Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Develop the advanced expertise you need to teach, lead, or consult in education.

Deepen your knowledge in education and gain superior critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This program allows you to engage in original research and prepare for a leadership position in either P–12 or higher education. Plus, you can develop the advanced skills needed to become a bold educational leader in a global society.

Outcome goals and graduates' proficiency levels

Each doctoral program and specialization is designed around expected learning outcomes (see Expected Program Outcomes below). End of program performance is determined during the comprehensive exam and dissertation process. Because the work is unique to each learner's dissertation or research topic and the criteria for evaluation are aligned to that work, we do not collect data on proficiency levels for doctoral programs.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education

Higher education and training specializations

  • Instructional Design for Online Learning
  • Leadership for Higher Education
  • Nursing Education
  • Postsecondary and Adult Education
  • Professional Studies in Education

P–12 education specializations

  • Curriculum and Instruction4
  • K–12 Studies in Education
  • Leadership in Educational Administration1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Special Education Leadership1, 4, 5, 6

Quality and Professional Relevance

  • The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has accredited Capella's Professional Education Unit, which is made up of 14 advanced academic offerings that prepare individuals to serve in a variety of roles within the P–12 education environment. NCATE-accredited programs are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation for the preparation of P-12 teachers and other professional school personnel. Graduates of these programs are highly regarded by many school districts, licensing authorities, and teaching professionals.

Higher education and training specializations

  • More than 1,000 colleges and universities have already employed Capella learners and alumni.
  • The National League for Nursing recognizes that Capella’s PhD specialization in Nursing Education aligns with the Core Competencies for Nurse Educators©, using competencies that are integral to the Certified Nurse Educator® (CNE) exam.
  • Capella’ MS and PhD Training and Performance Improvement specializations are the only graduate program offerings that include the Phillips ROI Methodology™ course and prepare students to apply for ROI Certification.
  • Capella University connects with associations in the field of higher education, such as the League for Innovation, ROI Institute™, and American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), so our courses can focus on core competencies identified in nationally recognized standards.
  • Capella works with the League for Innovation, an international organization committed to improving community colleges through innovation, experimentation, and institutional transformation.

P–12 education specializations

  • Capella’s Leadership in Educational Administration and Special Education Leadership specializations are state-approved and may lead to licensure endorsement2.
  • More than 5,000 people have chosen Capella’s P–12 specializations to advance their careers.
  • Capella’s course work focuses on core competencies identified in nationally recognized teaching standards.
  • Capella’s PhD specialization in Leadership in Educational Administration is designed around nationally recognized leadership standards, including the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC).

Expected Program Outcomes for All Specializations

Higher education and training specializations

  1. Evaluate best practices in higher education.
  2. Demonstrate professional and ethical leadership.
  3. Demonstrate professional competence.
  4. Evaluate, Analyze and conduct relevant research in higher education.

P–12 education specializations

  1. Subject Matter: Possess a deep understanding of subject matter, its place within the discipline, and its connection to other disciplines.
  2. Diverse Learners: Utilize multiple models, resources, and management strategies to meet the needs of and engage diverse populations.
  3. Equitable, Inclusive Learning Environments: Apply knowledge, skills, and attributes equitably and inclusively to ensure the people they serve have the opportunity and encouragement to reach their potential.
  4. Curriculum and Instruction: Develop assessment-driven, standards-based instruction or training.
  5. Current Research and Theory: Work as scholar-practitioners by applying current research and theory to lead the development of the profession.
  6. Field-Based research: Conduct research as scholar-practitioners to lead the evolution of practice in professional settings.
  7. Data Informed Strategies: Inform thinking and planning for organizational strategies with appropriate data.
  8. Ethical Leadership and Management: Consistently apply standards of ethical leadership and management.
  9. Systems Thinking: Understand the attributes and skills necessary to lead and manage professional organizations as complex and adaptive systems.
  10. Reflective Practice: Engage in reflective practice for continuous professional growth and improvement.
  11. Communicate Effectively: Write clearly and communicate effectively with constituents in a variety of ways appropriate to purpose and context.
  12. Critical Thinking: Engage in thinking, analysis, and problem solving that reflects scholarly intellectual standards, incorporates sound reasoning, and strives for equity and fairness.
  13. Technology: Use technology effectively to improve learning, productivity, and professional practice.
  14. Collaboration: Initiate and participate in communities of practice and other collaborations with professionals and community members to mobilize resources to best meet learner needs and to enhance professional growth.
  15. Vision: Adapt to and provide vision and direction in a changing world.

