Top 15 Schools with Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Programs in Educational Leadership
Our ranking methodology for the 15 best online doctoral programs in educational leadership is based on a weighted formula that considers reputation, CPED membership, leadership options, AND cost. In the reputation category, we looked at the university’s placement in U.S. News & World Report rankings in three areas:
- Top Education Schools
- Educational Administration Programs
- Education Policy Programs
Schools that performed well in all three arenas (e.g. UIUC & USC) were assured of a place near the top of our list.
However, we gave EQUAL weight in our formula to affordability. To calculate the minimum program cost, we combined tuition rates and mandatory per credit fees (e.g. online fee) and multiplied this number by the minimum Ed.D. credits (e.g. 60). Any school that had an excellent cost ranking (e.g. UMass Lowell & UW) found a place in our standings.
Finally, we gave extra points to schools that a) offer multiple leadership pathways & concentrations; and/or b) are current members of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED). CPED membership is one of our favorite quality markers, since it means that the university is committed to meeting certain benchmarks in action-based research and applied learning (e.g. Dissertation in Practice).
1University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Location: Champaign, Illinois
Department: College of Education
Credit Hours: 64
Minimum Program Cost: $31,360
Format: 100% Online; Weekly Synchronous Sessions
UIUC’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Thanks to great quality markers, convenience, and affordability, UIUC takes the cake in our rankings of best online educational leadership doctoral programs. To start with, U.S. News rates the College of Education as one of the top 40 Schools of Education in the country, with strong marks being given to its Online Master’s in Education. Tuition is eminently reasonable for in-state and out-of-state students. And the 100% online doctorate comes in a huge range of concentrations, including:
- Global Studies in Education (GSE)
- Diversity & Equity in Education (DE)
- Diversity & Equity in Education – Human Resource Development
- Human Resource Development
- Learning Design & Leadership (LDL)
- Learning Design & Leadership – New Learning
- Learning Design & Leadership – Technology Specialist
- Learning Design & Leadership – Foundations of eLearning in Higher Education
No matter which concentration you choose, you’ll be expected to participate in online synchronous sessions that meet once per week during weekday afternoons/evenings. The program also includes field research, preliminary & qualifying exams, and a dissertation that addresses a problem of professional practice. You can plan your own program schedule and take part in remote participation for exams. See the COE Graduate Handbook and Online FAQs for more info.
Note: UIUC’s online doctorate in educational leadership may not be the best fit for K-12 administrators. If you live in Chicago, you could consider the on-campus Ed.D. in Educational Administration & Leadership (EAL) – Principal Specialization or Ed.D. in Educational Administration & Leadership (EAL) – Superintendent Specialization.
2Arizona State University
Location: Tempe, Arizona
Department: Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Credit Hours: 60
Minimum Program Cost: $48,180
Format: 100% Online OR Hybrid (West Campus)
ASU’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
ASU’s commitment to distance learning never fails to impress us. At the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, you’ll find a School of Education with superb national rankings (e.g. top 15 for the College and the Online Master’s in Education), flexible formats, and awards galore. ASU has been a CPED member since 2007 and it won Program of the Year in 2018.
The Online Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation is structured as a 3-year, cohort-based program—you’ll progress at the same pace as your fellow Ed.D. students. During the doctorate, you can choose to focus on one of three pathways:
- Pre-Kindergarten–Grade 12 Change Leadership
- Higher Education Change Leadership
- Systems, Professional and Reimagined Change (SPARC) Leadership
We especially like the fact that ASU’s online doctorate in educational leadership insists on the importance of applied research & learning. The program contains directed field studies, a doctoral methods practicum, yearly symposia in a public Doctoral Research Conference, an action research dissertation, and “Leader Scholar Communities.” These are teams of 5-7 students and 1 faculty member that meet regularly for collaboration and support.
Best of all, ASU’s Ed.D. is 100% online. Same-time meetings may be required for some online assignments and the Leader Scholar Community meetings, but times will be arranged to accommodate student schedules. View the Program Handbook for details.
3University of Southern California
Location: Los Angeles, California
Department: Rossier School of Education
Credit Hours: 43 Units
Minimum Program Cost: $85,785 + Fees
Format: Online with Initial On-Campus Immersion
USC’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
USC’s Rossier School of Education is a top-notch school in a big-name private research university, so the price tag for its online doctorate in educational leadership is high. (See the section on Ed.D. scholarships for ideas on funding.) If you can afford the tuition, you’ll be assured of name recognition.
- Rossier often ranks in the top 15 of Best Education Schools.
- It has 11 multidisciplinary research centers and a dedicated Dean’s Superintendents Advisory Group (DSAG).
