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For several reasons, the education field is increasingly facing complex challenges. Teachers worldwide are looking for innovative ways to use current digital tools in their classrooms and make their lectures more interesting. It has never been more important for new research and fresh concepts to be produced by a new generation of leaders to address these challenges.
One of the best ways to develop skills and knowledge for research and development in the field is by obtaining a doctorate in education. You can find several specializations/concentrations in an online Doctorate in Education; one of the most popular is Education Leadership.
With a doctorate in education leadership, you can pursue a wide range of educational leadership and senior management roles, which, according to PayScale, has an average median salary of $85,000 a year.
- Best Online Doctor of Organizational Leadership Degrees
- Best Grad Schools with Online Doctorate in Education Technology
- Best Grad Schools with Online Doctorate in Educational Administration
Doctorate programs in educational leadership provide students with immersive learning experiences that focus on enhancing their skills in instructional leadership, implementing equity-based best practices, understanding adult learning principles, and conducting qualitative and quantitative research.
Students will also develop problem-solving skills essential for driving meaningful change and learn how to leverage the energy and talents of individuals within their organization to advance educational initiatives and bring about significant transformations.
Graduates can apply for leadership roles in the education industry.
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We chose each of these Online Doctorates in Education Leadership based on the following considerations:
- Offered as a fully or partially online program that fosters flexibility to accommodate working adult students,
- Allows online students to participate in on-campus research programs and other opportunities that enhance practical skills, knowledge, and network,
- Offers comprehensive courses that cover key concepts in education, leadership, and management,
- Provides students with immersive online learning that delves into trends and issues in K-12 and higher education, strategic planning and change, and ethical dilemmas and stewardship,
- Taught by qualified leaders in the education industry,
- Has received accreditation from regional accrediting agencies, such as the SACSCOC-Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and HLC-Higher Learning Commission,
- Recognized by reputable organizations working for the advancement of Education Leadership as an important discipline.
Please check out our Methodology for details on our doctoral program ranking process.
Top 15 Online Doctoral Programs in Education Leadership
Drexel offers an online EdD in Educational Leadership and Management designed for education professionals seeking advanced abilities for leadership roles. This program is structured into four 10-week quarters per year, allowing students to complete more coursework in less time. Graduates are equipped with advanced knowledge, abilities, and mindsets to handle challenging situations and drive organizational, group, or individual transformation.
One of the best features of this online educational leadership degree is that it offers various concentration options, allowing students to tailor their degrees further. They can concentrate on Creativity and Innovation, Educational Administration, Education Policy, Global and International Education, Higher Education Leadership, Human Resource Development, Learning Technologies, Nursing Education, Special Education Leadership, or Sports Leadership.
Students can pursue the program in an accelerated three-year, part-time, or five-year, extended part-time format. Applicants should possess a bachelor’s degree in any field and a master’s degree in Education with a minimum GPA of 3.5 from accredited institutions. A 3-year professional experience is also a must.
Liberty University offers one of the best educational leadership doctoral programs online that cater to the needs of working adults, thanks to its low cost and flexible courses. With its doctoral program offering the highest caliber of the biblical worldview, Liberty is among the top choices of students who want to develop professionals and lead with integrity. The program’s curriculum starts with a strong foundation of outstanding teaching practice and cutting-edge knowledge.
The online program aims to provide students with sufficient resources to comprehend the context of contemporary educational difficulties and trends through a rigorous curriculum. Featured courses include Advanced Learning Theory and Research, Theories of Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership and Public Relations, and Conflict Resolution. Graduates gain valuable skills that they can use to advance their careers and improve the learning environment for their current and future students.
Application requirements include a nationally or regionally accredited 3.0 or higher master’s degree, a $50 application fee, and official college transcripts.
University of North Dakota
Known for its distance learning programs, the University of North Dakota offers a fully online EdD in Educational Leadership degree program. This doctorate in educational leadership degree is designed for professionals in K–12, early childhood, and higher education. The program can be completed part-time, allowing online students to earn the degree in three years while working full-time. Students’ place of employment can double as a practice lab for coursework and dissertations.
The degree aims to help students create a curriculum that aligns with their professional goals, allowing them to concentrate on Education Policy, Reform & Equity, Higher Education, Instructional Design & Technology, School Leadership, Special Education, Sports Leadership, or Teacher Education. Students can enroll in asynchronous or synchronous courses. Core courses of the program emphasize educational innovation, equity, and leadership. Sample courses include Issues and Trends in Education, Learning Analytics, and Higher Education Diversity Systems and Policy.
