Earn a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) that is affordable, online, and designed for educational leaders –  from the state’s flagship university.

Great school leaders face complex issues, yet remain motivated to break through barriers and make a difference. If this is your passion, earning a doctorate will not just put “Dr.” in front of your name. Students in this online program will use a mixed-methods action research (MMAR) dissertation design to address a leadership problem of practice within their organization. This online program provides the research-basis for the real-world initiatives you are leading. As you engage with teachers, administrators, boards, parents and business/community leaders, your work will be enriched by your doctoral training.

Many educators tell us they value a deep, enriching doctoral experience at a top tier university, but cannot put their careers on hold. Our online program is both rigorous and accessible to working professionals.

The Ed.D. is an executive Ed.D., or practitioner doctorate, designed for motivated professionals who work in leadership roles and stimulate meaningful change in educational systems. You will have the unique opportunity to use your current position as the real-world basis for your research and goals.

Among a tight cohort of doctoral students, you will advance together in the online program. We engage in lively, online class discussions. You will learn from each other and become a team striving to make an impact in education.

As a graduate of our program, you will have a professional network of faculty and alumni to consult as you navigate challenges and work to lead and transform schools.


We wish a warm welcome to all of our future and current students as well as alumni who are visiting our Ed.D. program page. This program is led by distinguished faculty whose mission is to prepare committed graduate students to serve as educational leaders across a number of educational contexts such as early care and education, P-12, and higher education. You will explore, innovate, and discover alongside faculty and a cohort of fellow peers during our completely online program. We hope you find this information helpful and energizing as you begin your doctoral journey.

Dr. Justin Bathon, Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership Studies

Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Still have questions? We are available to help during your application process.

Questions About the Application Form, Checking for Completeness, Uploading Materials

Questions About the Programs, Materials or Qualifications Related to the Application, or Entrance to the Programs



Program Outcomes

Educators who choose to earn a doctorate often serve in roles such as:

  • Directors/Assistant Directors
  • Principals/Assistant Principals
  • Administrative and academic deans
  • Academic deans
  • Coaches
  • Others leaders (various positions)




You will work with the program chair and DGS during the first semester to create your program plan, which will be reviewed regularly and updated as needed.

You will take twelve (12) required courses and two (2) elective courses based on your specialty area, which totals around 42 credit hours of post-master’s graduate coursework, not including dissertation residency.

You will also complete at least four credit hours of dissertation residency (EDL 767).

All courses taught in the Department of Educational Leadership are online and include five to six live, synchronous class sessions via Zoom. Some courses are taught on Saturdays, others are taught in the evening during the workweek.

Program Pathway

The program below represents the academic program and sequence.

Leadership Core Research Method Core Writing Core Electives
18 hours 15 hours 3 hours 6 hours
  • EDL 700: Knowledge Base*
  • EDL 701: Leadership in Educational Organizations I*
  • EDL 702: Leadership for Organizational Learning*
  • EDL 703: Leading Organizational Change
  • EDL 571: Design Thinking in Education
  • EDL 669: Leadership for Creative Problem Solving
  • EDL 751: Foundations of Inquiry*
  • ELS 620: Introduction to Action Research
  • ELS 621: Seminar in Educational Leadership: Leading Action Research and Inquiry II*
  • EDL 771: Seminar in Educational Leadership: Mixed Methods
  • EDL 792: Research in Educational Leadership
  • EDL 770 – 210: Topical Seminar in Educational Leadership: Academic Writing
  • EDL 770 – 211: Topical Seminar in Educational Leadership: The Literature Review
  • EDL 770 – 212: Topical Seminar in Educational Leadership: Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks
  • Choose two electives.

*Denotes course in which live Zoom class sessions are held on five to six Saturdays during the sixteen-week term.


Year 1 (18 hours)

Fall (6 hours)

Spring (6 hours)

Summer (6 hours)

You’re a doc student!

  • EDL 700: Knowledge Base for Leaders
  • EDL 751: Foundations of Inquiry

Take two courses.

  • EDL 701: Leadership in Educational Organizations
  • ELS 620: Leading Action REsearch and Inquiry I

Create a plan for diagnosing a problem of practice for your dissertation.

No summertime blues!

  • EDL 703: Leading Organizational Change
  • EDL 770-210: Topical Seminar in Educational Leadership: Academic Writing
  • EDL 770-211: Topical Seminar in Educational Leadership: The Literature Review
  • EDL 770-212: Topical Seminar in Educational Leadership: Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks

Implement diagnosis plan, conduct literature review for problem of practice

Year 2 (12-15 hours) Cumulative of 30-33

Fall (6 hours)

Spring (6 hours)

Summer (0-3 hours)

Select your major advisor and choose an elective.

  • EDL 702: Leadership for Organizational Learning
  • ELS 621: Leading Action Research and Inquiry II

Work with your advisor to select committee members. Hold your program planning meeting.

Spring forward!

  • EDL 669: Leadership for Creative Problem Solving
  • EDL 771: Seminar in Educational Leadership: Mixed Methods

Work with your advisor on your prospectus from ELS 620 diagnosis. Hold your prospectus meeting.

