Earning a Doctor of Education Degree in California
The gods of education have blessed California. It’s a big state, with tons of Ed.D. programs—including CAEP-accredited options (look for the CAEP badge in our school listings)—and plenty of career and networking opportunities for administrators who are moving up in the world. Many universities in California offer substantial doctoral education grants and scholarships and a number have developed online doctorates in education.
So you’ll have choice. But you’ll also have decisions. Do you go for a state school in the CSU system, with its super-affordable tuition rates? Or a private option that offers faith-based scholarships? Do you want a university that can help prepare you for California’s Administrative Services Credential (ASC), as well as a doctorate in education? Or do you opt for a distance learning degree that gives you scheduling flexibility and one-on-one mentoring? Our guide was built to help you determine the answers.
Online Doctor of Education Programs in California
Online Ed.D. Providers in California
- Alliant International University-San Diego
- Brandman University (CAEP-accredited)
- National University (CAEP-accredited)
- Northcentral University
- Trident University International
- University of Southern California (CAEP-accredited)
What to Know About California Online Ed.D. Programs
In California, online doctoral programs in education fall into two broad categories: Ed.D. programs in leadership offered by non-profit schools (e.g. Brandman, National, Northcentral, and USC) and those offered by for-profit institutions (i.e. Alliant and Trident). They’re all regionally accredited, so you’ll be able to choose your comfort zone.
Keep in mind that California online Ed.D. programs can be just as challenging as on-campus doctorates. Dissertations are standard and hands-on work may be required. Even with for-profit options, candidates are expected to have a minimum 3.0 GPA and some experience under their belt.
Note: Unsure about distance learning? We talk more about the distance learning experience in our overview of online Ed.D. programs, and we cover costs in our guide to the cheapest online Ed.D. programs in the nation.
Online Ed.D. Programs at Non-Profit Universities
Each CA university will have its own quirky take on the doctorate in education. Generally speaking, non-profits tend to play to their School of Education strengths. For instance, Brandman has gone for an interdisciplinary approach—the Online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership combines courses in leadership and research skills with field experiences suited to aspiring superintendents, city leaders, and college professors. Students are grouped in local cohorts and major faculty members all hold Ed.D. degrees.
Over at National University, the focus is on high-level thinking. The Online Ed.D. in Organizational Innovation is open to all kinds of leaders in education, government, healthcare, military, and more. It’s a 100% online, three-year program with some intriguing courses and a Culminating Project in lieu of a dissertation. However, candidates must be California residents in order to apply.
USC’s Online Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership is run by the USC Rossier School of Education, which often sits in the top 15 of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings for Best Education Schools. That means rigor! The Ed.D. combines online assignments with real-world applications, such as an annual immersion weekend. And there’s a capstone, which consists of a dissertation, a reflective self-assessment, and additional deliverables.
We’re also pleased to note that these 2 schools can help with the Administrative Services Credential (ASC):
- USC Rossier School of Education offers a School Leadership Academy to folks who are pursuing the Preliminary Administrative Credential.
- Brandman offers a concurrent enrollment option with its 2-year Administrative Services Credential Clear Induction Program. If you’re employed as a California administrator and hold a Preliminary ASC, you can study for your doctorate in education and pursue the Clear credential at the same time.
Online Ed.D. Programs at For-Profit Universities
For-profits tend to design their doctorate in education programs for working professionals with tight schedules. For example, Trident is known for being a) explicitly devoted to online learning and b) a popular choice with the military. You can see that approach play out in its Online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership.
Alliant also has small classes and multiple enrollment periods. But it has blended management into the education mix. In its Online Doctorate of Educational Leadership and Management, there are hands-on case studies and courses in areas such as finance & business. It may not be CAEP-accredited, but its teacher education programs have a mark of approval from the CTC, which is an aspect we like to see.
Note: NCU used to be for-profit until 2019, so it has a similar “working feel.” For instance, the all-purpose Online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership is built on a unique one-to-one learning model (no classroom discussions) and there are—wait for it—52 weekly start dates.
