Educational leadership is a specialized academic field dedicated to the management and administration of learning institutions at all grade levels, from pre-K to postsecondary education. Educational leadership professionals include principals and vice principals, school superintendents, college deans, admissions officers, and curriculum developers. Although a master's degree represents the minimum educational requirement for most of these positions, students can boost their job market standing by earning a doctorate in educational leadership.

Learners can explore two types of doctorate in educational leadership programs: Ph.D. programs, which focus on academic research and generally appeal to those who wish to continue teaching, and Ed.D. programs, which focus on administration and practical training. In both program types, curricula cover topics such as educational philosophy and law, leadership methods, instructional technology, and curriculum development. Most doctorate in educational leadership programs include practicum courses, in which students receive supervised training from experienced professionals at working schools and educational facilities. Many programs also require capstone projects. Students increasingly choose to earn their doctorate in educational leadership online. Learners who take web-based classes follow the same rigorous curricula as students who attend courses on campus and can pursue the same job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous schedule and study-from-home format of distance learning may appeal to students with part-time jobs, childcare duties, and/or other responsibilities that could interfere with campus-based learning.

Explore this comprehensive guide to learn more about what you can expect from a doctorate in educational leadership program and what kind of career opportunities exist.


Online educational leadership doctoral programs help students build on the knowledge gained during their master's studies. Most doctorate in educational leadership students choose a specialization related to student age, such as early childhood, elementary, secondary (middle and high school), or postsecondary (college). In addition to educational credentials, some educational leadership personnel, such as public school principals and vice principals, must become licensed in the state where they work. Licensure requirements vary by state but typically include passing a comprehensive exam, submitting to a background check, and completing a set number of post-college training hours. The best online doctoral programs in educational leadership help prepare students for these post-degree requirements.


Online doctoral programs provide a flexible alternative to a campus-based education. Students can access lectures and readings, submit assignments, participate in online discussions with their peers, take exams, and communicate with faculty all from the comfort of home. Current technology also enables learners to study on the go, using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other device with Wi-Fi capabilities. For added convenience, online students can often arrange practicum courses and other onsite requirements at nearby locations.


Common careers for individuals with a doctorate in educational leadership include principals and vice principals, school superintendents, college deans and administrators, and curriculum specialists. Individual job eligibility depends on a student's chosen specialization and their state's licensure requirements. Programs with capstone projects or practicum courses give students the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills to solve issues in actual classrooms. Some doctorate recipients go on and continue teaching; these individuals often advance to head teaching or school leadership positions after a few years in the workforce.

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Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 20%

Located in Berrien Springs, Michigan, Andrews University offers two fully online doctoral degrees in educational leadership. The Ed.D provides a path for students who want to solve problems within the educational system, or oversee a school's academic programs and administration. The school's PhD program is heavily research-focused and geared toward students who want to continue teaching or providing consultation to other teachers. Applicants to Andrews' graduate programs generally must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better; students with lower marks but a GPA above 2.75 during the second half of their time in college are also invited to apply. Most distance learners are able to graduate from either of Andrews' doctoral programs in four years, and the school allows you up to seven to complete your degree.

Ball State University Muncie, IN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 74%

Established as a teachers college in 1918, Ball State University continues its mission to cultivate highly skilled educators. Aspiring superintendents seeking to foster high-quality teaching, research, and service may pursue BSU’s doctorate of education in educational administration and supervision. Notable courses include an examination of school facilities, the school superintendent's role, fiscal management of educational agencies, and special education law. Graduates are eligible for a school superintendency license in the state of Indiana.

Classes are available online and on campus in the greater Indianapolis area. The 90-credit doctorate in educational leadership online requires coursework in educational decision making, methodology of educational research, a research colloquium, and statistical methods in educational and psychological research. The program culminates in a capstone project and each student must write a dissertation on an approved topic. Applicants should hold a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Potential students must also submit GRE scores.

Carson-Newman University Jefferson City, TN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 65%

Carson Newman offers an online Ed.D program, with concentrations available in both administrative leadership and curriculum & instruction. Founded in 1851, the Tennessee-based school is a nationally respected liberal arts institution with an impressive selection of online course and program offerings. CNU's web-based courses maintain an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and the online school is home to distance learners from all 50 states and 28 different countries. Carson Newman has also been recognized for providing low tuition rates and excellent financial aid: in the 2014-2015 academic year, more than 96% of all students received some form of assistance. Courses within both Ed.D programs are offered individually within eight-week blocks, allowing students to complete the degree in as few as three years. Distance learners who want to study part-time are also welcome to apply.

City University of Seattle Seattle, WA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 43%

Seattle-based City University is affiliated with the National University System and has more than 50 thousand alumni spread across the world. The school's fully online doctor of education in leadership program provides students with the training they need to excel in leadership roles in education. The program offers concentrations in organizational leadership, higher educational leadership, educational leadership, and specialized study. The program can be completed in just two-and-a-half years by students who already have some credits to transfer in. Distance learners must complete 90 credits to earn their doctorate. As part of the curriculum, all online students must take a seminar course that introduces them to the school's web-based tools and degree expectations.

City is held in high regard by its former students: A recent survey found that 92 percent of students were satisfied or highly satisfied with their experience at the school. Most students are enrolled part-time, and the school is a natural choice for distance learners trying to balance school with their personal and professional responsibilities.

Clarkson College Omaha, NE Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 100%

The online Ed.D in educational leadership provided by Omaha's Clarkson College teaches students the theoretical and practical skills and knowledge they need to be competent and respected educational practitioners. Whether you want to lead a school system, develop a curriculum, or evaluate educational processes, the three-year program at Clarkson College can help prepare you for those roles. Distance learners can study full-time or part-time. As a small, nonprofit institution, online students enrolled at Clarkson enjoy individualized instruction, small student-to-faculty ratios, substantive discussion with peers and professors, and access to a variety of financial aid opportunities. Courses are offered on a traditional semester schedule, and online Ed.D students who want to graduate quickly are encouraged to take summer classes.

College of Saint Elizabeth Morristown, NJ Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 32%

Founded in 1899, the College of Saint Elizabeth provides students with an education rooted in the Catholic liberal arts tradition. The school cultivates servant leaders who are morally purposeful and globally conscious. The doctor of education in educational leadership with a track in higher education combines both theoretic learning and real-world application. The 52-credit degree plan builds on students' prior administrative experience in higher education.

The curriculum covers educational leadership topics such as servant leadership, contemporary issues in higher education, strategic planning and institutional improvement, and policymaking and leadership in higher education. Full-time students can complete the program in three years. Through the school's ED CHOICE program, doctoral students may decide from week to week whether they want to take classes online or on campus in New Jersey. Potential students should have master's degree and applicable professional experience in higher education. Candidates must submit two letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

College of Saint Mary Omaha, NE Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 30%

The College of Saint Mary has a long tradition of developing women as scholars and leaders in various disciplines. The Nebraska college offers an 87-credit doctor of education in educational leadership that prepares women to teach in areas such as higher education, corporate training and development, or healthcare education. Students move through the three-year program as part of a cohort. The curriculum can be tailored to each student's career objectives, making this one of the best online doctoral programs in educational leadership for professionals in a wide variety of disciplines.

