Doctor of Philosophy in Education, Educational Leadership

Program Objectives

The Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD) with an emphasis in Educational Leadership is designed for graduate students seeking faculty or administrative positions in higher education or positions within research organizations that require education research skills in highly specialized disciplines. The program addresses topics specific to Montana including working with rural communities and Native Americans on state and other educational issues. Graduates of this PhD program in education will be well-positioned to directly and positively affect the data driven culture related to improving the educational systems of Montana and beyond.

Program Flow

After being admitted to the PhD program, the student will be assigned a temporary adviser and should then meet with his/her assigned adviser. Actual courses taken during the initial stage will be based on the student's previous academic work and adviser/committee approval.

The program is designed to be specifically tailored to each doctoral student's related research interest while providing cutting edge knowledge and skills in research and theory. The program is structured to be completed in 4 to 5 years with full-time tuition support for qualified students provided by the Department of Education.

Program of Study

Core Content - choose 9 credits 9
Advanced Educational Psychology
Higher Education History and Philosophy
Leadership and Organizational Theory
Supervision & Instructional Leadership
College Teaching
Leading Social Justice
Required Core Content Courses - 6 credits6
Doctoral Seminar
Dissertation Seminar
Educational Leadership Concentration - 15 credits15
Electives appropriate to area of specialization & approved by Graduate Advisor. Examples of General Curriculum courses to choose from should be discussed with advisor.
Required Research Courses - 9 credits9
Educational Statistics II
Qualitative Educational Research
Quantitative Educational Research
Advanced Research Electives - choose 9 credits9
Mixed Methods Research Design in Education
Advanced Quantitative Research
Advanced Qualitative Research
Critical Race Theory
Indigenous Methodologies in Educational Research
Planning Program Assessment
Institutional Research and Assessment
Electives also may be taken that are appropriate to the research area of specialization and approved by the graduate advisor.
Dissertation - 18 credits18
Doctoral Thesis
Total Credits66

Residency Requirement

The PhD requires one year of on campus, full-time residency. The residency requirement consists of two consecutive semesters (fall and spring) of full-time enrollment (6-9 credits per semester) in PhD coursework.


Each doctoral student's committee must consist of at least four approved members. The chair and one other approved member must be from the Educational Leadership faculty. Two other approved members will be selected based upon their ability to contribute to the student's studies leading up to and through the dissertation research. These two committee members must have academic credentials in the area of the student's program of study and be approved by the Head of the Department of Education and Dean of The Graduate School. 


The student should carefully select a chair after thorough conversations with those Educational Leadership faculty members that he/she believes might have an interest in his/her doctoral research agenda and/or the ability to work with him/her toward generating a defensible dissertation. The chair will give leadership and approval regarding the balance of the committee's potential membership. The committee, as a whole, is subject to the approval of the Head of the Department of Education. The chair will facilitate program approval, comprehensive exam planning and clarification, proposal hearing, and dissertation defense. Chairs and members of a student's committee are subject to change. Revision to the program of study can be made during the course of study with the chair's approval.

Comprehensive Examinations

As PhD students in Educational Leadership approach the end of their coursework (48 credits completed), and prior to the Dissertation proposal meeting, they will contact their committee chair to discuss the content and format of the required written and oral comprehensive examinations.  The comprehensive exams must be completed by the posted Graduate School deadlines. Students should refer to the Graduate School's web page at: and the Department of Education Graduate Handbook at for more detailed information on comprehensive exams.

Mode of Course Delivery

Doctoral level courses are offered in a variety of modalities including face-to-face in-person courses, synchronous and asynchronous online learning, and a combination of both.  

