Doctorate of Leadership: initiating positive change

By Kay Easton

Graduates with a Doctorate of Leadership pursue a variety of careers including speakers, business analysts, consultants, researchers, university professors, and executive-level leaders in education, business, law enforcement, health services, social services, churches, nonprofits and the government.

The Doctorate of Leadership is a terminal degree in leadership studies, which is interdisciplinary in nature. Areas of knowledge and research in leadership studies can include business, psychology, sociology, ethics, political science, economics, anthropology, theology and philosophy.

Online Doctorate of Leadership programs for working professionals

Because most students are already employed, both campus and online Doctorate of Leadership programs are available, with many schools offering hybrid programs as well. Different approaches to the study and practice of leadership have produced a variety of doctoral degrees and programs with a slightly different focus.

Many of these doctoral programs require some combination of required core courses and electives or courses in a specific concentration. Depending on the school and the program, a dissertation, doctoral seminar, research or capstone project is also a requirement. The length of doctoral programs varies by program and school but can take from three to seven years to complete depending on part-time or full-time enrollment.

Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D. in Leadership

A Ph.D. program provides the opportunity to conduct research on what leadership is and apply that knowledge to real world situations. Students can undertake research or study leadership as it relates to areas such as education, health care, public policy, the environment, gender and ethics. Graduates can opt for careers as consultants, teachers and, of course, leaders. Typical coursework includes organizational theory, principles of research and policy analysis.

Doctor of Education Leadership or Ed.L.D.

This degree program can enhance an existing career in education or pave the way to a new career in teaching or administration in higher education. This doctorate is practice-based and provides a deeper understanding of learning and teaching as well as the management skills necessary to shape the education sector in the future. Programs are often taught jointly by education, business and public policy faculty, and courses could include remaking education policy, service leadership and group relations.

Doctor of Arts in Leadership

This degree program seeks to provide a broader understanding of leadership theory and practice to help graduates find better ways of using leadership to initiate positive change in institutions and in the community. Coursework could span subjects such as guiding and mastering change, leadership through writing and collaborative leadership.

Doctor of Executive Leadership

This degree program is grounded in research but seeks to produce scholar/practitioners who both study and practice leadership. Through research and study of leadership theories, students create new ideas and theories to add to the body of knowledge in the field. They also learn to initiate and understand change, efficiently use existing resources, encourage innovative problem-solving and facilitate team building in real world situations. Graduates can share leadership knowledge through continued research, teaching, consulting or writing. Typical topics of study can include the impact of ethics on decision making, organizational dynamics and executive decision making.

Doctorate of Leadership careers and salaries

The list of career possibilities for graduates of campus and online Doctorate of Leadership degree programs is a long one; this doctoral degree is useful across many industries and sectors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports these 2010 mean annual wages for leadership professions such as the following:

  1. Chief executives: $173,350
  2. Postsecondary education administrators: $96,680
  3. Community service managers: $62,360

As this relatively new field of leadership studies opens up, college professors will likely be required as more schools implement programs at their campuses. The BLS reports that employment growth for college professors is expected to be faster than average with Ph.D. recipients having the best job prospects.

A campus or online Doctorate of Leadership degree could enhance professional skills for occupations as diverse as a global consultant, an executive planning for future challenges and opportunities, an academic studying leadership, or a professor teaching leadership studies.

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