PhD versus EdD

The doctorate of philosophy began in the late middle ages as educators where required to continue in an advanced scholarship but were not required to produce original research until later in the 19th century. The current PhD was based on an educational model from Germany’s higher education. At this time, students were required to produce original research to contribute to the educational community. Germanic higher education pulled American students overseas to complete their PhD. At which point, the PhD was introduced to the United States in 1861 at Yale University (Rosenberg, 1962).

The doctorate of education originated in 1920 at Harvard University. The degree began as an expressed need to have more educators with a doctorate. Although each of these degrees in the academic world have been noted to be equal in value and rigor, the distinction and details between the two doctorates have been unclear. The course content within each of these degrees is similar. However, the dissertations differ. “Most Ed.D. dissertations concern local and regional populations such as area schools and institutions, and the subjects of study tend to be students and/or teachers. Ph.D. dissertations in the social sciences often, but not always, use college students as “proxies” for other populations” (Northern Illinois University, 2011, para 4).

Temple University (2011) disagrees with the statements made by Northern Illinois University by stating that these two degrees are simply not the same. The PhD is directed towards the professional who is interested in pursuing more theoretical information. The PhD candidate looks for career as a faculty member in higher education as well as continuing in furthering research within their field. This compares to the EdD degree which is directed more to those professionals who are interested in practical applications while working in regional and local opportunities.


Northern Illinois University. (2011). Ed.D. versus Ph.D.: What’s the difference? Retrieved  from

Rosenberg, R. P. (1962). Eugene Schuyler’s Doctor of Philosophy Degree: A Theory Concerning the Dissertation. The Journal of Higher Education, 33(7), 381–386.

Temple University. (2011). Ph.D. or Ed.D.? Retrieved from

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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