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The Doctor of Education (Ed.D. or D.Ed.), Latin: Doctor Educationis, is a terminal doctoral degree that has a research and/or professional focus. It prepares the student for academic, administrative, clinical, professional or research positions in educational, civil, private organizations or public institutions.
When research universities were established in the late 19th century in the United States, they primarily awarded doctorates in the sciences and later the arts. By the early 20th century, these universities began to offer doctoral degrees in professional fields. The first professional degrees were awarded in medicine and law. Shortly thereafter, in response to the societal demand for expert practitioners, doctorates began to be awarded in education. The first Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in the field of education was granted at Teachers College, Columbia University in 1893. The first Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree was granted at Harvard University in 1921. The Ed.D. degree was then added by Teachers College in 1934. From the very beginning there was a formal division between the Ed.D. and the Ph.D. in education, and the growing popularity of the applied doctorates was met by faculty in the arts and sciences questioning their legitimacy. They argued that practical and vocational aims were inappropriate for doctoral study, which they contended should be focused on producing scholarly research and college professors. The Ed.D. and the colleges of education that granted them continued to face criticism through the 1980s. In 2013 Harvard University, the first institution to award the Ed.D. degree, will accept its last Ed.D. cohort and instead will begin offering the Ph.D. in Education for the 2014 academic year. The Ed.D. currently is awarded in several countries in addition to the United States (see below).
In Australia entry requirements for the Ed.D. are similar to the Ph.D. except that the former requires a number of years professional experience in education or academic life.
In Canada, the Ed.D. tends to be granted by faculties of education at universities and is a terminal degree in education. Much like the United States and Great Britain, some universities offer the Ed.D. (Simon Fraser University), others offer a Ph.D. in education (McGill University, Queen's University, University of British Columbia), and yet others offer both (University of Toronto, University of Alberta, University of Calgary).
In Ireland Ed.D. programs have only recently been introduced and they tend to follow the UK model of initial research modules followed by longer research papers and thesis.
In Singapore, the National Institute of Education (Nanyang Technological University), is the sole university that awards the Ed.D. degree. The Ed.D. programme has the rigour and expectations of a PhD, but with a professional focus.
In South Africa, following a convention of using Latin in academic designations, the doctorate in education is called Doctor Educationis (D.Ed.) and, like other doctoral degrees in that country, it is entirely a research-based qualification.
In the United Kingdom, the Ed.D. has equal parity status with the Ph.D. It is a research degree that requires students to make an original contribution of knowledge to the field. The Ed.D. thesis may be shorter than that of the Ph.D. because the doctoral student will have done other research work as part of their coursework, whereas Ph.D. students only write a doctoral thesis without coursework. The Ed.D. thesis differs from a Ph.D. thesis only in length and scope but not in quality. As with Ph.D. candidates all Ed.D. candidates undergo a viva voce examination.
The Ed.D. is generally presented as an opportunity to prepare for academic, administrative or specialised positions in education, placing the graduates for promotion and leadership responsibilities, or high-level professional positions in a range of locations in the broad Education industry. Both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. are recognised for the purposes of appointment as a lecturer or professor in universities. The effect of an Ed.D. on a future career will depend on the area of study.
One study comparing the Eng.D., Ed.D. and DBA to the Ph.D. found that admissions requirements formally equaled or exceeded those for Ph.D. admission. All three degrees involved coursework and research (whereas the Ph.D. only requires research), and the coursework for the Ed.D. was presented specifically as a means of "enhancing general career development." The report claimed that the "orientation of these professional doctorates towards the development of professional practice and the production of professionally relevant knowledge through practitioner research clearly differentiates these programmes from conventional PhDs." Research by Scott, Lunt, Browne and Thorne (2002) has found that the difference between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D. can be somewhat overstated as students of both tend to follow similar courses of study and to research similar topics.
In 1991 the Doctor of Education programme at the University of Bristol began and was the first taught doctorate outside of North America. The Ed.D. is delivered through a balance of taught units including research methods, theory, argumentation and evaluation skills as well as a major research thesis that must make an original contribution to knowledge. As with other doctoral candidates, participants of the Ed.D. are encouraged to publish articles and books based on their research. An excellence in doctoral level research is the main aim of the Bristol Ed.D.
Similarly, at Durham University, the process of earning the Ed.D. consists of 6 courses (quantitative and qualitative research methods, thesis proposal, and four elective concentrations) that require 5,000 word research papers at the doctoral level and a doctoral thesis of 60,000 words that must also make an original contribution to knowledge. The Ed.D. dissertation must reach the same level and be judged by the same criteria as the Ph.D. thesis. As such, the Ed.D. and Ph.D. degrees have exact parity of degree status.
At the Institute of Education in London, the Ed.D. "is for experienced professionals from education and related fields who would like to extend their professional understanding and develop skills in research, evaluation and high-level reflection on practice" and the Ph.D. "is intended to enable [students] to produce [their] own thesis and to develop a range of research and other more generic skills."
The University of Cambridge's Faculty of Education provides a useful comparison between their Ph.D. and new Ed.D. programmes for their particular university. 
