Online EdD Programs in Community College Leadership

Community colleges play an important role in the American education system, serving diverse populations of students looking to quickly enter the workforce or work towards their bachelor’s degree. Managing these institutions comes with a unique set of challenges, and requires expertise in not only education and administration, but business, marketing, public relations, and more. In fact, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), effective leadership in a community college setting requires competency in all of the following areas: organizational strategy, communication, collaboration, institutional finance, research, fundraising, resource management, and community college advocacy.

Online Doctor of Education (EdD) programs in Community College Leadership help prepare education professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in a wide range of administrative positions at two-year colleges. With a doctorate in the field, graduates can oversee business operations, academics, student support services, or nearly any other facet of running a community or technical college, taking on top leadership roles such as college president, vice president, or department head.

Curriculum for Online EdD Programs in Community College Leadership

While not as common as other types of EdD programs, students interested in pursuing an EdD in Community College Leadership online have a few options to choose from. Some schools offer the degree as a standalone program, while others offer it as a specialization option within a more general online EdD program. In any case, students should be sure to carefully examine curriculum and course content before applying, in order to find a program that best aligns with their academic and professional goals.

Students may also want to explore online EdD programs in Organizational Leadership or Higher Education Administration, as many contain coursework that is relevant to community college leadership.

Most online EdD programs in the field consist of anywhere from 54 to 66 post-masters credits, and take roughly three years of study to complete. While requirements vary from program to program, students can generally expect a curriculum comprised of core coursework, concentration courses, electives, and dissertation research.

Core courses in a Community College Leadership program tend to focus on advanced study of fundamental theories and principles in the field, as well as either qualitative or quantitative research methods. Here are a few examples of topics commonly covered in this portion of the curriculum:

  • Leadership and Ethics: This course examines various leadership theories and how they can be applied to managing staff and students, as well as the unique ethical considerations related to college administration and adult education programs.
  • Advanced Learning Theory: In-depth study of andragogical principles and different theories and models of adult and lifelong learning, exploring the latest research in neuroscience and cognitive development across the lifespan.
  • Community Colleges in America: An overview of junior and two-year colleges in the U.S., their history, and the role they serve in higher education, with particular attention to how these institutions are organized, managed, and financed.
  • Program Evaluation: How to properly assess instructional programs and teaching methods to ensure they are meeting goals and producing the best learning outcomes, looking at different methods of evaluation, data collection, analysis, and program revision.

Once students have completed their core courses, they generally move onto more specialized coursework, studying specific topics related to postsecondary education and community college leadership. While the content of these concentration courses will vary by program, below are some potential subjects students might encounter:

  • Finance and Budgeting: In this course, students examine the economics of running a community college, learning how to prioritize spending, allocate costs, and secure funding, as well as navigate potential fiscal crises.
  • Trends in Community College: A look at current issues in higher and continuing education, from the latest classroom technology and advancements in online learning, to enrollment trends and student demographic shifts.
  • Legal Aspects of Higher Education: This course focuses on the various laws and policies that govern postsecondary education in the United States, as well as other legal issues specific to community college administration.
  • Organizational Management: Strategies for effectively managing a business and its staff, exploring how to best coordinate personnel and resources while maintaining a positive work environment and improving institutional performance.

Along with core and concentration courses, some online EdD programs offer students the chance to customize their curriculum by choosing a number of electives. These allow students to explore specific skills or topics related to their desired career path or area of interest within community college leadership. Electives may be offered through the same department as the EdD program, or in certain cases, come from another department at the school, depending on faculty approval. Here are two examples of elective courses that might interest students in a Community College Leadership program:

  • Marketing and Enrollment: This course examines various tactics for advertising school programs and attracting potential students, focusing on the development of strategic marketing campaigns that align with the school’s enrollment goals, and how to properly collect and analyze admissions data.
  • Professional Development: How to plan and implement effective training programs for teachers and other faculty members, making sure staff are up to date on all state and district standards and practices, as well as the latest education technology.

Most online EdD programs in Community College Leadership culminate in the completion of a dissertation, in which students perform original research on a specific area of the field and present their findings for evaluation. Students work on this project throughout their studies, often under the guidance of a faculty mentor. At the end of the process, they submit their research and analysis in an extensive document, and typically must defend their findings in front of a dissertation committee. EdD programs generally include one or more courses dedicated specifically to dissertation development and research. Many also grant credit hours for the independent study involved.

To learn more about the EdD dissertation process, check out our resource page on Doctorate of Education Dissertations and Doctoral Capstone Projects. For additional information about pursuing an EdD online, see our Structure of Online EdD Programs and Admission Requirements for Online EdD Programs pages.

Career Paths for Graduates of EdD Programs in Community College Leadership

There are a wide range of administrative positions one might pursue with an EdD in Community College Leadership. Graduates can go on to work in student affairs, enrollment management, operations, academic administration, human resources, and more, either at a school or for an entire district. Keep in mind, some positions may require additional training or certification.

To help students better understand the type of roles an EdD in Community College Leadership can lead to, below are some examples of potential career paths:

  • College President: These administrators are the CEOs of their institution, serving as the top executive and decision maker on all matters concerning academic programming, budget, personnel, facilities, and student success at the college. In addition to their administrative duties, they typically represent the school in any PR opportunities, helping to form community partnerships and fundraise while carrying out initiatives set forth by the local college board.
  • Vice President or Dean: Community colleges often rely on a variety of executive administrators to manage both business operations and academic departments within the institution. Depending on the size of the school, a vice president might oversee anything from student services or academic affairs to human resources or finance, or even serve as dean for certain subject divisions, such as Health Sciences or Technical Education.
  • Admissions Director: These professionals oversee enrollment at their institutions, designing and implementing recruitment strategies for school programs and ultimately deciding which students to admit. In addition to directing admissions staff, they serve as a campus resource for enrollment information, collaborate with other faculty on marketing plans, and analyze admissions data to help inform recruitment initiatives.
  • Professor: With an EdD, graduates could also teach at the collegiate level, leading courses in community college leadership, adult education, or a related topic at a college or university. Along with lecturing and developing course materials, college professors are often involved in research endeavors, guiding student researchers or performing their own original studies in the field and publishing the findings.