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PhD in Education Leadership

August 10, 2021 | Staff Writers

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BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

As they say, education is the backbone of a nation. However, this backbone is a complex institution that calls for exceptional leaders to steer past setbacks and success as it stands today. Therefore, if you have a passion for education, there’s no denying that getting a PhD, a doctorate in philosophy can be a prestigious title to pursue in a field that piques your interest. 

Nonetheless, as always, it’s essential to know what you’re getting into before taking the plunge to avoid unwarranted surprises down the road. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about getting a PhD in Education Leadership. 

What You Can Do With a PhD in Education Leadership

For a doctoral student who has graduated with a PhD in Education Leadership, the possibilities are endless. Superior to a master’s degree, a doctorate in educational leadership is at the higher education hierarchy’s helm. Therefore, all doors are open to higher education leadership graduates in the industry. 

Although most graduates will progress to employment in an educational administration position in learning institutions, a soaring number of options are available. Universities and colleges provide a broad range of educational services, and the advent of technology has paved the way for new avenues to provide academic classes. 

Let’s explore the available opportunities for graduates with a doctorate in education leadership. 

International Education

If you have a deep appreciation for other cultures with a knack for travel, an international education leadership position is right up your alley. It will allow you to share your enthusiasm with students, making them feel studious and safe as they get out of their comfort zones. Aside from solely academic knowledge, an international education leader gives a doctoral student first-hand experience about various perspectives in our increasingly globalized world. 

Educational Advocacy and Policy Reform 

If the structural and legislative aspects of the education system pique your interest, the educational leadership position of policy reform will allow you to advocate for better pay for teachers, advance educational initiatives, and deliver services for students with special needs. 

If you’re bold enough to switch things up in the political realm and contend with forces that impact education outside of universities and schools, educational leadership in advocacy and policy reform is an ideal fit. It’ll furnish you with the potential to create widespread beneficial change within the education system. 

Educational Technology

If information systems (IS) and computer science (CS) tickle your fancy, particularly how they can deliver new opportunities and interfaces for learners, the education leadership position in technology is a great fit for you. It’ll usher in the opportunity to modernize the current education system by unlocking the new possibilities of the information age. 

A myriad of universities is investing in an online degree program. Therefore, interfaces and innovations that elevate the quality of virtual learning experiences will allow education to be accessible to anyone who lacks the finances or time to a traditional student. 

Counseling and Tutoring

If you have the entrepreneurial spirit and your goal is to start a small business that offers students extracurricular educational experiences, then pursuing an educational leadership online program and graduating is wise. It’ll allow you to grasp the services that learning institutions cannot provide to their learners. 

Helping students comprehend the financial obligations they’re making with their educational choices or preparing them for standardized assessments can aid in navigating difficult life choices. 

Granted, you can channel your creativity into your education leadership career. However, there’s a boatload of conventional roles (as discussed below) that provide safe employment opportunities with great benefits, salaries, and a job outlook over the next 10 years. 

  1. Postsecondary Educational Administration
    Each university and college requires educational administrators such as treasurers, deans, and registrars to make sure schools provide much-needed academic support to their students and manage their finances effectively. As of 2019, there were 190,500 postsecondary education administrators in the US, a number that is expected to increase by at least 4% over the next 10 years.
  2. Middle, Elementary, and High School Principal
    All elementary, middle and high schools need a principal to oversee the day-to-day operations in addition to keeping them on the ideal pace to achieve their long-term goals. As of 2016, the US had 251,300 employed principals, a figure that is expected to rise by 7% by 2026. According to the US Bureau Labor of Statistics, principals take home $87,760 annually, on average.
  3. Career and School Counselor
    Every student needs guidance to help them get through their graduate school and apply for their next job. Here’s where career counselors come into play. They usually have a significant impact on the trajectory of a learner’s life. As of 2019, the US had 333,500 school counselors, a figure that is expected to rise by 8% by 2029. 
  4. Instructional Coordinator
    Every individual and public school system employs an instructional coordinator to make sure each student is enrolled in engaging courses and the necessary curriculums that will prepare them for the next step in their life and academic career. It’s worth noting that 192,900 instructional coordinators were employed in the US as of 2019, and the number is expected to soar by 6% by 2029. 
  5. Development and Training Manager
    As an educational leader, a training and development manager hires administrators, teachers, and professors then train them to deliver topnotch instruction and services for the institution’s student base. 

