Online PhD in Leadership for Higher Education

A candidate for a PhD in Leadership for Higher Education—also called Educational Administration, Student Affairs, or College Counseling—can expect to commit between four to six years to the completion of the degree, which includes coursework, a comprehensive General Exam, and a doctoral dissertation.

The first two to three years are typically dedicated to the fulfillment of the core, elective, and research study requirements. For PhD in Leadership for Higher Education students, this sequence of courses will cover standard school organization theories, school evaluation and reform, as well as leadership theory, psychology, and practice, in addition to whatever subject the student chooses as a specialized research topic.

Following the coursework phase, students will prepare for and take the General Exam, and then propose their dissertation thesis to their dissertation committees. The General Exam is a comprehensive test of all studied material, usually in the form of very few, very involved academic questions and, frequently, an oral component, taken after the coursework has been completed. While some universities set a time limit for the completion of the doctoral dissertation, many just leave students to complete it as they are able, which in general takes another two or three years, and culminates in between 250-300 pages of original research. Once the dissertation is completed, students will defend it in front of their committee, and at some institutions, in public forum, and after the dissertation has been approved by the committee, the student will graduate with a doctoral degree in Leadership for Higher Education.

About Online PhD Programs in Leadership for Higher Education

The online PhD in Leadership for Higher Education will prepare students who have a Bachelor’s or Masters’ level background in education, counseling, or university administration for leadership and managerial careers within universities and related business and educational institutions. Graduates with an online Leadership for Higher Education PhD will: set academic standards and insure that students meet these standards; maintain relationships with current, prospective, and former students; develop student service programs to best serve their students; and oversee academic records, budgets, and other administrative duties as needed.

Online PhD programs in Leadership for Higher Education require between 60 to 72 credit hours beyond the Masters degree and can take 3-4 years to complete. Course study for the online PhD Leadership for Higher Education will teach students about the various administrative matters involved in running a university, as well as theory and practice of teaching for those wishing to pursue professor positions.

The required coursework for the online PhD Leadership for Higher Education will require students to study the history and theory of university education, as well as statistics. Students will be required to research, legal and financial issues in addition to completing an internship. Some common courses in online doctoral programs in Leadership for Higher Education include: (course titles and material from Capella University's course catalog)

Year One:

  • Foundations of Student Development Administration.. Students will learn the foundation and application of student development programs at both community colleges and university settings.
  • Programming for Conferences, Seminars, Workshops.. Students will learn the theory and application of how to stimulate learning through educational conferences, seminars and workshops.
  • Economic Development and Higher Education.. Students pursuing online Doctoral degrees in Leadership for Higher Education will learn the theory of human and student capital, as well as federal and state policy.

Year Two:

  • The Professoriate in Higher Education.. Student will learn about the history and development of professors in North America, as well as current research, statistics, and theory in university level teaching.
  • Principles of Educational Administration. This course presents an overview of the basic principles of administrative theory and practice and the six Educational Leadership Constituents Council (ELCC) standards. Learners examine business and public administration models and explore theoretical constructs from various disciplines.
  • The Historical and Social Foundations of Education. In this course, learners study the historical and social foundations of education to gain an awareness of and a context for its evolving practice. Learners explore the ways educational institutions have emerged and developed, particularly in relation to societal functions and expectations. Learners also develop the knowledge, skills, and points of view needed to understand the evolution of education as a whole and its contributing socio-cultural forces.

Year Three:

  • The Funding of Educational Institutions. Learners in this course examine a variety of public education funding issues. In particular, learners examine the effect of litigation and politics on present and future funding patterns and school finance reform. Learners also identify the ways politics have affected the allocation of resources at all levels of government.
  • Education and the Law. In this course, learners analyze laws and legal issues affecting P–12 school systems and their constituents. Learners focus on recognizing legal issues before they arise and study the methods and tools used to prevent and resolve legal problems.
  • Teacher Supervision and Evaluation. Learners in this course examine current theories and best practices of teacher supervision and evaluation. In particular, learners focus on instructional leadership and professional development as part of a systemic plan to improve student learning.

