2020 Best Online PhD in Elementary Education [Doctorate Guide]

Searching for an Online PhD in Elementary Education? If you are among those who desire to lead the way to a better future for today’s children, this degree may be a good choice for you.

PhD in Elementary Education

A doctorate in elementary education is ideal for teachers already working in K-6 grades who wish to advance their careers or specialize in areas that match your personal interests. Jobs with a doctorate are personally and financially rewarding and with one, you can help kids meet tomorrow’s challenges.

Best Online PhD in Elementary Education Programs

Policy Analysts sharing ideas during a meeting

Doctoral degrees in elementary education can lead to leadership positions in administration, teaching, research, and policy making at local, state or national levels. You can become a principal, develop curriculum, or create new ways to approach issues that face students and communities today.

There are many job opportunities for those with doctorates and this degree will give you a foundation for performing required tasks. These include hiring, observing classrooms, establishing policies for safe and effective schools, handling budgets, and communicating with teachers and parents.

This degree will also allow you to work at the university level as a professor or high-level administrator such as a dean. Universities often require research and publication in specific areas of interest and give you freedom and opportunity to explore subjects that interest you.

Another career path may be working in educational policy at your district level or even at state or national levels. You may be able to work with others to write or test laws or policies designed to meet the changing needs of students, communities, or our country.

Online degrees are a perfect match for the busy classroom teacher who must write lesson plans, grade assignments and find time to pursue an advanced degree. Online universities recognize the demands on your time and create curriculum that challenges you, while understanding how busy you are.

Doctoral courses and delivery methods will vary. Some will offer a mix of traditional coursework and real-world experience. Others will require minimal hours on campus. Many will create digital classrooms or require you to attend seminars during weekends or summer vacations.

Typically, admission to a doctoral program will require you to have a master’s degree, although some require only a bachelors. With a master’s you will need about 60 or more hours of credit. Check these numbers carefully when applying.

Your curriculum could include subjects such as Creating a Culture of Learning, Conflict Resolution, Leadership, Student Learning, Mentoring, Curriculum Development, Philosophical Foundations, and Educational Technology. Additionally, you will normally be required to research, write, and defend a dissertation.

Elementary Education Careers and Salaries

Elementary Education Careers and Salaries

There are many career paths available to those who hold a PhD in Elementary Education. They range from becoming assistant principals or principals at your own school, to teaching or serving as administrators at colleges, to moving on to leadership positions in government as policy makers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries for a PhD in Elementary Education are significantly higher than those of teachers and the job opportunities are expected to grow 9% by 2026.

In addition to teaching or becoming an administrator in elementary schools, a doctoral degree should open a number of additional career doors. A doctorate is usually essential for teaching at the university level, and a few years of teaching are normally required for advancement to university administration.

Outside educational institutions, people with a doctorate in elementary education may move into research or policy positions in government agencies charged with creating standards and practices for teachers and students. This exciting area can let you use your education to change things for the better.

You will find average salaries for people holding PhDs in elementary education in this chart that has information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Postsecondary Faculty (Health Specialty) $97,870
Elementary School Principal $96,400
Postsecondary Administrator (Dean) $95,410
Elementary School Assistant Principal $93,479
Federal Government Policy Analyst $93,000
University Researcher $89,000
Postsecondary Faculty (Business) $80,300
Postsecondary Faculty (All areas average) $79,540
Postsecondary Faculty (Art, Theatre, Music) $66,930
Postsecondary Faculty (English & Literature) $64,910

When reviewing this information, please remember that the data is for national averages and will vary according to location, discipline, and level of responsibility. There will also be differences in public or private schools or universities.

Choosing an Online PhD in Elementary Education

As you begin your search for an Online Doctorate in Elementary Education, there are many things to consider. Along with the careers listed above, you may wish to pursue a specialty such as policy analyst, curriculum designer, learning resource specialist, or technology designer or evaluator.

Make your own chart and fill it in regarding each of these important items for consideration.

  • Accreditation
  • Admission requirements
  • Coursework
  • Tuition costs and financial aid
  • Specializations available
  • Dissertation requirements

As you create the chart that will help you compare your options, it is also useful to arrange the criteria listed above in order of its importance to you.

