EdD Careers: What Can You Do with an EdD?

Business leader giving a presentation to his coworkers
Business leader giving a presentation to his coworkers

Strong organizational leadership is essential for all organizations, from nonprofits and government institutions to businesses and schools. However, according to the most recent Global Leadership Forecast from DDI, a leadership consulting firm, only 12% of companies were confident in their leadership talent pool. 

Current and future organizational leaders can elevate this confidence level by earning a Doctorate of Education in Leadership (EdD). EdD candidates learn to apply leadership theory and research to address real-world organizational issues effectively.

What can you do with an EdD? Professionals with an EdD degree are prepared to provide effective organizational leadership across industries. Keep reading to explore the highlights of their diverse career paths and leadership roles.


PhD vs. EdD: What’s the Difference?

Professionals wanting to grow their organizational leadership with a doctorate should know the differences between PhD vs. EdD programs.

While the PhD and EdD are terminal degrees, they have different career outcomes. PhD in Leadership programs focus on leadership theory to prepare candidates for careers in research and academia. EdD in Leadership candidates primarily study leadership practice, preparing for careers in applied leadership.

Another difference is the final program project. PhD programs require a dissertation, whereas EdD programs typically culminate in a capstone project. A dissertation is a multi-year endeavor focused on contributing original research to a field of study. A capstone project allows candidates to apply their research and leadership skills to address a real-world organizational challenge.

PhD programs are also longer and primarily delivered in person. EdD candidates can complete their degrees in less time, either online or in person.


PhD in Leadership

EdD in Leadership


Leadership Theory

Leadership Practice

Career Path

Research and Academia

Applied Leadership

Final Project





Research and Practical Leadership Skills


3 to 7 years (full-time)

18 months to 3 years (part-time)


Primarily In Person

In-Person or Online

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What Will I Learn in an EdD Program?

The EdD degree prepares professionals for effective organizational leadership across industries. The specific curriculum varies by program, but candidates generally cultivate leadership skills and knowledge across four themes of study:

  • Leadership Theory and Practice: Analyzing the various leadership styles and learning how to adapt leadership characteristics and behaviors to guide, influence and motivate others.
  • Systems Thinking and Cultural Competence: Developing a sophisticated awareness of cultural differences and the cause-and-effect relationships within systems to lead effectively in a diverse world and economy.
  • Organizational Change: Using proven methods to facilitate innovation and influence organizational transformation, creating lasting, positive change.
  • Research Methods and Inquiry: Learning to think systematically yet creatively about inquiry to support impactful, data-driven decisions.

By gaining a deep understanding of leadership theory, research and practice, candidates can navigate the complexities of leadership in today’s rapidly changing world.


What Are EdD Degree Career Paths?

EdD graduates have the competencies to provide organizational leadership in the public and private sectors. They are qualified for leadership roles in business, human resources, nonprofits, government and education.


Business Leadership

Through effective organizational leadership, successful businesses adapt to ever-changing economic and market conditions. To achieve enduring success, company leaders build positive workplace cultures, drive transformation and foster collaborative relationships.

Successful business leaders apply their educational and professional backgrounds, diverse perspectives and new ideas to address organizational issues. Earning an EdD provides a formal pathway to building advanced leadership skills for today’s workplace.

The lessons learned in an EdD program are particularly beneficial during business transformation, which is necessary for retaining a competitive edge. A McKinsey study on business transformations found the most successful change initiatives featured high staff engagement. EdD programs reinforce the value of team building and sustainable growth in any business.


Human Resources Leadership

Successful human resources (HR) leaders have strong ethics, solid communication skills and agility. Current and aspiring HR leaders learn to develop and apply these attributes during EdD programs. Earning an EdD degree also encourages innovative thinking about HR challenges.

Motivated and talented employees drive organizational success. With an EdD degree, HR professionals can more effectively identify right-fit employees, develop them and ensure their engagement in the workplace. For example, HR leaders with advanced leadership competencies can design creative methods for employee engagement and identify new opportunities to reskill and upskill employees.


Nonprofit Leadership

Nonprofit organizations enrich and improve the lives of individuals and communities. Religious, social service and educational organizations often fill gaps in public services. With increased demand for their offering alongside rising operational costs, nonprofits need strong organizational leadership for enduring success.

Nonprofit leaders identify new opportunities for fundraising, community engagement and partnerships to serve their clients. They also collaborate with various stakeholders to execute organizational programs effectively. Advanced leadership makes this balancing of daily operations and long-term goals possible.

While there isn’t one route to nonprofit leadership roles, EdD programs offer a formal pathway to developing the advanced leadership skills needed to thrive.


