Earning an Online Doctorate in Education Administration

Educators who want to pursue administration benefit from attending online doctoral programs in higher education administration. After completing a doctorate in education administration, graduates pursue careers in K-12 administration as principals and superintendents or in higher education as professors, deans, or provosts. This article introduces the career paths for doctorates in education administration, including salary potential and requirements for admission into a doctoral program. It also provides scholarship opportunities and professional resources for education administration doctoral students.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Ph.D. in Education Administration?

Prospective students consider online doctoral programs in higher education administration for a variety of reasons. Some specializations may require doctoral-level education. Working educators or administrators may pursue a doctorate in education administration to expand their career prospects or increase their salary.

Why Get a Doctorate in Education Administration?

Pursuing Specialization

Students who attend online doctoral programs in higher education administration build specialized skills in their research area, particularly during the dissertation process. Doctoral students often become experts in their subfield. By earning a specialized degree, graduates can pursue positions as university professors or apply their knowledge in a variety of educational settings. For example, doctors of education administration can work as administrators at the K-12 or higher education levels.

Career Advancement Opportunities

As the terminal education degree, a doctorate qualifies professionals for advanced positions in the field. For example, most university professors must hold a doctorate, and many administrative positions in higher education prefer candidates with a doctorate. Earning the degree qualifies professionals for high-level roles, many of which come with increased responsibilities and higher pay. A doctorate also helps educators stand out in the job market.

Online Learning Technology

Online education administration programs incorporate the latest online learning technologies that students can apply to their careers. This experience offers professional development training for many career paths, including as an administrator overseeing distance education programs. Candidates familiar with online communication technology may stand out in the job market.

Prerequisites for Online Education Administration Programs

Prospective students evaluating online doctoral programs in higher education administration should research the program's prerequisites to find the best fit. This list represents common requirements found in these programs.

  • Work Experience: Doctoral programs in education administration may prefer candidates with professional experience, typically as a teacher. Most principals and other administrators work in the classroom before moving to administration, so programs may either recommend or require a certain number of years of teaching experience before applying.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Applicants may need to submit exams and test scores, depending on the program's admission process. Some programs require the GRE or accept the Miller Analogies Test as a substitute. Programs often provide minimum test score requirements, a test score range for admitted students, and the average test score for their program. Most test scores remain valid for five years.
  • Coursework: Most doctoral programs in education administration do not require prerequisite courses before enrolling. However, they may prefer candidates with a master's degree in education and offer credit for prior graduate work. Doctoral programs often set a minimum GPA for enrollment, and they may provide an average GPA for admitted students.
  • Recommendations: Applicants to doctoral programs in education administration often submit 2-3 letters of recommendation. These letters from academic and professional references speak to the candidate's ability to succeed at the doctoral level. Prospective students should give their letter writers at least three weeks' notice.
  • Essays: Doctoral applicants may need to submit essays, statements of purpose, or writing samples for admission. Programs use these essays to evaluate the applicant's preparation for doctoral work and to assess their reasons for earning a doctorate. The program may provide guidelines or a topic for the essay requirement.
  • Interviews: Some programs conduct interviews with applicants. Online programs may conduct a virtual interview to learn more about the applicant and their qualifications for doctoral-level study. Online programs may also appoint an admission adviser to help applicants with the application process.
  • International Students: International students may need to submit TOEFL scores or other proof of English language proficiency. Programs may also request translations for transcripts written in languages other than English. International students may be able to meet the English proficiency requirement through an interview.

How Much Can I Make with a Doctorate in Education Administration?

With an online Ph.D. in higher education administration, educators can pursue careers as deans, college professors, K-12 principals, and provosts. Candidates with a doctorate typically earn much higher salaries than the median annual wage for educators, which is just below $49,000 a year. Administrators and principals, for example, earn over $90,000 on average. In addition to traditional career paths, a doctorate in education administration qualifies graduates for nontraditional career opportunities.

Traditional Careers for Education Administration Doctoral Degree Graduates

Career Stats Description

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Median Pay: $92,360

Job Growth: 10.1%

Postsecondary education administrators, also known as deans and directors, manage the operations of a college or university. They oversee the institution's admissions, student services, and registrar's office, monitoring staff members and setting policies for the department.

Ideal for: Educators with management, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills.

Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal

Median Pay: $94,390

Job Growth: 8%

K-12 principals oversee a school, managing daily operations and setting goals for the school. They manage teachers and staff members, create policies to help the school run smoothly, and coordinate with district administrators.

