Of all the doctoral programs in education available online, education leadership and administration is one of the most popular choices. Earning a doctoral degree in this field opens the door to careers in academia as well as top management positions on college campuses, in K-12 schools, or even with organizations like the Department of Education.

Our initial list of all eligible online doctoral programs in educational leadership came from College Navigator, a searchable database that allowed us to specify a set list of criteria. We accepted as candidates only those schools with online Ph.D. or Ed.D. programs in educational leadership or administration; that are classified as public or private non-profit institutions; and are offered through full four-year colleges. We also limited our search to schools with a maximum acceptance rate of 70% in order to zone in on the more selective programs. To score the remaining programs, we devised a system in which each college or university could obtain points for their performance in specific areas, including:

Featured Programs

Size of the program. We used College Navigator to look at the number of doctoral degrees in educational leadership that were awarded for the 2014-15 school year. We correlated higher numbers in this category with program popularity and student retention. It is difficult to know how many students in a particular degree program graduated compared to how many enrolled in any given year, but it is safe to say that colleges that confer high numbers of degrees in a specific field have either taken steps to make that program very appealing to students; worked hard to make sure the students that do enroll, stay enrolled; or both.

ELCC National Recognition. The primary accrediting body for educator training programs at the collegiate level is the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Within this agency, there are several “Specialized Professional Associations” (SPAs) that are linked to specific subfields of education. For example, the ELCC concentrates solely on education leadership. Like most SPAs, the ELCC regularly evaluates graduate programs within this discipline and produces a list of “nationally recognized” schools that maintain a quality and consistency of teaching that deserve a status beyond simply being NCATE-accredited. This category was our main source of information in calculating our top Ed.D educational leadership online ranking. We gave schools points for having recognized doctoral programs as well as master’s programs. In the latter case, we operated upon the belief that if a university earns this prestigious recognition for a lower-level graduate degree, we can take this as an indication of its commitment to providing a top-tier education at all other levels of study as well.

Tuition. As with most of our top rankings, we consider cost to be an important factor – particularly for online degrees that attract working/adult/nontraditional students. For consistency, we acquired all tuition-related information from College Navigator, averaging in-state and out-of-state expenses in the case of public schools.

We awarded points to each school based on their performances in each category and then summed these to produce a final score, which we scaled according to a 100-point maximum score. We have included these scores below along with descriptions of each school and their approximate annual tuition rates.

University of North Carolina Greensboro Top EdD in Educational Leadership Online

Although this online Ed.D. program in education does require some on-campus visits, they are limited to a few evening courses over the entire length of the degree.

10. University of North Carolina-Greensboro

Greensboro, NC

Online EdS in Educational Leadership

With a unique blend of in-class and digital coursework, the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s doctoral program in Educational Leadership combines quality and convenience at every level. Low-residency requirements (i.e., weekly evening and occasional weekend course sessions) are spread across 11 courses in Administration and Leadership; Curricular and Instructional Leadership; and Social and Cultural Foundations. In just 33 credit hours, students in this top online Ed.D. program acquire the knowledge, skills, and credentials they need to succeed as top administrators, principals, and superintendents in the North Carolina public education system.
Tuition & Fees: $14,213/yr
Score: 59

Rowan University Top EdD in Educational Leadership Online

Getting an Ed.D in Educational Leadership online at Rowan University starts with choosing your preferred concentration – and there are four great choices!

9. Rowan University

Glassboro, NJ

Online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

Rowan University’s three-phase doctoral program in Educational Leadership is one of the most personalized and comprehensive degree tracks for education professionals seeking management and executive positions in public school systems. With concentrations available in Higher Education, P-12 (i.e., primary and secondary education), Nurse Education, as well as Rowan’s trademarked Community College Leadership Initiative (CCLI), candidates in this program can tailor their coursework and research to the focus areas of their choosing. Plus, students earning this affordable Ed.D. in educational leadership online have the option of completing their coursework in online or blended formats to suit their scheduling needs.
Tuition & Fees: $15,532/yr
Score: 63

Morgan State University Top EdD in Educational Leadership Online

Morgan State University’s online Ed.D program in higher education is one of the few to combine both leadership and community college administration into a single degree.

8. Morgan State University

Baltimore, MD

Online Community College Leadership Doctoral Program

Morgan State University’s accredited online Ed.D. program in education finds strength in a three-pronged approach to teaching that values impactful research, compassionate diversity, and local outreach as equal priorities. This 100% online, three-year program is geared towards current educational professionals, and the cohort learning model encourages intellectual cross-pollination and collaboration. In this system, students learn and grow together over the years, gaining fluency in the latest quantitative and qualitative research methods; educational policies and technologies; and many of the best practices for leadership and management in a public school setting.
Tuition & Fees: $11,556/yr
Score: 68

New Mexico State University Top EdD in Educational Leadership Online

If you can’t decide between an online Ph.D. or Ed.D. program in educational leadership, fear not: New Mexico State University has both!

