prefer candidates with terminal degrees to apply. Having a Ph.D. or Ed.D. in education provides a competitive edge during the job search.

Leadership and Administration Opportunities

In terms of school and district leadership and administration, the Ed.D. degree proves to be more beneficial.

Positions require the skill sets that have been developed by the Ed.D., such as:

These professionals must be skilled at high-level problem solving, data analysis, strategic thinking, oral and written communication, and relationship building.

In the PreK-12 arena, the Ph.D. is considered the equivalent to the Ed.D., so graduates with either degree are suited to serve in leadership and administration positions. However, in the post-secondary arena, the Ed.D. is not always considered the equivalent of the Ph.D.

Higher Education Opportunities

Because higher education, and a doctorate in education, emphasizes research and theory, teachers who hold a Ph.D. tend to align closer to the methodology of post-secondary education.

There are several opportunities available to doctoral degree holders in post-secondary education, including:

  • Professor/adjunct professor
  • Coordinator
  • Assistant dean
  • Dean
  • Provost
  • Vice president
  • President

These professionals must also be skilled in high-level problem solving, data analysis, strategic thinking, oral and written communication, and relationship building. In addition to these skills, professionals are also required to be skilled at research, statistical analysis, and the publication of white papers, journal articles, and even books.

How to Choose?

Choosing which terminal degree to pursue is a huge decision to make. It often requires consideration of preferences, lifestyles, and finances.


In most cases, Ph.D. degrees require 90 credits of coursework as compared to the Ed.D., which requires at least 60 credits. This can equate to the difference of several months or years in terms of program completion.

This may not be an issue to some, but to others, it very much may. Depending on the amount of time needed to devote to one of these degrees, both your lifestyle and finances may also be impacted.


In most cases, pursuing terminal degrees may alter a teacher’s lifestyle from its current state for at least three years. This is an adjustment. However, teachers must be mindful to keep certain lifestyle aspects intact even pursuing a degree.

For example, for teachers with young children and other demanding obligations, it may be feasible to enroll in an entirely online doctorate in education or hybrid program. This would eliminate time away from home attending face-to-face class sessions. It is most beneficial for teachers to first reflect on the nuances of their lifestyles and determine what type of program would be a feasible fit for their lifestyles.


Pursuing a doctoral degree in education can be expensive. Depending on a teacher’s financial situation, it may or may not be wise to accrue student loan debt or to cover expenses out of pocket. Although scholarships and grants will cover the tuition for doctoral coursework, they are not as abundant as those available for bachelor’s and master’s degree coursework.

Tuition and fees for each university may vary tremendously. It is essential for teachers to budget carefully for these expenses ahead of time. It is also essential to be aware of the fees associated with dissertation work and graduation. Normally, teachers would need to hire a professional editor for the dissertation and purchase doctorate-level graduation regalia.

Advancing one’s career is never an easy decision, but it is always a necessary one. As lifelong learners, teachers should always strive to reach beyond the pinnacle of academic success. Students are greatly empowered when they see how hard their teachers work to grow professionally.

Ready to take the next step in your career? Explore our available doctorate degree in education programs and get started today!

*Updated June 2022
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