Educational Studies - P-12 Education Studies

Educational Studies - P-12 Education StudiesDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Program Length

4-5 years

Credits Required


*beyond the master’s is typical



GRE/Entrance Exam

Not Required

Application Process

Preparing the Next Generation Scholars in P-12 Education

The Doctoral Specialization in P-12 Education provides academic preparation and professional development for those individuals interested in the study of P-12 education.

The program is described as an online program; however, all students are encouraged or required to travel to campus. The Ph.D. requires students to complete a minimum of 6 credit hours of on-campus research residency seminars. Normally, all doctoral students will be on campus to present the dissertation proposal and for the final defense of the dissertation study.

Courses are offered on the regular semester and summer session schedule of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Research residency seminars are offered during the summer in a hybrid fashion (time-intensive on-campus experiences followed by additional online content) to facilitate the on-campus residency requirement. Courses are announced in the UNL schedule available online and students register for courses using the University web-based enrollment and billing system.

New applicants should be aware that not all advisors can accept new students every year. We recommend that you contact the individual faculty members to learn about their scholarly interests and advising capacity in the course of preparing your application for admission. 

The Nebraska Difference

That is why we have built a program focused on standards, supported by research, and founded on relationships. Our program is aligned with the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL) as well as the Nebraska Principal Effective Practices Framework. But we didn’t stop there. We call it The Nebraska Difference.

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Visionary Thinkers understand there is more to school leadership than crossing off tasks on a checklist. They understand theory and research in education and articulate the reasons behind the actions they take and decisions they make.

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Reflective Learners know that if schools are to be focused on learning, it starts with leadership. Reflective Learners apply research and theory and model continuous growth, learning, and improvement in themselves and others.

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Servant Leaders know that, above all else, leadership is empowering and supporting others for success. Servant Leaders help sustain success with an eye toward the future.

Our Unique Program

Award-Winning Faculty

  • Students learn from faculty who conduct and share leading research on authentic school leadership challenges. These scholars are devoted their careers to teaching, researching, discovering, and sharing what works in school leadership.
  • Students also learn from faculty with decades of real world experience as school leaders. These leaders have walked the walk of school leadership as principals, superintendents, and more.

Learning to Address Real-World Challenges in P-12 Schools

  • Students apply their classroom learning to address real challenges facing P-12 schools. In their culminating activity, a committee of experts assists students in producing a Dissertation in Practice that tackles an authentic dilemma or opportunity in their school community.

Accessible Courses

  • Students form meaningful relationships with classmates, faculty, and others through a unique combination of face-to-face and online courses.

Individual Attention

  • Students complete an authentic internship experience in their districts with support from a field-based mentor and faculty member. Students learn from leading Nebraska superintendents in two dynamic, hands-on summer seminars, held at the Nebraska Council of School Administrators offices in Lincoln

Launching Your Journey

Program Curriculum

After attaining a Bachelor's degree, a minimum of 96 graduate semester hours is required to complete in order to receive a Doctorate in Educational Administration from the University of Nebraska. The Ed.D.requires completion of a minimum of 45 semester hours to be completed through UNL, regardless of how many graduate hours you may have already acquired before admission. However, students are allowed to transfer some credit from previous graduate hours towards their Ed.D. Most students transfer 36 credits from a master's degree, leaving only 60 credits to be completed through UNL, 12 of which are dissertation hours.

During the first, second, and third summers of enrollment, students in this program are required to attend one-week residencies in Lincoln. All other courses are delivered online. Upon completion of UNL courses, including an authentic, field-based internship.

