Earning a Doctor of Education Degree in Tennessee
It’s hard to go wrong if you pick Tennessee for your doctoral program in education. We’re not exaggerating for effect—we have five very good reasons for saying this:
- All of the TN universities & schools in our school listings are CAEP-accredited (look for the CAEP badge); TSU is also participating in the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED).
- Ed.D. funding opportunities abound, including tuition discounts for full-time educators & alumni and in-state tuition deals for residents in bordering states.
- There are plenty of solid online doctorates in education in multiple concentrations to choose from.
- Some universities have come up with fascinating capstone projects in lieu of a dissertation requirement.
- A number of Tennessee Ed.D. programs (e.g. ETSU, FHU, etc.) are designed to prepare you for the Instructional Leadership License (ILL).
Thinking of staying in-state after graduation? Check out our extensive career section. There you’ll find hard data on TN education administrator jobs and salaries, summaries of important TN educational leadership associations (e.g. TOSS), and ideas for conferences & professional development events (e.g. ALI, SLI, TEDP, etc.).
Online Doctor of Education Programs in Tennessee
Online Ed.D. Providers in Tennessee
- Carson-Newman University (CAEP-accredited)
- East Tennessee University (CAEP-accredited)
- Lipscomb University (CAEP-accredited)
- Trevecca Nazarene University (CAEP-accredited)
- Union University (CAEP-accredited)
- University of Memphis (CAEP-accredited)
- Vanderbilt University (CAEP-accredited)
What to Know About Tennessee Online Ed.D. Programs
In a phrase? You’ve got options. All of your choices are regionally accredited and CAEP-accredited. A number of Tennessee Ed.D. degrees are shorter in length than online programs in other states (e.g. 54 credits vs. 60 credits), which means lower tuition. And they come from public, private, or religiously inclined universities.
That means you can decide whether you want to opt for international reputation (e.g. Vanderbilt) or in-state affordability (e.g. East Tennessee State University). You can choose a 100% online Ed.D. (e.g. Trevecca), a program with licensure training (e.g. UM or CNU), or one that includes a learning trip to Europe (e.g. Lipscomb).
Overall, public schools are generally cheaper than private schools. On the other hand, a private school may have an online Ed.D. that exactly matches your career goals or professional outlook (e.g. Union). So it pays to have a conversation with your employer about tuition reimbursement.
Note: Our overview of online doctoral programs in education has a complete listing of online Ed.D. programs in other states and more info on accreditations.
Online Ed.D. Programs at Public Tennessee Universities
ETSU’s 66-credit Online Ed.D. comes in three concentrations: Administrative Endorsement, School Leadership, and Higher Education Leadership. We like that it a) is cohort-based; b) includes an internship in your local area; c) appears to be 100% online; and d) is nice & affordable. Per credit tuition rates for in-state residents are some of the best we’ve seen in TN. However, out-of-state residents will have to pay more.
If you prefer something with fewer credits, UM’s cohort-based, 54-credit programs are worth considering. For higher education administrators, there’s the Online Doctorate of Education in Higher and Adult Education: Adult Education or Higher Education from the Department of Leadership (LEAD). For IT lovers, there’s the Online Doctor of Education in Instructional Design and Technology (IDT). Graduates become instructional designers, directors of curriculum & instruction or educational technology, researchers, university professors, and more.
UM charges the same per credit tuition rate to in-state and out-of-state online students, so the school is a nice pick if you “come from away.”
Online Ed.D. Programs at Private Tennessee Universities
The largest private choice is going to be Vanderbilt’s 54-credit Online Ed.D in Leadership and Learning in Organizations. Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education has an outstanding reputation (check out its national ranking) and the online program has features we applaud—three challenging campus convenings and a real-world capstone project. But it is expensive. Per credit tuition rates can be around three times that of public universities.
Online Ed.D. Programs at Religious Tennessee Universities
The other avenue to consider is enrolling in a distance Ed.D. at a private, Christian liberal arts school. These types of programs often make a point of integrating faith and Christian values into the curriculum. We’re talking about options such as:
- Lipscomb University’s 54-credit Online Doctor of Education in Learning Organizations and Strategic Change. This three-year Ed.D. includes a capstone project, three on-campus intensives with your cohort, and one unique, 10-day international experience in Europe during the summer semester at the end of the first year.
