Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership

by TBS Staff
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Eudcational Leadership Doctoral Programs

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 Doctorate Educational Leadership Programs

Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership 2022

Online College in District of Columbia

American University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 36%
Graduation Rate 79%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts
School Type
: Private
Concentrations Available: No
Accredited By: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? N/A

AU offers a 40-credit online doctorate in educational leadership. Students complete a nine-credit dissertation that emphasizes topics like systems change and social justice. Coursework covers collaborative inquiry through systems thinking. Learners also explore building teams and growth culture and learning sciences to advance equity. 

Enrollees complete half of this online degree in educational leadership asynchronously. Students move through the program as part of a cohort. This format allows for in-depth peer learning. Synchronous classes let learners engage remotely with instructors and peers. AU requires three on-campus residencies. These occur during the first, fourth, and sixth terms. 

Available Scholarships: United Methodist Graduate Scholarship

Online College in Michigan

Andrews University

School Information
Location Berrien Springs, Michigan
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 59%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts
School Type
: Private
Concentrations Available: Yes
Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission
Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? N/A

Andrew's offers an Ed.D. and Ph.D. in higher education administration. These programs require 60-61 credits and take full-time learners five years to complete. The degrees appeal to students who aspire to enter senior policy-making and administrative positions. Both pathways require enrollees to submit a research-based article to a peer-reviewed publication. Degree-seekers also complete a dissertation. 

Coursework covers topics like leadership and organizational dynamics and higher education finance and technology. Applicants need a minimum 3.3 GPA. Prospective students submit three recommendation letters from professors or employers, a resume, and a statement of purpose that outlines their personal and professional goals. 

Available Scholarships: School of Graduate Studies Scholarship

Online College in Arkansas

Arkansas State University-Main Campus

School Information
Location Jonesboro, Arkansas
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 53%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts
School Type
: Public
Concentrations Available: No
Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission
Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

A-State offers a 60-credit doctorate in educational leadership online. Full-time students can complete the degree in 40 months. Distinctive classes include schooling in a pluralistic society, contemporary issues in American education, and sociocultural foundations of education. Degree-seekers complete doctoral research and a dissertation. 

A-State offers a doctoral support program that provides students with a mentor who remains with students throughout the program. Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited school, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and two recommendations. They must also submit a two-page letter of interest. 

Available Scholarships: Drs. Randy and Carol Ham Memorial Scholarship

Online College in Mississippi

Belhaven University

School Information
Location Jackson, Mississippi
Admission Rate 49%
Graduation Rate 50%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts
School Type
: Private
Concentrations Available: No
Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? N/A

Belhaven designs its online doctorate in educational leadership for professionals who either aspire to enter educational leadership or currently hold a leadership role and wish to become a subject-matter expert in the field. This degree requires 60 credits, including a 12-hour dissertation. Classes include advanced Christian worldview and advanced quantitative statistical designs. Learners also complete an academic writing intensive. 

Classes run synchronously. Belhaven requires three in-person residencies. Applicants need a 3.0 GPA. Application materials include one recommendation letter and an essay discussing a contemporary educational trend and its impact on the education field. 

Available Scholarships: PCUSA Scholarship

Online College in Illinois

Bradley University

School Information
Location Peoria, Illinois
Admission Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 77%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts
School Type
: Private
Concentrations Available: Higher education leadership; community college leadership
Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission
Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? N/A

Bradley offers a 48-credit doctorate in higher education administration. Full-time students can earn their degree in seven semesters. Notable classes include boards and educational governance and learning in an era of technology. Learners also explore national trends of assessment, data analysis, and accountability. 

Most classes run asynchronously. Degree-seekers can engage with peers through online forums and chats. Applicants need a master's degree and three recommendation letters. Prospective students submit a personal statement and a portfolio that shows their achievements in administrative roles. 

Available Scholarships: Graduate Excellence Scholarship

Online College in California

California State University-Channel Islands

School Information
Location Camarillo, California
Admission Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 54%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts
School Type
: Public
Concentrations Available: Postsecondary educational leadership; preK-12 educational leadership
Accredited By: WASC Senior College and University Commission
Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? N/A

CSUCI's online doctorate in educational leadership supports practitioners who prioritize democracy and social justice through education. This program requires 60 units, including 12 dissertation units. Full-time students can earn their degree in three years. Classes include organizational theory and leadership in complex organizations and educational reform. 