7. New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, NM

Online Doctor of Education or Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership

To say that the doctoral education curriculum at New Mexico State University is interdisciplinary would be an understatement. Whether you are a candidate for a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) or doctor of philosophy (Ph.D) in Educational Leadership at this trailblazing institution, you’re sure to absorb a wealth of material knowledge that spans law, policy, leadership and management, and technology—just to name a few. What’s more, NMSU offers not only one of the cheapest online Ed.D. degrees in the country, but also one of the best values for a hybridized in-person/distance learning format.
Tuition & Fees: $10,024/yr
Score: 80

Hampton University Top EdD in Educational Leadership Online

Attending the online doctoral program in educational leadership and management at Hampton University gives you the change to develop expertise in a highly specialized field, such as STEM Leadership or Special Education.

6. Hampton University

Hampton, VA

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Management

As educational institutions become increasingly specialized, they increasingly rely on leaders who possess advanced credentials in specific areas. That’s why Hampton University offers four tracks in its affordable online Ed.D. program. With concentrations available in Higher Education, Pre-K-12 Education, STEM Leadership, and Special Education, Hampton provides its doctoral candidates with the targeted skills and resources they need to seek out leadership positions in the public and private sector alike. This so-called “executive” program is the perfect bridge for administrators looking to build their resumes, networks, and apply their research in real-life educational settings.
Tuition & Fees: $10,298/yr
Score: 80

University of Houston Clear Lake Top EdD in Educational Leadership Online

The affordable Ed.D in educational leadership online from UHCL doesn’t pick favorites; research, writing, and management are all equal priorities of this comprehensive curriculum.

5. University of Houston-Clear Lake

Houston, TX

Online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

At the University of Houston Clear Lake, candidates earning their Ed.D. in Educational leadership online obtain an array of highly actionable and marketable skills that equip them for leadership roles throughout the public school system. That’s why UHCL’s curriculum is divided into three core competencies: Leadership (marketing, strategic planning, human and financial resources), Research (qualitative, quantitative, seminars), and Communications (professional writing, diversity training, management). Before they graduate, candidates have their chance to apply these foundational skills in person as well as on paper through both real program evaluations and a final dissertation.
Tuition & Fees: $11,196/yr
Score: 84

University of North Texas Top EdD in Educational Leadership Online

The University of North Texas’ Ph.D. in Educational Leadership online program offers the academic and financial support that many doctoral candidates need.

4. University of North Texas

Denton, TX

Online Educational Leadership Doctoral Degree Program

Whether you’re looking for a top online Ph.D. or Ed.D. program, the University of North Texas has you covered. But (wait!) there’s more; UNT also offers a superintendent certification that can you can easily acquire alongside either of these terminal degrees. Like many other programs on this list, UNT requires Ed.D. and Ph.D. candidates alike to take a comprehensive survey of courses in leadership, research, and statistics, and to demonstrate the breadth of their knowledge through an independent research project. But with a Dissertation Boot Camp, Graduate Student Writing Support Office, and numerous merit scholarships dedicated to Educational Leadership students, few schools provide the overwhelming support you’ll find at UNT.
Tuition & Fees: $10,675/yr
Score: 88

Texas A M University Commerce Top EdD in Educational Leadership Online

Of all the Ed.D educational leadership online degrees, Texas A&M University has one of the most selective.

3. Texas A&M University-Commerce

Commerce, TX

Online Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Texas A & M University at Commerce offers not only the most affordable online Ed.D. program in higher education in the state, but also arguably the best. As a result, this program is predictably selective—TAMUC only admits two online doctoral candidates to its online education program every year. But TAMUC’s program is also somewhat self-selecting, distinguishing itself from others on this list due to its explicit focus on educational administration. So while it may be more attractive to those with their hearts set on becoming a principal or superintendent, pure academics need not apply.
Tuition & Fees: $9,010/yr
Score: 90

Purdue University Top EdD in Educational Leadership Online

Students in Purdue University’s online doctoral program in educational leadership benefit from occasional face-to-face meetings that provide interactive learning and networking opportunities.

2. Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN

Online Doctoral Program in Educational Administration

Purdue University’s accredited online Ed.D. program in education is arguably the most affordable and convenient way to earn a world-class degree from this prestigious institution – regardless of your chosen field. While Purdue’s large-format (8-10 students) cohort systems makes it one of the least intimate of such programs on this list, candidates have nearly as much to gain from each other as the qualified faculty. Entire cohorts take core classes via “distance education technology” and meet twice a semester on Saturdays to engage more deeply with the coursework, collaborate on projects, and network with potential future colleagues.
Tuition & Fees: $19,403/yr
Score: 90

Liberty University Top EdD in Educational Leadership Online

In addition to its other selling points, Liberty University boasts the cheapest online Ed.D. on this ranking – and possibly in the entire country.

1. Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.): Educational Leadership

Liberty University may be the cheapest online Ed.D. degree available anywhere. Under most circumstances, that would raise an eyebrow or two, but we’re certain that an online degree in Education Leadership from Liberty is as good of a value as you can get. With a host of NCATE-accredited courses that span technology, research, ethics and management, law, and cultural training, Liberty leaves no stone un-turned in its quest for career preparation. Not to mention that, aside from just three on-campus intensives throughout the entire program (and one on-campus dissertation defense), you can earn the entire degree from anywhere in the world!
Tuition & Fees: $8,000/yr
Score: 100

You’ve reached the end of our ranking of Ph.D. educational leadership online programs.

Related Resource: Top 10 Master’s in Educational Leadership Online 2016


College Navigator
Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)