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Students may apply for the Ph.D. in Educational Leadership with a Master's Degree or an Education Specialist degree in administration/leadership from an accredited program. Those who are admitted with a Specialist Degree will enter with advanced standing; that is, up to 28 semester hours of the Specialist Degree may be credited toward the doctorate. The Education Specialist course work will serve as the student's cognate. Those admitted with the master's degree will select a cognate program approved by the advisor. However, both sets of students will progress together through the core program as defined below.


The Ph.D. in Educational Leadership is designed to develop individuals who can provide leadership to educational practice in the 21st Century. Our graduates will be prepared to play roles in public and private schools, higher education administration, or research and teaching about educational policy and practice at the college or university level.

The Educational Leadership Doctoral Program is designed for the working adult. Upon entering, students become part of a cohort, that is, they take all department courses together. Leadership classes are almost always offered on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Higher Education cognate courses are offered on Tuesday evenings.

Program Features

Theory & Practice: The Ph.D. in Educational Leadership is what you need if you are looking for a degree that combines deep theoretical exploration with practical and relevant examples from experienced professors.

Leadership Focus: The Ph.D. program has two strands, one focusing on K-12 and the other focusing on post-secondary leadership. However, the overarching doctoral level training addresses leadership issues impacting P-16 education.

Individualized Research: The Ph.D. program allows students a great deal of flexibility in determining their research focus and interests. Topics of past graduates have ranged from early childhood leadership to college program evaluations, from issues arising from ESL implementation to school reform initiatives, and from attitudes of middle school children on teacher caring to perspectives held by exemplary college instructors.

Faculty Support: Once admitted, each student is assigned a program advisor to assist him or her in their program decisions. As the student moves through the program, the advisor will be replaced by a research chair and a committee of faculty to support and coach the student through the process of conducting independent research.

Mentor Support: All students identify and work with a mentor, a practitioner in the area of leadership who might hold a position to which the student aspires. The mentor will provide a setting for analyzing and applying the research and theory presented in the program and will assist the student in assessing his/her professional development needs.  

Dissertations:  The PhD. in Educational Leadership has completed over 140 dissertations since its creation in 1999.  Covering topics from kindergarten teacher efficacy through racial bias in hiring in higher education, the range of research speaks highly of the quality of our students’ work.  A list of recent dissertations is available for your information.

Ph.D. Program Coordinator: Julia B. Smith, Ed.D.
(248) 370-3082
[email protected]
475B Pawley Hall

Department Secretary: Ann Marie Lindstrom
(248) 370-3070
[email protected]
480D Pawley Hall

Deadline for all applications and admission requirements is February 1 of each year. Candidates for the Ph.D. in Educational Leadership will be selected based on an analysis of several criteria:

  • Leadership experience, especially as reflected in the submitted vita; 
  • The content of three (3) references to be solicited by the student; 
  • The student's graduate level grade point average as indicated on official transcripts; 
  • A goal statement
  • The score on the Department Writing Response

For some applicants, an interview with members of the department may be requested. The selection committee will consider only the writing, verbal, and quantitative scores.

The Ph.D. in Educational Leadership requires a minimum of 76 credit hours beyond the master’s degree: 12 credits in the foundation core, 20 credits in the department core, 28 credits in the cognate, and a minimum of 16 credits for dissertation.

Year One
  • Choice of ED 8430 Diversity and Social Justice in Organizational Leadership OR ED 8450 Motivation and Change in Organizational Leadership
  • ED 9940 Professional Seminar  2 credits


  • Choice of ED 8410 Philosophical and Ethical Issues  4 credits OR ED 8460 Principles of Organizational Theory
  • ED 9941 Professional Seminar  2 credits

 Summer I

  • Choice of ED 8420 Advanced Education Politics and Policy in Education OR ED 8440  Learning Theories and Psychological Issues  4 credits
  • ED 9930  Mentorship I  2 credits
Year Two


  • ED 9010 Research Methodology/ Qualitative  4 credits 


  • ED 9020 Analytic Methods/ Quantitative  4 credits 

Summer I 

  • ED 9100 Research Issues and Proposal Development  4 credits
  • ED 9931 Mentorship II 2 credits

Note: In addition to the courses listed above, students may also begin taking cognate courses in their second year or wait until their third year.

Cognate (28 credits)

Master's level students may choose from among several cognates including: Higher Education, Educational Leadership, Reading, Instructional Systems Technology, Counseling, and Special Education. With the consent of their advisor, students may also combine courses from more than one cognate to meet their special areas of interest.

Years Three and Four

Qualifying Examination: The qualifying examination provides an opportunity for the doctoral student to demonstrate mastery of skills related to advanced research, including problem definition, review of significant literature related to the problem, and research design.  Students are allowed to use their dissertation area as a topic for their qualifying exam, but final approval of all questions comes from the committee.  Work on the dissertation may not officially begin until the student has passed the qualifying exam.  Students must complete all core courses before officially petitioning to initiate the examination process.  Cognate coursework may continue during the period of examination, but should be substantially completed.  Once initiated, students have one calendar year to complete the questions.

ED 9999 Dissertation Research (16 credits): The submission of a quality research dissertation is a requirement for a Ph.D. degree from the School of Education and Human Services at Oakland University. Students will register for 16 hours of dissertation credit. These credits may be broken up into smaller modules depending on the period of time each student expects to takes to complete the dissertation. The doctoral dissertation is an original piece of work that addresses an intellectually significant problem, makes a valuable contribution to the field of study, and is publishable. The final year of the student's program centers on the dissertation.

Department of Organizational Leadership

Pawley Hall, Room 480B
456 Pioneer Dr.
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-2730

Educational Leadership
Pawley Hall, Room 480D
(248) 370-3070
fax: (248) 370-4605

Human Resource Development
Pawley Hall, Room 475E
(248) 370-4109
fax: (248) 370-4095