Why This Matters


    A doctorate degree in educational leadership gives you the critical skills that are needed to address issues in education and improve learning outcomes. ONET data shows that a doctorate degree is likely to be required for high-level positions.


    The education system will continue to grow in the next decade as the population increases, bringing opportunities for educational leadership graduates to become administrators, educational advocates, and instructional coordinators. For this field, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a job growth rate of 4%.

  • EARN $35,620 MORE PER YEAR

    Elementary, middle, and high school principals earn an average of $98,490 per year, while the average wage for teachers is $62,870 or less.

Our Research

This list focuses on doctoral programs in educational leadership, and we looked at both Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Education (EdD) degrees. We looked at programs that are offered online and in hybrid formats.

All programs included in this list are accredited to ensure that they can truly prepare students to become educators. National accreditation is generally awarded by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). We also looked at programs accredited by regional organizations, including the New England Commission of Higher Education.

  • 69 hours to write this article
  • 100 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 146 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

You can pursue educational leadership studies in a PhD or EdD program. PhD programs have a greater focus on research, while EdD programs are aimed at practitioners who intend to become educational leaders. You may also see educational administration programs, which are focused on preparing future principals.

Studying at an accredited school ensures that your degree is recognized by future employers and licensing boards. CAEP and NCATE are national organizations that accredit degrees for future educators. Many schools also receive regional accreditation.

People with a doctorate in educational leadership often pursue careers as a K-12 principal, a job that is expected to see 4% growth from 2019 to 2029. Other jobs open to educational leaders include instructional coordinator, chief academic officer, and training and development manager.

School principals are licensed in the state where they work. Other career paths that may require certification include instructional coordinator and school superintendent. People choosing to enter the corporate world in jobs such as chief learning officer are unlikely to need certification.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching online doctorate in educational leadership programs:

  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? Online doctorate in educational leadership programs are generally completed over three years of full-time study. Coursework is completed in the first two years and students focus on their dissertation in the third. There are also accelerated programs and part-time study options available.
  • What licensing or certifications are required? If you plan to become a school principal, you will need a license in the relevant state. All states have different requirements for school principals, but for most you’ll need a master’s degree at minimum, plus teaching experience and certification.

As you research, make sure you keep track of application deadlines and the information you need to submit when you apply. This information is available from school websites or the admissions department.

You should also consider how to finance your education by researching financial aid, scholarships, and grants. Also, check if your employer offers tuition assistance.