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Doctor of Education

Please Note: The Ed.D. enrolled its final cohort in fall 2013. Individuals interested in research-oriented doctoral study are encouraged to consider our Doctor of Philosophy in Education Program.

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Program prepares education scholars and leaders for the 21st century. The program provides rigorous research training that equips graduates with the knowledge and skills to have broad impact in the worlds of policy and practice. Working with premier faculty in the field, students conduct cutting-edge research that addresses the most pressing problems in education. Graduates often assume roles as university faculty, senior-level educational leaders, policymakers, and researchers.

This community of scholars who work at the nexus of practice, policy, and research. The Ed.D. is comprised of five concentrations: Education Policy, Leadership, and Instructional Practice; Human Development and Education; Culture, Communities, and Education; Quantitative Policy Analysis in Education; Higher Education. The concentrations give students great latitude in designing a highly individualized course of study based on their research interests. Drawing on the vast intellectual resources available at Harvard University, students combine the strengths of a wide array of fields and disciplines with deep knowledge of the education sector. Education scholars and leaders need expertise in at least one perspective and understanding of other perspectives to contribute to solving complex educational problems in the United States and around the world. The program embraces this premise through a core curriculum that includes a first-year course on the interdisciplinary nature of education, rigorous training in both qualitative and quantitative research methods, and a variety of experiences designed to stimulate learning from colleagues with different backgrounds, experiences, and career goals.

Research-Based Doctoral Degrees at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

In the fall of 2014, HGSE transitioned from conferring a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) to conferring a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Education. The Ph.D. in Education, a joint degree offered in collaboration with Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, replaced the Ed.D. to better signal the research emphasis that has characterized the program since its inception in 1921, and to strengthen ties with academic departments across Harvard University.

Graduates of the Ed.D. and Ph.D. in Education programs receive equally rigorous scholarly training. The requirements for both degrees include coursework that develops both knowledge that reflects the interdisciplinary nature of education and expertise in the range of quantitative and qualitative methods needed to conduct high-quality research. Guided by the goal of having a transformative impact on education research, policy, and practice, our graduates focus their independent research in various domains, including human development, learning and teaching, policy analysis and evaluation, institutions and society, and instructional practice. Graduates of both programs have and will assume roles as university faculty, researchers, senior-level education leaders, and policymakers.

Student Directory

An opt-in listing of current Ed.D. / Ph.D. students with information about their interests, research, personal web pages, and contact information:

Research Doctoral Student Directory



The capstone of the HGSE Ed.D. Program is the investigation of an important question within the field of education, conducting original research on it, which culminates in a dissertation. The program includes three basic phases: the completion of coursework, the qualifying paper phase, and the dissertation phase.

To prepare for the dissertation, Ed.D. candidates are required to take a minimum of 16 courses (64 credits): 6 core courses (24 credits) and 10 electives (40 credits), generally in 2-3 years. All students are required to complete at least half of their total coursework at HGSE. Students complete a qualifying paper (QP), and prepare a rigorous dissertation proposal prior to entering the dissertation phase.

The program requirements listed below are for four of the concentrations (Education Policy, Leadership, and Instructional Practice; Human Development and Education; Culture, Communities, and Education; and Higher Education). In addition to the core requirements of the doctoral program, the Quantitative Policy Analysis in Education (QPAE) concentration requires specific coursework in research methods and disciplinary study, and a research apprenticeship.

Core Courses (24 Credits)

  1. First-year core course, Integrating Perspectives on Education (4 credits), a foundations course that spans the history, philosophy, theories, and current controversies in the five concentrations. Team-taught by faculty members, this integrated course will offer the cohort of incoming doctoral students the opportunity to work across the concentrations with students who have a variety of career goals and interests.
  2. Five courses (20 credits) in research methods or research intensive courses, to prepare doctoral students with the inquiry and methodology skills critical to create useable knowledge for educators.

