5 Tips for Choosing Your EdD Concentration

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You’ve learned more about why you should earn your Doctor of Education (EdD), and now you’re ready to apply and identify a specific concentration to pursue.

Northeastern’s EdD program currently offers five degree concentrations:

  • Higher Education Administration
  • Transformative School Leadership
  • Innovative Teaching and Learning
  • Workplace Learning
  • Integrative Studies

So, how do you choose between these specializations? Here are five factors to consider.

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5 Tips for Choosing Your EdD Concentration

1. Consider your professional goals.

Northeastern’s EdD program is aimed toward the scholar-practitioner and is designed to prepare you to make a real difference in the places you live and work. Regardless of the concentration, students share a strong commitment to social justice and are dedicated to furthering change in a variety of organizational contexts. Therefore, when choosing a concentration, strongly consider your professional goals and aspirations.

  • The Higher Education Administration Concentration (HEA) provides the context in which to initiate change and investigate a complex problem of practice in the post-secondary setting. If you are an experienced educator or administrator who wants to reflect on and advance your knowledge in ways that enhance your ability to make a contribution to community and four-year colleges, for-profit organizations, or research institutions, this concentration may be an excellent fit. The concentration allows experienced educators and administrators to reflect on and advance their knowledge in ways that will enhance their ability to make a contribution to higher education.
  • If you’re an education professional that aspires to become a leader of early childhood centers, public or private schools, or school districts, you may want to consider the Transformative School Leadership concentration. This track prepares students to lead and transform educational spaces and be equipped to shape the needs of education in K-12, higher education, organizational contexts, and beyond.
  • The Innovative Teaching and Learning concentration focuses on transforming education through innovation, justice, and policy, by providing engaging opportunities for current and aspiring teaching and learning specialists working in various education spaces. The concentration allows educators to examine teaching and learning inside and outside the bounds of P-20 schools. If you’re interested in developing and leading innovative curriculum and professional development programs, this may be the concentration for you.
  • If you’re looking to recognize, understand, and influence real-life social inequalities marginalized populations face in the workplace, consider the Workplace Learning concentration. These courses allow experienced learning professionals to advance their practice by developing and deepening their knowledge of workplace learning, organizational dynamics, learning strategy, and ethics.
  • The Integrative Studies concentration provides an opportunity for students to design a program of study that fits their own professional goals. If you’re interested in a customized, tailored program, this could be an excellent fit. This concentration includes the required foundation and research courses along with concentration courses from any EdD concentration and electives from the Doctor of Education or Doctor of Law and Policy programs.

2. Consider your passions and interests.

Concentration courses provide an excellent way for you to customize your EdD experience and immerse yourself in a subject you’re passionate about. The concentration courses are intentionally designed with a specific focus, and it’s relatively easy to look at the course descriptions and determine what might be of most interest to you. The following are examples of foundational concepts introduced through coursework:

  • The Higher Education Administration (HEA) concentration focuses on the globalization of higher education and offers courses on topics such as governance and leadership, higher educational law, strategic management, and financial decision-making.
  • The Transformative School Leadership track focuses on the educational leadership landscape and includes actionable courses on leading and managing change.
  • Within the Innovative Teaching and Learning concentration, students learn to design just and equitable educational systems and examine policy and power dynamics across the educational landscape.
  • The Workplace Learning curriculum explores the dynamics of workplace learning, including ethics, organizational behavior, and leadership strategies.
  • Students in the Integrated Studies concentration will experience an interdisciplinary curriculum that includes foundational concepts of social change and leadership, along with specialized courses from each of the other concentrations.

3. Consider your context.

As an EdD student, you’ll join a diverse network of 1,956 Northeastern EdD students and alumni from around the world. Concentrations allow you to both expand this network and engage in discussions among smaller cohorts of community members who have similar passions and interests.

When choosing a concentration, consider the scholarly and professional conversations you want to be a part of. For example, the primary audience for the Higher Education Administration concentration are individuals currently immersed in the higher education setting, while those in the Transformative School Leadership concentration often work within childhood centers, public or private schools, or school districts.

Oftentimes, students prefer to engage with those in the same context, especially if they want to advance in their current role and deepen their understanding of the subject. Other students may want to engage with individuals from a variety of contexts in the hopes of gaining insight from multiple industries. Regardless of concentration, students will be engaged with a global network of students, alumni, and industry partners that transcends contexts and locations.

4. Keep in mind you will always have electives.

As you explore your choices, keep in mind that you’ll always have an elective that can be taken within or across concentrations. Therefore, do not choose a concentration on the basis of one course. Oftentimes, students find that one course from another concentration is of interest or necessity professionally, but that the other classes don’t complement their skillset or career aspirations and goals. While there is a core set of courses that provide a foundation in each concentration, electives provide the opportunity to engage if there is a particular topic or area you hope to explore.

5. Consider your thesis topic, but don’t let it limit your choice.

One of the unique aspects of a scholar-practitioner program is that your independent research spawns from real-world problems of practice in your work environment or community. There are endless options for your choice of research topic, and your independent research is typically motivated by something you are curious about in your localized environment. While your coursework may provide a theoretical lens or further insight into some area related to your problem-of-practice, there may not be a direct correlation.  As a student in the EdD program, your thesis research will be inspired by your passion for your work and desire to initiate change.

That said, your coursework can inform your independent research. For example, students focused specifically on leadership in post-secondary institutions may benefit from coursework in higher education governance and leadership, while students whose problem-of-practice focuses on leading or developing curricula may benefit from a course focused on education system design within the Transformative School Leadership track.

As noted above, you can always take an elective related to your thesis topic, so choose the concentration which has overall coursework that best matches your passions and interests, furthers your professional goals and aspirations, and allows you to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to initiate change in your professional environments and communities.

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