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Graduate & Professional | Hybrid

Strategic Leadership in Education, Ph.D.

Lead the charge in education. Do you feel called to address complex educational challenges and ensure a bright future for our youth?

Why Get a Ph.D. in Strategic Leadership in Education? 

Leaders in PreK-12 and higher education face myriad organizational, political, fiscal and instructional challenges, and yet the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives and futures of young people is unparalleled for well-prepared educational leaders.

The education leaders of tomorrow must be able to clearly identify appropriate solutions and strategies to address complex educational issues through leadership, research and collaboration. Education and related non-profit organizations must directly confront complex challenges that impact students, families and communities.

Through the Belmont College of Education’s Strategic Leadership in Education Ph.D. program, you will acquire the skills needed to change the trajectory of education through research and innovative practices. This research-based, leadership-focused Ph.D. program is designed to equip senior-level practitioner-scholars from diverse backgrounds for advanced leadership and management roles in PreK-12 schools and districts, adult and higher education institutions, education-oriented foundations, nonprofit and faith-based organizations and government.

A Multi-Disciplinary Approach

Belmont’s Strategic Leadership in Education (SLE) Ph.D. program is intentionally designed as a multi-disciplinary approach, with core courses grounded in educational leadership theory and literature and the opportunity to select one of three concentrations in Educational Leadership, Management and Entrepreneurship or Faith and Justice Leadership. Unlike most programs in the nation, Belmont's SLE Ph.D. equips graduates for success as both senior leaders in education-oriented organizations and as scholars in the field of Educational Leadership.

The doctoral degree program consists of 60 affordable credit hours and can be completed part-time within four years. It includes 51 credit hours of course credit, which may include up to 12 credit hours of approved previous graduate credit and nine hours of credit awarded for the completion of the dissertation.

The Strategic Leadership in Education Ph.D. program is organized to accommodate working professionals. Classes will include hybrid courses that combine predominantly online class meetings with one required three-day, on-campus session and other completely online (synchronous) courses. Ph.D. students should expect one three-day intensive session each term (summer, fall and spring) in person on the Belmont campus in Nashville.

Program Details


In total, the Ph.D. program will be a 60-credit-hour program delivered to cohorts of fifteen to twenty working leaders. The program can be completed part-time within four years. It includes 51 credit hours of course credit, which may include up to 12 credit hours of approved previous graduate credit. The curriculum is purposefully multi-disciplinary to give aspiring leaders in education, business, nonprofit and faith-based organizations the attitudes, ethics, skills and knowledge for becoming exceptional leaders in their chosen fields.

The Core courses are specifically designed for all Ph.D. candidates in the program. Research courses are sequentially designed to give students skills to successfully complete a research-based dissertation and to develop the understanding to successfully use research processes as leaders in their chosen fields. Areas of concentration are offered in Educational Leadership, Management/Entrepreneurship, Faith and Justice Leadership and Nonprofit Leadership. Students may select courses from different areas of concentration based on their particular needs.

A dissertation proposal is required and must be approved by the student’s dissertation committee, consisting of three faculty members jointly approved by the student and the dissertation committee chair. The completed dissertation earns nine semester hours over an expected timeline of 12 calendar months.

29 courses are offered in the core, research and content specialties. The courses below are examples and do not include all possible courses offered:

Courses You'll Take (24 Credits)

  • EDL 6010N: Leadership: Theory to Practice
    This course provides an in-depth overview of current approaches to leadership through the examination of major theories, pathways and models of leadership. Emphasis is placed on connecting theory to practice and application. The ethics of leadership, team leadership, followership and the influences of gender and culture on leadership are also explored.
  • EDL 6020N: Emotional Intelligence and Servant Leadership
    The theoretical constructs of Emotional Intelligence and Servant Leadership are closely linked. These concepts focus on the power of relationships among leaders and followers and the value of understanding and developing the intelligent use of emotions for success as leaders. Students will explore the theory behind these concepts and the impact of understanding and applying these concepts as leaders.
  • ETP 6510: The Entrepreneurial Mindset
    This course aims to encourage students to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset by developing the discovery, thinking, reasoning and implementation skills necessary to create and develop prosperous ideas in highly uncertain environments. Its conceptualization extends beyond the narrow view of starting a new business, focusing instead on a method that could be employed to start new initiatives, profit or nonprofit, inside a family business, small business, social enterprise or large corporation and involve systematic efforts to mitigate uncertainty and to manage risk.
  • EDL 6100: Equity and Social Justice
    This course defines the concepts and principles of culture, diversity, equity and social justice and their impact on public and private educational institutions. The focus is on current controversies and activity but includes the beginnings in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the desegregation of the nation’s public schools. There is a focus on the responsibility of leaders to create a culture that supports, builds and champions equity and social justice in the institutions they lead.
  • EDL 6120: Strategic Planning in Educational Organizations
    This course will study the theoretical foundations and dynamics of strategic thinking and planning. Since one model or approach does not fit all organizations, it is the leader’s responsibility to identify and use the approach that is most effective for the success of an organization. How to effectively select, plan and manage the implementation of strategic planning processes will be addressed.
  • EDL 6200: Leadership for Change and Innovation
    Despite the growing necessity for organizations to successfully implement change, theory and research on change leadership is still not clear on what works for public institutions. It is commonly agreed that organizational efforts at transformational change most often fail. This course explores how public institutions have been affected by recent events and how leadership must adjust the approaches for Change Leadership initiatives to achieve success.
  • BSA 6820: Predictive Analytics
    This course provides students with a practical, hands-on learning environment focusing on data mining and predictive analytics to solve business problems. Students will prepare data, create and validate predictive models, and deploy those models to predict future events and uncover hidden patterns of behavior. Students will examine how data analysis technologies can be used to improve decision-making by studying the fundamental principles and techniques of data mining to develop data-analytic thinking.

