2023 Best Online PhD in Education Administration [Doctorate Guide]

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If it’s time to take your education career to its next stage, you may be considering a PhD in Education Administration.

Best Online PhD in Education Administration

Whether you’re interested in advancing educational practices through research or providing leadership for an academic organization, this degree could help you develop your expertise and credentials.

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If you already have a busy job as an educator, online programs can make it possible to fit doctoral studies into your life. Through online courses, you can prepare for a career in educational leadership and innovation.

Online PhD in Education Administration Programs

Teacher taking PhD in Education Administration online

Most candidates for a PhD in Education Administrate are passionate about education and have committed themselves to a career of teaching and leading others.

If this sounds like you, earning a PhD in Education Administration online could be the opportunity to go further with your education and profession. Education administration is relevant to school leaders at all levels. Whether your work focuses on early childhood, K-12, or college education, you can benefit from studies in school admin.

Your classes may address:

  • Business practices
  • Curriculum selection and evaluation
  • Diversity and social justice
  • Education law
  • Neuroscience
  • School technology
  • Research and data
  • Teacher supervision
  • Trends in education

A concentration for your doctoral degree in education would let you hone in on a particular aspect of this field. For example, you might want to specialize in leadership for a certain age group, such as preschool learners or college students. You might also prefer to focus on a topic like curriculum planning or school technology.

PhD programs often require a dissertation. That’s a research and writing project where you delve deep into studies on a topic of your choice. Many students spend several years on their dissertations. Some education doctorates require a practicum or an internship. For that, you’d work in a real-world educational setting and try putting classroom lessons into practice.

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There is a variety of online PhD in Education Administration programs available. Some may be 100% online, but many require some in-person residencies. They are typically limited in number so that even busy professionals can make them work. Residencies provide opportunities to interact with faculty members and your fellow students in a new way.

This degree program is appropriate for:

  • Early childhood directors
  • School principals
  • District superintendents
  • Higher education administrators
  • College presidents
  • Curriculum coordinators
  • Textbook publishers
  • Social service directors
  • Workplace development managers

Some PhD programs are designed to lead to licensure. After graduating, you might meet your state’s requirements for becoming a school principal or superintendent.

Other programs are non-licensure tracks. They’re typically designed for people who already hold the appropriate licenses or for those interested in roles that don’t require licensure.

Common Online Education Administration Doctorate Concentrations

School executives in a meeting

You may want to choose a specialization area for your degree. As you do, it’s helpful to keep your career goals in mind so that your coursework will support your ambitions.

Here are some common education administration concentrations:

  • Curriculum and Instruction. If you lead through curriculum planning—such as an instructional coordinator or a textbook editor—this program could enhance the work you do. The topics covered might include data collection, classroom technology, curriculum evaluation, and brain science.
  • Early Childhood Administration. If your focus is on the education of young children, typically from birth through age 8, then you may appreciate the unique perspective provided by an early childhood program. In your classes, you might learn about literacy development, project-based teaching, and family relationships.
  • Higher Education. Whether your area of expertise is a community college or a major university, this concentration track can help you become a stronger leader in that context. You may study college trends, legal issues, school organization, and management practices.
  • K-12 Administration. This program could be useful for a career as a school principal or a superintendent. In addition to classes on teacher evaluation and curriculum selection, you may study finance, human resources, facility management, and education law.
  • Leadership in Schools. This concentration, which may apply to K-12 and college administrators, will focus specifically on shaping you as an influential leader. The courses might cover change management, mentorships, and education advocacy.

Your school could also offer other concentration tracks or give you the opportunity to customize your own specialization.

Education Administration Careers & Salaries

Education Administration Careers & Salaries

If you plan to earn an online PhD in Education Leadership, you may have your sights set on becoming a principal. Nearly every K-12 school, whether public or private, has a principal. Some have assistant principal positions as well, which could help you work your way toward the head role.

Schools’ administrative teams include people other than just principals, though. For example, instructional coordinators or curriculum specialists may have a background in administration. Those with experience as a K-12 administrator may eventually qualify to become a school superintendent. A district’s superintendent has the role of a chief executive for the school system.

