Knowledge is power—and education is empowerment. With one of the following 10 Best Online PhDs in K-12 Education, you'll build an advanced understanding of how to empower the next generation.
The elementary, middle, and high school years are crucial in shaping who we are and who we will become. This is why it's so essential to build strong, stable educational foundations for the youth of today and tomorrow. With one of Grad School Hub's 10 Best Online PhDs in K-12 Education, working education professionals can build an advanced understanding of effective educational structure.
Each program can be completed either fully or partially online, allowing educators to continue working while they study and research. The following list includes practical Doctor of Education degrees, research-based Doctor of Philosophy degrees, and more specialized Specialist in Education degrees. In any case, doctoral students will learn about administration, leadership, and supervision; curriculum and instruction; superintendency; and beyond.
Graduates can then apply this knowledge to public school settings from kindergarten through 12th grade. They may use their doctoral education to deepen their existing educational practice, or to advance to a more administrative or supervisory role. The programs listed are ideal for those hoping to become principals in elementary, middle, or high school settings. Principals generally manage school staff, coordinate curriculums, and oversee school activities and practices.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2018 average salary for K-12 administrators, such as principals, was $95,310. The demand for principals is experiencing an eight percent growth rate, which is about as fast as average. The skills and effectiveness of school principals can make a huge difference in school environments and students' lives. An advanced degree in K-12 Education is a great way to learn how to make that difference.
The staff of Grad School Hub has compiled the following 10 Best Online PhDs in K-12 Education for the 2019-20 academic school year based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Data contributed from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Labor plays a significant role in how graduate degree programs are ranked because institutional transparency is essential for deciding which career path is right for you. Based on this data, GSH organizes information into five weighted categories, which are:
- Alumni Feedback: 20%
- Continued Enrollment: 20%
- Degree Selectivity: 10%
- Graduate Expenses: 25%
- Projected Annual Salary: 25%
A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible through our Ranking Methodology page.
Here are the 10 Best Online PhDs in K-12 Education for 2019 – 2020!
#10 – Ball State University
Doctor of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision
Ball State University offers a Doctorate of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision. The degree program is offered in a blended format, combining primarily online learning with monthly face-to-face classes. Applicants must have a master's degree to be admitted to the program. While the program allows for flexibility, it is designed to satisfy Indiana school superintendency requirements. Students must have one or two related fields or minors. Cognate field options include composition, marriage and family counseling, and neuropsychology. The curriculum consists of a minimum of 90 graduate credits, 48 of which must be completed through Ball State. Required master's courses include Human Resource Development, a Principal Internship, and School Law. All students must also complete a series of courses in statistics and research methods, a superintendent internship, and an approved 10-credit dissertation.
Ball State was founded in 1918 by the Ball brothers, two Indiana industrialists. Originally a private teacher training school, BSU is now a public research university. The university's Teachers College is its oldest educational component. It is housed in the second-tallest building in Delaware County. In addition to its main campus in Muncie, the university operates satellite facilities in the Indiana towns of Fishers and Indianapolis. U.S. News & World Report ranks BSU at No. 171 in National Universities and No. 91 in Top Public Schools. The university also ranks at No. 38 in Best Online Graduate Education Programs.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $21,172
#9 – Indiana University Bloomington
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
Indiana University Bloomington offers a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership through its School of Education. Applicants must hold a master's degree to be admitted. The degree program is delivered in a blended format, with classes meeting on campus three weekends per semester and the remainder of instruction delivered online. Individuals must also participate in four-day on-campus residencies in Bloomington each June. Rather than being rooted in theory like a Ph.D. program, the university's EdD is built around project-based research. The 60-credit curriculum includes major required courses in Moral Dimensions of Leadership, Planning, and Change in Educational Organizations, and Public School Personnel Management. Each cohort group consists of 10 to 12 students and begins every other fall. The next intake is Fall 2019, followed by Fall 2021.
Established in 1820, IU Bloomington is the largest university in the system in terms of student enrollment. The public research university offers a green, historic campus on a bed of limestone in Bloomington, Indiana. It is a member of the Association of American Universities. The university's School of Education is one of the largest education schools in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranks IU at No. 89 in National Universities and No. 38 in Top Public Schools. The university also ranks at No. 45 in Best Online Graduate Education Programs.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,388
#8 – University of North Dakota
Doctor of Education in Educational Practice and Leadership
Grand Forks, ND
The University of North Dakota offers a Doctorate of Education in Educational Practice and Leadership. The entirely online degree program prepares graduates to work in school leadership roles. The interdisciplinary program incorporates perspectives of diversity, equity, and innovation. It offers specializations in Higher Education, School Leadership, Special Education, and Teacher Education. The 90-credit curriculum includes course offerings in Administration and Organizational Behavior, Higher Education Diversity Systems and Policy, and Issues and Trends in Education. Students can pursue research through action research, classroom inquiry, learning analytics, or program evaluation. All students must complete a supervised internship in multiple diverse educational settings. The degree takes an estimated three years to complete.
