How to Get a PhD or EdD in Assessment & Evaluation

Are our nation’s schools up to the task of training tomorrow’s leaders? How can policy reform impact educational quality? What research tools provide the most reliable picture of pedagogical quality and student achievement? These are some of the questions that educational assessment and evaluation experts confront.

The discipline of educational assessment and evaluation has expanded in the past decades, driven by advances in research methods and new emphasis on education policy reform. PhD in Education with a specialization in Assessment and Evaluation programs train education professionals and scholars in data-driven decision making, program evaluation, student assessment and testing, and pedagogical reform. Graduates apply these skills in a range of leadership roles, from academic teaching to education administration to public policy.

A Guide to the PhD in Assessment and Evaluation

The PhD and EdD in Assessment and Evaluation represent the highest qualifications in the discipline. Build a foundation for your success in the doctoral program by focusing your academic interests and career ambitions from the start. The following overview of the PhD and EdD in Assessment and Evaluation helps you identify the academic and professional opportunities available today.

PhD or EdD in Assessment and Evaluation?

The PhD in Assessment and Evaluation is the most common doctorate, but a growing number of schools are offering an alternate terminal degree option: the Doctor of Education (EdD). The Doctor of Philosophy and the EdD are equal in rigor and status, but different in purpose.

  • The PhD in Assessment and Evaluation emphasizes an original contribution to education scholarship. The PhD program trains students in theoretical research and teaching, in preparation for academic careers.
  • The EdD in Assessment and Evaluation is a professional practice doctorate. As such, the research project focuses on the application of existing theory to the practice of educational assessment and evaluation. The EdD leads to careers in the private sector and education administration. offers information about the distinctions among online PhD degrees and doctoral programs, with descriptions of the EdD and PhD in Education.

Doctoral Specializations

Doctoral programs in education assessment and evaluation offer the opportunity to focus on a particular area of inquiry related to your interests and career ambitions. Each school slices the discipline in a slightly different way, but generally speaking, you’ll find options focusing on a particular educational program, a particular population, or a particular issue or approach to educational evaluation.

You may choose to focus on a particular educational program. Specializations include:

  • Language Assessment (literacy, ESL, etc.)
  • Mathematics and Science Assessment
  • Institutional and Program Evaluation
  • Home Schooling

Some specializations focus on a particular educational constituency, such as:

  • Exceptional Students (including Gifted Students and Students with Disabilities)
  • Early Childhood
  • Elementary Secondary Education
  • Higher Education
  • Personnel Evaluation (Teacher Evaluation, Accountability Standards)

Or you may specialize in an evaluation tool, theory, or issue:

  • Psychoeducational Assessment
  • Rasch Measurement
  • Qualitative Research
  • Statistics and Quantitative Methods
  • Education Policy Analysis
  • Instructional Resource Management
  • Social-Emotional Development and Intervention

As the highest qualification in the field, the PhD in assessment and evaluation permits a great deal of latitude in designing your field of study. You can shape your specialization based on your interests and the expertise of available faculty mentors in your field.

Career Track

A PhD or EdD in Assessment and Evaluation opens doors to careers in academia, education administration, public policy, and the private sector.

  • The PhD‘s emphasis on original research and teaching puts graduates on track for an academic or private research institute career. Many PhD graduates become professors in the field, conducting academic research and training the next generation of educational evaluators.
  • The EdD‘s applied research tracks graduates into professional practice roles in educational assessment and evaluation.

Both PhD and EdD graduates are eligible for careers as researchers, policy analysts, and assessment and evaluation specialists in the following private and public-sector contexts:

  • Private and nonprofit educational foundations
  • Private research and development companies (‘think tanks’) such as the Rand Corporation
  • Public school districts and private schools
  • Higher education institutions: colleges, universities, and vocational institutes
  • Federal and state education agencies (U.S. Department of Education, California State Board of Education, etc.)
  • Public and private education research laboratories
  • Testing development companies
  • Testing agencies for professional societies

These are just some of the options you’ll encounter with a PhD or EdD in assessment and evaluation. You’ll find that each doctoral program emphasizes a different range of career opportunities, based on faculty and departmental relationships with employers and the professional community.


