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Psychology

PhD vs EdD

The EdD is a doctorate in education. All this degree means is that your doctorate is granted by a college of education. At many universities (and some professional schools) graduate psychology programs (usually in counseling developmental, or educational/learning psychology) are housed in the college of education. Other programs that are related to psychology such as special education are also housed in colleges of education. There is generally no real difference between an EdD or other doctoral degree. However, colleges of education often have (undeserved) reputations of being academically light and this reputation influences the perception of the EdD. The primary task of colleges of education is to train teachers and unfortunately teaching is an extremely low status occupation in the United States. This contributes to the low status of colleges of education and the EdD. If medical schools gave EdDs no doubt things would be quite different! 

Many schools also award EdDs in areas such as adult education, curriculum and instruction, educational technology, and leadership, etc. These are essentially professional degrees and in many schools are geared towards working professionals in the field of education. There is some perception that these degrees are light on academic rigor. Unfortunately this perception affects the perception of EdDs in psychological subjects. Nevertheless, many EdDs are academically rigorous university degrees. How these degrees are perceived has a lot to do with the status of the university housing the EdD program. For instance, you won’t have any trouble if your EdD is from Harvard. To make the situation more confusing some colleges of education give PhDs and some give PhDs and EdDs! 

In general, my advice is to avoid the EdD for psychology subjects. The exception to this rule is if the program is housed in a decent university and the college of education has a good reputation. If the college of education offers both the PhD and the EdD do the PhD. The other reason to get an EdD is if you plan to work in an educational setting. This especially makes sense if you have some K-12 experience. 

You can get excellent training in an EdD program, but explaining this to colleagues in the profession can be a pain. I speak from experience here since I have an EdD in Educational and Counseling Psychology from a large Midwestern state university in a college with a decent reputation. I believe I received excellent training, especially in research. Shortly after entering my program I was given a research assistantship that paid 100% of my tuition and gave me a stipend for living expenses. I was part of an interdisciplinary social science research group and received specialized instruction in the latest statistical methods. 

Yet after graduating colleagues would ask me if I had been a school principal. When I asked them why they thought this they would say they thought that everyone with an EdD had been a principal. When I applied for a job in educational settings I would be turned down for lack of K-12 experience. When I applied for jobs in psychology, I would be told that I didn’t have a ’real’ psychology degree (even after I was licensed as a psychologist – something my EdD qualified me for). The final ignominy was that I even had my research skills questioned by PhDs who had received their degrees from professional schools! 

All the above eventually led to me going back to a freestanding professional school to get a proper PhD. If I have to sign my name with my qualifications I will often just use the PhD title. It is much less confusing and causes so much less drama.

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