The program focuses on curriculum design, teaching and learning theories, assessment and quality improvement, and leadership in educational organizations. Students engage in a practicum to gain experience in a professional setting. A series of research courses guide students in the development of their dissertation. The program culminates in a comprehensive exam. Candidates should have a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Colorado State University - Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 37%

Nestled in Colorado's breathtaking mountains, CSU is home to thousands of students from all walks of life. The school's PhD in higher education leadership prepares future educational leaders. All students must complete 60 credits, and they can finish in five years of full-time study. CSU uses Canvas to facilitate its online courses. Distance learners split their time equally between classes and research, and they will be required to sit for written and oral comprehensive examinations in order to graduate. All students take classes in a structured sequence in a cohort model; this allows distance learners the opportunity to work together with the same set of peers throughout their time in school. As part of the curriculum, students are expected to complete at least 30 credits of academic administration courses, along with 30 credits of research.

Concordia University - Chicago River Forest, IL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 72%

Concordia offers online Ed.D and PhD programs in educational leadership. The school teaches students how to provide ethical leadership and develop effective curriculums. Depending on your academic track, you'll take between 61 and 67 credits, which can be completed in just four years of full-time study. Students who plan to complete their degree while they work have up to seven years to graduate from the time they start. The curriculum covers an extensive range of topics, including supervisory theory and practice, school improvement through data analysis, superintendency, and legal issues for school districts, among others. Concordia has been providing a quality liberal arts education since 1864 and maintains strong ties to The Lutheran Church. In addition to providing excellent educational offerings, the school also prides itself on being a diverse and inclusive campus.

Concordia University - Portland Portland, OR Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 83%

A Christian liberal arts college, Concordia University-Portland offers educational programs that prepare transformative leaders. The doctorate of education with a specialization in administrative leadership is designed for working professionals with some experience in the field. The curriculum divides into four phases. The first phase builds foundational knowledge in transformational learning, the ethical educator, qualitative research methods, and leading organizational change. Phase two delves into the specialization, with study of leading across communities; education policy and practice; and global issues in policy, planning, and leadership. Phase three focuses on research and religion. The fourth and final phase is the dissertation.

Concordia’s program focuses not only on education, but also on health and safety for children. Distance learners can complete the program in three and a half years. Students have in-depth academic support and opportunities for collaboration with their peers. Applicants should have a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Creighton University Omaha, NE Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 52%

Students at Creighton University receive a rigorous education rooted in the Jesuit tradition. The Nebraska college offers a 60-credit doctorate of education in interdisciplinary leadership that builds value-driven leadership competencies. The program emphasizes academic rigor, human dignity, and justice. Classes examine issues such as leadership styles and reflective practice, leadership and applied ethics, interdisciplinary leadership, and organizational theory and behavior. Students may choose electives such as leadership in school improvement, school system leadership, and planning programs for adult learners.

The program begins with an on-campus residency to meet with faculty and the peer cohort. Students take one online course at a time. At the end of the program, distance learners return to the campus for a final residency during which they defend their dissertation. For admission to the doctorate in educational leadership online, students should have a master's degree and submit GRE scores.

Drexel University Philadelphia, PA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 46%

Since 1891, Drexel has provided students with a robust education, and the school has recently prioritized and expanded its online program offerings. In 2015, more than 26,000 students enrolled in both traditional and distance learning classes, including the school's online Ed.D in educational leadership and management. The Ed.D program is taught in a cohort format. It is offered on an accelerated track, and can be completed in three years of part-time study. Applicants must have earned a 3.50 GPA or better in their master's program, and have at least three years of relevant professional experience. The school offers an innovative “Test Drive” to help prospective distance learners determine whether they want to apply. In the test drive, prospective students can submit sample assignments, participate in a discussion thread, use online resources, and listen to online lectures to gauge how well they like the distance format.

East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 38%

Founded as a teacher's college in 1911, East Tennessee State has taught and empowered future educators and educational administrators for more than a century. The online PhD in educational leadership is intended for students who already hold a master's or specialist degree. Distance learners can pursue one of several concentrations, including school leadership, administrative endorsement, classroom leadership, and postsecondary and private sector leadership. ETSU uses the D2L learning platform to facilitate its online curriculum. Students can take classes asynchronously and interact with their peers and professors in a variety of online channels. To graduate, students must also complete a 150-hour internship and defend a dissertation. Admitted distance learners can contact technical support at any time for help with the school's online platform.

Edgewood College Madison, WI Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 31%

Edgewood's online Ed.D in educational leadership prepares students to work in higher education as administrators, faculty members, or leaders at their school. After being admitted, students are assigned to a cohort with whom they'll follow the same course sequence throughout the three-and-a-half-year program. Distance learners can pursue one of two concentrations: the PK-12 administrative leadership program or the higher education leadership concentration. Approximately 85% of students graduate in three years. In addition to faculty mentoring, technical assistance, and career guidance, students can also take advantage of Edgewood's online research and writing center for assistance with projects and papers. The school currently supports more than 900 graduate students and features an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Seventy-two percent of the school's instructors hold a PhD or terminal degree in their field.

Florida State University Tallahassee, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 23%

An elite research university, Florida State's educational philosophy is deeply rooted in liberal arts and critical thinking. The college's first online doctoral program, the doctor of education in educational leadership and policy, cultivates leaders able to improve and renew school systems. The three-year curriculum incorporates theory and professional knowledge. One of the top online Ed.D programs in educational leadership, the program gives students ample opportunities to engage in applied research.

The program begins with an on-campus seminar in the summer. The 69-credit curriculum delves into subjects such as the foundations of education; a laboratory of practice; professional learning for educational practitioners; educational administration and organizational practice; and educational policy at the classroom, school, and district levels. In total, distance learners engage in three face-to-face summer seminars. Applicants should submit GRE scores and proof of a master's degree with a minimum 3.5 GPA.

George Fox University Newberg, OR Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 28%

George Fox University educates approximately 4,000 students through its main campus in Oregon and its online learning platform. The three-year online doctor of education in educational leadership is designed for teachers, administrators, college faculty, or higher education professionals. The 56-credit curriculum includes study of leadership, faith and learning, ethics, educational foundations, and teaching and learning. Learners choose from one of three concentrations: administration, higher education, or instructional design and development.

Graduates are able to incorporate equity and social justice into educational programs, solve educational problems through collaboration with stakeholders, use research to improve educational outcomes, and provide strategic leadership at their institutions. The program requires an annual two-week residency on campus in Newberg. The rest of the program is available entirely online. Applicants should have a master's degree, a minimum 3.25 GPA, and at least three years of relevant experience.

