10 Most Affordable Online Doctorates in Adult Education & Learning in 2021

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Updated June 28, 2021

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Earning an online Ed.D. in Adult Education and learning may sound like an odd career path, but it is, in fact, a vital degree for those who are interested in helping adults and professions continue to grow and develop in their own careers. With the rise of professional degrees and certificates, it's becoming a necessity to provide adult students with educators who understand their particular needs. This is where an online terminal degree comes into play, especially for education professionals.

Online programs are actually one of the best options for professionals in this field as it provides students with the opportunity to earn their degree in the way that, once they graduate, their own students will. Because online education is prevalent, and indeed a preferred way to engage in professional education, professors who earn their degree in this way will be able to better predict any issues that may arise with their own students. It is also why this ranking has been created.

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10 Most Affordable Online Doctorates in Adult Education & Learning in 2021

  • Florida International University

    Miami, FL



    Students at Florida International University have an excellent option for an online Ed.D. in Adult Education and Learning. This comes in the form of the Adult Education and Human Resource Development Ed.D. degree pathway, which comes with interesting cognates. Students can either choose their own custom

    cognate within the degree or choose from one of six directed cognates, which include International and Intercultural Education, Urban Education, and Labor Studies. These cognates are a way for students to further specialize their education within a terminal degree. This is a degree specifically designed for scholars and scholar-practitioners; the program was designed to develop leadership and research abilities within each doctoral candidate. The degree requires 84 credit hours of coursework, research projects, and a comprehensive exam. Students will also find that their dissertation requirement can come in either a traditional five-chapter format or a collected papers format; the latter is based on research papers the student has completed during their degree plan. Sample courses include Adult Teaching Methods, Foundations of Educational Research, and Educational Research Methodology.

  • Kansas State University

    Manhattan, KS



    Kansas State University confers two exceptional adult education doctorate online degrees for students to choose from: the doctor of philosophy and the doctor of education. Both degrees will prepare graduates for a position in an educational setting, enabling them to work as academics, researchers, and even administrators in a wide range of workplace settings. The courses delivered at this university are between eight and 14 weeks in length and most requirements can be completed online. There are two residency requirements, however; two courses must be completed on campus and are offered during the summer as a one-week on-campus intensive workshop. Students will be required to complete 60 credit hours of coursework, research, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation; they will also be required to present at a conference with approval from their major professor. Sample courses include Adult Development Theory, Scholarly Writing, and Characteristics of the Adult Learner.

  • Morehead State University

    Morehead, KY



    Morehead State University confers an online adult education Ed.D. program that is perfect for students interested in a practitioner-based degree. This hybrid degree will require some residencies at the campus, but these are determined by the school on an annual basis. Students can expect this degree to focus entirely on the implementation and design of educational programs aimed at adult learners, with courses discussing how instruction of adult professionals has changed over the years. This degree requires 60 credit hours of coursework, a research paper, comprehensive exam, and the successful entry and defense of a dissertation. Students will also be offered the opportunity to further specialize their degree with an alternative area of emphasis. Sample courses for this program include Advanced Instructional Design, History of Adult and Higher Education, and Legal and Ethical Issues and the Exercise of Judgment in Education.

  • North Carolina State University

    Raleigh, NC



    North Carolina State University confers an adult education online Ed.D. that is aimed specifically at adult and community college educators. This is a professional, executive-format, hybrid cohort program that enables students to complete the necessary requirements for the degree in under three-and-a-half years. This is also a part-time program, enabling students with full-time jobs to pursue their education without disrupting their careers. Students will be required to take residency at the campus, but the exact dates for this residency depend on the department's goals for the cohort. Students can expect to complete 60 credit hours of coursework and research, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation prior to earning the degree. Sample courses include Administrative Issues in Adult and Community College Education, Reflective Practice, and Improvement Science.

  • Northwestern State University of Louisiana

    Natchitoches, LA



    The Northwestern State University of Louisiana offers a 100 percent online Ed.D. in Adult Education and Learning degree. This is a scholar-practitioner degree, meaning that students who graduate from this program will be able to work in advanced leadership roles in business, community colleges, and educational firms. Core competency areas include teaching and learning, curriculum and instructional design, and workforce development. Students will also be able to choose from two concentrations; these are Community College Leadership and Adult Learning and Workforce Development. This is a comprehensive degree, with students expected to complete 65 credit hours of coursework, research projects, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Instructional Design and Professional Development for Adult Learners, Diversity and Multicultural Perspectives in Adulthood, and Understanding Organizational Leadership and Change.

