Is an EdD Worth It?

EdD professor talking to two of his graduate students
EdD professor talking to two of his graduate students

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), about three million students were enrolled in graduate programs in 2018. NCES projects that number will increase by three percent over the next decade.

Graduate degrees chart a compelling career trajectory for students. Pew Research Center states two-thirds of postgraduate degree holders believe their education was key in opening professional doors.

But for working professionals, putting a job on hold to launch into full-time graduate school, especially beyond a master’s degree, may not be practicable. Enter the burgeoning arena of part-time online graduate school choices, including programs for the EdD. Of those three million graduate students enrolled in 2018, over 1.3 million were part-time—advancing their education while pursuing a profession or other priorities.  

When surveying the landscape of graduate programs, educational professionals may question, is an EdD worth it? For working professionals who wish to grow in influence and confidence, an EdD has distinct benefits.


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What Is an EdD?

An EdD is an advanced degree in education that focuses on solving a problem of practice. EdD graduates frequently use their advanced degrees to foster their leadership skills and positions in various fields. An EdD program is characteristically geared toward supporting students to evaluate and solve practical problems typically within an organization, business, or educational facility.

EdD candidates have the option to go on to do scholarly work or teach in academia, but they are also able to apply the skill set learned in EdD programs and pursue an oversight role in an educational setting, such as school leader. They could just as likely go into a private or non-profit organization, the government, or join a consulting firm.

Graduates can be assured that they will be better prepared to lead and effect change with an EdD. Many EdD students are working professionals preparing for or in influential positions. According to the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED), an EdD prepares students to “meet the . . . challenges of the 21st century.” 


How Can an EdD Better Position You for Leadership?

A key question in considering if an EdD is worth it is how it can help you with your career goals. Many professionals may wonder what it can provide to strengthen, enhance, and develop current skill sets. An EdD degree can equip you to:

  • Execute best practices based on current research
  • Move beyond academia into civil service or the private sector
  • Chart real-world change within your sphere of work


What Is the Difference Between an EdD and PhD?

An EdD and PhD are both terminal degrees in education, but with divergent concentrations. Their similarities may leave some students asking why is an EdD worth it? And which degree has more of a real-world approach?

An EdD is the more hands-on program of the two, shaping direct leadership opportunities. Due to its practical emphasis, an EdD is applicable outside of the academic realm. A PhD in education, by comparison, is keenly focused on scholarly, research-based studies, often drilled down to a single theory or subject matter.


What Are the Different Academic Paths to Achieve Each Degree?

Pursuing a PhD may mean applying for highly competitive scholarships or taking a leave of absence in order to receive a stipend. An EdD enables students to work full-time during their course load, making it more practical for professionals.

A PhD may require more of a time investment than an EdD. Many EdD students have already earned their master’s degree before considering the program. Graduates frequently complete their EdD in two to three years, while a PhD may take four to six years.

Once a student has achieved their master’s degree, most EdD programs require 60 course credits. Many programs do not require a dissertation.


EdD vs. PhD – Which Concentration Is More Beneficial?

Is an EdD worth it vs a PhD? Neither degree is better—each provides multiple benefits and opens doors for its graduates. However, one degree is more likely to be more suitable for any given student, based on career path and ambition.

An EdD program will “focus specifically on preparing students to assume formal leadership positions.” In considering, is an EdD worth it vs a PhD, a few questions are worth exploring.

  1. Do you desire to effect positive changes within your organization?
  2. Are you wanting to pursue a flexible and affordable degree while continuing to work full-time?
  3. Do you want to be better trained to take on more responsibility in your field?


What Are the Specific Areas of Study?

Is an EdD worth it considering the spectrum of knowledge you gain?

Many EdD programs include research and exploring positive change in learning environments. They do so with the end goal of applying these skills in a practical setting. EdD programs are likely to focus on applying educational theory and research to problem-solving.

Students may explore such subjects as:

  • integrating educational theory into organizational innovation
  • ethical leadership
  • effectively leading for social justice outcomes
  • the best approaches to applied research
  • leading an organization in complex times
  • transformative leadership
  • strategic leadership
  • systems thinking
  • coaching and mentoring  
  • change management
  • developing leadership in others
  • technological proficiency within an organization

The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) noted that EdD graduates are not focused on investigation and dissertations. “An EdD is for the practitioner—the person who is looking to be the leader in their organization. They are . . . addressing actual problems of practice that are impacting their work.”


What Are the Advantages of an EdD?

An EdD vs. a PhD holds significant weight for those seeking to effect tangible change. Here are the advantages:

  • You are better positioned to continue in your current profession while taking classes.
  • If you’re in a management role overseeing people and projects, you can directly and immediately apply problem-solving strategies learned in your courses.
  • You can network with other professionals while you learn. Because an EdD degree program typically attracts students who are full-time professionals, you’ll likely interact with and learn from a cohort of skilled and diverse professionals.


The Impact of an EdD on Servant and Ethical Leadership

The concepts of servant and ethical leadership have grown in popularity in recent years and many universities, particularly those with strong values and mission statements, are incorporating this into their curricula. While many degree programs may work to find inroads to integrate these concepts, few degrees naturally afford the deep dive that an EdD does. 

Industry experts note “experience suggests that ethical leadership leads to greater employee satisfaction and lower turnover rates.” Servant leadership is not only laudable; it makes good organizational and business sense.

Here are some things to consider when it comes to servant and ethical leadership:


Honing Your Vision

What is your vision for leadership? By articulating the reasons why you want to pursue an advanced degree, you can analyze your intent and consider how an EdD will advance your career.


Increasing Your Impact

EdD students naturally desire to make a greater impact within an organization. Candidates should consider what kind of impact they’d like to make, where they’d like to make it, and how they’re going to do it. 

An EdD not only helps students focus on their reason why, but it also gives them the tools and knowledge to make the impact they desire. Moreover, EdD students who adopt ethical leadership principles can have a positive and lasting impact when leading large groups within an organization.

Forbes notes just a few organizational benefits of ethical leadership. These include securing long-term shareholder loyalty, creating a reputation of people over profits, and actively changing negative behavior within the workforce. 


Implementing Change

Is an EdD worth it when you consider the potential for organizational or policy change? In empowering a leader to think strategically, an EdD qualifies a leader to craft and implement change. EdD graduates can create better work and educational environments for others, identify and train other leaders, and solve problems within an organization or business.

Marymount University campus


Where to Take Your Next Step Toward a Doctorate in Education

Be part of a university with a strong mission, vision and values. Rooted in the Catholic tradition, Marymount University ranks among the best regional universities in the South, according to U.S. News and World Report. Marymount’s EdD program is aligned with best practices from educational leaders in the Washington, D.C. area and around the globe.

You can complete your Marymount EdD degree in less than three years. It is 100% online and designed for maximum impact for active professionals. 

Find out how you can get to the next level in your career with an EdD online from Marymount University.


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Be Sure to Also Read:

Why Our Students Value Their Marymount Ed.D. Program Education