Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership 2021
| TBS Staff
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Online doctorate in education programs help professionals learn how to enact necessary change in their schools and school systems.
All organizations require competent leaders to function at their best. Colleges and universities are no exception to this rule. Education professionals looking to advance to top management positions often pursue terminal degrees, such as an Ed.D. or Ph.D. in educational leadership.
The growing demand for strong leaders in education is largely driven by increasing enrollment numbers in colleges and universities. Between 2018 and 2028, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 7% increase in postsecondary education administrators, including provosts, deans, and registrars. These professionals earn annual median salaries of $95,410.
The following guide and the accompanying ranking of the top 25 online doctorate in education programs both contain vital information for prospective education students. Topics include admission requirements, common courses, professional organizations, and career opportunities for graduates.
Featured Online Schools
The Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Programs
Founded in 1874 as Battle Creek College, the distinctive Seventh-Day Adventist institution currently supports over 3,500 students annually.
The School of Graduate Studies at Andrews University offers two completely online doctoral degrees in education administration: doctor of education in higher education administration and doctor of philosophy in higher education administration. The former requires 60 credits for completion while the latter requires 61 credits for completion.
Admission requirements remain the same for each program and consist of a master's degree with a minimum 3.3 GPA, three recommendations, a resume, and a statement of purpose.
The Red Wolves of A-State were founded in 1909, and the school currently supports more than 14,000 students annually.
The completely online doctorate of education in educational leadership program requires 60 credits for completion at a total cost of $26,400. Students can complete required coursework in as few as 40 months. The curriculum concludes with a doctoral dissertation.
To apply, prospective students will complete an online application and submit official transcripts with a minimum master's GPA of 3.0, a resume, two recommendations, and one written scholarly paper.
Established in 1883, this Christian university currently serves 4,400 students across undergraduate and graduate programs of study.
The hybrid doctor of education in educational leadership program pairs online coursework with three in-person residency sessions. Curriculum consists of a minimum of 60 credits, but the total varies based on electives chosen and dissertation length.
Students with a specialist degree in education can apply by submitting official transcripts proving a minimum 3.0 GPA, a written essay, three professional letters of recommendation, proof of a minimum of three years experience in preK-12 education, MAT or GRE scores, and a current teaching license.
Founded in 1892, CMU currently hosts over 24,000 students both on campus and online across approximately 300 offered academic programs.
The hybrid doctor of education in educational leadership program requires 63 credits for completion. Students will complete most courses online and meet once over the summer for a one-week residency. Additionally, students will gain hands-on experience through an internship.
Admission requirements include official transcripts, three recommendations, a personal statement, a written statement showing proof of educational leadership experience, GRE scores, a resume, a signed declaration of commitment, and an interview.
Founded in 1973, CityU currently serves over 6,300 students, including more than 500 international students.
The hybrid doctor of education in leadership degree requires 90 credits for completion and includes residency options in Seattle or San Diego. Curriculum consists of leadership core classes, research core classes, comprehensive exams, concentration area classes (higher education, organizational leadership, or specialized study), dissertation, and residencies.
Program entry requirements include official transcripts of completed master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, a resume, references, an admission statement, and an interview.
Formed in 1988 through the consolidation of Atlanta University and Clark College, CAU currently offers 40 unique areas of study to nearly 4,000 students.
The 60-credit-hour hybrid higher education in leadership program combines flexible asynchronous and synchronous online learning with on-campus summer residency experiences.
Admission requirements include a completed online application, official transcripts, official GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a resume, dean of students certification form, GACE program admission assessment scores, and a letter of intent.
Established in 1962, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod-aligned university located in Irvine, California, currently serves over 4,000 students.
CUI's School of Education provides a hybrid doctor of education in leadership program requiring 46 total units for completion. The program combines flexible online coursework with in-person educational trips. Students can choose between three available concentrations: educational administration, organizational change, and special education.
Prospective students must submit official transcripts, a resume, three letters of recommendation, a statement of intent, and a writing sample.
Founded in 1891 in Philadelphia, Drexel currently enrolls over 24,000 students across 15 schools and colleges and more than 200 offered degree programs.
Drexel's fully online doctorate in educational leadership and management degree requires 60-61.5 credits for completion depending on which of the 10 available concentrations students select. Students can complete the program in three to five years on a part-time basis.
Admission criteria include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution, a master's degree in education with a minimum 3.5 GPA, and three years of relevant work experience. Students will submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a resume.
