Which Doctoral Degree Is Right for You: EdD or PhD?

a doctor using a tablet

Embarking on a doctoral journey is both thrilling and challenging. As you stand at the crossroads, deciding between an EdD (Doctor of Education) and a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), it’s essential to understand the nuances that set these two degrees apart. In this guide, we’ll explore the key differences between EdD and PhD, consider your career goals, and help you make an informed decision on the path that aligns best with your aspirations.

Unpacking the Acronyms: EdD vs. PhD

Let’s start with the basics. EdD and PhD are both terminal degrees, but they cater to different professional domains.

EdD (Doctor of Education): This degree is tailored for education practitioners looking to enhance their leadership and administrative skills. It’s hands-on, practical, and focused on addressing real-world challenges within educational institutions.

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy): On the other hand, a PhD is more research-oriented. It’s not limited to education; you can pursue a PhD in various fields like science, humanities, or business. This degree emphasizes original research, making a significant contribution to the existing body of knowledge.

EdD: The Practitioner’s Path


  • Applied Learning: EdD programs emphasize the practical application of knowledge. You’ll dive into real-world scenarios, preparing you for leadership roles within educational settings.
  • Career Alignment: If your goal is to lead educational institutions, shape policy, or influence educational practice, an EdD could be your ideal companion.
  • Time Commitment: Generally shorter than a PhD, an EdD allows you to earn your doctoral stripes without spending a decade buried in research.


  • Research Intensity: While EdD programs include research components, they are less research-focused compared to PhDs. If you’re passionate about delving deep into academic research, an EdD might leave you wanting more.
  • Limited Scope: The focus on education can be a limitation if you’re considering career paths outside the realm of education.

PhD: The Researcher’s Odyssey


  • Research Prowess: If the idea of contributing groundbreaking knowledge to your field excites you, a PhD is your golden ticket. It’s the pinnacle of research-intensive degrees.
  • Versatility: A PhD opens doors to academia, research institutions, and even industry. It’s not confined to a specific sector, giving you the flexibility to explore diverse career paths.
  • Intellectual Depth: Immerse yourself in a subject you’re passionate about, unraveling its complexities and contributing to the global academic discourse.


  • Time Investment: The journey to a PhD is an endurance test. It demands years of dedication, with the average completion time ranging from 5 to 7 years.
  • Career Trajectory: While a PhD is versatile, some industries may favor practical experience over academic qualifications. Consider your target career path before committing to a PhD.

Mapping Your Career Trajectory


Your Professional Goals: If you’re aspiring to be a school principal, district superintendent, or work in educational policy, an EdD aligns seamlessly with these roles. On the flip side, if you envision a career deeply rooted in research, academia, or innovation, a PhD is the way forward.

Your Passion: What fuels your academic fire? If you’re itching to pioneer transformative educational practices, the EdD is your canvas. If the thrill lies in unraveling the mysteries of your chosen field, the PhD awaits your intellectual exploration.

Time Commitment Tolerance: Be honest about how many years you’re willing to invest. If you’re eager to earn your doctorate without an extended academic sojourn, the EdD could be your express train.

Navigating Program Structures

EdD Programs:

Coursework: EdD programs prioritize coursework, offering a blend of theoretical foundations and practical applications.

Dissertation: The dissertation process is more practitioner-focused, often addressing challenges within your current professional context.

PhD Programs:

Research Emphasis: Expect a more substantial focus on research methodologies and theoretical frameworks.

Dissertation: Your dissertation will contribute new knowledge to your field, aiming for originality and scholarly impact.

Financial Considerations


Employer Support: Some employers offer financial assistance for EdD programs, recognizing the direct applicability of the degree to your current role.

Opportunity Cost: The shorter duration may reduce the income sacrificed during your doctoral pursuit.


Funding Opportunities: Many PhD programs provide financial support, including stipends or tuition waivers, especially in the sciences and humanities.

Long-Term Investment: Consider the potential return on investment, factoring in the extended duration and potential income sacrifice.

Making the Decision: Your Personal Odyssey

In the grand narrative of your academic journey, choosing between an EdD and a PhD is a pivotal chapter. Reflect on your goals, passions, and the level of commitment you’re ready to embrace. Both paths lead to the coveted title of “Doctor,” but the landscapes they traverse are distinctly different. In the end, whether you find your academic home in the bustling halls of education leadership or the serene realms of scholarly research, remember that your choice is an investment in your intellectual and professional future. Choose wisely, and may your doctoral odyssey be as rewarding as it is challenging.