Educational Administration PhD Program Overviews

Students can earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in K-12 Educational Policy and Administration or a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration. These programs will prepare students for leadership and administrative roles in education.

Essential Information

Educational administrators are leaders, organizers, researchers and policy-makers at all levels of education. Students can earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in K-12 Educational Policy and Administration and work in an elementary or secondary school setting. Licensure is required for principals in elementary and high schools, and Ph.D. programs prepare graduates for licensing. Alternatively, students can earn a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and pursue a career at a college or university.

Doctor of Philosophy in K-12 Educational Policy and Administration

Students in a Ph.D. program in K-12 Educational Policy and Administration learn the practical application of education and leadership theories, analytical thought and conceptual analysis. This program consists of a scholarly dissertation and intensive coursework in education, policy and research methods. Upon graduation, students are prepared for positions in an elementary or secondary education setting and are eligible to be licensed principals or superintendents. Graduates can also become educational researchers or policy-makers at a state or district level. As with most doctoral degree programs, enrollment in a Ph.D. program in educational administration requires a master's degree or the equivalent, preferably in a related field of study. Such programs typically enroll a handful of students each semester. Minimum undergraduate and graduate GPAs, recent GRE scores, admissions essays, letters of recommendation and letters of intent may all be required. Students who have earned a master's degree in a related field may find that some graduate credits are transferable.

Doctor of Philosophy in K-12 Educational Policy Administration programs require 60-78 total credits of coursework. About two-thirds of these course credits are dedicated to coursework and about one-third to a dissertation. Most programs culminate with final oral or written examinations. Classroom work covers:

  • Educational politics
  • Research design and methods
  • Leadership principles
  • Educational perspectives
  • Governing educational institutions
  • Educational organizations

Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration

A Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration program prepares graduates for leadership positions at postsecondary educational institutions like colleges and universities. The core of such programs includes intensive research and policy-making seminars, foundation studies in higher education and methodological coursework. A dissertation is a major requirement of most Ph.D. programs and an optional internship may be included. Most students who pursue a Ph.D. in Educational Administration may already work in education as teachers or lower-level administrators. A master's degree or equivalent is an admissions requirement for most Ph.D. programs. Depending upon the institution, other requirements might include minimum GPAs or GRE scores.

A scholarly dissertation is a major aspect of most Ph.D. programs in educational administration. Other core coursework may include:

  • Principles in higher education
  • Higher education administration
  • Organization in higher education
  • Educational philosophies
  • History of higher education
  • Public Policy

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The salary range for educational administrators varies depending upon the position's responsibility level, the location of the school district and the total enrollment of students. The mean annual earnings for elementary and secondary school education administrators were $92,940 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Employment opportunities for elementary, middle and high school principals were estimated to increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024, a growth rate on par with the average for all job fields.

The highest-paid position that a higher education administrator can generally achieve is chief academic officer, also sometimes referred to as the university or college president. Postsecondary education administrators earned a mean yearly salary of $102,610 as of 2015, according to the BLS.

Popular Career Options

Graduates with a Ph.D. in K-12 Educational Administration can pursue careers at several levels at both elementary and secondary schools:

  • Elementary school principal
  • Secondary school principal
  • Assistant principal
  • Superintendent

Graduates with a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration are prepared for administrative roles within a college or university setting or as a higher education researcher.

  • Academic dean
  • Chief academic officer
  • Dean of students
  • Registrar
  • Director of student activities

With a Ph.D. in education administration, students are prepared to take on leadership positions. Future administrators have the option of working at the elementary or middle school level.

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