Question: What is an EdD in organizational leadership?

Updated: February 1, 2023

Answer: Doctor of Education (EdD) programs in organizational leadership focus on the theories and strategies behind effective management of organizations and their members. This particular approach to leadership is generally concerned with setting large-scale goals for an organization, department, or project, then motivating the individuals involved to excel and successfully reach those objectives. Unlike other EdD specializations, which typically focus on preparing students for leadership roles in education, organizational leadership is more broad, giving graduates skills they can apply in nearly any setting, from academia to business or government.

The study of organizational leadership deals with both micro and macro levels of management. Professionals in the field must consider what is best for the organization as a whole, as well as the employees or members within, driving everyone toward a common goal while fostering individual success and development. In order to do this well, leaders need a diverse skill set, with expertise in areas such as communication, assessment, problem solving, conflict management, strategic decision making, resource allocation, and more. To gain these skills, many pursue an EdD in the field, which can qualify them for top-level management or administration positions in almost any organization.

Many schools offer organizational leadership as a degree concentration in Doctor of Education (EdD) programs, but it may also be available as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at the doctoral level. Both are terminal degrees, preparing graduates with the most advanced knowledge and skills in the field. However, these two degrees differ when it comes to their overall focus and intended career paths.

The EdD is primarily a practitioner’s degree, designed for working professionals interested in taking on active leadership roles in organizations. Students in these programs are typically looking for skills they can immediately apply in the workplace, either to perform better in their current management positions or gain the qualifications necessary to further their careers in administration. The PhD, on the other hand, is more research focused, aimed at those who want to teach in the field at the collegiate level or pursue other scholarly work. Graduates of these programs generally move into careers that involve educating the next generation of leaders or adding to existing theory through original research, as opposed to more direct organizational management roles.

Doctor of Education (EdD) Programs in Organizational Leadership

Most EdD programs in organizational leadership require around 40 to 70 credit hours and take anywhere from three to five years to complete. Curriculum is generally focused on advanced topics related to management theory and practice, giving students concrete skills they can apply to leadership roles in a variety of settings. Some examples of potential course subjects include:

Leadership TheoryOrganizational Development
EthicsStrategic Assessment
Change ManagementResearch Based Decision Making
Systematic Instructional DesignAdult Learning Strategies
Legal Issues in LeadershipFinance
Resource ManagementHuman Resources
Inclusive LeadershipOrganizational Communication
Conflict ManagementAdvocacy and Social Justice
Professional DevelopmentSystems Thinking
Organizational Structure

There are a variety of different organizational leadership EdD programs available to students, each with their own unique focus and curriculum. Some even offer students the chance to specialize in a certain area of administration, such as Human Resource Development, Conflict Management, or Entrepreneurship. Others may concentrate more heavily on educational aspects of the field, preparing students for careers that involve designing or managing instructional programs for or within organizations. In these particular programs, coursework generally leans more toward topics related to adult learning, instructional design, models of teaching, and educational assessment.

Careers in Organizational Leadership

With an EdD in Organizational Leadership, students can pursue a wide range of high-level management positions, both in and outside of academia. While they might work in educational leadership, as principals or other administrators, graduates are not tied to careers in education, unlike those who earn a more traditional EdD in fields such as K-12 or Higher Education Administration. Majoring in organizational leadership prepares graduates to oversee operations or instructional efforts in nearly any setting, from schools to private businesses, nonprofits, healthcare, government, and more.

Some potential career paths for EdD graduates include Human Resources Manager/Director, Corporate Director, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Development Officer (CDO), Management Consultant, Policy Analyst, Training and Development Manager, Postsecondary Education Administrator, College Professor, Operations Research Analyst, or Social and Community Service Manager.

To learn more about this degree concentration and browse online EdD programs in the field, check out our Organizational Leadership specialization page.