Applicants should present a bachelor’s with a cumulative GPA of 2.75 and a master’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.5 from regionally accredited colleges or universities. Additional requirements include letters of recommendation, a statement of clear professional/educational goals, an original essay, and a professional resume.
Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University offers a Doctorate of Education in Leadership Studies that allows students to complete online coursework at their own pace, fostering maximum flexibility. Online students will have the same opportunities as traditional doctorate students, including the chance to participate in faculty-driven research initiatives for publication and presentation. The curriculum promotes scholarly investigation and practical knowledge of key leadership elements.
Thanks to the program’s rigorous coursework, students learn leadership theory emphasizing practical, data-driven results that will help them devise effective learning and development opportunities. The courses will also teach students how to use power, politics, influence in organizations, and techniques for gathering, analyzing, and using data to inform practice. Students can concentrate on Leadership Studies, Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Management, or Health Communication & Leadership.
You need a master’s degree with a 3.5 or higher GPA from a university or college with regional accreditation. Additional requirements include a resume/CV, recommendation letters, and a purpose statement. Online students pay the same tuition fee regardless of residency.
Arizona State University Online
Arizona State University Online is known for being one of the pioneers in online education, providing students with affordable degree programs. ASU Online’s EdD in Leadership and Innovations is a 90-credit hour program that offers accelerated 7.5-week classes. Students can graduate in 9–10 semesters, depending on how many credits they take each semester.
While most of the program’s coursework is structured for online learning, students will spend much of their time working in leader-scholar community groups in their second and third years. This hands-on learning opportunity allows students to investigate, conceptualize, and implement change initiatives with supervision from a designated faculty member in their local educational context. Students can specialize in PreKindergarten-Grade 12 Change Leadership, Higher Education Change Leadership, or Systems, Professional and Reimagined Change Leadership.
Candidates should be employed in a position that enables them to bring about change in their place of employment. Furthermore, applicants should provide documentation of an accredited master’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA in the final 60 hours.
Pennsylvania Western University
PennWest Global’s EdD in Educational Administration and Leadership provides enrolled students with an academic advisor to help them structure a schedule that fits their work schedules. Students will experience growth and will graduate with a valuable professional network. In addition to pursuing a Doctorate in Educational Administration and Leadership, students in the program can earn a Superintendent Letter of Eligibility. For individuals who already possess this credential, there is the option to enter the program with advanced standing.
Students complete two internship programs in addition to their online coursework. The internship programs are designed to help students gain hands-on learning experience under the supervision of a district leader, giving them more grasp of what educational leadership really looks like. Upon completing the internships, students will be able to carry out and present a focus project with a student achievement theme.
Applicants should hold a master’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.5 or higher. Graduates can take the PRAXIS School Superintendent Assessment (SSA) exam to advance into the position of Superintendent of Schools.
Arkansas State University
Arkansas State University’s online EdD in Educational Leadership is a dissertation-based doctorate that can be completed 100% online and designed for master’s and post-master’s education professionals. This is a writing-intensive educational leadership online. Students should expect to perform a thorough research project with one-on-one help from a faculty member in the program’s final semester.
Thanks to the program’s intensive curriculum, students will gain the knowledge that will help them create a welcoming and diverse learning environment for their future students. Part of the curriculum includes closely examining ethical leadership techniques, considering educational best practices that integrate theory and research, and developing expanded leadership skills for high-performing organizations. A few of the program’s doctoral leadership core include courses in Curriculum & Instruction, Educational Leadership Practices, and Advanced Organizational Theory & Inquiry.
Applicants should possess a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 minimum GPA. Students must also prove they are a good fit for the online educational leadership degree program through recommendation letters, scholarly papers (properly cited), and a two-page letter of interest.
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California Online is one of the best online institutions that offer doctorates specifically designed for distance learning students. USC’s online doctoral program in Educational Leadership, offered by the USC Rossier School of Education, is a four-component program that comprises core, concentration, research methods, and dissertation in practice courses. Fostering student-faculty relationships, all program classes occur in a virtual classroom setting that provides students with live instruction.
Students will participate in demanding coursework covering various educational leadership-related topics throughout the degree. Students can expect to encounter Organizational Theory, Policy Analysis, Instructional Leadership, and Strategic Planning courses. By fusing theory and practice, the curriculum ensures that students get both practical abilities and a thorough understanding of leadership ideas.