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In addition to local superintendents, there may also be regional and state education superintendents in your area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for jobs in education and training is $57,220, but a doctorate could help you qualify to earn well above this average.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Training and Development Managers $120,130
Top Executives $98,980
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals $98,420
Postsecondary Education Administrators $96,910
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000
Writers and Authors $69,510
Postsecondary Education Teachers $63,910
Instructional Coordinators $63,740
Editors $63,350
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors $47,310

Requirements for these jobs may vary among different school systems and states. Administrators are needed for younger children’s education as well.

While being the director of a preschool or a daycare doesn’t usually require a PhD, this level of education might help you secure a leadership role at the national level. For example, some graduates may work for a childcare chain or an early childhood advocacy group. Others may head up a community organization that supports kids’ learning and wellbeing.

Colleges need people with administrative training as well. Positions include student affairs coordinator, registrar, provost, academic dean, and even university president. Having a school administration PhD could also lead to teaching classes in the education department.

Your background could also be relevant to jobs in the training sector. Some graduates go on to lead workshops or development initiatives for educators or business professionals. A doctoral degree in education could also be useful in curriculum development. Some professionals in this sector work as writers or editors.

Educational Administration PhD Curriculum & Courses

Students taking Educational Administration PhD

Schools require certain core classes in their education administration program. You may also be able to shape your studies through concentration tracks, elective courses, or the research area you choose.

Here are some course examples:

  • Change Management: You’ll learn how to lead school organizations through times of transition, and you may also discuss the role that change plays in staying effective and relevant.
  • Community Relationships: The studies in this class may equip you with tools and ideas for fostering strong relationships between your school leadership, students, parents, and the community at large.
  • Curriculum Leadership: Curriculum can play a key role in students’ educational experiences, so this course focuses on selecting, adapting, or changing the resources used in your school.
  • Diversity in Education: During this class, you’ll explore ways to respect the diversity in your schools and to offer educational experiences that reach learners of all backgrounds.
  • Education Research: As a doctoral candidate, it’s necessary to understand the techniques and methodology for conducting research and evaluating data.
  • Evaluation and Supervision: Administrators are often responsible for overseeing classroom teachers, so you may learn how to conduct evaluations, provide directions, and encourage professional development.
  • Finance for Schools: You’ll discuss funding sources, district budgets, and how to make financial decisions that are beneficial for students, teachers, and a school’s long-term good.
  • Leadership for Higher Education: If your goal is to work in a college setting, you may take one or more classes about higher education challenges, opportunities, policies, and innovations.
  • Policies in Education: This class covers national laws and regulations that guide educational practice, and it could also address advocacy for policy changes.
  • Program Planning and Evaluation: You may learn how to assess community needs, design programs to match, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your initiatives.

This type of program may also include one or more practicum experiences.

How to Choose an Online Education Administration PhD Program

Woman taking Online Education Administration PhD

Getting a doctorate is quite the commitment, so you may want to make sure you choose a college that will be a good fit for you. It’s helpful to consider the many characteristics of a school before you make your final decision. Here are some common deciding factors:

  • Accreditation. Selecting a school with regional accreditation is a top priority for most professionals. You may also be interested in a program that has programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
  • Concentrations. You might be able to pick a degree program that focuses on school principalship, curriculum planning, higher education administration, or another aspect of this field.
  • Degree type. While a PhD can be a prestigious degree choice, you could also consider getting a Doctor of Education (EdD), which is geared toward practitioners rather than academics.
  • Funding. You may be able to qualify for a partial or full scholarship at some colleges.
  • Licensure. Not all PhD programs lead to licensure, so you might need to choose carefully if you require an administrative license.
  • Prerequisites. For admission, some programs require you to have professional experience in the education field or be a licensed teacher or principal.
  • Program requirements. Depending on the program, you might write a dissertation, complete an internship, or do a capstone project. You might also have a combination of these requirements.
  • Residencies. You might be required to visit the school’s campus a few times during your doctoral studies. When researching programs, you might want to pay attention to how often these sessions are required and how long you’ll need to stay each time.
  • Time commitment. You can expect to spend at least 3 years in a PhD program, and it may take you closer to 5 years. If you think you’ll need extra time, you can look for a school that allows up to 8 or 9 years in the program.

