2023 Best Online PhD in Elementary Education [Doctorate Guide]

Ready to start your journey?
Discover the best online PhD in Elementary Education programs. Explore accredited programs and career opportunities in this rewarding field.

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 may be ideal for teachers already working in K-6 grades who wish to advance their careers or specialize in areas that match your personal interests.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Many find jobs with a doctorate to be personally and financially rewarding, and with one, you can help kids meet tomorrow’s challenges.

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 might 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 can help 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 in education online may 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.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

An online degree may be the perfect match for the busy classroom teacher who must write lesson plans, grade assignments and find time to pursue an advanced degree. Most online universities recognize the demands on students’ time and create curriculum that can challenge students while understanding how busy they are.

Doctoral courses and delivery methods will vary. Some offer a mix of traditional coursework and real-world experience. Others require minimal hours on campus. Many create digital classrooms or require students 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 likely need about 60 or more hours of credit. Check these numbers carefully when applying.

Your curriculum might 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 potential career paths available to those who hold a PhD in Elementary Education. They range from becoming assistant principals or principals to teaching or serving as administrators at colleges to moving on to leadership positions in government as policymakers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salaries for a PhD in Elementary Education are significantly higher than those of teachers and the job opportunities for those with a doctorate degree are expected to grow 6% for the next ten years.

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.

What makes a doctorate degree better than a masters degree in elementary education is that 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
Local Elementary School Principal $99,690
Junior College Registrar $90,470
Private High School Principal $89,350
Postsecondary Teacher $80,790
University Researcher $71,950
Elementary School Curriculum Developer $70,270
Special Education Curriculum Specialist $67,240
Instructional Coordinator $66,970
Primary Education Professor $65,440
Early Head Start Director $65,220

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.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

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. This applies to all PhD degree programs such as an online PhD in early childhood education.

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. Online degrees normally include both foundational courses and specialty courses in your main field of interest.

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

  • Curriculum Design: This course teaches 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 may face.
  • Educational Technology: Major technological developments have changed student learning, and you 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 explores 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.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

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 can help you gain 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 may also move to university teaching, administration, or teacher training. You may 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 elementary education 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 typically 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 may 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 may be able to 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.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

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 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. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, education, training, and library jobs are set to grow at 5% over the next 10 years, faster than the average for all occupations.

Common careers in this field 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 potential rewards with each possibility.

In addition to job security, a doctorate in elementary education can help put you in the driver’s seat for achieving meaningful change. Your passion, knowledge, research, and practical experience may 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

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University campus

Arizona State University’s online Doctor of Education in Leadership and Innovation helps current educators develop their leadership and professional skills.

This 90 credit hour degree’s coursework includes research, practice, and a critical understanding of K-12, higher education, and SPARC leadership. Students complete a dissertation to round out their education.

Arizona State University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University campus

Azusa Pacific University’s PhD in Educational Leadership trains the next generation of education leaders and professionals.

This online program readies K-12 educators to create and produce pedagogical outcomes at the classroom, school, and district level. This program is taught by a skilled faculty primarily face-to-face, with other online components.

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

Boise State University

Boise State University campus

At Boise State University, the PhD in Education degree is a program focused on curriculum and pedagogical tools, tailored to individual student needs and objectives. This program’s flexible schedule is made for currently working teachers to continue their education at the doctorate level. The program is designed to help graduates gain the specialized skills to become leaders in education.

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

Brenau University

Brenau University campus

Brenau University’s online Doctorate in Education in Elementary Education trains educators in advanced theory, practice, and pedagogy; a dissertation rounds out the degree. This online degree program lets teachers customize their schedule, and the 54 credit hour degree can be completed in 3 years.

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

Capella University

Capella University campus

At Capella University, the online Doctor of Education program provides an exceptional education accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Applied research, pedagogical tools, and leadership skills give educators the skills they need to succeed in the classroom and as industry thinkers. The final dissertation includes a capstone project.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Central Michigan University

Central Michigan University campus

Central Michigan University’s Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership is a 63 credit hour program for teachers to succeed in higher administration. Students join a cohort to learn and develop their expertise alongside their peers. This balanced program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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

Columbus State University

columbus state university campus

Columbus State University’s PhD in Curriculum and Leadership offers an Educational Leadership track whose graduates become experts in policy, pedagogy, and ethical education practices. Three specialization tracks are available to help students gain the knowledge and competence necessary to develop their careers in higher education.

