Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.)

Doctorate (Ed.D.) Programs

The online Ed.D. program is a terminal degree with a dissertation which requires original research. The program can be accomplished by professionals working full time in their fields. The Ed.D. program provides an excellent forum for problem solving and sharing current issues. The culture of collaboration within the program is an invaluable resource for professionals working in fields such as education, nonprofit administration, business, and public service.

Professionals from all disciplines are welcome, including education, business, nonprofit management and community leadership. Applicants should hold a master's degree including an M.A., M.B.A., M.Ed. or M.S., with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, from a regionally accredited institution. International degrees may also be accepted.

ACE currently offers an Ed.D. in Leadership.

Benefits of ACE Doctoral Programs

The College is known for its accessible online delivery of academically rigorous, scientifically based, relevant content. Our students will have the added benefits of a carefully guided research experience, the creation of a doctoral dissertation or capstone project, expert instruction about the use of survey tools and data, seminars with pioneers in leadership, a nationwide faculty unconstrained by the limits of a brick-and-mortar campus, and access to a robust library of current research, periodicals, and journals in the field.

What makes ACE's doctoral program different from other doctoral programs?

Transfer Credit Policy

  • ACE accepts up to 18 credit hours from other institutions for the Ed.S./Ed.D. program, while other institutions accept no more than 6 credit hours.

  • Both Ed.S. and ABD transcripts are reviewed to determine which credits can transfer into our Ed.D. program.


  • ACE does not require in-person residency, while many schools require at least one residency for students to visit a central location and meet in-person. Travel adds additional costs, including transportation, lodging, meals, and time off work. Instead, ACE offers virtual seminars that are self-paced and span a 5-week term. During the seminars, you will gain information, tips, and readings on the various stages of the dissertation. You may also attend a webinar series with live Q&A sessions.

  • Our Ed.D. program is structured so all components can be completed virtually to eliminate both inconvenience and additional travel costs. This does not mean you will be isolated in your program. Students have ample opportunities for community engagement and networking throughout the program through the seminar, study groups, and online Doctoral Commons discussion forum. Once you complete your degree, you will also have the option to attend commencement, either virtually or in-person, for your hooding ceremony. Some faculty will attend in-person to celebrate this monumental occasion with you.

  • For a typical 10-week term, a full course load is 6 to 7 credit hours. The ACE Registration coordinator will schedule you for fewer hours if you need an accommodation. You have the ability to take up to 9 credit hours in a given term upon special request. Our Ed.D. program offers flexibility so you can take as few or as many (up to 9) hours as your schedule will allow. Our registration team can work with you, building your schedule based on course availability.

  • Assignments are also flexible. While the assignments provide structure, the information is broad enough for students to develop scholarly critical thinking skills within a field of interest. The application of leadership happens within any field.

How do I choose my doctoral dissertation topic?

First, select an area that holds your passion. After all, you will study this topic throughout the program, and even afterward. Once you determine a research topic, consider any problems or issues you notice in that field, and think about solutions. Then, draft a question you would like to explore. The answer to your question could possibly add something new to your field, or challenge a critical problem. Use this thought process to help choose a unique topic.

I’m not in the education field. Do I have to write about something in education?

The short answer is no. This is a leadership degree, so the dissertation should reflect a general study of leadership and add to the body of literature within your field or industry. Learning is the focus for education regardless of the field.

At the end of the program, students who complete all requirements will receive a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Leadership. Dissertation research should reflect a general study of leadership and aim to contribute to the body of literature of applied educational research. As our students pursue careers and leadership positions in a broad range of settings, research informs and impacts formal and informal educational settings in diverse industries, such as schools, health care settings, correctional facilities, non-profit organizations, and businesses, among others.

What does the doctoral dissertation process look like?

The ACE program is unique. From the beginning of the program, each course can be applied directly to your doctoral dissertation (Ed.D.) or capstone (Ed.S.) project. You begin with the end result in mind, and we have designed the program to support your becoming an expert in your chosen area of study.

In your first course of the Ed.D. program, you will begin to generate ideas for your topic. As you move through other courses, you learn about leadership and its application in diverse settings, and explore literature appropriate to include in your dissertation that will apply research to practice. In the research courses, you will learn about qualitative, quantitative, and mixed research methods to determine the design you will use in your dissertation.

You will also have the chance to practice writing your concept paper–which is the first milestone of the dissertation process– multiple times throughout the course of your program, with different perspectives each time to fully prepare you for doctoral candidacy.

