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Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D.? 

The Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) is a professional degree that focuses on the application of theory and research to problems of practice in education and is designed for working professionals and educational leaders. The Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) tends to be more research-oriented and is often designed for individuals who wish to become faculty or want to pursue research as a main element of their career.

What is the coursework summary? 

The program coursework for the Ed.D. consists of:

  • 60 units of study including the dissertation (48 units of coursework & 12 units of dissertation) in a three-year period
  • Students follow a cohort structure (learn more about cohorts below)
  • Dedicated support for each student includes personal advising, graduate writing and statistics support, research guidance, dissertation advising, learning support, and conference funding 

What are some examples of specialization courses? 

Specialization courses cover various topics in higher education/community college and/or P-12 institutions. A description of various courses can be found in the university catalog under course codes EDL 520 and above until EDL 580T. 

What is a cohort?

A cohort is a group of students admitted to the program during the same admission cycle each fall semester. Cohorts provide collaborative graduate study designed to expand individual leadership and academic development.

When does the program start? How long does the program take to complete? 

Each cohort begins the program with a summer orientation with coursework starting in the fall semester (late August). A new cohort is admitted once per year. The program is structured for degree requirements (including the dissertation) to be completed in three years. Summer terms are required.

How often do classes meet?

The program is designed for working professionals. During the fall and spring semesters students meet once a week on Monday evenings (some weekend courses may be required during the second year of the program). During the summer, students meet twice per week. Students opting for our online program delivery option meet via Zoom. All students are expected to attend the Summer Residency in person on the Fresno State campus.

What is the Summer Residency? 

Our program views interpersonal interactions as a crucial leadership skill. Students opting for our online program delivery option are expected to attend two summer residencies on the Fresno State campus where they meet with their cohort members and program faculty. The two summer residencies take place the summer between years 1-2 and the summer between years 2-3. For students opting for the online program delivery option, a $500 fee per residency applies in order to cover lodging, instructional costs, and included meals.

I am unfamiliar with the dissertation process. What does it entail?

The quality, nature, and purpose of dissertations can vary significantly across different types of doctoral programs. At Fresno State, the dissertation is designed as a means to prepare students to be more effective educational leaders. Your dissertation will consist of original research you conduct on a specific problem of educational practice. This is your opportunity to professionally contribute to the body of knowledge in educational leadership. Faculty provide their time, support, and attention during your dissertation process. These experienced educational leaders will challenge you, encourage you, and help you transition to independent scholarship. The dissertation will help you fully develop a number of key competencies including leadership for change, the application of theory and research to practice, and advocacy for social justice, equity, and inclusion.

When should I apply? 

Fresno State’s Ed.D. program uses a priority application followed by rolling admissions. 

Priority Application: Students who apply before the February 8 (online) and February 22 (face-to-face) deadlines will receive an admissions decision within four weeks. This allows students to make informed decisions when considering the Fresno State program and other doctoral programs.

Rolling Admission: Rolling admissions may be offered to students who apply after the priority application period until May 31st if there are spaces open in a cohort. Your application is not guaranteed to be reviewed after the priority deadline. 

Can I apply to start in the Spring semester?

We do not admit students to start in the Spring. 

I am getting ready to apply. What do I need from my recommenders?

Each recommender will need to submit their recommendation letter and a rubric form to

How affordable is this program and what are the costs?

The cost of the Doctor of Educational Leadership program is below the national average for public universities and well below the cost of private institutions. Tuition and campus-based fees are set by the CSU System and are billed per semester. Additional fees will include books and parking. For an overview of the most current academic year tuition and fees please visit the Money Matters page of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s webpage.

Can I get financial aid? 

Students are encouraged to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Financial aid to complete your doctoral program may consist of loans, external grants, and scholarships. Most graduate students receive a combination of grants and federal student loans. Private educational loans are also available to students who require additional financial assistance. To learn more, visit the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Where can I receive additional information about the Ed.D. program? 

Please contact our office via email at Prospective students are encouraged to visit our webpage periodically for updates on information sessions and how to attend one.