Differentiating the EdD and the PhD in Higher Education

A Survey of Characteristics and Trends





higher education, differentiating PhD and EdD, Educational Doctorate, graduate education


Purpose: Higher education, as a field of study, is one of the few programmatic areas that offer two doctoral degrees: The Doctor of Education (EdD) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). In the United States, the two degrees are often conflated. Conversations, to this point, have done more to contribute to the theoretical debate than to operationally distinguish between the two degree paths. Method: The current study analyzed data collected from a review of the 188 doctoral programs at 145 institutions listed with the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE). Results: Results suggest that while there is a shift toward operational differences between the EdD and the PhD in higher education, the similarities in entrance requirements, formats, and research expectations, to list a few, suggest that the EdD and PhD still require further refinement to reach the theoretical clarity common in many conversations about the education doctorate.

Author Biographies

Holly A. Foster, The University of Southern Mississippi

Holly Foster is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at the University of Southern Mississippi. She received her Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Virginia where she studied student behaviors and how academic and student affairs can collaborate to educate students to prevent unsafe behaviors. She recently developed an EdD program and is interested in motivations and factors related to students’ pursuing graduate education. Further, she is interested in student behaviors and student life, both historical and current.

Steven Chesnut, University of Missouri - Kansas City

Steven R. Chesnut is an Associate Professor and Biostatistician in the School of Nursing and Health Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He received his Ph. D. in Educational Psychology from Texas Tech University in 2015, where he began his studies in advanced quantitative methods and the social cognitive factors that influence teacher development and longevity. His interest in developing and applying statistical techniques in emerging fields has led him to examine contemporary and historical issues in higher education, early childhood development, and public health. He teaches the graduate statistics sequence.

James Thomas, The University of Southern Mississippi

James W. Thomas is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at the University of Southern Mississippi. He received his PhD in Higher Education from the University of Kentucky. His research interests include histories of education, student affairs, and student services with a focus on professionalization and access.

Courtney Robinson, The University of Southern Mississippi

Courtney L. Robinson earned her Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration from The University of Southern Mississippi in spring 2019, where she currently works in the School of Business. She holds a master’s degree in adult education and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University. Her research focuses on the implementation of artificial intelligence to improve enrollment and retention.  


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How to Cite

Foster, H. A., Chesnut, S., Thomas, J., & Robinson, C. (2023). Differentiating the EdD and the PhD in Higher Education: A Survey of Characteristics and Trends. Impacting Education: Journal on Transforming Professional Practice, 8(1), 18–26. https://doi.org/10.5195/ie.2023.288



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