    By the end of 2019, there were 42,300 development and training managers employed in the US, and the number is expected to grow by 7% by 2029.
  6. Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent 
    A superintendent and their assistant lead an entire school district. In addition to the administrators, they supervise principals who work at district offices and make curriculum changes that impact the district. 

    Moreover, superintendents and their assistants represent their districts at a multitude of community events. They also meet with other superintendents at national association meetings and conferences. 

    Given that they usually serve at the pleasure of the school board, a principal who wants to take on the role of a superintendent must forego the perks of tenure. Although superintendent jobs pay anywhere between $134,534 and $198,724 annually, it differs from district size. It also ushers in a pension plan and other alluring benefits.
  7. Community College President
    Their role entails managing the campus and community college faculty while coordinating with groups across the state to implement curriculum changes. Becoming a community college president means representing the college at off-campus and on-campus events, making sure the college sticks to the stipulated budget, academic accreditation, and heads recruitment efforts and public relations. 

    While the position can be stressful, it’s unarguably fruitful. On average, a community college president is $80,147 annually. The salary varies greatly based on factors such as additional skills, years of experience, education, and certifications.
  8. Professor
    Granted, many educators who aspire to become college or university professors select an educational leadership degree at a doctorate level. However, most graduates proceed to teach at universities or colleges. Through their student interactions and research, they mold the principals and teachers of the future. 

    Some educational leadership doctorate graduates begin as full-time or part-time professors before progressing to higher education administration. Others continue working as professors with their sole focus on elevating the quality of students who graduate from teacher colleges and conducting rigorous research. 

Time Required To Earn a PhD in Educational Leadership

The number of credits needed for an educational leadership doctoral program varies from 40 to 71. A university that offers both a PhD (Doctorate in Philosophy) and an EdD degree (Doctorate in Education) in educational leadership require different numbers of credits. A doctoral online program is usually designed to last 3 to 5 years. 

Nonetheless, a wealth of students takes longer to complete their degree. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the median time it takes to complete a doctorate is 5.7 years. A student completing an educational leadership online doctorate may require more or less time, based on their duration, to complete their dissertation and enroll in an accelerated degree program.

Demand for People with a PhD in Education Leadership

The decision to pursue a higher education leadership doctoral degree is no easy feat. It requires a significant commitment of money and time. However, it proves fruitful in the end. Keeping that in mind, we’ll delve into the factors that drive the demand for people with a doctoral degree in educational leadership.

You’ll acquire the necessary skills to make a positive impact in your educational organization 

A PhD in Educational Leadership will help you hone your management, communication, and assessment skills in high demand in any educational organization. If you’re interested in stepping things up by a few notches, this PhD will prepare you in advance for organizational leadership.

You’ll develop the much-needed tools to become a better education leader 

It’s no secret that education is a rapidly evolving field. The advanced study into digital literacy and other current education trends will allow you to apply your expertise to bridge gaps and solve recurring problems in the educational environment you’re in. You’ll become a more competent administrator.

If you’re pursuing new opportunities in the educational field, a PhD in Educational Leadership is your holy grail. Regardless of whether you want to land a job in the private sector, public education, or the government, this doctoral degree is the key to setting your résumé apart from the pack.  

A wealth of programs offers specializations such as assessment, instruction, curriculum, and higher education leadership, allowing you to build your professional network within your jurisdiction or acquire certain skill sets.

You can learn how to improve ways of leveraging technology to teach future generations 

Educational technology is evolving in thrilling and new ways, so learning how to incorporate it into the instructional design will allow you to learn the challenges students face in classrooms and train them in new ways.

You’ll be qualified for a senior educational leadership role

A boatload of high-paying, elite jobs such as college president, superintendent, or dean, needs a doctorate. According to the BLS, postsecondary college or university administration positions will experience higher demand than average in the coming decade. 

Best PhD in Education Leadership Programs

We’ve rounded up a few doctoral degree considerations to help you determine the best higher education leadership program for you.

