Online Educational Leadership Doctoral Programs

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 3/24/2021
Quick Facts
Accreditation: NCATE
Average Tuition: $25,726
Alumni Salary: $80,710

The online educational leadership degrees on this page prepare students for careers such as the principal, vice principal, or department head at an elementary and secondary school or an academic dean at institutions of higher education. In addition to this list of available online educational leadership degrees, we provide a list of the best online master's programs in educational leadership, ranked based on tuition costs and alumni salaries provided by PayScale.

Students are encouraged to select an educational leadership program that has been accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). This agency is recognized by the US Department of Education as a reputable, independent accrediting agency that enforces high academic standards.

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Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Educational Leadership Doctoral Degrees

Visitors to our site are most interested in these schools
Rank School Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
# 1 #1 Arizona State University $16,820 68% (104 reviews)
253 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
253 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation
# 2 #2 Walden University Not Provided 50% (579 reviews)
607 Programs, 11 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
607 Programs, 11 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Higher Education Leadership &...
  • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Higher Education Leadership a...
  • EdS in Educational Leadership and Adminstration (Principa...
  • PhD in Education - Education Policy, Leadership, & Manage...
# 3 #3 Grand Canyon University $11,074 52% (491 reviews)
282 Programs, 11 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
282 Programs, 11 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health (Qua...
  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health (Qua...
  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Organizational Develop...
  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Organizational Develop...
# 4 #4 Liberty University $8,475 58% (302 reviews)
665 Programs, 21 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
665 Programs, 21 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in Christian Leadership: Church Revit...
  • Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration: S...
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration: ...
  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
# 5 #5 The University of Arizona Global Campus Not Provided 68% (667 reviews)
151 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
151 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • PsyD/Educational Leadership
# 6 #6 Saint Leo University Online $7,296 64% (91 reviews)
85 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
85 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education: School Leadership
# 7 #7 Saybrook University Hybrid Online $27,489 Add Review
52 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
52 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. Organizational Systems, Educational Leadership
# 8 #8 Capella University $15,233 63% (652 reviews)
184 Programs, 10 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
184 Programs, 10 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • EdD - Educational Leadership and Management
  • EdD - Performance Improvement Leadership
  • EdD - Teacher Leader in Digital Transformation
  • EdD - Teacher Leader in K-12 Studies
# 9 #9 Regent University Online $16,952 44% (18 reviews)
380 Programs, 25 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
380 Programs, 25 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) - Advanced Educational Leader...
  • Ed.S. in Educational Leadership
  • Ed.S. in Mathematics Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision
# 10 #10 University of Kentucky $32,564 100% (4 reviews)
123 Programs, 2 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
123 Programs, 2 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership Studies
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Education Sciences - Educational ...
# 11 #11 Campbellsville University $12,690 0% (3 reviews)
111 Programs, 2 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
111 Programs, 2 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Ed. Specialist of Educational Administration (Principal, ...
  • Ed. Specialist of Educational Administration (Supervisor ...
# 12 #12 University of the Southwest $22,500 40% (5 reviews)
62 Programs, 5 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
62 Programs, 5 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • EdD Educational Leadership
  • EdD Higher Education Administration
  • EdD PK-12 Administration
  • EdD Self-Design
# 13 #13 Lamar University $15,860 50% (14 reviews)
64 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
64 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
# 14 #14 Maryville University $15,646 41% (32 reviews)
117 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
117 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership
# 15 #15 Marymount University $19,296 Add Review
7 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
7 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • EdD - Educational Leadership and Organizational Innovation
# 16 #16 The George Washington University $31,824 75% (4 reviews)
137 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
137 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Education Specialist (EdS) in Educational Leadership and ...
# 17 #17 Loyola Marymount University $18,903 100% (1 review)
8 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
8 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctorate in Educational Leadership
# 18 #18 Saint Thomas University $10,626 0% (1 review)
29 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
29 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • EdD Leadership and Innovation
# 19 #19 American University $31,113 100% (2 reviews)
55 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
55 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • EdD in Education Policy and Leadership
# 20 #20 Carson-Newman University $9,227 0% (1 review)
24 Programs, 4 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
24 Programs, 4 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctorate in Education - Curriculum & Instruction Leadership
  • Doctorate in Education in Administrative Leadership
  • Educational Specialist Degree in Administrative Leadership
  • Educational Specialist Degree in Curriculum & Instruction...
# 21 #21 Bowling Green State University-Main Campus $15,823 50% (2 reviews)
56 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
56 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in Leadership Studies
# 22 #22 Brenau University $13,254 Add Review
92 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
92 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctorate in Education in Leadership in Higher Education
# 23 #23 Murray State University $14,400 Add Review
91 Programs, 4 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
91 Programs, 4 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in P-20 and Community Leadership - Ag...
  • Doctor of Education in P-20 and Community Leadership - pK...
  • Doctor of Education in P-20 and Community Leadership - Po...
  • Doctor of Education in P-20 and Community Leadership - ST...
# 24 #24 Johns Hopkins University $57,556 Add Review
337 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
337 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in Urban Leadership
# 25 #25 St. John's University $28,909 Add Review
47 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership (view all)
47 Programs, 1 Doctoral in Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership

Overview of Online Educational Leadership Degrees

Educational leadership is a vital component of today's education system, which is in the midst of being reorganized and revamped to better suit the needs of today's students and economy. Most educational leadership degree holders already have experience as teachers or school counselors of some kind and are interested in advancing to positions that are higher up within the school or school district. In some cases, especially in terms of educational leaders at community colleges and universities, talented students can train to go directly into educational leadership positions.

