Earning an Online Ph.D. in Educational Technology

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With students increasingly enrolling in online courses, more teachers and trainers attempting to integrate modern technology into their lessons, and the growing popularity of personalized and blended learning, expertise in education technology remains valuable in today’s labor market. Despite the massive influx of technology in education, many teachers remain slow to adopt new technologies, creating a need for leaders who understand educational best practices and the latest digital learning resources.

Earning a doctorate in educational technology online prepares you for a rewarding and lucrative career in this growing field. Use this guide to explore how such a degree might increase your salary potential and career opportunities, what to expect from your program, ways to pay for your degree, and professional resources.

Why Get a Doctorate in Educational Technology?

Pursuing Specialization

This degree allows educators to specialize in the use of technology and digital media to enhance teaching and learning. A doctorate in educational technology can open the door to leadership opportunities in your current occupation. Graduates may move from teaching into a leadership position in education technology at a school or district or transfer their skills into another industry, such as corporate training or higher education.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Perhaps you already work as a specialist in this field. This degree can qualify you to move into a higher-paying leadership position or teach at the college level.

Online Learning Technology

Doctoral-level expertise in educational technology can position you to use the latest instructional technologies in your work, create new ways of integrating technology to enhance learning, or lead professional development opportunities for other educators.

What's the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a DBA in Educational Technology?

Doctoral programs available in educational technology include a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) and a doctor of education (Ed.D.). Both terminal degrees prepare graduates to conduct educational research and take on leadership roles in education. Your career goals should determine which degree program you select. Earning an online Ph.D. in educational technology prepares you to teach at the college level, conduct original research, and develop new instructional tools and strategies.

Ideal for working teachers, administrators, and instructional coordinators who wish to advance their skill level, the Ed.D. focuses on educational practice and the application of research and qualifies graduates for leadership and policy roles in schools, districts, and other organizations. Ph.D. programs place a heavier emphasis on the development of research skills and the completion of a dissertation.

Prerequisites for Online Doctorate in Educational Technology Programs

Doctoral programs in educational technology seek candidates with clear educational goals and the ability to succeed in advanced courses. To determine whether you're a good fit for their programs, schools ask for information about your past academic and work performance, aptitude for scholarly work, and career goals. See below for some standard admission requirements.

    • Work Experience: Many doctoral programs in education prefer or require applicants to have prior experience as teachers, administrators, curriculum specialists, instructional coordinators, instructional designers, or other educational technology specialists. This work experience enables students to apply what they learn to real-world scenarios and propose relevant and innovative research questions.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Doctoral programs in educational technology typically require applicants to submit scores from the GRE or MAT, taken within the last five years. Typically, programs do not require a specific score but rather consider scores holistically as part of the total application. Above-average scores boost your chances of admission.
    • Coursework: Many programs require applicants to hold a master’s degree in education with a minimum GPA of 3.5 for graduate work and 3.0 for undergraduate work. Some earned graduate credits may satisfy course requirements at the doctoral level.
    • Recommendations: Schools typically require two or three letters of recommendation from people who can testify to your abilities in the field of educational technology and your fitness for graduate work, such as supervisors or university professors.
    • Essays: Doctoral applications often require a personal statement that asks applicants to explain their research and career goals as they relate to their previous work experiences and the research interests of current faculty members. Such essays help the school determine your suitability for its program and whether the department can provide faculty to advise your research. Some schools also ask applicants to submit scholarly writing samples.
    • Interviews: Online programs generally don't require an interview, although this can vary by school and program.
    • International Students: Many programs require international students to demonstrate their mastery of English to ensure they can successfully complete online courses that require a good deal of writing and communication in English. These students may need to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or MELAB scores.

How Much Can I Make with a Doctorate in Educational Technology?

For those already working in the field of educational technology, a doctorate can open the door to a higher salary or a new position. Educators working in public schools typically earn more as their years of experience and education levels rise. For example, teachers who earn their Ed.D. may qualify for a higher salary as a teacher or move into a higher-paying position coordinating the integration of technology into classrooms. According to the BLS, high school teachers earn an average annual salary of $60,320, while instructional coordinators make $64,450. Leadership positions in educational technology can pay even better -- $75,000 or more.

With current rapid growth in instructional technologies, this degree can also qualify you for well-paying jobs in related fields, such as corporate training, market research, and software development.