An ESRC-funded report found that there appeared to be little impact of the development of professional knowledge on employment culture for Ed.D. participants, though there was "frequently considerable impact for the individuals themselves," and many of the Ed.D. students were employed in the public sector.
In the United States, the Ed.D. tends to be granted by the school of education of universities and is a terminal degree in education. Majors within the Ed.D. may include: counseling, curriculum and instruction/curriculum and teaching, educational administration, education policy, educational psychology, educational technology, higher education, human resource development, language/linguistics or leadership. The Ed.D. is recognized for appointment as a professor or lecturer in a university. It may also be recognized as preparation for administrative positions in education and human development field, such as superintendent of schools, human resource director, or principal.
As mentioned above, there is controversy around the Ed.D. in the United States with regard to how it compares to the Ph.D in education. In theory, the two degrees are expected to constitute overlapping but distinct categories, where the Ed.D. is a degree that prepares educational practitioners who can solve educational problems using existing knowledge, and the Ph.D. in education is the more theoretical of the two as a traditional social science research degree that prepares students for careers as scholars and academics, often from a particular disciplinary perspective (e.g., sociology of education). In reality, however, distinctions between the two degree programs are generally minimal in both curriculum and dissertation requirements. One study on dissertations submitted between 1950 and 1990 indicated that there were no differences between the two degrees regarding basic versus applied research or the significance of the findings. Nonetheless, that same study indicated that "PhD dissertations contained more multivariate statistics, had wider generalizability, and were more prevalent in certain areas of concentration," whereas "EdD dissertations contained more survey research and were most prevalent in educational administration research."
The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) states that "the professional doctorate in education prepares educators for the application of appropriate and specific practices, the generation of new knowledge, and for the stewardship of the profession." To wit, although the CPED describes the Ed.D. as a professional doctorate, it also states that it prepares students for the generation of new knowledge, and this is corroborated by the fact that both the Ph.D. and Ed.D. degrees are considered research doctoral degrees on the Survey of Earned Doctorates, which is a survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, sponsored by six federal agencies, and solicited, under the National Science Foundation Act, from graduating doctoral students at all accredited institutions.
Colleges and universities in the United States that offer doctorates in education choose to offer only the Doctor of Education, only the Doctor of Philosophy in education (e.g., Stanford University), or both (e.g., UCLA, University of Missouri, and University of Pennsylvania). The distinction between the Ph.D. and the Ed.D in this last group can take different forms. At the University of Illinois, for example, the Ph.D. in education dissertation requires an original contribution to academic knowledge, whereas the Ed.D. dissertation "is intended to demonstrate the candidate's ability to relate academic knowledge to the problems of professional practice." At Teachers College, Columbia University the Ph.D. is designed for students who wish specifically to pursue an academic career, whereas the Ed.D. is designed for broader aims including educational administration and policy work. In St. Louis University's Educational Studies program, the Ed.D. requires "successful completion of a culminating project dealing with a problem in educational practice" and the Ph.D. requires a dissertation and an "oral defense of the dissertation proposal and [of] the final dissertation." Finally, some schools frame the Ed.D. specifically in terms of applied research, such as New York University, The University of Texas at Austin, and the University of California, Berkeley.   
Lee S. Shulman, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, stated that the lack of distinction between the Ed.D and the Ph.D has meant the Ed.D. has come to be seen as little more than "Ph.D.-lite," and the Ph.D. in education has likewise suffered. Moreover, it has resulted in "the danger that we achieve rigorous preparation neither for practice nor for research." Arthur Levine, former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, said that the Ed.D. degree is granted to both scholars and administrators and as such makes the degree ambiguously defined, that the programs in educational leadership specifically suffered from low standards, and that "There is absolutely no reason why a school leader needs a doctorate." 
Some scholars in the United States have suggested future reforms for both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. in education by calling for a new doctorate for the professional practice of education, which would be for principals, superintendents, policy coordinators, curriculum specialists, teacher educators, program evaluators, etc.; and the distinction between the Ph.D. in education and the Ed.D. would be analogous to the distinction between the Ph.D. in biomedicine and the M.D. This new degree might be called the Professional Practice Doctorate (P.P.D.), or it might retain the old name of Ed.D. but be severed from old associations.
Arthur Levine argued that the current Ed.D. should be re-tooled into a new professional master's degree, parallel in many ways to the MBA.
David Imig described reforms to the Ed.D. as including more collaborative work involving the analysis of data collected by others. Rather than generating their own data and hypothesis-testing, as Ph.D. students would, a group of Ed.D. students would analyze a specific pool of data from a number of different angles, each writing an individual dissertation on a specific aspect of the data which, when pooled together with the other dissertations, would combine to offer a comprehensive solution to a real-world problem.
The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate is currently working with over 50 institutions to collaboratively redesign the Ed.D. and "to make it a stronger and more relevant degree for the advanced preparation of school practitioners and clinical faculty, academic leaders and professional staff for the nation’s schools and colleges and the learning organizations that support them."