The PhD in Educational Leadership is designed to provide you with a strong background in leadership, policy, and research. The program prepares scholarly professionals who discover, integrate, and apply knowledge as transformational leaders.

Academic Progress

We follow closely the Graduate College policies regarding grades and progress toward degree. As such, students should be aware that any grade below a “C-“ is considered a failing grade and will not count toward your degree. Students should also be mindful of the threshold for academic probation status. These and other academic policies are detailed in the Graduate College Manual.

Marks Carrying Graduate Credit

These are A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, and S--satisfactory.

Marks Carrying No Graduate Credit

These are D+, D, D-, F, I--incomplete, W--withdrawn without discredit, R--registered, U--unsatisfactory, AUS--audit successful, and AUU--audit unsuccessful.

Doctoral Students

 A doctoral student on regular status shall be placed on probation if, after completing 8 hours of graduate work, the student's cumulative grade-point average on graduate work done at the University of Iowa falls below 3.00. If, after completing 8 more semester hours of graduate work at this university, the student's cumulative grade-point average remains below the required level, the student shall be dropped from the program and denied permission to reregister unless the student applies and is accepted for a nondoctoral degree or certificate program. If, after completing the second 8 semester hours, the cumulative grade-point average is at least 3.00, the student is returned to good standing.**

** This requirement shall apply to students entering doctoral programs beginning with the Fall 1979 Semester. A minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.70 is required of students admitted to doctoral programs prior to that session.

Restriction on Students on Probation

A student on probation shall not be permitted to take comprehensive or final examinations leading to any degree or certificate, nor may the student receive any graduate degree or certificate.

More information about residency, updating old credits, and registration requirements can be found on the Graduate College website.

Comprehensive Exams and Dissertations

Upon completing the PhD curriculum, students will undergo a comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examination is an opportunity for PhD students to demonstrate they can apply the knowledge gained in the program curriculum to a series of questions linked to a specific case or problem. In addition to the written comprehensive exam, an oral examination is required. Students must have completed all required core and specialization courses prior to their examination. Comprehensive exams are not administered in the summer.

A dissertation is a required part of the doctoral program at the University of Iowa. Educational Leadership PhD students identify a dissertation topic with the assistance of their faculty advisor. Although students may take up to five years after successful completion of the comprehensive exam, to successfully defend the dissertation, it is strongly recommended that you finish as quickly as possible following your comprehensive exam. Although their coursework is completed, students must continue to be registered until the semester of their actual graduation. Consult the Graduate College manual for more information.

Examining Committees

PhD students should work with an advisor to construct examining committees to include faculty members with varying, but related, areas of expertise. The college encourages departments and programs to construct PhD examining committees which are comprised of faculty members with varying, but related, areas of expertise. The comprehensive and final examinations are conducted by committees of no fewer than five members of the Graduate Faculty appointed by the dean upon recommendation of the major department or program.

The constellation of the committee must include:

  1. At least four of the faculty members must be members of the University of Iowa tenure-track faculty.
  2. At least two of the faculty members are from the major department—EPLS-- (defined as faculty members who hold any appointment in the major department or program), and are members of the University of Iowa tenure-track faculty.
  3. At least one of the faculty members is from outside the major department on a thesis committee. This committee member can be an appointee if four tenure-track faculty are serving on the committee. A comprehensive exam committee would only need an outside member if a student is writing on a question from that area.

In the Educational Leadership program, written exams are take-home. Students typically have one week to complete written exams and dates for exams are by the Graduate College. Oral exams follow completion of written exams. Students typically are responsible for scheduling oral exams with their committee upon completion of written exams.

Departments and programs may request the dean's permission to replace one of the five members of the Graduate Faculty by a recognized scholar of professorial rank from another academic institution. This request must demonstrate that the external scholar brings expertise or experience not available among University of Iowa faculty.

*The policies of the Graduate College and College of Education will take precedence over program policies.


As part of the Educational Leadership PhD program, you will work with renowned faculty members to complete at least 18 semester hours of research design, quantitative, and qualitative required methods. The program also culminates in an original research dissertation in an area of educational leadership.

Admissions and Application

Application Deadlines

  • January 2 (Fall semester)
  • December 2 (Spring semester)

  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions
  • The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General test – verbal and quantitative - is not required. Official GRE scores from Educational Testing Service (the University’s institutional code is 6681)
  • Official TOEFL scores may be required for some non-native speakers of English
  • Three to five pages (double-spaced) statement of purpose, addressing your educational philosophy, past leadership experience, and career aspirations with respect to K-12 leadership. Statements should include a portion detailing your potential research/dissertation interests and rationale, and should be connected to scholarship in the field.
  • *Three letters from individuals who can speak to your promise as a leader or as a researcher/scholar

Apply Now

Please review the required supplemental documents above before starting the general graduate application. To begin the application process, set up an account with an existing email address and password

Contact Us


Application questions can be directed to: Anne Sparks, 319-335-2146,

We look forward to receiving your application!