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Online Ph.D. in Leadership Studies

Academic institutions around the country need inspiring leaders. With a Ph.D. 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 your doctorate in leadership studies on your schedule—even while working full time.


What is a Ph.D. in Leadership?

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.

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What Can I Do with a Ph.D. in Leadership?

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.

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Is an Online Ph.D. in Leadership Worth It?

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.

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Hear from a UC Graduate

"If you are the one who is looking for a doctoral program, I would give my highest recommendation of the Ph. D. Leadership Studies programs at University of the Cumberlands. Why? Because my perspectives about leadership studies have been tremendously enriched and my understanding of leadership has reached a level beyond my imagination. The leaders and faculty at UC always go their extra miles to create a phenomenal learning environment for each degree seeker with the highest professionalism and the most compassionate personal cultivation and care. The choice of attending UC has been most divine and meaningful for me. The journey of Ph. D. at UC has been the most uplifting and enlightening one for me. Way to go, UC!!!"

- Dr. Amy West

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Curriculum and Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at University of the Cumberlands is an online leadership doctorate 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. and set your sights on new goals—even while working full time.

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 curriculum.

UC’s online doctoral degree in leadership studies includes curriculum options that will prepare you to become an advanced practitioner within community organizations, higher education institutions, and K-12 schools. Available concentrations include:

  • Business
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • English
  • Health Professions
  • History
  • Information Systems
  • Instructional Technology
  • Mathematics
  • Missions and Ministry
  • Nursing
  • Student Personnel Services

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.

And if you’re wondering whether there is a Christian online Ph.D. program that will help you prepare for your goals in educational leadership, look no further than University of the Cumberlands. Our focus on putting faith into action extends to our online doctoral programs, including the Ph.D. in Leadership Studies.

Click here for Course Details

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Click here to view dissertation topics that were successfully defended by students in our PhD in Leadership Studies program.

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Costs for programs of study at University of the Cumberlands are competitive and affordable. Click here to view tuition rates and fees.

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Admission Requirements

Responsibility for the routine administration of the policies and procedures of the EdD/PhD resides with the EdD Program Director or the Chair of Leadership Studies under the oversight of the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Provisions for Reapplying to the Doctoral Program: A candidate whose initial application was denied admissions may reapply to the program after one full semester or 16 weeks. A person committed to being accepted into the program should work toward developing and strengthening writing, critical thinking, and computational skills. It is also essential to recognize that potential dissertation topics must be compatible with the academic interests and expertise of the program’s full-time faculty.


Admission to our University is very competitive as well as selective and we review each application by the same standards.

  • Application and Application Fee
  • Submit official transcripts from all applicable colleges/universities attended; must be received directly from the issuing college or university.
  • Doctoral degree admission requires a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale from the conferred master’s degree as well as in any subsequent graduate study. Admission to a Doctoral degree requires a master’s degree or higher from a US Department of Education recognized accredited institution, in a field related to the doctoral degree of application.
  • Any international course work completed must have official transcript evaluations completed and submitted to the University by the evaluation firm. Evaluations MUST include GPA for admission.
    Approved Evaluation Firms are:
    • World Education Services (WES)
    • Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE)
    • International Education Research Foundation (IERF)
    • Educational Perspectives (EP)
    • SpanTran
  • Documentation of language fluency for non-native speakers of English, such as a score report from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the 8 International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or a report from Duolingo. This requirement is waived for students who have completed bachelor’s or master’s level coursework in the U.S. at an accredited institution. The minimum acceptable TOEFL or IELTS scores for admission are: 
    • Paper-based TOEFL (PBT) - 550 
    • Internet-based TOEFL (IBT) - 79 
    • IELTS - 6
    • Duolingo - 100

All admissions materials should be submitted to Graduate Admissions:

University of the Cumberlands
Graduate & Online Admissions

649 S. 10th Street Suite C
Williamsburg, KY 40769
Phone 606.539.4390
Toll Free 855.791.7199

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Click here to view University of the Cumberlands' accreditation information. 

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Click here to view a list of the faculty. 

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Admissions Office

Contact Us

Phone: 606.539.4390
Tollfree: 855.791.7199

Visit Us In Person

649 S. 10th Street Suite C
Williamsburg, KY 40769