What is a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership?
In educational leadership, professionals play a central administrative role managing programs and institutions. A degree in educational leadership prepares graduates to work as principals, school superintendents, and higher education administrators. Professionals also work in director-level positions in pre-K to university settings, establishing goals and managing staff members. The field requires strong leadership and management skills, and professionals play a key role in a school's success.
By earning a doctorate in educational leadership online, educators qualify for top administrative jobs, making them more competitive on the job market than professionals with a master's degree.
By earning a doctorate in educational leadership online, educators qualify for top administrative jobs, making them more competitive on the job market than professionals with a master's degree. The best doctoral programs in educational leadership include coursework in management skills, curriculum development, and leadership theory. Doctoral candidates complete and defend a thesis or dissertation, and graduates pursue academic positions in addition to leadership jobs.
Working professionals benefit from the flexibility and accessibility of an online Ph.D. educational leadership program. Because a doctorate in educational leadership online can take five years, many doctoral students work while completing their degree. An online Ph.D. in educational leadership degree lets educators advance their careers and work at the highest levels of leadership in K-12 schools and at the college level.
Types of Educational Leadership Degrees
Doctoral students pursue either a doctorate of philosophy in educational leadership (Ph.D.) or a doctorate of education in educational leadership (Ed.D.). The two degrees share similar coursework and graduation requirements: both include classes on administration and leadership in education, and both require a research-based thesis or dissertation. However, the Ph.D. has a stronger research focus, and graduates pursue careers in academia and research. An Ed.D. educational leadership program focuses on skills for practitioners, training students to apply theoretical approaches in practical settings. Graduates work as administrators and also hold teaching positions.
Because the degrees lead to slightly different career paths, prospective students need to consider whether a Ph.D. or Ed.D. best fits their goals. Graduates from both degrees command higher-than-average salaries, with Ed.D. professionals earning slightly higher starting salaries. With ten year's experience, Ph.D.s and Ed.D.s earn, on average, just under $80,000 a year. In addition to educational leadership degrees, students can also pursue other online doctorates in education. For example, an online doctorate in educational administration prepares graduates for jobs in higher education administration and as school district superintendents.
Choosing an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Program
Each online doctoral degree in educational leadership is slightly different, so prospective students need to research their options before choosing a program. For example, some programs let students take a mix of online and in-person classes, and some may not require applicants to submit GRE scores. Students should consider several factors, including the cost, completion time, and graduation requirements, to find the best program for their interests and career goals.
The cost of online educational leadership doctoral programs varies. Some universities offer tuition discounts for in-state residents or fully-online students, and they may also provide grants or scholarships to help distance learners cover the cost of the program. While most doctorate in educational leadership online programs take three to five years, some may offer accelerated or part-time options. Graduation requirements, like practicums or dissertations, can also add time to an online doctorate in educational leadership.
Students also need to check the school's accreditation status. An unaccredited program likely does not meet licensure or certification requirements, and only students in accredited programs qualify for federal financial aid. Additionally, many programs only accept transfer credits from accredited institutions. Some online doctorate degrees in educational leadership offer concentrations in areas like higher education administration, which help students focus their degree and prepare for specialized careers.
Many of the best doctoral programs in educational leadership offer online or hybrid options, which appeal to students working while completing their degree. When selecting an online program, students need to check for any on-campus requirements. In addition to considering the program, students must also consider the admission requirements.
When researching online doctoral programs in educational leadership, prospective students need to consider all relevant entry requirements. Each program sets admission requirements, such as a minimum number of years of teaching experience, standardized test scores, and an educational background in the field. By checking a program's admission requirements, prospective students can make sure the program is a good match for their experience.
Most online Ph.D. programs in educational leadership require a master's degree in the field or a closely related discipline. For example, an online master's in educational leadership meets the requirements for all doctoral programs, and many also accept a master's in educational administration. Applicants typically submit a transcript showing their coursework and GPA. Many programs set a minimum 3.0 GPA, but they may offer provisional admission to candidates who do not meet the requirement.
In addition to educational requirements, the admissions process for an online doctorate in educational leadership also evaluates candidates by looking at their standardized test scores, often including the GRE. Teaching exams like the Praxis may also meet that requirement. Applicants also provide letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose explaining their goals in an online Ph.D. in educational leadership program. Because the entry requirements vary by program, prospective students need to closely check each program's admission process.
Directory of Accredited Doctorate in Educational Leadership Programs
Educational Leadership Licensure and Certifications
In order to teach at the K-12 level, educators must hold a state teaching license. Each state sets its own requirements and licensure process for teachers. Typically, teachers must complete a bachelor's degree in education from an accredited teacher preparation program. After earning a bachelor's, teaching license candidates must pass teaching skills and content area exams, which vary by state. At the secondary level, all states require proof of content area knowledge for all teaching fields. Teachers also undergo a background check and must demonstrate student teaching experience.
Because the state teacher licensure process varies by state, a teaching license earned in one state does not automatically transfer to another. Some states do offer limited reciprocity from states with similar requirements. In these cases, teachers must still apply for a new license and meet any additional licensure requirements. Experienced teachers provide evidence of teaching effectiveness from their current job. In some states, licensed out-of-state teachers apply for a temporary license while meeting additional requirements.
Online doctoral programs in educational leadership may meet the state educational requirements for a teaching license, depending on the program.
Online doctoral programs in educational leadership may meet the state educational requirements for a teaching license, depending on the program. If the educational leadership program fulfills the state's standards, graduates with a doctorate still need to complete testing requirements and pass a background check.
