Online Educational Leadership Doctorate Program Information

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Published on May 18, 2020 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Earning a doctorate in educational leadership can boost your credentials, advance your career, and allow you to influence schools, education systems, and students for the better. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in education, training, and library occupations will increase by 9% from 2016 to 2026, due partly to growing enrollment in schools and colleges.

Growth in the education field as a whole means an increased need for talented administrators who can supervise teachers, manage funds, and ensure student success. Read on to learn more about online educational leadership doctoral programs and the career opportunities you can expect after graduation.

Choosing a Program

Will This Program Provide Me with the Skills I Need to Advance My Career?

Completing an online doctorate in educational leadership will give you the necessary skills to move up within the education field and master the administrative and managerial techniques that can enable you to oversee a department, institution, or school system. A doctoral degree can serve as an important stepping stone to a more prominent position.

Do I Need Work Experience to Get in?

As they are meant primarily for current educators looking to advance their careers in administration and management, most online Ed.D. programs in educational leadership require some work experience for admission. Indeed, most doctoral students work in the field for a significant period of time before deciding to earn the advanced degree. In addition to transcripts and letters of recommendation, most universities require applicants to submit a resume or curriculum vitae.

How Do I Find the Right Online Program for Me?

There are many factors to consider when choosing programs for an online doctorate in educational leadership. Programs can vary widely in terms of cost, curriculum, and format, so be sure to consider all of your options before deciding on a school. Our ranking features some of the best universities offering online doctoral degrees in educational leadership; this guide is also a great place to begin your search for the right online program.

Can I Work While I Complete My Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Program?

Online programs offer more flexibility than on-campus programs, and online students regularly work full time while taking classes. Many online programs allow students to set their own pace for coursework. However, some online educational leadership doctoral programs include a practicum component, which may interfere with other work.

What Else Can I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Program?

While no two programs are alike, most online Ed.D. programs in educational leadership share common courses, topics, and projects. Specifics will vary depending on your school, but this section provides a general idea of what to expect from an online doctorate in educational leadership program.

Courses for an Online Educational Leadership Doctoral Degree

Decision Making in Education Systems

This course introduces students to the important decisions education leaders and administrators make daily. Students learn multiple approaches to decision making in a variety of educational settings.

Sociocultural Analysis of Education System

This course focuses on social and cultural factors that affect education and student success. It also introduces students to teaching theories and practices that support diversity and inclusion.

Program Evaluation

Throughout this course, students learn techniques for evaluating, assessing, and improving education programs. This course prepares students for a variety of leadership and administrative roles in schools and education systems.

Writing for Research, Publication, and Funding

This course teaches students the skills they need to convey their ideas through writing. These skills are essential for administrators who will need to apply for funding or to present research at conferences.

Educational Leadership

In this course, students study various approaches to educational leadership. They learn common and creative strategies for leading in an educational setting.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Educational Leadership Online?

Earning a doctorate in educational leadership online typically takes around three years, but there are several factors that can affect the duration of your particular program. Consider the number of credits each program requires, and how many credits you are allowed to take each semester. Doctoral programs typically require between 60 and 90 credits for graduation.

In online programs that follow a cohort learning format, students adhere to a rigid schedule and move through the curriculum alongside other on-campus and online students. Self-paced programs enable students to complete courses at whatever rate they please. This can allow eager students to double-up on credits and finish the degree faster.

In addition, specific program features may affect the length of a program. Experiential learning components, dissertation and capstone requirements, and other unique courses can affect how long it takes you to earn your Ed.D. in educational leadership.

Admission Requirements for Doctorate in Educational Leadership Online Students


Not every doctoral program mandates prior graduate study, but most do require a master's degree in education from a nationally or regionally accredited university. Programs generally expect you to have three years of experience working in education. Applicants do not have to be currently practicing to be considered. Most programs require a minimum GPA between 2.5 and 3.5. Students who do not meet this requirement may still get in based on other parts of the application. Programs generally require students to submit recent GRE scores. Applicants who are not native English speakers may need to submit TOEFL scores.

Admission Materials

Completing an application can take just a few minutes, and usually includes basic personal information. Most schools require applicants to submit official transcripts along with other materials. Students can generally obtain transcripts from their university or college for a small fee. Graduate programs typically require three letters of recommendation from an applicant's past professors or supervisors. Be sure to give your recommenders ample time to write you a recommendation. Most programs require students to take the GRE and report their scores. Some schools also encourage students to submit scores from GRE subject tests. Graduate school application fees are generally around $100. Some applicants, including college students who receive need-based financial aid, may qualify for fee waivers.

Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Degrees

It is essential that you earn your online doctorate in educational leadership from an accredited school. Colleges and universities receive accreditation after an evaluation by an independent accrediting body. Accredited institutions must consistently meet high academic standards and provide a high quality of education. Choosing an accredited program ensures that potential employers will respect your degree and trust your qualifications.

Some institutions receive regional accreditation, while others receive national accreditation. Regional accreditation is generally awarded to traditional universities, while national accreditation is typically given to vocational or career-oriented institutions. Whether nationally or regionally accredited, make sure that your chosen school's accreditation agency has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation reviews and accredits educator preparation programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.

The ED and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) fill essential roles in accrediting institutions of higher learning. While these organizations do not accredit colleges, they evaluate and endorse accrediting bodies, monitoring accrediting agencies in the same way that accrediting agencies monitor colleges. In short, they determine which accrediting bodies should be trusted and why.

Students should only trust accrediting groups recognized by one or both of these organizations. Plenty of groups claim to provide accreditation, but do not possess the proper credentials. You can find a list of all accredited schools on the ED website or CHEA website.

Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Educational Leadership Graduates

Doctorate in Educational Leadership Careers

Graduates of doctorate in educational leadership programs possess the skills needed to fill leadership roles across the education field.

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

K-12 principals manage day-to-day operations of a school and perform a range of administrative functions. They maintain the school's budget, supervise teachers and other employees, and oversee the curriculum. A doctorate program in educational leadership can provide teachers with the advanced managerial skills they need to excel as a principal.

Median Annual Salary: $94,390*

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

These education professionals oversee all aspects of a preschool or childcare center. They supervise staff members, design activities, and allocate funding. They also interact with parents and help care for the children. Earning an advanced degree in educational leadership can enable preschool directors to move into a role overseeing a chain of preschools, for example.

Median Annual Salary: $46,890*

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators fill a variety of important administrative roles in colleges and universities. They may work in admissions, student services, or academic departments. For instance, administrators in the registrar's office schedule courses and maintain the database of student records.

Median Annual Salary: $92,360*

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators work in K-12 schools, as well as in colleges and universities. They are responsible for managing a school's curriculum and teaching practices. Instructional coordinators also work closely with administrators and teachers to ensure that the school meets state and federal standards.

Median Annual Salary: $63,750*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Doctorate in Educational Leadership Salary

As the table above demonstrates, salaries for graduates of Ed.D. programs vary depending on the career one chooses. Generally, salaries are higher for administrators at postsecondary institutions than at K-12 schools. University and college presidents earn around $150,000 per year, while the median salary for K-12 principals falls under $100,000.

The salary a doctoral student can expect after graduation also depends heavily on location, especially for those pursuing careers in public school systems. Each state has its own framework for determining teacher and administrator salaries; education administrators receive the highest pay in the states listed below.

Top 5 Paying U.S. States for Elementary and Secondary School Education Administrators
State Annual Mean Wage
Connecticut $128,690
New Jersey $128,570
New York $124,210
California $118,810
Washington $112,150

Educational Leadership Professional Organizations

While professional associations primarily serve workers in a particular field, these organizations also provide valuable resources to students and recent graduates. For example, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development publishes newsletters and magazines that can help students stay apprised of the latest issues and developments in education. And the American Association of School Administrators offers several programs for members to earn additional certifications. Continuing education opportunities such as these can help recent graduates impress potential employers.

The AASA aims to ensure all students have access to high-quality public education. The association advocates on behalf of school administrators, and offers members access to conferences, newsletters, and continuing education. Founded in 1970, this association accepts higher education administrators such as presidents, deans, and department chairpersons. The organization develops ethical and professional standards for the field and hosts an annual leadership seminar. This organization supports educators and administrators through up-to-date research on educational leadership strategies and curriculum development. Members gain access to several newsletters, professional learning resources, and webinars.

Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership

Earning an advanced degree can be costly. Fortunately, doctoral students can apply for several types of financial aid to help pay for school. All prospective graduate students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA. By submitting this form, students can find out if they are eligible for financial aid from the U.S. government. Federal loans generally carry a substantially lower interest rate than loans from private lenders, so be sure to exhaust your options for federal aid before turning to banks.

Students should also apply for scholarships and grants; unlike federal and private loans, these financial aid opportunities never have to be paid back. A great deal of nonprofit organizations, professional associations, and private companies offer scholarships and grants specifically for education students.

After graduation, educators should take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs. For example, the U.S. Department of Education's Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program reimburses up to $17,500 in loans for teachers who qualify. In order to be eligible, educators must teach full time for five consecutive years in a low-income school or educational service agency. To receive the full amount, teachers must specialize in mathematics, science, or special education.

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