Applicants should be master’s degree holders with at least three years of full-time job experience in a field related to K–12 education. It’s also essential that applicants should submit proof of leadership experience.
University of the Cumberlands
The University of the Cumberlands offers a comprehensive online EdD in Educational Leadership program that equips professionals with abilities for practical leadership in educational settings. This online EdD degree helps students tackle the unique challenges associated with leading teams of educators, designing academic programs, and implementing meaningful changes within educational institutions. Furthermore, students should expect a program that fosters collaboration among educators.
The curriculum of an EdD in Educational Leadership online program typically mirrors that of an on-campus degree. Featured courses of the program include Organizational Decision Making, Leadership in Higher Education, Teaching and Leading Adult Learners, and Program Development, Delivery, & Assessment. In addition to online coursework, students must also complete professional applied research, wherein they’ll discuss how to apply research to solve real-world problems in an institution or organization.
Admission to the doctoral degree program requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0/4.0 for all graduate work, including any post-master’s work.
William Carey University
William Carey University’s online Doctorate in Educational Leadership program allows students to take at least two classes each trimester to align with their busy work schedules. Students can prefer to enroll in asynchronous courses if they want more flexible delivery methods. The program aims to train licensed teachers to act as change agents in their respective schools through coursework guided by distinguished faculty members.
Students will undergo a curriculum that fosters visionary planning, strategic resource use, effective management and leadership, and real-world research application. Part of their coursework includes Effective Data Analysis for Instructional and Performance Improvement, Professional Educational Development for Professional Educators, Developing the Culture of Learning, and Using Conflict Resolution and Mediation. These demanding classes go by quickly, and as students advance in the program, the course length will change to 10 weeks to allow for the research process.
Students must hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree from an accredited institution. There’s no stated GPA cut-off.
The Online Educational Leadership Degree at Spalding University is an interdisciplinary and dynamic online EdD program for aspirant leaders who want to lead strategically and ethically and bring about significant change. The program offers a collaborative and globally conscious curriculum. This is a full-time degree program that takes two years to complete. Depending on your work’s demand, this degree program may not fit the schedule of full-time employees.
The program’s integrated and adaptable teaching style can support the finest practices in business, social services, the arts, and higher education. This places graduates at a great advantage since they can work for sectors beyond the education industry. Students can apply for business, nonprofit organizations, and public sector leadership roles. The program’s coursework explores Systems Theory and Leadership, Ethical Leadership, Research Methodology, and Problem-Solving, among other things.
Admission requirements for the doctoral program include a regionally accredited master’s degree with a 3.0 or higher GPA, a professional resume, letters of recommendation, and a journal article critique. Applicants will undergo an interview to evaluate their readiness for the doctoral program.
The University of Alabama
The University of Alabama’s online EdD in Educational Leadership program offers one of the cheapest per credit hour costs that helps working professionals obtain a terminal degree without breaking the bank. The program provides students with a high-quality education to help them become effective decision-makers in executive management, educational leadership, and policy. The program can be completed part-time, allowing doctoral students to continue working full-time.
Students should make time for a few synchronous virtual class meetings that demand active participation. The two courses that students will be pursuing each semester with their cohort entail a commitment of four-weekend virtual meetings, which include instructional time for each subject. Students explore Politics of Education, Advanced Organizational Theory, Superintendency and the Leadership Team, Major Issues and Trends in Educational Leadership, among other topics.
Applicants must fulfill the minimal Graduate School admission requirements to be considered for regular admission, which include a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, letters of professional and academic reference, statement of purpose, professional writing sample, professional experience in teaching and/or leadership, and completed coursework in graduate-level special education and statistics research course.
Indiana State University
A reputable PhD in Educational Leadership offered online is rare to find. Luckily, Indiana State University’s Department of Educational Leadership offers an online PhD in Educational Administration that allows students to concentrate on Higher Education Leadership. This program follows a cohort learning format, requiring students to commit full-time for five consecutive terms, including a summer session. In addition to online coursework, students must fulfill a few intensive on-campus workshops. Directed study and a three-week on-campus residency are combined during the summer between the first and second academic year.
Thanks to the program’s emphasis, graduates can apply for administrative leadership roles at public or private four-year academic institutions. The curriculum adheres to a scholar/practitioner philosophy that emphasizes the knowledge, abilities, and attitudes required to manage higher learning institutions in the twenty-first century. Some of the program’s courses include Organization and Governance in Higher Education and Resource Management in Higher Education.
