What is an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Degree?

Misty Hance
Misty Hance
Assistant School Principal; Ed.D. in School Leadership, Carson-Newman University, TN

The intent of an Ed.D. educational leadership degree is to extend the knowledge of instructional strategies, leadership and management approaches, and research methods to help you develop your skills to become an effective leader. Typically, this doctoral degree is gained in a minimum of three years in addition to a master’s degree. The first two years are coursework, followed by a minimum of one year of dissertation development. However, depending upon the topic and the amount of time required to complete the research, completing a dissertation could take longer than one year.

The Dissertation

I have found that one of the major reasons stated for not returning for an Ed.D. is the fear of writing a dissertation. The fact is that graduate school instructors are there to help you through this process. You will be given a committee of professors who are there to support you. You’ll take each section one at a time, and be able to develop each with guidance from your committee chair. By the time you are ready to present your dissertation to your committee, you will own it. You’ll understand your “Why” as you write the first chapter, explaining your passion for the topic. You will have researched it immensely while developing the literature review and your understanding as you work on your methodology section. You’ll come to own your findings as you write about your findings in the final chapter.

Quantitative, Qualitative, or Mixed Method

Deciding which type of method to use in writing can be a personal decision, and it can be determined by what you are researching and trying to prove. In a brief overview, a quantitative paper proves a point by looking at numbers, using formulas, and collecting numerical data. A qualitative paper is more about your writing ability; how you can explain what you need the reader to understand about your topic. For a qualitative paper, your collect data through interviews, observations, and reviewing artifacts. Some topics require a mixture of both quantitative and qualitative methods; but don’t worry, your committee chair will help you determine what is most appropriate.


Many universities require an internship for candidates who do not already hold an administrative license. This consists of hours working with a qualified administrator at the school or district level. Licensure in many states is obtained through a state assessment following a master’s or doctoral program in educational leadership.

Career Outcomes

An Ed.D. in educational leadership will prepare you for a role as an administrator. You will be able to lead as an assistant principal or principal of an early childhood school, an elementary, middle, or high school, or even as an administrator at the district level. This degree can also enable you to work at a university as a professor or academic dean.

While the position you are seeking may determine the skills you will use, an Ed.D. educational leadership degree will provide you with the educational knowledge and experience necessary to make effective decisions and manage the complex duties of leading other educators.

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