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Best Online PhD Programs in Education: 2024

Best Online PhD Programs in Education: 2024

Earn an online PhD in education and reach your maximum potential in the education field. Whether you want to teach at the highest levels of learning, engage in research, or work in administration, learn about top accredited programs that can help you reach your professional goals.

As an education professional considering an advanced degree, flexibility is probably at the front of your mind. An online PhD in education allows you to continue in your career while learning and specializing in your primary research interest.

When considering your online PhD in education program options, the best ones are often those that offer degree plans and scheduling options that let you fully personalize your doctoral program. So it’s important to research carefully and apply to online PhD in education programs that truly interest you and have the scheduling flexibility you’re looking for.

To help you in your search, we’ve listed the top PhD in education online programs below based on the characteristics mentioned above as well as other important factors like such as accreditation, affordability, and strength of student services. See which programs came out on top for 2024.

Top Online PhD’s in Education for 2024

We have ranked the top schools below. Our Rankings Data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES.) Click the About the Ranking link below for more information about our methodology.


    Base Methodology for OnlineColleges.me’s 2024 Online College Rankings

    1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

    To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

    • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • At least one program in the subject area offered partially or fully online.
    1. Assign Weightings

    After creating the list of eligible schools, OnlineColleges.me data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

    Online Program Availability

    • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. Because exact numbers change often and can be difficult to verify, we use a range-based scoring system: 0-5 online programs = 1 star; 6-10 = 2 stars; 11-15 = 3 stars; 16-20 = 4 stars; 21+ = 5 stars. In our design, laptop icons = stars.
    • For degree-specific pages, ex: Psychology degrees, we list the current number of online programs available at that school for that degree type, as self-reported by the schools.


    • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
    • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

    Support Services

    • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
    • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

    About Our Data

    OnlineColleges.me’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: January of 2024

  • River Forest, IL
    Private not-for-profit $$

    Concordia University – Chicago offers 4 different PhDs for students who want to advance their careers as leaders in a variety of different education settings. Each of the four programs are delivered entirely online, making them a flexible and convenient option for working educators.The doctorate in educational leadership with superintendent licensure is ideal for those who want to take on district-level administrative responsibility. The principal licensure PhD program prepares those who want to become effective school leaders. The doctorate in teacher leadership with Ohio teacher leader endorsement is ideal for students who want to be the best facilitators, instructional coaches, curriculum specialists, and trainers. No matter which PhD program a student enrolls in, they will be receiving the same high-quality education.

    Program Highlights:

    PhD in Education

    • Credits: 67
    • Length: 4 years
    • Cost: $468/credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Milwaukee, WI
    Private not-for-profit $$$

    Anybody looking to become a transformational leader in higher education should consider the PhD in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education from Cardinal Stritch University. This program is specifically for those who currently are or aspire to work in two- and four-year colleges, universities, and community and technical colleges. The curriculum will focus on contemporary leadership theories, paired with a strong foundation in research. The goal of the program is to leave graduates not only with a stronger knowledge of higher education theory, but also the ability to be an effective leader who encourages positive change.

    Program Highlights:

    Doctorate in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education

    • Credits: Varies
    • Length: Varies
    • Cost: $810/credit
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Lubbock, TX
    Public $$

    Texas Tech University offers multiple online Doctor of Philosophy degrees so regardless of a student’s goal, they can get the necessary education from Texas Tech. One of the options is a PhD in curriculum and instruction, which is best suited for aspiring curriculum leaders, researchers, and professors. Another is a PhD in educational leadership policy, which is for research interventionists, policy specialists, and education professionals. Those who want to take on faculty positions in higher education should look into the PhD in family and consumer sciences education. Finally, students wanting to take on leadership positions to shape the future of special education should consider the PhD in special education. Regardless of what program a student chooses, they will receive a high-quality, yet flexible online education.

    Program Highlights:

    Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education

    • Credits: 90
    • Length: Varies
    • Cost: Varies
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

    Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction

    • Credits: 63
    • Length: Varies
    • Cost: Varies
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

    Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership Policy

    • Credits: 60
    • Length: Varies
    • Cost: Varies
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Muncie, IN
    Public $$

    Ball State University offers two online PhDs: one in elementary education and another in special education. Regardless of which program a student chooses to enroll in, they will have the option of three different start dates in the fall, spring or summer, so they can start taking classes at a time that best fits their schedule. When they’re taking classes, students will benefit from the flexibility of the online courses that allow students to complete their work at a time that best fits their personal needs. The classes sizes are small and the faculty is highly acclaimed, so students can expect to have engaged and passionate professors. One thing to note is that students in the special education track will have to come to campus for some courses in their cognate, making the program 85-90 percent online.