Texas Tech University
The online EdD in Educational Leadership at Texas Tech University aims to produce executive school leaders capable of applying evidence-based solutions to practical problems with high stakes in a PreK–12 school system. To earn the degree faster, students can transfer up to 30 credit hours of coursework from their master’s degree. The faculty of the program continues to work on researching and addressing pressing issues in education to enhance future educational leaders’ preparation.
A dissertation-in-practice is the main component of the program’s research inquiry-based curriculum. Two integrated courses in the autumn and spring semesters and two courses throughout an eight-week summer term make up the course sequence in the program’s first two years.
An accredited master’s degree is required for consideration for this program. Before enrolling, you should note that this online doctorate degree requires students to move in cohorts. This requires full-time enrollment.
Tridents University offers a 100% online PhD in Educational Leadership designed for education professionals who want to conduct original research. Students can enroll in asynchronous classes for a flexible learning schedule, allowing them to customize their completion times to suit their own schedules. What’s more, students can be granted credits for prior learning. Enrolled students will receive guidance from a Student Success Advisor to help them structure their coursework.
The program offers four concentrations: Educational Technology, Health Education, Higher Educational Leadership, and Teaching, Learning and Development. Students will start conducting original research Upon completing the required core and concentration courses. During the program’s research phase, students will be paired with a PhD faculty member who will offer personalized advice.
Applicants must possess a bachelor’s and master’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA awarded from a nationally or internationally recognized college or university.
Is a Doctorate in Educational Leadership Worth It?
The answer depends on your personal and professional goals. Suppose your ultimate goal is to develop professional growth and lifelong learning experiences to contribute to solving the complex challenges in the education industry. In that case, an Educational Leadership Doctoral Degree Program is worth the time and money.
A doctorate in educational leadership provides its students with a wealth of new learning applications that challenge them personally and professionally. The curriculum of these doctorates develops professionals’ leadership abilities to prepare them to lead the field into the future. In addition to flexible online class schedules, online doctorates in educational leadership encourage students to attend face-to-face activities that foster connections between student-student and student-professor.
As students work to support current leadership opportunities or develop new ones, they will create a network that will lead to professional doors opening. Students will learn new ways to offer their knowledge in various delivery methods, to speak about their research and expertise, and, if they so choose, to enhance their professional encounters with educational institutions and leaders in education-focused industries. Doctorates allow you to constantly open new opportunities to keep developing professionally, provide for your family, and sustain various ways to contribute to the field of education.
Career Opportunities for Educational Leadership Doctorates
Educational leadership plays a significant role in shaping the future of our society. It’s a field where committed professionals devote their careers to raising academic standards and improving students’ lives. With a doctorate, graduates can find many different roles in the field, each with its own difficulties and benefits.
Educational leadership positions are crucial for establishing school policy, supervising employees, and ensuring educational institutions can cater to their students’ demands. Of course, to accomplish such lofty goals, one must also consider professional development and its challenges.
These educational leaders are responsible for directing and supervising all aspects of a school’s operations, such as curriculum creation, staff management, student discipline, and community involvement.
Median Annual Salary: $112,086
This kind of administrator oversees numerous schools in a district while working at the district level. They strongly emphasize staff management, curriculum collaboration, budgeting, and policy formulation.
Median Annual Salary: $86,712
Postsecondary Education Administrators
A postsecondary education administrator oversees faculty research, academics, and student activities. Their responsibilities could change, depending on whatever part of the college they are in charge of, such as the registrar’s office, admissions, or student life. Postsecondary education administrators assist students in various ways, including by completing admissions applications and enrolling in programs.
Median Annual Salary: $99,940
A department chair leads a specific academic department within a university or college, responsible for curriculum development, faculty supervision, and program coordination.
Median Annual Salary: $143,412
Chief Learning Officers
These educational leaders can be found in several academic institutions. They put a lot of effort into developing and putting into practice learning and development strategies, encouraging cutting-edge educational practices, and making sure that educational programs are continually improved.
Median Annual Salary: $147,353
Training and Development Managers
Professionals in this role develop and coordinate training programs for educational staff, focusing on enhancing their skills, knowledge, and professional development.
Median Annual Salary: $99,912
These people hold administrative positions in educational institutions that manage finances, oversee employees, plan programs, and ensure that laws governing education are followed.
