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Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD-Ed)

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100% Online Doctorate

Complete your studies on your own time.

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New start date every Monday

Start your first course when it’s convenient for you.

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37 Months to your Doctorate

Finish your PhD-Ed in just 20 courses.

Home » Programs » Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Expand your capabilities as an education leader with the 100% online Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD-Ed) degree program at National University. This degree will help you become an active scholar and make significant contributions to the field of education. You can customize your doctorate by choosing from 14 professionally relevant specializations. You will build knowledge, skills, and dispositions in the content of your specialization as well as research, more generally, culminating in your dissertation research. Along the way, you will examine ethical principles, professional standards, and opportunities for sharing your research through presentations and publications.

Designed by educators for educators, NU’s PhD-Ed gives you in-depth courses that prepare you to be an effective scholar. You’ll have the support of advisors and faculty who will guide you through your courses and the dissertation process. 

Expand Your Leadership Capabilities

Maintain motivation while building your content and research knowledge and skills through alternating specialization and research courses. Whether your desire is to teach in higher education, conduct educational research, or work in educational research, NU’s PhD-Ed program has a specialization suited for you. You can choose from specializations in: 

  • Curriculum and Teaching 
  • Early Childhood Education 
  • English Language Learning 
  • General Education 
  • Instructional Leadership 
  • International Education & Globalization
  • Leadership in Higher Education 
  • Organizational Leadership 
  • School Safety, Security, and Emergency Management
  • Social Emotional Learning 
  • Special Education 
  • Trauma-Informed Educational Practices
  • Leadership in Coaching and Sport Management 
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Course Details

  • Credit Hours: 60
  • Courses: 20
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 37 months

The Doctor of Philosophy and Education (PhD-Ed) program can be completed in 60 credits. Each foundational course runs 8 weeks, and dissertation courses run 12 weeks. 

The PhD degree in Education focuses on enhancing the body of knowledge in education. The PhD is intended for the student who wishes to primarily teach in higher education, conduct educational research or work in the area of educational research (full-time faculty dedicated to teaching AND research, institutional researchers, etc.) The PhD research is aimed at contributing to the body of research knowledge—either new research or adding to research already completed in the field.

*The elective course scheduled as part of the initial degree may be changed upon request. Students should contact their Academic and Finance Advisor for assistance.

This program can be completed with a minimum of 60 credit hours, but may require additional credit hours, depending on the time required to complete the dissertation research. If needed, additional courses will be added to the student degree program in alignment with the SAP and Academic Maximum Time to Completion policies. Students who do not complete their program in accordance with these policies may be dismissed.

This foundational course will introduce you to the concepts and practices of advanced graduate study. You will examine concepts and expectations of advanced graduate study and academic integrity as well as investigate best practices of scholarship and research. You will explore university resources and supports associated with student success, including technologies for learning and research. You will also evaluate the program process and requirements for success. Finally, you will advocate for self-care and reflection during your studies.

Academic writing is at the heart of scholarly writing. How you explore and navigate your topic of interest is both a personal and professional matter. In this course, you will integrate effective research and writing skills, and evaluate standards of academic writing, honesty, and integrity. Literature and writing are closely related, so this course also offers you a first chance to examine the elements of conceptual and theoretical frameworks and critique the role of supporting literature and inquiry with conceptual and theoretical frameworks. Finally, you will synthesize the frameworks commonly used in educational research.

This course builds on your foundational knowledge of instructional design with advanced practice. You will recommend instructional and training solutions based on existing assessment and evaluation data, formulate procedures for collaborative design projects with diverse stakeholders, and categorize legal, ethical, and political influences on the design of contemporary instructional and training solutions. You will develop instructional materials, including multimedia learning assets that comply with professional practice of instructional design and development.

