Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership: Guide to Online Programs for 2022

Best Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership: Guide to Online Programs for 2022
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Being an educator is a demanding yet rewarding profession. This career has several facets that focus on molding the minds of young students. Many instructors who seek more education, however, do not always have the time to do so as a result of technological improvements and changes in teaching procedures that have transformed the industry. Knowing the best online doctorate in educational leadership programs is advantageous in this situation.

Taking up an online degree gives educators the flexibility to expand their skill sets while still fulfilling their job responsibilities. Plus, it allows them to improve their career prospects. After all, among workers over 25 years old, professionals with doctoral degrees had the highest median weekly earnings at $1,883, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So, to help you learn more about online doctorate in educational leadership, this document will serve as your guide on what to expect from the program. Topics covered include its difference from traditional doctorates, its cost, to the admission requirements, and the different courses you will need to take.

Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Table of Contents

  1. Can You Get a Degree Completely Online?
  2. Will Employers Take My Online Degree Seriously?
  3. Are Online Degrees Recognized All Over the World?
  4. Online vs. Traditional Doctorate in Educational Leadership
  5. How Much Does an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Cost?
  6. What are the Requirements of an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership?
  7. Courses to Expect in Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership
  8. Things to Look for in an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership

Can You Get a Degree Completely Online?

At the turn of the century, internet connectivity and the use of different apps have become more accessible to people from all walks of life. Thanks to these advancements, earning a degree completely online is no longer an impossible feat. In fact, 10% of the approximate 3,000 colleges in the United States offered 100% online instruction for Fall 2020 (Hanson, 2021). Data also suggests that this change was welcomed by a majority of students as only 17% of returning higher-education students reported wanting to attend full-time, in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aside from the safety that online degree programs bring to students and faculty members, research shows there are other benefits to be had by implementing this mode of learning.

In the AERA Open Journal study “Does the Flipped Classroom Improve Student Learning and Satisfaction? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” researchers examined the effect of the flipped classroom on learning outcomes and student satisfaction.

According to the authors of the study, Torstein Låg and Rannveig Grøm Sæle, “students in flipped classrooms outperformed students in traditional classrooms by 0.35 standard deviations on exams, tests, and grades.” They also noted that “educators attempting the flipped classroom teaching model are likely to experience at least a small positive impact on student learning.” This suggests that online programs can be beneficial to the entire learning process. As such, more schools may be more open to exploring this method of instruction in the future.

Will Employers Take My Online Degree Seriously?

For the longest time, employers have been hesitant about hiring candidates with online degrees. However, it seems the tables have turned in recent years.

With the growth of online education and the widespread adoption of the technologies that can facilitate it especially during the pandemic, 62.6% of employers reported the need to rethink their hiring process for applicants with an online degree (Kogan, 2021). According to them, candidates who have earned their credentials through online programs have the ability to work independently (51.4%), use technology (18.3%), and stay on task (11.2%). As a result, more than half (58%) of hiring managers believe that they have more earning potential than traditional degree holders in the long run.

With these data in mind, one can expect that in the near future, more employers would be more welcoming to online degree holders and provide them with the same opportunities as they would graduates of on-campus programs.

Source: FutureLearn, 2021

Are Online Degrees Recognized All Over the World?

2020 is a pivotal year for the education sector. With the health risks posed by the pandemic, universities and colleges worldwide were left with no option other than to offer online programs to students of all levels. Students and professors alike have struggled to adapt to the new learning environment but the silver lining to this situation is that the pandemic has fostered a new reputation for online education.

Since the pandemic broke out, 57% of students feel more optimistic about online learning (Cengage, 2021). The same sentiment was reported by 58% of educators. Meanwhile, among employers globally, a survey revealed that 75% are now more likely to hire graduates of online degrees (Kogan, 2021). This only signals that online degree holders can look forward to career opportunities worldwide.

However, it is best to keep in mind that there are industries with strict policies and local regulations that might make it difficult for you to apply for a job outside of your country. One example of this is the education sector.

Similar to law or medicine programs, the curriculum of different education degree types is created with local standards in mind. For instance, if the country where you took up your online degree implements a K-12 education system, it is unlikely that you can apply for a teaching job in another country where they implement a different education system. It is also worth noting that academic paths are structured differently across countries. As such, while your online doctorate in educational leadership may be recognized locally, it might not be the case if you are seeking employment in a different country.

