Earning a Ph.D. in Educational Administration Online

Professionals who aspire to influence the culture of educational institutions should consider online doctoral programs in education administration. Ideal candidates include seasoned classroom teachers who often possess leadership experience as department heads, and many programs require applicants to hold a master's degree in a relevant field. Graduates qualify for positions as principals, curriculum directors, or other district leaders roles. While professionals primarily work in K-12 settings, this degree also creates opportunities in higher education, corporate, nonprofit, and military institutions.

Students who choose to earn their degree online gain access to the same hands-on instruction that on-campus students receive. Distance learning provides additional perks that traditional students cannot access, including no in-person requirements, asynchronous learning, local placements for field experiences, and potential savings on tuition. Interested professionals may want to consult professionals currently in these roles, review job descriptions posted by potential employers, and examine content below for traits of successful administrators.

What Can You Do With an Online Doctorate in Educational Administration?

Earning an online doctorate in education administration provides access to employment in multiple industries, which also require ranging personalities and responsibilities. For instance, administrators in higher education facilities focus on creating learning environments where adult students can thrive and become assets to future employers, while university presidents often work closely with policies and financial statements. Contrastingly, individuals employed at K-12 institutions may prioritize communication with parents regarding the development of their children.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Annual Median Salary: $92,360
Projected Growth Rate: 10%

These administrators work in the admissions department, registrar's office, or student affairs, while others may become academic deans. Each role includes unique tasks, but all roles require effective communication, leadership, organizational development, and collaboration skills. While most institutions require applicants to possess a master's degree, candidates who hold a Ph.D. can explore a wider scope of career opportunities.

Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal

Annual Median Salary: $94,390
Projected Growth Rate: 8%

K-12 principals oversee all school operations to create safe and engaging learning environments, develop class schedules, carry out disciplinary actions, manage a school budget, and conduct performance management assessments for teachers. Most states require candidates to possess teaching experience and hold an administrator license. While Ph.D. holders remain ideal candidates, applicants typically hold at least a master's degree.

College or University President

Annual Median Salary: $104,700
Projected Growth Rate: 8%

As the top executive, presidents of colleges or universities establish the tone for all organizational goals and policies. Other responsibilities include collaborating with administrators, analyzing financial data, and overseeing activities that impact the school's budget. While many applicants hold a master's degree, earning an online Ph.D. in higher education administration provides an additional competitive advantage.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Top-Paying Industries for Postsecondary Education Administrators

Offices of Physicians

  • Employment: 60

  • Percent of Industry Employment: N/A

  • Annual Mean Wage: $162,810

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals

  • Employment: 570

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.01

  • Annual Mean Wage: $128,660

Grantmaking and Giving Services

  • Employment: 110

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.08

  • Annual Mean Wage: $127,870

Business, Professional, Labor, Political, and Similar Organizations

  • Employment: 70

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.02

  • Annual Mean Wage: $125,030

Scientific and Development Services

  • Employment: 50

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.01

  • Annual Mean Wage: $124,230

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Traits of a Successful Educational Administrator

The best leaders in the field fully understand how to use accounting software for budget management and analytical software to synthesize data, allowing administrators to make sound decisions that lead to organizational success. Administrators must also understand management principles for planning, resource allocation, and coordination. This role also requires professionals to possess knowledge of curriculum development, training design, effective instructional techniques that yield results. Read on for a few crucial traits every educational administrator should possess.

Critical Thinking
As problems constantly arise in school environments, administrators must apply logic and reasoning to develop effective solutions. Critical thinking requires self-direction, discipline, and standards of excellence.
Active Listening
Decisions made by leaders of educational institutions impact incumbents at all levels. Therefore, actively listening to the concerns, ideas, and questions from all stakeholders remains an important skill.
Administrators must effectively convey information to incumbents to ensure organizational success. Furthermore, administrators represent entire educational institutions or departments, which often requires communicating and collaborating with the public or members of the community.

Salary by Experience Level

Emerging educational administrators join a career path that continues to trend upward. Most schools offer a salary schedule, which allows professionals to increase their salary as they acquire experience. While higher education institutions rely on local government and state budgets for employment security, the number of students enrolling into college continues to rise, which also demands an increase in skilled leaders. Professionals who earn a Ph.D. in higher education administration from an accredited school may also gain access to higher wages.