In this introductory research course, you will explore the underpinnings of the research process, examine research paradigms, and investigate theoretical and practical foundations of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies used within educational research. You will identify criteria for the development of a quality research study that is ethical, accurate, comprehensive, cohesive, and aligned. Specific course topics will involve the ethics of conducting research; data collection and analysis techniques; and issues of feasibility, trustworthiness, validity, reliability, generalizability or transferability, and rigor. This course is intended to familiarize you with concepts and skills associated with conducting theoretical and applied research.

This course offers foundational knowledge to become a critical consumer of statistical- based research literature as well as develop the necessary skillset for non-inferential quantitative analyses. The emphasis will be on understanding multivariate data, non-inferential and inferential statistical concepts, the conventions of quantitative data analysis, interpretation and critical inferences from statistical results. Statistical computations will be completed using statistical software applications for quantitative data analysis. The course culminates in a synthesis project to demonstrate statistical skills and aligned with APA guidelines for presentation of statistical results.

This course focuses on qualitative research methodology and designs and the methods used to collect and analyze data in educational research. You will examine the principles of qualitative research and explore commonly used designs (also referred to as qualitative traditions or genres) with a focus on application and feasibility. Qualitative data collection and analysis methods will be examined for their suitability with regard to the research design selected. Alignment between qualitative designs and research methods, issues of trustworthiness pertaining to qualitative research, and the role and responsibilities of the qualitative researcher will also be explored.

This course explores the quantitative research methodology and associated designs and methods. You will examine paradigmatic perspectives along with the tenets and conventions of quantitative research. This examination of designs and methods will include topics such as feasibility, validity, reliability, variable operationalization, inferential designs, and analytic software applications used within the quantitative research paradigm. You will also explore the components of aligned and coherent quantitative research designs that support meaningful research within the field of education.

This course builds on a foundational understanding of qualitative designs and measurements to focus on analyses of the data. The course takes you deeper into the skills and techniques necessary to ensure the appropriate analyses of qualitative data, including integrating relevant frameworks, verifying trustworthiness of the findings, and selecting suitable methods to present the analyses and findings.

You will learn advanced statistical principles and how to apply them to quantitative research. You will be provided an overview of advanced statistical concepts used in empirical research, including inferential analyses. Advanced computations will be performed using SPSS. The focus involves helping you build independent scholarly skills with an emphasis on understanding multivariate data; the use, comprehension, and evaluation of sophisticated statistical concepts; and presentation of statistical results.

Prerequisites: Completed all foundational, research, and specialization courses as required by program.

The doctoral comprehensive assessment for the Ph.D. is your opportunity to demonstrate your preparation for entering the dissertation phase as a doctoral candidate. Throughout this course, you will synthesize discipline-specific content with scholarly literature as you create a prospectus for a theoretically based research study focused on furthering knowledge in the field of education. Ph.D. research has a focus on contribution to theory, whereas Ed.D. research focuses on addressing a researchable problem that has practical applications. The two are similar in that they both apply the scientific method to collect data, analyze data, and present results. However, the results are given greater emphasis in terms of theory for the Ph.D. In the Ph.D. degree, you will therefore conduct research that contributes to the broader discipline rather than a specific problem rooted in an applied, professional practice. This prospectus will likely become the foundation of your Ph.D. dissertation. Note that you will take this course only after all foundation, specialization, and research courses have been completed.

Students in this course will be required to complete Chapter 1 of their dissertation proposal including a review of literature with substantiating evidence of the problem, the research purpose and questions, the intended methodological design and approach, and the significance of the study. A completed, committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Chapter 1 is required to pass this course successfully. Students who do not receive approval of Chapter 1 to minimum standards will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of Chapter 1.

Students in this course will be required to work on completing Chapters 1-3 of their dissertation proposal and receive committee approval for the Dissertation Proposal (DP) in order to pass the class. Chapter 2 consists of the literature review. Chapter 3 covers the research methodology method and design and to includes population, sample, measurement instruments, data collection and analysis, limitations, and ethical considerations. In this course, a completed, committee-approved Chapters 2 and 3 are required and, by the end of the course, a final approved dissertation proposal (against the minimum rubric standards). Students who do not receive approval of the dissertation proposal will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of these requirements.

