Penn State's Doctor of Education (D.Ed.) in Educational Leadership is a professional degree program focused on concepts and contemporary issues of educational leadership practice. This degree is for anyone who wants a career as an advanced educational leader in primary and secondary education, which includes leadership roles such as superintendent, assistant superintendent, chief academic officer, and principal, along with various leadership positions in school districts and other educational organizations. 

The Education Leadership program has approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for the courses and the course sequence that lead to the PDE Superintendent PK-12 Letter of Eligibility (LoE). D.Ed. students interested in the Pennsylvania PK-12 Letter of Eligibility may elect to incorporate this sequence into their program. 

The Educational Leadership program at Penn State offers a wide range of options for studying leadership policy and practice, including hybrid and online course offerings. The flexibility of the program allows students to complete their degree in as little as three years, or more if they choose to progress at a slower pace.

Admissions Information

The D.Ed. requires a minimum of 90 credits, some of which may include previous Master’s-level work. The final dissertation is the culminating milestone for this degree. It should demonstrate thoughtful application of theories and concepts to problems of practice in educational leadership.

Selection of courses should be done in close consultation with the student’s academic adviser.

1. Educational Leadership courses (48 credits) - D.Ed. students are required to take a minimum of 48 credits in Educational Leadership and related courses in the Department of Education Policy Studies. These courses should be selected in consultation with the student’s adviser from six areas of concentration: 

  • Leadership and Administration

  • Organizational Theory and Practice

  • Diversity and Equity

  • Educational Policy and Politics

  • Law and Ethics

  • Educational Resource Allocation

If approved, transfer credits may be used to fulfill a portion of this requirement.

2.  Minor or General Studies (15 credits) - A graduate minor can be taken in any approved graduate degree program offered at Penn State. A General Studies group may include up to 6 credits taken as part of a previous master’s degree. General Studies courses must be taken outside the EDLDR program. The purpose of this requirement is to provide students with meaningful exposure to an additional content area that will deepen or enrich their doctoral program of study. 

3.  Research Coursework (9 credits) - D.Ed. students are required to take a minimum of 9 credit hours of research courses. The following course areas are required. However, students are encouraged to enroll in additional research courses.

  • At least one course with focus on qualitative research methods

  • At least one course with a focus on quantitative research methods

  •  At least one course with a focus on research design, such as EDLDR 585

4.  Dissertation Research (at least 15 credtis) - Students will register for a minimum of 15 credits of thesis research (EDLDR 600 or EDLDR 610). 


Professional doctoral programs at Penn State must contain a period of residence to provide students with the acquisition of the full scope of knowledge, skills and professional attributes specific to their discipline. EDLDR D.Ed. students must complete at least 30 credits in residence at the University Park campus. Thesis research credits do not count toward the residency requirement.

Continuous Enrollment

Graduate students at Penn State are responsible for registering each semester at a credit level appropriate to their degree of activity. After a D.Ed. student has passed the comprehensive examination (proposal defense) and become a doctoral candidate, they must register continuously each fall and spring semester until the final oral defense is passed. D.Ed. candidates can maintain registration by registering for variable credit EDLDR 610. Students who are in residence during summers must also register for summer sessions if they are using University facilities and/or faculty resources.

Penn State is an Act 45-approved provider for Pennsylvania school administrators, so the courses for the Graduate Superintendent Letter of Eligibility Certificate may count toward professional development hours.

Penn State is an Act 48-approved provider for Pennsylvania educators, so the courses for the Graduate Certificate in Principalship may count toward professional development hours.

Many US states and territories require professional licensure/certification to be employed. If you plan to pursue employment in a licensed profession after completing this program, please visit the Professional Licensure/Certification Disclosures by State interactive map.