Online Ed.D in K-12 Education programs give students the chance to earn an advanced degree from a college or university that offers online classes. For many students, going back to school or getting a doctoral degree is almost impossible because they can't afford to take time away from work. Those who want to work as curriculum directors, principals and college professors though will need this type of advanced degree. To help students find programs that they can actually afford, we created a list of the most affordable online doctoral programs for those interested in K-12 education.
Instead of just looking for schools that claim to offer affordable programs, we did the legwork necessary to not only find but to also rank those schools. We started our search at the National Center for Education Statistics. This center documents important information about colleges, including what programs those schools offer and tuition rates. Though we initially found more than 100 schools offering K-12 education Ed.D online programs, we quickly discovered that some programs were quite expensive. We then narrowed down our list to just 50 schools and eventually found the 10 most affordable options for online students. Our hard work proves that there are 10 online programs that cost less than $11,000 a year to attend.
The National Center for Education Statistics has its own College Navigator that we used to create our list and rank the top schools that we found. This makes it easy for students to quickly find out which schools charge the lowest tuition rates and to find out more about these programs for educators. Our list puts the most affordable schools at the very bottom and the slightly more expensive programs at the top. We also included some helpful and useful information about what students can do with this degree and the benefits of these programs.
Ranking Low-cost Online K-12 Education EdD Programs
10. Northern Arizona University
Online Educational Leadership, Doctor of Education
Tuition: $10,764 per year
Northern Arizona University (NAU) offers an educational leadership doctoral program with a concentration in K-12 education for those who want to work in elementary, junior high and high schools, but there is also a concentration available for those who want to work in higher education. It features a research component that asks students to do their own research when working on a dissertation. Those students must also defend their work in front of a panel of experts, including professors from the department. Students take nine credits of evaluation and research classes, nine credits of leadership theory classes and nine credits of foundation classes. NAU also requires that students take 18 credits of administration courses that can include doing an internship in the field.
For more information: Northern Arizona University
9. Indiana University
Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
Tuition: $10,388 per year
The K-12 education doctorate online program that Indiana University offers is a type of blended learning or hybrid program. This gives students the chance to use some of the resources that are otherwise only available to traditional students. Students must agree to study on its main campus in Bloomington three weekends during each semester, but they can then take all their remaining classes online. The university offers a four-day seminar in June that all students attend too, which gives them the chance to work and meet the others in their cohort. A joint program is also available through IU that allows students to also earn a Master of Science in Strategic Management through the university's Kelly School of Business.
For more information: Indiana University
8. Northcentral University
San Diego, California
Online Doctorate in Learning Analytics K-12
Tuition: $10,368 per year
One of the more unique online programs available to online students is the Learning Analytics K-12 program offered by Northcentral University, which focuses more on the theories behind why and how students learn. Those enrolled in this program will learn how to cater different learning methods to students based on how well those students learn. It typically takes students 45 months to complete this program, which features 18 courses that are worth a total of 54 credits. Students bringing in credits from a master's program can graduate faster. This NCU program includes courses such as scholarly literature review, advanced qualitative design and measurement, foundations for doctoral study in education and advanced scholarly writing.
For more information: Northcentral University
7. Ball State University
Online Doctor of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision
Tuition: $9,654 per year
Earning an online Ed.D in K-12 education through Ball State University allows students to focus on working in supervision and administration in schools. The university offers helpful information for students living other states that shows them whether the program will help them get licensed and find jobs in states outside of Indiana. This program requires that students take five courses on research methods like educational decision making and methodology of educational research before deciding on a dissertation topic and starting their work. The program features other courses that will help students in their careers too, including educational finance and ethics, human resource development and principles and procedures of curriculum development. Students must also do a principal internship.
For more information: Ball State University
6. Eastern Kentucky University
Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies
Tuition: $8,868 per year
Located in Richmond, Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) has a great location that puts it close to a number of schools and school districts that hire graduates each year. Those enrolled in its online doctoral program learn the skills that will help them find jobs in their own districts and hometown schools. This is one of the only online programs that accepts new students each semester, which allows students to start at the beginning of the next available semester. Though there is a fieldwork component, students can choose to do fieldwork in their own cities. They'll also take classes like leadership for change in organizations, moral and ethical dimensions of leadership and public policy development and assessment.