Hampton University Hampton, VA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 54%

One of the top historically black colleges in the nation, Hampton University offers a comprehensive suite of programs in technical fields and the liberal arts. The 66-credit online Ph.D in educational management teachers practitioners how to lead organizations in a complex, information-driven educational environment. The 30-month curriculum incorporates study of current issues, core leadership competencies, and applied leadership skills.

Courses for this Ph.D program in educational leadership include leadership theory and practice; managing organizational performance; school district finance and budgeting; assessment, evaluation, and accountability; and diversity and equity in education. Students choose a specialization in higher education, pre-K-12 education, STEM leadership, or special education. The program culminates in a dissertation that addresses real challenges in educational organizations. Potential students should submit GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and proof of a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Immaculata University Immaculata, PA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 15%

Immaculata University’s academic programs foster scholarship, leadership, and service. Those seeking leadership roles in primary and secondary education may consider the school’s Ed.D in K-12 educational leadership and administration. The curriculum incorporates educational theories and current research while honing learners' pedagogical and administrative proficiencies. The part-time hybrid program meets the needs of working professionals through online courses and evening classes on campus.

Students can complete the 54-credit Ed.D in educational leadership in as few as three years. The degree plan includes study of curriculum theory and evaluation, curriculum management, school business management, methods of doctoral research, and school leadership in teaching and learning. The program concludes with a comprehensive exam and dissertation. Students may earn a letter of eligibility for superintendency by completing nine additional credits. Classes for the hybrid program are structured in accelerated seven-week sessions. Applicants must submit three letters of recommendation that demonstrate suitability for doctoral-level study.

Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 54%

Founded in 1865 as a teacher's school in Terre Haute, ISU continues to teach the next generation of educators. The school's online PhD in educational administration features a concentration in higher education leadership for students aspiring to work in collegiate settings. The cohort-based program is taught on an accelerated schedule, allowing full-time students to graduate within two years (five semesters). All courses are completed through Blackboard, and online students receive the same and quality of education as their peers enrolled on-campus.

Keiser University - Ft Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 90%

Founded in 1977, Keiser's mission is to serve adult learners at an affordable price. Keiser's online PhD in educational leadership teaches students the theory, methods, and research skills in educational leadership in an interactive and innovative 60-credit program. Online students also have access to supportive writing, advising, and technology services. As distance learners approach graduation, they have the opportunity to work with a career services counselor to help them find a position suited to their skills and interests. Applicants may transfer up to six credits from previous programs. There are no elective courses in the curriculum. To graduate, distance learners must complete 36 credits and an action research capstone.

Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, GA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 55%

Georgia's Kennesaw State is a member of the Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus and has provided quality online education for more than a decade. One of 70 fully online programs offered, the university's Ed.D in teacher leadership is intended for students who want to guide and direct school systems upon graduation. Coursework for this online degree is divided into sections, including leadership, curriculum development, teaching and learning, research, and a residency/capstone component. Students who are unsure of whether they want to study online or on-campus can use the school's Course Tour feature to preview the distance education experience. Applicants must score well on the graduate aptitude and achievement index, Kennesaw State's preferred metric for evaluating a prospective student's grades and standardized test scores. Once enrolled, online students can access the university's academic advising and career mentoring services.

Lamar University Beaumont, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 82%

A rapidly growing college in Beaumont, Texas, Lamar University operates the Center for Online Doctoral Studies in Educational Leadership, a school specifically for doctoral-level distance learning students. The 60-credit Ed.D in educational leadership features a concentration in global educational leadership. Students in the program become transformational leaders able to act at the local, national, and global levels. The program is available fully online with no residency requirements.

Like many online educational leadership doctoral programs, the Ed.D boasts a practitioner-driven curriculum steeped in research, reflection, innovation, and accessibility. Learners study professional ethics and values, cultural influences, organizational change, the dynamics of leadership, global communication, and global educational leadership and policy. Students also take a series of research courses that prepare them for their dissertation. Potential students should hold a master’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a valid teaching certificate. New students begin the program each summer.

Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 18%

Lehigh University is a premier research college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. International educators develop school leadership skills through the 60-credit doctor of education in educational leadership. The program features courses in five areas: organization and leadership, leadership functions, curriculum and instruction, research and measurement, and addressing the needs of diverse learners. Notable classes include curriculum design in a global society, program evaluation, inclusion of students with special needs, and policy and politics in public education.

Students take classes virtually in the fall and spring and on the school's campus in in the summer. During the residency, students participate in doctoral seminars and examine special topics in educational leadership. In addition to a dissertation, students complete a take-home exam that addresses a key issue in education. For admission to the online doctorate in educational leadership, students should have a master's degree with a minimum 3.6 GPA and adequate GRE scores.

Liberty University Lynchburg, VA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 96%

Liberty launched its first distance learning program in 1985, and was one of the pioneers of online education. Today, the school is America's largest private, nonprofit online university, offering more than 245 web-based degrees. Liberty's online Ed.D in program covers a variety of topics, including learning in leadership, research/evaluation techniques, and educational leadership. Students also take 12 hours of class centered around their dissertation, and they must pass final exams to graduate. Students can complete their degree in just nine semesters, and part-time enrollees have up to seven years to graduate. While most of the curriculum is available online, students must compute to campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, three times over the course of their time in school for programmatic intensives.

Mercer University Macon, GA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 17%

Mercer University delivers a comprehensive breadth of academic programs with a strong emphasis on liberal arts and professional knowledge. The 63-credit doctor of philosophy in educational leadership gives students a strong foundation in educational theory, research, and applications. Students choose from one of two tracks: higher education leadership or PreK-12 school leadership. Both tracks share coursework in advanced leadership theory, organizational theory and behavior, current issues in educational leadership, and the ethics of leadership. All students also complete two courses focused on the dissertation.

This online doctorate in educational leadership follows a hybrid format, with three weekend sessions each semester on Mercer’s Atlanta campus. Each March, the school hosts an academy session, during which students learn from experts in the field and network with their peers. Applicants should have relevant higher education experience and a master's degree with a minimum 3.5 GPA. Potential students must also submit GRE scores. New cohorts begin in the summer each year.

Morehead State University Morehead, KY Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 86%

Established as a teachers college in 1926, Morehead State University continues its mission to prepare highly qualified educators. One of the school’s online programs is the doctor of education with a specialization in educational technology leadership. Designed for leaders in PreK-16 education, the program explores advanced topics in curriculum development, instructional design, and educational technology. In addition to the specialization in educational technology leadership, the school also offers concentrations in PreK-12 administrative leadership and adult and higher education leadership.

The 18-credit core curriculum features courses in leadership principles; action research and grant writing; and change theory, futuring, and creative planning. The 12-credit specialization covers topics in individualized learning systems, advanced curriculum development, advanced instructional design, and advanced multimedia design. Students must pass a comprehensive exam before beginning the required doctoral capstone. Graduates find employment in curriculum development, distance learning, and educational software. Applicants should submit proof of a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, school transcripts, and scores from the GRE, GMAT, or MAT.