Selecting a PhD program is an impactful decision, and careful consideration could help you make the right choice for you.

Admissions Requirements

Man prepares requirements for his Online Education Administration PhD

PhD admissions can be quite selective, so it’s helpful to create an application packet that highlights your strengths. Each college sets its own rules for PhD admission, but common requirements include:

  • Academic and professional references
  • GRE score (not required by all programs)
  • Resume that demonstrates relevant professional experience
  • Transcripts from previous undergraduate and graduate studies
  • Writing samples

Not all schools require you to have a master’s degree or a set amount of experience in the field of education.

Educational Administration Doctoral Programs Accreditation

University offering Educational Administration Doctoral Programs

As an education professional, you likely know the value of a reputable school. To ensure that you attend a quality institution, it’s beneficial to pick a college or university that holds regional accreditation.

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There are seven regional accreditors in the US. You can visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) online to verify that your school is accredited by a recognized agency. Regional accreditation increases the transferability of your studies and enhances the respectability of your degree. An accredited degree might be required for state licensure or for schools to consider you a serious job candidate.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Educational Administration Doctoral Financial Aid

School administration jobs can pay well, but you first have to get the education that will help qualify you for those roles.

As you think about how you’re going to pay for a doctoral degree, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As a graduate student, you may be eligible for state and federal loans. Grants aren’t as common at this level as they are for undergrads, but your state may issue some grants to high-need graduate students.

Some colleges are able to provide free PhD enrollment in exchange for teaching and research assistance. Online schools don’t always provide that opportunity, but some might. If you can’t get a free ride, you might still qualify for institutional scholarships or fellowships.

Your employer may contribute to your tuition costs also. School districts often have programs to help their teachers or administrators get more education.

Is Education Administration a Good Career?

Yes, education administration is a good career for many professionals. In this career path, you can know that you’re making a difference for students, teachers, and communities. In addition, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that this is a line of work with the potential to command an above-average salary.

For instance, the median annual pay for administrators in colleges, universities, and professional schools is $98,180. The median wage for K-12 principals in local public schools is $98,870 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Among both college administrators and school principals, the top earners make well over six figures each year.

What Can You Do with a PhD in Educational Administration?

Training & Development Manager discussing with the school staff

A PhD is often a research-focused degree. After completing your doctoral studies, you may choose to launch a career in academia. Some PhD graduates conduct research about school and learning practices or teach education classes at the college level.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers in college education departments earn a median of $63,910 annually. This degree may also be useful for working in school settings. Examples include being a junior high principal, a school district superintendent, or an elementary curriculum coordinator.

Some education professionals work as a college registrar or a university provost. The highest-paid postsecondary school administrators make over $190,770 each year (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

How Much Money Can You Make with a PhD in Education Administration?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most K-12 school principals earn between $61,480 and $153,520 each year. Schools run by local municipalities usually pay more than private schools.

Most instructional coordinators make between $38,390 and $101,090. In general, government roles pay the highest salaries. For postsecondary education administrators, the annual pay is often between $59,150 and $190,770. Junior colleges typically pay less than other colleges and universities.

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School superintendents and college presidents are considered chief executives. The annual salary for top executives generally ranges from $60,300 and $208,000 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Education Administration Online?

Woman completing PhD in Education Administration online

If you select a doctorate in educational administration that doesn’t require a dissertation, you might be able to finish in about 3 years. Your timeframe will also depend on how many credits you need to earn and whether you enroll part-time or full-time.

Programs that involve a dissertation often take 3 to 5 years to complete with full-time study, depending on how quickly you do your dissertation research and writing. Some colleges set a maximum length of time you can be enrolled, often 8 or 9 years.

What’s the Difference Between a PhD in Educational Leadership vs. Educational Administration?

There are a lot of similarities between degrees in educational leadership and educational administration. Even still, you may want to consider the differences as you decide which program to select.

