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College of Education

Educational Leadership, Ph.D.

Earn a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Clemson University College of Education

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, four-year colleges and universities, state and federal level educational policy bodies).


  • Overview

    The Ph.D. in Educational Leadership offers 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 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 a collective 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 

    The Educational Leadership doctoral program admits students for a fall entrance term. Only complete applications are considered for admission. To ensure consideration for an assistantship or University Fellowship, applicants are encouraged to apply by the priority deadline. 

    Application Deadlines

    • January 15, priority deadline - Applications will be reviewed and considered for assistantships
    • April 15, traditional deadline - Applications will be reviewed, but assistantships may or may not be available

    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 master's degree with minimum GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale
    • Have a minimum of three 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 an online Graduate School application which requires:
      • Unofficial transcripts (official transcript(s) will be required if you are accepted into the program)
      • A current resume
      • Three recommendation forms
        • Recommendation forms are emailed directly to recommenders via the online application process
          • Forms should be completed by current or prior supervisors and at least one professor from a prior degree program
      • A letter of intent
        • The letter will be evaluated for content and as a writing sample, must be two 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
          • How the program faculty can support you in completing this degree
      • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students

    Additional information concerning supporting materials

  • Program Requirements

    Educational Leadership Ph.D. (64 credit hours)

    Preliminary Core (6 credit hours):

    EDL 9100 – Introductory Doctoral Seminar

    EDL 9050 – Theory and Practice in Educational Leadership 

    Concentration (18 credit 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 

    See Program Handbook for options

    Research Core (13 minimum credit hours):

    EDF 9270 – Quantitative Research Designs and Statistics for Educational Contexts

    EDF 9271 – Quantitative Research Designs and Statistics for Educational Contexts Lab

    EDF 9770 - Multiple Regression/General Linear Model in Educational Research

    EDF 9790 – Qualitative Research in Education

    Must take at least two of the following advanced research courses: EDF 9710, 9720, 9730, 9740, 9750, 9010

    Internship (3 credit hours):

    EDL 9860 - Internship in Educational Leadership

    Elective (3 credit hours)

    Candidacy Core (3 credit hours):

    An additional course to supplement your dissertation content area. 

    EDL 9880 – Directed Research

    Dissertation (18 credit hours):

    EDL 9910 – Doctoral Dissertation Research

  • Students Share Experiences In Our Programs
  • 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.

    A limited number of graduate assistantships are available each year through the department, and they tend to be competitive. Assistantships are available to full-time students (enrolled in at least nine credit hours per semester) and typically require a 20-hour per week work commitment. To be considered for an assistantship, we encourage applicants to submit their applications by the priority deadline.

  • 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