Every company, community, and country needs inspiring and capable leaders.

With a PhD in Leadership Studies, you could prepare to guide and lead educational organizations, solve the challenges facing today’s schools and learners, and make a lasting impact in your community. With the flexible option to study online, you can pursue our online doctoral program in leadership studies on your schedule — even while working full time. When you speak with us about your professional goals in leadership, be sure to learn your financial aid options to make reduce the financial burden while you learn.

A doctorate in leadership studies focus on the theory and practice of organizational leadership. Explore how strategic organizational leadership can help you effectively guide, manage, and improve educational settings, from companies to higher education to nonprofits.

Anchor: Stats

By the Numbers


Average Salary


Industry Growth


Average Financial Aid


Online Program
Anchor: Programs & Requirements
Programs & Requirements

Programs & Requirements

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Leadership Studies

The PhD in Leadership Studies Online at University of the Cumberlands is designed to help you guide educational organizations into the future. You’ll learn the skills you need to lead with empathy and insight, inspire staff and students, and contribute insightful research to your field. Online courses and flexible scheduling make it possible to earn your Ph.D. in Leadership. and set your sights on new goals—even while working full time.

With our online PhD in Leadership Studies you will participate in a comprehensive study of effective leadership and administrative methods, while gaining an in-depth look at the political factors involved in organizational decision making. Program planning, assessment strategies, and global trends in leadership round out the online Ph.D. leadership curriculum.

Additionally, if you are a current educator wishing to obtain Kentucky Rank 1 certification, you may complete an approved Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) program through the School of Education and transfer up to thirty (30) hours of the program toward the Ph.D. in Leadership Studies.  Note that a Ph.D. or Ed.D. alone will not lead to the Kentucky Rank 1 certification without first completing an Ed.S. through the School of Education. Our knowledgeable advisors are here to help you enroll in the classes you need to complete your Rank 1 certification and then the Ph.D. in Leadership Studies.

Course Requirements

LEAS 730 The Politics of Organizational Decision-Making

LEAC 731 Learning in Adulthood

LEAS 732 Program Planning and Assessment

LEAS 830 Leadership in Theory and Practice

LEAS 833 Higher Education in America

LEAS 835 The Change Process

LEAC 834 Leadership in Historical Context

LEAS 836 Current Trends and Issues in Leadership 

DSRT 734 Inferential Statistics in Decision-making

DSRT 736 Dissertation Seminar

DSRT 834 Advanced Statistical Applications

DSRT 837 Professional Writing and Proposal Development 

DSRT 839 Advanced Research Methods

DSRT 850 Qualitative Research 

DSRT 930 Dissertation

DSRT 931 Dissertation

Students pursuing a PhD in leadership studies at Cumberlands are required to complete ONE specialty area.

Criminal Justice

  • CROL 631 Law Enforcement Administration                            
  • CROL 632 Critical Issues in Law Enforcement: Race & Gender
  • CROL 633 Corrections Administration                                       
  • CROL 634 Critical Issues in Community Based Corrections
  • CROL 635 Legal and Ethical Issues in Homeland Security
  • CROL 636 Critical Issues in Homeland Security
  • CROL 637 Juvenile Justice Administration and Management 
  • CROL 641 Violent Offenders: Crimes & Psychology
  • CROL 651 Recovery and Relapse
  • CROL 674 Advanced Statistical Analysis (Ph.D. Elective hours only)
  • CROL 677 Applied Leadership (Ph.D. Elective hours only)
  • CROL 681 Proseminar in Criminal Justice 
  • CROL 683 Criminal Justice Program Evaluation 
  • CROL 685 Qualitative Methods in Criminal Justice (Ph.D. Elective or CJ Spec hours)
  • CROL 687 Legal Research and Analysis 
  • CROL 689 Life-Course Criminology 
  • CROL 691 Drugs and Crime


Education courses EdD and PhD students may enroll in.

