Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership



60 credit hours

Program Length

as few as 36 months


Regionally Accredited by SACSCOC

Develop your full potential as a Christian leader in Education with a PhD in Educational Leadership! 

The PhD in Educational Leadership program aims to develop educators to lead, model, think, communicate and research with biblical excellence. CIU’s College of Education Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program is designed to meet your professional development needs as an educational leader. PhD graduates complete a concentration in Educational Leadership. You will grow in your ability to articulate Christ-centered perspectives in educational institutions and to represent education from a biblical perspective in the broader society. CIU Education programs are endorsed by the Higher Education Accredited Program (HEAP) of the Association for Christian Schools International (ACSI). Program graduates who meet specific requirements are eligible to apply without fee for appropriate ACSI teacher or administrator certificates.

As a student in the PhD program, you will study the theory and practice of leadership and curriculum development within the context of a biblical worldview.  You will have the opportunity to reflect on theoretical and practical ideas within a biblical mindset. This type of educational training allows you to influence and impact the educational settings in which you find yourself.

Our students develop long-lasting friendships and professional contacts with Christian leaders worldwide and in a variety of professional settings. The online context allows for developing professional and personal relationships that provide a basis for ongoing professional support.

We have structured our research component to provide assistance and support so that you are able to successfully complete a scholarly dissertation. Our goal is that  you will  graduate with your PhD and we are committed to walking with you throughout the courses and the dissertation journey.

Why Choose Columbia International University

The PhD in Educational Leadership program offered by Columbia International University provides students with an opportunity to delve into classic theories and approaches while keeping in mind a biblical worldview and community. This program offers a unique chance to make a positive impact on organizations served by students. The completion of this program equips students with the ability to apply Christian thinking to the situations they are called to, making them ideal candidates for leadership positions in education. This program focuses on developing critical thinking, effective communication and problem-solving skills, which are vital for leaders in the education field. Students can expect to engage with experienced and knowledgeable faculty members who are passionate about education and committed to helping students succeed. The program is flexible and can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each student. Graduates from the PhD in Educational Leadership program can look forward to numerous opportunities for career advancement and the potential to make a positive impact in their chosen field of education.

Overall Benefits of the Degree

The PhD program in Educational Leadership focuses on graduates becoming: 

  • community participants who are continuously transformed through educational engagement with peers and mentors, developing lives of personal wholeness in Christ, victory over sin, and power for life and ministry through surrender and faith. (partners, professionals) 

  • thinkers/communicators who understand and communicate the foundations of Christian education, the cultural and sub-cultural contexts, and the role of Christian education in the 21st century world. (learners, planners, presenters, evaluators)  

  • leaders/administrators who submit to the authority of the Bible, understand the relationship of biblical doctrine/principles to leadership and administration in all educational settings, demonstrate knowledge of effective practices in all areas of operation, and lead educational organizations to focus on student learning and spiritual transformation. (learners, researchers, planners, presenters, evaluators, managers, partners and professionals) 

  • researches/disseminators who conduct original research which contributes either to the theory base of education or to an understanding of effective practices in schools in general, or a single school. (learners, planners, presenters, evaluators, and professionals)   

Students who have graduated with the CIU PhD in Educational Leadership are finding that their degree enables them to serve in various educational settings. Graduates are serving as faculty and administrators in public and Christian schools. Others are serving as faculty and administrators in public and Christian higher education. In addition to these traditional education roles, graduates are using the PhDs as a source to provide consulting and leadership training opportunities. 

The CIU PhD in Educational Leaderships trains individuals to be scholars in the overall understanding of the theories and applications of leadership, governance, team building, faculty development, educational law, curriculum theory, statistics and educational research. This foundation of understanding prepares our graduates to serve with distinction in the educational endeavor they choose to pursue. 

Featured Faculty

What Will I Study?

  • EDU 9200 Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on Education

    This course surveys and analyzes the historical and philosophical ideas that guide educational theory and practice in schools today. The course focuses on the study of nations, leaders, ideas, and movements, and their developmental effects on current educational settings in the United States. In addition, Christian philosophical perspectives which are the foundation of Christian education are examined.

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9510 Leadership and Ethics

    Educational leadership, based on Judeo-Christian ethics and core values, is assessed and developed. An analysis of the biblical, historical, and contemporary leadership models of Steward Leadership provides the framework for personal leadership formation.

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9515 Leadership and Organizational Behavior

    This course examines the relationship dynamics which occur in organizations between leaders and followers, and between work groups in light of biblical principles. Attention is given to theories of effective leadership, motivation, decision-making, organizational change, and organizational systems, with applications in diverse and cross-cultural settings.

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9525 Principles of Organizational Team Building

    This course examines models and strategies for building team unity within organizations. Biblical principles, the role of leadership, new team development, inter-group relations, large group interventions, and goal setting are studied. (3)

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9535 Governance/Management in Educational Institutions

    This course examines the biblical foundations for policies, organizational structures, and relationships necessary for effective functioning of institutional governing boards, presidents/headmasters, and vice presidents/deans of educational institutions in various cultural contexts. Consideration is also given to the role of faculty in institutional and academic governance.

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9617 Quantitative Research

    This course equips students with the research tools required to design the study of a doctoral dissertation. It prepares students to select a topic, review literature, design a study, collect quantitative data, analyze and interpret quantitative data, and report and evaluate research. Emphasis is on quantitative studies including experimental, quasi-experimental, and correlational survey designs. (3)

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9701 Doctoral Dissertation I

    In this course, students will build on the work done in EDU 9617 to complete a working draft of the dissertation proposal.This course may be repeated one (1) time.