Year Four:

  • Introduction to School Business and Administration. In this course, learners examine the fundamentals of school business administration. Topics include accounting and budgeting, facilities planning and construction, purchasing and warehousing, staffing, maintenance and operations, risk management, information technology, nutrition services, and transportation. Learners also explore the legal requirements associated with school business administration.
  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Educational Process. The focus of this course is on higher education program evaluation. Learners analyze various program evaluation models used to assess the effectiveness of college and university education programs. Learners also design appropriate and effective program evaluation models and use them to conduct an evaluation of a simulated program.
  • The Future of Teaching and Learning: Issues for the Educational Leader. In this course, learners explore and analyze the issues shaping higher education. Learners use futuring methods to examine the ways history, technology, trends, and change affect the future of higher education.

Students pursuing an online doctorate in Leadership for Higher Education will also be faced with the comprehensive General Exam—though for online doctoral programs in Leadership for Higher Education, there is not usually an oral section—as well as the dissertation. The dissertation requirements for online doctorate programs in Leadership for Higher Education are generally the same as for conventional institutions, and are self-directed to the same extent as other programs as well. Another requirement of most Leadership for Higher Education PhD programs online is a residency, where students will interact with professors and other students in a more traditional way, learning leadership skills and analyzing real-world problems cooperatively in a way that would be difficult online.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Leadership for Higher Education

Online doctoral degrees in Leadership for Higher Education are especially valuable insofar as they are primarily research degrees that develop students into responsible, self-motivated learners, and foster in them a sense of authority over their field of study. This skill is important because students commonly transition into teaching positions after graduating from online PhD programs in Leadership for Higher Education, and professors at the post secondary level require complete mastery over and expertise in their subject.

However, one criticism that could be weighed against online doctorate degrees in Leadership for Higher Education is that they do not fully or adequately prepare graduates with real leadership experience that they can take with them out into the job market. Many graduates of Leadership for Higher Education PhD programs online go on to supervisorial or managerial positions in education administration—but without real world experience to complement their degree, students may find employment in these types of positions a difficult challenge.

Application & Admission Requirements

As noted above, admission into an online PhD Leadership for Higher Education program requires a master's level education in a related field, such as educational administration. Without a master's, it is unlikely that students will possess the necessary background in leadership, educational and psychological theory for success in online doctoral programs in Leadership for Higher Education. Ideally, candidates will also have substantial work experience in a related field; the concepts learned while pursuing an online PhD in Leadership for Higher Education will be best absorbed by students who have already been exposed to the practical side of the field.

In addition to and regardless of this experience, there are several standard documents that are required of applicants. These documents include the application form, official transcripts from previous institutions, a resume listing all professional and academic experience and honors, up to three letters of recommendation (where they are required), graduate test scores (GRE or GMAT, where required) and a statement of purpose explaining the student's aim in pursuing graduate study, and where she plans to take the degree.

Career Options & Job Market

An online Leadership for Higher Education PhD will open the door to a dynamic and rewarding career that is predicted to have rapid job growth and opportunities for advancement and job security over the next 8-10 years according to education administrators.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, career prospects for those pursuing a career in Higher Education Leadership are excellent as the demand for higher education degrees increases, and new positions open up due to the retirement of incumbents. Therefore, pursuing an online doctorate in Leadership for Higher Education is a wise career move.

Top careers in the field include:

  • Director of Academic Support Services: Provide oversight and develop programs for campus tutoring centers. Salary: Average salary: $75,000.
  • Director, Academic Advising: Provide oversight on academic programs and develop and maintain course catalogs. Average salary: $57,000.
  • Director of Compliance for the Department of Athletics: Provide oversight and insure compliance with local, state, federal, and NCAA requirements for student athletes. Average Salary: $37,000.
  • Assistant Director, Center for Students with Disabilities: Provide oversight in assessment and accommodations for students with disabilities. Average salary: $52,000.
  • Director of Special Projects: Develop and implement projects on the university campus to raise awareness and address specific issues. Average salary: $54,000 USD per year.