Founded in 1911 as East Tennessee State Normal School, ETSU currently supports more than 14,500 students across 10 schools and colleges.
The College of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, offers an online doctor of education requiring 66 credits for completion. The program is designed for incoming students who hold a master's degree, but student's with a specialist degree can complete it in 42 credit hours.
Admission interview criteria include official transcripts showing graduate-level GPA, four letters of recommendation, employment record, evidence of leadership, estimated leadership potential, and an analysis of speaking skills.
Edgewood College currently offers 60 majors and 40 minors to a student body of just over 2,000 students.
The fully online doctor of education in higher education and leadership studies program requires 54 credits for completion, which students can typically finish in three to four years. Although not required, students can elect optional in-person residency opportunities on campus in Madison. Curriculum consists of both synchronous and asynchronous elements.
Admission requirements include a master's degree, official transcripts showing a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA, two letters of recommendation, a letter of intent, and a curriculum vitae.
Located 20 miles outside of Boston, Endicott College currently supports over 5,000 students across more than 80 academic program offerings.
The online doctor of education in educational leadership with a concentration in higher education program requires 51 credits for completion. Curriculum highlights include ethical leadership in education, finance, budget and operations, and transformational leadership in contemporary education, concluding with a dissertation and apprenticeship.
Prospective students must submit official transcripts, a resume, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample, plus participate in an admission interview.
Founded in 1868 as Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, the Pirates of HU currently serve over 3,500 students.
The accelerated 60-credit doctor of philosophy in educational management program provides two available specializations: higher education and preK-12 education. Students can complete the curriculum, which consists of eight-week courses, in two years at a cost of $695 per credit.
Admission requirements include a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, a written statement, two letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a resume, a copy of federal ID, and an admission interview as required. Students with a master's in education do not need to submit GRE scores.
ISU currently offers numerous online graduate programs, including 23 online master's programs, seven online doctoral programs, and 15 graduate certificate and licensure programs.
The online doctor of philosophy in educational administration with a concentration in higher education leadership degree requires a minimum of 72 credits of post-graduate coursework plus a dissertation for completion. Curriculum consists of a minimum of 18 credits of basic core coursework, 21 credits of advanced core, and six credits of internship core.
Prospective students must hold a master's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum "B+" cumulative GPA and submit three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, GRE scores, and a personal and professional narrative.
With more than 100 degree options and over 17,000 students, LU stands as one of the fastest-growing institutions in the Texas State University System.
The College of Education and Human Development offers a 60-credit, completely online doctor of education in educational leadership program with two available specializations: educational technology innovation and global educational leadership. Each specialization consists of the same core courses and culminates in a dissertation.
Application procedures include an online application through Apply Texas and submittal of official transcripts, GRE test scores, a writing sample, and a resume.
Founded in 1971, Liberty currently offers more than 700 unique programs of study and hosts over 100,000 students.
The School of Education offers a completely online doctor of education in educational leadership program requiring 54 credits for completion. Students can transfer up to 50% of the required coursework into the program and complete studies in an average of three years.
Admission requirements include a master's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA, an application and associated fee, official transcripts, and proof of English proficiency.
Established in 1891, NMC currently serves over 1,100 students annually. The school moved to its new home at the Josie Harper Campus in 2005.
The hybrid doctor of education in education and leadership in healthcare program requires no dissertation and culminates in a capstone practice project. Students can typically achieve coursework completion in 24 months for full-time study and 36 months for part-time study.
Prospective students must hold a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit an essay, resume, and official transcripts, plus participate in an on-campus interview.
Founded in 1964 as Nova University of Advanced Technology, NSU has grown into Florida's largest private research institution equipped with eight campuses in Florida and one in Puerto Rico.
The Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice offers a completely online doctor of education in higher education leadership program requiring 55 credits minimum and culminating in either an applied dissertation or strategic research project.
Entrance requirements include a completed online application, a master's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA, official transcripts, two professional letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a completed transfer credit form, if applicable.
Founded in 1978, Regent consists of seven schools and two colleges and awarded over 2,200 total degrees in 2020.
The online doctor of philosophy in education program in K-12 school leadership requires 67 credits for completion. Featured courses include strategic leadership, differentiated instruction and assessment, and data literacy for improvement. Students will complete a dissertation during the culmination of their studies.
Prospective students must hold a master's degree and active teaching license and submit a graduate program academic paper, official transcripts, admissions questionnaire, and government-issued ID, plus participate in an admissions interview.