Median Annual Salary: $61,346
Graduates of educational leadership doctorates (mainly graduates of Ph.D. programs) design and conduct surveys and research studies to gather data and insights related to educational practices, policies, and outcomes. They play a vital role in shaping evidence-based decision-making in education.
Median Annual Salary: $60,410
What is the difference between a PhD and an EdD?
The method of instruction used in each degree program is a clear distinction between an EdD and a PhD. The PhD is generally grounded in philosophy and involves original research, whereas the EdD uses previously published research to address real-world issues.
PhD students research and test hypotheses that may impact the larger educational community, whereas EdD students work on projects that reflect their standing as current or future leaders.
Candidates for education doctoral degrees can choose their path by determining how they want to leave their impact on the academic community. With administrative authority and the skills acquired throughout their studies, EdD recipients can improve conditions in one school or district. PhD holders are more likely to suggest fundamental ideas than to put them into practice.
Which doctoral program in education is best for an individual depends on how well it fits with their own objectives. A PhD is best for students who want a career as an academic, conducting research to influence the direction of education, and training the next generation of thought leaders.
On the other hand, a career in practical educational theory application at the local or district level, promoting academic opportunity, equity, and moral education for all, is more likely to be associated with an EdD.
While a Ph.D. can be earned in four to eight years, an EdD can be earned in as little as two to three years. Depending on the institution and whether students take their courses online or in person, the cost of each program varies.
Before choosing, prospective students should thoroughly examine all relevant factors, such as program cost and duration. However, the most crucial factor for students to consider while choosing the right degree program is their academic interests and hobbies.
Online Educational Leadership Doctoral Degree Programs: Concentration
Numerous concentrations are available in online doctoral programs in educational leadership to help you concentrate and narrow your emphasis. For instance, students can decide whether to focus on leadership in K–12 or higher education. Although these specialties span subjects like finance, law, and communications, classes tend to concentrate on specific problems in the appropriate field.
Other institutions give students the option to follow a practitioner or researcher path. Other fields of study can include creativity and innovation, global education, or educational technologies.
Higher Education Leadership
Higher educational leadership concentration is for students interested in leadership positions in colleges and universities. This educational leadership concentration is geared toward exploring and solving complex challenges in higher education institutions, including student affairs, management, policy formulation, and academic leadership.
K-12 School Leadership
This specialty focuses on leadership in K–12 educational environments. It covers teacher supervision, educational policy, school reform, and community involvement.
Special Education Leadership
Professionals interested in holding leadership positions in special education should pursue this focus. Inclusionary methods, special education policy, program development, and efficient support for kids with special needs are all topics covered in this educational leadership concentration.
Learning Technology Leadership
This concentration focuses on studying how technology can be integrated into educational environments. Instructional design, e-learning, educational software and tools, technological infrastructure, and data-driven decision-making are just a few topics that students may anticipate studying in relation to educational technology.
Global and International Education
Educational leadership students who want to focus on topics within a worldwide setting are best suited for a Global and International Education specialization. Students can expect to focus on techniques for supporting global education initiatives, cultural competence, comprehending other educational systems, and global policy challenges.
Creativity and Innovation
This doctoral program specializes in developing leadership abilities in supporting innovation and creativity in educational environments. This program integrates the fundamentals of educational leadership with tactics and methods that encourage originality in thought, problem-solving, and practice.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to earn a Doctorate in Educational Leadership online?
Ph.D. programs typically last four to eight years, while EdDs can last between two and three years. Full-time students can graduate more quickly, although students typically study part-time so they can continue working.
What are the admission requirements for a Doctorate in Educational Leadership Online?
Doctorates in educational leadership programs have different requirements for admission. Others demand a particular amount of professional experience, while some call for the successful completion of education in a related discipline.
Do Online Doctorates in Educational Leadership have dissertations?
Online educational leadership programs require students to finish a dissertation like any doctoral degree program.
- Students who aim to apply for positions in post-secondary teaching and research should pursue Ph.D. in educational leadership online programs, while those looking for a career in practical educational theory application are best suited for online EdDs.
- Employment for educational leadership doctorate degree holders is expected to grow due to the increasing challenges educational institutions face.
- A Doctor of Educational Leadership program teaches students how to interact with parents, serve a variety of clientele, assess staff and schools, and incorporate cutting-edge methods and technologies into learning environments.