How to Advance Your Career with an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

Dr. Jeff Keeling
Dr. Jeff Keeling
High school principal; Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
Man talking and standing in front of other people seated at a table.

Generally speaking, when an educator mentions acquiring a doctoral degree, a majority of people probably would assume that he or she plans to pursue a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph. D). Although the Ph.D. and its variants have been awarded by institutions of higher education for several centuries, the Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.), first introduced at Harvard in the early 1900s, often is better suited for educators and administrators currently practicing in K-12 settings as well as those in higher education and corporate fields.

The majority of Ed.D. programs require the completion of comprehensive exams and a summative dissertation that offers an original contribution designed to “fill a gap” within the body of relevant academic research. Ed.D. programs also emphasize building professional competencies and solving problems through active and ongoing research.

Administrative Positions

The Ed.D. in educational leadership is a popular option for individuals serving in K-12 school administrative positions or wish to move into an administrative position because the curricular requirements are centered around improving the effectiveness and competency of instructional leaders. Ed.D. educational leadership candidates will experience courses that address subjects they studied in graduate school and/or administrator preparation programs in greater depth.

Examples of such courses include those focused upon effective management practices, advanced learning theory, and advanced education law. Beyond these practical areas of emphasis, the Ed.D. in educational leadership requires extensive course work in quantitative and qualitative analysis and statistics. Thus, the holder of the degree not only gains valuable practical expertise but also acquires the ability to conduct research both for daily use and for publication.

Given the fact that the field of education has become increasingly litigious and data-driven, a educational leadership program provides an excellent vehicle for preparing school administrators to manage the organizations under their charge in an effective and legal manner while also enabling them to understand assessment data provided by state and private providers and even conduct their own “in-house” research and data analysis.

Additionally, educational leadership Ed.D. programs offered by some institutions allow candidates to earn concentrations within specific subsections of educational leadership such as curriculum and instruction, special education, and administration. Thus, the pursuit of the Ed.D. has the potential to develop school and district-level leaders’ competencies across the spectrum of instructional leadership, management, and legal efficacy.

Ultimately, the educational leadership doctorate is not simply a program that is best suited for school principals and superintendents but also has the potential to prove extremely beneficial for individuals in other roles including Director of Special Education, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and Director of Human Resources among others, as well as classroom teachers looking to improve their leadership skills and/or eventually move into administrative positions.

Leadership Positions

The ability for instructional faculty members to assume non-administrative leadership roles is often overlooked in educator preparation programs. Numerous school systems within the United States rely on faculty members to fulfill such roles as academic department leader, head teacher, Dean of Students, instructional coach, and others. These faculty roles often bring with them a significant level of responsibility in working with students and/or staff members in a “para-administrative” manner. An added benefit of these roles is that they generally come with the opportunity to influence the decision-making process of the school system as well as additional financial compensation beyond the faculty member salary level.

Earning an Ed.D. in educational leadership allows faculty members that hold leadership roles to expand their knowledge and hone their skills in order to gain background and experience that can be applied to their responsibilities, thus benefiting the students and faculty members with whom they interact. Additionally, the completion of an Ed.D. in educational leadership demonstrates that professional educators are committed to their own personal and professional growth and development. Even from a non-academic perspective, the completion of a terminal degree in education speaks to the work ethic and character of the individual.

The fact that only around one percent of all public school teachers within the United States hold a doctoral degree is a testament to the level of rigor of such programs and indicates that those who have completed or are pursuing a doctoral degree generally display a level of commitment and dedication to their careers higher than a vast majority of their peers. Therefore, the completion of an Ed.D. sends a signal to supervisors and potential employers that these individuals possess a level of drive and dedication that causes them to stand out among their peers.

Additional Job Opportunities

Beyond the K-12 educational setting, the completion of an Ed.D. in educational leadership has the potential to open doors within other education-related fields. Perhaps the most obvious pathway is that of teaching at the post-secondary level. The majority of colleges and universities require tenure track faculty members to earn a terminal degree. Therefore, the Ed.D. serves as a vehicle not only for improving professional practice but also as a springboard into instruction at the collegiate level.

Another area in which the Ed.D. proves beneficial is within the field of educator professional development. It is a beneficial credential for those wishing to provide training to practicing educators, as it fosters the level of expertise necessary for effective knowledge sharing and instruction for teachers currently in the field. Additionally, many states have county or multi-county level organizations that provide consulting and professional development services to the school systems within their regions. The Ed.D. in educational leadership qualifies individuals to work as facilitators and/or supervisors within this sector as well as in private sector corporate education.

Ready to take the next step and pursue your Ed.D. in educational leadership? Explore our available programs to get started today!


*Updated August, 2020
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