1. Follow Your Passion 

Shift your focus from the title of the doctorate degree to what motivates you. Take a moment to reflect on why you got into education in the first place. Is your goal to pursue big-picture change behind the scenes or directly impact classrooms? 

Although you may assume that one degree holds more weight than another, which is true, but it’s essential to select a path that will usher in personal satisfaction and, more importantly, is consistent with your career goals.

2. Picture Your Day-To-Day

A PhD in Education Leadership program is a considerable time investment. If you’re struggling to decide on a program because it sounds prestigious, take a moment to visualize your day-to-day. Keep in mind that a PhD in educational leadership decidedly entails more research. 

Most of your study will include (but is not limited to) research methodologies and theory investigation. By contrast, these programs revolve around research applications. Most of your time will be spent applying the knowledge you learn to solve the challenges a school leader faces.

3. Explore Career Options 

Earning a PhD in educational leadership will make you a desirable candidate for a wealth of research-oriented positions. Your ability to make recommendations, analyze, and evaluate research will be invaluable to any educational organization. Additionally, these programs will prepare you for a broad range of senior positions. 

You’ll qualify for a leadership position mostly in educational administration. However, it’s your topnotch skill set that will be alluring to certain businesses and nonprofits as well.

4. Coursework Comparison 

PhD programs in educational leadership are challenging and rigorous. While they are rooted in research, there’s no denying their paths diverge. The coursework highlights quantitative and qualitative research, arming you with the necessary tools required to conduct rigorous research from start to finish. Moreover, you’ll work on your dissertation and be required to take written and oral examinations.

A doctoral student usually has the opportunity to work one-on-one with a research faculty member on their research. As you narrow down your search for a graduate school, consider the collaboration opportunities and review the faculty. A PhD in educational leadership trains you to view common problems in an educational institution from different perspectives. 

Courses early in an online program, for instance, compel you to use research as a tool that can deliver practical solutions, promoting equity. As you progress, you’ll then take the necessary steps to address an issue of practice.

5. Compare the Concentrations at Different Universities

You want to select a university that aligns with your interests. Begin by comparing the mission statements from one university to another. Do they seem focused on ushering you through the education program? Is the prospective university principle-driven? Furthermore, you want to check out the specializations that each program offers. Select a doctoral program that will allow you to explore the challenges and issues that are most important to you. 

Concentrations differ by university. For instance, some specializations may include higher education, educational leadership in K-12 schools, or educational psychology. You can expect a university situated near or in a city to offer specializations exploring urban education environments as well.

6. Consider an Online Doctorate

If you’re a working professional who prefers to avoid the daily commute to a physical college or university while you earn a doctoral degree, then enrolling in an online program is best suited for you. It covers the same coursework as the brick-and-mortar counterpart but ushers in more flexibility for a student.

7. Conduct Your Due Diligence on the Dissertation Requirements 

A traditional part of a PhD in educational leadership is the dissertation. The dissertation requirements differ from one university and online program to another but typically include rigorous investigation of a subject from various perspectives, an exam to defend the written work you complete, and copious research. 

Contrarily, an in-person or online program may require the completion of a dissertation in practice. Using the research techniques you learn in the program, you’ll attempt to resolve a problem in education leadership with access and equity. 

Furthermore, you may have the opportunity to team up with an advisor and a group of doctoral students to tackle the issue. A particular university may also want you to explore the problems that fall within its philosophical focus alongside the various dissertation requirements.

8. Estimate Your Time Commitment 

Before you enroll in an educational leadership program, ensure you understand the amount of time it’ll take. A PhD in this field usually takes 3 to 5.7 years to complete and can be pursued as you work. Bear in mind that some programs are full-time commitments. Due to the heavy workload, it may be nearly impossible to work a full-time schedule. 

Nonetheless, a graduate assistantship covers your tuition. A master’s degree may also not be one of the requirements to be accepted to a PhD educational leadership program.

9. Accreditation Status 

As you explore your options, consider an accredited online educational leadership PhD program. Accreditation status is one of the most crucial considerations for prospective students. Universities and colleges in the US acquire accreditation solely from agencies that the US Department of Education recognizes. 

The process of accreditation entails a rigorous review of the student services and educational program of a school. The accreditation of a school directly affects the transferability of course credits in addition to student eligibility for federal financial aid. Therefore, doctoral students should make sure the university or college offering the program has earned regional or national accreditation.

