Online Doctorate in Leadership

Doctoral Degrees in Leadership

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Some advanced degrees have a natural outcome. Those with a doctoral degree in psychology become psychologists, while a doctorate in nursing typically leads to work as a nurse practitioner or instructor. However, a doctorate in leadership has no obvious outcome, but don't let that lead you to dismiss the career possibilities it offers.

A doctoral degree in leadership can open doors to higher incomes and greater personal growth, but it also requires a serious time commitment from students. The University of San Diego, which was among the first to offer a Ph.D. in leadership studies, reports full-time students usually complete their program in four years. Those studying on a part-time basis may take five to six years to earn their doctorate.

Since not everyone can devote that much time to a traditional degree program, some schools have begun offering flexible online doctoral degrees in the field. These may be ideal for those who want to earn a degree without disrupting their work or family schedules.

Why Get a Doctorate in Leadership?

Those who pursue a doctoral degree in leadership often do so out of a desire to maximize their personal development while rising to the highest level possible in their organization. To meet the needs of students from varying professional backgrounds, colleges and universities may offer specializations such as the following:

  • Education leadership
  • Non-profit leadership
  • Organizational leadership

Depending on the program, schools might offer the degree as a Doctor of Education in Leadership, a Ph.D. in Leadership, or a Doctor of Business Administration in Leadership. Each doctorate is designed for a different purpose, with a Ph.D. being more appropriate for those planning a career in academia, while the other two often focus on the needs of working professionals.

Graduates may go on to work in any number of high-level positions. Creighton University reports its leadership doctoral students have found jobs with the following titles, among others:

  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Dean
  • Emergency Management Executive
  • Executive Director of Program Development

How Do You Enroll in an Online Doctoral Degree Program?

The enrollment process at the doctoral level will likely be different than what you experienced at the undergraduate or even master's degree level. Since a doctorate in leadership can be intense, schools are careful to only admit those they believe have the experience and commitment needed to be successful in the program. Rather than running through a checklist, a team of school representatives often looks at the overall breadth and depth of an applicant's professional and academic experience.

During the application process, students may be asked to submit any of the following:

  • Undergraduate and master's degree transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Writing samples
  • Resume
  • Letter of intent or personal statement
  • Essay

Traditionally, applications are submitted in the fall, and admissions committees meet in January to identify strong candidates for the program. Acceptance letters are typically mailed in February or March for the upcoming fall semester. Other schools may work on a rolling admissions basis and receive applications at any time.

Filling Out a Request Form

Not every school offers a doctoral degree in leadership. To quickly find available programs in the field, simply click the "Search Schools" button on the right. After filling out some basic information, you will immediately be connected to the appropriate institutions.

What's the Difference Between Online and Campus-Based Degrees?

In terms of curriculum, there is often no difference between online and on-campus programs. However, not all degree concentrations may be available in both formats. In addition, online programs typically have greater flexibility when it comes to the timing of classes. Some may be arranged so students can work on an accelerated schedule, while others might provide busy adults extra time to complete their degree on a part-time basis.

Why Is Online College Good for a Doctorate in Leadership?

Flexibility is one of the main benefits of pursuing a doctoral degree in leadership online. Studying on campus may mean students have to rearrange work schedules and family obligations. Rather than spend years carving out time for traditional classes, doctoral candidates might find it more convenient and feasible to study online at night and on weekends.

Online colleges often use video lectures, real-time web conferencing, and other collaborative tools to allow students the opportunity to receive the same level of education regardless of where or when they choose to study.

Does Location Matter for an Online Doctoral Degree in Leadership?

Unlike online degrees at the undergraduate and master's degree level, many doctoral programs do have on-campus requirements for distance learners. Students may need to travel to campus several times during a program in order to attend orientations, seminars, or workshops.

Before enrolling in a doctorate program, confirm with the school if and how often you'll need to visit campus. Then, decide if that will be convenient for you and your family. If not, consider looking for a program with a closer location, or one with fewer on-campus requirements.

We've made it easy to find schools offering online degrees in leadership or similar fields. Use the "Search Schools" button above or browse through the institutions listed below to find the right program for you. Not everyone can earn a doctorate in leadership, but those who do may find themselves poised to rise to the highest levels of personal and professional development.


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition,
  2. Ph.D. in Leadership Studies, University of San Diego,
  3. Doctorate in Leadership, Creighton University,
  4. The Waiting Game: Graduation Applicant Purgatory, The Grad Student,
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