Students in this course will be required to prepare, submit, and obtain approval of their IRB application, collect data, and submit a final study closure form to the IRB. Students still in data collection at the end of the 12-week course will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to complete data collection and file an IRB study closure form.

In this dissertation course students work on completing Chapters 4 and 5 and the final Dissertation Manuscript. Specifically, students will complete their data analysis, prepare their study results, and present their findings in an Oral Defense and a completed manuscript. A completed, Committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Dissertation Manuscript and successful Oral Defense are required to complete the course and graduate. Students who do not receive approval for either or both their Dissertation Manuscript or defense can take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of either or both items as needed.

Degree Requirements

The PhD Program may be completed in 60 semester credit hours. Additional credit hours may be allowed as needed to complete dissertation research in alignment with the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) and Academic Maximum Time Frame policies. Students who do not complete their program within these requirements may be dismissed.

NU may accept a maximum of 12 semester credit hours in transfer toward the doctoral degree for graduate coursework completed toward a doctoral degree at an accredited college or university with a grade of “B” or better. Transfer credit is only awarded for course work that is evaluated to be substantially equivalent in content with the required course work for the PhD program.

Note: Students who complete NU’s EdS program may be eligible to apply up to 30 credits from the EdS program to the School of Education’s Doctoral programs. School Dean (or their designee) approval is required to determine number of applicable credit hours from EdS to the selected doctoral program.


The Curriculum and Teaching specialization provides you with the professional competencies to make significant contributions to the areas of instruction and courses of study. You’ll have the opportunity to examine and evaluate contemporary theories, designs, development, application, and assessment of curriculums and instructional strategies. You’ll also have access to a support system of advisors, faculty, and tools to guide you through your coursework, research, and the intensive, yet rewarding dissertation process.

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In the Early Childhood Education specialization, you’ll focus on research and theory that builds on the foundational principles of early childhood education. Areas of emphasis include curriculum, assessment, and program administration as they align with theories on the growth and development of young children. Additionally, you’ll investigate early childhood literacy and literature along with the roles of families, caregivers, schools, and communities. Throughout the program, you’ll have access to advisors, faculty, and tools to support you through your coursework, dissertation, and your future work as a researcher contributing to the body of knowledge surrounding early childhood education. 

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The English Language Learning (ELL) specialization prepares you to be a research scholar in the field. You’ll build on your existing knowledge and skills in preparation for continued investigation around teaching, assessing, and developing curricula for English language learners. The final course considers significant issues in ELL education, one of which may inspire your dissertation. Throughout the program, you’ll have a support system of advisors, faculty, and tools to guide you through coursework, research, and your dissertation process. Please note: if you’re seeking ELL/ESL certification, you should verify with state officials that this specialization meets applicable requirements.

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In the General Education specialization, you’ll select courses from a broad range of electives to fit your personal interests and professional goals. This customized, comprehensive program allows you to complete your specialization requirements by taking a minimum of 18 credit hours at the 7000 or 8000 course level, and up to two of these courses may be taken from other fields, i.e., psychology, technology, and business. With dean approval, you may even consider additional courses (more than two) from other disciplines to fulfill this requirement.

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The Instructional Leadership specialization provides educational scholars and professionals with a strong background in leadership research, theory, and practices applicable to higher education. Coursework focuses on exploring organizations, cultures, decision-making processes, change strategies, and community advocacy that improve instruction and enhance student achievement. Throughout the program, you’ll conduct research and analysis to identify innovative directions for higher education that focus on instructional change, policy development, and educational reform.

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The International Education and Globalization specialization focuses on educational phenomena, practices, institutions, and organizations within different societies and cultures. Coursework explores international organizations, policies, initiatives, and challenges faced by global practitioners. Further, it prepares you to apply your organizational training, development, and ethical leadership to programs and institutions within diverse cultural environments. You’ll examine practices and challenges within international education; societal differences in conflict and mediation; and equity, inclusion, and social justice in a global context.