  • Texas State University

    San Marcos, TX



    Students interested in an online Ed.D. in Adult Education and Learning will find a great scholar-practitioner program at Texas State University. This is an interdisciplinary program that is built to help adult educators who work in a variety of settings, including in libraries and museums. This hybrid, cohort program was created for working professionals, meaning that students are able to enroll full-time or part-time and work within an accelerated format to complete the requirements of the degree faster. Students will need to complete 63 credit hours of coursework, a research proposal, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include The History and Philosophy of Adult Education, Community Development, and The Literature Review for Research Writing.

  • University of Arkansas

    Fayetteville, AR



    The ADLL Ed.D. program at the University of Arkansas is a great online Ed.D. in Adult Education and Learning degree option for students. This is a scholar-practitioner degree, meaning that it was designed for students who wish to become instructors in an educational setting. The core coursework focuses on the design, implementation and analysis of education programs for adult students. This cohort hybrid degree offers two specializations: adult education leadership and community college leadership; either concentration can pave the way forward for licensure in the state of Arkansas. Either specialization will require 60 credit hours of coursework, research, and a dissertation; a comprehensive exam is also necessary. Sample courses include Analysis of International Adult and Lifelong Programs, Adult Development and Psychology, and Instructional Adaptation and Innovation in Adult and Lifelong Learners.

  • University of Idaho

    Moscow, ID



    The University of Idaho confers an adult education Ed.D. online degree that is perfect for students who are ready to teach professional development and training programs. While this degree is mostly offered online, there is a practicum requirement; students may take this experience within their own area of residence only if the department approves. For others, a short stay on campus during the summer may be a requirement. All other work can be done at a student's convenience; most courses are delivered through the asynchronous format and many are offered in accelerated eight-week and 10-week terms. Students can expect to complete 80 credit hours of coursework, research projects, and a dissertation; as previously mentioned, a work experience is required and a comprehensive exam successfully completed. Sample courses in this degree include Future of Education and Work, Career Development and Organizations, and Instructional Design and Curriculum.

  • University of South Florida

    Tampa, FL



    The University of South Florida offers an Ed.D. in Adult Education online that will prepare students for work as a researcher, leader, or an academic. This is a professional and research-based degree aimed at providing educators with the necessary education to help them reach their career goals. Students will need to be aware that this is a hybrid degree; a year-long campus residency is required to complete the degree. Students will also be required to complete 64 credit hours of coursework, a research project, attend both a state and a national education conference, help organize a symposium, successfully pass a comprehensive exam, and complete and defend a dissertation. Sample courses include Foundations of Educational Research, Assisting the Adult Learner, and Adult Teaching Methods.

  • Valdosta State University

    Valdosta, GA



    Students interested in an online Ed.D. in Adult Education and Learning that can help them become adult educators will be interested in Valdosta State University. This school confers the Ed.D. in Adult and Career Education, a practitioner-based program that prepares students to become educators and leaders in the field of adult and career education. This is a substantive degree that does have residency requirements, often during the summer. The school understands that most of its students are full-time professionals in the education system, so residency requirements are generally offered during the summer to not cause a burden to a professional's career. This degree requires 54 credit hours of coursework, a research project, the submission of a research paper to a major publication, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Curriculum and Instructional Systems, Adult Learning Strategies, and Interdisciplinary Studies in Education.

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Grad School Hub compiles rankings based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics play a significant role in how we source our educational data. After collecting insight for each institution, we organize information into five weighted categories.
Metric Data Used Percentage
Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 30%
Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 10%
Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 30%
Program Offerings Number of program options 20%
Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 10%
A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible on our Ranking Methodology page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Career Options for an Online Doctorate in Adult Education and Learning?

The adult education and learning field is a broad community of educators, and career options are more varied than one might think, especially if little research has been done into the field. While it is absolutely possible, and even popular, to earn the degree in order to become an educator, there are a wide variety of job opportunities in different sectors that are available as well.

Adult educators can also work in the business sector, either for professional organizations or private companies. They can be professional development educators hired by a human resource team to teach a department soft or hard skills, can work as an educator for a continuing education program required by a specific set of educators, or even work to develop leadership workshops and retreats for major corporations.

These professionals are also found in the public and government sector, working in libraries, museums, government agencies, social services, the military, non-profit organizations, charities, and foundations. They can be administrators, leaders, or educators in any one of these professional settings, most often working to deliver a specific educational concept to a particular demographic.

