By Kristen Fescoe

In this ranking, we explore the top online doctoral programs in educational leadership. These programs often run under names like online Ed.D and Ed.D. degree online.

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Earning a doctoral degree in educational leadership provides individuals the training necessary to shape the field of education. Educational leadership is the process by which these leaders work alongside teachers and other educators to guide them toward the overall improvement of educational processes in elementary, secondary and postsecondary academic institutions.

Grad School Hub - Online Educational LeadershipProfessionals in educational leadership roles are people who work to do more than simply manage and complete administrative tasks. They are leaders who are educated in the most effective ways to improve educational systems as well as drive and institute better educational policies. Those individuals who earn their online Doctor of  Education (Ed.D) in Educational Leadership are typically found working as school principals, superintendents, departmental chairpersons or academic deans. Although online doctoral programs in educational leadership are a relatively new phenomenon, these ten programs stand out as the best of many. (For more information about how we selected these programs, see the methodology.)


Ranking Top 10 Best Online Ed.D Programs in Educational Leadership


#10 – Regent University – Virginia Beach, Virginia

Regent University Online EdD Educational Leadership

This online Ed.D. program has a one-week on-campus summer residency requirement.

The School of Education

Points: 5

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D) degree program at Regent is offered largely online, with the requirement of one-week on-campus summer residencies. The online learning format used in this program is designed to accommodate the various learning styles of many adults and provide a cooperative cohort for advanced thinking and problem solving. The program is comprised of a problem-based curriculum, experiential dissertation projects, and individually designed concentrations that allow for a customized degree. The focus of this program is critical thinking, scholarly research, writing, and an education within a Christian worldview. The capstone project is the submission and defense of a doctoral dissertation. The Doctor of Education in Advanced Educational Leadership was created for students who currently possess an administrative endorsement or who have no desire to pursue endorsement through the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). This means that the program is more customized and prepares students for careers serving as educational leaders in a variety of positions. Upon graduation from this program, graduates can pursue positions such as superintendents or other executive leadership and supervisory positions within educational organizations both public and private, educational consultants and practitioners, educational policy designers, or international educational reformers. Students complete 18 concentration hours from the K-12 School Leadership course list in addition to the program’s required courses. Graduates of this program will be amply prepared to do the following:

  • Identify, address and lead in important local, national and global educational issues from a Christian worldview.
  • Demonstrate understanding of how important educational theories apply in planning, administration, policy and professional practice in education.
  • Evaluate educational research from theoretical and methodological perspectives to determine its contribution to policy and professional practice.
  • Solve problems associated with planning, administration, policy and professional practice by analyzing data, synthesizing information, and applying critical thinking skills.
  • Provide intellectual leadership in producing and communicating action research.
  • Demonstrate integrity, fairness and ethical behavior in a Christ-like manner.

US News and World Report 2015 Ranking of Best Online Graduate Education Programs: #21

Additional US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable

Accreditations: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

Faculty Credential and Training Score: 92

Student Services and Technology Score: 64

Average Annual Tuition: $16,638

Degree Options:

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

More Information on Regent University


#9 – Lamar University – Beaumont, Texas

Lamar University Online EdD Educational Leadership

Students in this online Ed.D program in educational leadership can be completed in as few as eight semesters.

The College of Education and Human Development

Points: 6

The Center for Online Doctoral Studies at Lamar University offers an online doctoral training program in educational leadership. Students enrolled in this program have the opportunity to earn their Ed.D in Educational Leadership in as little as eight semesters in an online environment. This doctoral training program is designed to meet the needs of full-time professionals; therefore, the convenience of online classes is a key priority. Each year, faculty members evaluate the applications that have been received and choose a cohort of students to begin the 60-hour program in the spring semester. The Ed.D in Educational Leadership with concentrations in Effective Schooling, Diversity/Multiculturalism, Higher Education, and Technology has been designed for practitioners who would like to create positive change for more efficient educating. Each concentration area prepares educators for advanced professional responsibility, leadership, and accountability for effective leadership in a variety of school and learning communities. As stated by the university, the Ed.D program will prepare graduates for the following:

