The 20 Best Online Doctoral Programs in Educational Leadership

The 20 Best Online Doctoral Programs in Educational Leadership
1University of New EnglandBiddeford, Maine
2Vanderbilt UniversityNashville, Tennessee
3Oregon State UniversityCorvallis, Oregon
4University of FloridaGainesville, Florida
5Ball State UniversityMuncie, Indiana
6University of ArkansasFayetteville, Arkansas
7Indiana State UniversityTerre Haute, Indiana
8Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
9Liberty UniversityLynchburg, Virginia
10Regent UniversityVirginia Beach, Virginia
11Colorado State University-Fort CollinsFort Collins, Colorado
12University of San FranciscoSan Francisco, California
13Grand Canyon UniversityPhoenix, Arizona
14East Tennessee State UniversityJohnson City, Tennessee
15University of Nebraska-LincolnLincoln, Nebraska
16University of BridgeportBridgeport, Connecticut
17Indiana Wesleyan University-MarionMarion, Indiana
18Creighton UniversityOmaha, Nebraska
19University of the CumberlandsWilliamsburg, Kentucky
20Rowan UniversityGlassboro, New Jersey

Successful Student has ranked the 20 Best Online Doctoral Programs in Educational Leadership in the U.S. This ranking is designed for online students pursuing a PhD in Educational Leadership to make informed college and degree decisions.

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For students to learn, teachers must be able to work efficiently and have the freedom within the classroom to adapt as needed. A school that is well managed by administrators who listen to and understand the needs of the teachers is vital to the success of the students.

The more leadership tools an administrator has, the more well managed the school. A Doctorate in Educational Leadership is the highest, most comprehensive degree able to provide the most effective leadership tools and strategies to those administrators.

One particular example of skilled educational leaders are those administrators who oversee the services provided by institutions of higher education. These post-secondary education administrators may work in admissions, student life, registry, financial aid, and many other areas.

For online degrees that teach Higher Educational Leadership:

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The 20 Best Online Doctoral Programs in Educational Leadership

Ranking Methodology

This Best Online Doctoral Programs in Educational Leadership ranking was created using Successful Student's ranking algorithm. This algorithm uses the following data points to calculate a school's ranking placement:

Learn more about our methodology.

1.University of New England

Biddeford, Maine

The online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership at the University of New England offers a holistic and comprehensive approach to serving community through effective communication, supportive transformation, and collaboration. This degree is comprised of three cohorts:

  • Spring A term
  • Summer A term
  • Fall A term

This 51 credit hour program take three years to complete with no residency requirement. All courses are completely online including the dissertation which is reviewed and presented in an online format. Courses for this degree include:

  • Preparation for Transformative Leadership
  • Managing Change
  • Diagnosing Organizational Dynamics
  • Ethical Leadership

There is no GRE requirement for admission.

2.Vanderbilt University

Nashville, Tennessee

Vanderbilt University offers the online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Leadership and Learning in Organizations. There are four key competency areas available within the degree:

  • Leadership
  • Organizational Development
  • Learning and Design
  • Data Analytics

All of the tracks focus on improving operations within the workplace. In total this degree requires 80 credit hours, however 30 of those may come from an approved Master’s degree.

Students typically are able to complete the remaining 54 required credit hours within three to four years. Each year an on-campus portion is required for immersion courses. The program will conclude with a comprehensive capstone project.

3.Oregon State University

Corvallis, Oregon

The Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) program in Adult and Higher Education at Oregon State University requires a total of 108 – 120 credits. A maximum of 36 of the total credits may be transferred in from an approved Master’s degree.

This program offers two areas of concentration:

  • Community College Leadership program
  • Leadership in Higher Education program

Credit requirements include:

  • 36 credits of core courses, comprised of 27 credits foundation courses and 9 credits research courses
  • 12 credits for the chosen concentration
  • 6 credit internship
  • 24 credits dedicated to the thesis

An on-campus one-week intensive summer course is also required.

4.University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida

The Leadership in Education Administration Doctorate at the University of Florida is offered in an online/blended format with three on-campus weekend meetings per semester. GRE scores are required for admission which is available on a two year cycle. Students will typically take two classes, or six credits, per term. Credit requirement consist of:

  • 36 credits department courses
  • 15 credits research courses
  • 24 credits dissertation hours
  • 15 credits electives or transfer courses

There are 90 total credit hours required for graduation. The majority of students will complete all coursework within three years and the dissertation in the fourth year.

5.Ball State University

Muncie, Indiana

Ball State University manages the Department of Educational Leadership which offers the Doctor of Education (EdD) in Educational Administration and Supervision. Students must complete a total of 90 semester credit hours of graduate work, with a prior Master’s degree required, for graduation.

