Doctoral Degree: Educational Policy and Leadership Specialization in Educational Leadership

The Specialization in Educational Leadership is intended for individuals with interests and/or experiences in K-12 education (for example, teachers, counselors, school or district leaders, education agency personnel).  Recognizing the centrality of policy in education practice, the program provides the opportunity for current and aspiring leaders, policy analysts, academics, and researchers to (1) critically examine and synthesize theories, research, practices, and policies, and (2) conduct rigorous research that contributes to improving education.  Because courses are taken with peers from the fields of higher and international education, Educational Leadership students expand their perspectives beyond US K-12 education to gain insight regarding leadership, organizational change and school reform, policies and politics, curriculum development and instructional improvement, and evaluation in both domestic and international contexts.  The doctoral specialization is closely linked with the Center for Educational Policy, which manages externally-funded grants and contracts.

Admission Criteria

The doctoral specialization in Educational Leadership leading to an EdD is designed for professionals with experience related to K-12 education, including policy or other education work (K-12 experience is desirable, although not necessary). Applicants are required to hold an earned Master’s degree from an accredited institution. The ability to write clearly and coherently must be demonstrated in the applicant’s personal statement, which should include information about his/her areas of interest within Educational Leadership.


The program requires 42 credit hours past the Master’s degree, the successful completion of comprehensive exams, and a dissertation. The program is flexible, but has a few requirements. In their first semester, all incoming students in Educational Policy and Leadership take the required course EDUC 739: Introduction to Inquiry. During the first year of study, the doctoral student works with her or his faculty guidance committee to formulate an individualized study plan. These plans typically include coursework in three areas:  the theoretical (e.g. organizational theory in EDUC 634: Strategies for Institutional Change or social theories in EDUC 622: Theories of Educational Equity); the practical (research and evaluation courses); and the contextual (specific courses related to the student’s interests—e.g., EDUC 646: Leadership for Curriculum and Instruction). Because education is a professional field derived from various academic disciplines, students are highly encouraged to take at least one course outside of the College of Education.

Typically, four to seven semesters are devoted to coursework on campus. Most courses are held in the late afternoon, but applicants should be prepared to arrange their work schedules for at least one semester in order to take morning or early afternoon courses offered in other Schools and programs. Coursework is followed by the comprehensive examination, after which the student is considered a doctoral candidate and writes a dissertation proposal. The candidate then conducts research, sometimes in the context of employment, to write the dissertation. An on-campus oral defense of the dissertation is required.

Concentration Contacts

Sharon F. Rallis, Distinguished Professor and Coordinator
Jeffery W. Eiseman, Associate Professor
Kathryn A. McDermott, Associate Professor, Coordinator, spring 2013
Rebecca H. Woodland, Associate Professor, Coordinator, spring 2013 [website