Educational Leadership - K-12 Administration, Doctor of Education

Department of Educational Leadership

College of Education

We designed this doctorate primarily for individuals interested in K-12 Educational Administration.  

This program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

  • To receive a Doctor of Education Degree (EdD) at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses, from one or more disciplines, ranging from at least 63 - 90 units of graduate-level courses. Most plans require research, a dissertation, and comprehensive exams. All plans have residency requirements regarding time spent on the Flagstaff campus engaged in full-time study.

    The full policy can be viewed here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 63
Additional Admission Requirements Required
Dissertation Dissertation is required.
Comprehensive Exam Comprehensive Exam is required.
Oral Defense Oral Defense is required.
Research Individualized research is required.
Some online/blended coursework Required

This program may lead to licensure.

Purpose Statement
The EDL Doctoral Program seeks K-12 leaders who are willing to move education forward through the application of new competencies, strategies, communications, collaborations, advocacy, and professionalism. Leaders today must understand and practice leadership within diverse fluid contexts that include cultural, social, political, environmental, technological, and global borders. This doctorate for practicing professionals provides courses within a leadership development program that integrates educational and professional foundations, leadership principles, professional ethics, and development of a research agenda that evolves from issue-focused and problem-based experiences and goals.
Core doctoral experiences are embedded in unique professional service within an applied internship experience for K-12 students. This customized program mentors students to lead with integrity, and in an ethical and responsive manner and to demonstrate skills, knowledge, and dispositions that enhance openness to change, ongoing inquiry, relationship empowerment, leadership self-reflection, and empathic perspectives.

The purpose of the EDL department is to promote the skills, values, and motivation for growth in leadership positions in K-12 contexts.  EDL program-prepared leaders will be knowledgeable in the foundations of educational thought as well as in the science, the craft, and the art of leadership. In addition, students will study specialties appropriate to their career goals and acquire the research and evaluation skills essential to leadership practice, as well as to scholarly inquiry. More specifically, the curriculum will:

  1. Provide students with an opportunity to develop an understanding of the importance of education in our society, the significance of educational leaders, and in general, the effects leaders have on society;
  2. Enable students to gain higher-level skills necessary to pursue leadership careers in schools, colleges and universities, and other educational organizations;
  3. Provide experienced leaders with opportunity for growth in skills and knowledge to improve the services they provide; and
  4. Enable educational leaders to grow professionally throughout their careers by becoming dynamic lifelong learning professionals.

Leadership consists of skills and abilities applied in diverse settings. The knowledge base of this professional degree is reflected in current curricular design and course syllabi as well as in the use of a variety of instructional strategies that use major journals in the field, and which fully support faculty and student participation in research. Ethno-cultural diversity and global perspectives are integrated. Specific studies in this degree are sequential, developmental, and are drawn, in part, from professional association research.
The design of the doctoral program in Educational Leadership is to provide the highest quality of education and training that will enable graduates to enrich their leadership skills in a variety of situations. Students will have opportunities to share and learn in different venues. With the assistance of an assigned advisor, students integrate both theoretical and research-based learnings with their experiences, while developing special skills and knowledge commensurate with their individual backgrounds, abilities, and career goals. Coursework is delivered through hybrid models with no more than one online course each semester. Hybrid courses have face-to-face components scheduled around the typical work week.

