Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions for the Doctor of Philosophy in educational leadership in the Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology at Western Michigan University.

How many credits does this Ph.D. involve? What does the program of studies look like? How many of my master’s degree courses will count within this program?

Each of the four concentrations in the Ph.D. in educational leadership require a minimum of 60 graduate credits (beginning Fall 2018). All include:

  • A leadership core;
  • A 30 credit hour professional inquiry, research, and dissertation core (twelve credits of research tools, and 18 credits for dissertation seminar and independent work).

The remaining credits are focused within each concentration’s subject area courses. Typically, there will be no substitutions for these required subject area courses unless there is nearly an identical match with another course taken. If students are pursuing a certificate or professional endorsement with their doctoral program, they may need to take more than the minimum 60 credit hours.

Where will courses be offered? How many of them will be offered virtually?

Each of the four concentrations are offered differently.

  • K-12 Leadership PhD concentration: As of Fall 2023, the K-12 Leadership PhD concentration will be offered completely online (most utilizing the range of virtual tools for synchronous and partially synchronous classes).
  • Most classes needed for the Higher Education Leadership PhD concentration are available on the main Kalamazoo campus, with many courses being offered virtually (when there are enough regional students, courses may be offered at the Grand Rapids regional campus downtown).
  • For Workforce Education & Development (WFED) most required classes are offered at the main Kalamazoo campus and online; some content courses for WFED are offered online in conjunction with Ferris State University. In an effort to be more accessible for working professionals (our primary target audience), all EDLD classes are taught via an evening, weekend (i.e., Friday night or Saturday once a month), or online format.
  • For the Organizational Analysis concentration, the required courses are offered at the main Kalamazoo campus and online (check the multi-year plan for semester, location, and modality of offerings.

What is unique about this doctoral program?

In addition to being targeted toward working professionals, this program contains a very unique professional inquiry, research, and dissertation core for all students. This approach essentially flips the “dissertation process on its head” by having students focus on understanding the dissertations process and exploring possible dissertation topics during the first year of their program through the initial doctoral studies seminar. This approach will allow students in their second and third years to be working on their research ideas while taking core research and specific content courses for their concentration.

Unlike many doctoral programs that require students to initially take a number of different content and research courses, and pass their comprehensive exams before beginning to focus on their dissertation research, the approach implemented by EDLD helps students see themselves investing in the dissertation process from the very beginning of their program.  The “dissertation process on its head” seeks to decrease the large number of all-but-dissertations (students leaving a program with all but dissertation complete) estimated to be around 40 - 60% of students who start a PhD. 

How long will it take students to complete this doctoral program?

On an aggressive part-time basis, working professionals could finish their Ph.D. in about 4 - 5 years. This involves taking two classes each fall and spring semester, and one class each during summer I and summer II sessions. The time frame may be longer depending on the number of previous graduate credits, number of classes taken each year and how long it takes a student to complete their dissertation.

What if I have two masters' degrees, a specialist degree or another doctoral degree?

Students must complete at least 42 credits at WMU to receive a doctoral degree no matter how many previous graduate credits they have earned (and degrees completed). This includes a minimum of 30 credits of courses (e.g., 10 three-credit classes), and 12 credits of dissertation hours.

I started a doctoral program long ago but never finished. Will any of those credits count?

Students have a total of seven years to complete the doctoral program from the point of taking their first classes. There may be possibilities for using credits from previous degrees, but any changes to your program must be approved by your advisor, and follow the rules set forth by WMU and the Graduate College. The best recommendation is to speak with your assigned advisor.

Can I apply for this program without a master's degree?

This Ph.D. in educational leadership program is designed for students who have completed their master's degree. If you are nearing the completion of your master's degree, you can apply for this doctoral program, but none of those credits could count toward this Ph.D. until that degree is completed.

How do I apply?

Due date: Early January of each year

Application requirements

Contact the EDLD PhD Unit Head and/or the main ELRT department office at (269) 387-3897

Do I have to take the GRE? How much will this count in the application review?

No, the ELRT Department doctoral programs do not require the GRE for admissions.
The criteria examined by the application review committee, include:

•       Formal interview process.

•       Longer-term career goals.

•       Reference forms with attached letters.

•       Professional responsibilities and activities.

•       Writing sample (via the written narrative).

Note: If you have ever taken the general GRE test, those scores are valid for this application process (no matter how old, as long as you have an official copy of those scores). We will also accept GMAT scores if you have taken that exam.

Can I start taking classes prior to being admitted to the doctoral program?

Yes, you are allowed to take up to nine credits prior to formal admission to a graduate program at WMU. You must complete a non-degree status (graduate) application prior to enrolling for any WMU classes. Please note that the application fee that is required with this form may be applied toward the application fee required when you apply for the doctoral program.

What if I haven't taken classes within the last year? 

Students who have not taken a WMU class in more than a year may be blocked from registering for future classes. Once you have applied for readmission progress to date will be evaluated and students are notified regarding their readmission request. This process may take several weeks.

Are there graduate assistantships available for full-time students? What about financial aid?

There are a limited number of Graduate College doctoral associateships and department assistantships or students able to commit to 20 hours of work each week. These positions are not appropriate for professionals who are full-time employed.

Eligibility criteria

  • Must be a student in the Department of Educational Leadership, Research, and Technology
  • Campus-based student
  • Must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above
  • Must be able to work the required 20 hours of service per week and be enrolled for a minimum of 6-credit hours for a full-time award
  • Students in online programs cannot have a GA/DGA

Application deadline: TBD

New applicants

Additional financial aid information is available from WMU's financial aid website.