Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership

Visionary leaders at the pre-kindergarten through collegiate levels use research in education, leadership, and psychology to create effective educational programs. Within this demanding and rewarding field, educational leaders with a Christian worldview focus on providing a holistic education. Online doctoral programs in educational leadership prepare learners to conduct cutting-edge research and apply that research in Christian and public educational settings.

Graduates with a Ph.D. often work at the university level. Learners pursuing an Ed.D. in educational leadership build competencies in academic research and prepare to meet the practical demands of a local school or district.

Educational leaders who pursue a Ph.D. study and develop theoretical foundations for effective education. Graduates with a Ph.D. often work at the university level. Learners pursuing an Ed.D. in educational leadership build competencies in academic research and prepare to meet the practical demands of a local school or district. New developments in psychology, learning theory, and cultural dynamics drive the demand for educational leaders who are willing to challenge the status quo to create new methods for effective education. Professionals in this growing field need strong interpersonal, communication, and organization skills. They must be morally grounded to ensure students receive the best education.

Earning a doctorate in educational leadership demonstrates a commitment to excelling as an educational leader. While Ph.D. programs prepare future theoreticians, an Ed.D. is ideal for aspiring educators. Both degrees require demanding coursework and a rigorous research project.

Students pursuing an Ed.D. are typically experienced educators who want to lead and implement change in an organization. Ed.D. students learn to apply classroom knowledge to complex and critical issues. Ph.D. programs, on the other hand, emphasize theory. Students conduct and publish original research to help practitioners build effective educational and administrative practices. While some graduates with an Ed.D. work at the university level, tenure-track positions typically require a Ph.D.

Many students pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership have demanding professional commitments. Online programs offer the scheduling flexibility students need to maintain a full-time job while pursuing their degree. Students can work from their home, office, or classroom. Most online programs are asynchronous, allowing students to complete coursework around family, church, and community obligations.

Distance learners often have access to online spiritual support, counselling, and networking.

Online learning is often more affordable, since it eliminates the need for travel and on-campus accommodations. Students can complete in-person research requirements at an approved location in their area. While many programs are available entirely online, some require a short residency that allows students to network and prepare for their dissertation or capstone research project.

Online doctoral degrees in educational leadership from Christian colleges have similar curricula to on-campus programs. Distance learners often have access to online spiritual support, counselling, and networking. Many Christian colleges also provide career and job placement services within the Christian educational community.

How Long Does it Take to Earn Your Educational Leadership Doctorate Degree Online?

Many factors determine the amount of time required to complete an online doctoral program in educational leadership, including the type of doctoral degree. Ph.D. programs typically require about 90 credits, which students complete in four to six years. The dissertation research project generally comprises one to three years of the total program. Students pursuing an Ed.D. spend three to four years completing about 60 credits. All Ed.D. programs require a capstone project, which most students complete in six months to a year. Some Ed.D. programs require a dissertation as the capstone research project.

Online programs generally have more scheduling options than on-campus programs, allowing learners to study at a pace that fits their lifestyle. Due to the nature of doctoral studies, individuals pursuing an online doctorate in educational leadership cannot typically accelerate their program to the same extent as master's students. However, graduate students with an education specialist degree can receive credit toward their Ed.D. or Ph.D. to reduce program duration.

Applicants to an online doctoral program in educational leadership must have a master's degree in a related field and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Given the professional nature of doctoral programs, applicants must have at least three years of professional experience in education. Some programs require GRE scores, but many waive the requirement for applicants with exceptional master's or Ed.S. performance.

To gauge the ability of applicants to conduct doctoral level research, many universities require a sample of academic writing, usually 10 to 15 pages in length. Many programs also require applicants to interview with admissions personnel and submit letters from professional references.

Both Ph.D. and Ed.D. in educational leadership programs offer rigorous courses to prepare students to excel in the education profession. Both degrees require similar foundational coursework; however, Ph.D. curricula typically emphasize principles and skills needed for theoretical research. Both program types require a capstone project, usually a dissertation.

Ph.D. students devote about half of their program time to the dissertation, while Ed.D. students typically spend one-fourth to one-third of their program on an applied research project. Although courses vary by program, most educational leadership programs include the courses below.

Educational leaders help people achieve personal and academic excellence. In addition to possessing strong social and leadership skills, educational leaders must communicate well orally and in writing. Most institutions require candidates to hold a master's degree in a related field, but many prefer candidates with a doctorate. Many large school districts and colleges require those working in upper administration to hold a doctorate in educational leadership. Professionals with a doctorate typically earn significantly higher salaries than those with a master's degree.

Director, Student Services

Student services directors administer programs and staff to ensure the success of students attending the institution. They ensure that policies and guidelines for students comply with institutional, state, and federal guidelines. Though primarily serving students, these professionals also communicate with parents and staff members.

Registrar, College or University

A college or university registrar supervises the office that helps students register for classes. The office may participate in the course scheduling process to ensure the efficient use of common classroom buildings. The registrar's office also records, processes, and posts student grades and maintains student transcripts. As a department head, the registrar communicates with university administration.

Vice President, Student Affairs

As part of the university president's cabinet, the vice president of student affairs oversees departments and staff devoted to both academic and non-academic aspects of student life to ensure a positive and productive environment for students. The vice president works closely with administrators, faculty members, and student leaders.

