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College of Education

Education Systems Improvement Science, EdD

Earn an Ed.D. in Education Systems Improvement Science

The Doctor of Education (EdD) is an applied professional doctoral degree designed for certified PK-12 practitioners who have previously completed an Education Specialist (EdS) degree or equivalent. In the EdD Program, students develop the theoretical and practical knowledge base and research skills needed to be effective educational leaders who design innovative solutions that positively impact local students, families, and communities in South Carolina and beyond. Students complete a Dissertation in Practice (DiP) focused on systemic, complex challenges facing educators related to race, rurality, and poverty in which they identify systems-level opportunities to apply improvement science for change and innovation.


  • Overview

    This Doctor of Education (EdD) is offered in partnership with The Citadel, Coastal Carolina University, and Winthrop University. Clemson is also a member of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED), a consortium of more than 100 colleges and schools of education. Clemson’s Program is based on the CPED Framework©, which includes guiding principles and a defined set of design concepts for the professional doctorate in education.

    Designed for working professionals, the Program helps students become scholarly practitioners while building a strong background in leadership, ethics, diversity, research, and educational improvement science. Improvement Science is a method of inquiry that helps scholarly practitioners define complex problems, implement changes, and determine whether the changes result in improvement. The Program includes field embedded research with the goal of moving theory into practice to improve educational systems and outcomes.

  • Admission Requirements

    Admission to the Program
    The Doctor of Education (EdD) in Education Systems Improvement Science Program admits students for a summer entrance term. Only complete applications are considered for admission.

    Application Deadlines

    • January 15, priority deadline – Applications will be reviewed for early decision
    • March 1, traditional deadline

    Application Requirements

    To be considered for the Program, applicants must:

    • Have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
    • Have a specialist’s (EdS) degree or equivalent with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
    • Complete any missing prerequisite requirements following a review of EdS transcript, if from a non-partner institution
    • Submit an online Graduate School application which requires:
      • Unofficial transcripts (official transcript(s) will be required if accepted into the Program)
      • Competitive, official GRE (Graduate Record Exam) scores taken within the last five years OR any one of the following:
        • Equivalent academic admissions exam (e.g., GMAT, LSAT, MCAT) – taken within the past five years
        • A GPA of at least 3.0 in the most recent graduate degree
        • At least five years of classroom experience AND at least two years in a leadership position (e.g., building or district level)
    • A current resume
    • Three recommendation forms
      • Recommendation forms are emailed directly to recommenders via the online application process
        • Two may be professional recommendations
        • One must be from someone who can speak on academic achievement. This can be from a partner institution (The Citadel, Coastal Carolina University, or Winthrop University) or other accredited institution.
    • A statement of research interest/problem of practice to be examined in the Program
      • 500 to 750 words recommended
    • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students

    Additional information concerning supporting materials

  • Program Requirements

    Education Systems Improvement Science EdD (42 credit hour minimum)

    Core Courses (6 credit hours):

    • EDIS 9100 – Wholes for Whole School Reform
    • EDIS 9200 – Systemic Educational Reform

    Cognate Courses (minimum 6 credit hours):

    • ED 8540 – International Perspectives on Poverty and the Schools P-12
    • EDIS 9300 – Rural Education
    • EDIS 9400 – Diversity and School Communities

    Research Courses (12 credit hours):

    • EDIS 9360 – Advanced Program Evaluation
    • EDIS 9330 – Applied Improvement Science Investigations I
    • EDIS 9340 – Applied Improvement Science Investigations II
    • EDIS 9890 – Advanced Doctoral Seminar

    Dissertation Course (minimum 18 credit hours):

    • EDIS 9910 – Doctoral Dissertation Research 1-18 Credits
  • Frequently Asked Questions
    Program Information

    What is an educational doctorate (EdD)?
    The Doctor of Education (EdD) is an applied professional doctorate designed with full-time PK-12 practitioners (who have an EdS or equivalent) in mind. The EdD Program prepares scholarly practitioners to solve complex problems of practice through the development of theoretical and practical knowledge as well as research skills. The Program has three themes including race, place (rurality), and poverty. Students build a strong background in leadership, ethics, diversity, research, and educational improvement science. Improvement Science is a method of inquiry that helps scholarly practitioners define problems, implement changes, and determine whether the changes result in improvement.