What does the oral defense of a doctoral dissertation look like?

With our virtual platform, and in acknowledging that our students are located across the globe, you have more flexible options to defend your dissertation through web applications, or web or phone conferencing. You do not need to travel anywhere for your oral defense.

You will be required to present and defend your dissertation before your dissertation committee. You will prepare a PowerPoint or similar presentation of your findings to your committee who will ask questions regarding the topic, methodology, and results from your study. By this time, you will have become an expert on your chosen topic. A typical dissertation defense takes between one and two hours.

When do I get to work with my doctoral dissertation committee?

Initially, you will work with your course instructors to develop and refine your dissertation topic. You will create a concept paper outlining the problem you will address, the purpose of your research, guiding research questions, and proposed research strategy. Full-time Ed.D. students will typically complete their concept paper, which must be approved by faculty and the chair of the Department of Leadership, at the end of their second year. Students then apply for doctoral candidacy. The approval of your doctoral candidacy application triggers the appointment of your dissertation committee, comprised of a dissertation chair (your primary point of contact and one-on-one mentor) and two committee members.

What career paths are possible based on my focus of study?

See Focus of Study at a Glance (PDF).

What can I do with an Ed.D. in Leadership? What if I'm not in the education field?

Leaders model, train others, and enhance the human resources of an organization. Education happens where learning happens.

Here's how you could benefit:

  • Aspiring and current organizational, community, or school system leaders can benefit from conducting focused studies within their fields, which they can apply to their professional work.
  • This degree can also benefit many professionals who want to research leadership. These individuals develop an applied research background to initiate programs, conduct innovative research to fashion best practices, and even form consulting businesses later on.
  • You may have the opportunity to present at conferences, or publish your own articles or studies to become a leading expert in your field.
  • Ultimately, all professionals who want to teach in higher education (in both traditional and non-traditional settings) within their chosen field can benefit from leadership studies. With a terminal degree, you can work in any post-secondary institution. Some prefer to teach, while others work at the executive level as a department chair or dean.
  • Finally, others might go on to start non-profit organizations or businesses.
Here's what some of our current students indicate they do outside of education:

  • Healthcare: Start health-related programs they are passionate about. Teach and lead other medical professionals, and develop comprehensive plans to address specific organizational issues.
  • Criminal Justice: Build awareness for a particular policy or law. Teach and lead others at a managerial or executive level.
  • Business: Build a consulting practice, start a non-profit, develop corporate or professional training initiatives, or lead others at a managerial or administrative level.

Does this program lead to administrative licensing with my state to become a principal or superintendent?

No, the Ed.D. program is not currently designed to lead to licensure. This program takes a broader approach and does not contain the Educational Leadership curriculum or practicum/internship component. This program can support you, however, in meeting some of the criteria required for state Administrative and Principal Certification.

Each state's requirements vary for principal certification. We strongly suggest you check with your state's department of education website to fully understand the requirements for the position matching your interests, and that you contact your state licensing body to confirm that ACE coursework will meet your state's requirements for any certification, licensure, or other benefit you seek.  

Our goal at American College of Education is to deliver high-quality, affordable, and accessible online programs. We are aware of the rising burden of student loan debt. Throughout our history, American College of Education has been committed to keeping tuition costs low so our students have the best chance at graduating from our programs without additional student loan debt.

To that end, American College of Education chooses not to accept federal student aid or to participate in the Title IV federal aid program. In doing so, we reduce administrative costs, and pass that savings on to our students in the form of more affordable tuition.

Payment Course-by-Course

The total cost of an ACE Ed.D. program is $21,314,* including course tuition and fees. ACE Ed.D. students have up to 10 years to complete their degree and can choose the pace of coursework. Choosing a slower pace and paying course-by-course is one strategy to complete courses based on when you can afford them, and to graduate debt-free. The chart below explains how the cost of one ACE doctoral course compares to competitor programs.

