Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (online)

This program is designed for working professionals with leadership experience who desire to lead K-12 schools.

For decades, educational systems have failed to transform to meet the needs of all students. Drawing on the principles of equity and social justice, build your capacity to lead change in ways that will improve academic opportunities and outcomes for all students.

Program Overview

The Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership online (EDL online) program prepares you to become a critically conscious leader with the skills to think strategically, understand and apply evidence-based research, develop strategies to create equity and foster continuous organizational improvement. The online version of this program only offers the K-12 Leadership in Urban Education Settings concentration.

Through this program, you will:

  • Earn a doctorate from a program with a strong reputation among employers
  • Continue to work full time while taking one evening of classes per week for most of the program
  • Learn alongside a cohort of experienced K-12 professionals
  • Become equipped to address critical issues in communities that serve historically marginalized groups


The Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EDL) program will equip you with knowledge and skills in six core competencies:

  • Accountability
  • Critical reflection
  • Diversity and equity
  • Ethics
  • Learning organizations
  • Research and data

In the first year of the program, you will complete core courses that reflect USC Rossier’s mission and the program’s purpose. These courses focus on developing or deepening your understanding of the way power and privilege play out in education, leadership and learning to perpetuate inequities in learning opportunities. Subsequent coursework will build on this foundation and prepare you to become a leader in classrooms, schools or school districts.

Component Courses Purpose
Core courses 6 Acquire broad knowledge of the USC Rossier mission, program purpose and program competencies.
Concentration courses 4 Develop an understanding of how to create high-performing K-12 schools that address the diverse needs of all students. 
Research methods courses 2 Understand how quantitative and qualitative research tools are used in educational research and learn to critique and design research studies.
Dissertation in practice 3 Conduct action-oriented research to solve a problem of practice.

Dissertation in Practice

The dissertation in practice is a doctoral dissertation with a more practical focus than a traditional dissertation. Under the guidance of faculty, you will apply relevant research methods to tackle a problem of practice that impedes access to equitable educational opportunities and outcomes. The purpose of the dissertation in practice is to equip you with the knowledge and skills you will use to address existing problems in your workplace well beyond your completion of the program. 


As an applicant, you will be automatically considered for limited, merit-based scholarships of $10,000. There is no need to submit a separate application for this scholarship. Recipients are selected based on academic achievement, demonstrated dedication to the USC Rossier mission and other distinguishing characteristics. All USC scholarships are awarded at the time of admission.

View USC Rossier’s scholarship finder to identify other scholarships and funding opportunities. You do not have to be admitted to apply to these scholarships. Carefully note the scholarship application deadlines, which may occur before the final program application deadline.

Financial Aid

The USC Office of Student Financial Aid provides information regarding various types of financial aid and financing options.

To be considered for financial aid, you must apply by filing the FAFSA by May 6, 2022. After you apply, the financial aid office will determine your financial need and inform you of the federal or private loans that are available to you.

Career Outcomes

The K-12 leadership concentration prepares you for employment as an educational leader in the K-12 field, including in school site leadership, district leadership and systems leadership. Roles include teacher leaders, district office leaders, superintendents, and CEOs of independent schools and charter schools.

Alumni have held positions such as:

  • Superintendent, Covina-Valley Unified School District
  • Director of community partnerships, Long Beach Unified School District
  • Chief innovation officer, National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)
  • Superintendent, Garden Grove Unified School District

Program Details

Degree Awarded

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Estimated Length

3 years



Program Cost


  • Online

Next Deadline

June 30th, 2023

See all deadlines

Start Date

Week of August 21, 2023

Class Times

Prior to the dissertation phase, students are assigned to one evening of classes per week on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. in the Pacific Time Zone.

Take the Next Step

Meet Our Student Ambassadors

Our student ambassadors can provide you with helpful insight through the lens of their own experiences. Connect with a student of your choice by email and set up a time to talk.

EDL Geni Cobb

Geni Cobb

Concentration: K-12 Urban Education
Graduation year: Class of 2024
Hometown: Northridge, Calif.
Undergraduate institution: California State University, Northridge
Graduate institution: California State University, Northridge

“I am the first generation to go to college and a parent to three young adults. I grew up about seven minutes away from USC and never felt I could go there as a kid.”

EDL Colleen Evens

Colleen Evens

Concentration: K-12 Urban Education 
Graduation year: 2024
Hometown: Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Undergraduate institution: University of Hartford
Graduate institution: University of St. Thomas

“Attending courses online and engaging with my cohort community from across the United States has brought a unique experience to my educational journey.”

EDL Alia Gates

Alia Gates

Concentration: K-12 Urban Education
Graduation year: 2024
Hometown: Long Beach, Calif.
Undergraduate Institution: San Diego State University
Graduate Institution: San Jose State University

“I needed to be at a school that was hyper focused on equity and social justice. I wanted to be part of a community of educators fully committed to improving the communities they serve.”

image of student ambassador

Delia Hong

Concentration: K-12 Urban Education
Graduation year: 2025
Hometown: Northridge, California
Undergraduate Institution: University of California, Irvine
Graduate Institution: Teachers College - Columbia University

“My north star that continually guides my passion and commitment to education is examining the inequities that exist within schools and dismantling the status quo for how schools contribute to social inequality.

Program Outcomes


Sitting superintendent alumni 


of EDL alumni said their USC Rossier education prepared them to be more effective in their career


of EDL alumni said their studies at USC Rossier prepared them well for future employment


of EDL alumni said their studies at USC Rossier prepared them to understand research

From Our Alumni

David D. Smith

As a change agent for underrepresented students, my time at USC sharpened my mind and equipped me with the tools necessary for success. As I was taught by the USC Rossier world class instructors and surrounded by top-tier educational professionals, there was never a wasted moment or opportunity.

David D. Smith, EdD ‘’

Chief Technology Officer, Tustin Unified School District

Woman at leadership conference

Is an EdD worth it? Leaders share insights and experiences

Those wondering if an EdD is worth it often want to make a positive impact while advancing their career. A doctoral degree in education can be an effective way to land leadership positions in K–12 schools, higher education and other industries as well. Because doctoral programs require rigorous study and professional experience, an EdD represents the highest level of preparation for many roles in education and related fields. 

Learn more

PhD vs. EdD in education: nine expert tips to help you choose

If you want to elevate your career in education, an advanced degree can open the door to more job opportunities. Many schools offer graduate programs in education, but before you go down a rabbit hole of research, first decide if you want to get a PhD or EdD degree.

Read more

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Program Contact

Estevan Hernandez

Estevan R. Hernández, ME

Senior Assistant Director, Office of Admission and Scholarships

Student taking notes

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