1Capella University cannot guarantee licensure, certification, or endorsement. State regulations vary regarding professional licensure and salary benefits. It is the learner's responsibility to understand and comply with requirements for their states. Where applicable, teachers are advised to contact their individual school districts as to whether a program may qualify for salary advancement. For more information on licensure, see: state learners are advised to go to: for more information).

2In Minnesota, learners who wish to add endorsements to existing administrative licenses must complete additional field work. To expand an elementary or secondary license to K-12, learners must complete a second 200-hour internship. To add a principal endorsement in Minnesota (or vice versa), the internship is 320 hours (MR, 3512.0200, Subp.3.)

3Learners seeking licensure in Arizona must secure a Structured English Immersion endorsement (SEI). Capella University has an alliance with Rio Salado College regarding course work for the SEI endorsement. Learners needing this endorsement should to discuss the necessary courses and the application process at Rio Salado College.

4North Carolina residents are currently not eligible to enroll in this specialization.

5This specialization has not been reviewed or approved by Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania residents will have to apply and meet requirements for certification as out-of-state candidates.

6The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners requires graduates to first earn a Minnesota license and (if applicable) endorsement prior to applying for an Iowa license or endorsement. Capella assists learners seeking an Iowa license with understanding the Minnesota requirements and contacting state educator licensing offices. An Iowa resident seeking subsequent licensure from the Iowa Board of Education Examiners must contact that Board for licensure requirements in Iowa. See the education licensure site at for contact information.

School of Education Doctoral Degree Graduates

Data from graduates across all Education doctoral programs have been combined for these Career Outcomes results.

Capella's School of Education doctoral graduates report satisfaction with tasks and responsibilities and salary and benefits. Over 50% of graduates work in higher education; an additional 25% work in P-12 environments.

Satisfaction with Job Doctoral Degree Graduates

Percentage of respondents who answered "satisfied" or "very satisfied"
Source: Responses to the Alumni Outcomes Survey one year after graduation. The data were collected during Q2 2012 – Q1 2013.

Our School of Education doctoral graduates report receiving salary increases and getting recognition from employers for their Capella degrees. Just over half have presented at a conference or published an article, book or monograph. Over 40% of those surveyed have advanced in their careers.

Improvement in Skills & Abilities Education Doctoral Graduates

Percentage of respondents who indicated they had accomplished each item
Source: Responses to the Alumni Outcomes Survey one year after graduation. The data were collected during Q2 2012 – Q1 2013.

School of Education Doctoral Degree Graduates

Data from graduates across all Education doctoral programs have been combined for these Student Experience results.

Capella University School of Education doctoral graduates think their education meets academic program outcomes and helps them meet career goals. They are likely to recommend Capella to others.

Satisfaction with Job Doctoral Degree Graduates

Percentage of respondents who answered affirmatively
Source: Responses to the Alumni Outcomes Survey one year after graduation. The data were collected during Q2 2012 – Q1 2013.

School of Education doctoral graduates report they have gained practical knowledge and expertise which are applicable in a range of professional settings.

Improvement in Skills & Abilities Education Doctoral Graduates

Percentage of respondents who rated themselves as "proficient" or "distinguished" on ability to demonstrate the skill or ability on the job.
Source: Responses to the Alumni Outcomes Survey one year after graduation. The data were collected during Q2 2012 – Q1 2013.

Expense, completion, & career information (Gainful Employment)

Capella believes in being clear about the real cost, time, and value of a Capella degree The Gainful Employment disclosures, required by the US Department of Education (ED) (under 34 CFR 688.6 ), provide some information about completion, expenses and occupations based on learners who graduated between July 2013 and June 2014. Most of our students are part-time so they might not take a full course load or attend all 4 quarters each year. We took that into account in calculating these data. For example, we define program length for certificates and master's and doctoral degrees as the number of calendar quarters it takes a typical student to complete a program. The ED has defined time to complete for a Bachelor's degree as 4 years. Program cost is based on the specific pricing structure for each program which is either a cost per credit or a cost per active quarter.

Other related information may be found on the Learning Outcomes, Career Outcomes, and Student Experience tabs on this page.


Learn more about these values and how they are calculated»

See Gainful Employment data for this program's specializations

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Alumni Success Story Quote

Photo of John Luukkonen PhD John Luukkonen, PhD

"A doctoral degree is quite a bit of money, but I found that there is a direct positive correlation with the more education that I received after getting my Capella degree and the increase in my salary."

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