How much do people with an Ed.D. degree make?

BY Rich GrisetNovember 08, 2022, 8:39 PM
A graduating student of Tennessee State University moves their tassel to the left of their cap before graduation in Nashville, Tennessee, as seen in May 2022. (Photo by SETH HERALD—AFP/Getty Images)

People who work in education aren’t historically among the highest-earners, and there may come a time when they want to make more money and advance their careers. One option to do so is by pursuing a doctorate of education (Ed.D.) degree. A terminal degree within the field of education, an Ed.D. is often sought out by professionals who wish to teach college, become educational or mission-driven leaders, or move into an administrative role like a school system superintendent or school principal. 

“Ed.D.s are for people who want to remain in educational practice,” says Jill Perry, executive director of the Ed.D.-focused Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate and an associate professor of practice at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education. “The Ed.D. is [set up] to give them that extra set of skills to teach them how to—in a systematic and rigorous way—go about creating change through developing arguments for why problems exist.”

Because an Ed.D. program is intended for students who want to pursue leadership roles within the field or even in the private sector, graduates can see a salary boost upon completing their degree. And some Ed.D. grads can bring home six-figure salaries—or more.

How is an Ed.D. different from a Ph.D.?

While an An Ed.D. and a doctorate of philosophy (Ph.D.) in education may seem similar, the degrees have different goals. In general, a Ph.D. program concerns the academic study of education, whereas an Ed.D. program is intended for students who want to pursue leadership roles within the field—and this may mean a salary premium for Ed.D. grads. 

Ed.D. programs are aimed at developing “scholar practitioners” focused on “improving their practice, but using evidence and theory,” says Marisa Cannata, program director of the Ed.D. program at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development.

“Our goal in developing an Ed.D. program is to develop students to have the capacity to read and understand and even conduct rigorous empirical research, but they do so much more in the service of applying this to their professional practice,” says Cannata, who is also associate department chair of the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Peabody, as well as an associate professor of the practice in that department. 

“The difference between the Ed.D. in education and the Ph.D. in education is that somebody who has an Ed.D. wants to remain in practice,” says Perry. “They want to go up in terms of their leadership abilities and in terms of their capabilities of solving and addressing major problems, but their goal is to stay and practice education.”

What careers does an Ed.D. prepare you for?

An Ed.D. can prepare you to move up the career ladder in education. The degree may help teachers advance to become administrators or principals, while principals may move up to become superintendents or secure other administrative roles. Often, people move up within the organization they’re already a part of after completing the doctorate degree.

“People don’t go back for an Ed.D. for a job change, necessarily. They’re already in some form of education and they want to go higher,” Perry says. “It’s not necessarily the kind of degree that you do because you’re looking for more money.”

Many organizations, such as school systems, will pay for employees to pursue an Ed.D. degree, then give them a raise upon completion.

Perry says that some mistakenly view an Ed.D. simply as a credential, instead of a way for a person to obtain skills as a leader that allow them to understand and address problems within their field.

“Oftentimes in the past, the Ed.D. has been seen as a credential, where if you went and got it, if you were in K-12, you might get a $10,000 raise because you had one,” Perry says. “That’s a stigma that we’ve had to fight against for a long time. It may still happen, but it’s not meant to be a credential. It’s meant to be something that actually gives you skills to create change.”

Cannata says Ed.D. programs see many applicants who have five to seven years of professional experience who are interested in moving up the ladder.

“We do see our students move from these middle-level leadership positions to more senior-level positions,” she says. “We do see people grow in their leadership abilities and take on a wider array of roles.”

How will getting an Ed.D. impact my salary?

The potential impact that completing an Ed.D. program will have on your salary depends on which field of education you’re working within, according to Perry.

Becoming the president of a community college, for instance, requires a doctoral degree. If someone obtains an Ed.D. degree and ends up running a community college, the salary bump could be very large. If someone is working for a nonprofit or a museum, the salary bump may be more modest.

Anecdotally, Perry says students have told her that those working in K-12 education in Pennsylvania often see a $10,000 salary bump upon obtaining an Ed.D., but this may vary widely by school division.

Some K-12 roles that may be filled by Ed.D. holders include: 

In higher education, Ed.D. program graduates may work as university presidents, deans or provosts: 

Finally, in the private sector, Ed.D. graduates may become chief learning officers (CLOs), or experts in enterprise learning, leadership development and change management, among other roles:

Salary expectations for Ed.D. grads really depend on what people do post-graduation. “A lot of people stay in their job, or they go up in the organization that they’re in, but a lot of people use their Ed.D. to switch and get a bigger job,” Perry says. “It definitely gives you, in practice, a leg up to a higher position, which obviously comes with higher pay. It will definitely give you a salary boost in what you do.”

Check out all of Fortune’rankings of degree programs, and learn more about specific career paths.