Educational leadership professionals working in higher education rarely require a teaching license. At the K-12 level, principals, superintendents, and program directors may need a specialized state license for administrators. Because the requirements vary by state, doctoral students considering a career in elementary or secondary administration need to research the licensure process in their state. Educational leadership professionals may also benefit from certifications in their specialty.
What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Educational Leadership?
After earning a doctorate in educational leadership online, graduates pursue careers in educational administration and director-level positions. The degree leads to many rewarding and lucrative career paths. Many boast above average salaries, including school superintendents, who earn $114,580 a year on average. Graduates also work as assistant principals, education directors, and directors of special education. Salaries and job requirements vary by location; educational leadership students can research the requirements by state.
School superintendents manage a school district or system, acting as the highest administrator. They work with school boards, principals, teachers, and parents to ensure high-quality education in their district. School superintendents typically hire principals, manage the district's budget, and manage any problems at the schools. They work with school boards to design and implement the district's goals and vision.
Median Salary: $114,580
Assistant principals work under a principal, typically at a K-12 institution, helping with the administrative functions of running a school. They monitor curriculum standards, set discipline guidelines, and enforce the school's rules. Assistant principals also communicate the school's goals to teachers and parents.
Median Salary: $70,753
Education directors work in institutions from the early childhood level through higher education. At the highest levels, they manage academic affairs as administrators, and they also provide supervision over staff members, teachers, and other faculty. Education directors review instructor performance, hire and train staff, and manage the accreditation process. They may also play a role in setting curriculum standards and guidelines.
Median Salary: $63,431
Education Program Director
Education program directors manage a program within a school or academic setting. They help develop and maintain the program's academic curriculum, and they also oversee the program's educational standards. As part of their responsibilities, education program directors manage budgets, oversee staff, and lead educational programming. They help develop and maintain the program's academic curriculum, and they also oversee the program's educational standards. As part of their responsibilities, education program directors manage budgets, oversee staff, and lead educational programming.
Median Salary: $60,023
Director of Special Education
Directors of special education oversee a school or district's special education programs. They monitor programs to ensure that their services meet the needs of special education students. Directors of special education also hire and manage staff members, monitor counseling programs, and administer the special education budget.
Median Salary: $74,265
Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership
Before enrolling in a doctorate program, prospective students should plan to pay for their degree. Some online Ph.D. programs in educational leadership provide financial support for students, and students can also pay out of pocket for tuition expenses. In addition to funding through the program or university, many doctoral students rely on financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships. These funding sources, typically operated through the university's financial aid office, help students afford an online Ph.D. educational leadership degree.
Many students use financial aid from private and public sources to pay for their doctorates. Financial aid provides tuition money upfront, which students repay after graduation. The first step to receive financial aid is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). During the online application process, doctoral students provide financial information which can be found on a tax return. After submitting the form, students learn if they qualify for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs.
Public financial aid packages come in two forms: subsidized and unsubsidized. In general, students should prioritize subsidized loans, for which the government pays interest until six months after graduation. With an unsubsidized loan, interest begins accruing when the recipient accepts the loan, and students are responsible for paying interest. Once students evaluate their federal financial aid offers, they may also consider private loans. Financial aid disbursements typically happen through the college or university financial aid office, either on the quarter or semester schedule or monthly. Some financial aid packages only provide funds for tuition, while others can be used for books, fees, and living expenses.
A work-study program provides job opportunities for students who demonstrate financial need. The federal government runs work-study programs for eligible students who file a FAFSA. In most cases, the jobs are offered on campus through the college or university, and many programs try to place work-study students in positions related to their degree field. The institution's financial aid office determines the maximum number of hours that work-study students can work based on their academic performance. The office also pays work-study recipients on a regular basis, so the program builds work experience and supports the students financially.
Tuition Reimbursement Programs
Some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs for their current employees. In a tuition reimbursement program, the employee enrolls in a class and often pays tuition upfront. At the end of the semester, the employer reimburses the student for part or all of the tuition. Some programs require a minimum GPA or reimburse students at higher percentages for better grades. Many colleges and universities offer tuition reimbursement or free tuition for employees taking classes at the institution. These programs particularly appeal to doctoral students planning to work while earning a degree.
Grants, Fellowships, and Scholarships
In many ways, the most useful financial support comes from grants, fellowships, and scholarships because recipients do not need to repay the funds after graduation. Scholarships and grants offered by public or private organizations are considered gifts, and students may qualify by submitting an application and meeting eligibility guidelines. Fellowships may carry work obligations, such as presenting research, contributing to a program, or teaching. At the doctoral level, many students benefit from fellowships. The following section lists scholarships, grants, and fellowships specifically for online Ph.D. educational leadership students.
Scholarships for Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Degrees
Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program $27,500
Minority Dissertation Fellowship Program in Education Research $20,000
Donald H. and Verna S. Duncan Endowed Scholarship Varies
Gerald H. Read Laureate Scholarship: $2,500
PDK Graduate Scholarships $1,000 to $2,000
Resources for Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Students
- Association of Leadership Educators The Association of Leadership Educators provides job resources, an annual conference, and grants for members.
- National Education Association (NEA) Dating back to 1857, the NEA advocates for educators at all levels, and provides membership benefits such as research and publications, professional learning tools, and networking opportunities.
- U.S. Department of Education State Contacts The U.S. Department of Education provides state contact resources for local departments of education, higher education agencies, and other resources for teacher licensing and jobs.
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Educational leadership professionals benefit from the resources at the ASCD, including research-based support, networking opportunities, and members-only webinars.
- Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) The most important accreditation agency in education, the CAEP reviews educator programs to ensure high academic standards. Students can research the accreditation status of educational leadership programs with the CAEP.