Skip to Main Content

Ph.D. Educational Leadership

Our graduate programs at Clemson University build on the rich experiences and expertise of faculty and students to provide an educational environment in which both groups share in research, exploration and inquiry. The result of this synergy is impact — on our community and beyond.

  • Overview

    The Ph.D. in Educational Leadership program is designed to prepare education scholars, practitioners, and leaders across and for P-20+ educational contexts by engaging in the breadth and depth of theoretical and practical knowledge related to leadership, ethics, equity, research, and policy. The program seeks admissions applications from current P-12 teachers and school leaders and higher education administrators seeking advanced education to continue in formal leadership and decision-making roles across P-12 and post-secondary contexts (i.e., schools, districts, state-level organizations, community colleges, technical schools, 4-yr colleges and universities, state and federal level educational policy bodies). We offer two concentration areas, P-12 and Higher Education. Through association with and apprenticeship to faculty members experienced in research, teaching, and leadership, doctoral students in our program engage in rigorously informed inquiries centering contemporary problems of practice related to leadership and education. By choosing to apply to the Clemson’s Ph.D. in Educational Leadership program, prospective students are making the conscious choice to engage with nationally recognized education faculty who serve and have served as presidents of leading education associations, senior-level university administrators, journal editors, P-12 school administrators, and post-secondary campus staff and administrators.

    Alumni of the Ph.D. program serve P-20+ schools, community and state agencies, and institutions of higher education as ethical leaders providing research-based educational policies and services for increasingly diverse students and societies. Alumni also serve in leadership roles as faculty in schools and higher education institutions; as college and university deans, directors and presidents; and as principals, district office leaders and superintendents.

    Introduction to the Higher Education Concentration
    Clemson’s Ph.D. program in educational leadership in Higher Education focuses on developing professionals’ knowledge and research abilities in this applied multi- and interdisciplinary field. Because many of the higher education Ph.D. students in this field remain connected to their professional roles, this program is paced to accommodate each student’s timeframe while ensuring steady progress to degree completion.

    Introduction to the P-12 Ph.D. Concentration
    Students interested in the P-12 concentration have four options among their concentration coursework. Students may select a combination of coursework among courses for both higher education and P-12 concentrations. Students may also choose to obtain state of South Carolina licensure for work as school administrators at the building level, district level or both while enrolled in the program. Students who plan to obtain certification will take coursework with master's and specialist students, and must complete the state’s licensure approved program requirements.

  • Program Goals

    Through the doctoral process, faculty expect students to develop in the areas of Leading, Scholarship, and Practice. Acts of Leading are understood as collective practices among multiple contributors exercising the abilities of the collective to be mutually supportive towards educational goals (Gronn, 2002; Leithwood & Mascall, 2008; Leithwood et al., 2007; Ogawa & Bossert, 1995; Ni, Yan & Pounder, 2017; Spillane, 2006). Scholarship is understood as acollective practice of engaging in inquiry and application with and across multiple communities and educational settings to support human flourishing (Boyer et al., 2015). Practice is the process of engaging in individual, group, and systemic level appraisals and interventions informed by experiential and inquiry-based knowledge (Ball & Cohen, 1999; Hargreaves, 1996). 

    Each area of development is assessed through five (5) domains of learning : Leadership, Equity, Research, Ethics, and Policy.  

    Leadership involves the critical study of individuals, groups, systems, and organizations and how these inform ethical vision and practices. Within this context, leadership is intended to improve educational experiences at the nexus of teaching and learning across formal education institutions and throughout informal educational opportunities within communities.

    Equity involves engaging in critical analyses of systems of privilege and oppression through ideological, individual, group, and systemic level appraisals and interventions in pursuit of creating just opportunities and outcomes for all.

    Research involves systematically identifying, gathering, analyzing, and presenting evidence for the purpose of addressing pressing educational problems of practice and contributing to a larger body of knowledge.

    Ethics encompasses understanding the legal and moral foundations for the purpose of informing and guiding the work of ethical leaders, researchers, and educators who serve educational institutions, agencies, and organizations.

    Policy includes identification, analysis, and recommendations addressing current and emerging trends and problems in social, political, and economic contexts surrounding educational institutions, organizations, and agencies.

  • Admission Requirements

    Admission to the Program 

    Applications for the Educational Leadership are accepted for the Fall term only.  Admission decisions are made following the deadlines below. 