Elementary Education Doctorate Curriculum and Courses

Elementary School Principal checking his teachers in the faculty room

Curriculum will vary depending on your university and the specialty you choose. Your online degree will normally include both foundational courses and specialty courses in your main field of interest.

Here are some of the courses and a brief description of what you can expect to learn in each of them:

  • Curriculum Design: This course will teach how to create curriculum standards to assure maximum student learning.
  • Early Childhood Learning: Can today’s educators reach each child, regardless of cultural, societal, family and related factors that might affect learning and growth?
  • Educational Leadership: Leaders need strategies and skills to evaluate options and criteria that lead to solid decisions on the many issues and options you will face.
  • Educational Technology: Major technological developments have changed student learning, and you will need to understand them in order to create, compare, and assess different technological advances.
  • Learning Assessment: How do you translate and evaluate creativity and, when it is utilized, how do you evaluate how much each teaching tool actually contributes to student learning?
  • Educational Administration: Principals need to learn how to hire and evaluate teachers, administer and assess testing, review curriculum, develop staff, use technology, and perform other tasks.
  • American Education: This area of specialization will explore how uniquely American learning was developed throughout history.
  • Evaluating Learning in Students Without English as a First Language: America is a melting pot of students who face unique challenges without English. How can we better teach and reach them?
  • Educational Ethics. Doctoral students use case studies to determine whether educational policy implementation, governance and curriculum have achieved an ethical school’s mission.

Remember that this list of core and specialty courses will vary widely at different universities, so be sure to review the course offerings of each school you are considering.

Admissions Requirements

Elementary Education Doctorate student studying in a cafe

Like most doctoral programs, admission requirements will differ with each university you consider.

Here are a few of the typical ones:

  • A master’s degree in education or another discipline from an accredited institution, unless your university allows simultaneous completion of a master’s and a doctorate.
  • A completed online application that incudes email addresses for a required number of references and a personal statement describing your personal goals and interests.
  • A valid teaching certificate or an administrative credential from the state where you are employed and a minimum of two years teaching or administrative experience. This requirement varies by university.
  • Official transcripts from all schools you have attended.
  • Some schools require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), while others do not.

Although most universities have these requirements, some institutions have additional criteria, so be sure to compare the colleges that most interest you.


PhD in Elementary Education Accreditation

As you research which university will be the best fit for your doctoral studies, it is very important to choose one that is accredited. The Council for Higher Education (CHEA) assures that the universities it has approved for accreditation meet the highest standards of academic quality.

CHEA goes through a lengthy review of universities who seek accreditation. It evaluates such factors as faculty and administrative qualifications, facilities, and student support services. It requires lengthy written reports and makes personal visits that include interviews with students and staff.

Only those degree-granting institutions that meet its thoughtfully designed criteria will receive accreditation.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

financial aid for PhD in Elementary Education students

The high cost of graduate education should not be a stumbling block to your quest for a PhD. Fortunately, the Federal government as well as other public and private entities have created programs to help defer some or all of the tuition and other fees.

A good place to start your search for financial aid is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid program (FAFSA). You may also want to make an appointment with the Financial Aid office at the university you wish to attend as they can help guide you through the process.

In addition to FAFSA, there are many other financial aid sources that should be explored. Check out programs such as work-study, as well as the numerous public and private organizations that offer scholarships or fellowships.

What Can You Do with a PhD in Elementary Education?

professor teaching college students in a university

A PhD in Elementary Education will give you credibility for a large number of careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists possibilities within the school system where teachers work, such as assistant principal or principal, and includes leadership positions at the district level such as superintendent.

You can also move to university teaching, administration, or teacher training. You can conduct research into a specific area of interest. Many students also begin careers in local, state or national government where they can use their education to solve the problems that face elementary education today.

How Much Does an Online PhD in Elementary Education Cost?

The cost of a PhD in Elementary Education will depend on many factors, including the number of units required and whether you are attending a public or private university.

Most PhD programs in elementary education will require between 60 and 66 units of credit, with each credit ranging from $350 to $775. Although you will be taking your degree online, there still may be differentials between the amount per credit paid by in-state and out-of-state students.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online PhD in Elementary Education?

PhD in Elementary Education student researching online

The length of time it takes to graduate with a doctorate in elementary education will depend on a number of factors. Online programs will accommodate the schedules of busy, working students, so the number of units each person takes each semester will vary between full-time and part-time students.