  • Advancing professional responsibility, leadership and accountability for continuous improvement in diverse school and learning communities.
  • Creating a transforming organizational culture to accomplish lasting reform.
  • Inspiring lifelong learning among students and adults.
  • Implementing a standards-based curriculum and performance-based assessment to promote higher achievement for all learners.
  • Creating caring learning communities in which educators collaborate, exchange ideas, and develop collegial connections to address equity, opportunity and excellence.
  • Bringing the world into the classroom through a technology-infused curriculum that prepares all learners to work in a global society.
  • Creating and utilizing research-based data to enhance learning communities.

US News and World Report 2015 Ranking of Best Online Graduate Education Programs: #35

Additional US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable

Accreditations:

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

Faculty Credential and Training Score: 75

Student Services and Technology Score: 71

Average Annual Tuition: $9,361

Degree Options:

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

More Information on Lamar University


#8 – University of Northern Colorado – Greeley, Colorado

University of North Carolina Online EdD Educational Leadership

This Ed.D. online program features the Innovation and Education Reform emphasis.

The Extended Campus – The College of Education and Behavioral Science

Points: 8

The University of Northern Colorado offers a Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in Educational Studies degree in a mostly online format to accommodate the rising number of working professionals who would like to pursue a doctoral degree. This program provides working teachers and administrators with the ability to complete a top-notch doctoral program in education on their own schedule. The online learning format features the Innovation and Education Reform Emphasis, which is designed to prepare informed, intuitive and critically-thinking educational leaders who can implement and study educational change in the rapidly evolving modern educational system. Students enrolled in this Ed.D program will be exposed to the following:

  • The ongoing relationships between research, policy and practice in education.
  • The various methods used to conduct, analyze and apply educational research.
  • Issues involving curriculum, evaluation and implementation of educational policy.
  • Critical evaluation skills and perspectives on education and society.
  • Ways to contribute to the improvement of education systems.

The curriculum developed for this program provides students with the opportunity to develop depth in understanding leadership, policy, and research methodologies, as well as breadth in one or more areas of specialization. The focus is on betterment of students’ understanding of leadership and policy development and analysis, ultimately culminating in the dissertation. The doctoral dissertation is meant to contribute knowledge of a critical issue in educational leadership. The coursework is completed largely online, with five single-day courses delivered in Loveland, Colorado during the first three summers. Students’ doctoral dissertation defense must also be presented on campus during the final semester of enrollment.

US News and World Report 2015 Ranking of Best Online Graduate Education Programs: #13

Additional US News and World Report Ranking:

US News and World Report #126 Best Graduate Program in Education

Accreditations:

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

Faculty Credential and Training Score: 87

Student Services and Technology Score: 49

Average Annual Tuition: $7,573

Degree Options:

Doctor of Education in Educational Studies

More Information on University of Northern Colorado


#7 – Central Michigan University – Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Central Michigan University Online EdD Educational Leadership

This highly-ranked university offers an online Ed.D. in Educational leadership.

The Global Campus

Points: 9

Central Michigan University offers an online Ed.D in Educational Leadership for students interested in advancing the field of education. This program outlines the breadth and depth of educational administration and leadership by marrying theory with practice while emphasizing a solid practice and research program. The program is designed for busy professionals, offering opportunities to refine existing skills while building an advanced knowledge base. Students who wish to work in school sites, school districts, college/university level teaching or administration, or in state- or national-level policy and implementation roles are drawn to this doctoral training program. While enrolled in this program, students have ample opportunities to share ideas and experiences regarding leadership, educational issues, law and research. The program uses a cohort model, which further supports a collaborative learning environment. Students also have the option to choose from the following concentrations:

  • K-12 Leadership
  • K-12 Curriculum
  • Higher Education Administration
  • Educational Technology

US News and World Report 2015 Ranking of Best Online Graduate Education Programs:

Additional US News and World Report Ranking:

US News and World Report #194 Best National University

US News and World Report #110 Top Public School

Accreditations:

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

Faculty Credential and Training Score: 87

Student Services and Technology Score: 94

Average Annual Tuition: $11,550

Degree Options:

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

More Information on Central Michigan University


#6 – Utah State University – Logan, Utah

Utah State University Online PhD Educational Leadership

Utah State offers an online Ed.D. program in a variety of areas.

