A scholarly doctorate of the highest caliber – fully online from a flagship university.

Do you aspire to work in academia or research? Our online Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) is a scholarly doctorate leading to roles as university faculty, postdoctoral scholars, social research scientists, or educational professionals outside traditional settings. Your five-chapter research dissertation (based on theory) will generate new knowledge and prepare you for a career in research-intensive fields.

Program Outcomes

Diverse learning experiences across the program prepare you to serve as a:

  • University faculty member
  • Postdoctoral scholar
  • Research scientist
  • Educational policy expert

We are available to help during your application process. Contact Neomia Hagans Flores, director of academic and professional outreach, at neomia.hagans@nulluky.edu.



You will complete 42 credit hours of coursework and 4 hours of residency for a total of 46 credit hours for program completion. We expect the program to take a minimum of 4 years, though 5 to 6 years is more typical. We admit cohorts of students in the Fall and the application deadline is generally around February 15 of each year.


Leadership Core Research Method Core Electives
15 hours 15 hours 12 hours
  • EDL 700 – Knowledge Base
  • EDL 701 – Leadership in Educational Organizations I
  • EDL 703 – Leading Organizational Change
  • EDL 702 – Leadership for Organizational Learning
  • EDL 704 – Politics of Educational Leadership
  • EDL 751 – Foundations of Inquiry
  • EDL 792 – Research in Education Leadership
  • One approved quantitative course
  • One approved qualitative course
  • One targeted research elective
  • Selected by student in consultation with Advisory Committee


Program Pathway

Year 1




You’re a doc student!

  • EDL 700
  • EDL 751
  • EDL 701
  • EPE/EDP 660

No summertime blues!

  • EDL 703
  • Enroll in an elective.
Year 2




Select your major advisor.

  • EDL 702
  • Enroll in an elective.
  • Select your advisor and committee members.

Spring forward!

  • EDL 704
  • EPE 663

Hone your specialization.

  • Enroll in two electives (6 credit hours) approved by your advisory committee. We recommend taking your advanced methods elective.
Year 3




Continue your research.

  • EDL 792
  • Enroll in an elective.

For those about to “doc”, we salute you!

  • Enroll in EDL 767.
  • Take your qualifying exams.

Just keep writing…just keep writing…

Year 4



Defend your dissertation if eligible.

  • Enroll in EDL 767
  • Be sure to complete all required forms with the graduate school.
Continue to enroll in EDL 767 every fall and spring semester until you are done with your dissertation. Note: Enrollment in EDL 767 is not required in the summer.


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 (3 to 4 questions) 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.


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

World-Class Scholarly Mentors

Cohort-Based Experience with Summer Doc Week

Opportunities to Share Work Nationally

We value…


Research lives at the core of our identity and we expect our students to embrace disciplined inquiry, not only as a tool but as a value.


Insights gained through reading and inquiry are best shared with others. Thus, we encourage our students to share their learning through conferences, publications, and digitally.


Each student’s Ph.D. journey is unique by definition. The contribution you will make to the world is singular to your experiences and expertise. Thus, the program, particularly in the later stages, is personalized to the student.


Earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree is hard work and few people in the world truly understand the journey. Thus, our cohort model encourages students to form communities to support one another both during the program and beyond.


Theories help us to understand the world around us and they exist because others before you have tested and refined ideas.


Conveying ideas clearly through writing is an essential skill to participate in the great human conversations that transcend space and time. The dissertation is, essentially, a published book that contributes to that global conversation. Your ability to write well is mandatory.


There is no prescribed playbook for advancing your thinking at this level. Instead, you are creating the playbook. Thus, we link you with faculty mentors as your advisory committee who mentor you through the process of asking novel questions and creating new knowledge.



The Ph.D. in Educational Sciences with a specialization 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
  • GRE scores:
    • Verbal: 460 (old GRE scale) 151 (new GRE scale) and percentile rank of 49
    • Quantitative: 640 (old GRE scale) 151 (new GRE scale) and percentile rank of 48
    • Analytical Writing: 4.0 or percentile rank of 49
  • Completed a graduate-level basic statistics course with grade of B or higher. See below.

Application Documents

  • UK Application for Admission
  • Official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions that you attended
  • Professional resume that provides your name and contact information as well as postsecondary education (all degrees, years awarded, institution names, emphasis area), work experiences, professional certifications, professional memberships, publications, and references
  • A statement of purpose (3-5 double-spaced pages, word-processed in either Times New Roman 12-point or Ariel 10-point, page numbers and your name in upper right corner). If you cite literature/resources to support your comments, adhere to the academic writing guidelines provided in the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Provide background about your experiences as a leader and share how these experiences have prompted you to enroll in a doctoral program in the area of educational leadership studies. It should include:
    • Previous teaching and/or life experiences that have influenced your decision to pursue a doctoral degree,
    • Research interests (i.e., specific problems or general areas in which you hope to work),
    • Specific career goals, and
    • Your rationale for why the Educational Leadership Strand of the Educational Science program at the University of Kentucky is a “good fit” for your goals.
  • Writing Sample in the form of a sole authored article, manuscript, class paper, or Master’s Thesis demonstrating APA style command (title page, headers, references)
  • Four references including one by your supervisor and a college/university faculty member

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

Statistical Methods

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

Applicants to the Ph.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 Ph.D. programs in Educational Leadership Studies must demonstrate proficiency in basic statistical concepts and techniques that constitute the foundation of quantitative research.

To do this, most students show they have passed a course before August 15th of the year of admission covering the application of statistical methods data analysis. 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 course: http://oli.cmu.edu/courses/free-open/statistical-reasoning-course-details/. It’s self-paced and free for independent learners.


Frequently Asked Questions

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

You will complete 42 credit hours of coursework and 4 hours of residency for a total of 46 credit hours for program completion. We expect the program to take a minimum of 4 years, though 5 to 6 years is more typical.

The cost per credit hour is $674.

Contact Neomia Hagans Flores, director of academic and professional outreach, at neomia.hagans@nulluky.edu. You can also fill out the form below to receive useful emails about the program, such as application tips and online info sessions.

Doctorate of Philosphy (Ph.D.) in Educational Sciences.

Check out our departmental FAQ page for useful information about our programs.

Would you like to learn more before applying?

After answering a few short questions, we’ll be able to help you find out if you’re qualified to apply and give you more information about the degree program.