Educational leadership degree programs exist solely at the graduate level. A master's or doctoral degree in educational leadership can lead to a career as a school principal, superintendent, policymaker, or college education professor. Most programs require that applicants have a valid teaching license and several years of experience as a teacher. These degrees cover topics like school improvement, instructional supervision, administration, curriculum development, and human resources. Some programs can lead to licensure as a school administrator. Students may be required to take part in a leadership internship in a school or on an education board.

The skills emphasized by educational leadership degree programs go beyond basic leadership and management techniques. Specific courses in the program range from school law and ethics to finance and budgeting. Many courses target curriculum development and instructional training. Additionally, more and more programs are incorporating diversity studies into their curricula. Communication skills, managing community relations, and evaluation techniques are important components of any program.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Educational Leadership

Online doctoral degree programs in educational leadership prepare students to become successful leaders and scholars in the educational field. Programs equip students with theoretical knowledge and practical skills to effectively manage the challenges in today’s complex educational setting. Areas of emphasis in doctoral degree programs include diversity, ethics, leadership, policy, and research. Applicants are required to hold a master’s degree in educational leadership or a related degree. Leadership experience in a school setting is also vital. To earn a doctoral degree, you must complete 60 credits, which takes approximately three to four years.

Areas of emphasis during doctoral training include curriculum development, educational governance and policy, organizational theory, program evaluation, and research. The coursework covers areas such as assessment and evaluation strategies, classroom management, curriculum design, educational administration, ethical and legal issues in education, human resources and professional development, leadership theory and management, leading innovation technology, organizational theory and behavior, policy, politics, and community relations, reform and innovation, and training and performance solutions.

Concentration areas in doctoral degree programs include educational planning and instructional leadership. Students are required to engage in research throughout the program, which allows them to develop competencies in research design, data collection, analysis, and reporting of research studies. Upon completion of doctoral coursework, students are required to take a comprehensive exam. Doctoral degree programs also require students to complete an independent research study and write a dissertation, which must be defended publicly.

Career Specializations for Educational Leadership Graduates

A career in educational leadership generally means taking a position as a manager within an education system, either as a principal, assistant principal, academic dean, or as a department or district administrator. People who pursue this career field often have experience working directly with students as teachers, but that is not a requirement. It is necessary, however, that educational leaders have an interest in providing the highest-quality education available to the students they oversee.

Depending on which position an educational administrator takes on, he or she may be responsible for an entire school or school system, or they may handle one specific administrative area like budget, policy, or human resources. In a higher education setting at a college or university, the responsibilities of administrators are often even more far-reaching, including student housing and life services. Positions in this field can be very rewarding but require a significant amount of effort and commitment from the people who take them on. Many education leaders regularly work more than 40 hours a week, as well as on weekends and holidays.

Here are some of the educational leadership positions students may choose to pursue upon graduation:

  • Administration: Administrators at all levels are responsible for the overall management of educational systems and usually oversee multiple schools within a central district.
  • Elementary Education: Working primarily as principals and vice principals, leaders at this level ensure that elementary schools meet all state and national requirements and serve the needs of younger students.
  • Postsecondary Education: Usually educational leaders at this level are called department heads, chairs, or deans; they may manage anything from student services to specific academic departments.
  • Preschool and Child Care: Leaders in this field manage daycare centers and other pre-kindergarten facilities.
  • Secondary Education: Secondary school leaders manage junior and senior high schools, often dealing with larger systems than lower-level education administrators.

Education and Certification Requirements

Most people who currently work in educational leadership got there by first working as teachers or in other positions working directly with students. To work as a teacher, a bachelor's degree is almost always a minimum requirement. As such, people who decide to advance their career by working at an administrative level usually go on to pursue master's degrees to qualify for those positions. Administrators who manage and operate preschool and childcare facilities are the exception to this rule, as they often need only a bachelor's degree. However, for most elementary and secondary school principals and assistant principals, an accredited master's degree in educational leadership or administration is necessary. Central office administrators at this level also hold master's degrees and sometimes doctoral degrees, as well.

Most states require school principals to achieve certification, for which they usually need to pass an exam and obtain a master's degree from an accredited institution. Increasingly, schools require a period of mentoring for new leaders, as well, and many also require administrators to take continuing education courses throughout their careers. In many cases, a graduate degree can suffice, while other states require exams that are specific to educational administration. Checking a state's Department of Education website can help a candidate find the exact requirements.

For those interested in working at institutions of higher education, similar degree requirements apply. More candidates for these positions have achieved PhDs in their own academic field, educational administration, or both; almost all have achieved master's degree at least. However, state regulations do not usually apply to postsecondary education administrators, so no exams or certifications are needed.

The Importance of Accreditation

Most states require elementary and secondary education administrators to have a master's degree from an accredited institution, so it is recommended that students select an online educational leadership program that is recognized by the US Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Accreditation helps guarantee that colleges and universities meet high academic standards and offer students an education that utilizes the most current research and information. It also enables students to transfer credits among other accredited schools and apply for financial aid.

The USDE recognizes accrediting agencies, such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) for the programmatic accreditation of educational leadership programs. Students can search the USDE database or the CHEA database for accredited programs and schools.

This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.