Public Leadership

A commitment to public service and an EdD degree can lead to a fulfilling career path. EdD programs promote ethical and data-driven decision-making alongside innovation and change management, preparing professionals to thrive in public service. Local, state and federal agencies serve the public in alignment with strict budgets and regulations. Innovation in the public sector is key, with the most effective organizational leaders finding creative ways to maximize their resources for the public good. 

A 2023 survey of state and local government employees revealed that job security, personal satisfaction and the ability to serve the community were major factors in choosing a public sector career. Leaders in the public sector get to witness their contributions in daily life, from improved roads to better treatment for military veterans.


Educational Leadership

Today’s educational leaders have the opportunity to address numerous pressing issues. As enrollment decreases in colleges and universities, K-12 schools deal with declining test scores and record-low public satisfaction. Educational leaders who complete an EdD program are prepared to bring innovative, evidence-based solutions to their current and future roles.

A master’s degree in education or leadership is the entry point into many educational leadership roles. For example, earning an EdD degree can help aspiring K-12 leaders stand out with advanced leadership skills because only 11% of K-12 public school principals hold a doctorate.

There is also demand for doctorally prepared leaders in higher education. College and university leaders need the knowledge and skills to deliver on daily operational needs and long-term strategic plans across administration, admissions, student affairs and beyond.


11 Job Opportunities for Professionals with an EdD Degree

EdD graduates have countless opportunities for leadership roles across industries, from school principals and college professors to healthcare administrators and chief executives. The EdD degree prepares professionals to navigate the complexities of these roles, make a meaningful difference and advance in their careers.


1. School Principal 

School principals are vital to academic success. They oversee the entire operation of elementary, middle and high schools. An EdD degree equips them with the highest level of knowledge and skills in organizational leadership, enhancing their ability to address challenges and foster change.

School principals are responsible for setting academic goals and ensuring staff have the resources to achieve them. They may also implement curriculum standards, manage staff and their professional development and serve as the public representative of their school.

With a median salary of $103,460, school principals can be well-compensated for their educational leadership.


2. School Superintendent 

School superintendents oversee entire school systems, which requires advanced leadership skills attained through an EdD degree. Earning an EdD equips superintendents to drive systematic improvements through strategic planning, evaluation and advocacy. In many school districts, a doctorate is the preferred level of education for superintendent candidates.

School superintendents set the vision and priorities for school districts, ensuring alignment with educational standards and community needs. They can also be responsible for daily operations, policy implementation, school evaluations, and local, state and national advocacy.

Salaries vary based on district enrollment, with the median salary ranging from $106,000 in the smallest districts to $258,000 in the largest.


3. College Professor 

With faster-than-average employment growth of 8% projected between 2022 and 2032, postsecondary teaching offers career stability. The median salary of a college professor is $84,380, but certain fields of study, including law, economics, and health specialties, command higher earnings.

The EdD is an asset for educators seeking to excel in academia. Tenured college professors often hold a doctorate, like an EdD degree, which equips them with critical thinking and research skills essential for their day-to-day responsibilities.

College professors are involved in teaching—including providing instruction, creating course materials and assessing student performance—as well as engaging in scholarly research, publishing and curriculum development.


4. Curriculum Designer 

Curriculum designers oversee school curricula and teaching standards. They collaborate with staff and principals to create, implement and analyze the effectiveness of educational content. This can involve training staff in new content, recommending teaching techniques and analyzing student performance data. Also known as curriculum specialists and instructional coordinators, curriculum designers can specialize in a specific grade level or subject.

This educational leadership role typically requires at least a master’s degree. Curriculum designers can benefit from earning an EdD degree because it equips them with strategic planning and decision-making skills necessary for goal setting, data analysis and continuous improvement in curriculum development.

Curriculum designers have a median salary of $74,620. Earning potential tends to be higher in K-12 schools than in colleges, universities and professional schools.


5. Educational Consultant

Educational consultants provide expert advice and support across various aspects of education. Whether working independently or as part of a consulting firm, they may serve educational institutions, organizations or individuals. Their earning potential varies widely depending on expertise, location, and client base, but the salary can reach six figures.

The responsibilities of an educational consultant vary based on the type of client. They may support colleges and universities with strategic planning, developing goals to achieve desired outcomes and action plans. Assessment and evaluation are other possible duties. Educational consultants can evaluate the effectiveness of education programs or interventions. When educational consultants work with individuals, they typically help students and families navigate the college admissions process.

Earning an EdD enhances educational consultants’ expertise and credibility. The degree equips them with the leadership skills to inspire and motivate others, analyze complex challenges, and draw evidence-based conclusions, amplifying their impact.


6. Training and Development Specialist

Training and development specialists, or corporate trainers, enhance employee skills and knowledge within organizations. They plan, administer and evaluate training programs. Their duties involve assessing training needs, developing training materials, delivering training programs and measuring their effectiveness.

This leadership role typically requires a bachelor’s degree, but candidates with an EdD degree have the advanced creativity, communication and analytical skills needed to maximize their impact. Training and development specialists must continually implement new approaches, collaborate with diverse stakeholders and make evidence-based decisions to succeed.

Training and development specialists work across industries for organizations or consulting firms, earning a median salary of $64,340. However, the highest 10 percent earn more than $116,140.


7. Healthcare Administrator

Healthcare administrators plan, direct and coordinate services within healthcare facilities and public health organizations. They may manage an entire facility, department, program or initiative. Responsibilities range from strategic planning and legal compliance to budgeting and staff supervision.

Healthcare administrators with an EdD degree have advanced knowledge and skills in strategic thinking, change management and policy analysis. Through their studies they have also gleaned interdisciplinary perspectives from fields such as education, business and public health.

The demand for healthcare administrators is high. Because of the healthcare needs of the growing aging population, employment is expected to grow nine times faster than average between 2022 and 2032.

Earning potential is also high, with a median salary of $110,680. Healthcare administrators in hospitals and government organizations earn considerably more, making an EdD degree a valuable asset for those seeking advancement.


8. Policy Analyst

Policy analysts work for government agencies, labor unions, political groups and other organizations concerned with public policy. They are vital to helping these organizations develop, implement and influence effective policy. They are responsible for evaluating current and past policies to anticipate the effects of new ones.

Most work in the federal government. There are also job opportunities in educational organizations and professional, scientific and technical services. Across all workplaces, the median salary is $132,350.

Policy analyst roles typically require a master’s or doctoral degree to carry out the analysis and critical thinking necessary to collect, evaluate, interpret and apply data. An EdD program enhances these skills, positioning policy analysts to meaningfully shape public policy.


9. Cultural Affairs Director

Cultural affairs directors are leadership roles for EdD graduates working in the arts and culture field. They plan, coordinate and implement community cultural initiatives on behalf of organizations such as local government agencies, cultural councils and arts commissions.

With responsibilities such as strategic planning, community engagement and advocacy, cultural affairs directors benefit from earning an EdD degree. It prepares them with organizational leadership competencies to lead and promote arts and culture more effectively.

While salaries vary depending on the organization type and geographic location, an EdD can enhance one's qualifications and earning potential.


10. Sports Coach

Earning an EdD degree prepares sports coaches with advanced interpersonal, communication and decision-making skills. These are vital to improving athletes’ form, skills and stamina while growing sportsmanship, competitiveness and teamwork. Other responsibilities of sports coaches can include scouting potential athletes, negotiating player contracts and hiring coaching staff.

Sports coaches have diverse job opportunities. They can work with professional, amateur or student athletes, working on a full-time or part-time basis. Their salary is dependent on all of these factors. The median salary is $47,740 in K-12 schools and can grow to multiple six figures at the collegiate level and beyond.


11. Chief Executive

Chief executives plan strategies and policies to help organizations achieve their goals. Many oversee entire organizations in leadership roles such as chief executive officer, executive director or president. Others manage specific departments as chief financial officers, chief information officers, chief operating officers and chief technology officers.

While leadership skills are often cultivated through work experience, earning an EdD degree offers a formal pathway. Chief executives who hold an EdD have advanced communication, decision-making, and problem-solving skills, making them influential organizational leaders.

With a median salary of $206,680, chief executives rank among the highest-paid workers. Earning potential varies by industry, with those in manufacturing and professional, scientific and technical services typically earning more than counterparts in healthcare, social assistance or government.


Preparing for EdD Careers with Spalding University

Many professionals who have wondered, “what can you do with an EdD?” are now making greater contributions to their fields after earning the degree. With Spalding University, working professionals can prepare to lead more strategically and ethically across all industries and roles through the online EdD in Leadership program.

The online EdD in Leadership program brings together a diverse, cross-section cohort of professionals. Through dynamic learning, cutting-edge research and collaborative study, candidates develop leadership skills across four themes:

  • Advanced Leadership Concepts in Practice
  • Global and Cultural Perspectives
  • Organizational Innovation and Change
  • Research-Informed Decision-Making

Online EdD in Leadership candidates demonstrate their research skills and leadership acumen during a capstone project. Through extensive research, a presentation to the capstone committee and submission to a peer-reviewed journal, candidates graduate with publication-worthy research.

Spalding University’s commitment to service and regional reputation adds value to the online EdD in Leadership degree. Spalding was the first university to be certified in the Charter of Compassion and infuses cultural understanding, diversity and dignity throughout its programs. Spalding is also accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and is a nationally ranked university by U.S. News & World Report, demonstrating its commitment to excellence.

With Spalding University, students can earn their EdD degree in under two years of study, completing one eight-week course at a time so they can continue working.

Spalding supports you wherever you are in your leadership journey. Connect with an enrollment advisor today to get started.


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