PhD in Educational Administration PhD in Educational Leadership
  • Focuses on school management—including policies and personnel
  • Sometimes includes a pathway to licensure
  • May be geared primarily toward work in K-12 schools
  • Focuses on school leadership—including mindset and practices
  • Less likely to include licensure preparation
  • May be suitable for K-12 or college roles

Some schools offer a doctorate that combines both administration and leadership into one program.

What’s the Difference Between an EdD vs. PhD in Educational Administration?

While you’re probably pretty familiar with the idea of a PhD, you may not be as familiar with an EdD in Educational Administration. Knowing the differences can help you decide which degree path is better for you.

PhD in Education Administration EdD in Education Administration
  • More focused on research
  • Likely to require a dissertation
  • Geared toward those who want to be academics—such as researchers or professors
  • More focused on professional practice
  • Sometimes involves a practicum instead of a dissertation
  • Geared toward those who want to be practitioners—such as principals or college administrators

Whether you want to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or a Doctor of Education (EdD) in Education Administration will likely depend on your professional goals.

Is a PhD in Education Administration Worth It?

Postsecondary Education Teacher and his students

Yes, a PhD in Education Administration is worth it for many students. Education is vital to a community’s success. With a doctorate degree in education administration, you could potentially play an essential role in developing strong schools and effective classrooms.

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There’s always a need for trained school administrators. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 8% job growth for school principals and postsecondary education administrators over the next ten years. For instructional coordinators, a 10% growth rate is expected.

Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Education Administration Degree Program

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.

Andrews University

Andrews University campus

Andrews University offers a PhD in Higher Education Administration. The program requires 61 credits and usually takes 5 years of full-time study to complete. Prospective students may apply on a rolling basis to begin in the fall, spring, or summer. This program is intended for those who already have a master’s degree.

Andrews University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Aurora University

Aurora University campus

Aurora University offers a Doctor of Education that can be earned online. Courses are 8 to 16 weeks long, and students can usually graduate in 3 to 6 years. Course options include Organizational Theory and Change Management, Advanced School District Finance, Proseminar in Educational Research, and more.

Aurora University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Ball State University

Ball State University campus

Ball State University offers a Doctor of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision that meets licensing requirements for school superintendence in the state of Indiana. The program is mostly online but does require monthly in-person sessions. To graduate, students must complete a minimum of 90 credits, including a dissertation.

Ball State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Bradley University

Bradley University campus

Bradley University offers an online program for an EdD in Higher Education Administration. Students can potentially finish it in 7 semesters. Coursework includes Boards and Educational Governance, Ethical and Political Foundations of Educational Policy, Financial Affairs in Higher Education, and more. Students in the program must also participate in internships and doctoral research.

Bradley University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Capella University

Capella University campus

Capella University offers a PhD in Education, Leadership in Educational Administration that can be earned online. The program requires 92 credits of courses such as Leading Diverse Schools, Teacher Supervision and Evaluation, and The Funding of Educational Institutions. To graduate, students must also pass a comprehensive exam and complete a dissertation.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Drexel University

Drexel University campus

Drexel University offers a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Management with a concentration in Educational Administration. The program is offered completely online, with no residency requirements. It is designed to be completed on a part-time basis by those who work full-time and can typically be finished in 3 to 5 years.

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Fordham University

Fordham University campus

Fordham University’s Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy program is a part-time program that is available both online and on campus. It is intended for students who already have a master’s degree and at least 3 years of relevant work experience. The program requires practicum experiences and a dissertation.

Fordham University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Indiana State University

Indiana State University campus

Indiana State University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration with a specialization in School Administration. The program uses a blend of online and face-to-face instruction. Students progress through the coursework with a cohort, taking two courses at a time for 5 semesters and then usually taking about 2 years to complete the dissertation.

Indiana State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration that can typically be earned in 3 years. Classes are 100% online, and each one is 8 weeks long. The degree requires a total of 60 credit hours and includes courses such as Assessment and Accreditation, Economic Impact in Higher Education, and Teaching the College Student.

Liberty 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 available mostly online with occasional 2 day residencies on campus. Students can enroll either full-time or part-time and typically finish in 3 to 4 years. Northeastern uses a quarterly academic calendar. Available concentrations include Higher Education Administration, Innovative Teaching and Learning, Transformative School Leadership, Workplace Learning, and Integrative Studies.