Credit requirements include:

  • 15 credits research
  • 40 credits minimum graduate work
  • 10 credits dissertation

Courses include:

  • Educational Decision Making
  • Ethnographic Research in Education
  • The Educational Administrator and Public Relations
  • Fiscal Management of Educational Agencies

6.University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, Arkansas

To apply to the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership at the University of Arkansas, students must already have a valid teaching license, an Ed.S. degree or equivalent, and current GRE scores to submit. Once accepted to the program students can expect all coursework to be available completely online, however students will be required to attend one on-campus seminar per semester.

These intensive weekend events will center around a theme within Educational Leadership presented through mini-lectures, facilitated discussion groups, and debates of critical issues. Students must complete 42 credits of coursework for graduation, including the required dissertation. The average time of completion for this degree track is three years.

7.Indiana State University

Terre Haute, Indiana

At Indiana State University, the Department of Educational Leadership offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration with a specialization in Leadership in Higher Education. A total of 90 credit hours is required for the completion of this degree, however prior Master’s coursework is applied to the curriculum.

As such, students will be required to complete an additional 45 credits, or 15 courses, and 18 dissertation hours on top of the Master’s requirements to fulfill the requirement. During the summer students will participate in a three week residency program. Students can complete this degree in five consecutive terms by enrolling in three courses, or nine credit hours, per semester.

8.Drexel University

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Drexel University’s School of Education offers a Doctor of Education with nine concentrations to choose from:

  • Athletic Administration
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Educational Administration
  • Educational Policy
  • Global and International Education
  • Higher Education
  • Human Resource Development
  • Learning Technologies
  • Special Education Leadership

The total required credits will range from 60.5 to 61.5 depending on the concentration. Courses are organized into four 10-week quarters per year with the majority of students completing the degree program in three year’s time.

Core courses for all concentrations include:

  • Educational Leadership and Change
  • Creative Strategies for Educational Leaders
  • Using and Integrating Learning Technologies
  • Transformative Leadership: Finding One’s Source

9.Liberty University

Lynchburg, Virginia

Liberty University offers the Online PhD in Educational Leadership.

The Educational Leadership track requires a total of 60 credit hours for graduation. Up to 50% of the total credit hours may be transferred in to the program from an accredited and un-conferred degree.

Course work will include classes such as:

  • Educational Leadership and Public Relations
  • Organizational Analysis and Problem Solving
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Issues and Trends in Educational Leadership

Liberty also offers the Online PhD in Higher Education Administration: Educational Leadership for students who want to work at universities. This program accepts up to 50% of the degree total to be transfer credits. Students learn how to manage and grow universities, which includes instruction such as managing different departments and how to increase student enrollment.

Courses include:

  • Policy Analysis
  • Teaching the College Student
  • Assessment and Accreditation
  • College and University Administration

Liberty is a non-profit, private university.

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10.Regent University

Virginia Beach, Virginia

The Doctor of Philosophy in Education with a concentration in Higher Education Leadership and Management offered at Regent University requires a total of 75 credits for graduation. Available through the School of Education, classes are presented in an online format while two on-campus summer residencies are required. Each residency is worth two credit hours and are held on the Virginia Beach campus for four days.

Other courses may include:

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Regression and Correlation
  • History and Contemporary Issues in American Higher Education
  • The Law and Governance of Higher Education

11.Colorado State University-Fort Collins

The School of Education

Fort Collins, Colorado

The School of Education at Colorado State University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Human Resource Studies.

This 60 credit degree requires:

  • 30 credits of higher education administrative courses
  • 30 credits of research
  • Oral and written comprehensive exams
  • Juried publication submission or presentation
  • Dissertation

Course examples include:

  • Higher Education Administration
  • Student Development in a Collegiate Context
  • Analyzing Education Liturature
  • Theory and Practice of Change
  • Higher Education Law

The majority of students will complete this program within five years. Upon graduation the transcript will include a specialization in higher education leadership.

12.University of San Francisco

San Francisco, California

The Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Organization and Leadership at the University of San Francisco is offered through the School of Education. This program requires 60 additional credits beyond a Master’s degree. Credit requirements are comprised of:

  • 12 credits general education courses
  • 9 credits department courses
  • 21 credits specialization and professional interest courses
  • 9 credits electives
  • 9-12 credits dissertation development

Student may choose from several focus areas within the degree, including:

  • K-12 and Administrative Services Credential Program
  • 21st Century Leadership
  • Higher Education Leadership

Additionally, possible classes include:

  • Organizational Theory: Applications and Implications
  • Race, Diversity and Higher Education
  • Mentoring and Networking Skills
  • International Development and Leadership

13.Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, Arizona

Grand Canyon University’s College of Doctoral Studies’ offers a comprehensive Ed.D in Organizational Leadership: Higher Education Leadership.

This program has two research tracks, from which students may choose: Qualitative Research, or Quantitative Research. Qualitative Research is oriented for determining factors such as motivations, behaviors, and ideas behind trends and patterns in organizations. Whereas Qualitative Research is data-driven and looks at numerical statistical data for trends and patterns.