    What is the difference between an EdD and a PhD?
    The EdD is designed for PK-12 practitioners currently serving in school and district leadership roles. Through their coursework and as part of their dissertation in practice, students examine and work to solve educational problems, most often identified in their school or district setting. In this way, earning an EdD is intended to help prepare students to be educational leaders who will act as change agents in South Carolina and beyond. The PhD is designed to prepare education scholars, practitioners, and leaders across P-20 contexts who often work in school districts, community and state agencies, and institutions of higher education providing research-based educational policies and services.

    What is the format of the EdD Program?
    The EdD Program is delivered in a cohort format with online courses (a blend of synchronous and asynchronous) and face-to-face, in-person opportunities which include orientation and an annual summer summit as well as degree milestones (e.g., Comprehensive Qualifying Exam, Dissertation Proposal Defense, and Dissertation Defense).

    Do the students in the EdD Program typically keep their full-time jobs?
    Yes, students are typically employed full time in educational roles in PK-12 school districts. Students are not expected to leave their full-time jobs, as this is a degree for practitioners.

    What is the average time it takes someone to earn their EdD?
    Students begin and complete their coursework in a cohort model. All cohorts begin in the summer semester. Students complete four semesters of coursework and at least three semesters of dissertations credit hours as part of their program of study. The EdD Program in its entirety can be completed in just approximately two years and three months, at a minimum.

    Do you offer Graduate Assistantships with stipend and tuition waiver?
    No, Graduate Assistantships are generally not available for EdD students as they are practitioners who are employed full-time in PK-12 school districts.

    Admissions Requirements

    Is there a minimum number of years of classroom or educational leadership experience required?
    There is not a required minimum number of years of experience in a teaching or leadership role, but an Educational Specialist (EdS) degree (or equivalent) is required (minimum of a 3.0 GPA).

    How are applications evaluated?
    All applications are reviewed holistically by an Admissions Committee comprised of program faculty. Applicants are encouraged to include information in their application about their professional background (e.g., leadership experience, especially in high-need schools and/or serving diverse populations), academic preparation, and research interests (e.g., alignment with program themes of race, rurality, poverty, and improvement science).

    Application Process

    How do I apply to the EdD Program?
    All applications are submitted online at the Graduate School’s website:

    How many applicants are typically admitted to the EdD Program each year? 
    The number of applicants and admitted students varies each year; there is no pre-determined number or percentage for admittance to the program. The number of applicants accepted into the program depends on the qualifications of the individual applicants.

    I submitted my application in advance of the January 15th priority application deadline and was wondering will the decision be made in advance of the March 1st traditional application deadline?
    All completed applications submitted by the January 15th priority application deadline will be collectively reviewed by the Admissions Committee, and notifications will generally be sent by the Graduate School by theend of February. Completed applications submitted after the priority application deadline but by the March 1st traditional application deadline will be collectively reviewed by the Admissions Committee, and notifications will generally be sent by the Graduate School no later than the end of April. If an application is incomplete (e.g., one or more documents such as reference letter[s], transcript[s], etc.) have not been received by the Graduate School), applicants will not receive notification until after all documents have been received.  

  • Financial Information

    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.

  • Information Sessions & Calendar

    Review our College of Education Graduate Calendar to view upcoming events and information sessions.

  • Find Out More

    For more information regarding the program or questions associated with applying to the program, please contact Ashley Vaughan at

Department of Educational and Organizational Leadership Development
Department of Educational and Organizational Leadership Development | 330 Gantt Circle