If 60 credit hours are required for graduation, coursework can take about three years. But you must also conduct original research on your dissertation topic of choice. Also, you must write, present, and defend your thesis.

Are There Any Affordable Online PhD in Elementary Education Programs?

PhD in Elementary Education student working on activities at home

Costs per credit hour will depend on whether the university you choose is public or private, and whether it is in-state or out-of-state. Because you are choosing an online degree, you will likely save money over students who must pay for room and board.

You have more flexibility to choose a university that meets your criteria because you do not regularly have to attend in person. Research accredited programs that maintain excellence, but also offer low per credit costs. And remember that financial aid and scholarships can help.

Is a PhD Better Than an EdD?

The answer depends on your personal interests. Typically, students who pursue a PhD are interested in research in areas in which they want to gain expertise in order to accomplish personal goals. On the other hand, EdD programs focus more on practice.

In many cases, EdD graduates go into administration while those with PhDs pursue university teaching where they can train teachers and continue to pursue research. The lines between these two disciplines often blur, so read course descriptions and catalogues to locate what is best for your goals.

What is the Difference Between an EdD vs. PhD?

Both and EdD and a PhD are highly esteemed graduate degrees. In most cases, PhD students seek to conduct and apply research that will help them solve classroom, community, and student learning problems. They will perform original research, analyze their data, develop theories and assess their findings.

A Doctor of Education most often leads to leadership roles in educational systems. Many students become administrators and address problems they have identified within the educational environment under their responsibility. Fortunately, the positive outcomes of both degrees can overlap.

Is a PhD in Elementary Education Worth It?

University Researchers working together on a research

Yes, a PhD in elementary Education is worth it for many students. With an average salary of $80,000 to $90,000 and 9% job growth (Bureau of Labor Statistics), your degree can help you launch a career in this critical field.

Common careers include elementary school administrators, university teachers, educational researchers, as well as policy-makers and implementers at local, state, and federal government levels. There are significant rewards with each possibility.

In addition to financial and job security, a doctorate in elementary education will put you in the driver’s seat for achieving meaningful change. Your passion, knowledge, research, and practical experience can be used to create and assure better futures for the children living in tomorrow’s world.

Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Elementary Education Degree Programs

Each of the universities included below are regionally accredited and offer elementary education doctorate degree online.

#1  Arizona State University

Arizona State University campus

Arizona State University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#2  Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University campus

Azusa Pacific University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

#3  Boise State University

Boise State University campus

Boise State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

#4  Brenau University

Brenau University campus

Brenau University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#5  Capella University

Capella University campus

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#6  Central Michigan University

Central Michigan University campus

Central Michigan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#7  Columbus State University

columbus state university campus

Columbus State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#8  Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University campus

Kennesaw State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#9  Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#10  North Greenville University

North Greenville University campus

North Greenville University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#11  Northcentral University

Northcentral University campus

Northcentral University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

#12  Northeastern University

Northeastern University campus

Northeastern University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

#13  Regent University

Regent University campus

Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.\

#14  Rowan University

Rowan University campus

Rowan University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education.

#15  Texas A and M University

Texas A & M University - Commerce campus

Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#16  Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University campus

Texas Tech University is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#17  University of North Carolina – Charlotte

University of North Carolina Charlotte campus

UNC Charlotte is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#18  University of Northern Colorado

University of Northern Colorado campus

The University of Northern Colorado is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#19  Walden University

Walden University campus

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#20  William Carey University

William Carey University campus

William Carey University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Doctorate in Elementary Education Online

Doctorate in Elementary Education student studying online

You have already made a career choice and you love it. You are an educator and you want to do more. You see problems. You want solutions. But you realize that you need additional education in order to make a real difference.

An Online Doctorate in Elementary Education can help you move you from one classroom into a new world where the rewards are even greater. Take the first step. Research admissions requirements, course offerings, costs, and career opportunities. The children and your community are waiting.

Maureen Rubin
Maureen Rubin
Maureen has a Juris Doctor, Master's in Public Relations, and a Bachelor's in Journalism. She is an Emeritus Professor of Journalism at California State University, Northridge and enjoyed a career working in public information at nonprofits, and in Congress & the White House. She welcomes an opportunity to share educational or uplifting information with readers.