Top Fully Funded PhD Programs in Education

As the highest degree level available, a Ph.D. in education denotes expertise in the field. Some colleges and universities extend free Ph.D. programs to learners, including those studying education.

Most postsecondary institutions, such as colleges, universities, and community colleges, prefer to hire professors with a Ph.D. in their field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that postsecondary education teachers earn a median salary of $79,540. From 2019-2029, the BLS projects a 9% job growth rate for education professors.

Top 3 Fully Funded Ph.D. Programs in Education

1The University of Michigan School of Education
2Vanderbilt Peabody College
3The Steinhardt School at New York University

Recommended Doctorates In Education

Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site

What Is a Ph.D. in Education?

A Ph.D. in education typically leads to a career in academia or research. The degree focuses on theoretical approaches to education, and students spend much of their time researching a specific niche in education.

During a fully funded Ph.D. program, students can submit their research to academic journals. Many Ph.D. in education students are published multiple times while pursuing the degree. Learners may also attend conferences and workshops to learn more.

Why Get a Degree in Education?

Students pursue a Ph.D. in education for various reasons, including career advancement and personal interest. Some of the benefits of earning a Ph.D. in education include:

  • Becoming a Professor: While not always required, most accredited institutions prefer to hire educators with a Ph.D. in their field. Education professors typically complete a Ph.D. in education.

  • Expand Your Network: Ph.D. in education students attend conferences, work closely with existing professors, and publish their research in journals. Through these experiences learners form connections with individuals, schools, and organizations.

  • Getting Published: Ph.D. programs commonly end with students publishing the results of their research. Doing so cements the student’s position as an expert in the field.

  • Increasing Potential Salary: Higher levels of education often lead to higher-paying positions. Those with a Ph.D. in education could earn more than those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

  • Personal Fulfillment: Those that love education and the theories of educating often find a Ph.D. challenging, enjoyable, and fulfilling.


Is a Ph.D. more prestigious than an Ed.D.?While both doctoral degrees, a Ph.D. and Ed.D. lead to different positions. However, both hold a high level of prestige within the education community.
How do you get a Ph.D. in education?Students must first earn a bachelor’s in education, then acquire several years of teaching experience before applying for a Ph.D. program.
Is it worth it to get a doctorate in education?A doctorate in education opens up more career opportunities and often leads to higher salaries. These, among other factors, make earning the degree worth it for many individuals.
What is the highest degree for a teacher?Teachers can earn either a Ph.D. or an EdD, both of which are the highest level of education within the field.

Accreditation for a Ph.D. in Education

Prospective Ph.D. in education students looking for the best fully funded Ph.D. programs should always consider accreditation. When a school or program receives accreditation, it means that an accrediting organization reviewed and approved of the academic quality of the school or program. These accrediting organizations gain approval from the United State Department of Education, the Council of Higher Education Accreditation, or both.

Colleges and universities receive either national or regional accreditation. While both demonstrate quality, the best schools receive regional accreditation. Employers also prefer applicants to hold a Ph.D. from a regionally accredited institution, and studying at a non-regionally accredited school could impact your chances of securing financial aid.

Some college programs also receive programmatic accreditation. While not as important as regional accreditation, programmatic accreditation shows a minimum level of quality. Those looking at free Ph.D. programs online in education should search for Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation accreditation.

Courses for a Ph.D. in Education

Because Ph.D. in education programs require a minimum level of teaching experience, the coursework in a Ph.D. focuses less on teaching and more on the theories of education. During the 4-5 year Ph.D. program, learners take multiple courses related to analytics and research. Programs also discuss advanced teaching methods for postsecondary positions.

Some colleges and universities allow students to select a specialization, typically in a specific field like mathematics or economics. While not all Ph.D. programs require the same curriculum, prospective students can anticipate taking courses similar to these:

In this list we have compiled the Top 5 fully funded PhD programs found across the nation in the field. Fully funded means students have the chance to get a variety of aid options from grants, scholarships, residencies and more to fund their education while pursuing their PhD in Education.