Doctoral Education Funding in California
Internal Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards
California universities & colleges will be happy to help with financial aid applications, advice about student loans (federal and private), and unusual funding sources (e.g. local organizations that like to sponsor graduate students). But we particularly like the ones that offer direct institutional aid to doctorate in education candidates. Such as…
Alliant International University
Alliant University has a number of scholarships on offer for education students (sort by “School: California School of Education” to see all the options).
Azusa Pacific University
APU also offers a number of School of Education Scholarships that apply to graduate students, including the Lillian B. Wehmeyer Scholarship and the Simmerok Family Encouragement Scholarship.
- For the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, check out the Ed.D. Program Scholarship, which is awarded to candidates who demonstrate outstanding leadership potential in K–12 education and who are committed to serving under-resourced schools and districts.
- For the Ed.D. in Higher Leadership, there are tuition discounts & breaks, including the CCCU Employees Tuition Discount, the Plus One Discount, and a Guaranteed Tuition Plan.
The Talbot School of Theology offers Biola’s Ed.D, so be sure to check out the section on Talbot Graduate Financial Aid. There’s a Biola Graduate Grant, an International Student Aid Grant, and a variety of faith-centered scholarships.
California Lutheran University
Cal Lutheran has an assortment of modest Graduate Scholarships & Grants on offer, including a Graduate Academic Scholarship (based on need and GPA), a Local Government Scholarship, and a Congregational Partners in Education (CPE) Award.
California State University System
Any doctoral student in a CSU System school (see below) is eligible to apply for awards such as the California State University Foundation – CSU Trustees Award and the CSU Chancellor’s Doctoral Incentive Program (CDIP).
California State University-Bakersfield (CSU System)
CSUB maintains a CSU Bakersfield Scholarship database where you can search for relevant funds.
California State University-Fresno (CSU System)
CSU-Fresno’s Kremen School of Education & Human Development offers a number of General Scholarships, but it’s always best to ask if Ed.D. candidates qualify.
California State University-Fullerton (CSU System)
CSUF’s College of Education maintains an annual list of Scholarship & Grants. Modest funds like the Founders Scholarship and the Teacher Trust Scholarship are open to doctoral students.
California State University-Long Beach (CSU System)
CSULB’s College of Education (CED) has a solid Overview of Scholarships & Financial Aid, including details on plenty of annual & endowed CED Scholarships. Students in the Educational Leadership doctoral program should check out the:
- Dr. Stuart L. Farber Merit Scholarship (Annual)
- EDD Social Justice (Annual)
- Ruben and Marjorie Ingram Endowed Scholarship (Endowed)
- Mary Jo Lass Award for Educational Leadership (Endowed)
California State University-Los Angeles (CSU System)
For Ed.D. students, Cal State LA’s Financial Aid Department is willing to supply travel money for conference attendance; further student support for research expenses may become available at the dissertation stage. There are no fellowships or scholarships specifically associated with the Ed.D.
California State University-Northridge (CSU System)
CSUN’s Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education offers the Deborah Leidner Educational Leadership Award. Students enrolled in MDECOE courses also receive an email describing available scholarships in late September.
California State University-Sacramento (CSU System)
Sacramento State has two dedicated Ed.D. Program Awards: the Wayne Kaleolani Miyamoto Public Policy Dissertation Fellowship and the California School Boards Association Fellows Program (funding for the CSBA Annual Education Conference). You can also look into College of Education Scholarships and CSU awards.
California State University-San Bernardino (CSU System)
CSUSB’s Office of Graduate Studies can provide financial support for research & travel and help with internships. The Office of Student Research also supplies funding opportunities, including grants for research projects and dissertation support.
California State University-Stanislaus (CSU System)
For the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Stanislaus State offers some financial aid, including an Ed Doctoral Grant (based on financial need). Graduate assistantships are also available to qualified students.
Fielding Graduate University
- The Provost Achievement Scholarship is open to incoming doctoral students who exhibit strong competency or potential in their field, as well as demonstrated financial need.
- Scholarship, grants, and fellowships are periodically awarded to current students.
La Sierra University
Loyola Marymount University
On LMU’s School of Education Scholarship Opportunities page, you’ll find a School of Education Graduate Scholarship and a City Year Alumni Scholarship at the forefront. However, the SOE also has a large number of Donor Scholarships on tap. In addition, faith-based scholarships are available from the university.
