Earning an Online Doctorate in Adult Education

An online doctorate in adult education unlocks a variety of exciting opportunities, allowing graduates to pursue adult education careers while enjoying the high salaries. Currently, enrollment numbers are up for doctoral students at accredited business schools, enabling new graduates to advance their careers. Students can explore a variety of scholarships specific to studying adult education at the doctoral level and can explore membership at various professional organizations.

Why Get a Doctorate in Accounting?

Pursuing Specialization

Some online doctorate in adult education programs allow students to pursue specialization opportunities. These allow students to cater their degrees to their personal interests and career goals.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Professionals who hold a doctorate in adult education enjoy the greatest variety of career opportunities with higher salary potential.

Online Learning Technology

Online students can access the most current online learning technologies that provide more flexibility than traditional programs.

What's the Difference Between a Ph.D. and an Ed.D. in Adult Education?

Students pursuing their Ph.D. in adult education have a different curricular focus than those pursuing an Ed.D. Although both Ph.D. and Ed.D. students learn about curriculum development and learn to improve learning in the classroom, Ph.D. programs tend to be more research-oriented. By comparison, students pursuing their Ed.D. typically work on solving practical problems in educational environments. These programs typically consist of workshops and experiential components, allowing students to connect the skills and knowledge they develop in the field.

Prerequisites for Online Doctorate in Adult Education Programs

Depending on the college or university, students will need to satisfy different prerequisites. Some programs require students to complete specific amounts of work experience before applying, some outline specific required coursework, and others feature supplemental admissions materials including resumes, letters of recommendation, and essays.

  • Work Experience: Many doctoral programs require students to submit their professional resume, outlining work experience in the field. The requirement is typically a minimum of two years of relevant experience to demonstrate a certain level of competence in the field.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Most doctoral programs do not require students to submit any exam or test scores to gain admission. Instead, students must hold a certain minimum GPA and satisfy other requirements to demonstrate their abilities and competencies.
  • Coursework: Most doctoral programs require applicants to meet a minimum GPA requirement and satisfy specific prerequisites before gaining admission. Minimum GPA requirements vary depending on the institution, but are typically around 3.0.
  • Recommendations: Often, students must submit letters of recommendation with their application. These recommendations should be from professional and academic sources, rather than personal contacts.
  • Essays: Many colleges and universities require students to submit admissions essays with their application, typically outlining a topic to discuss any formatting or length requirements that need to be met.
  • Interviews: Some colleges and universities require applicants to complete an admissions interview, verifying their credentials and qualifications before gaining full admittance into the program.
  • International Students: International students must adhere to all of the same admissions requirements as U.S. citizens, and also provide proof of English language proficiency through TOEFL test scores.

How Much Can I Make With a Doctorate in Adult Education?

Those holding their doctorate in adult education can pursue a variety of high-paying careers as academic deans, directors of grant writing, associate provosts, postsecondary education administrators, and postsecondary professors.

Traditional Careers

Careers Stats Description

Academic Dean

Median Pay: $90,467

Job Growth: 10%

Academic deans are in charge of delivering high quality, effective services to students in counseling, student housing, student conduct, student programs and activities, and disability services. They must manage and develop all aspects of academic staff members at educational institutions, while meeting the needs of diverse campus populations.

Director of Grant Writing

Median Pay: $69,661

Job Growth: 7%

Directors of grant writing most commonly work for nonprofit and educational organizations, reading and analyzing grant applications, tracking grant payment information, determining which organizations receive funding, and communicate with grant writers.

Associate Provost

Median Pay: $130,031

Job Growth: 10%

Associate provosts meet with faculty members at all stages of their careers, discussing their concerns regarding career trajectory, professional advancement, and equity issues. They work with deans and associate deans to develop faculty expectations for all units.

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Median Pay: $94,340

Job Growth: 10%

Postsecondary education administrators oversee academics, student services, and faculty research at universities and colleges. They often work in admissions, student life, or the registrar's office.

Postsecondary Education Professor

Median Pay: $86,478

Job Growth: 15%

Postsecondary education professors conduct research by collecting and analyzing data, performing experiments, and examining documents. They must keep up with academic developments in the field, and publish findings from their research.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics/PayScale

Nontraditional Careers

Students earning an online doctorate in adult education can explore a variety of careers, some that are not considered traditional opportunities. Due to the broad skill set graduates possess, their knowledge and skills can be applied to careers including training and development managers, project coordinators, associate directors for nonprofit organizations, and chief operating officers for nonprofit organizations.

Careers Stats Description

Training and Development Manager

Median Pay: $74,364

Job Growth: 7%

Skills Overlapped: Curriculum planning, training management, and leadership

Responsible for coaching and supporting staff members during operational changes and supervision issues, training and development managers create training manuals and other educational materials.

Project Coordinator

Median Pay: $48,724

Job Growth: 12%

Skills Overlapped: Project management and problem solving

Project coordinators arrange meetings, conduct expense reports, coordinate activities and resources impacting various departments, and maintain project schedules.

Associate Director for Nonprofit Organization

Median Pay: $63,951

Job Growth: 12%

Skills Overlapped: People management, program management

Associate directors of nonprofit organizations work on updating and publishing organizations' websites, newsletters, and promotional materials. They also oversee budgets, fundraising, and donations.

Chief Operating Officer for Nonprofit Organization

Median Pay: $94,392

Job Growth: 6%

Skills Overlapped: Organizational development and project management

Chief operating officers working for nonprofit organizations carry out financial and business planning responsibilities and supervise the day-to-day administration of an organization's offices, facilities, and equipment.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics/PayScale

Paying for a Doctorate in Adult Education Online

The cost of a doctorate in adult education online varies depending on the college or university. Each program features its own unique tuition structure. Enrollment type can also impact tuition, with many schools featuring different rates for part-time and full-time students. Learners can and should explore financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

Scholarships for Online Adult Education Students

Students pursuing an online doctorate in adult education can explore a variety of scholarship opportunities specific to their chosen field. Below, students can review some of these scholarships, along with amounts awarded, and their corresponding requirements.