  • Academic Interests: You’ll find more information about education assessment and evaluation as an academic discipline at’s Guide to Majors.
  • ERIC-AE, a national information clearinghouse on assessment and evaluation, offers an invaluable resource for researching the academic discipline. This online database is part of ERIC, the U.S. Department of Education’s Educational Resources Information Center System.

How to Apply for the PhD or EdD in Education Assessment and Evaluation

A clear vision of your academic interests and career objectives will help you navigate the application process from start (choosing a program) to finish (completing the application).

Choosing a Graduate Assessment and Evaluation Program

PhD or EdD? Online or campus education? With a growing number of doctorates to choose from, finding the right program ‘fit’ can be a challenge. This step-by-step guide takes you through the process of researching terminal degrees in assessment and evaluation. You’ll find links to online research resources for each step.

Step One: Develop a List of Accredited Programs

Begin your research by compiling a comprehensive list of accredited doctoral programs in education assessment and evaluation. Online directories and academic association Web sites offer good preliminary sources of information.

Criteria: Baseline criteria at this early stage include the degree you’re seeking–PhD or EdD–and accreditation status. Accreditation status indicates that a program meets basic quality standards set by an independent accrediting agency. Without accreditation, you can’t count on the quality of education or the value of your degree–or your eligibility for federal financial aid. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of approved national and regional accrediting agencies.


  • The American Evaluation Association features a list of about fifty university graduate programs in educational assessment and evaluation. The list includes doctoral programs worldwide, with information about each program’s focus, specializations, and names of evaluation faculty members.
  • maintains a searchable database of accredited doctoral programs. Search degrees by subject to find an online or campus program in assessment and evaluation. You can also learn more about the accreditation process or browse a list of accredited university partners.
  • U.S. News and World Report is best known as a ranking publication, but the site also includes an A-Z Directory of nearly 250 graduate programs in education.

Step Two: Online or Campus? Identify Your Preferred Program Format

Digital communications technology is revolutionizing graduate education by making the college classroom accessible to mid-career adults. Today, you can choose from online doctoral degrees, traditional campus programs, and hybrid programs that combine features of both. The right format for you will depend on your personal circumstances, learning style, and career goals.

  • The online PhD and EdD in assessment and evaluation works well for independent scholars and professionals already working in the field. The degree relies on the student’s access to an institutional setting for research, either through their work or an internship.
  • The campus PhD in assessment and evaluation is the preferred format for aspiring academics. Academic PhD programs feature access to faculty mentors and graduate student teaching roles, both of which are crucial to landing an academic job. In addition, campus programs offer access to research facilities and library collections, as well as membership in a close-knit academic community.

Many online PhD programs in assessment and evaluation require periods of temporary campus residency to allow students access to local research facilities and networking resources.


  • Explore your degree format options at’s Online Degree Programs and Campus Education sections. You can also search for programs that support your preferred format. For example, you can search campus degrees by location to find a program near you.

Step Three: Explore Academic Programs

Once you’ve narrowed down your list by degree type and format, you can dig deeper into the unique focus of each candidate on your list. Your goal is to find the right ‘fit’ between your academic interests and the school’s approach to the assessment discipline.

The following factors will give you a sense of a program’s academic focus and resources:

  • Faculty research and areas of expertise
  • Areas of specializations
  • Curriculum and course requirements
  • Special programs

Professor research interests offer the best indication of a department’s emphases. Also look for special program resources that support scholarship in your field. Examples include research institutes, public and private sponsors (such as the National Science Foundation), internships, academic association memberships, publications, events, and special library collections.


