Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (online)

This program is designed for working professionals with leadership experience who desire to lead K-12 schools, universities, community colleges or other educational settings.

To address the existing gaps in education, the EDL online program empowers students to lead change through an equity and social justice lens. The program will prepare students to improve academic opportunities and outcomes.



Program Overview

The Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership online (EDL online) program prepares you to be a critically conscious leader equipped with strategic thinking, evidence-based research skills, and the ability to create equity and foster continuous organizational improvement. The online program offers four concentrations: K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings, Leading Instructional Change, Higher Education Administration, and Educational Psychology.

Through this program, you will:

  • Earn a doctorate recognized by employers in the field of education.
  • Be able to maintain a full-time work schedule while taking two courses one night a week.
  • Learn alongside a cohort of experienced educational professionals nationwide.
  • Become equipped to address critical issues in historically marginalized communities and make a lasting impact.


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. Explore the dynamics of power and privilege in education, leadership, and addressing inequities in learning opportunities. Subsequent coursework will build on this foundation and prepare you to become a leader in schools, colleges and universities or educational settings.

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.

Online Concentration

Each concentration path includes four courses and a concentration-specific format for the dissertation in practice. A faculty member in your chosen concentration will provide guidance throughout your dissertation completion. Relevant career experience is a requirement for the concentration you select.

The K-12 leadership concentration will prepare you to become a leader in classrooms, schools or school districts. The courses help develop an understanding of how to create high-performing schools that address the diverse needs of all students regardless of school setting. The course sequence culminates in either EDUC 720: Leadership for Principals or EDUC 721: Leadership for Superintendents, an integrated composite of effective leadership practices that result in more effective organizational outcomes, including increased student achievement.

Recommended career background for this concentration:

Teacher, administrator or education professional in PK-12 education at the local, state and federal levels.

Dissertation in practice: Study an existing problem of practice and complete a traditional five-chapter dissertation.

Career Outcomes: The K-12 leadership concentration prepares you for employment as an educational leader in the K-12 field. This includes 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

The higher education administration concentration focuses on administrative theory and best practices for leading higher education institutions. Courses in the concentration address policy, economic issues, assessment, student learning and the history and major philosophical assumptions that undergird the system of higher education.

Recommended career background for this concentration: Professional in higher education administration at a two- or four-year college or university (including student, academic and administrative affairs) or secondary and postsecondary college advising.

Dissertation in practice: Study an existing problem of practice and complete a traditional five-chapter dissertation.

Career outcomes: The higher education administration concentration prepares you for employment in senior administration in two- and four-year colleges, academic executive positions, key leadership roles in education-related organizations, and more.

Alumni have held positions such as:

  • Associate dean of students and director, Stanford University
  • Executive director, undergraduate advising and programs, School of Business, George Washington University
  • Director of intercollegiate athletics, California State University, Northridge
  • Vice president for student affairs and dean of students, University of Texas, Austin

The leading instructional change concentration focuses on theories, practices and policies supporting curriculum and instruction that foster equitable educational opportunities for students from historically marginalized groups in urban PK-12 and higher education settings. This concentration is designed for individuals interested in leading and teaching teachers (pre- and in-service) and faculty (higher ed) so that they are prepared to provide their students with high-quality instruction that is anti-racist, culturally relevant and LGBTQ+ inclusive.

Recommended career background for this concentration: Teacher or administrator in PK-12 or higher education, instructional leader or designer, curriculum developer or professional in non-traditional educational settings.

Dissertation in practice: Conduct action or participatory action research addressing the relationship between leadership and instructional improvement in PK-20 educational settings and complete a non-traditional written product (not a five-chapter dissertation) and public presentation.
Career outcomes: The leading instructional change program prepares you for positions such as university faculty member, professional development specialist, curriculum developer/administrator and more.
Alumni have held positions such as:

  • Director, metrics and LCAP, Azusa Unified School District
  • Director, student support and intervention, Antelope Valley Union High School District
  • Senior director of teaching and learning, Los Angeles Education Partnership

The educational psychology concentration* focuses on research and practice in the areas of learning, motivation and development in diverse social contexts. Courses in the concentration explore how people learn, what motivates them, which instructional and motivational strategies are most effective within varied cultural systems and how the social context of instruction affects learning.

*The educational psychology concentration does not meet the requirements for licensure as an educational psychologist.

Recommended career background for this concentration: Professional in K-12, higher education, or counseling, special education, social services, instructional technology, non-profit organizations, or other non-traditional educational settings.

Dissertation in practice: Study an existing problem of practice and complete a five-chapter dissertation or design curriculum to address an existing problem of practice.

Career outcomes: The educational psychology concentration prepares you for employment in areas such as instructional design, human performance personnel, school/community counseling and more.

Alumni have held positions such as:

  • Innovation program manager, Applied Materials
  • Managing director, school performance accountability and research, California Charter Schools Association
  • Dean of innovation, The Derryfield School
  • Vice president of education, Fusion Education Group

Dissertation in Practice

The dissertation in practice prioritizes real-world application, using relevant research methods to address practical issues in equitable education. It equips you with skills to tackle workplace challenges. Format options for the dissertation will vary based on concentration.


Applicants are automatically considered for merit-based scholarships of up to $10,000, without needing a separate application. However, scholarship availability may be limited and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Recipients are selected based on academic achievement, commitment to the USC Rossier mission, and other factors. All scholarships are awarded upon admission.

For additional scholarship opportunities, consult the Scholarship Finder. Please note, separate applications and deadlines may apply.

Financial Aid

The USC Office of Student Financial Services provides information regarding student accounts, tuition payment plans, campus-based loans, payment options and tax credits.

To be considered for financial aid, you must apply by filing the FAFSA. 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.

Program Details

Degree Awarded

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Estimated Length

3 years



Program Cost

$2,244 per unit (estimated)

Estimated cost of attendance


  • Online

Next Deadline

December 1st, 2023

See all deadlines

Start Date

Week of August 21, 2024

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 9:50 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

Callah Darmali

Callah Darmali

Associate Director, Office of Admission and Scholarships

Student taking notes

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