Online vs. Traditional Doctorate in Educational Leadership

Online and traditional doctorate degrees share a slew of similarities, ranging from the course requirements to the duration of the program. This is largely due to curriculum standards that are being followed in the different schools that offer this program. However, there are a handful of major differences that educational leadership doctorate candidates may want to take note of as they choose between the two types of programs:

  • Cost. Generally, online degree programs focusing on education are cheaper than on-campus ones. In the case of a doctorate in Educational leadership, the costs can fall between $21,000 and $84,000 when taken online. Meanwhile, for traditional degrees, the average cost per unit is $1,015. Taking into consideration that this type of education degree requires 60 to 90 units, the tuition cost would amount to $60,900 to $91,350. This amount is not yet inclusive of transportation, accommodation, and miscellaneous course requirements.
  • Schedule. The dissertation process takes up the most time in a doctorate program. As such, both traditional and online students will actually be doing more research and fieldwork as opposed to attending classes. However, students are also required to take several courses during the program and this is where the difference in schedule can be observed. On-campus students will most likely have to attend synchronous, face-to-face classes so they need to be at a certain place at a certain time to fulfill their requirements. Meanwhile, online students can be required to attend synchronous or asynchronous classes over the internet. This gives them the flexibility to meet their course requirements from wherever they are.
  • Learning Experience. Last but not least on the list of differences between online and traditional educational leadership doctorates is the overall learning experience. One of the advantages of being an on-campus learner is that you get to attend classes in person and interact with your professors and colleagues. This allows you to build your professional network as well as hone skills in communication, public speaking, collaboration, and the like. Meanwhile, for online learners, while you still get to interact with your peers virtually, you will not necessarily forge bonds the same way on-campus students do. The advantage of learning online, however, is that you have the flexibility to complete course requirements at your own pace.

Is an online degree cheaper?

In many cases, an online degree can be cheaper than a traditional degree. For example, in the United Kingdom, programs taken online can cost £10,000 less than their face-to-face counterparts. After all, an online degree will help you save on transportation and accommodation costs. Plus, online students often do not get charged for the use of facilities inside the campus.

However, while you will be exempted from these added fees, you should expect to pay an e-tuition rate. This fee often covers the facilitation and maintenance of any learning management system and software solutions the school will use for online classes. It can also include online access to study resources, technical support costs, and similar expenses often associated with virtual degree programs.

Is an online degree as good as a regular degree?

Traditional degrees and online doctorate degrees in education share similar curricula. They will be asked to take the same courses, albeit in different learning formats. Plus, as the majority of the course work involves research and finishing a dissertation, they would not have to be in-campus at all times, to begin with. The current shift in the educational environments due to the COVID-19 pandemic has also caused many traditional programs to be migrated online for the safety of students and professors. As such, one can say that online degrees are as good as regular degrees.

The factors above aside, a recent study by the Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights also revealed that 35% of students felt that online education offers the best value for money compared to on-campus programs (Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights, 2021). A similar survey also showed that 78% of online students who have experienced face-to-face learning previously reported feeling that their online learning experience was just as good as their on-campus experience (Wiley, 2020). This can only signal that with the technological advancements available to schools and students today, online degrees have the capability to be as competitive as regular degrees.

Source: Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights, 2021

How Much Does an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership Cost?

An online doctorate in educational leadership can range anywhere between $21,000 and $84,000 in total tuition. These fees often depend on the school you are attending as well as the teaching methods the school implementing and the requirements that will be asked of the students.

For instance, if you attend a college or university that uses hybrid teaching methods instead of 100% online, you will have to budget for occasional commutes to campus and potential fees for facility maintenance. Meanwhile, if the school requires you to attend certain orientations or conferences, you may also need to prepare to shoulder the participation costs.

These factors aside, the tuition will also depend on whether you are taking up an Ed.D. or a Ph.D. as these two degrees have different credit requirements. An Ed.D program will require students to finish 60 to 66 credits of coursework, which can take up to two years to complete. Meanwhile, a Ph.D. program requires 90 credits and can be completed within four years.

It may also be worth noting that in some cases, students take longer to finish their doctorate. This is often dependent on the amount of time they take on their dissertation. Data from the National Science Foundation shows that the median completion time of doctorate degrees is 5.7 years (National Science Foundation, n.d.). As such, planning for the cost of earning an online doctorate in Educational Leadership should also include some elbow room to accommodate these extra costs.

Is an online Educational Leadership doctorate degree worth it?

Employment in education, training, and library occupations is expected to grow by 5% between 2019 and 2029. This means that in just a few years, professionals in the industry can expect about 441,000 new job openings (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). This alone makes investing in an online doctorate degree in education worth the money, time, and effort.

