Both a doctorate of education or Ed.D. and doctorate of philosophy in education or Ph.D. degree can prepare you for a wide range of careers in education. You might teach at the college level, conduct research, become a school administrator or develop educational policies and procedures for school systems. However, important distinctions between the two programs exist, as students focus on different aspects of education. While the Ed.D. serves primarily as a professional degree, a Ph.D. is an academic degree that often serves as a gateway to academic research and college or university teaching.

Research Orientation

While both the Ph.D. and Ed.D. provide a basic overview of research methods in education, the Ph.D. is more research intensive, according to the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. Students typically take more classes in statistical analysis and research methods and may be required to learn much more about theories of education than students pursuing the Ed.D. Research in the Ed.D. is aimed primarily at developing analytical, practical skills and addressing real-world problems.

Professional Training

Students pursuing either doctoral degree can go on to have careers in education. The Ed.D., however, focuses primarily on professional training. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for example, the Ed.D. is tailored to the student's professional aspirations and can be completed online, while the Ph.D. is more research intensive and requires classroom attendance. Students take courses in ethics, practical educational theories, classroom and behavior management and school administration. They may also be required to perform internships that give them the real-life experience they'll need to draw upon in their professional careers.

Other Disciplines

The Ph.D. track in education tends to bring in perspectives from other disciplines, such as philosophy, sociology and psychology. The research focus of this degree necessitates that students understand developments in other fields that are relevant to education. The Ed.D. track, in contrast, is focused primarily on preparing students for a career in education, so is more likely to synthesize research from various subjects within the field of education, according to the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education.


Doctoral students must all complete a dissertation, but the subject matter varies between the degrees. Ph.D. students may write dissertations on theoretical concepts or contribute new research to the field. Ed.D. students are more likely to write dissertations on practical issues within the classroom and field of education. A student might, for example, develop a new classroom management technique for her dissertation.

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