May 20, 2024  
National University Q2 Addendum B-2 (formerly NCU) 
National University Q2 Addendum B-2 (formerly NCU) [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Education, Educational Leadership, PhD

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: All Programs

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership

Description of Program

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Educational Leadership (EdL) is a theoretical research degree designed to prepare educational leaders who desire to improve educational policy and research across private and public sectors of PK-12, higher education, military, and corporate learning organizations. You will acquire skills to ethically address the complex problems within educational practice using data-driven decision-making and other theoretical frames linking systematic inquiry with innovative, research-based solutions. The degree culminates in the completion of empirical dissertation research with direct implications for educational theory and policy.

Please be advised that this program is NOT accredited in Kentucky by the Education Professional Standards Board and is NOT recognized for initial, additional, or renewal of certification or salary enhancement (rank change) for P-12 educators in Kentucky. For more information, please visit the Education Professional Standards Board’s website at

Click here for potential career opportunities within the PhD-EdL.

Learning Outcomes

  • Examine educational leadership, research, and policy from practice-based, evidence-based, and research-based perspectives
  • Determine the aspects of professional capacity and resource needs for a quality professional learning community within sector-specific learning organizations
  • Develop effective leadership traits to improve educational practice for diverse learning organizations within public and private sectors
  • Devise a research- and theoretically-based examination of a complex problem within educational leadership
  • Conduct theoretically-based empirical research to address a complex problem within educational leadership, research, or policy

Basis for Admissions

Admission requires a conferred post-baccalaureate master’s degree and/or doctoral degree from a regionally or nationally accredited academic institution or an international institution determined to be equivalent through an approved evaluation service.

Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Leadership (EdL) requires 60 credit hours for degree completion. Coursework includes foundations, educational leadership, research methods, the pre-candidacy prospectus, and the dissertation. Additional credit hours may be allowed as needed to complete dissertation research in alignment with the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) and Academic Maximum Time Frame policies. Students who do not complete their program within these requirements may be dismissed

The PhD-EdL degree program has the following graduation requirements:

  • A minimum of 48 credit hours of graduate instruction must be completed through the University
  • Successful completion of all courses with a “B” or better
  • Official transcripts on file for all transfer credits accepted by the University

The University may accept up to 12 semester credit hours earned with a grade of “B” or better for graduate coursework completed at an accredited college or university and evaluated to be substantially equivalent in content with the required course work for the PhD-EdL program.

See the Transfer Credit Policy  for additional information.

Dissertation Completion Pathway

The University’s mission is dedicated to assisting students in achieving their academic aspirations and helping them become valuable contributors to their community and profession. To support our mission, the University now offers a dissertation completion pathway for students who have successfully completed their doctoral coursework and achieved doctoral candidacy at a previous institution but were unable to complete their dissertation.  The University’s Dissertation Completion Pathway (DCP) offers a unique opportunity for students to complete their doctorate in one of the doctoral programs offered at the University (excluding the PhD in MFT, DMFT, and DHA). Students successfully meeting the entrance and application requirements will complete a minimum of 23 credit hours to earn their doctorate.

Click below for more information on the Dissertation Completion Pathway 

Time to Completion

The University allows 7 years to complete all doctoral programs of 60 credits or less.

The median time to completion for this program is 46 months.

Time to completion varies depending upon the pace in which a student completes courses and the number of transfer credits accepted. As most students are working adults, balancing educational, professional, and personal commitments, our academic and finance advisors will work with you to develop a program schedule that works best for your needs.

Students following the preferred schedule designed by the Dean for this program, and applying no transfer credits, can expect to finish in as little as 39 months.

Certification and Licensing

The Sanford College of Education serves educational leaders by providing online graduate studies in education to reach worldwide populations. The PhD-EdL program is designed to reach national and international markets and does not purport to provide licensure or certification in any particular state or country.

Research and Dissertation

The University has developed a logical step-by-step process that assists in completing the dissertation. The University provides a detailed Dissertation Handbook that explains the process and University’s dissertation support structure.

The PhD-EdL doctoral research courses, the PhD-EdL comprehensive course and the PhD-EdL dissertation courses are specifically designed as a guide through the process in an orderly and meaningful fashion and lead to the oral defense.

The dissertation is the capstone academic achievement of the PhD-EdL. The PhD-EdL dissertation is a scholarly documentation of the research. To earn the PhD-EdL the student must demonstrate the ability, motivation, and commitment and the University will provide the faculty, the academic support and process to assist with the attainment of high academic goals.

The PhD-EdL research is aimed at contributing to the body of research knowledge - either new research or adding to research already studied in the field. PhD-EdL students take EDR-8201 - Statistics I  and EDR-8202 - Statistics II  as part of their program of study. There is also an oral defense.

Dissertation Process

Faculty assists each Doctoral student to reach this high goal through a systematic process leading to a high-quality completed dissertation. A PhD-EdL dissertation is a scholarly documentation of research that makes an original contribution to the field of study. This process requires care in choosing a topic, documenting its importance, planning the methodology, and conducting the research. These activities lead smoothly into the writing and oral presentation of the dissertation.

A doctoral candidate must be continuously enrolled throughout the series of dissertation courses. Dissertation courses are automatically scheduled and accepted without a break in scheduling to ensure that students remain in continuous enrollment throughout the dissertation course sequence. If additional time is required to complete any of the dissertation courses, students must re-enroll and pay the tuition for that course. Continuous enrollment will only be permitted when students demonstrate progress toward completing dissertation requirements. The Dissertation Committee determines progress.

Course Sequence

This program can be completed with a minimum of 60 credit hours, but may require additional credit hours, depending on the time required to complete the dissertation research. If needed, additional courses will be added to the student degree program in alignment with the SAP and Academic Maximum Time to Completion policies. Students who do not complete their program in accordance with these policies may be dismissed.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: All Programs