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9704 Doctoral Dissertation IV

    In this course, candidates will complete, defend, and post for public access doctoral dissertations. Candidates will register for this course in the semester following successful completion of requirements for candidacy. Candidates will register for this course each semester (Fall and Spring; Summer if work is being done on dissertation) until edited dissertations are approved and posted to Dissertation Abstracts or program time limit is reached.

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9330 Measurement & Assessment Theory

    This course examines important components of measurement and assessment theory as they relate to program development and student assessment on an institution-wide basis. (Offered on request; minimum of five students).

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9350 Models of Effective Instruction

    This course enables practitioners to explore various instructional strategies that reflect current best practice. Students will learn to implement instructional models and to provide training for others in the use of the models. Students will examine philosophies that underlie each model and will analyze them in light of biblical principles. (3)

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9380 Instructional Design

    This course equips students with the skills to design and write curriculum. Basic instructional design theory principles will form the foundation for developing curriculum from the topic level to the course level. Skills acquired in this course will enable students to design courses for local use or for publication as textbooks. (3)

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9540 Models of Strategic Planning and Organizational Assessment

    This course examines various models for conducting strategic planning and for assessing the effectiveness of organizations in accomplishment of their missions from a biblical worldview. Special attention is given to linking mission, vision, goals, planning, budgeting, and assessment.

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9545 Alternative Educational Delivery Systems

    Distance education offers an alternative way for students to learn. Today, teaching and learning online is a basic skill for both the teacher and the student. In this course, students will learn an ongoing course development process focusing on analysis, design, development, and evaluation. This process will be broadly applicable to online instruction as well as other means of content delivery. (3)

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9550 Educational Trends and the Law

    This course examines the philosophies and trends which have surfaced through court decisions and legislation relating to education in general, and private or sectarian education in particular. The implications for Christian school and university practice are reviewed.

    3.00 credit hours
  • EDU 9555 Development/Finance-Educational Institutions

    This course addresses various philosophies and approaches for building strong public relations programs and for generating capital growth. It also examines financial resource management concepts and analytical skills for generating principle-driven business decisions.

    3.00 credit hours
For a comprehensive list of courses related to this program visit the Academic Catalog.

Admission Requirements

  • Completed application
  • Official transcripts for highest earned graduate degree and any additional graduate degree work
  • Minimum 3.2 GPA for entering credential
  • Two general references
  • Academic writing sample (Published article or graduate research paper)
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae

Accreditation and Accolades

SACSCOC (The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges)
ASCI (Association of Christian Schools International)

Career Path Opportunities

  • Classroom teacher in public schools 

  • Classroom teacher in Christian schools 

  • Administrator in Christian schools 

  • Faculty member in Christian higher education 

  • Faculty member in public higher education 

  • Administrator in public higher education 

  • Professional Consultant in educational development 

  • Faculty member in countries outside the United States 

  • Administrator in countries outside the United States 

Top FAQs

Are there grants, scholarships or graduate assistantships for students pursuing the PhD in educational leadership?

At this time, CIU does not offer tuition assistance programs for PhD students. However, students may pay for courses as they take them, which can help spread out the expense over the duration of the program. Financial aid is available for those who qualify and can be contacted at or (803) 807-5036 to explore potential financial assistance options.

Are you able to write your dissertation on any topic?

The dissertations for the PhD in Educational Leadership must focus on the field of education, but students have the freedom to choose a specific topic of interest within that field. Program professors provide guidance in the selection of the dissertation topic.

Do applicants need to have a specific dissertation topic in mind or is this explored/determined once students are in the program?

Applicants are not required to have a specific topic in mind when entering the program. Students are encouraged to develop a topic in an area that they are passionate about, with guidance from program professors. The process of developing the topic begins during the second of two educational research classes, which comes after two classes introducing statistics.

Will my Master's Degree transfer?

Applicants who hold a master's degree from an accredited institution may transfer up to 15 semester hours of appropriate master's-level courses to the PhD program. Students who hold multiple master's degrees or an EdS degree may transfer up to 21 semester hours.

When you graduate, will you earn both the EdS and PhD degrees?

Students who obtain 30 hours from the course list for the EdS degree may apply for the EdS degree. Then they must reapply for the PhD program through a change of program form filed with the university registrar. Students do not automatically receive both degrees, but earning the EdS may provide an increase in pay from their employer.

How are the courses offered?

PhD courses in Educational Leadership are offered online in eight-week terms, except for the last two dissertation courses, which are semester-long courses.

When may I begin my courses?

Students may begin at the start of any eight-week term, with courses being offered during fall, spring, and summer semesters.

Is there a time limit to complete the degree?

Yes, the time limit for completing the PhD program in Educational Leadership is six years from the date a student begins coursework. In extenuating circumstances, a student may petition for additional time to complete the dissertation.

How does the dissertation process work?

The dissertation process begins near the end of the content courses, with two classes introducing students to statistics and two classes introducing them to educational research. During the second of these two classes, students develop a topic for their dissertation. In the first two dissertation courses, the professor guides the student through writing the proposal. By the end of the second class, the proposal should be ready for the chair and committee to review in preparation for defending it. In the fourth course, the student gathers data, writes the dissertation, and defends it, all under the guidance of the chair and committee members.


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