Founded in 1923, Rowan currently supports approximately 18,000 students across 74 bachelor's programs, 51 master's programs, four doctoral programs, and two professional programs.
Rowan's hybrid doctor of education in educational leadership in higher education program consists of online coursework and three in-person residencies at the Glassboro campus. Curriculum includes 17 courses and 60 semester hours of study and culminates in a dissertation.
Applicants must complete an online application form, hold a master's degree from an accredited institution and submit official transcripts, a professional resume, three letters of recommendation, and three typewritten essays.
Founded in 1878, SBU currently offers more than 80 areas of academic study covering undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs.
The online doctor of education in educational leadership program requires just 30 credit hours for completion. Coursework highlights include ethics in personal and professional life, leadership in learning, and leadership and the law. Each student receives a personalized dissertation support committee.
Admission requirements include a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75, teaching certificate, and Praxis II or GRE scores. Contact graduate admissions for additional requirements for this program.
Established in 1885, the nonprofit institution currently offers 14 bachelor's degrees, eight master's degrees, one doctoral degree, and 10 professional certificates.
The hybrid doctor of education in educational leadership program at SC consists of tailored online coursework with summer residency courses. Students can choose a licensure track or non-licensure track depending on personal professional goals.
The application process includes an online program application and submittal of official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a resume, an academic writing sample, and a current teaching license.
With three schools and colleges, this Catholic university offers 18 undergraduate majors, 16 graduate majors, four doctoral programs, and one professional program.
STU's completely online doctor of education in leadership and innovation-administration program requires 60 credits for completion, which students can achieve in as few as 36 months at a total cost of $47,500. Curriculum consists of 24 credit hours of core courses, 15 credit hours of specialization courses, nine credit hours of research courses, and 12 credit hours of dissertation courses.
Admission requirements include an online application and official transcripts for proof of master's degree with a minimum 2.6 GPA.
Founded in 1912, TSU currently offers 77 undergraduate and graduate majors with a low 17-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
The College of Education at TSU offers an online doctor of education in educational leadership degree in two concentrations: preK-12 administration and higher education. The 60-semester hour program consists of 12 semester hours of major field core, 33 semester hours in concentration studies, nine semester hours in electives, and six to 15 semester hours of dissertation work.
Prospective students must hold a master's or specialist degree with a minimum 3.25 GPA, complete an interview, and submit official transcripts, GRE or MAT scores, three letters of recommendation, a resume, and a scholarly writing sample.
Created through legislative action in 1923, TTU currently enrolls over 40,000 students across more than 150 undergraduate programs, 100 graduate programs, and 50 doctoral programs.
The College of Education offers a completely online doctor of education in educational leadership program with the option to participate in collaborative summer institutes. Students can transfer up to 30 credits into the 96-credit program.
Program admission requirements include official transcripts, standardized test scores, diplomas and degree certificates, a statement of purpose, three professional letters of recommendation, response to EDLD prompt, and a resume.
Union University stands as the oldest institution of higher learning affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Today, more than 3,000 students attend annually across more than 100 programs of study.
The School of Education offers an online doctor of education program in instructional leadership in three forms: a licensure track, teacher leadership non-licensure track, and leadership in school reform non-licensure track.
Admission requirements include an online application, official transcripts, GRE scores, four recommendation forms, minimum two years of experience in a leadership role, a career aspiration essay, a resume, immunization records, and a personal summary.
Founded in 1871, U of A currently hosts approximately 27,000 students across 10 schools and colleges and more than 210 academic programs.
The 42-credit, hybrid doctor of education in educational leadership program consists of online coursework and three intensive weekend cohort seminars on campus.
Prospective students must first apply to the University of Arkansas Graduate School and submit official transcripts before applying to the program with a writing sample, three letters of recommendation, an autobiographical sketch, and a copy of a teaching or administrator license.
The University of Florida currently hosts nearly 58,000 students across more than 300 programs of study.
UF's College of Education offers a hybrid doctor of education in higher education leadership program requiring 90 credit hours for completion. Students will complete online coursework and attend two to three in-person cohorts per semester.
Admission requirements include a master's or terminal degree from an accredited institution, a minimum 3.0 upper-division undergraduate GPA, acceptable graduate GPA, GRE scores, and an interview.
UK consists of 16 degree-granting schools and colleges with over 200 offered programs.
UK's College of Education offers a fully online doctorate of education in educational leadership degree requiring 14 courses over four years. Curriculum consists of 12 required core courses and two electives totaling approximately 42 credit hours, plus four credit hours of dissertation work and residency.