School Superintendent

The school superintendent serves as the chief executive officer of a school district and oversees all district operations and department heads. The superintendent works directly with the principal of each school in the district and analyzes data on student achievement within the district. The superintendent communicates with teachers' unions, school boards, and fellow administrators.

Education Director

Educational directors work in a variety of educational settings, overseeing instructional staff, programs, and budgets. These professionals work with teachers to design and implement curricula and sometimes teach courses. Education directors often work with institutional leaders and community representatives to identify educational priorities.
Job Title Annual Median Wage
Director, Student Services $60,189
Registrar, College or University $53,841
Vice President, Student Affairs $115,745
School District Superintendent $117,029
Education Director $63,645

Earning an online doctorate in educational leadership requires a significant investment of time and money. Therefore, students should pursue a degree from a college or university with proper accreditation. Attending a school without accreditation can hinder a student's future employment opportunities. Accreditation agencies assure academic quality through evaluation by third-party experts. To receive accreditation, a school's academic and administrative functions must meet accepted standards of performance.

Students should choose a program with proper accreditation to ensure other institutions and future employers will recognize their degree.

Students should select a university with regional accreditation from an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education. CHEA provides a list of approved agencies on its website. Christian colleges and universities may also hold accreditation from one of several CHEA-approved agencies.

In addition to institutional accreditation, students should look for programmatic accreditation when choosing a school. Education programs may hold accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Students should choose a program with proper accreditation to ensure other institutions and future employers will recognize their degree.

Graduates of online educational leadership doctoral programs can join professional organizations to network and improve their knowledge and skills. Members of professional associations often receive access to professional development resources, networking opportunities, and job placement services. By joining professional associations, Christian education leaders can find opportunities to lead and positively impact the profession.

  • Association for Christians in Student Development

    Founded in 1955, ACSD serves the professional development needs of student affairs personnel in Christian colleges. In addition to an annual conference, the association hosts two retreats each year for new and mid-level professionals. ACSD publishes a peer-reviewed scholarly journal and members can access job postings in the career center.

  • Association of Christian Teachers and Schools

    ACTS provides professional development resources and networking opportunities for administrators and teachers in Christian K-12 schools. Each year, the organization sponsors six to eight conferences throughout the nation. Administrators, teachers, and member schools benefit from the organization's curriculum resources, standardized testing, career center, and K-12 accreditation services.

  • National Christian School Association

    The NCSA serves the professional and organizational needs of K-12 Christian schools throughout the United States. The organization offers K-12 accreditation services in conjunction with AdvancEd. In addition to career placement services, members receive networking and training opportunities during two annual conferences. The NCSA also provides training videos administrators can use to train board members.

Searching for financial aid for online Ed.D. or Ph.D. programs in educational leadership can be frustrating for learners accustomed to the generous number of scholarships and grants available to undergraduate students. Many individuals pursuing online doctoral programs in educational leadership are current professionals who continue working during their doctoral studies.

Students can also apply for dissertation fellowships, which typically provide a one-year grant. Before taking out loans, students should explore funding options such as those listed below. Students should contact their university's financial aid office to learn about institutional awards and other methods for financing a Christian education.

Educational Leadership Scholarships

AERA Minority Dissertation Fellowship in Education Research $19,000 stipend

The American Educational Research Association sponsors this fellowship, which provides one year of funding for students who are currently writing their dissertation. Applicants must be minority students intent on pursuing academic careers after graduation. View Scholarship

Phi Kappa Phi Dissertation Fellowship $10,000

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi awards 10 of these fellowships to students who are currently in the writing stage of their dissertation, regardless of their field of study. Applicants must meet all pre-dissertation requirements before the application deadline. View Scholarship

AAUW American Fellowships $20,000

Since 1881, the American Association of University Women has promoted equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research. Women scholars in all fields of study can apply for these fellowships while completing their dissertation. View Scholarship

Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program $27,500

The National Academy of Education administers this fellowship, which funds scholars in a variety of disciplines who are conducting research to improve the field of education. The committee prioritizes applicants who apply fresh perspectives to the history, theory, analysis, or practice of education. View Scholarship

Donald H. and Verna S. Duncan Endowed Scholarship $1,000

Active members of Phi Delta Kappa can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must intend to work in public school administration at the elementary, secondary, or university level. View Scholarship

AASA Educational Administration Scholarships $2,500

The American Association of School Administrators awards this scholarship in honor of past AASA executive directors. The award helps fund graduate studies for aspiring school superintendents. AASA offers seven scholarships per year. View Scholarship

Larry E. Phrase Scholarship Fund $2,500

Phi Delta Kappa awards this scholarship to high-achieving applicants studying the motivational factors of teachers and educational leaders. Applicants must provide evidence of professional activities that resulted in improved student achievement. View Scholarship

ISI Graduate Fellowships $5,000 to $15,000

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute sponsors 15 awards for students who intend to use their advanced degree to teach. Applicants must submit an autobiographical packet and an academic writing sample, each five to ten pages in length. View Scholarship

Liberty Advantage Scholarship Reduced Tuition

Students in any Liberty University online program can apply for this university-sponsored tuition-reduction award. Applicants must be affiliated with an eligible company or event and must verify current vocational or ministry status. View Scholarship

John G. C. Miller Scholarship Varies

Regent University provides this scholarship to students with physical disabilities. This competitive award is available to graduate students only and helps recipients meet tuition costs. View Scholarship