True cost of a doctoral course (tuition only, 3 semester credits)
 ACE, paid in full
 ACE, private loan*
 University of Phoenix, paid in full**
 University of Phoenix, Direct Federal loan***  $3,213.98
 University of Phoenix, Direct PLUS Federal loan***  $3,361.73
 Walden University, paid in full**
 Walden University, Direct Federal loan***  $2,341.05
 Walden University, Direct PLUS Federal loan***  $2,448.66
 Grand Canyon University, paid in full**  $1,920
 Grand Canyon University, Direct Federal loan***  $2,539.44
 Grand Canyon University, Direct PLUS Federal loan***  $2,656.18
 Concordia University, paid in full**  $2,640
 Concordia University, Direct Federal loan***  $3,491.73
 Concordia University, Direct PLUS Federal loan***  $3,652.25

All rates listed as of January 2016, assuming a 10-year repayment plan per the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Designed for comparison only; check for current rates.
* Assumes highest 10.99% interest rate loan through Wells Fargo. Rate may be lower with excellent credit.
** University of Phoenix doctoral program tuition, not including fees.
Walden University doctoral tuition, not including fees. (Tuition rate effective 2/19/16).
Grand Canyon University doctoral tuition, not including fees.
Concordia University doctoral tuition, not including fees.
*** Current federal loan rates are 5.84% for Direct Unsubsidized loans and 6.84% for Direct PLUS loans.

Monthly Payment

By enrolling in the third-party payment plan, monthly payments can be made over the length of the program (not to exceed three years, or 36 months) for total tuition and fees of $21,814 plus a $100 origination fee. 

Private Loan

ACE students may qualify for a private loan through a third-party lender. Through a partnership with Climb Credit, ACE students* can get access to loans with no prepayment penalties, same-day credit decisions, competitive fixed rates, and flexible payment methods. Climb provides simple, fast, and affordable loans to help you meet your career and financial goals. They know that you are more than just your credit score. By factoring in your new education, they can work with more students at better rates.

Through a program offered by Wells Fargo, ACE will certify a private loan up to $20,000 to cover the total (or remaining) program costs, which includes tuition plus administrative and technology fees. Private loan funds do not, however, cover the cost of retakes or additional costs such as internship/portfolio extensions, bridge courses, degree conferral, or dissertation expenses that may be incurred to complete the program. These costs must be paid out-of-pocket as applicable.


We encourage you to ask your employer about sponsorship or subsidies for your education. Some companies and organizations offer tuition reimbursement programs. Frequently, employers will require service over a period of time in return for the tuition support. As always, check the terms and conditions. If the term is not met, the employee may be required to pay the employer back for the financial support. With the pay-per-course option at American College of Education, an employer can pay for each class as a student enrolls.

Tax Benefits for Education

A tax expert can advise you on your potential eligibility for education-related tax benefits, as well as the process of taking distributions from any tax-advantaged education savings accounts like a 529 or Coverdell ESA plan. (See the most recent version of Publication 970 on the website).

If your employer is providing educational assistance, you may be eligible to exclude those benefits each year up to a determined limit. Additionally, you may consider exploring business deductions for work-related education if your enrollment in the Ed.D. program is determined to qualify as work-related education. In all cases, we recommend consulting a tax expert to learn about tax benefits for your unique financial situation.

For more detailed tuition and payment information, please visit the Tuition section.

*May not be available in all 50 states. Climb Credit loans are not available to students in ACE certificate programs, or to students in the Transition to Teaching programs.

We understand some students are returning to the classroom after a long career, and the online learning environment is new in concept. With these considerations in mind, ACE has a variety of resources for meeting our student needs:

Writing Center:
The Writing Center is available to assist students in developing scholarly writing skills, and to boost their enthusiasm and fluency as writers. Writing Center staff provide assistance in the various steps of the writing process, including brainstorming and outlining, sentence structure and usage, APA formatting, and paper organization.

Writing consultants do not edit papers—they provide meaningful feedback and support for enhanced writing and editing skills.

Online Library Resources:
ACE intentionally limits course expenses and fees in order to pass cost-savings to our students. Instead of requiring textbooks, ACE offers an online library with extensive databases, including access to scholarly research and peer-reviewed journals. We also understand you need the most current and reliable sources of information; requiring textbooks that could be five to seven years old will not benefit your process.

If, however, you do need a print text, you are welcome to use Interlibrary Loan. You will also become comfortable using the databases regularly to locate peer-reviewed research, which is critical to the dissertation process and invaluable if you want to publish your studies.

Virtual seminars are a primary feature of the dissertation courses. A webinar instructor is available to answer student questions in real time. If you are unable to join the live session for any reason, you can review a recorded session. Some webinars are also included in other courses throughout the program.

We provide tutorials to benefit different learning styles. These are particularly beneficial in the quantitative research classes. Rather than reading a text, sometimes students need to observe a step-by-step process.

Study Groups:
ACE offers student-driven communities in which you can work with a classmate outside of the classroom, ask questions, and offer each other advice or tips on assignments or approaching the research. These groups also provide the opportunity to network and get to know your class community.