Study Instructional Leadership: Masters, PhD & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with a Ph.D. or master's degree in instructional leadership? Find out master's degree and Ph.D. requirements, the pros and cons of each degree and potential careers.
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Instructional Leadership Master's and Ph.D.: Degrees at a Glance

Master's degrees in instructional leadership can have several different concentrations, but most are built around existing educators furthering their education and abilities to become leaders in their existing school environment. Thus, if you are already teaching, this program can lead to opportunities for positions as an instructional coordinator or K-12 administrator. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates job growth for instructional coordinators to be 20% and 10% for principals from 2010-2020.

The current movement to improve the educational system has resulted in growing opportunities for Doctorate of Education seekers. Highly recognizable universities are offering programs specifically in leadership that include incentives to encourage educators interested in taking a leading role. Doctoral degrees also enable you to teach or pursue leadership roles at the college level. Post-secondary educators have a projected job growth outlook of 17%, while administrators have an outlook of 19%, according to the BLS.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Educators who wish to become instruction and curriculum leaders in their schools Educators who wish to pursue authoritative and leadership roles in research, analysis and implementation of instruction and curriculum
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Instructional coordinator ($59,000)*
- Principal ($90,000)*
-Post-secondary teacher ($74,000)*
-Post-secondary school administrator ($97,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years, full time 3-6 years after the master's, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 30-36 credit hours
- Master's project and/or exams
- Leadership residency
- Approximately 51-72 credit hours (programs can vary widely)
- Doctoral exams
- Doctoral dissertation
- Residency
Prerequisites -Bachelor's degree
-Most programs require teaching certification/experience
-Master's degree (generally has to be in related field)
- Most programs require teaching and/or education administration certification/experience
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Instructional Leadership

Master's degrees in instructional leadership are designed for educators with at least 2-3 years of experience who would like to assume leadership roles in their schools and districts. Some programs offer specializations like elementary education, specific secondary subject area education or leadership. You can also use this degree to pursue administration positions like that of a principal, particularly if they will oversee instruction and curriculum.

Instruction coordinators are responsible for managing and implementing standards of teaching and curriculum. If you are interested in directly affecting change in your district, this degree may be for you. Some programs have additional certification, like National Board certification, that can be a part of the program. Other positions instructional leadership programs can qualify you for include student teacher supervisor, program coordinator and development leader. While these positions do affect educational institutions, you may lose out on the teaching aspect of helping students.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The majority of programs are designed around working teachers
  • Program length can be as short as about one year
  • This degree can enable you to obtain positions that affect change in the instruction and curriculum of students

Cons

  • Teaching certification and licensure preparation are not a part of this degree
  • There can be additional state certification requirements; reciprocity does not exist between all states
  • Won't get to work directly with students as a coordinator

Courses and Requirements

Instructional leadership concentrations vary with regard to subject matter (i.e. elementary education, secondary English, secondary math, etc…), but they share common courses orientated around instruction, curriculum and leadership. Some of the specific courses may include:

  • Curriculum supervision
  • Development and organizational leadership
  • Education statistics
  • Theories of learning/instruction
  • Ethics and school law
  • Educational assessment

Some programs offer curriculum administration certification as part of the degree. They require practicum and a project assessment to be completed in addition to coursework. Other programs require residencies that vary in length as part of the program.

Online Degree Options

Accredited examples of online degree programs do exist for instructional leadership. You have the ability to tailor your education in a unique way with this degree. Programs may be offered solely online or as a hybrid of online and campus-based courses.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Choosing a program that enables you to obtain certification/licensure at the state level can increase job options and increase your aptitude and performance in the classroom.

Analytics, communication, decision-making and instruction are all integral aspects of the positions available to those who hold this degree. By honing your skills in these areas through electives while pursuing your degree, you can demonstrate value and understanding of these qualities.

Ph.D. in Instructional Leadership

If you are moved to make a difference in the world of education by leading and affecting change in curriculum and policy, this program may be for you. It is very much orientated around social justice, educational policy, and leading to solutions in the educational arena through democratic and ethical decision-making and reform. Due to the altruistic nature of this degree program, many colleges and universities are attempting to make it accessible to everyone. They offer scholarships and stipends as well as paid residencies to incentivize and motivate those interested in the field. The salary potential is not any higher with a Ph.D. than with a master's degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • This degree enables you to obtain positions that can change the face and direction of the current educational climate
  • Incentives and scholarships available for this program make it much more feasible financially
  • Open up additional career opportunities

Cons

  • These programs generally prefer experience in either teaching and administration
  • Admissions and qualifications necessary for these programs can be very competitive
  • Many schools require full-time enrollment with rigorous study and review for at least a portion of the degree program

Courses and Requirements

These programs are built around obtaining the necessary skills to lead educational bodies in a progressive and transformational manner. They focus on the constructs of leadership and critical thinking with ideas of educational literacy, research inquiry and cultural and socio-economic points of view. Some courses you might take at the doctoral level include:

  • Action research in education
  • Contemporary issues in American education
  • Educational policy
  • Strategic planning and program analysis
  • Instruction supervision
  • Leadership and organizations

Doctoral programs are built around cohort participation. Even examples of online programs have requirements of interaction and task completion amongst cohort members. Some programs require full-time attendance, others allow for working full-time teachers and administrators to pursue their degree in this field. There are generally multiple capstone projects that can include leadership and strategic planning research/projects. Also, doctoral exams and a dissertation/dissertation defense requirement are standard.

Online Degree Options

There are accredited examples of doctoral degrees available for this program. They are built around the working teacher or administrator who wishes to pursue a doctoral degree and are unable to attend classes on-campus. Classes are delivered via video/online.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

While online opportunities for this degree may be convenient for you, taking advantage of some of the scholarship opportunities can enable you to obtain a higher-level of education.

There are certifications and licensure distinctions between states and also between K-12 and higher education institutions. Making sure you are in a program that either provides or leads to your acquirement of the necessary certifications and licensures may also be beneficial.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - General Education
      • PhD in Education - Educational Leadership
      • Ed.D. - Instructional Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Trident University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Educational Leadership (Ed. D.)
      • Educational Leadership (Ph.D.)
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Curriculum and Instruction (EdD)
  • Coral Gables, FL

    University of Miami

  • Tuscaloosa, AL

    The University of Alabama

  • Bridgeport, CT

    University of Bridgeport

  • Jackson, TN

    Union University

  • Demorest, GA

    Piedmont College

Featured Schools

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Ed.D. - General Education

What is your highest level of education?

Trident University

  • Educational Leadership (Ed. D.)
  • Educational Leadership (Ph.D.)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Argosy University

  • Curriculum and Instruction (EdD)

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of Bridgeport

Union University

Piedmont College