Instructional Theory

Building off students’ course design skills, instructional theory introduces concepts behind creating courses, modules, and class designs. Learners discover ways to teach course design and instruction to undergraduate students, using principles of learning theories. Students also explore recent developments in the field, including innovations from cognitive science. Instructional theory teaches students some of the skills necessary to become a college-level education instructor.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research, sometimes known as quantitative research methods, introduces the process of conducting primary research in an academic and practical setting. Quantitative research covers the standards set by academic journals, ensuring that students’ research meets these standards. Students also learn to use statistics and analyses to find fact-based evidence to support theories. This course helps learners get published and gain recognition prior to graduation.

Differentiated Instruction

Each student learns differently, and educators must adjust course requirements and structure to suit student needs. Differentiated instruction teaches future professors to design different instructions based on varying student characteristics and abilities. Learners discover some of the different characteristics found in students of different ages and backgrounds. This course also teaches different strategies to address the academic needs of students. As current and future educators, students benefit from learning different instructional techniques.

Colloquium in Leadership

Students pursuing a Ph.D. in education often complete multiple colloquiums, including a colloquium in leadership. This course lets students learn from current experts in the field through speeches and presentations. Learners can connect with presenters, allowing them to ask questions and network. Many Ph.D. in education programs count the colloquium as a for-credit course, and the colloquium could cover various fields.


The main focus of the student’s Ph.D. program, the dissertation, likely takes up the most time of any course. Dissertations work like final papers, covering the independent research conducted by students during their Ph.D. After finishing their multi-chapter dissertation, students must defend their dissertation in front of a panel of education experts. Students select the content of their dissertation and often use the material to publish papers in academic journals.

How Much Do Education Majors Make?

The amount of money an education major makes depends on a number of factors, including level of education completed, where they completed their education, the position they earn, and where they live. Because a Ph.D. generally leads to careers in academic research, most Ph.D. in education learners become postsecondary teachers.

The BLS reports that postsecondary teachers earn $79,540 per year, though education teachers earn a median salary of just $65,510, among the lowest of all fields. Of course, real wages vary significantly, with the top 10% of all postsecondary educators earning more than $174,960 each year.

Some Ph.D. in education graduates find careers elsewhere, such as education administration. Careers as a principal, superintendent, or college administration could all become landing spots, and each career pays higher wages than teaching at a postsecondary institution.

Career and Salary Outlook for Education Majors

From educators to administration, Ph.D. in education graduates find positions across the country in both public and private organizations. Many Ph.D. in education students become postsecondary educators, and the BLS projects an 4% job growth rate for postsecondary educators and administrators from 2019-2029.

  • Postsecondary Teacher: Postsecondary teachers, including college and community college professors, teach students beyond the high school level. Postsecondary teachers educate students, create instructional plans, and advise students on how to achieve their goals. These positions require at least a master’s degree, though most employers prefer a Ph.D.

  • Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal: Elementary, middle, and high school principals oversee their school’s day-to-day operations. Duties include managing school staff, counseling students, and creating a set of academic standards. These professionals require at least a master’s degree and some teaching experience.

  • Postsecondary Education Administrator: A postsecondary education administrator performs an array of duties for colleges and universities. Potential departments include admissions, registrar’s office, student affairs, or academics. Most positions deal with scheduling, analyzing data, and maintaining student records.

  • High School Teacher: High school teachers perform similar tasks as postsecondary educators, only at the high school level. Daily duties include planning lessons, teaching students, and grading assignments. High school teachers prepare students for standardized exams, careers, and college, and often must change lessons to meet the needs of the classroom.

CareerMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate (2018-2028)
Postsecondary Teacher$79,5409%
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal$96,4004%
Postsecondary Education Administrator$95,4104%
High School Teacher$61,6604%

Source: BLS

Scholarships for a Ph.D. in Education

If would-be students cannot find a fully funded Ph.D. program, then scholarships are a great way to reduce educational cost. Some scholarships only accept those pursuing a doctoral degree or a degree in education. Some of the top scholarships for Ph.D. in education students include:

Mariam K. Chamberlain Award
Who Can Apply: Named to honor the founder of the National Council for Research on Women, the Dr. Mariam K. Chamberlain Award helps first-generation doctoral students cover the costs of their education. Applicants must be working on a dissertation with a senior dissertation advisor and may study any field, including education.
Amount: $8,500

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program
Who Can Apply: Created to help minority students receive higher education, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program covers the entire cost of a student’s education. Applicants must be African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, or Hispanic American. While the program does cover a graduate degree in education, applicants must be previous Gates Millennium Scholars.
Amount: Full Tuition

Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Award
Who Can Apply: Created for Ph.D. students who plan on becoming university professors, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Doctoral Award provides a $20,000 annual stipend to current Ph.D. students. SREB offers both a one-year award and a 3-5 year award. Applicants must attend a member college or a college in a member state.
Amount: $20,000

Harry Passow Classroom Teacher Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The A. Harry Passow Classroom Teacher Scholarship helps offset the costs of continuing education for one K-12 teacher. Applicants must currently teach gifted students in one of many formats. Applicants must provide evidence of acceptance into a graduate-level program at an accredited college or university.
Amount: $2,000

Esther Katz Rosen Fund Grants
Who Can Apply: The Esther Katz Rosen Fund helps support the advancement of knowledge about gifted children, providing funding for those related to research in the field. Applicants for this grant must study toward a doctoral degree at an accredited university. The funding can help cover Ph.D. research costs.
Amount: $1,000-$50,000

Best Fully Funded Ph.D. Programs in Education

1. The University of Michigan School of Education

The University of Michigan School of Education encourages all PhD students to think rigorously and demonstrate an ability to make a difference in education. The fully funded PhD program produces leaders, policymakers, and researchers dedicated to improving the state of education country and worldwide. The School of Education offers a PhD in Educational Studies in a number of areas of focus: Educational Policy, Leadership and Innovation, Literacy, Language, and Culture, or Mathematics Education to name a few. There are also three additional PhD degrees in English and Education, Education and Psychology or Higher Education.

Funding packages with the Michigan School of Education are flexible and plenty. Doctoral students receive a minimum of four years of financial support which covers items like tuition, a stipend for living expenses, and health insurance. This insurance will even cover health and dental benefits for students’ family members, an invaluable benefit for many students when considering the rising costs of healthcare. All students who participate in the fully funded PhD program are assigned a 20-hour-per-week assignment. This might include filling roles as a research or staff assistant, or as an instructor.

2. Vanderbilt Peabody College

Vanderbilt University has long been a mecca for students striving to become the ‘best of the best’ in their fields, and located in Nashville, Tennessee, a thriving city and center for industries like healthcare and higher education, it’s easy to see why so many students excel through the university’s world-class programs. The Vanderbilt Peabody College offers a couple of fully funded PhD programs in Education through the Leadership, Policy and Organizations department. Two concentrations can be selected: K-12 Educational Leadership and Policy (ELP), and Higher Education Leadership and Policy (HELP).

The PhD program is for students and educators who wish to build an academic career focused on the study of education and policy, and with the university’s unique mentor-apprentice model, students gain knowledge through researched based assistantships alongside esteemed faculty. All Peabody College PhD students receive full tuition funding. The funding is achieved through merit awards or University Tuition Scholarships. Typically, students will also benefit from health insurance coverage and may participate in University Fellowships, Graduate Teaching Assistantships, Graduate Research Assistantships, Traineeships, and Teacher Training Awards.

3. The Steinhardt School at New York University

Students at Steinhardt School at New York University can earn a free Ph.D. in education through the use of scholarships and tuition programs at the school. Those in the Ed. in leadership and innovation take 24 weeks to complete the program. They focus on coursework in applied research methods, change and innovation, and management and data ethics. Admission to the program requires that students answer why they want to attend Steinhardt, how their work experiences prepare them for a cohort learning environment, and what experience, if any, they have with online learning. Prospective students also need to include a resume, three letters of recommendation, and transcripts from previously attended postsecondary institutions.

Recommended Doctorates In Education

Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site