  • facilitates the program research process by matching you with schools that meet your specifications. Fill out an online form indicating your academic program criteria, and the system automatically puts you in touch with school representatives who can answer your questions about the program.
  • School Websites feature extensive information on program requirements, faculty expertise, and campus facilities. You’ll find faculty bios and links to publications, course reading lists, links to special programs, and more.
  • Academic Publications can help you identify programs and scholars associated with your particular field of interest. For journals and mailing lists in particular academic specialties, consult the ERIC-AE database of journals, newsletters, and reports. Some major academic journals in assessment and evaluation include:
  • Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics (JEBS)
  • Journal of Statistics in Education (JSE)
  • CRESST Resource Papers
  • CRESST Reports
  • Education Policy Analysis Archives (online searchable archive of journal articles)
  • National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST)

Step Four: Evaluate Program Quality

Once you’ve identified programs that match your interests, you’re ready to zero in on the five to ten programs to which you’ll apply. This final evaluation weighs program selectivity against your own competitiveness as an applicant, in an effort to find the education accessible to you.

The following criteria will factor into your quality evaluation:

  • Reputation
  • Selectivity
  • Graduation Rate
  • Job Placement Statistics
  • Career Support Resources
  • Student Body Profile

You can gauge your own strength as an applicant by taking into account your academic GPA, the strength of your professional and academic references, and your standardized test scores.


  • Rankingsoffer a sense of a school’s reputation and selectivity.
    • U.S. News and World Report ranks the Best Graduate Schools in Education, with breakdowns by specialty
    • The Center for Measuring University Performance publishes an annual ranking of major research universities
  • School data provides the most reliable picture of a program, with information on selectivity, graduate student demographics, and job placement.
  • Campus visits give you an opportunity to meet with potential faculty mentors and graduate students and tour campus facilities.

Preparing for an Online or Campus PhD in Assessment and Evaluation

Once you’ve identified doctoral programs that meet your needs, you’re ready to complete the application process. The following steps will lead you to the (virtual or campus) classroom door. For more information, check out’s Education Resources Guide, which provides information on test preparation, online learning, financial aid, and more.

1. Complete Prerequisites

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in education or a related field. If your background is in another discipline, you may have to take some basic courses in education before beginning the PhD in assessment and evaluation
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for non-native speakers of English

2. Submit Application Materials

  • Faculty or professional letters of recommendation
  • Academic transcripts
  • GRE and TOEFL test scores
  • Written statement of your research interests
  • Resume and list of publications, if applicable

3. Line Up Financial Aid

The following sources of educational funding can help you pay for your graduate education:

  • Private and school-sponsored scholarships and fellowships
  • Teaching and research assistantships
  • Research grants
  • Tuition waivers
  • Loans (federal and private)

For more information, visit the resource page on graduate education funding.

Joining the Academic Community

Admission to a campus or online PhD program in assessment and evaluation involves you in a vibrant academic community of scholars. Make the most of the opportunity by networking with your peers and mentors. Subscribe to academic and professional publications, attend conferences, and become a member of professional assessment and evaluation associations. The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Evaluation Association are the two major associations representing assessment professionals and educators.

A PhD or EdD in assessment and evaluation represents the pinnacle of educational achievement in the field. By taking the time to research and plan your education journey now, you’re building a foundation for academic and professional success down the road.


  • American Educational Research Association (AERA)
  • American Evaluation Association
  • Assessment, and Program Evaluation, Seton Hall University, Ph.D. in Education Research
  • Brigham Young University, Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation Ph.D Program
  • The Center for Measuring University Performance
  • ERIC-AE, Assessment and Evaluation Resources on the Internet, by Liselle Drake and Lawrence Rudner
  •, Envisioning a New Ed.D.
  • National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST)
  • Northern Illinois University (NIU), Ed.D. Versus Ph.D.: What’s the Difference?
  • UCLA, Doctoral Training Program in Advanced Quantitative Methods in Education Research
  •  U.S. News & World Report, Best Education Schools
  • U.S. Department of Education, Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
Our Partner Listings