    Program Highlights:

    Doctor of Philosophy in Elementary Education

    • Credits: 91-97
    • Length: Varies
    • Cost: Varies
    • Mode: Online
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

    Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education

    • Credits: 91
    • Length: Varies
    • Cost: Varies
    • Mode: Primarily Online
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Mississippi State, MS
    Public $$
  • Lexington, KY
    Public $$$
  • Fort Collins, CO
    Public $$$
  • Manhattan, KS
    Public $$$
  • Norfolk, VA
    Public $$$
  • Johnson City, TN
    Public $$

Learning Outcomes and Goals of an Online PhD in Education

Want to enroll in an online PhD program in education? With many options, you should choose carefully which programs you want to apply to. Online PhD programs in education vary in goals, learning outcomes, and courses offered, but there are similarities between programs. After you complete your PhD, you should expect to have gained the following skills and knowledge:

Master the Research Process

The primary feature of a PhD in education online is the dissertation. The dissertation is the application of a student’s classroom training, a long manuscript that presents students’ unique research in a compelling and effective manner. Therefore, during the course of their online PhD education program, you will learn how to design and conduct research as well as analyze data and share your findings with your fellow peers.

Specialize in a Particular Concentration

Many PhD programs in education ask students to focus on a particular subset of the education delivery process, such as curriculum design, management, legal compliance, or higher education. After you enroll to earn your PhD in education online, you’ll get to choose a topic to master. And after you graduate, you can apply your specialized knowledge to learn new ways to education others, become an effective academic leader, and even instruct the next generation of teachers.

Communicate New Ideas

No matter your role, whether you’re a researcher or school administrator, knowing how to communicate novel research and original ideas is a vital skill. An online PhD in education will help you improve your communication skills through classroom instruction, conducting research, qualifying exams, and writing your dissertation. The dissertation process involves conducting original research and effectively conveying and presenting your findings.

Critically Analyze Existing Ideas

The best way to come up with your own idea, whether it’s for research or a new school policy, you must have a solid understanding of existing ideas. With this understanding, you can best examine the status quo and find new ways of doing things. Much of an online PhD in education curriculum involves learning how to critically review existing theories, scientific literature, laws, and classroom procedures and find new ways of doing things. This learning process will then culminate with a dissertation in which you  show how well you can synthesize and conduct research.

What You’ll Study in an Online PhD in Education Program

One of the great things about enrolling in an online PhD program in education is the chance to take unique classes in a niche area of education. In other words, an online PhD in education will give you opportunities to study educational areas that you have want to specialize in. These subjects will teach you how to lead in the education field by developing academic and research skills through the evaluation of various educational practices, theories, and past and emerging trends related to educational strategies.

Using Technology in the Classroom

Technology changes lives. This course will teach you how to identify opportunities to improve student instruction with  technology. Coursework in this online PhD in education course includes discuss discussions about various types of educational technology, and covers hardware, software, and media. To make best use of current and future technology, students will also study the history of technology development and use in the classroom.

Research Design, Methods, and Theories

This online PhD in education course focuses on refining students’ research skills and techniques. Students will learn about various qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as methods that combine both approaches. Course content includes data collection and review through statistical analysis as well as the social, ethical, and scientific implications of the designs and implementation of research and methods. 

Classroom Learning and Culture

As the diversity of classrooms continues to grow, teachers must be equipped to adjust their lesson plans to accommodate the differences between their students. This class will also train teachers to use the diversity of their student bodies to enhance and complement current curriculums. Topics covered also include various types of cultural, economic, and social differences a teacher is likely to encounter during their career with students.

Education Law

Classroom instruction and overall school operations are structured to conform to local, state, and federal legal requirements. This course addresses the various laws that dictate what and how students learn, as well as special rights and protections students have in the classroom. In addition to specific statutes, you’ll learn about landmark judicial cases, constitutional protections, and administrative processes, and how these policies shape learning environments.

Data-Based Teaching and Evaluation

Students in this online PhD in education course will learn how to use data to improve their instruction and assessment methods. The curriculum begins with data analysis techniques and skills used to draw conclusions, such as evaluating current teaching practices. Students will also identify quantifiable goals and create an actionable learning plan. They’ll develop various approaches to measuring classroom performance and learn how to use data to draw useful conclusions.

Dissertation Writing and Planning

The writing format and style of a dissertation is unique and new to most PhD students. This PhD in education course measures students’ dissertation writing skills so advisors can identify areas to improve before the actual dissertation writing process begins. Students will also meet with their advisor to discuss potential research ideas and experimental methods.