Last but not least, adult educators can be found working in the community, either through community centers or social services. These are professionals who work to serve their local area of residence, providing professional development courses to struggling citizens who cannot afford a traditional education. They often work in delivering conferences and workshops on soft skills, can advise clients on their resume and viable work opportunities, and more.

Additionally, it is possible for adult educators to work as freelancers or writers, delivering their own experience and understanding of the field in a way that is easy for everyone to digest. They may create their own blogs, write nonfiction books, build a consulting firm, or even work as a freelance writer in the education field.

How Much Can You Earn in this Field?

The salaries for professionals in the adult education and learning field vary both by sector and by actual position. Differences can also be spotted for the same position in different parts of the country, so students are advised to keep that in mind when reading the following information.

Adult educators make, on average, around $49,000 a year. This includes community college educators, online professors, ESL teachers, and more. The salary can also vary depending on where the demand for these teachers is highest; cost-of-living also plays a role in the differences between salaries.

Adult educators who find work in a leadership or administrative role in the public or government sector can expect to earn between $65,000 to $90,000 a year, depending on the company they work for or if they are federal employees. These positions generally also include benefits, such as health insurance, sick days, and yearly bonuses.

Community service educators can make anywhere between $35,000 to $50,000; again, the exact salary depends on the position's responsibilities and the region of America where the position is held. Charities and nonprofit organizations pay a little more with slightly more benefits, but these positions may also be international and require the professional move to another country for a set amount of time.

Can You Earn a Teaching Licensure with an Online Degree in Adult Education and Learning?

The short and simple answer is yes, a student can earn licensure with an online degree should they choose to pursue an educator position after they graduate. This comes with some caveats, however, and students should be aware of them prior to enrolling in a doctoral degree.

First, a student should consider whether or not they want to become educators in an academic setting. This is not the only career option open to these professionals, and indeed some may never teach in a classroom setting. Knowing the end goal will help students figure out if a teaching licensure is critical for them.

Second, should a student choose to pursue a leadership or administrative role, a teaching license may not be a requirement for them. Many large corporations and private businesses will require that a professional has the licensure as part of the application process, but it is not vital for every role. It is best for a student to do research on the matter before applying for a degree.

Third, while online degrees do offer a pathway towards licensure, many doctoral programs will require a student to already be licensed to teach in their home state prior to accepting the student to the program. Not all schools require this, but students should be aware that it could be a possible hindrance to entering the program if they have not already been licensed.

Finally, online programs can offer a pathway to licensure, but completing the degree does not guarantee licensure. Many programs are barred from offering the pathway in different states; students should check to see if their state will accept the doctoral degree as a prerequisite for a teaching license. Additionally, students will be expected to sit for licensure and keep up to date with the requirements to have a license in good standing.

Does Accreditation Matter for Online Degrees?

Accreditation absolutely matters, especially for a degree in education. Any professional who chooses to pursue a degree in education that does not go to a regionally and specially accredited university is doing themselves a disservice. They also make it harder for themselves to earn licensure and credentials in their area of focus.

Online programs do carry accreditation, usually at the regional level. Some online-only schools have national accreditation. In any case, a student is advised against attending a school that has not been accredited at least on the national or regional level.

Some cheap online adult education Ed.D. programs offer specialty accreditations, such as recognition from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. It is a prestigious recognition, one that many schools will be very proud of and display on their program websites. While not all online doctoral programs hold this distinction, some do, so students are encouraged to research those schools.

But why is accreditation important? For adult educators, a teaching licensure is part of the requirement of earning a position after graduation. Most states will not license a student who has come from an online program that is not accredited. This means that a student searching for licensure who attends a non-accredited school will have to either take professional development courses after graduation at an extra cost or go to work in a non-academic environment.

As more professionals continue to go back to school, whether to keep up with credential requirements or for their own goals, the need for more adult educators will continue to grow. From offering students a stable and secure environment to study in to guide professionals through their journey to advance in their careers, these educators are a necessary part of the working world. That's why the GSH staff built this ranking, offering ambitious students the chance to narrow down their school of choice by graduate tuition rates, and work placement opportunities. The search is now easier for the best online EdD in Adult Education & Learning.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Explore Similar Programs.

This concludes our ranking of the Top 10 Most Affordable Doctorate in Adult Education and Learning Online.

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