Research Methodology (12 Credits)

  • EDL 6710: Qualitative Methods
    Students in this course explore qualitative inquiry and approaches commonly used in the social and educational sciences. The approaches examined in the course include historical research, ethnography, grounded theory, phenomenology, case study and narrative research. Students learn about and practice designing qualitative research studies, and collecting and analyzing qualitative data, with and without the assistance of computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software.
  • EDL 6750: Applied Research in Education
    This course presents concepts and procedures for conducting a systematic inquiry to investigate phenomena in P12 or higher education institutions or education non-profits. Emphasis is placed on developing and implementing a proposal for disciplined inquiry in organizations.

Areas of Concentration (15 Credits)

Educational Leadership Concentration

  • EDL 6010E: Educational Policy and Advocacy
    The development of leadership skills and abilities and the dynamics of team functioning, including decision-making models and processes, problem-solving techniques, communication skills, conflict management and self-improvement. The legal framework of compliance in education, the civil liberties of teachers, curriculum content and academic freedom. Teachers’ rights, duties and responsibilities to the education process are also explored.
  • EDL 6035: Introduction to Higher Education
    This course provides a broad overview and introduction to the higher education system in the United States and the contemporary challenges facing postsecondary institutions and effective leadership in this context. This course presents an examination of the historical foundations of higher education and effective practices related to enrollment, teaching and learning, student life, diversity, equity, inclusion, governance, finance, athletics, fundraising, innovation, and crisis management.

Faith and Justice Leadership Concentration

  • CTM 6401: Faith and Civic Engagement
    This course will examine the history, theory and practice concerning the participation of faith-based organizations in social change work for flourishing communities and just and accountable institutions in a democratic society. It will examine topics such as community organizing, political action, social welfare and advocacy, and social justice activism.

Management/Entrepreneurship Concentration

  • MGT 6900: Human Resource Management
    This course provides an overview of Human Resource Management from a strategic perspective in a fast-changing business environment. Attention is given to legal compliance issues, staffing processes, compensation and benefits, performance appraisals and employee discipline. Through the use of class exercises and cases, students examine the way contemporary HR departments function and how managers can interact with HR professionals.
View Program Requirements

Belmont’s Ph.D. program in Strategic Leadership in Education seeks emerging and established leaders who exhibit the knowledge, skills and attitude of leader-scholars. We strive to recruit individuals who aspire to “Change the World” through education as strategic, entrepreneurial, data-informed, equity-focused leader-scholars.

Apply now for the April 1 Priority Deadline and June 1 Final Deadline!

Applicants for the program must submit the following:

  • A completed Belmont graduate application, selecting the Ph.D. in Strategic Leadership in Education as the program of study.
  • All undergraduate and graduate post-secondary transcripts.
  • A professional resume that includes educational background and career experience, highlighting leadership positions and/or responsibilities. Most competitive applicants will have a minimum of three to five years of professional experience.
  • A narrative statement and supporting evidence of academic achievement. Candidates may submit graduate standardized test scores as evidence, but standardized test scores are not required for admission to the program.
  • Three references, including referees who can speak to the applicant’s professional experience, and at least one referee who can speak to the applicant’s past academic performance and his or her academic readiness for doctoral studies.
  • A writing sample of approximately 1,000 words in which the applicant describes his or her career aspirations and the relevance of the degree from this program. Applicants are asked to indicate new knowledge and skills they would hope to acquire from the program.
  • An interview with the Program Director and/or program faculty.
  • The deadline to deposit for this program is June 30th.

Students must pass all coursework, a qualifying examination and a dissertation/oral examination to graduate.

International Students

This program does not meet Visa requirements for International students.

Application Status

Applicants are admitted on a rolling admissions pattern and will be notified of the admissions committee's decision shortly after the admissions requirements are completed. To check on the status of your application, check your BU4U portal.

Tuition & Financial Aid Information

You can determine the cost per semester for courses in the Master of Arts in Teaching program by visiting the Graduate Tuition & Aid website.

After being offered admission to Belmont, you may secure your enrollment with a nonrefundable enrollment deposit of $150. This deposit will be applied to first semester charges.

Belmont University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. Questions about the accreditation of Belmont University may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (

Belmont’s Teacher Education Program is approved by the Tennessee Department of Education and accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) legacy site visit of 2021.

The Belmont University School of Music is a fully-accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).

The Watkins College of Art at Belmont University is an Accredited Institutional Member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)


The Belmont University College of Education prioritizes the use of data as part of its assessment and continuous improvement process. The below data provide summary of survey results, state data reports and teacher candidate performance assessment data. Data are acquired from sources including the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE); Educational Testing Service (ETS); the Belmont Office of Career & Professional Development, and the Belmont Office of Assessment & Institutional. Data are linked to the reporting measures to assist prospective and current students, faculty, accrediting bodies, the public, and researchers.

Please contact Dr. Cathy Eschete, Director of Clinical Practice and Accreditation Coordinator ( before including any of this information in reports or research.

Darrell Hawks

Student Testimonial

"What appealed to me about [the Strategic Leadership in Education Ph.D.] program as it relates to my current work, is that it gives me the opportunity to learn in depth about doing research. I can be more effective and productive in my work, the better I can understand the issue, challenge or need I'm trying to solve."

Darrell Hawks (BBA '12, MBA '15)

Executive Director of Friends of Mill Ridge Park

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Hallie Caddy
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