Prospective students must hold a master's degree with a minimum 3.5 GPA and minimum GRE scores and submit official transcripts, a resume, a personal statement, an academic writing sample, and two recommendations.
UMass Lowell consists of six schools and colleges and provides bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs to more than 18,000 students annually.
The hybrid doctor of education in leadership in schooling program consists of cohort-based online coursework and a one-week summer residency each year. Additionally, students will complete a dissertation towards the end of their studies.
Admission requirements include a master's degree, leadership experience in a school setting, a two-page admission essay, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.
Chartered in 1869, UNL currently serves over 25,000 students annually across 10 colleges.
The online doctor of education in educational studies with a concentration in educational leadership and higher education degree, offered through the Department of Educational Administration, requires 96 credits for completion.
Prospective students must apply to the graduate school by submitting official transcripts via an online application. They can then apply to the program by submitting a personal statement, an essay, a resume, two writing samples, and three letters of recommendation.
Founded in 1883, UND currently offers over 225 programs of study to more than 13,500 annual attendees.
The fully online doctorate of education in educational practice and leadership degree requires 90 credit hours for completion, which students can typically complete in three years. Students can choose from six available specializations: higher education, instructional design and technology, school leadership, special education, sport leadership, and teacher education.
Admission requirements include a master's degree with a minimum 3.5 GPA, official transcripts, a statement of goals, GRE scores, three recommendations, a resume, and a writing sample.
UNC was founded in 1889 and currently offers more than 100 undergraduate and 120 graduate programs to an enrollment of nearly 11,000 students.
The completely online doctor of education in educational leadership program utilizes a mix of asynchronous virtual learning and synchronous online sessions with instructors every other Saturday.
Prospective students must apply to the graduate school before applying to the program by submitting official transcripts proving master's or specialist degree with a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA and two years work experience. Other requirements include GRE scores, a statement of goals, a resume, a teaching license, and research papers.
Founded in 1880, the private research institution enrolls a total of 46,000 students annually.
USC's online doctorate in education in educational leadership program with a concentration in K-12 leadership in urban school settings requires a minimum of 43 units for completion. Students can typically finish required coursework in three years.
Students must hold a master's degree and a minimum of three years of relevant work experience, plus submit official transcripts, standardized test scores, a resume, essays, letters of recommendation, video essays, and a timed writing assessment.
Established in 1913 as a normal college for women, VSU currently offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate majors.
The Department of Leadership, Technology, and Workforce Development offers an online doctor of education in leadership program requiring 55 credit hours for completion. Concentrations include organizational leadership, curriculum leadership, technology leadership, higher education leadership, and special education leadership.
In order to apply, students will submit official transcripts showing a master's degree with a minimum 3.5 GPA, GRE or MAT test scores, a goal statement, three recommendations, a resume, and a medical form.
Established as the Pearl River Boarding School in 1892, William Carey University now consists of campuses located in Hattiesburg and Biloxi, Mississippi, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The School of Education provides an online doctor of education in educational leadership program requiring 63 credit hours for completion. Curriculum includes 15 credits of advanced leadership core, 12 credits of research process, and six credits of research courses.
Prospective students must first apply to the graduate school using the online application before applying to the individual program. Upon application receipt, students will receive an email from the program indicating required documents for consideration.
Founded during the aftermath of the Civil War in 1870 as a school for women, WWU officially became a college in 1914.
The online doctor of education in educational leadership program consists of nine courses leading to a doctoral dissertation. Students can complete the curriculum in as little as 25 credits over two years.
Aspiring participants must hold a specialist degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.6 GPA and have two years experience working as an educator prior to applying. To apply, students must submit official transcripts, two letters of reference, a professional curriculum vitae, and a philosophy of leadership statement.
The private, nonprofit, and open-access WilmU was founded in 1968 and currently offers over 200 academic programs.
The online doctor of education in higher education leadership program consists of asynchronous coursework with one hour of synchronous online meetings per week. Students will complete 17 courses for a total of 51 credits over three years.
Admission requirements include official transcripts, a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA over the previous two years of post-secondary education, three letters of recommendation, a written statement, and a resume.
Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
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While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.
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Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
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What Is an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Degree?
The best Ed.D. programs in educational leadership offer curricula that link research and practice. These programs prepare educators for formal leadership roles in the education system, including principal, dean, and superintendent positions. Required coursework covers leadership theory, organizational analysis, and policies in education.
