Ed.D. Program FAQs

Get answers to all your questions about the Ed.D. in Executive Leadership program.

General Ed.D. Questions

What is your definition of an executive leader?

Executive leadership is complex and represented in an array of knowledge, skills, and dispositions as diverse as the population of successful leaders. Graduates of this program will emerge with a stronger sense of the following standards: character, vision, integrity, self-development, support of others, development of goals, collaboration, research and best practice, cultural sensitivity and diversity, communication skills and technology, responsibility and accountability, and organizational capacity and improvement.

What can I do with a degree in executive leadership?

Distinguished leadership is one of the desired outcomes of the program. However, our emphasis is on preparing candidates for executive leadership roles by providing a rigorous multidisciplinary program that focuses on the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that future leaders need to know and be able to perform to be effective and successful in various organizational settings and working with diverse populations. To this end, the program incorporates innovative teaching, theory with practice, applied research, field experiences, and personalized student services.

The multidisciplinary curriculum broadly prepares candidates to take on a variety of new leadership challenges. Candidates across sectors have acquired new leadership positions, while others have started their own business ventures. Still, other candidates have used their dissertation research to improve their leadership practices and systemic practices within their organizations.

Current Alumni Job Titles:

  • P-12: Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Director of Instruction, Principal
  • Higher Education: President, Provost, Associate Provost, Assistant Vice President, Assistant Professor
  • Not for Profit: Director of National Services, Chief Financial Officer, Executive for Special Projects
  • Business: Director of Advanced Analytics, Senior Manager, Consultant
  • Health: Vice President, Director of Clinical Services, Assistant Professor
What's the difference between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D.?

The Ed.D. has traditionally been positioned within the field of education as a practitioner's degree with a focus on training practitioners such as principals and superintendents. The Ph.D. has traditionally been positioned as a degree for careers in full-time academic research in a specific content area. Both degrees are terminal degrees that qualify an individual for positions in various professions requiring a doctorate.

The preparation of Ed.D. candidates traditionally included less emphasis on research. The Ed.D. in Executive Leadership program, however, prepares leaders from across employment sectors and is not limited to leaders in P-12 or higher education. The program places an emphasis on preparing leaders to make data driven decisions. Thus, our coursework includes four research courses aimed at helping leaders identify organizational research problems, pose researchable questions, identify methodological approaches to research problems, analyze data, and use data effectively.

Program Specific FAQs

How long is the program?

The program is designed to be completed in approximately 28 to 32 months.

How are candidates able to complete the degree at an accelerated pace?

The program is designed to provide both individual and group support to assist candidates in moving forward and meeting the dissertation milestones. In addition, the program supports candidate progress through an integrated system of instruction, advisement, mentoring, monitoring, and candidate support teams.

What is the field experience?

Field Experiences offer candidates the opportunity to develop personalized learning that meets their leadership interests and needs as well as those of their organization. Field experiences are designed to bring value to organizations through the application of research, scholarship, and leadership skills. The field experiences provide candidates with opportunities to work with an executive mentor on research or leadership projects, prepare for the demands of the dissertation, or provide additional credentials in executive leadership coaching, board leadership, and the NYSED School District Leadership (SDL) certification. Many times, candidates have been offered consultant opportunities or jobs by the executive mentor post-graduation. Candidates are required to engage in three field experiences (50 hours each).

What are Guided Dissertation Seminars?

Guided Dissertation Seminars are designed to support candidates in the successful completion of their dissertation. Candidates start working on their dissertation from the first course and the online seminars support their continued progress at the start and end of the program. 

How many hours a week, outside of the class time, are necessary to complete the requirements for the program?

Most candidates spend an average of 20 hours per week reading, researching, and writing. Candidates also allow time to complete their field experiences.

Will the program affect my ability to work at a full-time job?

The majority of candidates in the program work full-time, and the program is designed to be completed without career interruption. In fact, being in the program supports candidates’ professional development and expands their knowledge and skills. In addition, through the field experiences, some employers are finding opportunities for the candidate to work on special projects that address a critical need.

What is the format/schedule of the classes on Friday and Saturday?

The program's hybrid instruction combines the flexibility of digital learning with the depth of in-person learning. Classes are a mix of faculty lectures, case studies, candidate presentations and discussion, group work, individual instruction, field trips, and distinguished guest lecturers. All classes include guest lecturers who are successful leadership practitioners that add diverse perspectives and real-life experience with course content. This teaching model creates an instructional learning experience that is often more powerful and engaging than what can be created with a single instructor. Cohorts meet in-person every 4 to 5 weeks. In-person Friday night classes are held from 5:30-9:30 p.m., with a dinner break. In-person Saturday classes are held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with morning, lunch, and afternoon breaks.


What is a cohort?

A cohort is a group of students who start the program together and progress through each course as a group. Each cohort is divided into small study groups.

When do cohorts start?

Cohorts at each location typically begin every May.

How are study groups selected?

The composition of each team should reflect, as much as possible, the range of diversity (i.e., gender, ethnicity, professional experiences) that comprises the cohort. The team should include candidates with various professional, technical, or specialist skills and experiences who, under the leadership of a team selected project facilitator, will be responsible for carrying out group assigned activities and projects in each course.

Where do candidates in the program come from?

Program candidates are leaders in various sectors including health care, non-profit organizations, business, P-12 education, higher education, criminal justice, the military, and religious/faith organizations.

Are scholarships available?

Financial aid is offered to candidates applying to the program. For more information regarding finance options, contact the Office of Student Financial Services at (585) 385-8042 or sfs@sjf.edu.

Dissertation Questions

Who is on the dissertation committee?

The dissertation committee is comprised of two members: the dissertation chair and a committee member. The committee is responsible for monitoring candidate progress, and evaluating and advising candidates on the contents of their dissertation proposal and dissertation. The dissertation committee is also responsible for becoming familiar with each candidate’s area of proposed research and providing ongoing advisement, encouragement, support, and feedback to the candidate on a regularly scheduled basis.

Who chooses the dissertation committee?

The department chair or site director selects the dissertation chair and committee member for each candidate.

Will there be assistance to narrow the dissertation topic?

Yes. The faculty helps narrow the dissertation topic through instruction early in the program. One of the roles of the dissertation chair is to assist candidates in refining their research topics, problem statements, and methodologies. The reason candidates are so successful in this program is due to this high-touch supportive design of the dissertation from the first course. 

How involved are executive mentors in the dissertation process?

Executive mentors are not directly involved, other than supporting candidates during the field experience. An executive mentor can serve as a secondary reader for the dissertation, with the approval of the dissertation chair.

What research materials are available to candidates?

Candidates have several resources available to them for research, including access to the campus library, which also uses interlibrary loan and online research databases to access materials and a reference librarian who serves as a School of Education liaison for doctoral candidates.

What kind of research are candidates investigating?

Candidates are investigating a range of executive leadership topics in a variety of industries. For a full list of dissertations, visit the Fisher Digital Publications page for the Ed.D. program.

How often does the committee meet with the candidate?

Dissertation committee meetings are held once a month to provide support throughout the length of the program. The candidate, in consultation with the dissertation chair, is responsible for scheduling all committee meetings and preparing meeting agendas.