For more information: Eastern Kentucky University
5. Texas Tech University
Online Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education
Tuition: $8,428 per year
We included the K-12 education online Ed.D that Texas Tech University offers because it's one of the top hybrid programs of its type in the state. Students can take most classes online but will need to complete a residency on the Texas Tech campus. The university asks that students spend up to two weeks each summer working on the campus and that they complete three of these summer components before graduating. Students can transfer in up to 30 credits earned in an accredited master's program and take fewer online classes. This program focuses more on curriculum and instruction to teach students the importance of training good educators and how to improve the resources that schools offer.
For more information: Texas Tech University
4. University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Online Ph.D in Teaching and Learning
Tuition: $8,136 per year
Getting a Ph.D in Teaching and Learning from the University of North Dakota (UND) requires that students complete 90 credits of work past the bachelor's level, the UND allows students to earn credits through its graduate programs or transfer credits from another accredited university. This program offers an emphasis area in higher education or teacher education and serves as a preparation program for those who want to teach. The teacher education emphasis also prepares those students for training other teachers on the best methods to use in their classes. UND made our list of the most affordable programs because it offers in state tuition rates for all online students regardless of where they live.
For more information: University of North Dakota
3. University of South Alabama
Online Executive Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership
Tuition: $7,548 per year
The University of South Alabama designed its Executive Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership to meet the demands of busy students. Those students can actually finish this program in just three years, which is up to half the time it would take to finish similar programs. As a cohort program, it pairs incoming students in small groups and allows those groups to work together in the classes they take later. The P-12 track is perfect for those who want to work with younger children all the way up through higher school, but the university offers a higher education track for those who want to work in colleges too.
For more information: University of South Alabama
2. East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina
Online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
Tuition: $6,997 per year
East Carolina University offers one of the only Ed.D K-12 education online programs we found that goes beyond the high school level. It actually focuses on kindergarten through students in their sophomore years of college. It includes elements of leadership, professional development, planning and policies to provide students with the skills needed to work in school administration. Those who already have a supervision license in North Carolina will meet the requirements to upgrade their licenses after completing this program. Students will need to take classes such as advanced research in educational leadership, problems in educational supervision, qualitative research in educational leadership, program evaluation and a doctoral seminar in curriculum and instruction.
For more information: East Carolina University
1. University of Florida
Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction with a specialization in Curriculum, Teaching and Teacher Education
Tuition: $6,381 per year
Our top choice for the most affordable online Ed.D in K-12 education is the program offered by the University of Florida, which costs less than $7,000 a year. As a cohort program, students will work and interact with the same group from the first classes they take and until they graduate. It features several research classes, a dissertation requirement and a course of theory and other courses. This core includes foundations of research in curriculum and instruction, education and American culture, teacher learning and socialization in poverty schools and issues in school reform. The University of Florida allows students to take electives in fields like literacy, STEM and teacher leadership too.
For more information: University of Florida
Additional Doctorate in K-12 Education Offerings
Texas A&M University
Tuition – $11,036 per year
University of South Carolina
Online Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction
Tuition – $11,454 per year
Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D)
Tuition – $12,075
Western Illinois University
Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D)
Tuition – $12,655
Online Ph.D in Education in K-12 Studies
Tuition – $13,998
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There a Time Limit to Finish These Programs?
Many students do not realize that colleges have a time limit in place that tells students how long they have to work on and finish their degrees. The idea behind this time limit is that it keeps students from filling up spots that others might want because they take too long to finish their programs of study. Education programs typically give students between five and seven years to finish a doctoral degree. Most students spend one to two years taking required classes and spend the rest of their time working on their dissertations. Most top schools will require that students do a dissertation defense too. This asks them to present their work and then answer questions asked about that work.
What are Some of the Disciplines in K-12 Education?
When talking about educational disciplines, the term can refer to the individual topics that teachers cover and the different fields within the industry. Those topics can include math, science, social studies and gym. Most undergraduate programs allow students to pick both what they want to teach and the age range of the students they will teach. This allows those students to graduate and feel ready to teach elementary school math, high school biology or another subject.
Discipline can also refer to some of the positions and areas of interest within this field like school administration. Superintendents are those responsible for multiple schools in a district. They investigate complaints reported by students, teachers, principals and parents, but they also help schools operate within a strict annual budget. Curriculum professionals focus more on the curriculum that schools use. Other disciplines within this field include instruction design, academic research and post-secondary education.