Option to enroll in elective.

Year 3 (9-12 hours) Cumulative of 42 required

Fall (3-6 hours)

Spring (3-6 hours)

Summer (0 hours)

Continue your research.

  • EDL 571: Design Thinking in Education
  • Elective required if you didn’t take one in summer of Year 2

Design the reconnaissance phase of your study.

Take your last class!

  • EDL 792: Research in Educational Leadership
  • Optional Elective EDL 704

Work on QE Chapters 1-2 (QE)

Hold your QE (May)

You’re a doctoral candidate!

  • No required classes. Just work on your dissertation.
Year 4



Just keep writing…just keep writing…

  • Enroll in EDL 767 every fall and spring semester until you are done with your dissertation.

Defend your dissertation.

  • EDL 767
  • You are (possibly) done! Be sure to complete all required forms with the graduate school.


Later Stages

Qualifying Exam and Dissertation

Prior to completing 39 credits, you will identify a dissertation chair and form a dissertation advisory committee according to UK Graduate School regulations. Prior to enrolling in EDL 792, Research in Educational Leadership (proposal writing course), you must present a dissertation prospectus for
review by the dissertation committee. Once the prospectus is approved, you can enroll in EDL 792 and begin the proposal writing process for the dissertation.

Qualifying Examination

You will be eligible to sit for the qualifying examination upon successful completion of 42 credits of doctoral coursework. The qualifying exam process includes a written and an oral component.

Dissertation Residency

You must enroll in EDL 767 Dissertation Residency Credit (2 credits) the semester in which the qualifying examination is scheduled. You will remain continually enrolled in EDL 767 until successfully passing an oral examination (i.e., dissertation defense). Students are required to complete a minimum of two semesters of EDL 767 before they can graduate. Students are not required to be on campus for their residency.


After passing the qualifying examination, you will be a doctoral candidate eligible to proceed with dissertation research. Approval to conduct research must be sought from the UK Institutional Review Board (IRB) and any other entities requiring permission to conduct research at a site or to use existing data.

Oral Examination

The summative assessment for the doctoral program is a defense of a completed dissertation during a formal oral examination conducted by your advisory committee and an external reviewer representing the UK Graduate School. Candidates who pass the oral examination have up to 60 days to make revisions to a dissertation before submitting a final copy in required format to the Department of Educational Leadership Studies and the Graduate School. You must complete all degree requirements within five years of passing the qualifying examination.


Our Program Experience

Oriented toward Educational Leaders

Online, Cohort-based Experience with Summer Doc Week

Relevant, Authentic Problems of Practice in Educational Contexts

We value:


Our program prepares educators to assume formal leadership roles within educational organizations across the developmental continuum (early care and education, public schools, higher education, community education).


We value leaders that are capable of leading change within organizations. In an era of technology shifts, economic uncertainty, and global challenges educationally-based organizations will need to be nimble to deliver high quality learning experiences to children on a daily basis.


Because collective leadership by administrators and teachers is essential for successful organizations, our program emphasizes developing interpersonal relationships and interdependence to achieve shared visions and goals.


Educational organizations should be places where everyone is provided equitable opportunities. Our program is unapologetic in preparing leaders to make educational organizations places that value diversity through welcoming school cultures and socially just policies.


Because organizational leaders are community leaders as well as building leaders, we value the broader role of leadership within communities. This community nature extends to our program also, as students are part of a tight-knit community within their cohort as they complete the program.


All courses integrate individual and group learning, field-based activities, high-quality virtual class meetings, and research and reflection to assure relevance and applicability.



Test-Free Policy

GRE scores are not required for admission to programs in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies.

The test-free admission policy applies to all graduate certificate, master’s degree, education specialist, and doctoral programs in the department.

We recognize the challenges prospective students experience because of the inequities these tests perpetuate. The Department of Educational Leadership Studies is able to evaluate applicants for admission without the use of test scores through non-test factors that honor the spectrum of experiences our applicants have. A test-free policy is one part of our ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (read more about that here).

In 2017 we announced this policy for our master’s and education specialist degrees and for our graduate certificates. In March 2021, we announced that this policy is being extended to our doctoral programs.

The Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Studies involves a selective admissions process based on a holistic review of all application materials. The following requirements are offered as guidance to prospective applicants:


To be eligible for admission to this graduate program, you must have:

  • A graduate degree (master’s degree) from an accredited college or university, with a minimum graduate GPA of 3.5
  • Completed a graduate-level basic statistics course with grade of B or higher. See below.