- Union University’s 60-credit Online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership P-12 Administration – Leadership in School Reform. It’s an affordable cohort-based program that includes a dissertation. Tuition prices are almost on par with public schools.
- Trevecca Nazarene University’s 57-credit Online Doctor of Education in Leadership & Professional Practice. If you want a short program (i.e. 27 months) that’s 100% online, with books & materials delivered to your door, it’s worth investigating. Or you could consider the hybrid version, with Saturday and Friday night classes.
- Carson-Newman University’s 57-credit Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. This comes in two career-focused concentrations—Administrate Leadership or Curriculum and Instruction Leadership—and includes preparation for Aspiring ILL-A and ILL-B licensure.
No Dissertation Ed.D. Programs in Tennessee
Doctoral Research Projects & Capstones
You may have noticed that two private universities offering the online doctorate in education have decided not to go down the dissertation route.
Instead, in Vanderbilt’s Online Ed.D in Leadership and Learning in Organizations, the final assessment is a two-part capstone project. You’ll be expected to work with a faculty advisor on identifying a problem of practice, challenge, or complex phenomenon in an external organization. Then you’ll develop an intervention for it, including a detailed plan and evaluation strategy for implementation.
Lipscomb takes a slightly different approach. In the Doctor of Education in Learning Organizations and Strategic Change (on-campus or online), the practical capstone involves tackling a research-based problem for a client educational organization. You’ll work in a team of 2-3 students, consult with university faculty, and collaborate with the organization as you come up with a solution. It’s an intriguing model that includes a lot of personal interaction.
Doctoral Education Funding in Tennessee
Internal Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards
Internal funding options (e.g. doctoral scholarships, Ed.D. tuition discounts, research grants, etc.) can be little hard to find on some university websites. To save you time, we’ve dug up as much info as we could.
You’ll have to supplement these sources with external aid (e.g. federal & private loans, national association scholarships), work wages, and personal savings. However, Ed.D. program coordinators or the Graduate School will almost always be willing to help with financial aid advice.
Austin Peay State University
The College of Education has a section on Scholarships and Financial Aid. You may wish to ask the program coordinator if Ed.D. students can apply for the Fred and Melba Newton Memorial Endowment. The College of Graduate Studies has further info on Financial Aid, including details on the Hoppe Leadership Endowment for part-time graduate students in educational leadership.
East Tennessee State University
The School of Graduate Studies maintains a list of Graduate Scholarship, Grants & Assistantships, which includes info about Thesis and Dissertation Scholarships and Research Grants. ETSU’s doctorate in education programs are online, so check with the program coordinator to see if distance learning students are eligible for funds.
Lincoln Memorial University
LMU’s School of Education has an important section on Scholarship Opportunities. There are great Ed.D. tuition discounts (10%-25%) for:
- Full-time faculty & staff at private and community colleges in the Appalachian Region
- Full-time faculty and staff at the Duncan School of Law
- Full-time faculty and staff (both school and central office level) in Claiborne County Schools
- Diverse full-time faculty and staff in any Hamilton County, Tennessee school
- Tusculum University graduates
- New doctoral applicants who reside in bordering states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia
What’s more, National Institute for School Leadership Program (NISL) graduates can apply NISL course credits toward all Ed.D. concentrations.
Lipscomb offers an In-Service Scholarship to full-time teachers, teacher assistants and/or administrators (K-12 or higher education) enrolled in the on-campus Ed.D. (i.e. not online). The scholarship amounts to a 20% discount on Ed.D. courses. You can consult the section on Affording a Graduate Education for other financial aid advice.
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU’s College of Graduate Studies has a thorough section on Paying for Graduate Studies, with info on graduate assistantships, reduced rates for Regional Scholars (i.e. living within ~250 miles of MTSU), and internal & external graduate scholarships. Most of the College of Education Scholarships are limited to folks who are seeking teaching licensure.
Do you live in Alabama? MTSU is a member of the ACM, which allows residents of participating states to qualify for in-state tuition for unique academic majors not offered in their home state. Alabama accepts MTSU’s Ed.D. in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement as an option.
Tennessee State University
TSU’s School of Graduate Studies has a section on Financial Aid, with info about graduate assistantships. However, the Fellowships & Scholarships section is devoted to external awards, not internal ones.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
In its Doctorate in Learning and Leadership FAQ section, UTC states that financial aid at the doctoral level is typically limited to student loans and employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs.
