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Degree Options / Ed.D. and Ph.D.

A postmaster’s program developed by Virginia Tech to prepare educational administrators for leadership roles in school systems and related agencies.

Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership


Degrees Offered

The Educational Leadership doctoral program awards either an Ed.D. or Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Ed.D. students complete a minimum of 69 hours of coursework, conduct practically-focused dissertation research, and usually pursue careers in higher-lever educational administration. Ph.D. students complete a minimum of 78 hours of coursework, conduct more theoretically-focused dissertation research, and usually pursue careers in university teaching and/or research (for example, as professors of educational policy). Both degree tracks require the same core classes, and only diverge in the dissertation phase.

Currently, the vast majority of our doctoral students pursue the Ed.D.: as such, we advertise our doctoral cohorts as “Ed.D. cohorts” and treat the Ed.D. as the default degree option.

Students may attend the doctoral program at one of five Virginia Tech graduate extension centers: the Hampton Roads Center (in Virginia Beach), the Northern Virginia Center (in Falls Church), the Richmond Center, the Roanoke Center, and the Southwest Virginia Center (in Abingdon).


Doctoral students complete a minimum of 69 (or, for the Ph.D., 78) hours of research and coursework on a mostly part-time basis. Courses are conducted in the evening to fit the schedules of full-time educators, and the majority of courses are taught in-person or via blended learning.

Students complete all core coursework within six semesters, and graduate after a minimum of eight semesters, or approximately three years. Some students require additional semesters to complete their dissertation research, but most still graduate within three to four years of starting the program.

Course topics include advanced school law, advanced school finance, instructional leadership, governance and policy, facilities planning, theories of administration, and quantitative research methods. Each course touches upon relevant, contemporary issues in K-12 education, such as standardized testing, school safety, special education, school accreditation, diversity, educational politics, and educational reform.

The Ed.D. or Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies is not awarded solely on the basis of coursework completion. To graduate, each doctoral student must also conduct a major research study culminating in the presentation and defense of a dissertation. The Ed.D. dissertation demonstrates a student’s ability to investigate practical issues in educational administration – in program implementation, program evaluation, curriculum development, or another related topic. The Ph.D. dissertation is an original, empirical study that extends theory and contributes to the field of educational research. Most students write their dissertations in the traditional five-chapter research paper format.
The VT Educational Leadership doctoral program is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and the Educational Leadership Constituent Council. It is approved by the Virginia Board of Education.
Admission Requirements

To enroll in the doctoral program, an applicant must have:

  • An appropriate master’s-level degree from an accredited institution
  • At least a 3.3 GPA on one’s most recent two years of university coursework
  • Experience serving in a school leadership position

We require GRE scores only from Ph.D. applicants. Doctoral applicants are expected to have already earned the Virginia school administration and supervision endorsement or equivalent licensure, and to already have some experience in P-12 administration.

Selection Procedures

The doctoral program is conducted on a cohort basis: please see this page for a schedule of upcoming cohorts and this page for application instructions.

Qualified applicants will be asked to attend an candidate interview: program faculty – and occasionally practicing school leaders – will serve on the interview committee. Just prior to the interview, applicants will complete a 45-minute writing prompt based around a modern educational issue.

The interview committee will evaluate applicants on the basis of their academic potential, leadership experience, communication and interpersonal skills, technological competence, favorable recommendations, and commitment to both completing the program and continuing service as educational leaders.