What can I do besides teach with an Ed.D.—and how much can I make?

BY Sydney LakeAugust 04, 2022, 12:55 PM
On campus at the University of California, Irvine, in January 2022. (Allen J. Schaben—Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

A doctoral degree could land you at the highest echelons of education—and could even get you to the White House. In 2007, First Lady Jill Biden earned her Ed.D. degree from the University of Delaware, where she had also earned a bachelor’s degree in English. 

The First Lady taught English while earning her master’s degree in education from West Chester State College; she earned a second master’s degree in English. Biden then went on to teach at Northern Virginia Community College, where she is a professor of writing and English. During her time as Second Lady, and now First Lady, she continues to champion community college and free education.

“We all reap the benefits when our citizens are well educated and well trained,” Biden said during a conference held in 2015, when she served as Second Lady. “It means that our economies are more vibrant and our future is brighter.”

While not everyone who earns an Ed.D. degree will go on to serve in the White House, graduates pursue a myriad of career paths. 

“These candidates are often working professionals who want to further their leadership skills and may work for a variety of organizations in an educational or professional development capacity such as K–12 schools, higher education, nonprofits, government, and business,” Clara Hauth, an associate professor of Ed.D. leadership at Marymount University, tells Fortune.

Primary, secondary education

Some Ed.D. graduates go on to become leaders in primary and secondary education, or K–12 institutions. A student going into the program may be an assistant principal who is interested in becoming a school principal or district superintendent, Tracy Poon Tambascia, director of the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education’s online Ed.D. program, tells Fortune. 

According to Payscale, elementary school principals earn about $84,000 per year, on average, and high school principals earn roughly $91,000. Superintendents can earn anywhere from $105,000 to $228,000 per year, according to the School Superintendents Association. More than 40% of superintendents hold an Ed.D., according to a 2021–22 study by the association.

Higher education

Graduates from Ed.D. programs also pursue jobs in higher education, including roles as a university president, provost, or dean, according to Northeastern University.  

“Ed.D. candidates often want to learn more about how to develop transformational leadership skills, how to apply research to educational changes in their organization, and how to support research with best practices in the workplace,” Hauth says. 

University presidents tend to be head fundraisers for schools and establish much of their schools’ strategic vision. With that level of responsibility, university presidents rake in an average salary of $311,000, according to Salary.com. Some top university presidents even earn seven figures, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But administrative roles aren’t the only career path within higher education; many Ed.D. graduates also continue or start a career as a college professor.


Continuing education has increasingly become a benefit in corporate America as companies are paying for their employees to attend classes, seminars, and other programs. For that reason, the role of the chief learning officer (CLO) has become increasingly important—and that’s another hot career path for Ed.D. graduates. 

Chief learning officers don’t just organize trainings. Rather, they’re experts in “enterprise learning, change management, leadership development, performance consulting, data and analytics, financial acumen, and learning technologies,” according to the Association for Talent Development. Such expertise earns them six-figure salaries; as of April 1, 2022, the average CLO salary was $124,000, according to ZipRecruiter.

“The role of the CLO is not just about training anymore,” George Westerman, MIT Sloan senior lecturer and principal research scientist for workforce learning with the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab, said during an MIT Sloan Executive Education webinar in August 2020. “It’s about cultivating in everybody and cultivating in the company the ability to grow and to change and to thrive in this rapidly moving world.”

See how the schools you’re considering fared in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s degree programs in nursingcomputer sciencecybersecuritypsychology, public healthbusiness analyticsdata science, doctorate in education, and part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.