So, You Are Interested in a Doctorate Degree in Education?
I was recently with my niece who is a vice principal of an elementary school in Kentucky. She is very motivated and an excellent role model for her staff and students. While we were chatting at a family gathering, she told me she was interested in possibly obtaining a doctorate degree in education. As one who has a doctorate in education and encourages anyone in favor of seeking advanced degrees, I was excited to discuss the topic with her and share it with you.
Typical steps to pursue a doctoral degree include completing an undergraduate degree, which may take on average four to six years to obtain. The next step is to secure a master’s degree, which will take two to four years to obtain. Completing your doctorate degree may take an additional five to seven years depending on your circumstances. Many students jump into the entire process and obtain the three degrees in linear fashion, which takes less time but is not always recommended.
Others will obtain a bachelor’s degree then a master’s degree and wait a few years to begin doctoral work. There is no magic time formula. It took me four years to obtain a bachelor’s degree, two years to secure a master’s degree and six additional years to generate a doctorate degree. The key is whether you are going to school on a part- or full-time basis.
When looking at a typical graduate doctoral program at a university, you must first apply and be accepted into the graduate doctoral program. For example, this could involve having an up-to-date resume/CV, statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, supplemental application, portfolio and passing the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or other forms of testing. Once you are accepted, you will have to take and pass a variety of courses of study so you can begin the process of determining potential research topics.
During the research topic process, you will meet with your instructors and the Institutional Review Board (IRB). This process will help you develop the skills needed to conduct independent research. You will then have to pass a comprehensive examination that may be oral, written or both. The goal is for the faculty to assess your readiness for the dissertation process. Along this path, you will establish your doctoral committee that consists of several EdDs and PhDs.
If you pass your exams, you will begin the dissertation process phase. Once your proposal has been approval by your mentor, committee and the IRB, independent research and writing begins. The process of intensive research and authoring a multi-chapter book essentially transforms the student into a scholar. Once the research and writing are complete, the dissertation must be evaluated in-depth and defended by you with them. When each committee member approves the dissertation, you will have earned your doctorate degree.
According to EducationDegree.com, the PhD is typically used by educators who want to continue teaching and research. The EdD is usually an educational leader and practitioner who pursues excellence and solving problems in educational systems. Common specialization tracks for both degree types can include early childhood education, special education, adult education, teacher leadership, curriculum, instruction, and learning and leadership. If you work toward a PhD in education, you will usually seek employment as a college professor. An EdD holder usually works in administration or as a community or district-wide leader. Both doctorates will focus on the generation of research, writing and presentation skills.
While obtaining a doctorate is a noble goal, Elsevier provides advice for anyone to consider when thinking about securing the PhD degree.
- Actively seek out information about PhD programs.
- A PhD program is not simply a continuation of your undergraduate program.
- Take a break between your undergraduate education and a PhD program.
- Your current area of study does not dictate what you must study in graduate school.
- Make sure the PhD program has a variety of research options.
- Location is more important than you think—but name recognition is not,
- Those time management skills you developed in college? Develop them further.
- Expect to learn research skills on the fly.
- There are no real breaks.
My advice to my niece and anyone thinking about securing a doctorate degree is the following: You must be continually motivated to attain this terminal degree. Realize at times that you will make many sacrifices during a multi-year time frame. You must love reading, writing and your field of study to survive this rigor of academics. There are several hurdles that you must jump including passing an entrance exam, oral and written comprehensive exam, dissertation process and of course, the final defense.
Since I was working during my doctoral process, I had to drive across states numerous times to complete this work. My greatest ally was one member of the doctoral committee who took a special interest in my success. If you obtain your doctoral degree, you will view it as one of your life’s greatest personal achievements. I would love for my niece to seek her EdD degree in education administration. If this happens, I will be first in line to see her walk across the commencement stage!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, IN plus Adjunct Professor for Olivet Nazarene University. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.