    Application Deadline

    All application materials must be submitted by the following deadlines:

    • January 15th for priority consideration (typically for full-time applicants seeking assistantship opportunities) 
    • April 15th for traditional consideration (typically for part-time applicants who do not need assistantships)

    Application Requirements

    To be considered for the program, applicants must:

    • Have completed a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or a recognized international university with a baccalaureate degree equivalent to a US bachelor's.
    • Have a Masters degree with a 3.5 GPA or higher.
    • Have a minimum of 3 years full-time relevant work experience in an educational setting (i.e., teacher, school leader, post-secondary administrator or staff, faculty member, educational policy center or association staff).  
    • Submit a Graduate School application which requires:
      • Unofficial transcripts (Official transcripts will be required if you are accepted into the program.)
      • Competitive GRE scores
        • GRE scores accompanying a Ph.D. application will be considered as part of a holistic application review. However, due to current testing challenges, the submission of GRE scores will be optional for Fall 2021 Ph.D. applicants.
      • A current resume
        • A resume or curriculum vitae that supports candidacy with evidence of pertinent educational leadership experience and evidence that the candidate can perform in a scholarly environment
      • Three letters of recommendation
        • Provided by current or prior supervisors and at least one professor from a prior degree program
      • A letter of intent
        • The letter of intent, which will be evaluated for content and as a writing sample, must be 2- pages or less and include:
          • Reasons for pursuing the Ph.D. degree in Educational Leadership, including research interests and career goals;
          • Professional and/or personal experiences shaping your current research interests and career goals; and
          • How the program faculty can support you in completing this degree.
        • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students

    Additional information concerning supporting materials can be found at


  • Program Requirements

    Educational Leadership Ph.D.

    Preliminary Core: (6 credit hours) 
    Required of All Ed Leadership PhD Students
    EDL 9100 Introductory Doctoral Seminar
    EDL 9050 Theory and Practice in Educational Leadership 

    Concentration: 18 hours
    The field of specialization may be either public school administration (P-12) or higher education. The courses for specialization should be selected in close consultation with the student’s advisory committee.

    Higher Education
    Required of Higher Education Concentration Students
    EDSA 8190 Contemporary College Students
    EDL 9500 Educational Policy Studies
    EDL 9620 Higher Education Governance
    EDL 9750 College Teaching
    EDL 9770 Diversity Issues in Higher Education
    EDL 9800 Current Issues in Educational Leadership

    Required of P-12 Concentration Students 

    Research Core: (16 credit hours)
    Required of All Ed Leadership PhD Students

    • Introductory courses in both qualitative and quantitative methods
    • Advanced course work in either qualitative or quantitative methods
    • Supervised research internship

     Elective: (3 credit hours)
    Required of All Ed Leadership PhD Students

    Candidacy Core: (3 credit hours)
    Required of All Ed Leadership PhD Students
    EDL 9880 Directed Research

    Dissertation: 18 credit hours
    Required of All Students
    EDL 9910 Doctoral Dissertation Research


  • Financial

    Tuition and Fees

    Explore information on tuition and fees using the Student Financial Services’ tuition and fee calculator. (Be sure to choose the ‘graduate’ tab at the top of the page.)

    Financial Aid

    For information regarding Financial Aid, please contact the office of Student Financial Aid.

  • Faculty
    Boettcher, Michelle Student Affairs


    Cawthon, Tony Counselor Education, Student Affairs 864-656-5100

    Croom, Natasha Higher Education/Student Affairs 864-656-1485

    Frady, Kris HRD; Instructional Design/Ed. Tech 864-656-7089

    Hall, Daniella Educational Leadership 864-656-5091

    Klar, Hans Educational Leadership 864-656-5091


    Lindle, Jane Clark
    Educational Leadership, Ph.D. P-12 864-508-0629

    Wagner, Rachel Student Affairs; Higher Education 864-656-5111

    Wilkerson, Reginald Educational Leadership 864-656-3873

  • Alumni News and Resources

    For more information on alumni news and events, please visit our Alumni Resources website

  • Find Out More

    For more information regarding the program or questions associated with applying to this program, please contact Stephanie Henry, student services program coordinator, at

View the Brochure

Clemson University Educational Leadership Ph.D.
Educational Leadership Ph.D.


Program Handbook

Download the EDL Handbook