Morgan State University Baltimore, MD Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 26%

Morgan State's online Ed.D in Educational Leadership comes with a focus on community colleges. An HBCU, Morgan State's program also instills the importance of amplifying the voices of minority and female students in its graduates. Classes for this program are offered in five-week blocks, allowing students to take three different courses each semester. All online instruction is facilitated through Blackboard's learning management system. Distance learners will enjoy the benefits of an active online learning community and a range of student support services, including a digital library, technical assistance, tutoring, academic advising, and career counseling. Applicants must already hold a master's degree, and have graduated with a GPA exceeding 3.0. They should also submit test scores from the GRE or the Miller Analogies test.

National Louis University Chicago, IL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 38%

National Louis University developed the first four-year teacher training program in Illinois. Today, the school continues to offer innovative programs in teacher-administrator preparation. The three-year Ed.D in educational leadership prepares professionals for leadership roles in school districts, colleges, governmental agencies, schools, and other organizations. Students take one of three majors within the degree: leadership for learning and change, district-level educational leadership, or leadership for learning and organizational development.

The 60-credit online Ed.D program in educational leadership focuses on areas such as curriculum leadership and faculty development; systems used in continuous school improvement; management of human and financial capital; and adult learning and staff capacity building. The student cohort meets on campus once or twice per month, depending on student preference. NLU holds accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Potential students should hold a master's degree with a minimum 3.25 GPA and a minimum two years of education leadership.

New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 42%

More than 15,000 students from a total of 90 countries are currently enrolled at New Mexico State, many of whom are in the school's burgeoning online program. NMSU offers both an online PhD and an Ed.D in educational leadership. Required hours for the two degrees range from 63 credits for the online Ed.D program to 78 for the PhD. In addition to providing rigorous teaching and learning opportunities for future educational leaders, the university has also been recognized by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine -- the largest and oldest higher education publication focused on diversity -- for encouraging diversity both on campus and in online classrooms. Applicants must be practicing educational administrators or have five years of other relevant professional experience.

Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights, KY Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 44%

Northern Kentucky University is home to several award-winning graduate programs in education and human services. The 60-credit doctor of education in educational leadership creates transformational leaders well-versed in best practices. One of the best online doctoral programs in educational leadership, the program teaches students how to inspire and motivate others within their organizations. NKU also encourages students to engage more with their organizations and communities.

Students attend an on-campus residency one weekend per month. The remainder of coursework is available online. Classes delve into topics such as transformational leadership, regional stewardship, action research, organizations as social systems, and leading through technology. During a regional stewardship project, learners work in a group to address issues such as leadership styles, group problem solving, decision making, and conflict management. Potential students should have a master's degree with a minimum 3.25 GPA and significant leadership experience in education.

Northwest Nazarene University Nampa, ID Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 67%

Students can complete Northwest Nazarene's online PhD in educational leadership in just 22 months. Whether you're looking to work in a K-12 school, higher education, or educational research, NNU's excellent faculty can help you prepare for your career. Although the program is available fully online via a cohort program, students interested in traveling to Nampa, Idaho are also welcome to visit campus for two weeks during the summer to better prepare for their dissertation or other research work. Courses at NNU are taught from a Christian perspective. Classes cover conceptual statistical applications for educators, legal and financial issues in education, and how to administer human resources in an educational setting. As part of the curriculum, distance learners must also complete an action research seminar and a six-credit internship or principalship. Students from Oregon may also complete an optional class in Oregon Law and Finance.

Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 51%

Recognized for undergraduate programs with a strong research emphasis, Nova Southeastern University also hosts several prestigious graduate degrees. The Abraham S. Fischler College of Education developed the nation's first distance learning education doctorate in 1971. Today, virtual learners have several options, including the 54-credit doctor of education in educational leadership, which is available fully online or in hybrid format. The program educates practicing superintendents, principals, and educators. Students learn how to effectively advocate for schools, boost competencies in administration, and solve problems using project-based planning.

Courses examine topics such as leading an educational organization, strategic planning for educational leadership, school-based inquiry and transformation, and ethical and legal issues in educational leadership. The online educational leadership doctoral program hosts a summer institute each year that students must attend at least once during their course of study. For admission, candidates should have a master's degree and applicable experience in education.

Oregon State University Corvallis, OR Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 26%

Offered through Oregon State's renowned Ecampus program, the school's online doctoral degrees in educational leadership include both Ed.D and a PhD programs that will prepare graduates for managerial and administrative educational roles. Unlike many other online programs, OSU requires students to meet with their learning cohorts two weekends per term during the first two years of the program. At OSU, students can pursue two curricular options, allowing them to prepare to become educational administrators in community colleges or in four-year universities. Distance learners can access a variety of support services, including success counseling, online student groups and communities, tutoring services, academic success courses, and career counseling. To graduate, students must complete 108 or 120 credits, depending on which track they choose.

Pepperdine University Malibu, CA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 21%

Pepperdine University administers educational programs that reflect the school's commitment to scholarship and Christian values. The 51-credit online Ed.D in educational leadership serves students from around the world who aspire to lead schools, colleges, or educational businesses. The hybrid curriculum teaches students how to lead education in a culture of continuous improvement, direct policy and community engagement, and create a shared vision of learning.

A required field trip to Washington, D.C. or a similar location makes the degree unique among online Ed.D programs in educational leadership. During the trip, students learn about policy-making at all levels of government. Students in the Ed.D take classes on the West Los Angeles campus and online. Classes are led by scholar-practitioners who are experts in the field. Online students gain access to peer support and professional networking opportunities through the cohort. For admission, students should submit proof of a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a two-page proctored essay. Some applicants must also submit GRE scores.

Portland State University Portland, OR Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 17%

Each year, Portland State University educates 27,000 students in more than 200 degree programs. The school’s online doctor of education in educational leadership cultivates leaders who are able to effectively respond to the changing needs of students. The Ed.D features a comprehensive curriculum with coursework in the principles and practices of learning, research paradigms and methods, politics and policy processes in education, and organizational leadership theory. Students may choose from specializations in administration, curriculum and instruction, special education, and postsecondary education.

Although most coursework is available online, students must attend some face-to-face weekend sessions. The doctorate in educational leadership online focuses on social justice and diversity. PSU is a member of the Carnegie Project for the Education Doctorate. The program groups students into cohorts based on their chosen area of specialization. Potential students should have a master's degree with a minimum 3.4 GPA.

