How to Get a PhD or EdD in Curriculum Design

Earning your PhD in Education puts you at the top of your field. Earning the title of “doctor” is something only one in every 100 Americans do in their lifetime, so pursuing your PhD puts you in quite an exclusive field. Holding a PhD or EdD in Education proves you are dedicated to your discipline and ready to further your career.

Earning a PhD requires four to six years of instruction above and beyond a master’s degree. During that time you will complete the recommended course of study, pass the doctoral exams, initiate and implement independent research, and write a final study on your findings for publication.

It is a great deal of work, but the payoffs are huge, both in terms of financial gain and prestige. Those with a PhD earn approximately $37,265 more per year than those with a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Not only that, but the prestige–and pride of personal accomplishment–that comes along with PhD behind your name is immeasurable.

Choosing a specialized track for your PhD in Education can open the door to impressive career opportunities. If your career goal is to implement and encourage positive change in school systems, a career in curriculum design might be an appealing option.

Understanding the PhD in Curriculum Design

Earning your PhD in Education with a specialization in Curriculum Design puts you at the forefront of exciting and innovative changes in learning and education. In response to an increasing number of state and federal standards for students, including the No Child Left Behind Act, more and more educational institutions are hiring curriculum designers to help students reach their goals.

Curriculum designers are responsible for creating a measurable classroom experience for students through assessment of a school’s program, evaluation of individual student performance, and recommendations for improvements. Curriculum design requires attention to relevant research, new teaching techniques, and learning methods that work well for students in a particular classroom setting.

Choosing Your Curriculum Design Specialization

When you are ready to pursue your PhD in Curriculum Design, you will need to consider all the specializations available to you. Even under the umbrella of curriculum design, there are many routes to choose from. Often curriculum designers will specialize in a certain area, such as mathematics, history, or science.

Another consideration is where you want to focus your energies once you have earned that PhD. Though curriculum design for grades K-12 is quite popular, curriculum planning is just as necessary for colleges and universities. As more post-secondary students turn to online learning, unique curriculum planning is needed to ensure the educational experience is well-rounded, even if the student never sets foot inside a physical classroom.

EdD or PhD?

These doctorate degrees share quite a few similarities, and some graduate schools only offer one or the other. So, just what are the differences?

  • EdD in Curriculum Design. The Doctor of Education (EdD) is considered a professional degree. Graduates of one of these doctoral programs will be extremely knowledgeable in the field and be able to apply this knowledge to a wide variety of situations. The EdD in Curriculum Design is aimed at using existing theory and knowledge to solve problems in field.
  • PhD in Curriculum Design. More of an academic degree, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Curriculum Design puts you in a position to truly contribute to the field. This doctorate degree focuses more on doing research and developing new theories in curriculum design and education.

If you want to teach or write books, the PhD is probably a better choice for you. If you’re looking for a hands-on career analyzing the curriculum and educational tactics of institutions, the EdD is the way to go.

Researching Online EdD and PhD Programs

Choosing the online doctorate program that is best for you can seem like a daunting task, but taking it one step at a time will make the process much easier. Answering a few simple questions before you begin your search can narrow down the playing field:

On Campus, Online, or Both?

By earning your PhD online, you might never have to set foot on a campus. But some choose to pursue their doctorate with a mix of campus experience and online work. Some online graduate degree programs require a residency of at least a few days in a classroom setting to test what you have learned.

If you opt for a hybrid of online learning and classroom attendance, keep graduate schools in your area in mind, and pay special attention to online PhD programs that have satellite classrooms in your area.

Long-Term Career Goals

Consider what you intend to do with your doctorate in education once you have that diploma in hand. Do you intend to work with children on the K-12 level? Do you prefer working in a traditional college setting? Are you ready for the challenge of online learning and curriculum design? Pinpoint your goals and search for a college that is strong in the areas you need the most.

Narrow Down the Program Field

When you have a firm handle on what you plan to do with your PhD in Education, it’s time to scrutinize online PhD programs. Take your time in researching every aspect of the graduate program you are considering. The decision you make now will have a great impact on your future career plans, so choose your school wisely. Consider these factors:

  • Accreditation. Earning your online PhD in Education from an accredited school means your hard work will be recognized by potential employers. Accreditation ensures that your degree meets the standards set for your field of work, and the college you attend has passed an accreditation review that studied course content, admissions procedures, and the expertise of faculty.
  • Faculty and Staff. Those who teach the required courses in your doctorate degree program should be knowledgeable and well-known in their field. Look over the list of faculty for a college’s doctoral program and note those names you recognize. Remember, your mentor and future colleagues will be among the faculty, so make certain you are surrounding yourself with the best people. If you want more information about faculty teaching at a particular college, U.S. News and World Report is a good resource to help you learn more.
  • Recommendations. If you are hearing many positive things about a particular online graduate degree program, it’s probably not coincidence. Good news spreads just as quickly as bad, so pay attention to the recommendations from those who have already walked the path to a doctorate in education.
  • Reputation Matters! Those recommendations are part of a school’s reputation, but there is more to consider. What is the history of the online program? How long has it been in place? What is the graduation rate, and where have graduates found work after they completed their education? Research your potential online PhD program thoroughly, and don’t hesitate to ask tough questions of the administration staff. You are investing several years of your life in earning your doctorate degree–now is not the time to slack off in the research department!
  • Optional Courses. If your career goals include teaching for an online school when you graduate, you might consider taking computer science and technical courses in addition to those required for your PhD in Education. Check into the courses offered in additional what you know you will need, and look into how much those additional classes will cost.
  • Is a Campus Visit Possible? Arrange to talk to faculty and staff, sit in on a few classes, and take a tour if one is available. Having an in-person meeting with your online teachers can make it clear how serious you are about pursuing your doctorate in education. The campus visit gives you an opportunity to make certain that all you have learned through online research and phone calls meshes with what you actually see.

After studying what each online doctorate program has to offer, you should be able to narrow down the list to a very select few. Now it’s time to pare the list down even further.

Resources that Help You Compare Online Doctorate Programs

Pursuing your doctorate in education makes you part of an exclusive group of driven, dedicated individuals who are serious about their profession. To that end, joining a professional organization for teachers and networking at conferences are excellent career moves. Take advantage of these contacts when you are searching for the best online PhD programs in education, and don’t be afraid to ask for opinions on which schools are best.

Here are a few other resources to consider:

  • Industry Publications. When industry publications highlight online PhD programs, pay attention! An in-depth review of the school can give you a great deal of information you might not have been able to dig up through your own research. Online publications and websites dedicated to teacher education, such as the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, are also good places to search.
  • School Web sites. You might find all you need to know simply by exploring the website of the school you are considering. You can easily learn about the faculty, accreditation, and other important bits of information with a few minutes of surfing.
  • Resource Guides. The online PhD program you consider might have a resource guide to help you through the process. These are often available as downloads on the school Web site. offers a comprehensive guide, The Insider’s College Guide for Working Adults, that takes you from research to application.
  • U.S. News and World Report. This long-trusted guide has information on the top schools, ranked by a clear system that takes into account many aspects of the programs offered. There is also a listing of the top 23 schools for graduate degree programs in curriculum design.
  • List of Accredited Graduate Programs. If a graduate program doesn’t make its accreditation status clear, a quick visit to the U.S. Department of Education can tell you which online PhD programs are accredited. If your degree doesn’t come from an accredited school, it won’t be taken seriously.
  • offers education resources to help with your search for the perfect online PhD in Curriculum Design program. Fill out an only form to have schools contact you directly. You can find further information on program offerings, financial aid, and other subjects that can narrow down your choices of online doctorate programs even further.

Deciding Which Online Graduate Degree Program is Right for You

With careful evaluation of your top choices for online doctorate programs, you should now reduce your list to the top two or three colleges. Now it’s time to take a firm look at the requirements to earn that PhD in Education.

  • What is Required of You? EdD and PhD in Curriculum Design programs require that you have already completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in education, though some programs are meant for those who already have a master’s degree. If there are additional courses required before you can enter the doctorate degree program, online classes make it easy to get those requirements finished quickly.
  • Take the Qualifying Exams. Entry into an online graduate degree program usually requires a passing grade on the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. Depending upon your educational experience, other exams might be required. Preparing for the GRE is important.
  • Get the Recommendations. Many online and on-campus doctorate programs require a letter of recommendation from a respected faculty member at your previous school. They might also request a letter of recommendation from other professionals in your field. These letters of recommendation assure the administrators of the doctorate program that you can complete the work required of you.
  • Review Financial Aid. Federal financial aid is available only for those colleges that are accredited. Beyond federal aid are student loans, grants, and scholarships.
  • Apply to Doctoral Degree Programs. Your final list should reflect your top two or three choices for doctorate programs. Take all the information you have gathered and review it one more time before you fill out the applications. As you go through the application process, be careful to complete every step, and don’t hesitate to turn to admissions counselors for guidance.

Getting Your Online EdD or PhD in Curriculum Design

When you choose to get your online EdD or PhD in Curriculum Design, you are making your dedication to education clear. Learn all you can about the top online colleges offering EdD and PhD programs in Curriculum Design before you apply. Earning your doctorate degree can be one of the most exciting and profitable career moves you ever make. Join the elite of your field with your Doctorate in Curriculum Design.


  • Educational Testing Service, GRE: Graduate Record Examination Information
  • Job Hunt, Professional and Industry Associations for Education Professionals
  • U. S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
  • U. S. News and World Report, Best Education Schools Specialty Rankings: Curriculum and Instruction
  • Walden University, PhD in Education
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