The School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Points: 9

The School of Teacher Education and Leadership at Utah State University (USU) offers a largely online doctoral program in educational leadership. USU’s online program accepts a maximum of twenty students in each “cohort cycle.” This means that the same group of students begins, advances through, and completes the program concurrently. The Doctor of Philosophy in Education with a Concentration in Curriculum and Instruction prepares teachers and administrators to make noteworthy contributions as leaders in K-12 facilities or as faculty members in teacher education programs at the collegiate level. The online format offers high-quality, faculty taught courses that are broadcast to specific RCDE campuses and centers throughout the late afternoon and evening hours. Students must also spend two summers on the Logan campus completing on-campus courses. All students enrolled in the Ph.D in Education program must fulfill required Research Core and Curriculum and Instruction Specialization Core coursework. This program also offers coursework across four disciplinary areas for completing requirements for the student’s chosen area of concentration. Distance learning doctoral candidates must select one of the following concentrations and complete the required coursework:

  • Instructional Leadership
  • Literacy Education and Leadership
  • Mathematics Education and Leadership
  • Engineering Technology Education

US News and World Report 2015 Ranking of Best Online Graduate Education Programs: #13

Additional US News and World Report Ranking:

US News and World Report #194 Best National University

US News and World Report #110 Top Public School

US News and World Report #28 Best Graduate Program in Education

Accreditations:

Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

Faculty Credential and Training Score: 81

Student Services and Technology Score: 74

Average Annual Tuition: $6,384

Degree Options:

Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Education with Concentration in Instructional Leadership

Doctor of Philosophy in Education with Concentration in Literacy Education and Leadership

Doctor of Philosophy in Education with Concentration in Mathematics Education and Leadership

Doctor of Philosophy in Education with Concentration in Engineering Technology Education

More Information on Utah State University


#5 – George Washington University – Washington, D.C.

George Washington University Online PhD Educational Leadership

GWU offers an Ed.D. online in administration and policy studies.

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Points: 9

The George Washington University’s (GWU) Graduate School of Education and Human Development offers a wide variety of doctoral level programs both on campus and online. All of the doctoral programs reflect the university’s philosophy that “theory and research should inform practice—and, in turn, practice should inform research by raising new research questions.” The Doctor of Education in Administration and Policy Studies is considered a practice-oriented doctoral program, which includes course work in research methods, with a strong emphasis on the skills required to utilize empirical research and to evaluate programs. Students enrolled in this program spend a large amount of time developing and advancing their professional skills and gaining supervised practical experience through practica, internships and rotations. The degree program is offered largely online and GWU is very proud of the high level of academics offered in their online degree programs. Their self-reported philosophy is “if you complete an online program from GWU, you earn a GWU degree.” The university boasts that there is no distinction between degrees earned online and degrees earned on campus; students participate in the same lessons, generally from the same professors, as on-campus students. Additionally, students are offered all of the benefits and job prospects that come with a degree from GWU.

US News and World Report 2015 Ranking of Best Online Graduate Education Programs: #8

Additional US News and World Report Ranking:

US News and World Report #54 Best National University

US News and World Report #55 Best Graduate Program in Education

Accreditations:

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

The Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSACSC)

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

Faculty Credential and Training Score: 75

Student Services and Technology Score: 57

Average Annual Tuition: $48,760

Degree Options:

Doctor of Education in Administration and Policy Studies

Learn more about George Washington University


#4 – Creighton University – Omaha, Nebraska

Creighton University Online EdD Educational Leadership

Our #4-ranked program is Creighton’s Ed.D. in Interdisciplinary Leadership.