Doctoral students typically already have significant experience in education. They may be teachers looking to step into a leadership role or current administrators looking to advance their knowledge, skills, and credentials. Flexible online degrees appeal to working professionals who do not want to put their careers on hold while returning to school.
Online doctorate in education graduates gain skills in research, effective leadership, strategic planning, and educational finance.
Choosing an Online Program
Most online Ed.D. in educational leadership programs offer similar learning outcomes and curricula, but students may encounter significant differences in areas like cost, delivery method, and requirements for in-person attendance. Visit the guides linked below for tips on how to choose the right program for your unique needs and goals.
What Else Can I Expect From a Doctorate in Educational Leadership Program?
Educational leadership doctoral programs usually require 30-90 credits and cover leadership theory and practice, research methods, and contemporary issues in education. Common concentrations include higher education, school leadership, and teacher education. Most doctoral programs require a dissertation, but some programs require capstone projects or comprehensive examinations instead.
Educational Leadership Curriculum
- Educational Law: This course examines the development, principles, and practice of education law on the local, state, and federal levels. Online Ed.D. programs may also require courses that cover legal principles of higher education, including governance, institutional liability, and rights and responsibilities of faculty and students.
- Principalship: This course invites students to explore organization and administration procedures within school systems. Coursework emphasizes knowledge and skills necessary for graduates to become effective leaders and managers. This course covers principalship at both the elementary and secondary levels.
- Philosophy of Education: This course explores historical and philosophical ideas relating to teaching, learning, and education. Coursework examines primary texts and central questions faced by educators throughout history, with the goal of helping students develop their own personal and professional philosophies.
Earning an online Ed.D. in educational leadership prepares graduates for many work opportunities in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. Graduates can pursue careers as K-12 principals, postsecondary administrators, and curriculum developers.
Graduates with educational leadership degrees may also apply their skills to careers in survey research, social and community service management, and postsecondary teaching.
|Median Salary: $96,400||Projected Job Growth: 7%|
Elementary, middle, and high school principals are the primary leaders and public representatives of their schools. Daily duties vary by school and district size, but principals commonly manage school activities and staff, coordinate curricula, manage school budgets, and assess student achievement data. At large schools, assistant principals aid in school administration tasks.
Principals need several years of teaching experience and at least a master's degree in educational leadership or administration. Principals who work at public schools must meet varying state requirements to become licensed school administrators. This career requires excellent communication, decision-making, and leadership skills.
|Median Salary: $95,410||Projected Job Growth: 7%|
Postsecondary education administrators provide oversight for college and university academics, student services, and faculty research. Specific job titles vary by department and specialization, with different administrators working as registrars, admissions officers, and academic deans. Common tasks include coordinating department activities, maintaining records, managing budgets, and advising students.
Education requirements for postsecondary education administrators vary by position and school size. While some employers accept candidates with bachelor's or master's degrees, provosts and academic deans typically need a doctoral degree. Related work experience is highly preferred, as are skills in computer technology, problem-solving, and interpersonal communication.
|Median Salary: $66,290||Projected Job Growth: 6%|
Instructional coordinators, also known as curriculum specialists, oversee teaching standards and school curricula. By reviewing student test data, observing teachers in the classroom, and participating in discussions with school staff, instructional coordinators are able to evaluate curriculum effectiveness. They may recommend changes, develop new curricula, and implement new educational materials.
Instructional coordinators typically need at least a master's degree and several years of related work experience. State licensure may be required for professionals working in public schools. This position requires keen analytical, communication, decision-making, and leadership skills.
Educational Professional Organizations
Professional organizations provide support and advocacy both for individual members and for entire industries. The associations listed below confront major issues in public and higher education, such as funding, professional ethics, and curriculum standards. School administrators and doctoral students can join these associations to receive networking, professional development, and career support resources.
Frequently Asked Questions
Education doctoral programs are designed to take 3-5 years to complete. Actual completion times vary depending on how long students need to work on their dissertations.
Online doctorate in education programs prepare graduates for top management positions in K-12 and higher education settings, including roles like dean and superintendent.
Top earners working in education can have six-figure salaries. According to data from the BLS and PayScale, postsecondary education administrators, college deans, and superintendents earn median annual salaries of $95,410-$118,000.
Educational leadership roles can encompass several management functions, including hiring and supervising teachers and staff, preparing budgets, developing curriculum standards, and setting policies.
A doctorate in educational leadership is a terminal degree that prepares graduates to be competent, effective leaders in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.
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