An introductory course on qualitative and quantitative research methods. Students will take the following research methods courses:


Recommended, but not required:

And 3 additional courses (12 credits) of advanced methods coursework

  • A student who wants to master a discipline like sociology, psychology, or economics would have the opportunity to take courses in a Faculty of Arts and Sciences department.
  • A student who wants to work in a school system as the director of literacy would have the opportunity to earn a master's degree in the Language and Literacy Program, to take specialized courses on language across Harvard, and to do a field placement in a school system.
  • A student who wants to become a professor in an education school would have the opportunity to take courses across concentrations, and enroll in courses in the disciplines, to build breadth in the field of education and teach in our Teacher Education Program.
  • Building on the strengths of our quantitative faculty, a student might focus on courses at HGSE and at other Harvard faculties to create a unique preparation for a career in quantitative assessment.
  • A student who wants to become a policy analyst could enroll in the Education Policy, Leadership, and Instructional Practice concentration, take courses at the Harvard Kennedy School, and do a field placement in a government agency or an NGO.

Elective Courses (40 credits)

HGSE Ed.D. students are encouraged to draw upon the educational opportunities throughout the school and across the wider university. In preparation for their dissertation and their eventual careers as faculty members, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners, students can create specializations to meet their individual needs.

Program Concentrations

Culture, Communities, and Education

Culture, Communities, and Education highlights a range of increasingly complex issues — from shifts in cultural practices and racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity to the implications of these shifts for human or social development and education. Central to the concentration is research on the factors that put children or youth at a disadvantage, and those assets — family, community, or cultural — that support high levels of academic, social, and moral development; healthy individuals; and effective schools. The concentration prepares students to investigate these issues from multiple levels — the individual level; the school level and the neighborhood/community level in which schools are embedded; and the national and international levels, where cross-cultural concerns, including globalization, immigration, multiculturalism, and citizenship, are of paramount importance.

Education Policy, Leadership, and Instructional Practice

Education Policy, Leadership, and Instructional Practice focuses on learning among children, adolescents, and adults and its connections to the organizations, institutions, and policy settings in which it occurs. This concentration focuses on the role that leaders, broadly defined, play in constructing, guiding, and improving learning in educational organizations. The purpose of this concentration is to develop researchers and practitioners with strong methodological and theoretical skills whose main interest is the development of knowledge useful to the improvement of learning in educational organizations. Graduates of this concentration will be distinguished by their abilities to enhance conditions that support the learning of children, adolescents, and adults in educational organizations through the systematic application of research and theory to practice.

Higher Education

Higher Education prepares students who wish to better understand and influence the course of American higher education. Examining historical and contemporary issues in higher education, the curriculum focuses on leadership, administration, and governance; policymaking and decision-making; planning and finance; and diversity. Graduates assume leadership positions as researchers, faculty members, administrators, and policy analysts in colleges and universities, research institutes, and state and federal organizations.

Human Development and Education

Human Development and Education focuses on development throughout the life span, from infancy through adulthood. Special consideration is given to how issues of cognitive, social, and emotional development intersect with community and cultural contexts. The strengths of faculty and students include the following broad topics: language and literacy; mind, brain, and education; early childhood development; and children at risk. Graduates of the concentration will be distinguished by their ability to apply developmental research to address issues in education policy and practice.

Quantitative Policy Analysis in Education

Quantitative Policy Analysis in Education integrates three strands of coursework — rigorous training in quantitative research methods, focused disciplinary study, and substantive study of educational institutions and policies — with a minimum of one intensive research apprenticeship. The combination of these three strands allows students to gain intellectual depth and breadth as they develop an independent research agenda. The concentration prepares students for research careers in academia and research institutes.

Urban Superintendents Program

Urban Superintendents Program (which enrolled its last cohort in Fall 2009; please see the Ed.L.D. Program) is a concentration for people who wish to transform education by becoming superintendents of urban school systems. USP is a rigorous course of study designed for professionals who have worked in metropolitan school districts as teacher-leaders, school principals, or central office administrators. Unlike other concentrations, the program requires an accelerated course of study (12 months of coursework), an intensive six-month internship, and the research and writing of a qualifying paper and dissertation.

Graduate Dissertations