Application Documents

  • UK Application for Admission
  • Transcripts: Copies of all transcripts from all postsecondary institutions that you attended. Uploaded transcripts may be official or unofficial, however if you are offered admission and decide to enroll you will then be required to submit official transcripts to the Graduate School.
  • Professional Resume: This should provide your name, contact information, as well as postsecondary education (all degrees, years awarded, institution names, emphasis area), work experiences including leadership experience, professional certifications, professional memberships, publications, Honors/Awards.
  • Personal Statement: Submit a 2-page personal statement addressing the following prompts. The paper should be double spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font.
    • Why do you want to complete an EdD in educational leadership studies focused on being a practitioner scholar?
    • Why have you chosen to apply to this particular program?
    • As an aspiring practitioner scholar, what are your research interests as it relates to problems of practice within organizations?
    • How does this program align with your career goals as a practitioner scholar?
  • DEI Statement: Please provide a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) statement. The statement should address multiple facets of how your values and experiences advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in your work. Your statement should reflect the relative importance of these issues to your work and reveal your personal commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The DEI statement should be one double-spaced page, 1-inch margins, 12-point Times New Roman.
  • Academic Recommendation (at least one): Recommendations from someone who has earned a doctoral degree and serves in an academic institution is preferred. This recommender should be able to speak to your ability to successfully navigate doctoral level coursework and complete independent action research study.
  • Professional Recommendation (at least one): Recommender should be able to speak to your ability to lead, work as a team member, creativity, ability to navigate systems, and manage change within an organization.

International Applicants

If your native language is not English must submit either a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score.

  • Minimum TOEFL score of 550 (paper-based), 213 (computer-based), or 79 (internet-based)
  • Minimum IELTS mean band score of 6.5
  • Please note that the language score for international applicants who have received a degree from a U.S. institution is waived.

Statistical Methods

You must have completed a graduate-level basic statistics course with a grade of B or higher.

Applicants to the Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership Studies must understand statistical concepts and the associated reasoning and critical thinking skills with those concepts such that they are prepared for our program’s advanced action research courses. Therefore, applicants to the Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership Studies must demonstrate proficiency in basic statistical concepts and techniques that constitute the foundation of quantitative strands in action research.

Students are required to show they have passed a course or met the requirement before August 15 the semester they start classes. Basic descriptive statistics, correlation, normal distributions and hypothesis testing (including correlation and regression) should be covered. An emphasis should be placed on exploratory data analysis and interpretation of results within the broad contexts of education and/or evaluation. You should provide an official course description or syllabus of the course.

If you have not taken such a course, you may:

  • Complete EPE 558 or EDP 558 before August 15th of the year of admission to Educational Leadership Studies. Increasingly, EPE 558 and EDP 558 are being offered online. Applicants and students should check with those departments to determine offerings each semester, OR
  • Show proof of completion of the following Open Learning Initiative entitled “Statistical Reasoning,” found by following this link: https://oli.cmu.edu/courses/statistical-reasoning-copy/. It’s self-paced and free for independent learners.

On-Demand Writing

As part of the application process, each applicant participates in an on-demand writing task. The purpose of the writing task is to help us gauge your academic writing skills related to your ability to:

  • communicate in an organized and purposeful manner in response to a writing prompt,
  • provide depth of thought, with support for points made in your writing, and
  • show clarity of thought.

The 30 minute on-demand writing task will be conducted virtually via Zoom. Opportunities will be available monthly from August through February.

How will it work?

  • Sign up for a time slot.
  • You will receive information on how to log into the session.
  • You will receive a writing prompt and be directed to a private break out room.
  • You will have 30 minutes to respond to the writing prompt.
  • At the end of the 30-minute session, you will receive directions on where to email your writing sample.

How will my writing be assessed?

We are looking for four things in your writing.

  • Does your paper provide an overarching purpose and focus that directly addresses the prompt given?
  • Does your paper show a depth of thought about the topic, including supporting examples and self-awareness?
  • Does your paper demonstrate organization in terms of introduction, transitions, and conclusions?
  • Does your paper show a command of general mechanics of writing (e.g., punctuation, spelling)?

What dates are available for this requirement?

  • August 17, 2023 5:00 PM Eastern
  • September 14, 2023 5:00 PM Eastern
  • October 19, 2023 5:00 PM Eastern
  • November 16, 2023 5:00 PM Eastern
  • November 30, 2023 5:00 PM Eastern
  • January 18, 2024 5:00 PM Eastern
  • February 8, 2024 5:00 PM Eastern

How do I register?

You can sign up for one of the sessions via this registration link.


Answers to a Few Program Questions

Answers to many more questions are found on our departmental FAQ page.

Detailed information about the application process can be found at https://education.uky.edu/edl/admissions/.

Students traditionally take 4 to 5 years to finish.

For information regarding current program cost please refer to the UK Graduate Tuition and Fees page.

Application Questions

Program Questions

Informational sessions are held throughout the fall semester. Sign up for an info session here. You can also fill out the form below to receive useful emails about the program, such as application tips and online info sessions.

 Our graduates receive an Ed.D. in Education Leadership.

You can find tuition refund policies, deadlines, amounts, and other important information on the UK Student Account Services website.


Not sure if this is the program for you? Need more information before applying?

We’ll help you find out if you’re qualified to apply and give you more information about our degree programs.

State Authorization and Licensure

If you plan to complete a University of Kentucky online program while living outside of Kentucky, you should check the Out-of-State Students page to determine if the University of Kentucky is authorized to provide this program in your state of residence. If you plan to use the degree to seek licensure, you should also determine if the degree meets the educational requirements for licensure in your state.