Earn a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) that is affordable, online, and designed for school 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, school 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-knit 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. 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. John Nash, 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.

Application Questions

Program Questions



Program Outcomes

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

  • Principals
  • Assistant principals
  • Administrative deans
  • Academic deans
  • Instructional coaches
  • District leaders (various positions)




You will work with your advisory chair during the first semester to develop a program plan based on your needs and goals. It will be reviewed regularly and updated as needed.

You will take eleven (11) required courses and three (3) elective courses based on your specialty area (this 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.

The program below represents the academic program and sequence for students starting their EdD after the Fall 2017 Semester.

The program plan for the current Executive EdD can be found here. For those starting in 2016, please see this page. For those starting in 2015 or before, please see this page.

Leadership Core Research Method Core Electives
21 hours 12 hours 9 hours
  • EDL 700: Knowledge Base*
  • EDL 701: Leadership in Educational Organizations I*
  • EDL 702: Leadership for Organizational Learning*
  • EDL 703: Leading Organizational Change
  • EDL 646: Leadership for School Family Community Engagement
  • EDL 571: Design Thinking in Education
  • EDL 669: Leadership for Creative Problem Solving
  • EDL 751: Foundations of Inquiry*
  • ELS 620: Introduction to Action Research
  • EDL 771: Seminar in Educational Leadership: Action Research Methods and Analysis*
  • EDL 792: Research in Educational Leadership
  • Required Topical Seminars (1 credit each)
    • 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
  • EDL 704: Politics of Educational Leadership (recommended elective for Ed.D. students)
  • Electives can be taken within or outside the Department of Educational Leadership Studies.
  • You should get approval for electives from your advisory chair (our department’s director of graduate studies) or your dissertation chair prior to enrollment in a course.

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


Program Pathway

Year 1




You’re a doc student!

  • EDL 700
  • EDL 751

Take two courses.

  • EDL 701
  • EDL 571

No summertime blues!

  • EDL 703
  • EDL 770.210 (1 credit)
  • EDL 770.211 (1 credit)
  • EDL 770.212 (1 credit)
Year 2




Select your major advisor and choose an elective.

  • EDL 702
  • Enroll in your first elective.
  • Select your advisor and committee members.
  • Hold your program planning meeting.

Spring forward!

  • EDL 646
  • EDL 669
  • Work with your advisor on your dissertation topic and focus for ELS 620

Start your research!

  • ELS 620: Introduction to Action Research
    • Outline your prospectus in ELS 620
Year 3




Continue your research.

  • EDL 771: Seminar in Educational Leadership: Action Research Methods and Analysis
  • Optional Elective
  • Hold your prospectus meeting with your committee

Take your last class!

  • EDL 792: Research in Educational Leadership
  • Optional Elective (possibly EDL 704).

You’re a doctoral candidate!

  • You are eligible to take your qualifying exam
  • No required classes, just 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.




Our Program Experience

Oriented toward Educational Leaders

Online, Cohort-based Experience with Summer Doc Week

Relevant, Authentic Problems of Practice in School Contexts

We value:


Our program prepares educators to assume formal leadership roles within schools including principal, assistant principal, and dean positions.


We value leaders that are capable of leading change within schools. In an era of technology shifts, economic uncertainty, and global challenges schools 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 21st century schools, our program emphasizes developing interpersonal relationships and interdependence to achieve shared visions and goals.


Schools should be places where all children are provided equitable opportunities. Our program is unapologetic in preparing leaders to make schools places that value diversity through welcoming school cultures and socially just policies.


Because principals 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.


Students evidence their learning through creation of and oral defense of their unique electronic portfolios. This defense is linked to the specific competencies identified in the National Professional Standards for School Leaders.



You must meet the admission requirements established by the UK Graduate School and by the Department of Educational Leadership Studies.


You must have:

  • a graduate degree (master’s degree) from an accredited college or university, with a minimum graduate GPA of 3.5
  • A GRE Verbal score of 150 (new scale) or 500 (old GRE scale).
  • A GRE Analytical Writing score of 4.0.

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.
  • GRE: Applicants will be asked to self-report these scores on the application (you can also supply a future date for taking the test). We will however also require official scores from the ETS or another method (verification of scores from another postsecondary institution on official letterhead). GRE scores should be sent directly to us from Educational Testing Service (ETS); the Institution Code for the GRE for UK Graduate School is R1837. These scores will be incorporated into your application and compared against self-reported scores to ensure consistency.
  • Professional resume (limited to 2 pages): This should provide your name, contact information, as well as postsecondary education (all degrees, years awarded, institution names, emphasis area), work experiences, education certifications, professional memberships
  • Personal Statement: Submit an up to 2 page personal statement addressing the following prompts: double spaced 12 pt font.
    • Why are you pursuing a doctorate?
    • What is your interest in Leadership?
    • What is your research interest?
  • Academic Writing: Submit a piece of academic writing (example) that you are most proud of or that demonstrates your ability as an academic writer. Ideally this sample should be from a writing that you have completed during the course of your graduate work. There is no page or format restriction. If you do not have an existing academic writing sample, please feel free to submit an original work that demonstrates your ability as an academic writer.
  • Recommendations: A. 2 (1 Professional & 1 Academic) both programs however PHD can have 2 academic references

International Teachers

If your native language is not English, you 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 show that you have completed a graduate-level basic statistics course with a grade of B or higher. This requirement serves in lieu of a minimum quantitative GRE requirement.

    • Applicants to the Ed.D. programs 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 quantitative courses. Therefore, applicants to the Ed.D. programs in Educational Leadership Studies must demonstrate proficiency in basic statistical concepts and techniques that constitute the foundation of quantitative research. Applicants may do this in one of the following ways:
    • 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. Applicants 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 course: https://oli.cmu.edu/courses/statistical-reasoning-copy/. It’s self-paced and free for independent learners.


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/.

The Ed.D. program consists of 10 courses and 4 hours of dissertation residency (minimum). Students traditionally take around 4 years to finish.

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

Application Questions

Program Questions

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.

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.