Mills’s School of Education lists Additional Funding Opportunities in one place. A limited number of research assistantships are open to students in graduate education programs.
NU has a list of Scholarships & Grants Funded by National University. We didn’t see any that were specific to doctoral students, but you may wish to ask if Ed.D. students are eligible for any of the military scholarships or the Collegiate Honor Award.
NCU offers a special Destination Greatness Scholarship, which provides three full tuition scholarships and three 50% off scholarships (one class at no cost for each class you pay for) to students each year. An essay or a video/audio file is required. New doctoral students in the School of Education are eligible!
Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education & Psychology (GSEP) offers a healthy number of Scholarships to doctoral students, especially those in the Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership program. Check out the:
- GSEP Endowed Board of Visitors Scholarship
- GSEP Endowed Faith/Missions Fellowship Fund
- Chester H. McCall Endowed Scholarship
- Mattie Chissell Memorial Scholarship
- Chiang Kai-Shek Scholarship
- Randy Clark Endowed Scholarship
Saint Mary’s College of California
The Kalmanovitz School of Education awards KSOE Admissions Scholarships to newly admitted students, including international students and those enrolled in doctorate programs. If you’re in the San Francisco area, there’s also a super-generous, tuition-free Lasallian Educator Fellowship Program that prepares educators—including administrators—to work in Lasallian schools for three years.
San Diego State University (CSU System)
SDSU’s Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships has general info on aid options. However, doctoral students in SDSU’s College of Education can apply for number of unique Education Scholarships, including the:
- Breece and Janet Sloan Memorial Scholarship
- College of Education Scholarship
- Dr. Leonard Pellettiri & Mary Rose Family Memorial Endowed Scholarship
- George and Jane Robison Scholarship
- Joe & Betty Suozzo Scholarship
- Leslee Teincuff Memorial Scholarship
- Mary M. Donaldson Scholarship
- Patricia Calhoun Memorial Scholarship
San Francisco State University (CSU System)
SFSU’s section on Financial Aid & Scholarships highlights three major College of Education scholarships open to Ed.D. students:
- Crumpton/Baxter/Bonham Memorial Scholarships
- Chris Larsen Scholarship
- Hilda Taba Scholarship
In addition SFSU has a special Graduate Equity Fellowship, which is a diversity initiative that awards up to $5,000 to graduate students in doctoral programs. Graduate assistantships and travel awards for conferences are also available!
University of California-Davis
Financial Aid for the CANDEL program (i.e. the Ed.D.) is spelled out on the website. UC-Davis has a professional fee that gets funneled back into grants for CANDEL students with financial need. It receives funds from the University Student Aid Program (USAP) for a similar purpose. And it offers a UC Employee Tuition Discount.
University of La Verne
A limited number of Ed.D. Scholarships are available to new first-year students in ULV’s hybrid program. The university also offers general Graduate Scholarships & Assistantships and an emergency loan system to assist students with unforeseen financial circumstances.
University of Redlands
UR’s School of Education has a couple of Scholarships & Assistantships worth investigating. The Visionary Scholar Doctoral Award offers up to a 20% discount on the cost of tuition for the Ed.D. program. If you can spare up to 10 hours per week, you can also apply for paid Graduate Assistantships.
University of San Francisco
USF’s School of Education has a section devoted to Financial Resources, with details on general scholarships (open to doctoral students), graduate assistantships, and conference stipends. Be sure to investigate the Social Justice Scholarship, which rewards students who are interested in community service and engagement.
University of Southern California
USC Rossier’s School of Education grants Rossier Scholarships to incoming students in amounts ranging from $3,000 to $7,500. New enrollees are automatically considered. The distance learning arm of the USC Rossier also has a useful list of External Scholarships, including funds for doctoral students.
University of St Augustine for Health Sciences
Qualified applicants for USAHS’s Doctor of Education program are eligible for an Ed.D. Tuition Reduction of 25%.
University of the Pacific
On its Tuition, Fees & Scholarships page, Pacific states that most graduate students in the Benerd School of Education receive a generous scholarship package, reducing tuition by at least 33%.
Note: If a university name is missing from the list, we didn’t find specific examples of Ed.D. funding beyond private & federal loans and external aid.
School Administration License and Credential Requirements in California
Administrative Services Credential
Credentialing (i.e. licensing) for teachers & educators in California is handled by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CDC). Education administrators aiming for jobs in the CA school system usually complete the Administrative Services Credential (ASC). The ASC will provide you with opportunities to:
- Serve as a school leader (e.g. principal) or district leader (e.g. superintendent)
- Develop, coordinate & assess instructional programs
- Supervise & evaluate staff and faculty
- Recruit & train education personnel
- Manage school operations & fiscal services
- Create student support services
According to the CTC, California school administrators must have the ASC in order to provide the following services at the school site level to preschool, K-12, and adults:
- Evaluate the quality & effectiveness of instructional services
- Evaluate certificated personnel, with the exception of the site administrator
- Administer student & certificated personnel employee discipline services
Administrative Services Credential Process
The ASC credential process is split into two tiers of training and preparation. You’ll need to go through the first tier before you can advance to the second. Many California universities offer ASC credential preparation programs; some will allow you to earn an EdD at the same time (i.e. concurrently). Use the CTC’s Commission-Approved Educator Preparation Programs database to find your match!
Tier 1: Preliminary Administrative Credential
To apply for the preliminary credential, you must have 5 years of experience as a credentialed professional (i.e. teacher, counselor, librarian, and/or health & rehabilitation services professional). Teachers who wish to apply must also have a Clear Teaching Credential.
The preliminary program is a combination of coursework, fieldwork, and performance demonstrations. You can earn the prelim credential by doing one of the following:
- Complete a CTC-approved Preparation Program in Administrative Services
- Complete a CTC-approved Intern Program (supervised, in-service training conducted in a program run by a California college or university)
- Achieve a passing score on the California Preliminary Administrative Credential Examination Program (CPACE)
You will also need to satisfy a basic skills requirement and verify your employment in an administrative position. If you don’t have an offer of employment in an admin position, you can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility instead.
Tier 2: Clear Administrative Credential
Once you’ve earned your preliminary credential, you can start thinking about the Clear Administration Credential. Candidates for this second tier must have a valid Preliminary Administrative Services Credential and two years of verifiable work experience in a full-time administrative position in a California school.
You will then need to complete a CTC-approved Clear Induction Program in Administrative Services. This is a 2-year, job-embedded individualized program focused on your employment position. The CTC expects you to enroll in a Clear Induction Program no later than one year from the activation of your preliminary credential.
Note: On its Administrative Services Credential (ASC) page, the CTC has specific guidelines for Out-of-State teachers.
Educational Leadership Jobs in California
Educational Leadership Career Outlook
California doctoral education programs are often the first pick for professionals in higher education settings (e.g. presidents & deans), PreK-12 schools (e.g. superintendents, administrators & principals), private firms (e.g. corporate trainers), non-profits (e.g. education consultants), and government organizations—anywhere where education and leadership go hand-in-hand.
Fortunately, California is awash with these kinds of opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)’s Occupational Employment Statistics:
- California employed the greatest number of postsecondary education administrators in the United States in 2018. LA and San Francisco, with all their universities & colleges were predictable hot spots.
- In the category of elementary & secondary school education administrators (e.g. principals), California was second only to Texas.
Educational Leadership Salaries
California is also one of the top-paying states for administrators. Every year, BLS posts useful wage data for Education Administrators, Postsecondary and Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School. If you look at the wage maps, you’ll notice that CA administrators can command great salaries in either category.
You can compare these stats with the AASA’s Superintendents Salary and Benefits Survey. This is published annually, with a summary of major findings, in the AASA’s Research Papers section.
You may also want to check out Payscale’s cumulative data for all holders of the Doctor of Education (EdD) Degree. For example, you can see how the salary of an Executive Director compares to a School Superintendent (the Super always wins).
Educational Leadership Job Boards
Along with the usual job boards (e.g. Indeed, HigherEdJobs, SchoolSpring, etc.), there are a few CA-specific job sites worth investigating:
- The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) has an excellent Career Center, with plenty of job listings in senior positions.
- California Community Colleges allows you to search for faculty & management jobs in the CCC system.
- The University of California Jobs section includes positions posted at all UC campuses and medical centers.
- CSU Careers lists job opportunities in the California State University system.
Educational Leadership Organizations in California
Educational Leadership Associations
- Association of California School Administrators (ACSA): This is the big one! The ACSA bills itself as the largest umbrella organization for school leaders in the United States, serving 17,000+ California educators. It’s an important advocacy group for public school students in K-12, as well as adult learners.
- California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA): CAAASA is a group of California educational leaders who tackle critical issues in education through public policy relative to the status and performance of African-American students.
- California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA): CALSA is a community of educational leaders focused on addressing the needs of Latino/a students and dedicated to increasing the number of highly effective Latino/a administrators.
- California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO): Founded in 1928, CASBO is the oldest statewide school administrator organization in California. Members work in areas such as finance, accounting, payroll, HR, risk management, transportation, school nutrition, maintenance and operations, IT, purchasing, school safety, and school facilities.
- California Association of Urban School Administrators (CAUSA): CAUSA is a union that represents 6,000+ front-line managers (both certificated and classified) from numerous school district union/associations in California.
- California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA): CCSESA is an advocacy group that helps the 58 County Superintendents of Schools in California design and implement statewide programs that promote high-quality, cost-effective educational practices and services. It also provide supports to school districts in the areas of student services, curriculum and instructional services, fiscal accountability and business services, personnel services, and technology and telecommunications.
- California School Boards Association (CSBA): CSBA is a non-profit educational association representing elected officials who govern public school districts and county offices of education. It represents statewide interests of public education in legal proceedings with state and federal courts and state agencies through the Education Legal Alliance.
- California Teachers Association (CTA): CTA is the designated union for certified school employees like teachers, counselors, psychologists, librarians, and education support professionals in most school districts in California.
Educational Leadership Professional Groups
- California Institute for School Improvement (CISI): Housed in UC Davis, CISI is a membership organization created to support district and county instructional leaders. 140+ school districts and county offices of education are currently CISI members.
- California League of Schools (CLS): CLS is a non-profit K-12 organization that serves the needs of teachers and administrators via professional development, school-community ties, and local educator networks.
- Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS): CGCS is an organization of the nation’s largest urban school systems, including a number in California (e.g. Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, etc.).
- EdVoice: EdVoice is a non-profit organization & advocacy group that aims to increase student achievement in California and eliminate inequality of educational opportunity in public schools.
- Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE): PACE is an independent, non-partisan research center led by faculty directors at Stanford University, the University of Southern California, UC Davis, the UCLA, and UC Berkeley.
- Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC): PPIC is a non-profit, nonpartisan think tank that provides independent, objective, nonpartisan research on public policy challenges.
Note: Remember that state and national educator organizations often have funds and scholarships available for continuing education (e.g. Ed.D.). Check the website and ask about opportunities.
Educational Leadership Events in California
Educational Leadership Conferences
- ACSA Conferences: ACSA organizes multiple events throughout the year, including the ACSA Superintendents’ Symposium, the Women in School Leadership Forum, the Principals’ Summer Institute, and much more!
- CAAASA Professional Development Summit: CAAASA’s vibrant educational & networking summit takes place in March each year.
- CALSA Focus on Results Symposium: This two-day symposium gives CA educational leaders the chance to influence the development, refinement, and delivery of products and services impacting educational settings where Latino children are enrolled.
- CALSA Summer Institute (SI): The annual SI is a 5-day experience where educational leaders can work on solutions and strategies necessary to address the needs of all students, with special emphasis on Latino/a students.
- CASBO Annual Conference & California School Business Expo: CASBO’s annual conference is open to all educational leaders, newbies and pros alike. CASBO also hosts an invitation-only CBO Symposium, multiple training Boot Camps, and a Transportation Leadership Academy—check out CASBO Events.
- CGCS Conferences: CGCS hosts an annual fall conference, as well as multiple meetings aimed at senior-level educational administrators (e.g. Bilingual Directors Meeting, Curriculum and Research Directors Meeting, Chief Information Officers Meeting, etc.).