However, once you decide to take your academic background to the next level by enrolling in an online educational leadership doctorate program, you effectively expand your skillset and get access to better work opportunities. In fact, most Ph.D. or Ed.D. holders go on to become school superintendents, postsecondary education administrators, professors, or principals. In some cases, they become researchers who are well-respected in the field.

In addition to these, there’s also the privilege of adding a title to your name as well as the higher pay. According to PayScale the average base annual salary of educators is $51,528 (PayScale, 2021). By taking up a doctorate, your pay can increase to anywhere between $57,096 and $61,672. (, 2021).


What are the Requirements of an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership?

As with any educational endeavor, there are requirements that a student must fulfill when applying for an online doctorate in educational leadership. Schools may ask you to submit documents that show your academic background and intent to pursue the program. In addition, there are also skills you will need to hone and technological requirements you need to prepare once you gain admission into a program.

Admission Requirements

There are a handful of admission requirements that universities and colleges might ask of you as you apply for the program. These may vary depending on the institution you are applying to. However, some of those that you are likely to encounter are:

  • Master’s Degree in Education or a Related Field. Most schools require candidates to provide proof that they already possess a master’s degree in education or a related field. However, there are cases where a school will allow you to take up this doctorate program alongside your online master’s program in education.
  • Minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement. Candidates must submit their transcript of records as proof of their academic standing. Keep in mind that there are universities and colleges that require candidates to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 from their previous school. However, not all schools enforce this requirement.
  • Standardized Test Scores. Candidates may be asked to present either their Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores. These standardized tests measure a student’s analytical, quantitative, and verbal reasoning skills—all of which are important when pursuing a doctorate degree.
  • Statement of Purpose, Personal Essay. This document should detail why you are looking to attend this program. A candidate must clearly state his intentions and long-term plans as well as outline any relevant work experience they may have had.
  • Graduate-Level Academic Paper. A doctorate degree entails extensive research. So, it comes as no surprise that many schools look for candidates with experience in research. As proof, they may ask for a copy of any graduate-level academic paper you may have already created. Alternatively, a graduate-level essay might be required of you.

General Requirements

Application documents aside, there are also skills that may come in handy for students looking to pursue this degree program. Some examples include:

  • Training Program Development. This refers to the ability to determine the training needs of fellow teachers as well as create an actionable plan to develop them. This is among the top skills that affect an educator’s salary (PayScale, 2021). In many cases, this is a skill that can be picked up during the course of your study but it pays to have an idea of what methods or training curricula can help you achieve certain results.
  • Organizational Skills. Educators need to have a strong sense of organization to be able to develop and execute a classroom management plan. Once you pursue a doctorate in educational leadership, you will also need these skills to create plans for entire school departments or educational institutions.
  • Conflict Resolution. As educational leaders, you will have to balance the interests of teachers, students, as well as the institution you are employed at. So, there will be many instances where
    in you have to find the middle ground between different people, resolve critical decision-making conflicts, and the like.
  • Aptitude for Leadership. Students taking up this degree program go on to become school administrators, training and development managers, academic officers, and the like. As such, they are expected to have the leadership skills that will allow them to provide guidance to fellow teachers and steer educational institutions in the right direction.
  • Communication Skills. An educator’s ability to articulate himself clearly and effectively is critical to helping students achieve academic success. Furthermore, this skill plays a huge role for educational leaders as they will be expected to foster good relations among fellow faculty members, senior school administrators, and in some cases, stakeholders.

Source: PayScale, 2021

What are the Technological Requirements of Students for Online Learning?

In any online learning program, students will be required to use a computer or laptop to access class modules. As such, it is ideal that your device has the right specifications to ensure that it will allow you to perform your required coursework with ease. For starters, your computer should have:

  • 250 GB hard drive
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 2.0 GHz Intel or AMD processor
  • Windows 10 or Mac OS 10.10

Additionally, you will need to equip your computer with an updated web browser as well as programs like the following to ensure you can access your modules and create documents necessary for your classes:

  • Anti-virus program
  • PDF reader
  • Office suite with a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program

These software and hardware requirements aside, you will also need a high-speed WiFi connection, especially if you will be taking a lot of synchronous lectures. In case this is not available to you at home, you may be able to connect to the internet at your local library, a neighborhood cafe, or even at co-studying spaces.