Established in 1883, UND is the oldest higher education institution in the state of North Dakota. Founded with a strong liberal arts foundation, it is now a public research university. A space-grant institution, it is possibly best known for its pioneering aerospace and aviation programs. The university's campus in Grand Forks hosts national research institutions including the Energy and Environmental Research Center, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the USDA Human Nutrition Center. U.S. News & World Report ranks UND at No. 112 in Top Public Schools and No. 61 in Best Online Graduate Education Programs.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $20,526
#7 – University of South Alabama
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
The University of South Alabama offers a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership through its Department of Leadership and Teacher Education. The executive degree program is delivered with online and blended-format courses, allowing students to keep their full-time education jobs while also studying on a full-time basis. The 60-credit curriculum includes courses in educational leadership, ethics and legal issues, finance, global education, program evaluation, and research methods. The doctoral dissertation is rooted in practice, integrating practical research from individuals' educational work settings. Students can also expect to complete multiple research projects and attend various professional seminars. The degree program is designed to be completed in three years of intensive study.
The University of South Alabama was established in 1963 to replace the Mobile extension centers of the University of Alabama. Today, it is a public sea- and space-grant research university and the second largest employer in Mobile, Alabama. It aims to prepare its students to engage with the local Gulf Coast region and beyond effectively. The university's research facilities include the Center for the Study of War and Memory, the Literacy Center, the Coastal Weather Research Center, and the Gulf Coast Behavioral Health & Resiliency Center. In 2017, the university received three National Science Foundation awards. USA has research partnerships with organizations including the American Cancer Society, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and the U.S. Department of Education.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $15,156
#6 – Arkansas State University
Specialist in Education in Educational Leadership, Superintendency
Arkansas State University offers an Ed.S. degree program in Educational Leadership, Superintendency. All applicants must have a master's degree and a minimum of three years of education experience. Designed for working professionals, the accelerated degree program can be completed online. It prepares graduates to work in leadership positions in public school systems. The 30-credit curriculum includes core courses in Contemporary Issues in American Education, Curriculum Theory and Practice, and Schooling in a Pluralistic Society. All students must also complete a supervised internship and field study experience. The degree program can be completed in as few as 18 months.
A-State was established in 1909 as a regional agricultural training school. Today, it is a public research university and the flagship campus of the Arkansas State University System. It is also the second-largest university in the state in terms of student enrollment. Located in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the campus sits atop Crowley's Ridge, an unusual geological formation near the Mississippi River. The university also operates a campus in QuerÃ©taro, Mexico. U.S. News & World Report ranks A-State at No. 95 in Regional Universities South and No. 38 in Top Public Schools. The university also ranks at No. 115 in Best Online Graduate Education Programs.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,612
#5 – East Carolina University
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
East Carolina University offers a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership. The degree program is designed to prepare graduates for advanced leadership positions in public K-12 schools or higher education institutions. All applicants should have a minimum of three years of leadership experience. Applicants looking to focus on public school administration must hold Level I licensure in administration or supervision. The curriculum covers topics including curriculum and instruction development, human resource development, leadership theory, and policy analysis. It requires a minimum of 60 credit hours beyond the master's degree. Core courses include Ethics in Educational Leadership, Doctoral Seminar in Human Resource Development, and Organizational Theory and Culture. All students must also complete internship leadership and research practicum and a doctoral dissertation. Graduates of the program will be eligible to upgrade previously held licenses.
In addition to its main campus in Greenville, ECU operates five campuses, including campuses specializing in coastal studies and millennial research innovation and an overseas campus in Italy. The sea grant university also operates the Coastal Studies Institute. The ECU College of Education is the university's oldest and largest college. The college administers an international journal called the Journal of Curriculum and Instruction. U.S. News & World Report ranks ECU at No. 106 in Top Public Schools and No. 29 in Best Online Graduate Education Programs.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,898
#4 – Mercer University
Specialist in Education in Early Childhood Education
Mercer University offers a Specialist in Education degree in Early Childhood Education through its Tift College of Education. Designed for certified educators with master's degrees, the specialized degree program can be completed entirely online. The program incorporates topics such as curriculum development, diversity, and theory and research. Students will also gain experience and expertise in written and oral communication skills. Graduates of the program are eligible to upgrade their teaching certification to a Level 6 certificate. Students also have the option to pursue an additional endorsement in Autism, English as a Second Language, K-5 Math, or Reading.