Traditional Careers

Career Stats Description

Director of Educational Technology

Median Pay: $75,000

Job Growth: 12%

These directors oversee the use of technology to achieve desired learning or training outcomes in schools, colleges, businesses, and other organizations. They select or design appropriate learning technology systems and supervise educational technology specialists. This leadership position requires excellent organizational, technological, management, and communications skills.

Instructional Design Manager

Median Pay: $80,385

Job Growth: 10%

These managers lead instructional design projects for their organizations including needs assessments and the design, implementation, and evaluation of trainings or online courses. They possess excellent project management skills and a solid understanding of learning theories, instructional design, and educational technology.

Postsecondary Teacher

Median Pay: $78,470

Job Growth: 15%

Teaching at the college level requires an advanced level of knowledge and expertise in a specific discipline. These educators teach undergraduate and graduate students, conduct original research, and publish their findings. This position requires a doctorate and excellent research and communications skills.

Curriculum Director

Median Pay: $73,342

Job Growth: 11%

Experts in a specific content area, such as math or educational technology, these educators oversee the development of curricula and how a curriculum is implemented in the classroom or online and used by teachers or instructors.

Instructional Coordinator

Median Pay: $64,450

Job Growth: 11%

As experienced educators with expertise in a specific area, such as social studies or educational technology, these professionals coordinate the use of resources, materials, curriculum, and technology by teachers in this area. They typically work directly with teachers to train and support them.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale

Paying for a Doctorate in Educational Technology Online

Graduate students in online educational technology programs pay for their degree through their existing income, employer tuition benefits, and whatever savings, grants, scholarships, fellowships, and loans they can accumulate. They frequently benefit from institutional and department grants, scholarships, and fellowships. Make sure to check with your school for financial aid resources. You may also save money by finishing your degree as quickly as possible, as tuition rates tend to go up each year and colleges sometimes cap tuition at a specific credit load so that higher course loads will cost you less per credit. See below for more information.

Scholarships for Online Educational Technology Students

Many organizations offer scholarships to graduate students in education. Make sure to complete the FAFSA and check with your school’s financial aid office for sources of funding. Many graduate students receive fellowships from their school or department. You may also apply for scholarships such as those listed below.

What to Expect from an Online Educational Technology Program

Online educational technology doctoral programs typically take three or four years to complete full time and require candidates to complete about 60 credits beyond a master’s degree. Many schools offer cohort programs, where a group of students moves through courses and other requirements together at the same pace. After successfully completing all online coursework, doctoral candidates take comprehensive exams and submit a research proposal. The final year or two of the program consists of researching, writing, and defending the dissertation.

Some programs may also include internships and other fieldwork opportunities. In online programs, students may typically complete all coursework and exams online and fulfill internship and research requirements in their local community. Some programs may require summer or weekend residencies, in-person exams, or oral defenses.

Major Milestones

  1. Foundations and Research Coursework

    These courses introduce trends in the field and prepare students for leadership and research in educational technology.

  2. Specialization Coursework

    These courses provide students with the specialized knowledge necessary to conduct original research in the field of educational technology. Courses may include internships and other field experiences.

  3. Comprehensive Exams

    Once students complete all required coursework, they demonstrate mastery of required concepts and sufficient preparation for dissertation research by passing written and oral exams.

  4. Defend Dissertation Proposal

    Students who complete and successfully defend their research proposals may begin writing their dissertation.

  5. Research and Write Dissertation

    The time required for completing dissertation research and writing the final dissertation can vary by student but typically takes one or two years.

  6. Dissertation Defense

    Doctoral candidates must successfully defend their dissertation to graduate and receive their doctoral degree.

Coursework

While the specific courses in each program may vary by school and degree concentrations, educational technology programs typically offer courses similar to those listed below.

Trends in Educational Technology

This course introduces students to current trends and issues in education technology research as they prepare to conduct their own research. Topics include legal, ethical, and security issues; diversity and access; and emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Leadership in Educational Technology

This course focuses on the development of leadership skills that lead to the effective development and implementation of instructional technologies, including needs assessment, resource management, and team building. Topics include organizational psychology, current policy considerations, and relevant research.

Technical Systems Design

This course introduces the processes leaders use to design, plan, and evaluate innovative, learner-centered educational technology systems. Course topics address effective ways to set goals, engage stakeholders, create budgets, design technical systems, and plan for ongoing feedback and evaluation to maximize learning.