Some courses require field/clinical hours that students must complete to earn a passing grade. Some courses listed may have prerequisites and may not be available to students who have not previously completed the prerequisites

  • ADOL 631     School Program Improvement
  • ADOL 633     Applied Research
  • ADOL 636     School Law I
  • ADOL 637     School Law II
  • ADOL 643     Special Education and School Leadership
  • ADOL 655     Team Leadership
  • COOL 633     Children and Adolescent Counseling
  • EDOL 542     Change, Pd, and Teaching Improvement
  • EDOL 547     Diversity in a Multicultural Society
  • EDOL 562     Theory of Teaching and Learning
  • EDOL 634     Curriculum Management And Assessment
  • EDOL 636     Problems In Education
  • REOL 633     Literacy Leadership
  • SPOL 530     Characteristics, Identification, and Instruction of Students with Disabilities
  • SPOL 631     Special Education Assessment and Evaluation
  • SPOL 632     Consultation and Collaboration for Curriculum Design
  • SPOL 636     Advanced Assessment Strategies and Prescriptive Writing


  • ENGL 534 Studies in British Literature
  • ENGL 535 Studies in Modern Literature
  • ENGL 550 Practice of Creative Writing
  • Approved electives

Health Professions  


  • LEAC 847 Diversity and Multicultural Education for Health Professions   
  • LEAC 848 Student Assessment in Health Professions  
  • LEAS 849 Current Topics and Trends in Healthcare   
  • LEAC 840 Foundations of Instructional Technologies    
  • BADM 667 Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare Elective  

Elective (Select one course):  

  • HHP 638 Administrative and Management Strategies (3 hours)   
  • BADM 668 Strategic Management in Healthcare Administration  
  • BADM 663 Healthcare Policy and Economics
  • Approved HHP 500 or 600 level courses 

Health Science

  • HHP 532 Applied Nutrition
  • HHP 533 Health and Fitness Psychology
  • HHP 534 Exercise Physiology
  • HHP 535 Exercise Testing and Prescription
  • HHP 536 Foundations of Physical Activity in Health Promotion
  • HHP 537 Coaching and Fitness Leadership
  • HHP 630 Health Promotion through Physical Activity
  • HHP 631 Advanced Coaching and Fitness Leadership
  • HHP 632 Current Issues in Health Promotion
  • HHP 633 Current Issues in Coaching and Fitness Leadership
  • HHP 634 Strength and Conditioning
  • HHP 635 Youth Health and Fitness
  • HHP 636 Supplementation for Health and Human Performance
  • HHP 637 Applied Sports Medicine
  • HHP 638 Administrative and Management Strategies
  • HHP 639 Special Topics


  • HIST/HIOL 531 Selected Topics
  • Approved electives


  • MAOL 530 Topics in Mathematics I
  • MAOL 630 Topics in Mathematics II
  • Approved electives

Missions and Ministry

Required courses (6 credits):

  • MMOL 537 Christian Education
  • MMOL 634 Christian Leadership Development

Approved electives (6 credits): Select 2 of the following

  • MMOL 531 Old Testament Survey I  
  • MMOL 532 Old Testament Survey II
  • MMOL 533 New Testament Survey I  
  • MMOL 534 New Testament Survey II
  • MMOL 535 Christian Theology I
  • MMOL 536 Christian Theology II

 Additional electives (6 credits):  Select 2 of the following

  • MMOL 631 Focused Study of the Old Testament
  • MMOL 632 Focused Study of the New Testament
  • MMOL 635 Church Administration
  • MMOL 637 Planting High Impact Churches
  • MMOL 538 The Church and Contemporary Culture
  • Any other 500 or 600 level MMOL course


  • NURS510 Theoretical Basis for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • NURS 520 Issues in Advanced Practice
  • NURS 530 Epidemiology
  • NURS 532 Healthcare Technologies and Informatics in Advanced Nursing Practice
  • NURS 550 Advanced Nursing Research and Evidence Based Practice
  • NURS 590 Advanced Pharmacology
  • NURS 592 Advanced Health Assessment
  • NURS 594 Advanced Pathophysiology
  • NURS 670 FNP Advanced Practice I, 6 hrs.
  • NURS 672 FNP Advanced Practice II, 6 hrs.
  • NURS 674 FNP Advanced Practice III, 6 hrs.
  • NURS 690 FNP Advanced Practice Internship, 6hrs.

Student Personnel Services

  • EDOL 631: Advanced Human Development, Learning and Behavior
  • LEAC 781 Higher Education and Student Personnel Services
  • LEAC 782 Higher Education Enrollment Management
  • LEAC 783 Higher Education Law and Policy in Student Services
  • BADM 533 Marketing Management
  • COUN 539 Counseling Theories & Techniques I OR COUN 633 Counseling During Grief and Crisis


Courses in the following Masters will matriculate as the Doctoral specialty if the program is completed as a second Masters:

  • MBA
  • Master of Science in Global Blockchain Tech.
  • Master’s in Project Management
  • Master’s in Strategic Management
  • Or other approved electives

Information Systems

Courses in the following Masters will matriculate as the Doctoral specialty if the program is completed as a second Masters:

  • MSDF
  • MSIT
  • Or other approved electives

Instructional Technology


  • LEAC 840 Foundations of Instructional Technologies 
  • LEAC 841 Trends and Issues in Instructional Technology
  • LEAC 842 Leadership and Instructional Technology
  • LEAC 843 Ethical and Legal Issues related to Instructional Technology
  • LEAC 835 Teaching and Learning Online*

Elective (Select one):

  • LEAC 844 Management and Evaluation of Instructional Technology and Design 
  • LEAC 845 Instructional Multimedia Integration
  • LEAC 846 Digital Game-Based Learning

Public Administration

Required Core: 

  • BUPA 660 Fundamentals of Public Administration
  • BUPA 661 Public Enterprise Systems
  • BUPA 662 Emergency Management & Continuity of Operations
  • BUPA 663 Administrative Law & Regulatory Processes
  • BUPA 664 Public Sector Budgeting

Elective (Select one):

  • BACC 632 Governmental and Not-for-profit Accounting
  • BADM 665 Healthcare Policy and Economics
  • BADM 623 Project Management Processes
  • BADM 632 Advanced Human Resource Management
  • BADM 652 Strategic Organizational Design

The Leadership Certificate (Tier I) is a twelve (12) credit hour graduate-level online certificate program designed to equip students with advanced leadership skills such as strategic planning, team management, effective communication, and problem-solving. Combined with a deepened professional knowledge, students will strengthen their commitment to professional service and ethical decision-making. 

Learning Outcomes: 

  1. Learners will be able to clearly differentiate between private, public, for-profit, and non-profit organizations, understanding their unique characteristics, operational frameworks, and impact on leadership styles and organizational strategies.
  2. Learners will demonstrate the ability to discuss foundational organizational and leadership theories and apply these theories in various contexts, including the development of a capstone project. This outcome emphasizes the practical application of theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios.
  3. Learners will develop the ability to analyze and evaluate the roles and responsibilities of organizational leaders across different types of organizations, including the impact of these roles on organizational performance and culture.
  4. Learners will show proficiency in integrating knowledge and skills acquired from previous courses, applying concepts, principles, and practices associated with organizational leadership to address complex issues, particularly in the development of a capstone project.
  5. Learners will gain a comprehensive understanding of organizational behavior theories and concepts, focusing on the challenges of dealing with organizational change, employee relations, motivation, conflict management, and the dynamics of group and team relationships within business environments.

Course Requirements (12 hours)

  • LEAD 530 Foundations of Organizational Leadership (3 semester hours)
  • LEAD 531 Introduction to Non-Profit Management (3 semester hours)
  • LEAD 639 Organizational Leadership Capstone (3 semester hours)
  • BADM 532 Organizational Behavior (3 semester hours)

Successful completion of the program provides the education needed to understand the basic components of Leadership and how this it can be applied and implemented in the business, government and non-profit organizations. Graduates of the program will also be eligible for admission to the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership degree program upon completing an application and submitting all required documentation. 

A minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA of 2.0 is required to be admitted to the Leadership Certificate (Tier I) Program.

Anchor: Mission & Goals

Mission & Goals

This mission of the PhD in Leadership Studies degree program at Cumberlands is to prepare you for ethical and effective leadership in your company, community, or country.

Conduct research that focuses on the theory and practice of organizational leadership.
Explore how strategic leadership can help you effectively guide others.
Learn how to lead with empathy and insight to inspire others.
Contribute insightful research to your field.
Gain an in-depth look at the political factors involved in organizational decision making.
Anchor: Career Outcomes

Leadership Careers & Outcomes

All stats from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top Executive: $100,090

Top Executive: $100,090

Top executives plan strategies and policies to ensure that an organization meets its goals.

Chief Executive: $189,520

Chief Executive: $189,520

Determine and formulate policies and provide overall direction of companies or private and public sector organizations within guidelines set up by a board of directors or similar governing body. Plan, direct, or coordinate operational activities at the highest level of management with the help of subordinate executives and staff managers.

University Administrator: $99,940

University Administrator: $99,940

Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, academics, and faculty research at colleges and universities.

Administrative Services Manager: $101,870

Administrative Services Manager: $101,870

Administrative services and facilities managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities that help an organization run efficiently.

Marketing Manager: $138,730

Marketing Manager: $138,730

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers plan programs to generate interest in products or services.

Management Analyst: $95,290

Management Analyst: $95,290

Management analysts recommend ways to improve an organization’s efficiency.