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The Leadership in Higher Education prepares professionals to lead and conduct research in a variety of higher education institutions, including public, private, for-profit, and nonprofit. You’ll investigate the role and process of instructional leadership across many different functions and considerations, such as student services, strategic planning, academic programs, curriculum development, legal issues, and financial concerns.

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The Organizational Leadership specialization prepares you for leadership roles within education, corporate, government, or community organizations by providing you the tools necessary to make things happen. The program is grounded in applied research and explores issues and resolutions in contemporary organizations while providing the opportunity to contribute new knowledge in the field. Coursework provides you with a foundational understanding of research methods, statistics, data analysis, and the dissertation process, while the specialty studies focus on strategies for conflict resolution, building capacity, change management, and inspiring a shared vision.

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The School Safety, Security, and Emergency Management specialization provides educational leaders with the skills and tools to keep schools safe and secure for students, teachers, and the learning process. Students who feel safe are better able to learn by engaging with the curriculum, their teachers, and their peers. Program coursework provides you with a foundational understanding of research methods, statistics, data analysis, and the dissertation process, while the specialty studies focus on technologies for managing safety, security, and emergencies; threat assessments; restorative justice and alternatives to student discipline; and ways to implement and improve school safety plans. A theoretical underpinning of these issues and necessary responses will also be examined.

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The Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) specialization provides education professionals, advanced classroom teachers, school counselors or psychologists, and administrators with a more intensive examination of the five core competencies identified by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL): self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. From a K-12 practitioner’s perspective, you’ll examine how these competencies are applied across all educational touchpoints, including classrooms, schools, homes, and communities.

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The Special Education (SE) specialization is designed for professionals who work with gifted and disabled students in a variety of settings. The program covers a spectrum of related issues, including the development and characteristics of students, learning differences, and instructional strategies that address these special needs. The coursework provides you with the knowledge and contemporary research skills to plan, assess, and deliver instruction to gifted students and those with mental, physical, behavioral, or learning disabilities.

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In the Trauma-Informed Educational Practices specialization, you’ll explore and integrate the theoretical fundamentals related to trauma-informed teaching and learning. The doctoral coursework will provide an in-depth understanding of research methods, statistics, data analysis, and the dissertation process. For your specialty studies, your work will extend across various educational settings and populations to examine how trauma manifests in different populations and communities, specific trauma-informed strategies for the classroom, and theories that strengthen resilience among students and educators.

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The specialization is designed to allow students to develop and enhance academic and practical skills for success in the academy and other career paths. The specialization reinforces principles in leadership, research, appreciation of literature, and data driven decision making, allowing graduates to create or enhance their own niche in the many disciplines of athletic coaching and sport management. Students will integrate professional and ethical essentials of leadership including DEI in athletic coaching and sport management and validate research principles to make data driven decisions in athletic coaching and sport management. Further, students will justify continual professional development in athletic coaching and sport management and cultivate effective communications with all audiences using a variety of delivery modalities. Finally, students will synthesize literature for research-based practice in athletic coaching and sport management and develop specialization content knowledge in the core and related courses.  The specialization blends coursework, research, and practical experience to prepare the graduates for careers in interscholastic, intercollegiate, professional, and recreational sport settings.

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This specialization integrates curriculum development, instructional design and course delivery using technology and online learning management systems. The specialization focuses on providing a knowledge base of current research for the planning and implementation of teaching and delivery modalities using instructional design methodologies incorporating educational media.

