Educational Leadership (Higher Ed)


Degrees Offered


Clemson’s Ph.D. program in educational leadership is designed primarily for working professionals to provide a strong background in five domains: leadership, research, policy, ethics and diversity. Two concentrations, P-12 and Higher Education, are offered for candidates pursuing the Ph.D. in educational leadership.

The Ph.D. prepares students to discover, integrate and apply knowledge as leaders in schools and postsecondary educational institutions and agencies. This is accomplished through close association with, and apprenticeship to, faculty members experienced in research, teaching and leadership. Doctoral students in educational leadership work closely with faculty on shared interests focused on leadership issues from the point of admission through their dissertation defense. 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; as college deans, directors and presidents; or as principals, district office leaders and superintendents.

This program will consider applicants for conditional letters of admission (CLA’s) pending successful completion of an approved English as a Second Language (ESL) program. More information can be found on the Conditional Language Admission page.


More information can be found in this graduate handbook.


Program of Study

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.

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 an 18-hour dissertation project. The categories of courses include a preliminary core, concentration courses, research courses, cognates, an internship, a post-comps core and research hours.

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.


Application Information

To be considered for admission, you will need a complete Graduate School application, a competitive GRE composite score, transcripts from baccalaureate and master’s degree programs, three letters of recommendation, a two-page letter discussing your reasons for pursuing this degree (especially focused on the field of educational leadership, higher education) and a résumé/curriculum vita listing educational background, work experiences, professional service and other related experiences. Applications should be received by October 1 for spring admission and by March 1 for summer or fall admission. Every required item in support of your application must be on file by the deadline date for consideration.

Required Documents

  • Online Application
  • Official GRE scores
  • Official TOEFL/IELTS/PTE scores for International Students
  • Unofficial Transcripts
    Official Transcripts required upon acceptance. Do not send official transcripts until you have received your letter of acceptance.
  • Letters of Recommendation (3)
  • Vita or Résumé
  • The cover letter must be two or three (2-3) pages in which candidate discusses (1) reasons for pursuing the Ph.D. degree in Educational Leadership, particularly as related to career and professional goals, i.e. elementary and secondary education or higher education, (2) one or more issues on which the candidate might like to do research, and (3) distinguishing characteristics that demonstrate candidate’s potential for success in this program. This letter will be evaluated as a writing sample. You may send an electronic version of this document to


Students enrolled in this program are not generally eligible for graduate assistantships.  Any student in this program seeking an assistantship must secure permission from the graduate program coordinator prior to accepting any assistantship offer.


Program Contact(s)

  • Alison Search
  • Office: University Center of Greenville
  • Phone: (864) 250-8880
  • Email:

Program Coordinator(s)