Regent University Virginia Beach, VA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 92%

Regent University offers an online Ed.D in educational leadership with concentrations in Christian education leadership, K-12 school leadership, higher education leadership & management, and advanced educational leadership. Students must complete 31 general credits, and then approximately 35 credit hours in their concentration. While most coursework can be completed online, students must occasionally fulfill campus-based requirements in Virginia Beach. Courses cover school and community relations, supervising teaching methods, leadership, and modern educational technology. Distance learners must also complete a principalship to satisfy graduation requirements. Courses are taught asynchronously. Regent is an interdenominational Christian school that was founded by Pat Robertson. Applicants must submit a writing sample and their college transcripts. In some cases, a 20-minute phone interview might also be part of the admissions process.

Rowan University Glassboro, NJ Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 34%

Rowan University was founded in 1923 as a teachers college. Now a full service university, Rowan retains the same level of commitment to educating teachers as it did nine decades ago. The school's online doctorate in educational leadership provides four different areas of specialization students can pursue. These tracks include higher education leadership, P-12 leadership, nurse educator leadership, and community college leadership. All of the classes are delivered entirely online through Blackboard in a cohort model. Distance learners are required to attend three campus-based residency meetings over the course of their time in school. Students can either choose to take all other courses online, or in a hybrid or blended format.

Saint Peter's University Jersey City, NJ Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 45%

A Jesuit college, Saint Peter's University’s programs blend academic rigor, experiential learning, and community service. The 48-credit online Ed.D in educational leadership with a concentration in higher education grooms leaders who can assume high-profile leadership roles. Graduates are prepared for careers in academics, administration, and research in higher education. The program is designed for mid-career professionals and educational executives.

Taught by experts in higher education, the curriculum delves into topics such as ethical foundations and social responsibility; organizational behavior and leadership; student development and programming; research design and methods; and finance, budgeting, and resource allocation. To earn the Ed.D in educational leadership, students must complete a dissertation and defend it. Potential students should have adequate GRE or MAT scores and a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The school allows students to transfer in a maximum of nine credits.

Samford University Birmingham, AL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 44%

Located in Alabama, Samford University administers rigorous academic programs rooted in the school's Christian mission. The 36-credit doctor of education in educational leadership is available mostly online or in hybrid format. The curriculum includes study of strategic planning, educational inquiry, the emerging school superintendency, and educational policy development and analysis. Students move through the program as part of a cohort.

In one notable course, students learn how to mediate conflicts with strategies such as managing organizational difficulties, defusing crises, avoiding litigation, and dealing with challenging individuals. A course in behavioral research and statistics helps students develop advanced aptitude in advanced statistics, quantitative research design, and the application of statistical software. Distance learners can complete the doctorate in educational leadership online in three years. Online students typically meet on campus two times per semester. Before students can apply to this program, they must complete an education specialist degree.

Southeastern University Lakeland, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 82%

Emphasizing a Christ-centered education, Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida has provided students with a rigorous and quality education for more than a century. Recently, Southeastern has expanded its distance offerings, and the school now has an online doctorate in education, with a specialization available in organizational leadership. A perfect option for students who may not have a clear vision of what type of educational leadership they want to focus on, this open-ended degree prepares future educational leaders at all levels. Rowan's program is relatively short, and only requires students to complete 54 credits; most distance learners graduate in two or three years. Although most instruction is available through the school's MyFire learning portal, everyone in the program is required to occasionally attend in-person classes on-campus.

Southwestern College Winfield, KS Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 48%

Southwestern College offers an online Ed.D in educational leadership through the school's professional studies department, and the program is intended for students looking to obtain licensure as educational administrators in Kansas. The program features two distinct paths for online learners, covering PK-12 leadership and higher education leadership. All courses can be completed online, apart from two residency courses which can be taken in the same summer during two weeks or spaced out across two summers; each course lasts one week. All other classes are taught through Blackboard by the same professors who lead campus-based courses. In addition to small class sizes, online students will also enjoy a dedicated academic success center, technical support, career services, online communities, and a digitized library. Applicants must be licensed K-12 educators.

St Thomas University Miami Gardens, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 39%

As an Augustinian institution of higher education, St. Thomas has upheld a faith-based perspective since its founding in 1961. Today, the university caters to students from all backgrounds and locations, thanks in part to its selection of online degrees. With a focus on both theory and implementation, St. Thomas's online Ed.D in leadership and management can be completed with 60 credit hours, and the program prepares graduates for a variety of roles in education, nonprofit leadership, and governmental agencies. In addition to required coursework, students must also complete a dissertation in order to graduate. All online courses, assignments, and discussion can be found on the school's HotChalk Ember online learning system, which functions well on both laptops and smartphones. Core courses cover leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship, and human resources development, among other topics.

Tarleton State University Stephenville, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 29%

Part of the Texas A&M university system, Tarleton State University was established in 1899 as an agricultural school. Today, the school administers programs in a variety of disciplines, including education. The 63-credit Ed.D in educational leadership features several areas of emphasis: higher education administration, curriculum and instruction, educational technology, superintendent or principal certification, and higher education teaching.

The online educational leadership doctoral program includes coursework in education law and policy, data analysis and school improvement, educational governance and policies, and the theory and practice of organizational leadership. Students take 15 credits in their chosen area of specialization. Distance learners engage in hands-on experiences during a trip to the D.C. institute or through research conducted with faculty. Students seeking to become a principal or superintendent may take a certification track. The program uses a cohort model. Students can complete the hybrid program in as little as 30 months. Applicants should submit master's degree transcripts, an ePortfolio, and GRE scores.

Texas A&M University - Commerce Commerce, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 79%

Texas A&M University-Commerce is a leading university with a diverse student body. Developed with Texas principals and superintendents in mind, the school’s doctor of education in educational administration emphasizes K-12 public school administration. The program explores a comprehensive range of topics including advanced organizational behavior, program evaluation for school leaders, the governance of educational organizations, and the administration of instructional programs.

Students must complete a residency requirement, take comprehensive examinations, and prepare a dissertation. Educators seeking Texas Superintendent Certification must take additional courses. Students who complete the doctorate in educational leadership online are qualified for leadership roles in schools, districts, and state agencies. The program accepts two cohorts each year. Students have up to ten years to finish the dissertation and requisite coursework. Applicants must have a master's degree in educational administration, principal certification coursework, and adequate GRE scores. Successful candidates must also submit a writing sample and pass an interview.

Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi Corpus Christi, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 55%

The only college in the nation situated on its own island, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi enjoys a reputation for academic excellence. The school incorporates scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities into the 60-credit doctor of education in educational leadership. The hybrid program uses a scholar-practitioner model to foster professionals' leadership capabilities. Graduates assume leadership roles in schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions.

Like many online doctorate degrees in educational leadership, the curriculum includes coursework in leadership theory, organizational change, data analysis, curriculum theory, instructional theory and research, and socio-politics in education. Students have the choice of two tracks for specialization: education leadership or a customizable track. Both tracks help students cultivate research proficiency and prepare for the dissertation. TAMUCC is a member of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate. For admission, students should have a master's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and passable GRE or MAT scores.

