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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, diversity, 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, 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; or 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

    Doctoral students collaborate with their advising committees to plan an individualized program within program requirements including courses and non-course milestones culminating with the dissertation. The overall design requires a minimum of 58 graduate-level course credits beyond the master’s degree and completion of 18 credit hours dedicated to the dissertation project. The categories of courses include a preliminary core, concentration core, research core, cognate, elective, research internship, candidacy and dissertation core.

    The preliminary core consists of a minimum of nine credits completed within the first two years of enrollment, concluding with the preliminary exam, a non-course requirement. The doctoral advisory committee, in consultation with the student, uses the results of the preliminary examination to establish an individualized program of study, including a minimum of 18 credits of courses in the chosen concentration (P-12 or higher education), research courses and a minimum of 12 credits through internship and cognates. The internship experience focuses on a research-based approach to the common dilemmas of knowledge and practice in the applied field of educational leadership. Cognates are courses selected from academic fields supporting each Ph.D. student’s research agenda. Upon completion of a program of studies course work, students qualify as doctoral candidates by successfully completing the comprehensive exam. Doctoral candidates then complete nine credits of post-comps core in preparation for their proposal defense and then move to 18 hours of dissertation studies before defending their dissertation research. The timeframe for completing this program is controlled by Ph.D. students with support from their doctoral advising committees.

  • Admission Requirements

    Admission to the Program 

    Applications for the Educational Leadership are accepted for the Fall, Spring, and Summer terms.  Admission decisions are made following the deadlines below. 

    Application Deadline

    All application materials must be submitted by the following deadlines:

    • March 1, to enroll in Summer or Fall
    • October 1, to enroll in Spring

    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
    • Submit a Graduate School application which requires:
      • Unofficial transcripts (Official transcripts will be required if you are accepted into the program.)
      • Competitive GRE scores 
      • 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. (minimum 76 credit hours)

    Preliminary Core: (12 credit hours) 
    Required of All Ed Leadership PhD Students
    EDL 9100 Introductory Doctoral Seminar
    EDL 9000 Principles of Educational Leadership
    EDL 9050 Theory and Practice in Educational Leadership 
    EDL 9110 Systematic Inquiry in Educational Leadership or EX ST 801 Statistical Methods

    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. These courses allow the student and advisory committee to tailor the program to the unique needs of the student within the overall philosophy and structure of the program. 

    Higher Education
    Required of Higher Education Concentration Students
    EDSA 8190 Contemporary College Students
    EDL 9500 Educational Policy Studies
    EDL 9620 Higher Education Governance (Required Core)
    EDL 9750 College Teaching
    EDL 9770 Diversity Issues in Higher Education (Required Core)
    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

    Research Internship: (3 credit hours)
    Required of All Ed Leadership PhD Students
    EDL 9860 Research Internship

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

    Cognate: (6 credit hours)
    Required of All Ed Leadership PhD Students
    Cognates are courses from academic fields outside of educational leadership supporting students’ research agendas. As part of the program of study, each student must complete six graduate semester hours in a cognate area. All six hours must be from the same discipline and approved by the student’s graduate committee.

    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

    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, please fill out this form or visit the Clemson University Graduate School website. If you have additional questions or need assistance, please contact Alison Search.

View the Brochure

Clemson University Educational Leadership Ph.D.

Program Handbook

Download the EDL Handbook