I have completed all of my PhD coursework and am in the dissertation phase, which is taking considerably longer than I had anticipated, largely due to balancing my full time job and the needs of my teenage kids.

My university has recently created an EdD program and is offering existing PhD students the option to transfer into this program. This is an attractive option as it makes finishing my degree more feasible given all of my other obligations. I am wondering if making this switch would limit my career options in the future. I have worked in corporate Learning & Development for 20 years and am drawn to applied research. I always envisioned that I would retire into academia when I can afford to do so. After having read some other responses on another post, I am beginning to wonder if that plan is realistic. I will be in my fifties when I am ready to make that transition.

I want to teach and I want to do research. Is it likely that I will be able to find a position where I am able to do both of these with an EdD, or should I stick on the PhD path?

Thank you in advance for any advice!

  • 1
    This is hard for someone who doesn't know you to give any useful advice. What is your current field? The career path is probably quite different, including the kinds of research.
    – Buffy
    Sep 23 at 13:21
  • 1
    "I always envisioned that I would retire into academia" You don't simply retire into research .... If teaching in ed psych programs interests you, I am sure you could be hired after 20 years of experience and a doctoral degree. In that case, an EdD is probably fine. If you truly want to become a researcher, I would not switch. But, that will be a competitive path in your 50s no matter what. Sep 23 at 15:21
  • 4
    Welcome to Academia.SE. This is an interesting question, but be aware that our userbase is heavily skewed toward STEM PhDs, so even confident and well-meaning answers here are probably not coming from experts in your field. Recommend discussing with this professors at your university -- or better yet, look for people who have done the sort of transition that you envision and see what sort of degrees they have.
    – cag51
    Sep 23 at 21:08
  • "...that I would retire into academia..." Your phrase makes me wonder what kind of "academia" you are thinking of. Sep 24 at 20:00

5 Answers 5


There are ways to "retire into acaceme". One of my favorite professors in grad school did this and he had no doctorate at all. OK, a) he had dropped out of his PhD program because Bell Labs offered him a job doing research and b) This was a while ago, I got my PhD in 1999 and Prof Freiedman had retired at this point, after a long and illustrious career.

Also, he worked as an adjunct professor and I believe he got paid a minimal salary. But he loved to teach (and was very good at it) and the job did give him the resources of the university.

To aim for a tenure-track type academic job is probably not realistic, regardless of what degree you get. It's hard enough for people who get their PhDs at 30.


It's really hard to get an academic position even with a PhD.

An EdD is most often a professional degree for people who primarily teach, but there is a lot of variation program to program.

Ultimately, I think it's probably more important for an academic research career that you do the extra research steps required to obtain the PhD than it is which letters spell out your degree. How will you explain when you're applying for an academic job that you should skip past all the people who did those steps and get the job anyways rather than them?


An EdD is considered much less prestigious than a PhD. Since the degrees are not really standardized, this may be arbitrary. If you want prestige, then do not switch.


What's best will depend on your individual circumstances. Thus is is hard for random people on the internet to answer.

Two factors that are important to consider are:

  1. What do you intend to do after your doctorate and which degree is more approprate for that job? Generally academia requires a PhD.
  2. What differences there are in terms of the actual education you will receive to get that degree? E.g., if one of the options is quicker, and you are in a hurry to finish, do that. On the other hand, you may want to have more time to learn.

That said, I do think that a PhD is a more well-known degree than an EdD. And a brand new EdD program may not be well-reputed for a while. Thus it seems safer to stick with a PhD, unless there is a good reason to switch.


Having an EdD means that you have a certain level of expertise in administering an academic institution.

Having a PhD means that you have a certain level of expertise in doing research.

Which one is your goal in the short run?

Which one is your goal in the long run?

  • 1
    EdDs aren't really for teachers, they're for administrators. Sep 23 at 22:59
  • 2
    @AzorAhai-him- It's also fairly common for teachers who do not plan to enter administration to get EdDs in states where this means a pay raise.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 24 at 0:01
  • @AzorAhai-him-, Corrected!
    – user366312
    Sep 24 at 9:09

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