Students Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of the degree, students will: An education leader applies knowledge that promotes the success of every student by:
  • Elucidate the philosophical theories and approaches to inquiry and schools of practice in education, articulates their sources, and illustrates both their applications and their relationships to K-12. 
  • Assess the contributions of major figures and organizations in the sociological foundations of education, describes major methodologies and practices, and identifies how they impact the current field of education. 
  • Understand one’s own leadership style and intercultural development level and be able to articulate the cultural environment and views of others.
  • Analyze organizations from philosophical, social, historical, political, and intercultural points of view. 
  • Analyze historical processes and events and their interrelation, then synthesize and evaluate the pertinent arguments and debates to explore how leaders in education have addressed various organizational and societal challenges.
  • Analyze the impact, interactions, and implications of various public sectors on educational systems
  • Apply information about an organization (its cultures, environments, patterns, etc.) to develop organizational strategies designed to improve the quality of education and promote the success of all students, while sustaining an institution’s mission. 
  • Equitably and ethically sustain people, processes, information, and assets, to fulfill the mission, vision and goals of their institutions
  • Use precise listening, speaking, and writing skills to engage in honest, open dialogue
  • Demonstrate the ability to develop responsive, cooperative, mutually beneficial, and ethically sound internal and external relationships; ones that nurture diversity, foster student success, and promote the organization’s mission
  • Set high standards for self and others, demonstrate personal accountability, and ensure the long-term growth of self and the organization
  • Recognize, commit to, and advance the mission, vision, and goals of the organization
  • Apply an appropriate model of change to an issue or problem and be able to design and execute a strategic management plan from beginning to end
  • Understand and be able to articulate the differences between leadership models and be able to apply leadership models to challenges within the organization and disseminate the results of the scholarship involved in these actions.
  • Synthesize and apply organizational and administrative theories to think strategically, solve problems and build community.
  • Engage in scientific methods to assess, practice, examine results, and promote sound decision-making
  • Evaluate a range of qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research on educational leadership
  • Design, critique and implement relevant research to affect practice, and enact effective change
  • Interpret program evaluations, research reports, to identify programmatic applications of research findings
  • Articulate significant challenges involved in practicing the field of study, elucidates its leading edges, and explores the current limits of theory, knowledge and practice through a project that lies outside conventional boundaries
  • Utilize creativity and innovative skills to select a topic for research and find new information as an outcome of the dissertation process
  • Articulate a theoretical framework for the project (including conducting a literature review to assess the theoretical and methodological contributions previously made to this area)
  • Identify and define appropriate variables and methods of data collection, select and apply quantitative and qualitative research methods appropriate to the research design, and analyze, interpret and explain your findings
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the project and its implications to the field of Education
  • Present your original research to professional and non-professional audiences, articulating sustained, coherent explanations summarizing your work
  • Conduct a dissertation defense to a community of educational leadership faculty and peers
An education leader applies knowledge that promotes the success of every student by:
  • Facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a shared district vision of learning through the collection and use of data to identify district goals, assess organizational effectiveness, and implement district plans to achieve district goals; promotion of continual and sustainable district improvement; and evaluation of district progress and revision of district plans supported by district stakeholders
  • Sustaining a district culture conducive to collaboration, trust, and a personalized learning environment with high expectations for students; creating and evaluating a comprehensive, rigorous, and coherent curricular and instructional district program; developing and supervising the instructional and leadership capacity across the district; and promoting the most effective and appropriate technologies to support teaching and learning within the district.
  • Ensuring the management of the district’s organization, operation, and resources through monitoring and evaluating district management and operational systems; efficiently using human, fiscal, and technological resources within the district; promoting district-level policies and procedures that protect the welfare and safety of students and staff across the district; developing district capacity for distributed leadership; and ensuring that district time focuses on high-quality instruction and student learning.
  • Collaborating with faculty and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources for the district by collecting and analyzing information pertinent to improvement of the district’s educational environment; promoting an understanding, appreciation, and use of the community’s diverse cultural, social, and intellectual resources throughout the district; building and sustaining positive district relationships with families and caregivers; and cultivating productive district relationships with community partners.
  • Acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner to ensure a district system of accountability for every student’s academic and social success by modeling district principles of self-awareness, reflective practice, transparency, and ethical behavior as related to their roles within the district; safeguarding the values of democracy, equity, and diversity within the district; evaluating the potential moral and legal consequences of decision making in the district; and promoting social justice within the district to ensure individual student needs inform all aspects of schooling.
  • Understanding, responding to, and influencing the larger political, social, economic, legal, and cultural context within the district through advocating for district students, families, and caregivers; acting to influence local, district, state, and national decisions affecting student learning; and anticipating and assessing emerging trends and initiatives in order to adapt district-level leadership strategies.

Graduate Admission Information
  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

    • Applicants for this degree must possess a principal credential
    • Master's degree from a regionally accredited institution
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • A writing sample
    • A personal statement or essay
Doctoral Requirements
  • This Master’s degree requires 63 units distributed as follows:

    • Area I - Professional Foundations: 9 units
    • Area II - Leadership Theory:  9 units
    • Area III - Community College/Higher Education Administration Professional Leadership:  18 units
    • Area IV – Evaluation and Research: 27 units

    Take the following 63 units:

    Area I - Professional Foundations (9 units)

    Area II - Leadership Theory (9 units)
    Area III - K-12 Administration Professional Leadership 18 units)
    • EDL 724, EDL 734, EDL 736, EDL 797 (12 units)
    • Electives: graduate courses (doctoral preferred) from the College of Education or other Northern Arizona University colleges. (6 units)

    Area IV - Evaluation and Research (27 Units)
  • Please Note:

    • It is recommended that applicants to the doctoral program complete EDR 610, “Introduction to Research” or its equivalent, as the concepts learned in this course are foundational for the Area IV doctoral research coursework.
    • At least one unit of EDL 799 (dissertation units) must be taken in continuous enrollment until 12 units are taken. If additional dissertation units are needed, students may enroll in 1 unit at a time, after they have completed 12 units. Students must be enrolled in EDL 799 during the semester they defend their dissertation.
    • No graduate credit-units may be transferred into the program with the exception of credit-units taken from Northern Arizona University for the purpose of Superintendent Certification.
    • For more information about residency and other requirements that pertain to this degree, see Doctoral Requirements Policy.


  • Students enrolled in this plan may not enroll in or pursue the following due to the number of overlapping units:

  • State Teaching Certification Plans

    You can apply to a plan preparing you for state teaching certification in Principalship or Superintendency. You must have a master's degree before you can obtain any of these state administrative certifications.

    Certification plans vary in the number of educational leadership units that are required:

    • Principalship requires 36 units.
    • Superintendency requires an additional 24 units.

    All educational leadership units are as approved by Northern Arizona University's faculty and the State Board of Education.

    Each certification includes other requirements that need not be in leadership.

    You must apply separately for these plans. Contact our Educational Leadership office for additional information.

Additional Information
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.