There are a total of 60 credit hours required for graduation. Students may transfer credits into the program.

Some core courses may include:

  • Progressions in Leadership Thought
  • History and Politics for Higher Education
  • Leading Across Cultures
  • Governance and Structures in Higher Education

The majority of courses in the program are eight weeks in duration. Enrollment in each class is kept small to encourage more in-depth dialogue between professors and students.

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14.East Tennessee State University

Johnson City, Tennessee

The College of Education at East Tennessee State University manages the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. This department further offers the comprehensive Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership degree. There are three concentrations for students to select from:

  • Administrative Endorsement Concentration
  • Post-secondary and Private Sector Leadership Concentration
  • School Leadership Concentration

There are a total of 66 required credits beyond an accepted Master’s degree necessary for graduation, 18 of which may be dedicated to guided electives. Some sample courses and activities may include:

  • Educational Statistics
  • Leadership for Lifelong Learning
  • Theories of Educational Administration
  • Internship in Educational Leadership

15.University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Lincoln, Nebraska

Geared towards professionals with a prior Master’s degree with a desire for an administrative position in higher education, the University of Nebraska offers a comprehensive Ed.D. in Educational Studies with specialization in Educational Leadership and Higher Education. Current GRE scores are required to apply. Once accepted to the program, students are required to complete a total of 96 credits.

Core Courses include:

  • Administrative Theory
  • Educational Finance
  • Finance in Postsecondary Education
  • Law and Higher Education
  • Leadership in Educational Organizations

16.University of Bridgeport

Bridgeport, Connecticut

At the University of Bridgeport’s School of Education students can enroll in an accelerated online Doctorate in Educational Leadership with a concentration in International Education. This comprehensive 62 credit degree program is typically completed in four years, three years for course work and the fourth year for the dissertation. On average students will attend classes twice per week and are required to participate in tow one-week residencies. The curriculum emphasizes educational leadership, research, and analysis. Examples of possible courses include:

  • Organization Management
  • Grant Writing
  • Evaluation of School Effectiveness
  • Ethical Issues in International Education
  • Culture, Society, and Education in International Contexts

17.Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion

Marion, Indiana

Indiana Wesleyan University provides a Doctor of Philosophy with a major in Organizational Leadership program. Both online and on-campus coursework is required to complete the 60 total credit hours needed for graduation.

Some course examples include:

  • Leadership and Personal Development
  • Organization Theory and Design
  • Change, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship
  • Ethics and Leadership
  • Advanced Global Leadership
  • Stewardship

Students must also participate in an on-campus residency which may be completed by attending three of the one-week long Summer Institutes provided by the University. This degree may be completed in as little as 40 months, or approximately three years.

18.Creighton University

Omaha, Nebraska

The online Doctor of Education Program in Interdisciplinary Leadership at Creighton University requires a total of 60 credit hours for graduation which are comprised of:

  • 21 credits of core courses
  • 15 credits of electives
  • 6 credits of research courses
  • 14 credits of pre/dissertation courses
  • 4 credits of core seminars and practicum

There are also two required on-campus residencies. The first is a four day orientation and the second is the concluding dissertation defense. Courses will run for eight weeks with the majority of students taking one class at a time. At this pace students can complete all the requirements in three and a half years.

19.University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg, Kentucky

The Doctorate in Education in Educational Leadership at the University of the Cumberlands is a 60 post-Master’s credit hour degree program which students typically complete in less than three years. The credit hours are comprised of:

  • 27 credit hours Administrative Leadership Core Curriculum
  • 15 credit hours Professional Research
  • 18 credit hours Specialty Area Content

There are seven specialty areas as follows:

  • Business
  • Education
  • English
  • History
  • Math
  • Psychology
  • Religion

Some examples of class topics include:

  • Learning in Adulthood
  • Higher Education in America
  • Strategic Planning and Decision-Making
  • Educational Program Evaluation
  • Leadership in Theory and Practice

20.Rowan University

Glassboro, New Jersey

The Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership at Rowan University offers four tracks for students to select from:

  • Higher Education
  • P-12
  • Nurse Educator
  • Community College Leadership Initiative

All classes for the first three tracks may be taken completely online, however students will be required to attend three on-campus residencies. Each track is comprised of three consecutive phases. Students must pass a Benchmark review at the end of each phase before moving on to the next. By graduation students will have completed a total of 60 graduate semester hours including:

  • 36 semester hours of core courses (required for all tracks)
  • 12 semester hours of the chosen track courses
  • 12 semester hours for the dissertation

Educational Leadership Career and Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for post-secondary education administrators in 2020 was $97,500.00 per year. The minimum education requirement is a master’s degree. The growth rate is 4%, adding 7,100 additional positions by the year 2029.