Founded in 1833, Mercer is the oldest private university in the state of Georgia. It is a research university and member of the Georgia Research Alliance. In addition to its historic main campus in Macon, the university operates a graduate and professional campus in Atlanta and a medical campus in Savannah. Its other academic facilities include teaching hospitals throughout the state and The Grand Opera House, a university press and performing arts center. The university has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for its community engagement. U.S. News & World Report ranks Mercer at No. 140 in National Universities and No. 35 in Best Value Schools.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $14,370
#3 – Texas Tech University
Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction, concentration in Curriculum Studies/Teacher Education
Texas Tech University offers a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education. Offered through the university's College of Education, the degree program can be completed in a face-to-face or blended format. With the mixed option, more than half of instruction will occur online, while a two-week summer intensive program is required each summer. The specialization incorporates culture, ethics, history, philosophy, and politics into its approach to curriculum development and delivery. The degree requires 93 to 99 hours of study. The core curriculum consists of three courses: Curriculum Theory: Inquiry; Diversity Ideologies: Implications for Schooling; and Research Design in Curriculum Studies & Teacher Education. The doctoral dissertation consists of 12 credit hours of study. The degree program is designed to be completed in three years.
Established in 1923, Texas Tech is the primary institution of the Texas Tech University System. The state university's student enrollment is the seventh-largest in the state of Texas. A Carnegie-classified top-tier research university, TTU researches in areas such as atmospheric sciences, epidemiology, and wind energy. Located in Lubbock, the campus features Spanish Renaissance architecture, award-winning groundskeeping, and one of the top-ranked public art collections in the United States. Research facilities operated by the university's College of Education include the Academy for Teacher Induction Support and Assistance and the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research. U.S. News & World Report ranks TTU at No. 100 in Top Public Schools and No. 89 in Best Online Graduate Education Programs.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,068
#2 – University of Southern California
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership, concentration in K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings
Los Angeles, CA
The University of Southern California offers a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership through its Rossier School of Education. Applicants must hold a master's degree and have a minimum of three years of relevant full-time work experience, including leadership experience. The online degree program prepares students to incorporate research, theory, and equity into their leadership of public K-12 schools. Course offerings include Leadership Enactment; Power, Diversity and Equity; and Resourcing Schools for Equity and Excellence. Students can also expect to complete research methods courses and an action-oriented practical research dissertation. The program is designed to be completed in three years.
Founded in 1880, USC is the oldest private research university in the state of California. It is also the largest private employer in the city of Los Angeles. A sea- and space-grant institution, it is a member of the Association of American Universities. USC innovations and developments include antivirus software, DNA computing, and the Domain Name System. The university's Rossier School of Education has an overall emphasis on urban education in Los Angeles and beyond. U.S. News & World Report ranks USC at No. 37 in Best Value Schools, No. 28 in Most Innovative Schools, and No. 22 in National Universities. The Rossier School ranks at No. 12 in Best Education Schools at the graduate level.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $43,200
#1 – Vanderbilt University
Doctor of Education in Leadership and Learning in Organizations
Vanderbilt University offers GSH's No. 1 doctor K-12 Education program. The Doctor of Education in Leadership and Learning is provided through the university's Peabody College of Education and Human Development. The degree program is designed for educational leaders and combines theory and practice in organizational change. It holds live classes online each week, using webcam technology to incorporate group discussions, question-and-answer sessions, and guided learning. The curriculum is comprised of 54 credit hours beyond the master's degree. Course offerings include Leading Diverse Organizations and Psychological Perspectives on Learning. All students must complete a capstone research project and attend three on-campus meetings. The degree program is designed to be completed in three to four years.
Vanderbilt was founded in 1873 and named after its benefactor, shipping and rail magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. The private research university operates research facilities including the Dyer Observatory, the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, and the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. The campus is a designated arboretum located in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee. The university's Peabody College was established in 1875 and existed as an independent institution until it joined Vanderbilt in 1979. U.S. News & World Report ranks Vanderbilt at No. 37 in Most Innovative Schools, No. 14 in National Universities, and No. 7 in Best Value Schools. The Peabody School ranks at No. 6 in Best Education Schools and No. 1 in Education Administration and Supervision at the graduate level.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $45,840