- More than 80 of its alumni are current superintendents in California.
The full-time Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership – K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings is a distance learning version of its campus doctorate. The program takes 3 years, with 2 courses in most semesters. After the initial 2-day campus immersion, all coursework is online, with a variety of live sessions. During that time, you’ll take credits in the K-12 Concentration, which culminates in either Leadership for Principals or Leadership for Superintendents. The program finishes with a Dissertation in Practice (DiP) that focuses on access to equitable K-12 educational opportunities and outcomes.
Note: Keep in mind that this online Ed.D. is for aspiring K-12 leaders—candidates must have a minimum of 3 years of relevant full-time work & leadership experience in order to apply. If you’re not in the school arena, you could consider USC’s Online Ed.D. in Organizational Change and Leadership or the on-campus Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.
4Johns Hopkins University
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Department: School of Education
Credit Hours: 54
Minimum Program Cost: $82,674
Format: Online with Optional 3-Day Summer Residencies
JHU’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Like USC Rossier, JHU’s School of Education has excellent rankings (e.g. top 15 in the country) and a bevy of quality markers. It’s an Experienced CPED member. It runs multiple interdisciplinary research centers. It has made a commitment to urban educators. And it has an Alumni Mentorship Program. Hiring committees will know the name!
The Online Ed.D. is expensive but it’s also customizable, with concentrations in:
- Entrepreneurial Leadership in Education
- Mind, Brain, and Teaching
- Instructional Design in Online Teaching and Learning
Most online doctorate in education students at JHU operate on a part-time, 3-year schedule: 2 online courses per semester, with the program kicking off in the fall semester. Applicants are expected to have a master’s degree with a minimum of 36 graduate-level credits. If you don’t have the minimum, you will need to complete the additional graduate-level credits at an accredited college or university prior to—or during—the program.
In addition to coursework, dissertation research, and a comprehensive exam, the curriculum includes 3-day summer residencies in late July or early August each year. Attendance is strongly encouraged for networking & collaboration, but JHU does record the info sessions and orientation videos for those who can’t attend. Because JHU is a CPED member, the Ed.D. finishes with an Applied Dissertation/Dissertation in Practice (DiP).
Note: Concentrations in Technology Integration in K–16 Education and Urban Leadership weren’t available when we examined the program page, but it’s a fluid situation. Check to be sure!
5University of Florida
Location: Gainesville, Florida
Department: College of Education
Credit Hours: 75 (with Transfers)
Minimum Program Cost: $38,714 (In-State); $46,479 (Out-of-State)
Format: Hybrid – Up to 2 Weekend Meetings in Gainesville Per Semester
UF’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
You can put UF’s College of Education on your shortlist of great PreK-12 doctorates in educational leadership. Here you’ll find a College with a top 25 national ranking, great research credentials (including some intriguing work in STEM Education), Experienced CPED member credentials, and an outstanding reputation for distance learning. The Online Master’s in Education often ranks in the top 3 of the country.
But we’ll state up-front that the Blended Ed.D. – Leadership in Educational Administration Doctorate (LEAD) is going to work best for folks who can travel to Gainesville for 2 weekend meetings per semester. If you’re willing to make the trip, this Ed.D. has a lot going for it. To wit:
- It prepares graduates for educational leadership positions at the school, district, state, and national level.
- It’s cohort-based—classes are pre-determined and reasonably sized (e.g. 15-20 students). You’ll get to know your colleagues well.
- It’s run on a part-time, 4-year schedule. You’ll take ~2 courses per semester in the first 3 years (starting in the fall) and concentrate on your dissertation in the 4th year.
See the FAQs for more details on the program.
Note: Higher Education administrators in the Florida area should take a look at the College’s Hybrid LEAD Higher Education Ed.D. program.
6University of Massachusetts-Lowell
Location: Lowell, Massachusetts
Department: College of Education
Credit Hours: 42
Minimum Program Cost: ~$24,500 (Tuition + Residencies + One-Off Costs)
Format: Online with 1-Week Summer Residencies
UMass Lowell’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Incredible pricing for in-state and out-of-state students! That’s why UMass Lowell’s College of Education is battling with the giants in our rankings. And although it doesn’t have the same name recognition factor as USC Rossier or JHU, the College is a CPED member and a distance learning achiever. You’ll often see it in the top 20 of Online Master’s of Education rankings from U.S. News & World Report.
As the name suggests, the Online Ed.D. in Leadership in Schooling is designed for Ed.D. students who wish to improve their skills as PreK-12 researchers & instructional leaders:
- The curriculum includes coursework in systems leadership, district-wide issues, and strategic partnering with families & communities.