Summer Courses

  • EDAD 987A Superintendent Academy I (3 hours, requires 1 week on-campus w/additional online content) A forum for dialogue and an exchange of ideas and experiences while creating a network of support for colleagues. Exploration and developing the skills, knowledge, understandings and unique features required of the superintendent's roles and responsibilities. Multiple perspectives on effective leadership and participants will be challenged to look at educational issues in new ways. Participants will be encouraged to bring contemporary educational issues to the sessions for intensive, confidential review and discussion. Interaction with session leaders and participants will be facilitated in an effort to examine the rapidly changing realities of public education and the impact these changes are having on the roles/responsibilities of the public school superintendent.
    • Credit Hours: 3
  • EDAD 920 – Diversity and Equity in Educational Organizations Understanding the individual and organizational issues of diversity and multiculturalism in P-20 schools. Increase the student’s knowledge and appreciation of the cultural, social, political, and economic realities of our complex, pluralistic society in relation to our educational system. Through the integration of relevant information from history, law, interpersonal development, organizational development, and philosophy, students will develop a complex, comprehensive understanding of diversity and equity.
    • Credit Hours: 3

Fall Courses

  • EDAD 906 Issues in System Level Administration Selected system level issues faced by pre-K to grade 12 school administrators.
    • Credit Hours: 3
  • Research/Statistics class
    • Credit Hours: 3

Spring Courses

  • EDAD 905 Issues in Governance of Educational Institutions Issues in the governance of K-12 schools including administrator-school board roles and relationships.
    • Credit Hours: 3
  • Research/Statistics class
    • Credit Hours: 3

Summer Courses

  • EDAD 988 Dissertation Proposal Development (3 hours, requires 1 week on-campus w/additional online content) Intended for students who are working on the development of their dissertation proposal. Component parts of the dissertation proposal. Students from all areas of Teachers College and the University of Nebraska who are in the process of developing their proposal will find this course to be of use. Typically the course should be taken after the research tools have been completed.
    • Credit Hours: 3
  • EDAD 986 Leadership in Educational Organizations The examination of leaders and leadership in educational organizations. Through assigned readings and written assignments, students will make applications of the readings to: a) the organization of educational institutions and programs, b) the leadership that occurs in educational organizations and programs, c) the leadership skills and actions that are necessary to achieve the mission, goals, and objectives of educational organizations, d) the student's individual leadership growth and development.
    • Credit Hours: 3

Fall Courses

  • EDAD 901 System-Level School Improvement Knowledge and skills required for system-level leaders to bring about school improvement and enhance student achievement. Creating systems that engage the public, performing in complex political environments, and delivering needed services to schools and classrooms.
    • Credit Hours: 3
  • Research/Statistics class
    • Credit Hours: 3

Spring Courses

  • EDAD 835 Business Management of Schools Allocation and management of fiscal resources including aspects of financial planning and reporting, budgeting and accounting procedures, purchasing, risk management and insurance, investing and bond issues, and auxiliary service.
    • Credit Hours: 3
  • Research/Statistics class
    • Credit Hours: 3

Comprehensive Examination should be taken in Fall of 3rd year

Summer Courses

  • EDAD 987B Superintendent Academy II (3 hours, requires 1 week on-campus w/additional online content) Designed to provide future school superintendents a link between theory and practice through case studies and voice-of-experience discussions. This academy is a forum for processing the "on-the-job" experiences with participants who are pursing doctoral studies, those who are about to enter the role of the superintendent, or those who are new to the work of school leadership. Provides training situations for developing leadership skills, examination of the practical challenges that school leaders face. Examination of contemporary educational issues through different organizational frameworks and review of various issues related to the management of change.
    • Credit Hours: 3
  • Elective
    • Credit Hours: 3

Fall Courses

  • EDAD 987C Internship: Superintendency Opportunity for educational administrators to gain an understanding of administering changes or innovations, and to obtain supervised field experience. Consideration will be given antecedents of change, change models, the role of government, forces that restrict or stimulate change, tools to implement change, and evaluation.
    • Credit Hours: 3
  • Elective (Ed Politics & Policy OR Data for Decision Making)
    • Credit Hours: 3

Upon completion of the courses through UNL, students will then spend the next few semesters writing their dissertation.