What to Expect from an Online Adult Education Program

Graduation requirements and curricula vary for doctoral students in education. Typically, these programs take between two and three years to complete. Many of these programs require students to complete residencies during their studies. Doctoral students must also finish a dissertation before graduation.

Major Milestones

  1. Residencies

    Many programs require students to complete between one and three residencies during their studies. These opportunities allow students to apply their skills and knowledge to a real-world setting, gaining valuable exposure.

  2. Dissertation

    Students conduct research during the entirety of their doctoral program, compiling and composing their findings it effectively just before graduation.

  3. Teaching Licensure

    Many students already hold teaching licensure during their doctoral program. Those who do not can pursue licensure after graduation, completing continuing education requirements after obtaining licensure.

  4. Intent to Graduate

    At the end of their program, students complete their intent to graduate paperwork, satisfying any last minute requirements, paying all bills, and obtaining their cap and gown.

  5. Internships

    Some doctoral programs allow students to complete an internship component, applying their skills and knowledge in a real-world environment, producing valuable credentials and experience.

  6. Elective Coursework

    Students can often choose their own electives to match their career goals and personal interests, adding additional layers to their curriculum.


While each university boasts its own unique online doctorate in adult education program, students can expect to see common topics discussed, including the examples listed below:

Learning Theories

In the learning theories course, students review a chronological overview of the learning theories and common applications used in adult education, connecting theory to the philosophy of teaching and learning.

Analysis of Existing Research

This course trains students to conduct systematic literature reviews relevant to their research topic, emphasizing structures for reading, synthesizing, and analyzing research.

Cognitive Coaching

Through the cognitive coaching course, students explore the connections between critical inquiry, cognitive coaching, and reflective practice. They learn the tools needed for cognitive coaching, along with their application.

Coaching, Mentoring, and Collaboration

In the coaching, mentoring, and collaboration course, students learn the mindset that surrounds collaboration as it integrates with mentoring and coaching, discussing the strategies of mentors and coaches as they support leadership.

Globalization, Innovation, and Change

Addressing the challenges to learning and teaching in a global environment, the globalization, innovation, and change course connects the philosophy of teaching to learning.

Degree Timelines

Students can often choose what type of enrollment they pursue while earning an online doctorate in adult education, although some programs do require students to follow a specific enrollment type.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description


3.5 to 4 years

Students consider enrolling part-time if they have other time commitments outside of their educational program, including careers and families. Part-time formats allow students to take fewer credits per semester, ultimately taking them around four years to earn their degree.


2.5 to 3 years

Full-time enrollment exists as the standard type of enrollment. Students who enroll full-time most often complete their program within three years, depending on previous credits from their master's program and the time it takes to complete their dissertation.


1.5 to 2 years

Many programs feature accelerated formats, allowing students to take more credits within a semester in order to graduate sooner. In these programs, students typically earn their degree between one and a half to two years.

Licenses and Certifications

Upon earning their online doctorate in adult education, students must pursue licensure and certification to practice. Requirements for both are typically dependent on which state graduates intend to work in. Satisfying these requirements allows professionals to continue teaching and, in most cases, earn higher salaries. Listed below are some of the certificate and license options graduates can consider.

  • Teaching Licensure To practice adult education, graduates must hold a valid teaching license for the state they teach in. Each state features its own unique requirements that graduates must review and satisfy before licensure.
  • Continuing Education Requirements Graduates must regularly complete continuing education requirements to maintain their teaching license. Much like their teaching license, these continuing education requirements vary depending on the state in which they teach.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Students pursuing their online doctorate in adult education can join a variety of professional organizations in their field. These organizations serve as networking opportunities for students and professionals, allowing them to attend events, seminars, and career development sessions to exchange information with other professionals and students in the field.

  • American Association for Adult and Continuing Education: Dedicated to providing leadership for the adult and continuing education field, the AAACE unifies adult educators and promotes identity and standards for adult education professionals.
  • Adult Higher Education Alliance: The AHEA provides a forum for professional educators to share information and resources on alternative degree programs. The organization emphasizing advocacy for the rights of adult students.
  • American Association for Higher Education: Since 1969, the AAHEA has maintained a presence in Washington, D.C., and is one of the oldest associations in the United States dedicated to the advancement of higher education. 
  • American Council on Education: Functioning as the major coordinating body for colleges and universities in the United States, ACE represents nearly 2,000 college and university presidents and executives. It is dedicated to expanding knowledge, equity, and social progress.
  • American Educational Research Association: A national research society, AERA aims to advance knowledge about education in an effort to encourage scholarly inquiry and promote research to improve education.
  • Literacy Information Communication System: A professional learning community for adult educators, LINCS provides access to professional development, teaching resources, and a connected network of practitioners.
  • Purdue Online Writing Lab: The Purdue Online Writing Lab boasts free online writing resources and instructional materials, providing adult educators with valuable reference points and examples.
  • Khan Academy: Students can access the Khan Academy website to unlock a variety of adult education resources, free of charge. They take advantage of interactive challenges and assessments, and enjoy an extensive video library.
  • Official GED Practice Test Administrator's Guide: Adult educators can review the Official GED Practice Test Administrator's Guide as they participate in GED preparatory instruction. The guide outlines the context, content, and cognitive demands of all five areas of the GED.
  • Chomp Chomp: Chomp Chomp allows students and professionals in the adult education field to review a variety of free online writing resources along with a helpful instructional manual.