- There’s even an optional STEM Education concentration designed for science, math, and engineering educators who wish to move into leadership roles.
UMass Lowell’s online doctorate in educational leadership is cohort-based. You’ll be admitted in the summer and follow a 2-course-per-semester schedule for 3 years. Coursework is online, but there are mandatory 1-week summer residencies each year. The curriculum has been shaped by CPED guidelines, so be prepared to tackle 2 comprehensive exams (portfolio and qualifying paper) and a Dissertation in Practice (DiP).
7University of Wyoming
Location: Laramie, Wyoming
Department: College of Education
Credit Hours: 47-50
Minimum Program Cost: $14,429 (In-State); $22,278 (Out-of-State)
Format: Online with Campus Visits for Exam & Dissertation Defense
UW’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Affordability—that’s the key selling point for UW’s College of Education. It offers one of the cheapest out-of-state online Ed.D. programs for PreK-12 educators in our list. And if you live in Wyoming, you pay even less! The College doesn’t often register in national rankings, but it is a CPED member and CAEP-accredited; it even offers Graduate Scholarships. In addition, the educational leadership program meets NELP standards.
UW’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership is a good fit for aspiring principals, superintendents, or K-12 teachers who want to assume leadership positions. In fact, students who are interested in a Wyoming School Superintendent’s Endorsement can apply to the Wyoming PTSB after successfully completing core coursework and a 220-hour Superintendent Internship with hands-on experiences in 2 school districts.
Another big benefit of UW’s online doctorate? You can plan your own schedule—you choose the sequence and a number of courses you take each semester. 100% online classes are delivered in synchronous and asynchronous formats. However, you will be expected to visit Laramie for the comprehensive exam and your dissertation defense.
Note: Higher Education professionals can consider UW’s Online Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration, which only has 1 on-campus orientation and optional minors in research.
8University of West Alabama
Location: Livingston, Alabama
Department: College of Education
Credit Hours: 60-66
Minimum Program Cost: $37,800 + Fees
Format: 100% Online
UWA’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Rural innovators should take a good, hard look at UWA. The College of Education and UWA Online have come up with a leadership-focused Online Ed.D. in Rural Education that’s backed by research at the college’s Center for Rural Education and input from partnership schools. It’s available in 4 useful career tracks:
- Organizational Change and Leadership
- Higher Education Administration
- Teacher Leader
With UWA, you get affordability & flexibility. In addition to being 100% online, this doctorate is open to applicants with a master’s level degree in any discipline. Courses are 8-weeks long, schedules are fairly customizable, and most students finish within 3-4 years.
We also give UWA a thumbs-up for including a Mentor Collective in the program—this element connects you to a professional mentor for one-on-one counseling & advice. Just as importantly, you’ll be able to tackle an applied dissertation/Dissertation in Practice that specifically addresses rural education needs.
9Texas Tech University
Location: Lubbock, Texas
Department: College of Education
Credit Hours: 66
Minimum Program Cost: $34,650; view the Tuition Estimator
Format: Online with 1-Week Summer Institutes
TTU’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
An online doctorate focused on PreK-12 administrative leadership in educational institutions—check. Low overall cost for in-state & out-of-state students—check. A solid College of Education with Experienced CPED membership, great graduate reviews, and respectable (if not outstanding) national rankings—check.
These are just a few of the reasons why TTU’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership appears in our rankings. Texas residents will also be pleased to hear that this THECB-approved program includes coursework that prepares students for Texas superintendent certification. (Current superintendents are still encouraged to apply, since all courses address issues of senior executive leadership.)
This online doctorate for full-time education professionals is run on a fixed 3-year schedule—you’ll join a cohort of 15-20 fellow school leaders and progress through a sequence of distance learning courses, bi-monthly synchronous meetings, and practicums. There are 3 immersive experiences on the Lubbock campus: an initial weekend orientation and 1-week summer institutes in the first & second years. You’ll finish the experience off with a Dissertation in Practice (DiP). View the Program Handbook for full details.
Note: Higher Education professionals can consider TTU’s cohort-based Online Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration. It has a similar feel to the Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, with online coursework and summer immersions.
10Virginia Commonwealth University
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Department: School of Education
Credit Hours: 48
Minimum Program Cost: $32,736 (In-State); $65,664 (Out-of-State)
Format: Online with 2 Saturday Classes in Summer OR On-Campus
VCU’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
VCU is packed with quality markers. It’s a public research university with instant name recognition. It has a School of Education (SOE) that earns glowing student reviews and excellent national rankings (e.g. top 20 Best Public Schools of Education and top 10 Online Master’s of Education). It’s a CPED Member. And it’s deeply involved in practice centers and education research.