Additional Requirements

The Doctor of Education degree must meet the minimum requirements in the For Doctoral Students section of the Graduate School's website. Additional requirements for the PhD degree beyond these minimums are available through the Department of Education. All PhD degree candidates are expected to be familiar with both The Graduate School's degree requirements listed here: and Department of Education degree requirements listed on the department website at  We strongly suggest that doctoral applicants contact faculty with whom their planned research would align.  This will assist us in identifying an appropriate advisor for program applicants and provide us an opportunity to get to know about you.  E-mail addresses of our professors are listed on the Faculty and Staff Directory:

Contact Information

Dr. Jason Cummins, Assistant Professor and Program Leader

Dr. Bill Ruff, Professor 
406-994-4182 Email:

Application Process for the PhD in Education, Educational Leadership

Applicants are required to complete the online application and submit the following documentation via the Graduate School Online Application System. Prior to applying to the Educational Leadership doctoral program applicants must hold a Master's degree.

1. Completed Graduate School Application

2. Academic Transcripts: Applicants must provide official transcripts verifying all Bachelors degree and Masters degree coursework (as well as confirmation of bachelor’s and master's degree earned) from the applicant's certifying university. Unofficial transcripts may be uploaded during the application process. Official electronic transcripts may be emailed directly from the Institution to or   Transcripts may also be mailed to the Department of Education Graduate Programs Office, 215 Reid Hall, PO Box 172880, Montana State University, 59717. Transcripts from a degree awarded through MSU do not need to be provided. NOTE: We require an undergraduate and graduate GPA of at least 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale). Transcripts will be evaluated for rigor and academic fit.  

3. Personal Essay: Suggested length is 2-3 typed, double-spaced pages. The applicant should briefly describe the following.

  • Education and other educational professional experiences
  • Research interests and experience including alignment with faculty interests and expertise and an example of research experiences using educational theory, research methods, and application
  • Professional goals

4. Research and Data Analysis Skills Summary. You will be asked to upload a separate document (less than one page) addressing the following.

  • Describe your research experience skills
  • Summarize your experiences using different research methods
  • List scholarly products such as peer-reviewed conference publications and peer-reviewed publications
  • Describe data analysis skills and experience using different data analysis software (i.e., SPSS, ENVIVO, SAS)

5. Writing Sample: Please upload a selected example of writing that demonstrates academic potential such as an artifact that highlights your interest, strengths, context and goals/desires more conducive to holistic review.

6. Resume/Curriculum Vitae

7. Three (3) Professional References: The letters should be from individuals qualified to assess the following.  (Note: At least one of the three letters must be from the candidate's PRESENT direct supervisor in his/her educational field.)

  • Knowledge in chosen field
  • Motivation and perseverance toward goals
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to express thoughts in speech and writing
  • Ability/potential for college teaching
  • Ability to plan and conduct research

8.   For International Applicants ONLY: Please visit the Graduate School International Application Process website for application submission information. 

*Note: Applicants may be contacted for an interview by the program specific applicant review committee.

Application Deadline

Below is the deadline by which all application materials for the PhD in Education must be submitted via the online application system. Students matriculate into the PhD program in the fall semester only. Applications to the PhD programs are reviewed once per year at the April 1st deadline. Applications received after the deadline may be reviewed for acceptance on a case-by-case basis.

  • Fall Semester:  April 1st

* An early review deadline of February 1st has been set for those applicants wanting to be considered for Graduate Assistantships. Applications must be complete for an early review. A student must be accepted to an education program before requesting a Department of Education Graduate Assistantship.  Graduate Assistantships require students to work on campus 19 hours per week.  For further information regarding teaching assistantships visit webpage:

Admission Process

Complete applications will be reviewed by the Graduate Admissions Committee. Once a decision has been made the application will be forwarded to The Graduate School for final administrative processing.  Please note that the application review process will begin at the close of the application deadline and not before. 

We strongly suggest that doctoral applicants contact faculty with whom their planned research would align.  This will assist us in identifying an appropriate advisor for program applicants and provide us an opportunity to get to know you.  E-mail addresses of our professors are listed on the Faculty and Staff Directory:

Contact Information

Graduate Program Assistant
PO Box 172880, Reid Hall 215
Department of Education, Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717-2880 
Phone: 406-994-6786 Email: