Jun 17, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Educational Leadership, Ph.D.

College of Education  
Department: Leadership, Policy and Lifelong Learning 


The Ph.D. in Educational Leadership degree program is designed for those individuals who intend to build an academic career focused on conducting research and analysis in the multidisciplinary field of educational leadership and policy studies, or who wish to build an administrative career focused on innovative and inquiry-based leadership. Accordingly, this program will prepare individuals for careers in K-12 education systems, research universities and teaching colleges, as well as private, non-profit, state, federal, or international educational agencies.

Individual students will work alongside distinguished faculty with expertise in multiple fields including: ethical leadership, curriculum and pedagogy, politics of education, education law, organizational theory, equitable education reform, school accountability and choice policies, and anti-oppressive education. The program is designed to provide students exposure to research and academic discourses in organizational leadership, curriculum leadership, and policy leadership in education. In addition, students will gain knowledge around research methodologies and a specialized cognate area of study.

Students in this degree program will design an individualized program of study that reflects their specific research interests. This will prepare students to conduct and apply high quality research to practice, write and present scholarly papers at professional conferences, and submit research articles for publication in education journals.

Initial advising, from inquiry about the program through the first year of coursework, is provided by the Doctoral Program Coordinator. By the completion of the second year of study, students will select a major professor who will assist them with planning their remaining course of study. By the end of the third year, students will assemble an advisory committee consisting of the major professor and at least three other members. This committee guides the student through the dissertation process, including the qualifying examination, dissertation proposal, and dissertation defense.

NOTE: The Ph.D. degree program is not an initial certification or licensure program. Students seeking Florida Level 1 Educational Leadership Certification need to refer to the M.Ed. degree program  or consult with the Ph.D. Program Coordinator to complete a modified program with additional coursework from the Education Leadership Praxis and Field Experiences Requirements (15 credits) in the M.Ed. Program in Educational Leadership, in addition to the Ph.D. requirements.

For further information, please see http://www.usf.edu/education/areas-of-study/educational-leadership-policy/

Accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). More info: https://www.usf.edu/education/about-us/accreditation.aspx

Admission Information

Must meet University Admission and English Proficiency requirements as well as requirements for admission to the major, listed below.

Admission to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in Educational Leadership occurs one time each year in the fall semester. Admission is based on a comprehensive evaluation of each applicant’s demonstrated academic potential to successfully complete all of the degree requirements. Success in the Ph.D. degree program requires students to deeply engage in an area of inquiry, apply excellence in research methods, and develop exceptional writing skills. The program faculty will consider each applicant entirely within the context defined by her or his personal and professional qualifications. Applicants meeting the set of initial criteria will be asked to participate in an interview conducted by faculty and complete a timed writing sample that will be scheduled to occur before or after the interview.

Applicants should have:

  • An earned master’s from an accredited institution of higher education
  • An earned grade point average of 3.50 in the master’s degree and an earned undergraduate grade point average of 3.00) in the last half of the bachelor’s degree

Applicants should submit:

  • A letter of intent outlining experiences and goals (3 page maximum);
  • A current resume;
  • Three letters of professional reference, each enclosed in a sealed envelope and signed across the flap by the recommender or emailed by recommender to the Academic Program Specialist in the Department.  Please ask references to include your name and “letter of reference” in subject line when emailing the letter.

International Students

International students should check with International Services (https://www.usf.edu/world/international-services/index.aspx) for the latest information on requirements related to State testing, internship and practicum.

Curriculum Requirements

Total Minimum Hours: 57 Credit hours

  • Core Knowledge– 12 Credit hours
  • Major Knowledge – 15 Credit hours
  • Minor Knowledge – 9 Credit hours
  • Research Methods – 15 Credit hours
  • Dissertation - 6 Credit hours minimum

Major Knowledge Requirements (15 Credit Hours)

Note: Students cannot use more than two (2) Special Topics Seminars to fulfill Major Knowledge Requirements.

Minor Knowledge Requirements (9 Credit Hours)

Note: In consultation with the program coordinator or major professor, students will select a minimum of three (3) 7000-level or 6000-level courses to be taken outside of the Educational Leadership Program area. Students are expected to support the development of their research interest through the courses taken to fulfill the Minor Knowledge Requirements.

  • Elective 1 Credit(s): 3
  • Elective 2 Credit(s): 3
  • Elective 3 Credit(s): 3

Research Methods Requirements (15 Credit Hours)

Dissertation (6 Credit Hours Minimum)

  • Credit Hours: 2-19 (6 Credit Hours minimum for this program) (Doctoral) (Doctoral)

Required Examinations

A qualifying examination is required prior to admission to candidacy. Upon approval of major professor, the qualifying examination can be scheduled after a candidate has completed a minimum of 48 credit hours of all required coursework.


There is no on-campus residency requirement for the Ph.D.