In fact, if the out-of-state cost wasn’t so high, we’d push VCU’s Online Ed.D. in Leadership right up toward the top of our rankings. Even so, the part-time, 36-month online doctorate is well-worth a look. This cohort-based program begins in the summer and includes 2 courses per semester, with 2 Saturday classes each summer. Within the program, you can choose to participate in Learning Communities in:
- General Leadership
- Higher Education Leadership
Education leaders in learning communities take the same courses as other Ed.D. students, but the case studies & examples are tailored to match their interests. This is also one of the rare online doctorates in educational leadership that includes a capstone project in lieu of a dissertation. In their final year, Ed.D. students collaborate on a group-based research project. See the Student Handbook for more info.
Note: Keep in mind that part-time tuition is charged for under 8 credits per semester and students enrolled in an online course are charged an additional online course fee. You can offset costs by exploring the SOE’s Financial Aid & Scholarships section.
Location: West Harrison, New York
Department: Graduate School of Education
Credit Hours: 50
Minimum Program Cost: $73,550 + Related Fees
Format: Online with 2 Immersions OR On-Campus (Westchester & Lincoln Center)
Fordham’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Fordham may not be the first name that jumps to mind for educational leadership, but this “Hidden Ivy” deserves its spot in our rankings. As a Jesuit University, this private research institution has made a name for itself among educators—the Graduate School of Education is often ranked in the top 40 Schools in the country. It’s been a CPED member since 2014 and it’s made a commitment to social justice & improvement science. If you’re interested in urban education, you’re in the right place!
The Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy is geared toward K-12 educators across a range of settings (e.g. schools, districts, policy groups, non-profits, etc.). It’s a part-time program that takes ~3 years/8 terms to finish; the doctorate starts in August. Coursework is online, but you will be expected to take part in 2 immersions on the Westchester campus in West Harrison, New York.
Although this is an expensive doctorate, Fordham has done its best to ensure that Ed.D. students are exposed to all kinds of fieldwork. The curriculum includes 4 Laboratories of Practice (LoP)—these practicums complement 4 core content areas in the coursework (e.g. Policy and Advocacy). In addition, the last year is devoted to a solutions-oriented Dissertation of Practice.
12Florida State University
Location: Tallahasee, Florida
Department: College of Education
Credit Hours: 69
Minimum Program Cost: $30,654 (In-State); $74,221 (Out-of-State)
Format: Online with 3-Day Summer Seminars
FSU’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Like VCU, FSU is another public achiever whose only real downside is the cost for out-of-state students. The College of Education is top-notch, with great national rankings, Experienced CPED membership, and outstanding graduate student reviews on independent sites. We’re calling it a solid choice for mid-career educational leaders, especially those who qualify for the College of Education’s Scholarships and Aid.
Unlike some other leadership programs, the 3-year Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy pays a lot of attention to policy issues and organizational systems. Starting in the fall, you’ll take 6-9 credits per semester. The majority of the coursework is online, but the curriculum does include Laboratories of Practice and 3-day immersion experiences each summer (usually the third week of June). The last year is devoted to your Dissertation in Practice (DiP). See the Student Handbook under Degree Requirements for details.
One final thing to mention—this online Ed.D. does not lead to professional certification in Educational Leadership. FSU’s state-approved program for professional certification in Florida is the Online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership.
Note: FSU also offers an Online Ed.D. in Instructional Systems & Learning Technologies
Location: Glassboro, New Jersey
Department: College of Education
Credit Hours: 60
Minimum Program Cost: $53,160
Format: Online with 3 Short Residencies OR Hybrid
Rowan’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Rowan is known in New Jersey as an “Education and Engineering” school. This public university began as a teacher preparation college and it continues to achieve consistently good reviews from graduate students for its education degrees. The College of Education is not a big player in national rankings, but it is a CPED member with a track record of training & supporting diverse educators (e.g. Project IMPACT).
As a Global Learning student at Rowan, you can choose from one of four leadership-focused concentrations in the online Ed.D.:
The structure of this cohort-based program is fairly straightforward. Over the course of 3 years, you’ll take 16 online courses in leadership topics—including 4 courses in your choice of concentration (e.g. P-12)—and finish with a Dissertation in Practice. In the online version, there are 3 on-campus residencies: a 2-day orientation in August at the beginning of the program; a 1-day visit for a Benchmark Exam; and a weekend stay at the end of Year 2 that focuses on dissertation work.
Note:: In 2019, Rowan began a process of redesigning the Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership with input from the CPED, students, stakeholders, and program partners. So it may be undergoing exciting changes in the year you apply.
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Department: College of Professional Studies
Credit Hours: 60
Minimum Program Cost: $53,820
Format: Online with Annual 2-Day Residencies
Northeastern’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
Northeastern makes our list thanks to its Experienced CPED membership and flexible approach to the doctorate in educational leadership. The College of Professional Studies has created an Online Ed.D. that can be completed on a part-time or full-time schedule, with a fall or winter entry start. It can also be customized to your specific needs with plenty of electives (5 courses) and one of three concentrations (4 courses):
- Organizational Leadership Studies (Suitable for K-12 Leaders)
- Higher Education Administration
- Curriculum, Teaching, Learning, and Leadership
All of the coursework is online, but there are 2-day residencies in the first 2 years. Having said that, these residencies can be fulfilled at Northeastern’s Boston, Charlotte, or Seattle campus. Work on the Dissertation in Practice (DiP) begins at the onset of the program; students are expected to address a compelling educational or organizational challenge in their workplace.
Note: Ed.D. candidates who intend to focus on Curriculum, Teaching, Learning, and Leadership and work in an urban public school at the elementary or secondary level should apply for the MacFarland Scholarship.
15Appalachian State University
Location: Boone, North Carolina
Department: Reich College of Education
Credit Hours: 60
Minimum Program Cost: $15,991 (In-State); $55,501 (Out-of-State)
Format: Online with On-Campus Orientation, Summit & Internship Seminars
App State’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. Overview
The final spot in our rankings of “Best Educational Leadership Doctoral Programs Online” goes to App State, a rural public university with CPED membership and superb in-state pricing. The Reich College of Education is well-known in the state, with one of the largest teacher preparation programs in the Carolinas. And it’s come up with an Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership that’s available in all kinds of concentrations, including:
- Educational Administration
- Higher Education Administration
- Interdisciplinary Studies
- Instructional Technology Leadership
- Literacy in Exceptionalities
This cohort-based doctorate is structured as a part-time, ~3-year program. Online classes meet in synchronous sessions 2 times per week and collaboration is encouraged. In addition to core coursework, electives, and a Dissertation in Pratice (DiP), App State’s online Ed.D. also contains a full-year internship experience—a rare feature in this field. Recommended campus requirements include a 2.5 day orientation in the summer, internship seminars, and a 1.5 day networking summit in the winter.
Note: An Ed.S. is preferred for applicants to the Higher Education concentration. And the concentration in Expressive Arts Education is not available online.
Honorable Mentions in Educational Leadership Rankings
Hybrid Ed.D. Programs in Educational Leadership
Iowa State University
Iowa State’s 54-credit Hybrid Ed.D. in P-20 Education is a worthy contender. The Ed.D. offers emphases in P-12 systems-level leadership (inclusive of recommendation for licensure as a superintendent) and community college leadership. It’s a 3-year, cohort-based program with small student class sizes and reasonable tuition costs. And it includes capstone & dissertation work that bear the hallmark of Iowa State’s CPED membership.
The only thing stopping this Ed.D. from being listed in our top 15 was the campus requirement. Iowa State’s program includes a mix of face-to-face learning and online delivery. Standard Ed.D. courses take place on occasional weekends, with each course having Friday evening and Saturday sessions; seminars involve 1-day visits per semester; and summer courses require monthly trips to campus.
University at Buffalo
Due to COVID-19, UB’s Hybrid Ed.D. in Educational Administration has undergone some changes. In past years, this 3-year, cohort-based doctorate has consisted of hybrid courses that meet 4 weekends on Friday and Saturday evenings. However, in 2020, it moved to being 100% online in the first year.
This may or may not turn into a permanent change, so it’s worth taking a quick look at the Ed.D. program page. Thanks to UB’s CPED membership, this doctorate includes plenty of thoughtful elements (e.g. cohort seminars on school leadership) and real-world learning (e.g. individual/collaborative capstone project or dissertation research).
Online Ed.D. Programs in Educational Leadership for Ed.S. Applicants
University of Arkansas
Do you already have a fair amount of education under your belt? Check out the University of Arkansas, which has an Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. It’s a 3-year, cohort-based program that’s open to applicants with an Ed.S. or district-level certification. Most of the coursework is online, but there are intensive weekend seminars that take place on campus once a semester.
If you’re eligible for entry, you’ll find UA has a College of Education & Health Professions (COEHP) with reputable national rankings (e.g. top 50) and low tuition rates. You could even consider taking the Online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership (30 credit hours) before you proceed to the Online Ed.D. We should also mention that UA offers an Online Ed.D. in Adult and Lifelong Learning and an Online Ed.D. in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education.
What are Ed.D. Programs in Educational Leadership?
Ed.D. programs in Educational Leadership are interdisciplinary doctorates that prepare students for high-level leadership positions in educational organizations. Graduates work in K-20 institutions, district-level organizations, non-profits, mission-driven for-profits (e.g. education consultancies), and state & national government educational agencies.
Education professionals pursue an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in order to:
- Develop & deepen ethical leadership skills
- Become eligible for promotion to a senior-level position (e.g. Superintendent, Principal, Dean, etc.)
- Learn how to implement systems-level improvements
- Make data-driven & research-based decisions
- Nurture human & social capital
- Help their school, university, or educational organization grow and expand
The Ed.D. in Educational Leadership is an umbrella term—it’s the most common major for Doctor of Education programs in the United States, and it encompasses a huge range of majors and specializations. Our program listings contain all kinds of choices to suit your career needs.
Types of Doctorate in Educational Leadership Programs
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership: Primary Major
A standard doctorate in educational leadership will have a multidisciplinary curriculum that blends leadership training with practical administrative concerns. It always includes a large research-based project (e.g. traditional dissertation, capstone, etc.).
Don’t discount the generic-looking “vanilla” Ed.D. programs in educational leadership in our listings. Many doctorates have unique foci that aren’t apparent from the title. For example, Lehigh University’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership contains multiple pathways, including options for students to earn their Ed.D. and Superintendent or Principal Certification simultaneously. Check the curriculum page before you make a decision.
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership: Themed Majors
Some universities have opted to tilt their doctorates in educational leadership toward a particular area of concern. Examples of this include:
- Ed.D. programs in Leadership and Policy, which factor in the impact of public policy on education. Legal issues can also be addressed (e.g. Alabama State’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Law).
- Arizona State’s Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation and Fielding’s Ed.D. in Leadership for Change, which encourage out-of-the-box thinking.
- Olivet Nazarene University’s Ed.D. in Ethical Leadership, which explores how ethics, values, and cultural influences transform society.
- UC-Berkeley’s Ed.D. in Leaders for Equity and Democracy, CU Denver’s Ed.D. in Leadership for Educational Equity, and Loyola Marymount’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership for Social Justice.
- The University of Illinois’s prestigious Ed.D. in Urban Educational Leadership, which zeroes in on issues that specifically affect city schools.
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership: Interdisciplinary Majors
Within our listings, you’ll also discover interdisciplinary programs that blend educational leadership with other educational fields, especially in areas related to K-20 instruction or administration. Examples of this include:
- Morehead State University’s Ed.D. in Educational Technology Leadership
- Kennesaw State’s Ed.D. in Teacher Leadership
- University of Georgia’s Ed.D. in Student Affairs Leadership
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership: Concentrations & Specializations
Plus there are scores of doctoral programs in educational leadership with multiple concentrations, including areas such as:
- Higher Education Administration & Leadership
- Community College Leadership
- School Leadership (typically PreK-12)
- Principal Certification or Superintendent Endorsement
- Curriculum & Instruction
- Specialty Subjects (e.g. Educational Technology, Special Education, Nursing Education, etc.)
In this scenario, you’ll take a series of core credits in educational leadership alongside a set of concentration credits in your area of interest. Concentrations can range from 4 courses to half of the program, so it pays to examine the curriculum page carefully.
Online Ed.D. Educational Leadership Programs
Are Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Programs Available?
You bet. Our database lists 100+ regionally accredited Online Ed.D. programs in Educational Leadership that can be completed mostly or entirely online. We’ve flagged all of these options with an “Offered Online” marker.
Among them are online doctorates that are offered by major public universities like Central Michigan University and Florida State University, along with prestigious private institutions such as Johns Hopkins University and Northeastern University.
Do Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Programs Contain Residency Requirements?
It depends. There are a number of doctorates in educational leadership that are 100% online, with no on-campus requirements (e.g. the University of North Dakota’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Practice and Leadership and the University of New England’s Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership).
But many Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership programs have at least one on-campus component—typically a few days per year. For example, a school may want to see you for an initial orientation, your dissertation proposal, and your dissertation defense. Residency requirements vary from school to school, so check the program page and ask the Ed.D. program coordinator for details.
How to Choose the Best Educational Leadership Doctoral Programs Online
You’ll discover 15 top-notch public and private universities in our rankings of online doctorates in educational leadership. To help you filter these down into a manageable shortlist, here are a few tips for decision-making:
- Consider Your Career Goals: Online doctorates in educational leadership come in all kinds of flavors. Some doctorates are devoted to PreK-12 leadership; others will allow you to choose concentrations in higher education or community college leadership. Many can be customized with elective coursework. We’ve listed concentrations & curriculum links under each school. Aspiring university leaders may also want to look at the listings of Ed.D. Programs in Higher Education.