Is There a Difference Between a PhD and EdD in Educational Leadership? 

A student on the quest for an online educational leadership doctoral degree is faced with two options: an EdD or PhD. Generally, the former is best suited for practitioners, whereas a PhD is ideal for scholars and researchers. 

An EdD program focuses on skills applicable to classrooms or higher education administration. An EdD student learns how to apply educational theory in the real world. In turn, they pursue an education doctorate role in leadership as a teacher or administrator.

Contrarily, a PhD prepares educators to conduct their research, contributing to the educational theory field. A doctoral degree in educational leadership typically requires more research and credits compared to an EdD in the same field. A PhD graduate student in educational leadership may work in public institutions, government agencies, or nonprofit organizations.

How Much Does An Online Doctorate In Educational Leadership Cost? 

The cost is based on different factors. For instance, state residency is an essential consideration, given that a boatload of universities and colleges charge higher tuition for out-of-state learners. Nonetheless, a school can charge flat tuition for an online student irrespective of residency. 

Secondly, technology fees are another crucial factor to consider, as they usually apply to online learners as opposed to in-person counterparts. The costs per credit for an online educational leadership doctorate usually falls anywhere between $525 and $1250. A student can expect to fork out $21,000 to $84,000 in total tuition at their college or university of choice.

What Are the Admission Requirements to Pursue an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership?

Before you enroll in a PhD or EdD educational leadership online program, ensure you meet these requirements.

Letter of Recommendation 

A student pursuing an educational leadership online doctorate usually needs to submit a letter of recommendation with their application. An individual must acquire the letter from a precious academic advisor or teacher who can vouch for their likelihood of succeeding in a doctoral program. When asking for the letter, a candidate must give the recommendation ample lead time before the application due date.

Graduate Record Program 

A myriad of doctoral programs requests the GRE scores of prospective students. These are standardized tests that allow the admissions department to assess the academic strengths of a student from a different perspective. A given university or college may require students to submit their GRE scores if their cumulative GPA is below a specific threshold.

Academic Writing Sample

Academic-level research constitutes a considerable part of the educational leadership coursework, and the committee of a university values students who already possess these vital skills.

Master’s Degree

Granted, some doctoral educational leadership programs award students with a master’s degree en route to a degree. However, most universities or colleges require candidates to already have a master’s degree in an education-related field.

Personal Statement

It’s also known as a statement of purpose. It’s a written document that allows an applicant to concisely describe their reason for enrolling in a certain educational leadership doctoral program. Moreover, the personal statement allows learners to describe any relevant work experience they have in the education field and indicate their career aspirations. 

Professional Associations in Educational Leadership 

Professional associations usher in opportunities for research, networking, scholarships, and continuing education. Some of these institutions represent certain educational administration positions such as superintendents and high school principals, whereas others are markers of education professionals. With that being said, let’s delve into three professional associations that are available to any student in pursuit of a doctorate in educational leadership.

ASCD

As an acronym for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, ASCD encompasses educational activists, superintendents, principals, and educators. Since it published the original Educational Leadership magazine in 1943, the body consistently delivers free copies to its members in addition to discounts on school supplies, travel benefits, and webinars.

AASA

It’s the School Superintendents Association that was established over 100 years ago. AASA supports more than 13,000 educational leaders and superintendents. Members are furnished with a maximum of $10,000 in legal support, access to conferences, free copies of the School Administrator magazine, and executive education programs.

NAESP

As an acronym for the National Association of Elementary School Principals, NAESP helps middle and elementary school principals in Canada, the US, and internationally. It’s one of the educational organizations that advocate for student support and topnotch educational standards by representing educators in the media and in the presence of congress. Members receive free copies of the Principal magazine, legal benefits, networking opportunities, and free webinars. 

Certification and Licensure

Although requirements vary from one state to another, most states require all principals to have a valid school administrator or principal license. To acquire this licensure, a candidate must have relevant experience or a master’s degree under their belt, undergo a rigorous background check, and pass the required exam. 

Additionally, a superintendent must acquire a relevant certification or license. In some instances, superintendent licensure can be included as part of the program. 

The Top Accredited Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Programs 

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