Average Pay by Experience Level for Postsecondary Education Administrators

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):

  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):

  • Experienced (10-20 Years):

  • Late Career (20+ Years):

Source: PayScale

Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Educational Administration Prepares For

  • K-12 Principal/Administration License: Professionals who aspire to become administrators in K-12 facilities must acquire administrator licenses through their states of employment. Applicants should note that requirements vary by state, but each program requires teaching experience, an advanced degree, field experience, and successful completion of an exam.

  • Superintendent License: While requirements vary by state, this license demands an advanced degree, field experience hours, and successful completion of an exam. At the doctorate level, students usually graduate with enough hours to satisfy state requirements. Unlike a principal license, this certification does not require professionals to possess teaching experience.

  • Director of Special Education and Pupil Services Licensure: Special education roles require professionals who truly understand how to meet students' needs. Therefore, special education departments require leaders who understand the ins and outs of daily tasks and ongoing dilemmas. To earn this license, an aspiring director of special education must hold an advanced degree, pass an exam, and complete a field experience.

Steps to Earning an Online Doctorate in Educational Administration

Ph.D. programs include additional requirements that bachelor's and master's programs do not demand. Students should also note that colleges and universities set their own expectations. However, many requirements remain homogenous. The section below contains the general process required to earn an online doctorate in education administration.

number one

Find the Right Program for You

The first step toward earning an online Ph.D. in educational administration requires each student to identify their ideal program. Applicants may consider the percentage of coursework offered online, as some programs require students to complete exams at testing facilities or attend some classes on-campus. Furthermore, some programs follow traditional semester schedules, while other programs offer ongoing or accelerated coursework. Candidates should also consider admission requirements including GPA and GRE score expectations.

number two


Applying for a doctoral program demands additional efforts not required by undergraduate and graduate programs. In addition to submitting an excellent academic record and letters of recommendation, schools often require a research proposal to demonstrate the applicant's knowledge of and commitment to the program. Some programs also demand letters of motivation where students outline their objectives. The application process also includes a resume, preliminary research on potential program supervisors, and an entrance interview. Some students take a year in advance to prepare to apply.

number three

Capstone, Dissertation, or Thesis

These projects serve as evidence of competency in achieving a degree, as well as when applying to jobs after graduation. Students typically complete a thesis in a graduate program. However, programs require capstone projects at all levels. A capstone typically results in a deliverable such as a portfolio, product, or publishable document. Universities reserve dissertations for Ph.D. students. As original contributions to the student's respective field, dissertations address current issues or gaps.

number four

Fellowship or Internship

While fellowships and internships bolster professional marketability, students should understand these experiences differ from each other. An internship provides learners with short-term opportunities to work with hiring organizations. Internships may or may not offer a stipend. Contrastingly, fellowships may last from several months to several years, allowing students to exercise their research skills on current issues, while gaining access to ample professional development opportunities. Furthermore, fellowships usually offer a stipend. Universities require fellowships or internships to ensure students emerge with professionally applicable experiences.

Curriculum for an Online Doctorate in Educational Administration

  1. Politics of Education: As the head of educational institutions, administrators must understand influential laws and policies. This course examines how politics can transform social values and resources. Students analyze the roles of federal, state, and local governments, which directly impact school policies. Successful completion of this course allows graduates to become highly informed leaders.

  2. Sociology of Education: School administrators strive to create learning environments that allow all students to thrive. Therefore, the best leaders must constantly examine the factors that contribute to achievement gaps. In this course, students analyze empirical research and develop innovative strategies to combat disparities, as well as explore fundamental sociology principles and theories that influence education.

  3. Economics of Education: Effective school leadership includes understanding the ways economics can influence educational phenomena. In this course, students examine current problems in educational institutions through the lens of microeconomic theories. Students also learn about returns to education, production functions, labor markets, and economic growth. This course prepares future school leaders to make qualitative decisions.

  4. Qualitative Research Methods: Qualitative research allows educational administrators to make sound decisions by identifying political and ethical concerns in the field. This course also allows professionals to identify valid and reliable research. Students also explore epistemology, methodology, and representation approaches to examine current issues.

  5. Leadership Communications: This course prepares graduates to address multiple audiences and generate appropriate context-specific messages. Administrators often speak on behalf of their department or facility, so coursework emphasizes leadership skills including inspiration, motivation, and decision-making.

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