Enrollees move through the program as part of a cohort. Students complete most coursework online. However, CSUCI requires some in-person attendance for dissertation coursework. Prospective students need a 3.0 GPA. Application materials include GRE scores, three recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose that demonstrates students' knowledge of challenges facing public schools in California. 

Available Scholarships: CSUCI University Scholarship Program

Online College in Michigan

Central Michigan University

School Information
Location Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Admission Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 40% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts
School Type
: Public
Concentrations Available: Instructional supervision and leadership; preK-12 educational policy; higher education policy; and issues in learning, design, and technology
Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission
Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

CMU offers an online doctorate in educational leadership that prepares students to address issues in preK-12 or higher education institutions. This part-time degree requires 63-66 credits. Students can choose from four concentrations. Classes include ethical leadership, educational research design, and instructional supervision and leadership.  

Learners move through the program as part of a cohort. Students complete most classes synchronously online. However, the program also includes hands-on field experiences. Applicants need a 3.5 GPA from an accredited master's program. Prospective students submit three recommendation letters and complete a scholarly writing assessment. 

Available Scholarships: Out-of-State Tuition Merit Award

Online College in Washington

City University of Seattle

School Information
Location Seattle, Washington
Graduation Rate 33%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts
School Type
: Private
Concentrations Available: Organizational leadership; higher educational leadership; inspired teacher leadership; strategic innovation and decision-making; adult education and online learning; nonprofit leadership; global leadership; and entrepreneurship
Accredited By: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

CityU's online doctorate in educational leadership trains enrollees to address challenges in today's educational landscape. This 90-credit program gives learners access to multiple concentration areas. Classes include strategic thinking, developing leaders of the future, and culturally responsive leadership in a diverse society. 

Students must complete an 18-credit dissertation and three residencies to graduate. Degree-seekers can complete their residencies in Seattle or San Diego. Applicants need a master's from an accredited institution, a 3.0 GPA, and a professional resume. 

Available Scholarships: Merit-Based Scholarship

Online College in Georgia

Clark Atlanta University

School Information
Location Atlanta, Georgia
Admission Rate 55%
Graduation Rate 44%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 1% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts
School Type
: Private
Concentrations Available: No
Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? N/A

CAU offers an accelerated online doctorate in educational leadership for nontraditional learners who would like to work in higher education institutions, foundations, and other related industries. Enrollees can complete this 60-credit degree in two years. Classes include educational resource management, school and community relations, and politics of urban education. 

Students complete synchronous and asynchronous coursework. They must also complete summer residency experiences. Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited institution and a 3.0 GPA. Prospective students must participate in a sample interview with a faculty committee. 

Available Scholarships: Educational Leadership

Online College in California

Concordia University-Irvine

School Information
Location Irvine, California
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 63%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 63% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts
School Type
: Private
Concentrations Available: Educational administration; organizational change; and special education
Accredited By: WASC Senior College and University Commission
Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

CUI's School of Education offers an online doctorate in educational leadership. Full-time enrollees can complete the 46-credit program in three years. Classes cover topics like strategic human resource management and development and statistical analysis for leaders. 

Students can choose a hybrid or fully online format. Online classes run both synchronously and asynchronously. Enrollees move through the program in small cohorts. Learners receive individualized support from senior faculty members when completing their dissertation. 

Available Scholarships: Lutheran Educator

Best Online Programs

Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

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.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Doctorate Educational Leadership Degree Overview

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.

What 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.

Education Careers

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.

$96,400 Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
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.

$95,410 Postsecondary Education Administrators
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.

$66,290 Instructional Coordinators
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.

Popular Questions About Educational Leadership

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Doctorate in Educational Leadership Program?

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.

What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Educational Leadership?

Online doctorate in education programs prepare graduates for top management positions in K-12 and higher education settings, including roles like dean and superintendent.

How Much Do You Make in Education?

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.

What Is Educational Leadership?

Educational leadership roles can encompass several management functions, including hiring and supervising teachers and staff, preparing budgets, developing curriculum standards, and setting policies.

What Is a Doctorate in Educational Leadership?

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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