Union University Jackson, TN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 40%

Founded in 1823, Jackson, Tennessee's Union University is the oldest private, nonprofit institution on our list. The university's online Ed.D in educational leadership allows students to focus their interests in either P-12 school administration or higher education leadership, and both specializations are available entirely online. The curriculum's structure requires students to perform well academically before they reach their final exams; all distance learners must earn a 3.2 GPA or better in their first 48 credits before they can proceed to the exams and the dissertation. The dissertation is the final element in the curriculum; with guidance from faculty members, students embark on a research project of their choosing, and ultimately must contribute original scholarly research on the topic of their choice. In addition to providing a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, 85% of all instructors – including those who teach online – hold terminal degrees. All incoming students received some form of financial aid last year.

University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 38%

The University of Arkansas, located in Fayetteville, is home to more than 26,000 students from all 50 states and 120 countries. With each passing year, more and more of UA's students are choosing to complete their degree online, and the school has quickly expanded its distance offerings. One such program is the online Ed.D in educational leadership, which can be finished in just three years of full-time study. To graduate, students must also complete 42 credit hours and a dissertation. In addition to online learning, students are required to visit the campus once per semester for a weekend intensive. Because the program is organized by cohort, students can only start this program during the summer semester. The school also offers and Ed.S in educational leadership program.

University of Bridgeport Bridgeport, CT Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 27%

The University of Bridgeport offers cutting-edge hybrid programs designed to give students tangible professional skills. The 62-credit doctor of education in educational leadership features coursework in curricula theory, Constitutional law, organization management, evaluation of school effectiveness, and postsecondary teaching. The program is suited for educators, leaders in public and private organizations, policy makers, and researchers. The curriculum spans three years.

Students in the international education specialization take courses in comparative education, international education theories and concepts, and ethical issues in international education. Learners pursuing the doctorate in educational leadership online must participate in two one-week residencies. Learners who possess an education specialist post-master’s degree only have to complete 42 credits. For admission, candidates should hold a master's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and acceptable GRE or MAT scores. Applicants must also submit a writing sample, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

University of Dayton Dayton, OH Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 21%

The University of Dayton is a Catholic college that educates a strong community of servant leaders. The school’s hybrid doctor of philosophy in educational leadership prepares educators for leadership positions at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels. A scholar-practitioner model promotes continuous inquiry, deliberation and collaboration with colleagues, and a commitment to serve local communities. The online doctoral program in educational leadership offers two concentrations: preK-12 school administration and higher education administration.

Students take a nine-credit core that focuses on organizational theory, ethics in educational leadership, and organizational change and development. The concentration requires an additional 21 credits. Students also conduct research, complete comprehensive exams, and craft a dissertation. During the first three terms, distance learners must attend an on-campus residency. Applicants should submit GRE scores and transcripts demonstrating a minimum 3.25 GPA. Distance learners are eligible for financial aid, including federal loans and scholarships.

University of Florida Gainesville, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 43%

UF's online leadership education administration doctorate offering is a popular program, and students who are interested in studying will have to wait to get in: the next cohort isn't available until May/summer 2018. In addition to a range of asynchronous classes delivered online, students are expected to attend up to three weekend intensives per semester while enrolled. The program requires students to complete 90 credits and can be finished in four years of full-time study. Most students spend their final year working on their dissertation.

University of Massachusetts - Lowell Lowell, MA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 46%

UMass-Lowell offers an online Ed.d in leadership in schooling for graduates preparing to work with K-12 school systems. All students begin studying in this cohort-based program during the summer semester. Classes are taught in a structured sequence. Over the course of the three-year degree, online learners are required to visit campus once per summer to complete a residency. Courses cover leadership, qualitative analytical methods and tools, and legal and policy issues in the field. During the fall and spring semesters, full-time students are expected to complete two courses; students who want to take classes part-time are also encouraged to apply. Distance learners who are considering applying are offered the opportunity to test drive a class, to see how well they like the online format and program resources.

University of Mississippi University, MS Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 20%

Known affectionately as Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi has a long history of producing leaders in academics. The 51-credit doctor of philosophy in education with an emphasis in educational leadership includes advanced training in organizational development, management, and research for positions in K-12 or higher education. The core curriculum features coursework in administrative theory, leadership and management, organizational improvement, and organization-environment interaction. Students may also opt to explore leadership in the context of other fields such as sociology or political science.

Students take most of the classes on the Oxford campus. There are two courses delivered online. Degree candidates must take a comprehensive exam and complete a dissertation to exit the program. Students may transfer up to to 39 graduate credits into the program. Applicants should have a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE scores, and teacher or administrator certification.

University of Missouri - Columbia Columbia, MO Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 29%

A comprehensive college with a catalog of 300 degrees, the University of Missouri serves distance learners with 90 eLearning programs. Practicing leaders in education can receive specialized training in the 46-credit online doctor of education in educational leadership. The degree allows educators to continue working full-time while acquiring knowledge that can be immediately put to use. Students begin the blended program with an on-campus orientation in the spring. The curriculum, which requires on-campus sessions and synchronous online learning, does not lead to certification.

The doctorate in educational leadership online focuses on education policy, organizational analysis, leadership theory and practice, research design, and the content and context of learning. Students move through the program as part of a cohort. All distance learners pay in-state tuition regardless of state residency status. For admission, candidates should have a master's degree with a minimum 3.5 GPA and acceptable GRE scores.

University of Nebraska - Lincoln Lincoln, NE Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 31%

Students in Nebraska's online educational leadership program will have the opportunity to conduct research alongside classmates and professors. Distance learners can choose from three different concentrations: educational leadership, higher education administration, or community college leadership. While all courses can be completed online, students are encouraged to attend intensive summer courses to enhance their learning experience. The department estimates that most full-time students can complete the 96 required credit hours – including 12 hours of dissertation research and writing – within four years. Applicants must already hold a master's degree prior to applying; students who want to transfer credits into the program will have their previous work assessed by Nebraska's education department. Distance learners from the state of Kentucky are not eligible for admission into this program.

University of New England Biddeford, ME Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 52%

New England's Ed.D in educational leadership program is available entirely online, with no on-campus orientations required. Like any programs of its kind, UNE's Ed.D is taught in a cohort model. Applicants can apply to begin their cohort in the fall, spring, or summer, and they are not required to submit GRE scores. Prospective students should have completed a master's program and have earned at least a 3.0 GPA while they were in school. The curriculum focuses on transformative leadership, and the school's dedicated faculty seeks to inspire the next generation of educational leaders. Students must complete 51 credit hours to graduate, including core courses in leadership training, and dissertation writing and research. Full-time students can graduate in just three years; part-time students have up to five to complete their degree.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, NC Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 26%

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is well-known for its exemplary graduate and professional programs. Working professionals enrolled in the hybrid Ed.D in educational leadership acquire administrative expertise that can be applied in leadership positions at secondary and postsecondary institutions. The 60-credit curriculum includes foundational study of adult learning theory, organizational theory and behavior, and educational administration. In addition to taking a common core, students choose one of three areas of specialization: higher education, superintendency, or curriculum and supervision.