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

Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University campus

At Kennesaw State University, the online Doctor of Education in Teacher Leadership provides classroom teachers the instruction and opportunity to develop their leadership and professional skills. Nine credit hours of coursework are dedicated to leadership training while an additional nine locate those skills within an educational environment.

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

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University’s PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Elementary Education is an online, 54 credit hour, 3 year program.

This CAEP accredited program is designed to give teachers the pedagogical tools and application necessary to excel in the elementary school classroom setting. Students can learn how to take care of students’ individual needs while designing coursework and learning outcomes.

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

National University

National University campus

At National University, the Doctor of Philosophy in Education focuses on the ideology and application of leadership and knowledge in modern educational settings. An understanding of theoretical pedagogical approaches and frameworks is balanced with specialization, research, and scholarship at an individualized pace and flexible schedule.

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

North Greenville University

North Greenville University campus

The Doctor of Education program at North Greenville University trains the next generation of education professionals and leaders. This 60 credit hour program is online, designed to help students balance their schedule with their current occupations. Concentrations are available in K-12 and Higher Education Leadership.

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

Northeastern University

Northeastern University campus

Northeastern University’s Doctor of Education is designed to provide education professionals the leadership tools and knowledge necessary to take the next step forward in their careers. Whether as aspiring higher education leaders or career teachers, students can learn online at their own pace and get the NECHE accredited education they need.

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

Regent University

Regent University campus

At Regent University, students of the online PhD in Education are expected to take over 75 credit hours in coursework, working towards becoming experts at education analysis, scholarship, and leadership. This degree can help open the path to a career in higher education. Regent is a top national university as ranked by the US News and World Report.

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

Rowan University

Rowan University campus

Rowan University’s PhD in Educational Leadership is designed to strengthen the curricular knowledge of a K-12 educator or administrator.

This program aims to help students develop policy and organizational mastery alongside pedagogical scholarship and its hands-on application to develop course objectives, lesson plans, and more. This 60 semester hour program has a dissertation and final thesis requirement.

Rowan University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education.

Texas A&M University

Texas A & M University - Commerce campus

Texas A&M University’s online PhD in Curriculum and Instruction provides advanced degree knowledge for any K-12 or higher learning educator. Students learn in a cohort to gain knowledge and assist each other as peers. This 64 credit hour program is completely online and takes an estimated 4 years to complete.

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

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University campus

Texas Tech University’s Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership is a 96 credit hour program meant to prepare education leaders for the research and pedagogical work necessary to develop K-12 instruction, curriculum, and management. This program balances knowledge with its application in a flexible online format.

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

University of North Carolina – Charlotte

University of North Carolina Charlotte campus

University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s PhD in Educational Leadership offers a higher education concentration that includes 48 credit hours of detailed, challenging study.

Students develop an applied dissertation in their area of study related to education, pedagogy, and leadership. Three concentrations are available for educators’ specific career development goals.

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

University of Northern Colorado

University of Northern Colorado campus

At the University of Northern Colorado, the PhD in Educational Leadership presents a flexible online course curriculum aimed at professional development, knowledge, and application. Aspiring K-12 educators can take advantage of online courses to work towards gaining the tools they need to succeed at their own pace. The GRE is required to apply to this program.

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

Walden University

Walden University campus

Walden University’s Doctor of Education is a 39 credit hour program that revolves around education leadership in the classroom, school, and community setting. The program is designed to help graduates become advanced educators ready to develop the programs that change student lives for the better. This online program includes an applied research capstone.

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

William Carey University

William Carey University campus

At William Carey University, the PhD in Education Leadership is designed to develop educators that will change the world at the K-12 level.

This completely online program balances pedagogical knowledge and its practical applications in the classroom and administrative settings. Students can learn together and develop each other’s knowledge in a cohort during their degree program.

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

Maybe 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.

Ready to start your journey?
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.