Anchor: FAQs

Common Questions

A Ph.D. in Leadership or Leadership Studies is a research doctorate that focuses on the theory and practice of organizational leadership. In many programs, students have the opportunity to study leadership within a specific field, such as education. In this case, you’ll explore how strategic leadership can help you effectively guide, manage, and improve educational organizations—from schools to colleges to nonprofits. Courses in subjects such as decision making, program planning and assessment, change management, and other skill areas will prepare you for leadership opportunities that call for advanced scholarship and expertise.

While many working educators opt to earn a Ph.D. in Leadership, these programs differ slightly from practitioner degrees such as the Ed.D. Namely, research plays a larger role in the Ph.D. You’ll take courses in research methodology, including qualitative and quantitative research methods, inferential statistics, and statistical analysis. And you’ll embark on an original dissertation that furthers the body of knowledge in your field.

With a Ph.D. in Leadership, you can pursue growing career paths in educational organizations such as schools, colleges, and universities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that postsecondary administrator jobs will increase over the next decade as more students pursue higher education to achieve their goals. Postsecondary administrators bring together expertise in organizational management and education to lead and manage academic programs, research activities, and student services. Alternatively, candidates who pursue additional requirements for certification could become administrators at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

With a research doctorate under your belt, you could also pursue a career as a postsecondary teacher. Overall, this field should grow at a faster-than-average rate of 12 percent over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most roles require a doctoral degree—generally, a Ph.D. 

Finally, earning a doctorate in leadership could equip you for a management analyst career path. Management analysts evaluate organizations and suggest strategies for solving problems, improving efficiency, and growing profits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that management analyst jobs will grow by 14 percent over the next decade—much faster than average.

Is an online Ph.D. in Leadership a respected credential? Will earning your Ph.D. be a worthwhile investment in your career? For most candidates, the answer is yes. Not only could your doctorate in leadership studies help you stand out in the job market, but now that online learning is a popular and credible way to earn a degree, there’s no difference between a traditional and online Ph.D. in Leadership beyond the convenience of studying in a virtual setting. Potential advantages include:

  • Career opportunities. Earning a doctorate is typically a requirement for roles such as postsecondary administrator and postsecondary teacher. With a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies, you’ll learn the skills you need to take your career to the highest level.
  • Higher earnings. With a Ph.D., you could qualify for roles that command a higher salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary administrators earned a median annual salary of $96,910 in 2021. Postsecondary teachers earned $79,640 in the same period.
  • A bigger impact. Leading your school or organization into the future calls for advanced preparation. Earning a doctorate in leadership studies will equip you with the theory, skills, and research experience you need to solve urgent problems, drive positive change, and make a lasting difference.

Are you a current educator wishing to obtain Kentucky Rank 1 certification via our online leadership doctorate? You can achieve your goals by taking additional coursework within the School of Education. Keep in mind that a Ph.D. or Ed.D. alone will not lead to the Kentucky Rank 1 certification without an accompanying planned program from the School of Education that includes the courses required for Rank 1. Our knowledgeable advisors are here to help you enroll in the classes you will need for both your Ph.D. in Leadership Studies and the Kentucky Rank 1 certification.

All programs at University of the Cumberlands are offered at some of the lowest rates in the nation – and we even include free textbooks through our One Price Promise! For more information on how affordable this program would be for you, visit our Financial Aid page.

I would give my highest recommendation of this program. My perspectives and understanding about leadership has reached a level beyond my imagination. The faculty at UC always go the extra mile to create a phenomenal learning environment with the highest professionalism and the most compassionate personal cultivation and care. My PhD journey at UC has been the most uplifting and enlightening one for me. Way to go, UC!

Dr. Amy West
Graduate, PhD in Leadership Studies
Anchor: Faculty

Faculty Experts

Find out more about the caring and experienced faculty at Cumberlands.

Robert Kevin Meade

Dr. Robert Meade

Adjunct Professor
PhD Leadership

Dr. Robert Meade

Contact Information

robert.meade [at] ucumberlands.edu
Dr. Matthew P. Ewers

Dr. Matthew P. Ewers

Adjunct Professor
PhD Leadership

Dr. Matthew P. Ewers

Contact Information

matthew.ewers [at] ucumberlands.edu
Dr. Jacob Bryant

Dr. Jacob (Jake) Bryant

PhD Candidate Assessment Director/Assistant Professor
The Graduate School
PhD Leadership

Dr. Jacob (Jake) Bryant

Contact Information

jacob.bryant [at] ucumberlands.edu

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