One of the top online Ed.D programs in educational leadership, the degree also gives students a firm research foundation. Learners complete courses in applied educational research, descriptive and inferential statistics, and qualitative research methods. The program does not use a cohort model, allowing students to complete courses at their own place. Distance learners attend campus once per week. Potential students should submit master’s degree transcripts with a minimum 3.5 GPA and GRE or MAT scores.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro, NC Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 39%

Recognized for its challenging academic programs, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro delivers robust online degrees. The school’s hybrid doctor of education in educational leadership serves K-12 school administrators and other practitioners seeking to enhance their leadership capabilities. The 54-credit program examines research methods such as doctoral inquiry and data collection. Students in may pursue superintendent licensure or non-licensure options.

The program's curriculum features in-depth inquiry into four topics: educational administration and leadership, equity and social justice for students, schools as democratic communities, and leadership to improve teaching and learning. Administrators with an education specialist degree can transfer up to 18 credits into the program. Students may complete the Ed.D with licensure in four years; those entering with the Ed.S can do so in two years. Applicants should hold a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students pursuing superintendent licensure should also have school principal licensure.

University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 53%

The online Ed.D in educational leadership at UND is tailored for students seeking administrative or leadership roles in K-12 schools upon graduation. Meanwhile, the school's online PhD in educational leadership program was developed for students who want to work in research or creative consultancy. Both programs are research-based in nature, focusing on leadership development, method, and theory. Each requires students to complete between 90 and 96 credit hours to graduate; distance learners can transfer up to 30 existing credits from a master's degree program and most students graduate within a year or two. All students can access North Dakota's student resources, which includes advising, career assistance, technology services, and research/writing support. Additionally, all distance learners pay in-state tuition at North Dakota, regardless of their state of residency.

University of St Francis Joliet, IL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 63%

A Catholic college rooted in the liberal arts, the University of St. Francis educates approximately 4,000 students, half of whom are graduate students. Educators pursuing high-level managerial roles may enroll in the doctor of education Ed.D with a concentration in stewardship, leadership, and learning. The fully online concentration serves students seeking to work in the public or private sector and service-related organizations. The program's curriculum focuses on servant leadership, research, and preparation for the dissertation.

The concentration examines topics such as organizational change; stewardship and leadership; evaluation and accountability; leadership, politics, and ethics; and ethical governance of organizations. The curriculum embeds the dissertation throughout the program. Full-time students can earn the degree in three and a half years. One of the best online educational leadership doctoral programs, the Ed.D has an 88% completion rate compared to the 56% national average. Applicants should have a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

University of St Thomas Saint Paul, MN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 17%

The University of St.Thomas offers more than 100 degree options rooted in the school's Catholic tradition. The 66-credit doctor of education in educational leadership and learning is available fully online, except for a short summer residency. The degree prepares students to promote school improvement, social justice, and systemic reform within educational institutions. The school also provides field experiences and study abroad opportunities, including a class on global leadership hosted in Ghana.

Coursework for online educational leadership doctoral program includes study of leadership and organizational theory, leadership for social justice, strategic organization design, community education administration, and the principles of school finance. Graduates qualify for positions in K-12, higher education, and adult education programs. Applicants should hold a master's degree with a minimum 3.5 GPA , adequate GRE or MAT scores, and three years of professional experience. Potential students should also have at least one year of experience in a leadership position.

University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 98%

The University of the Cumberlands offers online Ed.D and PhD programs in educational leadership. Both programs provide students with holistic, forward-thinking educations that prepare them for careers in K-12 schools, higher education, government agencies, or nonprofit organizations. These programs were designed with the working student in mind, and feature asynchronous classes that can be taken part-time or full-time; full-time students usually graduate within three years. Local students can choose to take classes in a hybrid format, as select courses are offered on campus on Saturday's. Applicants must hold a master's degree, and have completed their master's with a GPA exceeding 3.50. They must also have earned a 400 score or better on the Miller Analogies Test or a 300 on the GRE.

Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 5%

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University supports research initiatives in health science, business, politics, and education. The doctor of education in leadership and learning in organizations helps professionals to develop the capabilities necessary to effect organizational change. The 54-credit degree bridges the divide between theory and application, providing learners skills in with managerial, assessment, and communication.

The online doctorate in educational leadership focuses on four areas: leadership, organizational development, learning and design, and data and analytics. Learners study topics such as context-specific learning, methods for inquiry and analysis, and organizational change and systemic improvement. During the capstone experience, students apply their knowledge to identify a solution to an organizational challenge. Students then test the effectiveness of their solution and make recommendations. Distance learners must participate in on-campus immersions once per year. Applicants should submit GRE or GMAT scores and master’s transcripts demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Wilkes University Wilkes-Barre, PA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 80%

Located in Pennsylvania, Wilkes University commits to personalized and experiential learning opportunities at all levels. The 60-credit doctor of education in educational leadership prepares learners for teaching, administrative, and leadership roles. Graduates gain the leadership competencies necessary to bring about change in educational systems and organizations. The curriculum covers topics such as cognition and learning, strategic thinking and planning, organizational and leadership theory, and educational institutions and systems.

Students choose one of three specializations: educational technology, curriculum and instruction, or educational leadership studies. Learners receive mentorship from experienced faculty throughout the dissertation research process. Students may also earn the Pennsylvania letter of eligibility for superintendency. This online doctorate in educational leadership requires three on-campus residencies. By taking 12 to 18 credits each year, students may complete the program in three or four years. Potential students should have a master's degree in education or a related field.

William Carey University Hattiesburg, MS Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 44%

A community of learners who blend faith and learning, William Carey University offers flexible learning options to meet the needs of nontraditional learners. The fully online 68-credit doctor of education in educational leadership uses a cohort model to promote cooperation and community. Students study effective management and leadership skills, engage in visionary planning, and learn how to apply research to practice.

The advanced leadership core covers subjects such as data analysis for instruction and performance improvement, developing a culture of learning, and advocacy for the school and community. One of the best online Ed.D programs in educational leadership, the program includes a series of courses in research in educational administration. In the final phase of the program, students take a comprehensive exam and prepare a dissertation. Potential students should have a master's degree with a minimum 3.25 GPA. Applicants should also submit GRE scores.

Wilmington University New Castle, DE Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 83%

Wilmington is home to more than 20,000 students, 41% of whom complete their degree online. Wilmington offers online Ed.D programs in educational leadership and innovation and higher education leadership and innovation. Both programs are nationally recognized by the Educational Leaders Constituent Council and accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Depending on curriculum requirements, classes are either delivered through 15-week semesters or seven-week blocks via Blackboard. Those who plan to study full-time will graduate within three years; part-time students have up to seven years from the time of enrollment to complete all requirements. Applicants must hold a master's degree and submit GRE test scores on their application; they should also have three years of professional experience in a leadership capacity.

When looking at online doctorate in education leadership programs, learners should familiarize themselves with the curriculum offered by each school to find a program that fits their educational and career goals. While the courses highlighted in the list below provide a general sense of what students may encounter, coursework varies across departments.

Curriculum for an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership

  • Educational Technology Leadership: This course teaches learners to use technology in the classroom to provide creative learning outlets. In addition to delving into various technologies, students discuss how to creatively incorporate new tools and ideas. This class may prove especially useful to students interested in working in digital literacy.
  • Managing Change: Focused on helping individuals who want to transform the schools they serve, this course teaches learners how to manage ongoing change. Students learn about facilitation processes, creating systemic and long-term change, minimizing disruption, and creating sound organizational structures.
  • Policy and Law in Education: A fitting class for individuals interested in how the government and schools interact, students learn about past and present legislation related to education, funding for learning, Title IX provisions, and after-school and summer programming.
  • Managing Staff Development: This course teaches students to manage personnel in school settings, emphasizing the skills needed to build strong, competent teams. Attendees learn how to enhance professional development opportunities, develop teaching review standards, improve instructional performance, and implement evaluation protocols.
  • Diverse Learning Communities: Ideal for students planning to lead diverse and inclusive schools, this course teaches participants to encourage cultural diversity; accommodate social change; ensure that every learner, staff member, and teacher feels safe and heard; and gain a deeper understanding of different life experiences.

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

When scoping out educational leadership doctoral programs online, many prospective students want to determine the average program length as well as other factors that affect how long it takes to earn a diploma. Because many individuals who pursue this degree continue to work while enrolled, programs with maximum flexibility and accelerated learning options often offer the greatest appeal. Characteristics affecting online program length include whether a program is offered on a full-time or part-time basis, specific graduation requirements (e.g., theses, hands-on internships, or culminating projects), and whether students can participate in year-round learning.

When reviewing potential programs, students may notice that some options feature asynchronous coursework where individuals work through the plan of study at their own pace, while others use a cohort format that requires participants to progress through classes in lockstep with their peers. Most online doctorate in educational leadership programs take 3-5 years to complete and consist of 60-66 credits.

Students should understand the importance of attending a properly accredited school. Colleges and universities that submit to the accreditation process receive validation that they provide adequate support for students and prepare graduates for the job market. Learners graduating from unaccredited schools may experience trouble receiving licensure and finding jobs.

Regional and national accreditation apply to an institution as a whole, with regional accreditation typically recognized as the more rigorous and respected form. National accreditation bodies typically work with trade schools or for-profit institutions. Additionally, programmatic accreditation focuses on individual programs or departments within a school. In the field of educational leadership, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council stand as respected organizations.

Other important names to know when researching accreditation include the Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). While the ED does not directly provide accreditation to institutions, it oversees the accreditation process and monitors accrediting agencies. CHEA operates similarly, ensuring that organizations accredit fairly and rigorously. CHEA currently partners with 3,000 member schools and 60 accrediting agencies to champion and advocate for the importance of accreditation. Interested learners can find a searchable database of accredited schools and approved agencies on CHEA's website.

Doctorate in Educational Leadership Salary

In addition to job stability, salary potential often plays a significant role in helping students decide what careers to pursue. While factors such as type of school (e.g., public or private), years of experience, and academic level (e.g., primary, secondary, or postsecondary) all influence annual wages in this field, students should also consider location. As an example, for individuals working as academic deans at a college or university, location can tremendously impact earning potential. Additionally, the following table features PayScale data regarding expected salaries for school principals, college deans,and other administrative staff at different stages of their respective careers.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees Median Salary for Late-Career Employees
Elementary School Principal $80,000 $73,000 $79,000 $87,000
High School Principal $89,000 $79,000 $85,000 $96,000
Assistant Principal $71,000 $67,000 $70,000 $78,000
Academic Dean $90,000 $79,000 $83,000 $103,000
School Superintendent $117,000 $104,000 $119,000 $129,000

Doctorate in Educational Leadership Careers

Online doctorate in educational leadership programs present many opportunities for graduates. Some individuals go on to pursue roles as elementary, middle, or high school principals in public or private schools, while others work in a college or university setting as a dean or administrator. Regardless of the path they follow, these professionals work with many different types of personalities, providing leadership and ensuring that their institutions thrive.

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals: Tasked with leading entire schools, these individuals manage staff and teachers, liaise with parents, oversee disciplinary actions, set curricular standards, manage professional development, and control the school budget. A doctorate degree can help principals earn better salaries.

Postsecondary Education Administrators: Working with other postsecondary school leaders, these professionals manage and coordinate residence life, academic departments, laboratories, student services, and/or admissions. They work with students, staff, and faculty to set goals and improve services. While many individuals in these roles possess master's degrees, a doctorate can help set job seekers apart from their peers.

Instructional Coordinators: Working in both public and private settings, instructional coordinators develop curricula related to teaching standards, best practices, and the latest research in teaching and learning. They may train teachers, recommend textbooks, mentor staff, and review testing data for effectiveness.

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Elementary, Middle and High School Principal $94,390 8%
Postsecondary Education Administrator $92,360 10%
Instructional Coordinator $63,750 11%

To achieve the most success, students should strive to make professional connections and learn about different educational approaches. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students and recent graduates who want to learn more about their chosen career path. The list below describes three of the country's most prominent organizations for education leadership professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online training, maintain active job boards, and offer other services. These resources often prove invaluable as students complete degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • National Association of Secondary School Principals: Consisting of principals, assistant principals, and other middle and high school administrative personnel from 35 different countries, NASSP celebrated its centennial in 2016. The organization hosts networking functions, offers continuing-education programs, and advocates in different areas of secondary school administration.
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals: Founded in 1921, NAESP serves elementary school principals and administrative personnel in the U.S., Canada, and overseas. The organization's online learning center features webinars, tutorials, and links for classroom-based training programs. Students can also take advantage of an online resource library.
  • Association of Deans & Directors of University Colleges & Undergraduate Studies: This nonprofit represents deans and administrative personnel at postsecondary institutions across the country. AD&D hosts an annual conference at a different U.S. location each year and offers both individual and institutional memberships.

Despite the relative affordability of many online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Learners should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about potential loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the federal government. Additionally, students can explore private grants and scholarships offered by nonprofits, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


Our list of scholarships and grants specifically aimed at education majors includes 43 individual rewards totaling more than $170,000 in financial aid. Browse the database to learn more about accessing free money to help pay for your online degree.


Approximately two-thirds of college students rely on loans to fund their education. Learners should ensure they do not overlook financing options to reduce their overall student debt.


Completing the FAFSA represents a crucial first step for any student with financial need. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to financial aid for campus-based learning, although this hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes and different funding opportunities for online students.


Online college programs offer a flexible, affordable option for single parents who wish to earn a degree and secure their family's financial future. See our list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money exists for U.S. military personnel but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.