Trevecca Nazarene University
Trevecca has a separate section on Financial Aid & Costs for the Ed.D. Monthly payment plans are available.
University of Memphis
Check out the College of Education’s COE Scholarships, which includes awards for graduate students. The Graduate School also has info on general Graduate Assistantships and a Border County Tuition Waiver for students from border counties in Arkansas and Mississippi.
The Peabody College of Education has a helpful section on Financing Your Education that includes advice for on-campus Ed.D. students. Every professional student applicant is considered for merit aid.
You can also take a look at the Assistantships and Endowed Awards sections. Students of certain service programs (e.g. Peace Corps, Teach for American, etc.) are eligible to receive a partial tuition scholarship.
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.
Instructional Leadership Licensing Requirements in Tennessee
Instructional Leadership Licensing
The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) handles licensing for education administrators in the state. Instructional Leader Licenses (ILLs) allow educators to serve in administrative positions in Tennessee schools. There are four types of ILL:
- Instructional Leadership License – Aspiring (ILL-A)
- Instructional Leadership License – Beginning (ILL-B/ILL)
- Instructional Leadership License – Professional (ILL-P)
- Instructional Leadership License – Exemplary (ILL-E)
A few Ed.D. programs in our school listings will prepare you for initial ILL licensure, so we’ve covered the requirements for the ILL-A and ILL-B below. TDOE also provides a list of approved preparation providers/programs on its website (use the search term “instructional leader”). Ed.D. program websites aren’t always clear about licensure opportunities—we recommend you contact the program coordinator directly if you have questions.
Note: In the Licensure Forms section, TDOE provides guidance for out-of-state applicants who wish to attain an ILL license.
Instructional Leadership License – Aspiring (ILL-A)
The ILL-A can be issued to individuals who are enrolled in a state-approved instructional leader preparation program. The license allows the individual to serve as an assistant principal while completing the program. The ILL-A is valid for five years and is non-renewable. To apply, you must:
- Hold a bachelor’s degree
- Have at least three years of acceptable experience as an educator
- Be formally admitted to a state-approved instructional leader preparation program
- Be recommended for licensure by the state-approved educator preparation program
Instructional Leadership License—Beginning (ILL-B/ILL)
The ILL-B is issued to individuals who have completed a state-approved instructional leader preparation program. The ILL-B is valid for five years and it is renewable. To apply, you must:
- Hold a bachelor’s degree
- Have at least three years of acceptable experience as an educator
- Have completed a state-approved instructional leader preparation program
- Be recommended for licensure by the state-approved educator preparation program
- Submit passing scores on the required content assessment: School Leaders Licensure Assessment
Once you have the ILL-B/ILL and two years of successful experience as a principal, assistant principal, or instructional supervisor under your belt, you can start thinking about the ILL-P (and, eventually, the ILL-E). TDOE lays out the steps for advancement to the ILL-P in its Instructional Leaders section.
Educational Leadership Jobs in Tennessee
Educational Leadership Career Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks employment & salary data for elementary & secondary school education administrators and postsecondary education administrators in every state. Generally speaking, Tennessee seems to be maintaining a pretty solid level of employment for both categories, especially in the Nashville area (no surprise there).
You can get a microscopic view of the PreK-12 landscape by consulting TDOE’s Data & Research section. For example, TDOE posts annual Educator Surveys (including responses from administrator branches), District-Level & School-Level Profiles, State Assessments, and a whole lot more. Some of these resources may prove helpful in your dissertation research as well as your career preparation.
In the realm of higher education, we like the College Scorecard, which can provide immediate overviews of TN colleges & universities in your chosen zip code. NCES’s College Navigator and the IPEDs College Map can also tell you at a glance about the undergraduate population, tuition price, and outcome measures of any college or university in Tennessee. Plus the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) publishes extensive postsecondary Research, including annual Fact Books.
Educational Leadership Salaries
Tennessee doesn’t do as well in the salary department. Mean wages for elementary & secondary administrators can be among the lowest in the country; wages for postsecondary administrators are in a better bracket, but they’re still not high (both categories are comparable to North Carolina). You’ll find the exact numbers in BLS’s section on State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates for Tennessee.
If you’re aiming for PreK-12, glance at TEA Salary Schedules. We’re pointing this one out because many counties break down educator salaries by education level (e.g. BA, MA, Ed.S., Doctorate). You’ll also find administrator salary schedules on district websites (e.g. Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Administrative Salary Scales).