What Jobs are in the Education Field?
The education field has a number of jobs available that go beyond simply working with students. Some of the graduates of these programs work in colleges and universities to train the next generation of students on how to work with their own students. These professors usually have teaching experience at the K-12 level and spend years working with younger students. They share their knowledge with those who want to one day teach students.
A large number of graduates take on administration jobs such as school principals and superintendents. Principals can work in both public and private schools. They are the ones responsible for disciplining students and teachers, interviewing and hiring new teachers, sharing information with parents and the school board and handling the daily needs of the school. Superintendents generally perform more duties on a daily basis and work in or for multiple schools instead of just one.
Curriculum and instruction is a field of educational study that is on the rise. Those working in curriculum design and development are the ones who create new textbooks and find new materials for students and their teachers. They also look at things like test scores to see how well the new curriculum works. Instruction development and design professionals are the ones who work with teachers and train or educate them on how to best meet the needs of their students. Graduates of these programs can also work for government and nonprofit research institutes and organizations.
How Much Do Graduates of These Programs Make?
Comparing the cost of an online K-12 Education Ed.D to the amount that they can make is a great way for students to see just how well the investment they make in their futures will pay off in the long run. Administration professionals working in elementary, high and middle schools can earn more than $95,000 a year. The states that pay administrators the highest average salaries include New York, Illinois and California. Professionals working in those states earn an average salary of more than $100,000 a year.
The average salary of a high school, elementary school or middle/junior high school teacher is less. High school teachers earn more and have a median salary of around $58,000 a year. Elementary school teachers and those who work with younger students earn around $55,000 a year. It's worth noting though that teachers do not need an advanced degree and can find work with just a bachelor's degree. Administrators need both a doctoral degree and some experience. Those working in research as well as curriculum and instruction can earn more than $100,000 a year, though it depends on where they work.
What is the Future Outlook for the Field?
The future outlook for these professions is generally favorable, especially as more charter schools open. It wasn't that long ago that parents only had the option of sending their children to a public school or paying for a private school. Many private schools place an emphasis on religious learning, but there are some private schools that are nondenominational. Charter schools offer an alternative that is more affordable. Those schools need administrators with experience in supervision, curriculum and instruction. Some charter schools are specialized schools that focus on the performing arts or STEM studies. Outlook in this industry is also high because of the number of teachers and administrators reaching retirement age. This leaves more jobs open to recent graduates.
Do Online Programs Help Students Become Certified?
Becoming a teacher in most states requires a few select things. The first is a bachelor's degree. Though substitute teachers can work on a temporary basis without having a license, most states require that teachers have a license. Before becoming a teacher, the individual must submit his or her fingerprints to the police station and pay for a full background check. This check looks for arrests and other issues that might prevent an individual from working with students. Many states also ask that teachers have a bachelor's degree in teaching or education and that they agree to work on and earn a master's degree later. Online programs of this type can help students who do not yet have a license get certified to become a teacher. Some programs also help students meet the requirements to sit for board exams and get licenses that are valid all across the country.
How Can Educational Doctoral Students Get Experience?
Though enrolling in a cheap online K-12 Education Ed.D program helps students save money on the cost of earning a doctoral degree, it may limit the experience that they get working with administrators and teachers. Not all online programs have an internship component, but students in those programs can still gain some experience. They can sign up for an independent research project and gain some fieldwork experience while completing that project. Students can also look at which programs have an internship requirement and ask those schools about how they can find internships working in their own cities.
Doctoral candidates can also look for other ways to gain experience such as volunteering to help a local school during the day or when it hosts a fundraiser. They can work as substitute teachers and get some experience actually teaching students on a daily basis. Some may find it helpful to do administrative work outside of schools to see how other industries operate.
How Do Hybrid Programs Work?
In addition to standard online educational doctoral programs, there are also a few hybrid programs. Some of these programs give students the option of taking some of their classes on the campus, but other programs require that students participate in events designed specifically for online students. Students will spend a full weekend or several weeks on that campus, and the college can arrange for those students to stay in a dorm room or find a hotel near the campus. Programs with a residency component give students the chance to interact with the professors teaching their online classes and the students enrolled in those classes too.
Thanks for checking out our list of the most affordable online programs for K-12 education. We hope our hard work and research helps prospective students pick the top online Ed.D in K-12 education programs.
Updated: March 4, 2020