Courses to Expect in Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership

When taking up a program in educational leadership, one can expect to study the following online degree courses:

  • Educational Law. This course explores the different federal, state, and local policies governing K-12 as well as higher education systems. It aims to help students perform legal reasoning and analysis to interpret legislative systems related to education as well as examine legal concerns within the context of educational institutions.
  • School Finance. This is a course designed to help educators learn how to budget, manage, audit, and forecast school funding. It will examine federal, state, and local revenue sources and help students to understand the business side of education.
  • Professional Development and Leadership. Studies show that an estimated $4.1 billion were spent on professional development for K-12 educators between 2016 and 2020 (Statista, 2016). As such, education leaders take up this course to understand collaborative techniques that will foster educator development as well as facilitate improvements in teaching instruction. This also enables them to explore topics, such as educational technology, team management, and administrative responsibilities.
  • Organizational Planning. This course is built to help educators create community-focused, long-term plans for capacity development within an educational institution. It often involves lessons on human resource management, performance measurement, and risk management.
  • Curriculum Development. This intends to help educators design, plan, and implement curricula based on world changes, such as new research, teaching strategies, and learning formats. It often involves determining the best sequence to introduce concepts and the ideal methods through which lessons must be facilitated and assessed.
  • Research Methods in Education Leadership. This enables educators to leverage evidence and data to create research-based improvement strategies for educational institutions. It requires students to apply quantitative, qualitative, as well as survey research methods.

These core subjects aside, there are plenty of other courses that students take to complete their online doctorate in educational leadership. However, it often depends on what school you attend and the type of degree you are aiming to earn.

For instance, if your focus is to gain a Ph.D. in educational leadership, most of the subjects you will take will be research-intensive. Meanwhile, if you intend to finish with an Ed.D., you will most likely have to take courses that focus on administrative and business topics.

Things to Look for in an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership

Just as schools qualify students before admission, students should also assess their prospective schools. This allows them to ensure that the program they choose will be able to support their long-term goals as well as their current work or study setup. Among the many factors that a student must consider include:


While a program can be facilitated completely online, it does not necessarily mean it is available to all students regardless of where they live. For instance, there are public institutions that decide to make this program available only to residents of the state. There are also private schools that opt to limit enrollees due to on-site requirements. As such, it is best to ask your institution of choice if they will be able to accommodate you regardless of your place of residence.

Teaching methods

Most doctorate students undergo a self-paced learning program as the majority of their coursework will revolve around their dissertation. However, when lectures are necessary, online classes may be synchronous via video conferencing or asynchronous through a flipped classroom model. In addition, you may also be asked to fulfill some onsite requirements. For example, you may be asked to defend your dissertation or perform some research coursework in person. As such, it may be good to know what kind of teaching method you will be exposed to when you start your schooling.

Reputation and accreditation

A recent study shows that reputation is among the top criteria of students for selecting an online program (Magda, Capranos, & Aslanian, 2020), and rightly so. After all, there is nothing worse than spending time, money, and effort on a program only to find out that employers will not acknowledge it.

You can start by looking the school or program up with the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, you can find out if the school is affiliated with regional higher education associations or if the program has been recognized by accrediting commissions. You may also want to look into programmatic accrediting bodies that could vouch for a particular program’s validity. In doing so, you can ensure that your investment is worthwhile. Moreover, choosing accredited programs can also help you secure credit transferability as well as eligibility for some types of financial aid.

Technical support services

Online classes require the use of learning management systems, video conferencing tools, and similar tools. As such, it is not uncommon for both students and professors to experience technical difficulties now and then. These could range from getting disconnected from online classes to being unable to download coursework files. While in some cases, resolving these concerns is quick and easy, there might be more complex cases where a technical team is needed. So, it is good to verify with the school if they can provide these support services, especially for students who might not have the technical know-how to address the concerns on their own.

Source: Wiley, 2020

Is an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership for You?

Earning a Ph.D. or Ed.D. is a worthwhile endeavor, especially for educators who want to further their careers. It leads to new job opportunities and a higher pay grade for professionals in the field. More than that, however, this degree can enable them to have more impact in the industry through research, policy creation, and leadership.

Plus, if you choose to take up your doctorate in educational leadership online, you get the added benefit of fulfilling your academic requirements at a pace that is favorable to your work schedule. Opting for this learning format can also help you save on tuition and the cost of commuting to and from campus.

Before you embark on this journey, however, be sure to take the necessary steps in choosing your degree program and school. In this way, you can ensure that you are investing in a program that will meet your requirements and help you achieve your long-term goals.

Should you want more information about what to expect of this learning format, you can also take a look at these latest statistics about online education. This should give you an idea of how online degrees are becoming more widely accepted in various industries as well as what trends and technologies are aiding the prevalence of online education.



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