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This program is a great fit for aspiring or current*:

  • Educators (K-12 or Higher Education)
  • Education Administrators (K-12 or Higher Education)
  • Training and Development Specialists
  • Related Education Professionals (school social workers, resource officers, guidance counselors)
  • Professionals in Nonprofit Organizations
  • Professionals in Non-governmental Organizations

*Positions may require additional experience, training, and other factors beyond successfully completing this degree program. Depending on where you reside, many positions may also require state licensure, and it is the responsibility of the student to ensure that all licensure requirements are met. We encourage you to also review program specific requirements with an NU advisor. Any data provided on this page is for informational purposes only and does not guarantee that completion of any degree program will achieve the underlying occupation or commensurate salary.


Faculty assist each NU Doctoral student to reach this high goal through a systematic process leading to a high-quality completed dissertation. This process requires care in choosing a topic, documenting its importance, planning the methodology, and conducting the research. These activities lead smoothly into the writing and oral presentation of the dissertation.

A doctoral candidate must be continuously enrolled throughout the series of dissertation courses. Dissertation courses are automatically scheduled and accepted without a break in scheduling to ensure that students remain in continuous enrollment throughout the dissertation course sequence. If additional time is required to complete any of the dissertation courses, students must re-enroll and pay the tuition for that course. Continuous enrollment will only be permitted when students demonstrate progress toward completing dissertation requirements. The Dissertation Committee determines progress.

Learning Outcomes

As a graduate of National University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD-Ed) program, you’ll be able to:

  • Develop deep knowledge of educational systems, theories, and research in an area of expertise
  • Interpret theories, research, and ideas for different audiences through multiple methods of communication
  • Integrate ethical principles and professional standards for a specific discipline within the field
  • Conduct autonomous or collaborative research using high-level analytical skills
  • Contribute to the body of knowledge specific to a discipline within the field


National University’s dedicated admissions team is here to help you throughout the admissions process. We accept and review applications year-round and, once you’re admitted, you can begin your studies as soon as the next week.

Admission to the Doctor of Philosophy in Education requires a conferred post-baccalaureate master’s degree and/or doctoral degree from a regionally or nationally accredited academic institution or an international institution determined to be equivalent through an approved evaluation.

Questions? Call our admissions team at 866.776.0331 or request information and an advisor will be in touch soon. Ready to apply? Start your NU application today.

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Our course structure is built to make earning your degree accessible and achievable by offering a rigorous, yet flexible program that works with your schedule.

Finish Your Dissertation!

Dissertation Completion Pathway (DCP) is a 100% online pathway helping students “All But Dissertation” finish their doctoral degree.

  • Block transfer of credit from your previous institution
  • Flexible monthly start dates
  • Highly trained faculty providing feedback each week on your dissertation
  • Strategic support and targeted resources to help you finish

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Program Disclosure

Successful completion and attainment of National University degrees do not lead to automatic or immediate licensure, employment, or certification in any state/country. The University cannot guarantee that any professional organization or business will accept a graduate’s application to sit for any certification, licensure, or related exam for the purpose of professional certification.

Program availability varies by state. Many disciplines, professions, and jobs require disclosure of an individual’s criminal history, and a variety of states require background checks to apply to, or be eligible for, certain certificates, registrations, and licenses. Existence of a criminal history may also subject an individual to denial of an initial application for a certificate, registration, or license and/or result in the revocation or suspension of an existing certificate, registration, or license. Requirements can vary by state, occupation, and/or licensing authority.

NU graduates will be subject to additional requirements on a program, certification/licensure, employment, and state-by-state basis that can include one or more of the following items: internships, practicum experience, additional coursework, exams, tests, drug testing, earning an additional degree, and/or other training/education requirements.

All prospective students are advised to review employment, certification, and/or licensure requirements in their state, and to contact the certification/licensing body of the state and/or country where they intend to obtain certification/licensure to verify that these courses/programs qualify in that state/country, prior to enrolling. Prospective students are also advised to regularly review the state’s/country’s policies and procedures relating to certification/licensure, as those policies are subject to change.

National University degrees do not guarantee employment or salary of any kind. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to review desired job positions to review degrees, education, and/or training required to apply for desired positions. Prospective students should monitor these positions as requirements, salary, and other relevant factors can change over time.