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

Pennsylvania Western University

Pennsylvania Western University campus

Pennsylvania Western University offers a 100% online program for an EdD in Education Administration and Leadership. Students in the program may earn a Superintendent Letter of Eligibility as well, and those who already hold this credential may enter with advanced standing. Course options include Qualitative Research in Educational Leadership, District Leadership for Finances, and Technology and Facilities Development.

Pennsylvania Western University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Sam Houston  State University

Sam Houston State University campus

Sam Houston State University offers an online program for a Doctor of Education in Developmental Education Administration. To graduate, students must complete 60 credit hours. New students may begin every summer. Coursework includes Advanced Learning Theories in Developmental Education, Statistical Methods, Student Noncognitive Development, and more.

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

Southern Nazarene University

Southern Nazarene University campus

Southern Nazarene University offers a Doctor of Education in Administration and Leadership. Students may begin working on their dissertations from the beginning of the program, and they can usually graduate within 3 years. Each course is just 6 weeks long, and the program offers six start dates each year. The degree is available both online and on campus.

Southern Nazarene University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

St. Cloud State University

Saint Cloud State University campus

St. Cloud State University offers an online program for an EdD in Higher Education Administration. The program is designed to help ensure students can still receive plenty of interaction with a diverse community of classmates. Each course is 8 or 16 weeks long. Students can typically graduate in about 3.5 years.

St. Cloud State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University campus

Texas Tech University’s Doctor of Education program is available mostly online, with a student orientation and three summer sessions on campus. Students can choose between 2 areas of emphasis: either Community College Administration or Higher Education College and University Administration. New cohorts start every fall, and the program can typically be finished in 3 years.

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

Trident University International

Trident University International campus

Trident University International offers a PhD in Educational Leadership that can be earned 100% online. There are scheduling plans for 3, 4, and 5 years, so students can choose their own pace.

Trident aims to ensure that students can receive individualized support and opportunities to connect with peers. Four concentrations are available: Educational Technology, Health Education, Higher Educational Leadership, and Teaching, Learning and Development.

Trident University International is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus

The University of Illinois—Urbana Champaign offers an online program for a Doctor of Education—Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership. Concentrations are available in Diversity and Equity in Education, Global Studies in Education, Human Resource Development, Learning Design and Leadership, and more.

The University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Nebraska – Lincoln

University of Nebraska - Lincoln campus

The University of Nebraska—Lincoln offers an EdD in Educational Administration. Students can choose a specialization in Community Colleges, Higher Education, or P-12 System-Level Educational Leadership. The latter of these can enable students to qualify for a Nebraska Superintendent Endorsement. Courses are available both online and on campus.

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Southern Mississippi

University of Southern Mississippi campus

The University of Southern Mississippi offers an online program for an EdD in Education (Educational Administration P-12). The program typically takes 3 years to complete and does not require a dissertation. The program requires 54 credit hours of courses such as Public School Finance, Administrative Approaches to Technology, and Education Facilities Development and Management.

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

Walden University

Walden University campus

Walden University offers a Doctor of Education in Educational Administration and Leadership (for Administrators). The program requires the completion of 79 quarter credits of online coursework and one in-person residency. Courses include Leadership and Management for Change in Education, Collaborative Communication for Administrators, School Organizational Dynamics, and more.

Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your PhD in Education Administration Online

Woman pursuing her PhD in Education Administration online

Education is important in every community. Strong schools are good for students, families, teachers, and beyond. As a leader in education, you could help make a positive difference for others and encourage schools to be their best.

Some education professionals accomplish those goals as education researchers, college professors, or school administrators. A PhD in Education Administration could help you develop your expertise and qualifications for a range of academic and leadership roles.

Much like with an online masters in education administration program, for a doctoral program that fits your needs, you might consider online learning. Earning a degree from online education degree programs at an accredited school is a reputable way to get your PhD and prepare for a rewarding career in education leadership.

Why not start exploring accredited colleges and universities today?

Ready to start your journey?
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy at Liberty University and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management from Amberton University, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Columbia College. With over 20 years of experience navigating online degrees and courses, Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.