The Graduate School

Points: 11

Creighton University offers an online Ed.D. in Interdisciplinary Leadership program taught by dedicated faculty members who are nationally recognized leadership practitioners. This Ed.D. program combines experiential applications with a format that is multidisciplinary, self-focused and based in ethics and values. Graduates from this program receive an excellent return on their investment, having acquired the knowledge and skill set needed to become leadership experts and implement change in their organizations. Upon graduation from the doctoral program in Interdisciplinary Leadership, The Graduate School states that students must demonstrate the following skills:

  • Leadership skills based in faith, justice and ethics with a global perspective.
  • The ability to use reflective practices as a means for professional and personal growth.
  • Understanding, integration and utilization of organizational theory in practice.
  • Understanding, integration and utilization of leadership theories and practices.
  • Integration and utilization of change theory in practice.
  • Effective interpersonal and organizational communication.
  • Knowledge and application of funding and budgeting processes in organizations.
  • Knowledge and application of legal principles applicable to organizations.
  • Utilization of technology as a transformational agent in organizations.
  • Creativity in designing, developing, applying and assessing research ideas to improve practice.

The coursework in this program is largely online, requiring just two on-campus residency experiences on the Creighton campus in Omaha, Nebraska. During the first on-campus residency (at the start of the program), students meet their classmates, instructors and assigned advisors. During the second on-campus residency, students follow up on these leadership activities and defend their dissertation.

US News and World Report 2015 Ranking of Best Online Graduate Education Programs: #11

Additional US News and World Report Ranking:

US News and World Report #1 Best College or University in the Midwestern Region of the United States

US News and World Report #3 Best Value School

Accreditations:

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

Faculty Credential and Training Score: 96

Student Services and Technology Score: 83

Average Annual Tuition: $35,360

Degree Options:

Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

Learn more about Creighton University


#3 – Ball State University – Muncie, Indiana

Ball State University Online EdD Educational Leadership

The #3-ranked program is Ball State’s online Ed.D. in educational administration and supervision.

The Department of Online and Distance Learning

Points: 11

The Department of Online and Distance Learning at Ball State University offers an online Ed.D. program in educational administration and supervision. This program is designed for those people who are currently education administrators and are dedicated to the advancement of the field through quality teaching, research and service. The curriculum in this doctoral program was chosen to fulfill the licensing requirements in the state of Indiana for school superintendency. In addition to those required courses, flexibility has been built in so each student can customize a program that meets his or her unique needs. The program consists of a minimum of 90 semester hours of graduate credit. Forty-eight semester hours must be completed through Ball State. 
Classes for this doctorate program are offered both online and on campus in the greater Indianapolis area. The on-campus portion of the coursework must be completed on Ball State’s main campus in Muncie, Indiana. All students are required to complete a dissertation on a topic approved by their dissertation committee.

US News and World Report 2015 Ranking of Best Online Graduate Education Programs: #8

Additional US News and World Report Ranking:

US News and World Report #173 Best National University

US News and World Report #97 Top Public School

US News and World Report #86 Best Graduate Program in Education

Accreditations:

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

Faculty Credential and Training Score: 88

Student Services and Technology Score: 63

Average Annual Tuition: $9,344

Degree Options:

Online Ed.D in Educational Administration and Supervision

Learn more about Ball State University


#2 – University of Florida – Gainesville, Florida

University of Florida Online EdD Educational Leadership

UF’s online Ed.D. program in educational administration parallels its on-campus counterpart.

The College of Education

Points: 14

The University of Florida’s College of Education offers an online Doctor of Education program in Educational Administration that closely matches the on-campus format of the same degree program. The Leadership in Educational Administration Doctorate (LEAD) program is an online/hybrid program that culminates in an Ed.D in Educational Leadership. Students submit applications several months in advance and the admission board chooses a cohort group of students to begin their studies the next semester. Courses are offered largely online, with the requirement of attending up to three weekend meetings per semester held on the UF campus in Gainesville, Florida. Students must submit their GRE scores as well as proof of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees before they are considered for entrance into the next Ed.D LEAD cohort. All students must fulfill a minimum of 12 credit hours to meet the college-wide requirement for preparation in research methodology. The program requires a minimum of 90 credit hours for completion. All students must complete the credit hour minimum, complete a doctoral dissertation, and pass the Doctorate Qualifying Exam.