Ideal for: Educators who can act as decision makers with strong leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills.

College or University Professor

Median Pay: $76,000

Job Growth: 15%

College and university professors teach courses in their specialization, designing the syllabus and assessing student learning. They also conduct research and publish their findings in scholarly journals and books. Professors typically hold a doctorate.

Ideal for: Professionals with strong critical-thinking, interpersonal, and public-speaking abilities.

Academic Dean

Median Pay: $90,315

Job Growth: 10.1%

Academic deans manage academic departments within a college or university. They play a role in hiring, tenure, and promotion; set academic goals for the department; and monitor the budget. Academic deans often work as professors before moving into administration.

Ideal for: Organized professionals with strong leadership and decision-making skills.

Nontraditional Careers for Education Administration Doctoral Degree Graduates

Career Stats Description

Educational Consultant

Median Pay: $62,460

Job Growth: N/A

Educational consultants provide college counseling for students and their parents, including advice on college applications, career paths, and financial aid applications. They must stay current on higher education issues. Educational consultants may also work for educational organizations.

Ideal for: Organized professionals with a background in education and strong interpersonal skills.

Curriculum Director

Median Pay: $72,931

Job Growth: N/A

Curriculum directors develop educational guidelines for a school or district. They may also hold the title of instructional coordinator. Curriculum directors ensure that their guidelines meet state regulations and learning objectives. They may also create strategic goals for the district.

Ideal for: Educators with strong analytical and interpersonal skills, particularly those with a background in teaching.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Projections Central, 2017-2018

Paying for a Doctorate in Education Administration Online

The cost of online doctoral programs in higher education administration varies by institution, required credits, and enrollment status. The length of the program, additional fees, and discounts also affect the total cost of the degree. Before applying to doctoral programs, prospective students should research tuition rates, including per-credit rates and the number of required credits. Scholarships and grants help doctoral students in education administration pay for their education.

Tuition Timelines

Doctoral programs in education administration offer enrollment options for working professionals, full-time students, and those seeking an accelerated degree. These options influence the total cost of the degree.

Part-Time Path

Part-time students take longer to graduate than full-time students, often more than five years, but they enjoy the schedule flexibility to work while earning their degree.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Pepperdine University
Total Credits Required: 51
Online Tuition Cost: $1,550
Pace: 6 Credits / 2 Classes per Semester
Total Semesters: 5 years
Summary: Pepperdine offers a hybrid program that allows students to take one class per semester. The total cost may rise due to tuition increases.

Full-Time Path

On a full-time path, doctoral students in education administration typically complete their degree in 3-5 years.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Arizona State University
Total Credits Required: 90 credits
Online Tuition Cost: $780 per credit
Pace: 12 Credits / 4 Classes per Semester
Total Semesters: 7-8
Summary: Incoming students with a master's degree receive 30 credits toward their doctorate, lowering the total cost by more than $20,000.

Accelerated Path

Choosing an accelerated path may allow doctoral students to complete their degree in less than three years. Accelerated students likely cannot balance work with their program.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Gwynedd Mercy University
Total Credits Required: 54 credits
Online Tuition Cost: $965
Pace: 18 Credits / 6 Classes per Semester
Total Semesters: Less than three years
Summary: Like many accelerated programs, GMercy U requires a master's degree for admission.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants & Scholarships

Students earning a doctorate in education administration qualify for scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid. These sources may provide thousands of dollars toward a degree.

What to Expect from an Online Doctorate in Education Administration Program

A Ph.D. in higher education administration online often includes classes in research methods to prepare doctoral students for their dissertation. Online education administration doctorate students typically participate in virtual classrooms, which may include taped or live lectures, discussion boards, and forums to connect with other students. Doctoral students typically complete their degree in 3-5 years.

Major Milestones

  1. Admissions

    Applicants provide transcripts, letters of recommendation, and test scores to gain entry into a program. The program may offer an orientation for newly admitted students.

  2. Coursework

    Doctoral students typically complete two years of classes. The curriculum includes research courses to prepare students for the dissertation.

  3. Comprehensive Examinations

    Most programs incorporate comprehensive exams, also known as qualifying exams, to measure doctoral students' knowledge. Doctoral students begin their dissertation research after passing the exam.

  4. Dissertation Proposal

    Doctoral candidates write a proposal describing their dissertation topic, research questions, proposed sources, and methodology. A faculty committee must approve the proposal.