Instructional Design

Students in this course practice using learning theories, instructional design models, and the latest digital technologies to develop effective, learner-centered online courses and materials. Topics include trends in instructional design and research, identifying learner characteristics and training needs, and assessment techniques.

Quantitative Research Methods

Doctoral candidates need a solid foundation in statistical research methods to complete their dissertation and may take several research methods courses. This course provides an introduction to experimental design and statistical analysis.

Degree Timelines

While some programs operate through a three- or four-year cohort format, others allow students to proceed at their own pace. See below for sample degree timelines.

Part-time

Time to Complete: Five or six years

Students take one or two classes per semester, allowing them to continue working or manage other responsibilities.

Full-time

Time to Complete: Four years

Students complete six or more credits per semester, often taking only one accelerated class at a time. This type of program allows participants to continue working but demands they devote sufficient time to their studies.

Accelerated

Time to Complete: Three years

Students take a full course load (about nine credits) each semester and participate in summer sessions. These programs remain ideal for students who can devote significant time to their courses and research.

Licenses and Certifications

Many positions within the field of educational technology do not require state licensure or any specific certification, although some may, especially those in public schools. Professional certifications demonstrate your expertise and can give you an advantage in the job market, especially if you wish to work in a related field such as information technology, software development, project management, or training and development. See below for certifications relevant to a career as a leader in educational technology.

    • Teacher/Administrator License: Many educational technology professionals begin their careers as licensed teachers or administrators. Some states or school districts require instructional coordinators or curriculum directors working in public schools to hold licensure as teachers or administrators. These certifications require specific coursework, internships, and exams.
    • Educational Technology License/Endorsement: Similar to a teaching license, some states may offer or even require this license or endorsement for educators wishing to become educational technology leaders in public schools. A doctorate in educational technology online would likely satisfy the coursework requirements for this certification.
    • Certified Education Technology Leader: The Consortium for School Networking offers this professional certification to K-12 educational technology specialists who seek recognition as leaders in their field. Applicants must demonstrate at least four years of experience and pass an exam.
    • Certified Professional in Learning and Performance: The Association for Talent Development offers this professional credential to experienced training and development professionals seeking recognition and a competitive advantage in the job market. Those with one year of university training and four years of experience may qualify to take the certification exams.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Joining a professional organization demonstrates aspirations to leadership in your field and may provide you with networking, professional development, speaking, and job search opportunities. Graduate students may benefit from attending conferences and workshops, joining working groups and councils, applying for scholarships, or participating in mentoring and leadership programs.

  • Association for Educational Communications and Technology: This professional organization promotes the interests of instructional designers and other educational technology professionals. AECT offers an annual conference, a summer research symposium, and publications such as an educational technology journal.
  • International Society for Technology in Education: This membership society provides digital learning standards, leadership and policy summits, and an annual conference. ISTE also conducts advocacy efforts and offers professional certification.
  • State Educational Technology Directors Association: This association of state education leaders advocates for policies that leverage technology for learning, offers professional development, and issues reports and press releases. SETDA hosts two annual conferences and other events.
  • International Association for K-12 Online Learning: This association focuses on advocacy efforts at the state and federal levels to promote competency-based education. The organization also publishes reports, offers professional resources, and hosts an annual conference.
  • Educause: This nonprofit seeks to improve higher education through information technology by offering career services, scholarships, mentoring, and a research center. Educause community and working groups offer networking opportunities.
  • U.S. Office of Educational Technology: This federal office provides educators, leaders, and members of the public with resources such as policy briefs and information about federal education policy initiatives related to technology.
  • American Educational Research Association: This scholarly association promotes education research. AERA publicizes research findings, sponsors research projects, provides professional development opportunities, and advocates on behalf of educational researchers.
  • Online Learning Consortium: This nonprofit promotes collaboration and innovation among higher education leaders in digital learning, offering conferences, professional development opportunities, publications, and awards.
  • IEEE Technical Committee on Learning Technology: This committee promotes the interests of learning technology professionals through its website resources, bulletin, and events. The organization also sponsors an award for early career researchers.
  • WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies: This association advocates for technology-enhanced learning in colleges and universities across the Western U.S. An annual meeting, leadership summits, and members-only online communities offer networking opportunities.