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college of education, clemson university, south carolina

ph.d. educational leadership

our graduate programs at clemson university build on the rich experiences and expertise of faculty and students to provide an educational environment in which both groups share in research, exploration and inquiry. the result of this synergy is impact — on our community and beyond.

the ph.d. in educational leadership program is designed to prepare education scholars, practitioners, and leaders across and for p-20+ educational contexts by engaging in the breadth and depth of theoretical and practical knowledge related to leadership, ethics, diversity, research, and policy. the program seeks admissions applications from current p-12 teachers and school leaders and higher education administrators seeking advanced education to continue in formal leadership and decision-making roles across p-12 and post-secondary contexts (i.e., schools, districts, state-level organizations, community colleges, technical schools, 4-yr colleges and universities, state and federal level, policy bodies). we offer two concentration areas, p-12 and higher education. through association with and apprenticeship to faculty members experienced in research, teaching, and leadership, doctoral students in our program engage in rigorously informed inquiries centering contemporary problems of practice related to leadership and education. by choosing to apply to the clemson’s ph.d. in educational leadership program, prospective students are making the conscious choice to engage with nationally recognized education faculty who serve and have served as presidents of leading education associations, senior-level university administrators, journal editors, p-12 school administrators, and post-secondary campus staff and administrators.

alumni of the ph.d. program serve p-20 schools, community and state agencies, and institutions of higher education as ethical leaders providing research-based educational policies and services for increasingly diverse students and societies. alumni also serve in leadership roles as faculty in schools and higher education institutions; as college and university deans, directors and presidents; or as principals, district office leaders and superintendents.

introduction to the higher education concentration
clemson’s ph.d. program in educational leadership in higher education focuses on developing professionals’ knowledge and research abilities in this applied multi- and interdisciplinary field. because many of the higher education ph.d. students in this field remain connected to their professional roles, this program is paced to accommodate each student’s timeframe while ensuring steady progress to degree completion.

introduction to the p-12 ph.d. concentration
students interested in the p-12 concentration have four options among their concentration coursework. students may select a combination of coursework among courses for both higher education and p-12 concentrations. students may also choose to obtain state of south carolina licensure for work as school administrators at the building level, district level or both while enrolled in the program. students who plan to obtain certification will take coursework with master's and specialist students, and must complete the state’s licensure approved program requirements.

doctoral students collaborate with their advising committees to plan an individualized program within program requirements including courses and non-course milestones culminating with the dissertation. the overall design requires a minimum of 58 graduate-level course credits beyond the master’s degree and completion of 18 credit hours dedicated to the dissertation project. the categories of courses include a preliminary core, concentration core, research core, cognate, elective, research internship, candidacy and dissertation core.

the preliminary core consists of a minimum of nine credits completed within the first two years of enrollment, concluding with the preliminary exam, a non-course requirement. the doctoral advisory committee, in consultation with the student, uses the results of the preliminary examination to establish an individualized program of study, including a minimum of 18 credits of courses in the chosen concentration (p-12 or higher education), research courses and a minimum of 12 credits through internship and cognates. the internship experience focuses on a research-based approach to the common dilemmas of knowledge and practice in the applied field of educational leadership. cognates are courses selected from academic fields supporting each ph.d. student’s research agenda. upon completion of a program of studies course work, students qualify as doctoral candidates by successfully completing the comprehensive exam. doctoral candidates then complete nine credits of post-comps core in preparation for their proposal defense and then move to 18 hours of dissertation studies before defending their dissertation research. the timeframe for completing this program is controlled by ph.d. students with support from their doctoral advising committees.

admission to the program 
applications for the educational leadership are accepted for the fall, spring, and summer terms.  admission decisions are made following the deadlines below. 
application deadline
all application materials must be submitted by the following deadlines:
  • march 1, to enroll in summer or fall
  • october 1, to enroll in spring

application requirements
to be considered for the program, applicants must:

  • have completed a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum gpa of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or a recognized international university with a baccalaureate degree equivalent to a us bachelor's.
  • have a masters degree
  • submit a graduate school application which requires:
    • unofficial transcripts (official transcripts will be required if you are accepted into the program.)
    • cover letter-the cover letter, which will be evalsuated for content and as a writing sample, must be 2- pages or less and include:
    • reasons for pursuing the ph.d. degree in educational leadership, including research interests and career goals;
    • professional and/or personal experiences shaping your current research interests and career goals; and
    • how the program faculty can support you in completing this degree.
  • résumé/cv-a resume or curriculum vitae that supports candidacy with evidence of pertinent educational leadership experience and evidence that the candidate can perform in a scholarly environment.
  • letters of recommendation- three letters of recommendation from current or prior supervisors and at least one professor from a prior degree program should be submitted to the clemson graduate school. 
  • gre scores (graduate record exam)-  gre scores must be acceptable. gre scores more than five years old, relative to the date of enrollment, will not be accepted. 
  • official toefl/ielts scoresfor international students

additional information concerning supporting materials can be found at:

download the ph.d. program handbook

in accordance with departmental policy, the program of study in educational leadership will include a minimum of 58 graduate level course credits beyond the master’s degree and an 18-hour dissertation project.

these required courses represent a basic body of knowledge in educational leadership. a student must demonstrate a proficiency in this material through the comprehensive examination. the following is a list of core courses:

preliminary core: 12 credit hours (required of all ed leadership phd students)

edl 9100 introductory doctoral seminar
edl 9000 principles of educational leadership
edl 9050 theory and practice in educational leadership
edl 9110 systematic inquiry in educational leadership or ex st 801 statistical methods

concentration: 18 hours
the field of specialization may be either public school administration (p-12) or higher education. the courses for specialization should be selected in close consultation with the student’s advisory committee. these courses allow the student and advisory committee to tailor the program to the unique needs of the student within the overall philosophy and structure of the program.

higher education (required of higher education concentration students)

edsa 8190 contemporary college students
edl 9500 educational policy studies
edl 9620 higher education governance (required core)
edl 9750 college teaching 
edl 9770 diversity issues in higher education (required core)
edl 9800 current issues in educational leadership

p-12 (required of p-12 concentration students)

research core: 16 credit hours (required of all ed leadership phd students)

  • introductory courses in both qualitative and quantitative methods
  • advanced course work in either qualitative or quantitative methods

research internship: 3 credit hours (required of all ed leadership phd students)
the purpose of the research internship (edl 9860) is to provide students a research apprenticeship, preferably under the guidance of their major advisers or any other member of their doctoral advising committees, to build their curriculum vita and emerging research agenda for their dissertations. the research internship provides students an opportunity to develop viable research questions from the problems and issues of practice and then participate in the development of the research design, data collection, analysis and reporting phases of research studies. student products from the research internship include conference proposals, presentations and manuscripts.

candidacy core: 3 credit hours (required of all ed leadership phd students)
edl 9880
 directed research

cognate: 6 credit hours(required of all ed leadership phd students)  
cognates are courses from academic fields outside of educational leadership supporting students’ research agendas. as part of the program of study, each student must complete six graduate semester hours in a cognate area. all six hours must be from the same discipline and approved by the student’s graduate committee.

dissertation: 18 credit hours (required of all students)
edl 9910 doctoral dissertation research

applicants can review information about tuition and fees for our program. please also see the financial aid website for up-to-date information regarding financial aid options, and contact that office directly with questions.

boettcher, michelle student affairs


cawthon, tony counselor education, student affairs 864-656-5100

croom, natasha higher education/student affairs 864-656-1485

hall, daniella educational leadership 864-656-5091

klar, hans educational leadership 864-656-5091

lindle, jane clark
educational leadership, ph.d. p-12 864-508-0629

wagner, rachel student affairs; higher education 864-656-5111

wilkerson, reginald educational leadership 864-656-3873

for more information on alumni news and events, please visit our alumni resources website

for more information, please fill out this form or visit the clemson university graduate school website. if you have additional questions or need assistance, please contact alison search.