But in the 21st century, as hard lines between academic disciplines and between professions continue to blur, it makes sense that the Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership has caught on. Graduates of these programs are well-equipped to address issues that lie at the nexus between education, management, and psychology, preparing them to serve not only as school and district administrators, but also within consulting firms and nonprofit organizations.
What Can You Do with an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership?
Available career options for the Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership include the administrative and government roles associated with the educational leadership major (such as superintendent and school principal), but it’s a more general major in some ways and a more specific major in others.
It’s a more general major in the sense that educational leadership specifically implies leadership of an educational organization, while an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership is more clearly relevant to any for-profit corporation or nonprofit organization that has any connection with education.
It’s a more specific major in the sense that it’s connected to a clear tradition of research and theory connected to social psychology and organizational change. This makes the field of organizational leadership more obviously relevant to human resources management than a comparable credential in educational leadership.
Types of Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs
Our database lists more than 80 Ed.D. programs in organizational leadership, about half of which blend the field with educational leadership in some way.
Organizational Leadership as an Educational Leadership Specialization
Sometimes organizational leadership is a specialty within a broader educational leadership program, as in the case of Western Kentucky University’s Organizational Leadership concentration within its Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Valdosta State’s general Ed.D. in Leadership with an Organizational Leadership concentration.
Organizational Leadership and Educational Leadership Double Major
In other cases, organizational leadership is part of a broader major that also includes educational leadership somehow. Examples include the University of Illinois’ Ed.D. in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership and the University of Louisville’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development.
Specialized Organizational Leadership Majors
Organizational leadership has become a rich and complex field in its own right, and specializing in a subspecialty or practical application of its principles can be useful.
Grand Canyon University’s Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership allows students to specialize in behavioral health, Christian ministry, healthcare administration, higher education, K-12 education, organizational development, or special education. Barry University’s Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership comes with a specialty in human resource development. Because of organizational leadership’s flexible, interdisciplinary roots, the possible specialized applications are nearly endless.
Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
There are several key differences between the Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership and Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership. For example:
- Branding: The Ph.D. is more specifically tailored to academics and researchers and the Ed.D. to educational administrators, though it is not uncommon to find academics and researchers with Ed.D. degrees, or educational administrators who hold Ph.D.’s.
- Degree Focus: There’s nothing about a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership that screams education, and most people with this doctorate focus on psychology and management without specifically applying what they learn to educational institutions. An Ed.D., on the other hand, is always implicitly an education-focused degree.
- Academic Requirements: It’s not rare to find Ed.D. programs that don’t require dissertations; the same can’t be said of Ph.D. programs, where the dissertation is fairly standard.
That said, there are far more similarities between the two degrees than there are differences. They are, after all, two doctorates in the same field.
Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Curriculum
Much like the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, the Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership typically consists of three components: coursework, an internship, and a dissertation or capstone project.
Organizational Leadership Coursework
Vanderbilt University’s online Ed.D. in Leadership and Learning in Organizations is fairly typical of organizational leadership programs. 48 of the 54 semester hours are dedicated to coursework, organized into three blocs: Leadership and Organizational Development, Learning and Design, and Data and Analytics.
If you’re familiar with the standard curriculum of an Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership, this isn’t that different. There’s an additional emphasis on psychology and learning systems, but all of the standard elements of an educational leadership curriculum are also present. This is not unusual in high-quality organizational leadership programs, but some programs, such as the University of Southern California’s Ed.D. in Organizational Change and Leadership, focus slightly more on psychology and slightly less on educational leadership.
Organizational Leadership Internships and Dissertations
Instead of a standard internship and dissertation, the Vanderbilt program has a three-year series of intensive residencies, called immersions, leading into a capstone project that may or may not constitute a traditional dissertation.
Ed.D. programs in Educational Leadership also frequently involve capstone projects instead of dissertations, as the University of Connecticut proudly documents with respect to its own Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership, so this should be understood less as a special feature of organizational leadership programs and more as something that occurs with some regularity in Ed.D. programs in general. Originally, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Ed.D. (versus the Ph.D.) was the option to pursue a capstone project instead of a traditional dissertation.
Online Doctorate in Organizational Leadership Programs
Several dozen regionally accredited Ed.D. programs in Organizational Leadership listed in our database can be completed mostly or entirely online. Among them are the prestigious Vanderbilt University program listed above, as well as programs at respected brick-and-mortar institutions like the University of Illinois, the University of Minnesota, and Baylor University.
Most of these programs require a small amount of residency, usually the equivalent of a two- to three-week intensive held each summer, but a few can be completed entirely online with no residency at all. Among them is Abilene Christian University’s online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership, which is available with an optional conflict resolution specialization.
Is an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Worth It?
Organizational leadership is both a rarer and more distinctive major for Ed.D. candidates than educational leadership is. This could be advantageous if you’re trying to stand out in a school district that’s already flush with educational leadership doctorates, or disadvantageous if you’re trying to fit in in one. It’s also a major that may transition more naturally to work outside of the education sector, as organizational leadership has become a relatively common specialty for business degrees.
It is important to note that Ed.D. programs in organizational leadership can receive CAEP accreditation, and that this may further increase the value of the degree.
Ultimately, the value of the degree may lie in its relevance to your personal goals and personal brand. If you want to be seen as the sort of person who wants to rely more heavily on social psychology than an average educational leadership graduate does, an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership may help to send that message.
Organizational Leadership Resources
- Center for Organizational Leadership: Hosted by Rutgers University, this web site provides useful resources for those who are studying organizational leadership principles or want to more effectively integrate it into their work.
- The Innovation and Organizational Change Management Institute (IOCMI): The IOCMI advocates for the widespread study and adoption of organizational change principles, which tend to be central to organizational development and organizational leadership.
- International Journal of Organizational Leadership: This peer-reviewed, open-access journal provides years of articles reflecting recent research in the field.
- International Organization Development Association: The IODA attempts to make organizational development and organizational change principles more globally accessible.
- Organization Development Network: The Organizational Development Network connects organizational leadership professionals from a variety of disciplines.