  • 12 hours of dissertation (EDAD 999) to be completed between Spring 3rd year and Spring 5th year
  • EDAD 842: College Students in America This course is designed to provide students an understanding of a broad range of facts and issues pertaining to undergraduate college students in America
    • Credit Hours: 3
  • EDAD 920: Diversity & Equity in Educational Organizations Understanding the individual and organizational issues of diversity and multiculturalism in P-20 schools. Increase the students¿ knowledge and appreciation of: cultural, social, political, and economic realities of our complex, pluralistic society in relation to our educational system. Through the integration of relevant information from history, law, interpersonal development, organizational development, and philosophy, students will develop a complex, comprehensive understanding of diversity and equity.
    • Credit Hours: 3

Frequently Asked Questions

 "So true are the words of Jon Gordon (2007) in that no one ever creates success alone. Pursuing my doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln afforded me the chance to be surrounded by a positive team of supportive people rooting me on every step of the way. My classes and experiences pushed me and extended a myriad of opportunities to grow and develop as a learner and researcher. I am thankful to the staff of UNL for all of the scholarly advice, patience, and wisdom in helping me achieve a lifelong goal."

Vann Price, Ed.D., Supervisor of Secondary Personnel Services, Lincoln Public Schools

 "At EDAD, I felt like I had a connection, a home base where I could always reach out for guidance and support. I learned that paying it forward was critical for students and scholars alike."

Cailen O'Shea, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Educational and Organizational Leadership, North Dakota State University

travis miller


Application Process

The application deadline for Summer admission is January 15.

The Ed.D. program is designed for scholars in the field of P-12 education.

Our faculty members include professors of practice with significant school and district leadership experience and tenure-line faculty with experience in P-12 schools and research expertise who are dedicated to preparing students ​to become systems thinkers, reflective learners, and servant leaders in P-12 administrative positions.

Students considering doctoral work in Educational Administration often question the differences between the Ed.D. or Ph.D. To determine which is a better fit for you, consult the department's Doctoral Degree Information page.

Students interested in pursuing a career as a professor or researcher studying P-12 school leadership should discuss their career goals with Dr. Sarah Zuckerman, Dr. Jiangang Xia, or Dr. Taeyeon Kim prior to applying to a doctoral program. This discussion will help match a potential program of study with your career goals.

Graduate Admission Requirements
  • Application for Admission with $50 non-refundable application fee.
  • One set of transcripts.
  • If the student’s native language is not English, verification of English proficiency is required.
  • If International: upload copies of all college- or university-level transcripts or mark sheets (records of courses and marks earned), with certificates, diplomas, and degrees plus certified English translations.
    • **Official documents are required from all students who are admitted and enroll. Photocopies of certified records are not acceptable. International students enrolled in other U.S. institutions may have certified copies of all foreign records sent directly to the Office of Graduate Studies by their current school’s registrar office.
  • If applicant is not a US citizen and expects an F or J visa: financial information.
  • Applicants must also fulfill any additional requirements the department specifies at the time of application.
Major Admission Requirements
  • Personal Statement (2-3 pages):
    • In this letter to the admissions committee, address the following questions: What are your professional education and leadership experiences? How are equity and diversity centered in your work as an educator and a leader? How does an Ed.D. in Educational Administration figure into your career trajectory and goals as an educational leader? What is your plan and strategy to complete your degree in a timely manner? (For instance, online coursework, occasional required on-campus experiences).
  • Essay (4 pages):
    • In this essay, describe what you see as an important pressing educational challenge or opportunity in your organization or community. Be sure to identify what has been said or done (or not said or done) regarding the issue by local stakeholders to date (e.g. teachers, faculty, administrators, community members). Explain why this challenge/opportunity is important to address in your context, and how you might address it through organizational improvement efforts as part of your dissertation in practice. Explain how your scholarly inquiry regarding this challenge or opportunity could help resolve a problem of practice.
    • Writing Sample: Provide three writing samples that demonstrate your scholarly writing ability, for example, a term paper, thesis, or published article.
    • Resume
    • Three recommendation letters


Want to know more?

Sarah Zuckerman

Sarah Zuckerman Associate Professor

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