These resources will give you some base numbers to compare with:
- The AASA’s Superintendents Salary and Benefits Survey, which is published with a summary of major findings in the AASA’s Research Papers section.
- Payscale’s cumulative data for all holders of the Doctor of Education (EdD) Degree, which allows you to view salary data by job title (e.g. Elementary School Principal vs. School Director).
Interested in higher education data? The College System of Tennessee maintains a Salary Database of employees in community colleges and colleges of applied technology. You can search for UT salaries by individual in the Knoxville News Sentinel’s database of UT System Salaries. Transparent UT also posts summaries of faculty salaries in its Campus Fact Books.
Educational Leadership Job Boards
Traditional job sites (e.g. LinkedIn, TopSchoolJobs, HigherEd, Indeed, etc.) will get you started. But we also wanted to highlight some TN-specific job boards. For instance:
- TOSS lists TN District Job Openings for principals & supervisors and Superintendent Searches for director & superintendent jobs (in-state and out-of-state). It also has a Superintendent Pathways Program—a customized job search for TOSS members.
- TAIS posts Job Openings for administrators in TN independent schools.
- TDOE posts Career Opportunities within the department (e.g. Chief Academic Officer).
- TN colleges & universities almost always have careers/job section for potential employees (e.g. UT Jobs, Job Opportunities at TBR Institutions, etc.).
Educational Leadership Organizations in Tennessee
Educational Leadership Associations
- Tennessee Association of School Business Officials (TASBO): TASBO represents Tennessee school business officials. It also hosts conferences & training events.
- Tennessee Association of Secondary School Principals (TNASSP): TNASSP advocates for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, supervisors, and other administrators throughout Tennessee.
- Tennessee Education Association (TEA): TEA is the largest professional education organization in the state, representing K-12 teachers, school administrators, education support professionals, higher education faculty, and students preparing to become teachers.
- Tennessee Principals Association (TPA): TPA is a state association dedicated to serving elementary and middle-level principals.
- Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA): TSBA is devoted to helping school board members through association programs, meetings, and services.
Educational Leadership Professional Groups
- Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET): PET is a statewide professional organization whose members include teachers, administrators, and non-certified staff from kindergarten to graduate school level, public or private.
- Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS): TOSS is an advocate for public education in the state of Tennessee. It supports district leaders through legislative advocacy, professional learning, and membership services.
Note: Keep in mind 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 Tennessee
Educational Leadership Conferences
- TEA Administrators Conference: This annual event attracts TN administrators, leaders, and evaluators working in public school districts. Attendees are eligible to earn TASL credits.
- TNASSP Conference: TNASSP’s annual winter event for secondary school principals takes place in February.
- TPA Annual Conference: TPA’s flagship conference attracts principals, assistant principals, and aspiring leaders.
- TSBA Leadership Conference and Annual Convention: TSBA’s four-day event in November includes general sessions, informative breakout sessions on best school practices, awards, exhibits, and networking opportunities.
- TSBA Meetings: In addition to its annual convention, TSBA hosts other meetings during the year, including a Summer Law Institute, Fall District Meetings, and a Day on the Hill for superintendents.
Educational Leadership Training
- Associate Leadership Institute (ALI): ALI is run by TOSS and open to principals, assistant principals, and supervisors. The institute provides hands-on, fully aligned professional development opportunities, including ALI training events with TASL credits.
- Superintendent Leadership Institute (SLI): Run by TOSS, SLI is made up of various professional development opportunities throughout the year, including workshops, conferences, and other collaboration-focused training.
- TEA Summer Leadership Academy (SLA): TEA’s three-day event includes a variety of professional development sessions. The Emerging Leaders School takes place at the same time.
- Tennessee Academy for School Leaders (TASL): TASL is run by the TDOE. ILL administrators are required to earn TASL credits (i.e. continuing education credits) if they spend 50% or more of their time in direct delivery of instructional services to the following: teachers, principals, and/or other educators in administrative or supervisory positions.
- Tennessee Executive Development Program (TEDP): TEDP is also run by the TDOE. It provides continued training and professional development opportunities (e.g. CEO Leadership Institutes) to directors of schools. All training is linked to the Professional Standards for the Superintendency and the 11 Dimensions of Leadership identified by AASA.