The dissertation is a major research project on an original topic or question and represents the culmination of everything students have learned from their online PhD education program. Students develop the details of their dissertations, starting with the prospectus. They then propose their research topic and plan to their PhD committee and receive feedback before they begin their research. Several other stages will follow, including conducting the research, writing the dissertation, and orally defending the dissertation. 

FAQs About Earning Your PhD in Education Online

Earning a doctorate is a life-changing decision, so you’ll benefit from ensuring you’re fully informed before you apply. Conduct thorough research to find answers to any questions you may have about the degree. In the following section you’ll find answers to some common questions prospective online PhD in education students have asked about an online PhD in education degree.

  • Can I earn my PhD in education 100% online?

    It depends on the program. Some online PhD in education programs have courses for certain concentrations where students must attend classes on campus. There may also be programs that require students to defend their dissertations in person. But many online PhD in education programs have no in-person requirements and allow students to earn their degree complete via remote or distant learning. In these programs, face-to-face interaction is optional.

  • What can I do with a PhD in education?

    Earning a PhD in education online will make you eligible for almost any position in education. This includes teaching at any level, from toddlers to graduate students. But most people pursue an online PhD in education to teach at the postsecondary level, conduct research, apply research theories and strategies in the classroom, or make the most of their career in school administration. Below is a list of some of the more common professions for PhD in education holders, as well as professions where an education PhD degree will come in handy.

    • School librarian
    • College or university school administrator
    • University professor
    • Principal for an elementary, middle, or high school
    • Instructional coordinator
    • Researcher
  • Do all online PhD in education programs require a dissertation?

    Most, if not all, online PhD in education programs will require you to complete a dissertation before you can graduate. Depending on the program, the dissertation process begins during your second or third year and will take about one to two years to complete. The dissertation is your chance to show your mastery of your chosen area of study and engage in original research. If you enroll in an online PhD in education program that does not require dissertations, you can expect to complete a different type of capstone project, one in which you apply your research or publish research articles in relevant and respected journals. 

  • What are the admissions requirements for an online PhD in education program?

    The exact admissions process will vary from school to school. At a minimum, however, you should expect to provide the following when applying to an online PhD in education program:

    • Online application
    • Application fee
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
    • Statement of purpose
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Proof of completing a master’s degree 
    • Official copy of postsecondary and graduate school transcripts

    Some online PhD in education programs will require standardized test scores as from the Graduate Records Exam (GRE), but not every program requires them. Also, most admissions officers prefer to accept students who have a few years of relevant experience in teaching or school administration. Like the GRE, this work experience usually isn’t required, but is sometimes recommended.

  • How much does an online PhD program in education cost?

    Tuition costs vary between online PhD in education programs. The factors that influence cost include whether you’re attending a public or private school, whether you’re an in-state resident (if enrolled in a public institution), how many prior learning credits you can transfer, and how much financial aid you can obtain. Tuition rates can vary from $595.00/credit at Liberty University to $1,082.00/credit at the University of Arizona.

  • How long do online PhD education programs take to complete?

    Full-time students typically earn their online PhD in education degrees in three to five years. This is typical but the timeline varies for each student. Some factors that influence the length of time you’ll spend in an online PhD program in education include whether you’re enrolled full-time or part-time, as well as your specialization. The dissertation process also plays a role, as this process largely depends simply on how fast you conduct research and write your dissertation. 

  • What specializations are available in a PhD in education program?

    One of the great things about completing an online PhD program in education is the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of education. The sheer number of specialization and concentration options for education PhD degrees is unrivaled by lower degrees in the same field. The following list is just a sample of the concentrations available for online PhD education students:

    • Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Education Law
    • Education Technology and Design
    • Special Education
    • Nursing Education
    • Instructional Leadership
    • Higher Education Leadership and Policy
    • Sports and Athletic Management
    • Education Policy, Leadership, and Management
    • Curriculum and Teaching
    • Learning Analytics in Higher Education
    • Reading, Literacy, Assessment, and Evaluation
    • School Safety, Security, and Emergency
    • Organizational Leadership

Is It Worth It to Get a PhD in Education?

Like many other doctoral degrees, an online PhD in education will make various new careers in education a possibility. Many of these positions have a healthy demand for new hires and largely revolve around positions in research, administration, and postsecondary teaching. Below is a chart of what you can expect from some of these positions in terms of pay and future job growth.

CareerMedian Annual Earnings
Job Growth
Postsecondary Education
Elementary, Middle, or High
School Principal
Instructional Coordinator$63,74010%
Postsecondary Education

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics