About 5 years ago, I completed the 5 year process of completing my EdD at a reputable, large public university. At the time, they did not offer the course of study as a PhD. My faculty were reassuring that the rigor of the degree was on par, just with the Education titling.

Well... with next year's course catalog, they are now offering both a EdD and PhD path. My frustration is that the courses I took and dissertation requirements mostly match the new PhD curriculum.

For the most part, I wouldn't worry too much. Except I work in an industry role, and am constantly explaining the nature of my degree.

Is there any precedent for a university grandfathering in old graduates with a new program definition, or other recourse I might have? Could/Should they allow me to complete any gap requirements and reissue as a PhD? My biggest fear is that people would pull up my schools program, and assume I completed their new EdD curriculum which is lighter than their new PhD curriculum (again, which more closely resembles what I completed).

What are your thoughts? How would you approach this situation?

  • 3
    I've never heard of a university grandfathering old students into a new program. That being said, it might be an easy change. Or it might not be worth it -- 5 years of experience (presumably) may be a heckuva lot more important to your career than going back for the Ph.D. – tonysdg Jan 5 '17 at 22:20
  • Totally agree with the thought about experience vs. going back for Ph.D. That being said, if the would consider allowing me to take any "gap" courses, say 2-3 courses that represent the difference in curriculum, I could be convinced that would be worth the effort. I'm just not sure yet if that is even feasible. – AMPinto Jan 5 '17 at 23:17
  • Sincere question: is there some reason you're asking us rather than the program? That is, are you hoping to gain some information here that will impact how you approach this with the program (and what might that be)? – cag51 May 14 '19 at 16:10
  • @cag51 Not the OP, but perhaps they wish to avoid completely embarrassing themselves by asking something that might be laughably ridiculous – Azor Ahai -him- May 14 '19 at 17:32

I would petition the school. The same happened to me when I went through the Ed.D. program, and then right after graduation, they became a Ph.D. program. Because many of my credits were transferred and I did the dissertation through the new school, they originally issued me a Ed.D.; however, my credits and curriculum more closely matched their Ph.D. program. Once I petitioned, they as of this week, converted my Ed.D. to a Ph.D. and reissued me new transcripts and a diploma with the original date of my Ed.D. on it from 2016. I think it's possible, it's just that many people would not go through the rigor to request it. Good luck!


Since you asked for thoughts and approaches to the situation, I will sidestep the issues about grandfathering or doing additional work to change your degree to an EdD.

I think it is possible you are misinterpreting a lack of information/knowledge about EdD degrees as a lack of respect for the degree. Surely, there may be circles where EdD degrees are looked down upon vs. PhD in education (for example, in a circle of people with PhDs in education), but I am doubtful that this feeling is dominant in industry.

From my perspective, I can think of several responses to people curious about your degree, depending on the truth of the situation one or more of these may suit you:

"Actually there can be a lot of overlap between EdD and PhD degrees; my program of study was more similar to a PhD though at the time they only offered EdD. Now they offer a choice."

"In theory, EdD is distinguished from PhD in that EdD is more 'practical' and PhD more 'academic', but in reality those distinctions aren't that meaningful, and EdDs in programs like mine do substantial academic work."

"Some ed schools give EdD, some give PhD, and some give both. My school only gave EdD when I was a student. The distinction only really matters at schools that offer both."

In a more professional setting, like a job interview, you could point directly to the work you did as a student: publications, for example, to highlight the rigor and value you produced as a student, regardless of the specific letters indicating your degree.

In summary, three points: 1) It sounds like you might be projecting some insecurities about your degree onto people who are more curious than condescending, 2) It is extremely unlikely that the EdD/PhD distinction will be the deciding element in your job prospects in industry, especially if you already have a job: instead, you will be evaluated based on your experience and productivity as a professional, and 3) You're an educator by training - feel free to educate people a bit, even if they are potential employers!

  • 1
    Thank you for your reply, Bryan. I sincerely appreciate the degree of thought that went into your reply. That being said, my bigger concern is more over how the revised EdD and PhD are being structured. The new PhD is more rigorous, with more prescribed courses, more statistics requirements, and more overall credit hours. The "rub" for me, is that my personal doctoral curriculum more closely matches the new PhD. If others were to review my program website, since I was awarded an EdD, they may likely assume that I completed the less intense of the two programs. Thus my concern. – AMPinto Jan 5 '17 at 23:28
  • @AMPinto Yes indeed, I understand your concern, it really seems unfair that your degree connects you now to the less rigorous program when you went above and beyond those expectations. I still think you might be too worried about people reviewing your program website when looking at you for a job. Even in good programs, there is always a lot of variability in the strengths of the actual graduates. A smart hiring manager is going to put a lot more emphasis on the things you personally produced rather than the specific coursework of the institution you came from. – Bryan Krause Jan 6 '17 at 0:18

I can think of two precedents that might be relevant, both at the University of Cambridge: the retrospective conversion of pre-1982 LL.B. degrees to LL.M. degrees; and the retrospective award of the M.Math. to holders of the Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics. In both cases, the procedure has a clear basis in the published University Ordinances, so I guess my advice to OP is to get hold of a copy of the equivalent regulatory document from his/her university.


I totally understand your feelings, especially with the rigor, focus that entails a PhD., and the "stigma" that goes with Edd's. I strongly think you have a case, all you need is to present it to your school and be ready to go through the hoops and bureaucracy. Go for it and good luck.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.