US News and World Report 2015 Ranking of Best Online Graduate Education Programs: #13

Additional US News and World Report Ranking:

US News and World Report #48 Best National University

US News and World Report #14 Top Public School

US News and World Report #30 Best Graduate Program in Education

Accreditations:

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

Faculty Credential and Training Score: 68

Student Services and Technology Score: 57

Average Annual Tuition: $6,313

Degree Options:

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Learn more about University of Florida


#1 – University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska

University of Nebraska Online PhD Educational Leadership

Our #1 ranked school offers an online Ed.D program and an online Ph.D. in Educational Studies.

The Office of Online and Distance Education

Points: 16

Topping the list of the best doctoral programs in educational leadership is the University of Nebraska. The Office of Online and Distance Education at the University of Nebraska offers students two excellent options to pursue a doctoral degree in educational leadership. Both programs are designed to prepare students for advanced positions as faculty in education leadership and higher education or for positions that require knowledge of educational leadership or higher education and extensive research preparation. These degree programs are an excellent option for students who are interested in the following:

  • Pursuing a doctoral degree to support a teaching role in a college or university setting.
  • Moving into a leadership role in a college, university or community college.
  • Studying various aspects of higher education in a collaborative setting involving other professionals.
  • Gaining real-world administrative experience tied to the major cognate areas of importance to practitioners and researchers.
  • Seeking an advanced degree to support one’s professional goals.

Students enrolled in this program will be expected to become fluent in scholarly research in a specific area of educational administration and acquire familiarity with both quantitative and qualitative research methods in education. There are two unique doctoral programs in educational leadership currently offered by the University of Nebraska:

Doctor of Education in Educational Studies with Specialization in Educational Leadership and Higher Education

This fully online doctoral degree program was created to prepare students for advanced professional practice and to develop the leadership and analytical skills needed to tackle problems facing practitioners in P-20 education, higher education, community colleges, or other educational institutions. This degree program is a good fit for those who intend to pursue or continue a career as a practicing administrator in an education or education-related organization. The program also benefits practitioners working in P-20 educational settings, higher education, community colleges or other education-related organizations throughout the world.

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies with Specialization in Educational Leadership and Higher Education

This doctoral training program was designed to prepare students for scholarly positions as faculty in education leadership and higher education as well as positions that require knowledge of educational leadership and/or higher education and extensive research preparation.

US News and World Report 2015 Ranking of Best Online Graduate Education Programs: #5

Additional US News and World Report Ranking:

US News and World Report #99 Best National University

US News and World Report #45 Top Public School

US News and World Report #48 Best Graduate Program in Education

Accreditations:

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

Faculty Credential and Training Score: 93

Student Services and Technology Score: 76

Average Annual Tuition: $8,060

Degree Options:

Doctor of Education in Educational Studies with Specialization in Educational Leadership and Higher Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies with Specialization in Educational Leadership and Higher Education

Opportunities for an Online Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership

A doctoral degree in educational leadership opens a number of doors in a wide variety of settings. Whether you are someone who would like to shape the educational policies of the future or you see yourself as someone who could lead a school toward success, this degree can help you achieve those goals. A doctoral degree in this field prepares you for a number of employment opportunities, including: teacher, principal, provost, academic chair, superintendent or dean. With options ranging from a Doctor of Education to a Doctor of Philosophy in a number of specializations and concentrations, each student can choose a degree to best suit his or her individual academic and career goals. Earning an online doctoral degree in educational leadership is a major step toward becoming a force for positive change in the field of education.

Learn more about University of Nebraska

About the Author

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University and then a Master of Science in Clinical and Forensic Psychology from Drexel University, Kristen Fescoe began a career as a therapist at two prisons in Philadelphia. At the same time she volunteered as a rape crisis counselor, also in Philadelphia. After a few years in the field she accepted a teaching position at a local college where she currently teaches online psychology courses. Kristen began writing in college and still enjoys her work as a writer, editor, professor and mother.

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