- Investigate the College of Education: Colleges of Education have particular strengths. UWA is devoted to rural education; JHU, USC, and Fordham are known for their commitment to urban education; Rowan is working on diversity initiatives; ASU has built a reputation for expertise in distance learning. Find the right home for your area of expertise.
- Check Admissions Requirements: Most universities will expect Ed.D. applicants to have a master’s degree in education or a closely related field. But there are a few programs that accept master’s degrees in any discipline (e.g. UWA’s Online Ed.D. in Rural Education). In addition, some schools have high GPA thresholds or limits on how many credits you can transfer. Make sure you’re eligible to apply.
- Draw Up a Budget: Take our “Minimum Program Cost” number as a ballpark figure. In addition to tuition, we’ve tried to include all mandatory fees. However, Ed.D. programs often have extra expenses (e.g. course materials, internship travel, etc.) and tuition rates rise every year. So err on the side of caution.
- Watch Out for Pricing at Public Universities: Some public universities have the same tuition price for all students, regardless of their state of residence. Others have separate pricing tables for in-state and out-of-state students. An online Ed.D. from your home state is usually going to be fairly affordable, but it’s worth comparing with out-of-state doctorates that have affordable tuition for all.
- Weigh the Cost with Reputation: High-flying private universities with top-ranked Schools of Education (e.g. Johns Hopkins, USC, etc.) have hefty price tags (e.g. $80,000+). Before you commit to an expensive program, talk to recent online Ed.D. alumni about their experiences and career moves after graduation. In the end, the name recognition factor may be worth the money.
- Think About Your Schedule: A lot of the best online doctorates in educational leadership are cohort-based. This means you move through the program on a fixed schedule with the same group of Ed.D. students. Many schools favor a 3-year, 2 course per semester format for cohort-based programs, with a start date in the summer or fall. However, if you need a more flexible time-frame, there are alternatives (e.g. UIUC, UW, etc.).
- Evaluate On-Campus Factors: Online Ed.D. programs in educational leadership can be 100% online, primarily online, or blended. If there are campus elements (e.g. initial orientation, intensive weekends, dissertation defense, etc.), you’ll need to budget for travel and expenses. Just bear in mind that COVID-19 may change the game plan.
- Consider Certification Caveats: If you’re interested in pursuing an online Ed.D. for principal or superintendent certification, you need to ensure a) the online Ed.D. has a certification option; and b) your degree will be accepted by your State Board of Education. Schools usually offer certification paths through the Ed.S., but there are a few online Ed.D. programs in our rankings with this option (e.g. TTU).
COVID-19 and Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Programs
COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works for universities around the country. In response to the pandemic, many Schools of Education have moved their Ed.D. orientations and weekend intensives to a distance learning format (e.g. Zoom meetings). Online doctorates in educational leadership that had “built-in” campus elements are now 100% online.
Whether they stay that way remains to be seen! Some schools may decide that a 100% online Ed.D. in educational leadership is more convenient & cost-effective, and rework their degree structures. Others may revert to their original formats (e.g. summer institutes) in 2022 when a vaccine is in play. You should talk to the Ed.D. program coordinator to get a sense of how things are being handled.
Earning an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
Educational Leadership Prerequisites
Due to the variety and breadth of these doctoral programs, prerequisites for an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership can vary quite a bit. Generally speaking, candidates will be required to have a:
- Master’s Degree: In most cases, universities will be looking for a master’s degree in education or a related field. Certain specialty subjects (e.g. counseling, special education, etc.) may require a master’s degree in that specific area.
- Minimum GPA: A number of universities will have a 3.0 threshold (e.g. 3.0 for undergraduate work; 3.6 for graduate work). You’re unlikely to find any program that goes below a minimum 2.5 GPA.
- Work Experience: Some universities will want to see 5+ years in your field; others may only specify that they want to see evidence of your “leadership skills and experiences.” Ask the Ed.D. program coordinator if you need clarification.
- GRE Scores (Often Optional): More and more schools are ignoring the GRE in favor of other factors. We talk more about this trend in our guide to Online Ed.D. Programs with No GRE Requirement.
- Supplemental Materials: In addition to academic transcripts, you may be asked to submit a résumé or C.V., letters of recommendation, a personal statement/letter of intent, and/or writing samples.
Educational Leadership Coursework
In Rethinking the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) outlined 10 core course topics that every Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership should—ideally—cover.
If you look over Ed.D. programs in Educational Leadership in our listings, you’ll find that they cover all of these bases to some extent or another. (We’ve reworded and reorganized them slightly for clarity.)