Most positions require at least a Masters degree, but online PhD programs will give you a competitive edge that will increase your salary in today’s competitive job market and tough economy.

Where to Find Information

  • AASA The American Association of School Administrators is an educational advocacy organization that seeks the highest possible quality education for all public schools, and develops and supports leaders in the field.
  • NASPA The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators is a professional association at the fore of student affairs administration, which strives to serve the “whole student” by improving learning environments, conditions, and policies.
  • AIEA The Association of International Education Administrators focuses on bettering international educational administration and programming, and connects a worldwide network of professionals in the field.
  • NSBA The National School Boards Association is a nonprofit organization that acts on behalf of, and advocates for change in state associations of school boards across the US, working in close cooperation with federal agencies and other national organizations.

How to Get Funding

Generally there are two types of funding available to students pursuing an online Leadership for Higher Education PhD: scholarships and grants. Scholarships are usually need- or merit-based, and can be highly competitive. Grants can take a number of forms depending on the source of the funds—the two most common are government grants, given to students with demonstrated financial need and outstanding educational history, and research grants, awarded after a proposal has been submitted to a government department, a corporation, a business, or sometimes an individual, promising to research a submitted topic and return with data and conclusions about it.

Tuition costs for one semester or quarter vary from school to school, but to give a preliminary picture of what total expenses for an online doctorate in Leadership for Higher Education will be, here are the tuition prices of two online universities: 1) Capella University—$4,485 per quarter, with a limit of three courses per quarter (except dissertation quarters, which are $3,945), and 2) Northcentral University—$2,200 per course. That puts total cost for Capella University somewhere between $43,644 and $51,768, and around $22,000 for Northcentral University.

The following websites will be instrumental in a search for funds for a Leadership for Higher Education PhD online:

  • AASA Educational Administration Scholarship Awards. The AASA awards $2,500 to seven outstanding graduate students whose ultimate goal is to pursue school superintendency as a career.
  • AASA Awards & Scholarships. In addition to the scholarships listed above, the AASA also awards numerous other funds to exemplary students and excellent leaders in education, or other outstanding figures in the educational administration field.
  • NASPA Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation of the Year Award. NASPA annually awards one graduate student a Dissertation of the Year honor, which includes an opportunity to present the dissertation research at conferences, consideration for publication, and monetary reward for conducting future research.

Essential Advice

  • Online PhD degrees in Leadership for Higher Education degrees are powerful by themselves, but if you truly wish to hold a leadership position in educational administration, there is no substitute for real-world experience. This does not mean that you should forfeit your pursuit of an online Leadership for Higher Education doctorate, but instead means that you should work some practical knowledge of the field into your resume by the time you start applying for leadership positions. That experience in coordination with a doctoral degree from a top online university will have much more weight than either by itself.
  • Instead of pursuing Leadership for Higher Education PhD programs online right after your master's, consider taking a brief sojourn from your studies to gather some experience in the field you intend to study. This will have twofold benefits: first, as mentioned previously, real-world experience is an integral part of a successful career; but second, a little time away from school, operating in the sector you have been studying will give you an opportunity to evaluate the work from a different, more practical capacity, and might provide insights that school alone could not. Perhaps studying and performing are too disparate in nature, and Leadership for Higher Education doctorate degrees online would be a waste of time and money. Or conversely, maybe you find that working is enjoyable, but that researching new methods in Leadership for Higher Education PhD programs online is the right thing for you. The only way to know is to try.
  • Always do your research. Not all online programs are created equal; the best programs will be accredited by a regional accrediting institution, and many of the top programs have other national distinctions and legitimate features (such as residencies) that other, less credible programs will not.