  5. Dissertation Defense

    After writing the dissertation, doctoral candidates defend it before a dissertation committee. A successful defense allows the candidate to graduate and earn their degree.

  6. Graduation

    Doctoral candidates typically file an intent to graduate form along with paperwork showing they passed their defense.


Each program offering a Ph.D. in higher education administration online sets its own curriculum. The following list provides common course offerings for doctoral programs in education administration.

Education Administration

Doctoral students learn the theory and philosophy behind education administration, including the history of the field. The course may also cover administration in different educational systems, best practices, and how to apply administration theories to educational policies.

Learning Theory:

Students in learning theory courses study various theories of how people learn, how to incorporate theoretical knowledge in educational policy, and how to conduct research on learning.

Educational Policy

Doctoral students learn about creating and implementing new educational policy. The course addresses aligning policies with state regulations and learning standards, measuring the effectiveness of policies, and revising educational policies.

Quantitative Research

Students learn how to design quantitative research studies, the methodology behind research, and how to interpret results. The course prepares doctoral students to conduct original research as part of their dissertation.

Ethics in Education Administration

Ethics courses examine academic integrity, ethical educational policy, student assessment, and other ethical issues in education administration. Students also study the consequences of breaking ethical norms and rules.

Organizational Leadership

Students study theories and research in organizational leadership at the elementary, secondary, and higher education levels. The course may examine the role leaders play in improving educational policy and practice, recent research on organizational leadership, and methods of organizational leadership.

Technology and Education Leadership

These courses examine the relationship between education leadership and technology, including the role of technology on educational systems. Doctoral students learn how technology can improve student learning, professional development, and educational management. The course may also address how to create strategic plans for technology use.

Requirements to Practice

A doctorate in education administration prepares graduates for several career paths in K-12 and higher education. These positions often set requirements, such as a teaching or administrator license, work experience, and an accredited degree. Prospective doctoral students should carefully research the requirements in their chosen field.

  • Teaching License: Some educator positions may require a teaching license, including K-12 classroom teachers and certain administrative roles. A teaching license typically requires an accredited degree from a teacher training program, teaching and content area examinations, and a background check.
  • Administrator License: Principals, school administrators, and superintendents may need an administrator license issued by the state department of education. The license may require an accredited graduate degree in education administration, an administrator examination, and a background check.
  • Work Experience: Many positions require work experience, including most K-12 and higher education administration jobs. Principals often need several years of experience as classroom teachers, while academic deans often work as professors before moving into administration. The professional experience requirement varies by position.
  • Accredited Doctorate: Certain administrative jobs require an accredited doctoral degree, including many positions in higher education administration. An accredited online Ph.D. in higher education administration meets the requirement.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Doctoral students benefit from joining professional organizations. Many organizations offer professional development resources, run conferences and other events that provide networking opportunities, and offer scholarships for graduate students. They may also provide career counseling, host job boards, and offer career mentoring services for students and recent graduates. Members of organizations may receive opportunities to publish their research while in graduate school.

  • National Education Association: Founded in 1857, the NEA represents 3 million educators. The NEA provides research on education, networking opportunities, and professional development tools for educators working from the preschool level to higher education.
  • American Association of School Administrators: The AASA offers professional development resources for school administrators, including certifications. The association also offers continuing education programs.
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals: Founded in 1921, the NAESP represents elementary and middle school principals. The association grants awards, provides benefits to members, and offers professional development tools.
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals: High school principals can access professional learning tools through the NASSP. The association also hosts conferences and events with networking opportunities and grants awards.
  • American Association of University Professors: Professors nationwide join the AAUP for its publications and higher education research. The association also promotes academic freedom and professional standards.
  • Educational Leadership: Published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Educational Leadership includes the latest research in education and administration. Doctoral students may be able to pursue publication opportunities with the journal.
  • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation: The CAEP accredits educator preparation programs, including online doctoral programs in higher education administration. Prospective doctoral students can research a program's accreditation status on the website.
  • National Council for Higher Education: A division of the NEA, the NCHE represents educators working in higher education. The NCHE promotes policies to improve higher education and runs programs through the NEA.
  • Phi Delta Kappa: PDK represents educators worldwide. The association publishes research on education, offers scholarships for graduate students, and provides professional learning opportunities.
  • U.S. Department of Education State Contacts: Educators benefit from the Department of Education page listing state departments of education and other agencies that provide information on teacher licensing, higher education opportunities, and job openings.