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Educational 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 2022 and 2032, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 4% increase in postsecondary education administrators, including provosts, deans, and registrars. These professionals earn annual median salaries of $99,940.
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
We use datasets from sources like the National Center for Education Statistics to inform the data for these schools.
#1 Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership 2023
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
The online Ed.D. in education policy and leadership program at American University ranks as one of the best degrees in the educational leadership field. At the private institution, degree-seekers complete a doctorate in a flexible environment. Doctoral students receive library access, research support, and career services.
In the online educational leadership program, learners complete doctoral coursework and strengthen advanced skills. Doctoral candidates pass comprehensive examinations and conduct research for their dissertation. As the terminal degree in educational leadership, the doctoral program trains graduates for roles in academia, research, and industry.
The accredited institution meets federal requirements for financial aid support. Contact the educational leadership program to learn more about financial aid, enrollment options, and start dates.
American University at a Glance:
Online Student Enrollment: 2,815
Online Master's Programs: 16
Online Doctoral Programs: 1
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11-to-1
Graduate Tuition Rate: $30,351
#2 Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership 2023
Berrien Springs, MI
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
The doctoral programs in educational leadership at Andrews University offer an online learning format. Degree-seekers benefit from flexible course options through the private institution. Doctoral students receive support services like career advising and research assistance.
In the online educational leadership programs, graduate learners take advanced classes. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates complete an original dissertation that contributes to the field. Graduates with a doctorate in educational leadership work in academic, research, and industry positions.
At the accredited institution, doctoral students qualify for several forms of financial aid. Prospective applicants can contact the school to learn more about research support, financial aid opportunities, and admission requirements.
Andrews University at a Glance:
Online Student Enrollment: 918
Online Master's Programs: 7
Online Doctoral Programs: 6
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10-to-1
Graduate Tuition Rate: $27,216
#3 Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership 2023
Arkansas State University
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Arkansas State University offers a top-ranked online doctorate in educational leadership program. At the public university, degree-seekers engage in online classes to earn a doctorate. Doctoral students work closely with faculty mentors and career advisors.
Learners complete doctoral coursework in the online educational leadership program. After meeting coursework requirements, doctoral candidates pass a comprehensive examination and conduct research for an original dissertation or project. With a doctorate in educational leadership, professionals work in academia, research, and leadership roles.
The accredited institution meets federal requirements for financial aid support. Prospective applicants can contact the program to learn more about the enrollment process and start dates.
Arkansas State University at a Glance:
Online Student Enrollment: 7,939
Online Master's Programs: 19
Online Doctoral Programs: 2
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18-to-1
Graduate Tuition Rate: $4,986
#4 Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership 2023
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
The online doctor of education in educational leadership program, offered by Belhaven University, ranks as a top program in the field. The private university provides flexible enrollment options to meet the needs of diverse degree-seekers. Doctoral students receive support services like career advising and research support.
In the online educational leadership program, learners complete doctoral coursework and strengthen advanced skills. Doctoral candidates pass comprehensive examinations and conduct research for their dissertation. With a doctorate in educational leadership, graduates pursue academic, research, and industry roles.
Online doctoral students can pay for their degree with scholarships, fellowships, and other forms of financial aid. Contact the educational leadership program to learn more about the enrollment process and start dates.
Belhaven University at a Glance:
Online Student Enrollment: 2,200
Online Master's Programs: 14
Online Doctoral Programs: 1
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 8-to-1
Graduate Tuition Rate: $10,170
#5 Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership 2023
Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, MI
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
The online Ed.D. in educational leadership program at Central Michigan University ranks as one of the best degrees in the educational leadership field. With flexible enrollment options, the public school helps degree-seekers earn a doctorate. Doctoral students work closely with faculty mentors and career advisors.
Learners complete credits of doctoral coursework in the online educational leadership program. Doctoral candidates advance in the program by passing comprehensive exams and writing an original dissertation. With a doctorate in educational leadership, professionals work in academia, research, and leadership roles.
At the accredited institution, online doctoral students qualify for scholarships, federal loans, and other forms of financial aid. Prospective applicants can contact the program to learn more about research support, financial aid opportunities, and admission requirements.
Central Michigan University at a Glance:
Online Student Enrollment: 7,657
Online Master's Programs: 24
Online Doctoral Programs: 3
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19-to-1
Graduate Tuition Rate: $16,700
Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
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.
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.
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.
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
|Median Salary: $101,320
|Projected Job Growth: 1%
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.
Postsecondary Education Administrators
|Median Salary: $99,940
|Projected Job Growth: 4%
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: $66,490
|Projected Job Growth: 2%
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 $99,000-$142,000.
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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