- Educational Leadership
- Accountability/Performance Review
- Curriculum and Pedagogy
- Diversity and Culture
- Human Resources Management
- The Laws and Politics of Education
- Organizational Behavior/Organizational Change
- Public School Finance and Business
- Research Methods and Data
- School Leadership/Teacher Improvement
In addition, most universities will allow you to customize your education doctorate with 1-2 electives.
Educational Leadership Internship
Unless the Ed. in Educational Leadership is concerned with on-the-ground training for licensure or certification, internships in leadership programs are often optional. If an internship is required for a doctorate (e.g. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership), it will often be a field-based leadership experience in an educational setting of your choosing.
Educational Leadership Dissertation
All doctorate of education programs in educational leadership will contain a research-based project. This may be a traditional 5-chapter dissertation (similar to a Ph.D.), a Dissertation in Practice (DiP), or capstone project. We discuss the differences between these options in our guide to Ed.D. Programs Without a Traditional Dissertation.
Be prepared for a rigorous process—Ed.D. dissertations are just as challenging as Ph.D. projects. The difference lies in the intent—Ed.D. in Educational Leadership dissertations (or the equivalent) are often focused on applied research & actionable results. You’ll be expected to apply your learning to a real-world problem of practice.
Is an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Worth It?
We cover this issue in our resource section: Is An Ed.D. Worth It? In a general sense:
- K-12: The field of school administration has not yet been saturated by doctorate-holding candidates, even at the district level. That means an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership can be financially worthwhile for someone who intends to pursue a senior-level leadership role in the K-12 arena.
- University Level: This depends on your career aspirations. An Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from a well-respected school will put you in the running for many high-flying leadership jobs, including roles as a director, dean, or president. However, a Ph.D. will be more appropriate if you’re interested in a career as a university professor, research scholar, policy researcher, or the like.
The Ed.D. in Educational Leadership has become the most commonly-earned and commonly-offered Ed.D., so scarcity and distinctiveness are not among its selling points. Themed, specialized, and interdisciplinary majors may help your degree stand out from the herd. Programs that hold CAEP accreditation or participate in the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) are also well-worth considering.
Educational Leadership Careers
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Jobs
Graduates with an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership pursue a wide range of careers. In the PreK-20 realm, job titles can include:
- University/College President
- School or University Administrator
- Education Faculty
- District-Level Educational Leader
- Instructional Coordinator
- Curriculum Specialist
However, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership graduates also use their degree to work outside of the academic world, in roles such as:
- Public Policy Analyst
- Education Lobbyist
- Education Consultant
- Education Researcher
- Teaching Coach
- Director of a Research Center
- C.E.O. of an Educational Organization or Company
In addition, some Ed.D. in Educational Leadership concentrations (e.g. Nursing Education, Organizational Leadership, Healthcare Administration, School Psychology, etc.) are intended to prepare you for specific job titles in your chosen field.
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Salary
K-20 Leaders & Administrators
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes annual job & wage data on:
These will give you ballpark salary figures for educational leaders in the K-20 realm. Check out the wage maps—they’ll allow you to compare annual mean wages in each state.
- Principal: The standard credential for a principal is a master’s degree—not a doctorate. So an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership might nudge you closer to the top-earning 10% of the field. Better yet, the field is likely to grow, with 19,800 new positions expected by 2026.
- Superintendent: Salary sites like Payscale, Indeed, Glassdoor, and Salary.com will give you a rough idea of current median salaries in your geographic area. The best-paid superintendents can earn more than a quarter of a million dollars; even the bottom 10% tend to crack six figures. The drawback is that your Ed.D. won’t stand out as well in this more competitive position—according to the AASA, more than half of the nation’s superintendents already hold a terminal degree.
- Teacher/Instructor: If you’d prefer to teach, an Ed.D. isn’t strictly necessary. However, assuming you’ve met licensure requirements, it will generally place you in the highest-earning bracket of teachers at your experience level.
Outside the PreK-20 Realm
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t maintain wage data on education department officials, grant writers, consultants, or political lobbyists. For current figures, we recommend you use the aforementioned salary sites to look up specific job titles.
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Resources
- The Center for Educational Leadership: Hosted by the University of Washington, this think tank provides support materials for principals, superintendents, and other educational leaders.
- Educational Leadership Magazine: ASCD (formerly known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) regularly publishes the definitive non-academic magazine in the field.
- The Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL): Founded in 1964, the IEL is the leading organization for administrators who take an educational leadership approach to their work.
- The Journal of Educational Leadership in Action (ELA): This peer-reviewed, open-access journal explores new research relevant to scholar-practitioners who work in the area of educational leadership.